Olive tree sabotage plagues Palestinian farmers

1 / 2
More than 7,000 Palestinian-owned trees have been vandalized so far this year, according to the United Nations. (AFP)
2 / 2
Palestinian farmer Mahmoud Abu Shinar stands next to destroyed olive trees, near the West Bank village of Turmus Aya, north of Ramallah. (AFP)
Updated 09 November 2018

Olive tree sabotage plagues Palestinian farmers

  • Olives are perhaps the most well-known and abundant Palestinian product
  • More than 7,000 Palestinian-owned trees have been vandalized so far this year, according to the United Nations

NABLUS, Palestinian Territories: Palestinian farmer Mahmud Abu Shinar surveys two rows of severed olive trees — something he says has become a sadly familiar sight.
He didn’t see who took a chainsaw to them at night, but he blames residents of an Israeli settlement a few hundred meters (yards) away.
“We came on Sunday and were shocked that all these trees were cut down,” Abu Shinar said.
“I called the landowner. They came and the (Israeli) army and security forces came too. But of course, it was useless.”
Olives are perhaps the most well-known and abundant Palestinian product, with trees lining valleys and terraced hillsides throughout the occupied West Bank.
The first rains after the hot summer months are the signal for farmers to begin harvesting their crop, but it can come with risks.
In many places, farmers say they face intimidation and violence from nearby settlers and call in support from foreign and Israeli supporters, including Jewish rabbis, to protect them and their crops.
Some of the incidents are seen as attempts at revenge following Palestinian attacks on Israelis, even if the farmers targeted were not involved.
In other cases, say rights groups, there is little motivation other than just to destroy Palestinian property.
Some rights groups have distributed video footage of such incidents in a bid to pressure Israeli authorities to act.
Israeli settlers charge that their crops have also been damaged by Palestinians, including an incident in May when around 1,000 grapevines were allegedly destroyed.
More than 7,000 Palestinian-owned trees have been vandalized so far this year, according to the United Nations.
In the whole of 2017, it was less than 6,000, the year before only 1,600.
Abu Shinar said that in recent weeks around 200 trees had been destroyed in fields he works on near Ramallah in the central West Bank, costing thousands of dollars in lost earnings.
“They want the land,” he said, of the settlers. “Who else would come and commit a crime like this?”
The body that represents West Bank settlements said there was also an increase in attacks on Israeli-owned farms, labelling it “agricultural terror.”
Israeli police said they were “investigating a number of incidents when damage was caused to olive trees.”
“There have also been a number of complaints made by Jewish owners of fields of damage caused to olive trees.”
Patrols have been stepped up, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
But rights groups charge that Palestinian crops have long been vandalized by settlers without any serious effort by the authorities to stop it.
Around 400,000 Israelis live in settlements that dot the West Bank and range in size from large towns to tiny hamlets.
The international community considers them illegal.
A few dozen kilometers north of Abu Shinar’s trees near the city of Nablus, a small group huddles under a tree, picking through the leaves for olives.
Just 10 meters away stands an abandoned house daubed with Hebrew graffiti, while the Israeli settlement of Har Brakha is over a hill.
Israeli forces patrol the area, with one soldier telling the Palestinians they are “there to help.”
But the farmers said that two days earlier settlers had run down and damaged trees. They claimed the army is often slow to react and sides with settlers.
They invite international and Israeli supporters to attend the picking season to help protect themselves.
Retired British woman Caroline, who declined to give her full name, said she had been coming each year for a decade to work with Palestinian communities close to “particularly difficult settlements.”
This year, she said, she went with a female farmer to her land near a settlement, but the army blocked their path.
“When she eventually got into the groves, 100 of her trees had been chainsawed down by settlers. There weren’t even any olives for us to pick,” she said.
Rabbi Gil Nativ makes sure to wear his kippa cap as he picks olives to show Palestinians not all Jews support Israeli settlement expansion.
“Some (Israelis) consider us as traitors,” said Nativ, who volunteers for the Rabbis for Human Rights organization.
“For me the main principle of the Jewish faith is all men are created in the image of God and all human beings are descendants of the same Adam and Eve.”
Yigal Dilmoni, CEO of the Yesha Council which represents Israeli settlements, said in a statement to AFP that they “deplore all acts of vandalism and purposeful destruction of property.”
He highlighted a series of Palestinian attacks on Israeli settlements.


European Parliament resolution urges sanctions on Turkey 

Updated 27 November 2020

European Parliament resolution urges sanctions on Turkey 

  • MEPs found that Turkey’s decision to partially reopen Varosha weakened prospects of a solution to the conflict
  • Ankara’s move has been criticized by the US, Greece as well as Greek Cypriots

ANKARA: The European Parliament has called for sanctions on Turkey following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s controversial visit to Northern Cyprus on Nov. 15.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), agreeing on a resolution in support of Cyprus, urged EU leaders to “take action and impose tough sanctions in response to Turkey’s illegal actions.”
The parliament’s non-binding resolution on Nov. 26 emphasized that Turkey’s gas exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean were illegal. EU leaders are due to meet in Brussels between Dec. 10-11.
MEPs also found that Turkey’s decision to partially reopen the fenced-off suburb of Varosha, in the city of Famagusta, weakened prospects of a far-reaching solution to the decades-long Cypriot conflict.
The Turkish army fenced off Varosha in 1974 after its military intervention, while Greek Cypriots who fled from the resort town could not return to their homes.
“MEPs call on Turkey to transfer Varosha to its lawful inhabitants under the temporary administration of the UN (in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 550 (1984) and to refrain from any actions that alter the demographic balance on the island through a policy of illegal settlement,” the resolution said.
Ankara’s move has been criticized by the US, Greece as well as Greek Cypriots.
The resolution was denounced by Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, which criticized the European Parliament for “being prejudiced and disconnected from the realities” on Cyprus. 
During the EU summit some sanctions, on sectors such as shipping, energy and banking, are expected to be adopted, depending on Germany’s mediation efforts as the current holder of the EU’s six-month presidency.
Laura Batalla Adam, a political analyst and the secretary general of the EU-Turkey Forum, said that even if EU leaders were divided, the possibility of sanctions remained on the table.
“The decision to reopen Varosha just adds to an already extremely tense situation between Turkey and the EU,” she told Arab News. “The next days are going to be decisive as to what kind of sanctions could be imposed, depending on Ankara’s moves in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
According to Batalla Adam, a moratorium on drilling activities until the two sides can enter into negotiations to settle their dispute would be a way to ease tensions and start working on a more positive agenda.
Turkey will continue its seismic studies near Greek islands in the eastern Mediterranean until Nov. 29 with its Oruc Reis research vessel.
Ankara pulled the vessel back in September to allow more room for diplomacy and negotiations with Greece, but sent it back to the disputed area, provoking a harsh reaction from EU members Cyprus, Greece, Germany and France.