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Olive harvest report, West Bank
anti-war / imperialism |
Sunday October 26, 2003 23:08 by Aron Baker baker_aron at hotmail dot com Balatta refugee camp Nablus 087 2895036
Olive harvest in Beit Furik and Deir Al Hatab and fixing water pipes smashed repeatedly by settlers in Madama.
Monday 27th (I think)
I have added some stuff to my previous report of a few days ago so that is under the report of the 2 internationlas being shot.
About 4 days ago we were harvesting in the Village of Beit Furik, on their supposed DCO days. There seems to have been a severe mix up over the DCO picking dates and also about how they are interpreted. I think the mix up is deliberate to prevent as much harvesting as possible and gives the army all the excuse it needs to kick the farmers off their land. We were picking in several areas, as the olive trees are spread over several hillsides which we are told stretch 7km. A fellow ISMer and I were picking with an old man, high on the hill, perhaps 300m from the fence surrounding an illegal outpost or access road of Itamar settlement. The old farmer had only 3 trees here and would not attempt to harvest them until we were there to attempt to protect him. Last year he only harvested 1 ½ buckets from here before being driven off. We had harvested about 1 ¼ trees when we saw 2 army vehicles approaching on the road above and opposite us, it was being led by a settler on a quad bike. 1 jeep and the quad stopped and 4 soldiers made their way over to us. They then demanded that we leave the area, and checked the ID of the old man, and told him he must get a new 1 tomorrow as this 1 was slightly faded. We started to negotiate, explaining about this being their designated picking dates, during which time they are supposed to be allowed to harvest olives from their trees on their land. The soldiers replied that this was not the time and then changed to this was not the day. They could not or would not tell us when Palestinians were supposed to be allowed to harvest here. I rang the DCO to attempt to resolve the issue and get the correct dates, and was asked to ring again in 5 minutes. The soldiers again ordered us to go, while 3 of them sat on the ground. I explained that I was trying to establish the picking dates and that there had been a misunderstanding on the dates and that the village council had a letter from the local Palestinian government stating that these were the days and asked the soldiers for 5 minutes so I could to the DCO. They refused and the soldier seemingly in charge grabbed the bag of picked olives and hurled them over the terrace we were on, holding the bag so as to ensure the complete dispersal of the olives over the face of the hill. He grabbed a 2nd smaller bag as I stood in disbelief and repeated the act, as he went to grab the final bucket full of olives I snatched it away and held it behind my back. He made a brief attempt to grab them and I walked away with them, he followed but soon stopped. We started to make our way down the hillside, stopping to help the other families picking to leave. I rand the DCO again and was told that these were not the dates, but they would not tell me what the dates were.
As we waited below on the track, which marked where we could pick, some 400-500 metres from the settlement fence, an Israeli peace group arrived. The soldiers left after ensuring everyone had retreated to the track. We waited awhile before returning to the same spot and attempted to recollect the olives the soldier had hurled. They had fallen, dispersing well, in the very thorny bushes which cover this landscape and in between the stones and rocks which make up the terraces. We managed to collect about 2/3 of the olives, getting about 10 thorns stuck in my hands in my haste, most of which are still stuck in my hands 4 days later, before retreating again as another settler patrol car stopped and started observing us, no doubt calling the army.
The following day I walked to another village called Madama, exercising my privilege as a foreigner to walk along a settler road, passing by the entrance of Itamar, quite scary.
I visited this village 12 months ago in an attempt to protect a house from demolition, only to find that friends and family had ripped it to pieces to salvage anything and everything before the army came to demolish it. They had ripped out all the windows, doors, roof tiles, fixtures and fittings etc. The army turned up 2 months later on the 1st of Jan 2003, at 2 am and planted explosives in the house and demolished it, damaging surrounding homes in the explosion.
When I was there last year I was informed that they had no water supply as the settlers kept smashing it, Oxfam had been to help them repair their supply but had been scared off by settlers shooting at them. A year later I find they still have no water supply, so water is brought in, in tankers to sell to the town, and people who cannot afford the expensive water have to take donkeys miles, over hills, to bring back a few gallons of precious water. Oxfam had returned in April to assist in another attempt to repair but after the repair was made the settlers destroyed the repair the same day.
We assisted in the repair of the supply, an amazingly tiny trickle of water, about the diameter of a biro. Then the residents of Madama covered the repairs and several more vulnerable sections in concrete, hauled up the hill by donkeys. Provided the settlers didn’t damage it again today there is a good chance the repair may last, as it will be more difficult for the settlers form Yitzar settlement to damage it again. When winter comes the water supply will increase also. In the evening we had a very hard time getting through the Hawwara checkpoint and later the soldiers shot Mark and Josh (previously labeled Jeremy following his own wishes).
Today I went to harvest in the village of Deir Al Hatab, going with a family across a road used by the military. The DCO designated picking days started yesterday but the army had kicked them off. On reaching the area the family was devastated to find that settlers had already stolen the olives from their 70 trees. Other people in this immediate area also told us their olives had been stolen by the settlers harvesting them.
In the village of Yanoun, where I stayed for few days before, Palestinians and internationals went to harvest on the DCO days and soon faced problems with a settler approaching them, armed with an M16, the army was rang in an attempt to get protection. 1 soldier came soon with 3 settlers in tow, also armed, the soldier then looked on as the settlers beat 1 ISM activist and 2 foreign journalists (Swiss?), before suggesting to the settlers that they take the tape or camera from the journalists. They proceed to steal the tape as the camera man was a large man. The soldier did not intervene in any way.
Both Josh and Mark remain in hospital.