Harvest Causes Vandalism

Category: Campaign Farmers' Stories Created: 06 September 2013

By: Anne Hertzum Alling - DCA
6th, September 2013

Earlier this year, Israeli settlers destroyed more than half of Palestinian Ahmed Mousa's olive trees and hereby the foundation of his and his family's economy. As the annual harvest in October approaches, more and more Palestinian olive farmers suffer the same fate.

olivenbonde-ahmed-mousa article right

Twice a week, Palestinian Ahmed Mousa (71) drives from his home in Bethlehem to his fields in the neighboring Khader village. For more than 200 years, his family has grown and lived from the crops of the land, especially by growing grapes.

But two years ago Ahmed Mousa replaced a big art of the grape plants with 220 olive trees that takes much less work to grow than grapes, and looked forward to an annual profit of more than Euro 10,000.

But in March this year, a group of Israeli settlers broke into Ahmed Mousa's land and destroyed 160 of his trees. Since then, he has requested the Israeli police to investigate the crimes several times in order to be able to get compensation. But without any luck.

Ahmed Mousa now has to plant new trees, but it takes four years and an enormous amount of work, from an olive tree is planted till it bears fruits ready to be harvested. Four years where Ahmed Mousa and his family will meet a severe income reduction.

One out of hundreds.

jai-skilt SubColumnNoMarginwhen JAI plants olive trees a sign with all the names of the international volunteers who participated in the planting is put in the field. This sign was placed in one of Ahmed Mousa's fields where almost no trees were damaged.

Ahmed Mousa's land is located in the so called are C in the West Bank. At the Oslo Accords, 1993, the West Bank was divided into three area s (A, B and C) giving Israel the full civil and security control of area C.

The division was supposed to be a temporary solution leading to the transfer of the entire West Bank to the Palestinian Authority (PA) within five years. But in reality the exact opposite has happened. Today Area C covers more than 60 percent of the West Bank and houses more than 135 Israeli settlements – all built in violation to the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Every year, thousands of Palestinians in Area C have their trees cut, burned, or uprooted by settlers trying to win over even more of the West Bank area.

The recent year's records from the High Commisioner for Human Rights, OHCHR show how the settler violence towards the Palestinian olive fields increases as the annual harvest in October approaches, and Ahmed Mousa’s story is only one out of hundreds of examples on how the Israeli government ignores the settlers’ violence and intrusion on Palestinian land.

No help in sight

"They keep uprooting, I keep on planting," says Ahmed Musa, who hopes to plant new trees in the planting season in January. But since he has very limited access to water, planting is not unproblematic.

Palestinians in area c namely have to apply the Israeli authorities for special permits to build on their land. Permits that are almost never given, and building without permission leads to immediately demolition by the Israeli authorities often causing great damage to the surrounding land and properties, too.

Several of times, Ahmed Mousa has applied for allowance to build a water-well on his ground, but without luck.

He therefor has to collect water in cans from the city and drive them to his land by the newly constructed road connecting the settlements to the rest of the road network passing straight through the Palestinian farmers’ fields.

And finally, while parking in the roadside to reload the water, he has to hope not to get a ticket, since the Israeli government has prohibited all stopping and parking.

"After the Wall, no one knows what will happen. Maybe tomorrow they [the settlers] will come and uproot everything," Ahmed Mousa says while an Israeli settler rides by in the background on the newly built bicycle path in the middle of the neighboring olive fields.