A Palestinian research centre, specialised in monitoring Israeli violations, revealed that the Israeli occupation authorities destroyed 14000 olive trees in the Palestinian territories during 2009. Such assaults included the uprooting of thousands of olive trees, for the sake of expanding the Israeli settlements, and the burning and cutting of thousands more by settlers.
In a report issued following the completion of the olive harvest in the occupied West Bank, the Land Research Centre said that the occupation authorities burned and uprooted about 1455 olive trees during the harvest season this year, and washed away around 7000 trees since the beginning of the year for the sake of settlement expansion, while settlers attacked more than 5500 other trees.
Israeli attacks were concentrated in the provinces in the north of the West Bank. In Nablus, the occupation attacked about 6000 olive trees; in Salfit nearly 5720 trees were uprooted; in Qalqilya around 400 trees were burned or uprooted; in Hebron, nearly 1600 trees were attacked; and in Bethlehem, the occupation pulled out about 30 trees.
The centre said that the occupation authorities and settlers not only attacked the Blessed Tree, but they also prevented Palestinian farmers, who are the land’s owners, from accessing the trees to harvest the olives, as the occupation authorities closed the gates; built the apartheid wall to prevent farmers from reaching their land that is located behind the wall; and physically abuses Palestinian farmers.
The centre also mentioned that, in the beginning of the olive harvest season in 2009, leaflets were distributed in a number of West Bank settlements calling for ruining the harvest of olives in the lands near settlements, and to be ready to prevent Palestinians from harvesting the olives. The leaflets also called for confronting foreign peace activists and preventing them from helping Palestinians as well as from taking photos; the leaflets encouraged Israelis to steal peace activists’ cameras and to steal olives before Palestinian farmers could reap them.
The centre clarified that the settlers’ behaviour is based on the Zionist literature that is behind this destructive war. Rabbi Murdakhai Elyaho sanctioned Israelis to steal Palestinian olives. He said, “It is permissible to harvest olives off Palestinian farms, because they grow these olives on our land.” He added that Rabbi Yusef Melmid, who is a senior religious authority, gave a fatwa legalising the seize of Palestinian crops on the grounds that Jews are permitted to seize Palestinian properties.
The Land Research Centre considered the Israeli settlers’ aggression on Palestinian olive trees to be part of the Israeli ethnic-cleansing policies that seek to eradicate Palestinians and everything that has to do with them and their existence, including their trees.
And on his part, the head of the Land Research Centre in Hebron, Jamal Al Omla, said that this report exposes the Israeli violations and the lies of Benjamin Netanyahu and his government regarding the settlement freeze.
Al Omla added that the settlers’ presence in the occupied territories is, in and of itself, an ongoing violation, the magnitude and the negative effect of which is proof that Israel adopts a de facto policy to expel Palestinians from their land and replace them with Israeli settlers.
He called on the international community to impose sanctions on Israel to force it to abide by international resolutions. He also said that the cosmetic US and European support to the cause of establishing an independent Palestinian state is no more than a way to give Israelis more time to impose facts on the ground in their favour.