by Mary, October 30th 2006
At 4.20pm, international Human Rights Workers (HRWs) at the Tel Rumeida crossing noticed that Israeli settlers from the Tel Rumeida settlement were picking olives by the Israeli army post nearby the settlement. These olive trees belong to the Abu Hekel family, who are due to start picking tomorrow. There has been an Israeli court order that Palestinians are to be provided with protection for their property by the Israeli army or police and allowed to pick their olives in safety.
A HRW approached the soldiers at the crossing and drew attention to the Israeli boys in an olive tree and women on the ground. The boys had a long stick and were beating the branches of the tree and the women and others were picking up the olives from the ground. A soldier, who spoke little English and no Arabic, seemed to understand the situation. He contacted the soldier, who was near the settlers. This soldier spoke to the settlers, who took no notice and continued stealing olives. After pressure from the HRWs, the soldier at the crossing continued telephoning. After about 15 minutes, more soldiers arrived. These were followed by an Israeli police jeep. The settler boys came out of the tree and a settler woman walked across the street to the settlement and brought back more women and children to the olive grove. Despite the presence of a soldier, the picking continued and at least one woman managed to take away some olives. Then an Israeli army officer and soldier arrived. These were followed by an Israeli police jeep, an army vehicle and a third police jeep. At least three cars driven by Jewish men came up the hill and parked. Eight orthodox Jewish men walked out of the settlement and down towards Beit Hadasa settlement. It was not clear if they had been involved in the theft of olives or not. In the end there were eight Israeli police, border police and soldiers. They were gradually able to get the Israeli settlers to return to the settlement. The settlers took the olives they collected with them. A clear case of theft.
Israeli settlers were chanting outside the settlement for about ten minutes. Then a number of settler children were driven away. Apparently they had been brought to Tel Rumeida settlement to take part in this illegal action. Israeli children under the age of twelve cannot be arrested here, no matter what they do. Their parents and adults who supervise them in such actions are not held responsible.