11 October 2011 | International Solidarity Movement
At a time of increasing settler violence in the West Bank, the International Solidarity Movement is issuing an urgent call for volunteers to participate in the 2011 Olive Harvest Campaign at the invitation of Palestinian communities.
The olive harvest started across the West Bank last week. ISM is working with villages that are close to Israeli settlements to monitor and prevent attacks by settlers, which have been commonplace in previous harvests.
We are currently working in Burin and Qaryut villages. The villages of Qusra will start to pick olives this Friday. So far there have been few settler attacks, although some olive trees were burnt in Qusra this week. However, it is expected that attacks by settlers will escalate over the next few weeks as more villages begin to harvest olives. In previous years settlers have physically attacked Palestinian villagers during the harvest and have burnt and uprooted trees. The army is often reluctant to intervene to protect Palestinians from attacks and has also prevented access and denied permits to farmers to pick olives on their own land.
Olives are a vital part of the Palestinian economy and culture. Farmers should be free to pick olives on their own land without fear of attack by settlers or hindrance from the Israeli government.
International volunteers are needed to help monitor and document any problems in villages that are harvesting olives and are vulnerable to settler attacks. The harvest will continue in some villages until mid November.
The olive tree is a national symbol for Palestinians. As thousands of olive trees have been bulldozed, uprooted and burned by Israeli settlers and the military – (over half a million olive and fruit trees have been destroyed since September 2000) – harvesting has become more than a source of livelihood; it has become a form of resistance.
The olive harvest is an annual affirmation of Palestinians’ historical, spiritual and economic connection to their land, and a rejection of Israeli efforts to seize it. Despite efforts by Israeli settlers and soldiers to prevent them from accessing their land, Palestinian communities remain steadfast in refusing to give up their olive harvest
International and Israeli volunteers join Palestinians each year to harvest olives, and this makes a big difference. It has proven in the past to help limit and decrease the number and severity of attacks and harassment. The presence of activists can reduce the risk of extreme violence from Israeli settlers and the Israeli army and supports Palestinians’ assertion of their right to earn their livelihood. International solidarity activists engage in non-violent intervention and documentation and this practical support enables many families to pick their olives. In addition The Olive Harvest Campaign also provides a wonderful opportunity to spend time with Palestinian families in their olive groves and homes.
The campaign will begin early October and run for approximately 6-8 weeks, depending on the size of the harvest. We request a minimum 2 week commitment from volunteers.
In addition to the olive harvest, there will also be other opportunities to participate in grass-roots, non-violent resistance in Palestine.
Experiencing the situation for yourself is vital to adequately convey the reality of life in Palestine to your home communities and to re-frame the debate in a way that will expose Israel’s apartheid policies; creeping ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem as well as collective punishment and genocidal practices in Gaza.