by Alistair George
12 October 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank
The Israeli military ordered villagers to stop picking olives on their own land in Burin, near Nablus, today. The soldiers refused to give a reason for suspending the harvest.
“It is nothing to do with us, we just get orders from our superiors,” they said.
Villagers from Burin were picking olives on their land high up in the hills, near the illegal Israeli settlement of Yitzhar. At around 8 AM Palestinian farmers and ISM activists entered the land closest to the settlement, and after just a few minutes an Israeli security truck was visible on the hilltop next to the land. Four soldiers arrived in an armoured vehicle at around 8:30 AM and instructed villagers to immediately stop picking olives in the area. They stated that villagers must ask for permission and would only be given three days to finish picking all the olives on their land. The farmers continued the harvest further away from the settlement.
At around midday, a military vehicle was again seen driving through the olive groves further down the hill, closer to the main road. At one point the vehicle left the track, breaking branches as it maneuvered through the densely planted olive grove.
Ghassan Najjar, 21, is the Director of the Community Centre in Burin. His father owns the land nearest the settlement. He said that it was common for the Israeli military to interfere with Burin’s olive harvest.
“I was extremely uncomfortable today – I controlled my emotions for my father’s sake and to avoid escalating the situation, otherwise nothing would make me leave my land.”
Settler attacks have been escalating in recent years. This year settlers have already attacked locals four times since April and more than 4,000 trees have been burnt down. Gangs of settlers have fired live ammunition and thrown stones at villagers during olive harvests in previous years.
Alistair George is an activist with International Solidarity Movement (name has been changed).