- Title: WEST BANK: Settlers clash with Rabbis as Palestinians pick their olives
- Date: 4th October 2008
- Summary: PALESTINIAN BOY HOLDING A VIDEO CAMERA WHILE SETTLERS LOOKING OVER
- Embargoed: 19th October 2008 13:00
- Topics: International Relations,Industry
- Reuters ID: LVA5QG5N01C6EO49AWA09KR0ZAL4
- Story Text: Militant Jewish settlers clashed with activists of the Rabbis for Human Rights movement near the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday (October 3) as they protected Palestinians beginning the annual olive harvest.
Israeli police and soldiers grappled with settlers who tried to drive off local Palestinians and international supporters of Palestinian rights in the Israel-occupied territories.
"Its unfortunate today that some people so filled with mistaken religious fervour are choosing to insult, be violent, trying to to steal the olives," said the executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights, Arik Ascherman.
He said activists were going to 40 Palestinian villages to protect olive growers and uphold their right to work the land, and harvest. They would act "as human shields" if necessary.
A settler woman screamed "Murderer, murderer" at the rabbi, and settlers angrily shouted down any activists trying to explain their aims to TV reporters.
The West Bank olive harvest has developed over the past decade into a regular confrontation between Palestinian farmers and militant Israelis who have settled on nearby land.
Palestinians say settler harassment often turns to encroachment and eventually seizure of more land in the name of settler "security".
The settlers say they want a secure route from the settlement through the olive grove, to a cave regarded as a Jewish holy site.
"Everyone knows that these are Palestinian owned trees, behind us in the background is an outpost called 'Mahson David' which has been created because settlers would like to have a path from Qiryat Arba (settlement) to the Mahpela Cave, and as part of their effort to create facts on the ground they have been trying to create this outpost here to take more and more Palestinian land," Ascherman said.
A peace activist from Jerusalem told Reuters that the police are not doing enough to curb settler violence.
"The police and army know that this is a private property here and they do not try to do too much to prevent them from being here. If they have done their job they would have arrested all of these settlers today,"
Asaf, peace activist told Reuters.
Rabbis For Human Rights said in a statement that delegations also joined Palestinians for the olive harvest near Nablus, "where there is a long history of the (Israeli) army preventing agricultural work".
"In several locations olives have already been stolen in recent weeks, and this year's harvest will be all the more difficult because of the recent wave of settler violence," the group said.
Its members would "work to insure that Israeli security forces meet their obligations under international law and the ruling of the Israeli High Court", the statement added.
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