- Title: WEST BANK: Palestinian farmers and Israeli settlers clash during olive harvest
- Date: 21st October 2010
- Summary: BURIN, WEST BANK (RECENT) (REUTERS) ISRAELI SOLDIER AND PALESTINIANS NEAR OLIVE TREE QUFUR QADUM, WEST BANK (RECENT) (REUTERS) VARIOUS MOHAMMED ZABEN A PALESTINIAN FARMER WHOSE LAND IS NEAR ISRAELI SETTLEMENT OF YITZHAR, PICKING OLIVES OLIVES (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) PALESTINIAN FARMER, MOHAMMED ZABEN, SAYING: "I am not afraid, as I am in my house. If they want to fight with me, I am waiting for them. Whatever we do they attack us. They attack us everyday." ZABEN PICKING OLIVES WOMAN COLLECTING OLIVES CLOSE OF OLIVES AMATEEN, WEST BANK (RECENT) (REUTERS) BURNT FIELDS ISRAELI ARMY IN AREA BURNT FIELDS OF OLIVE TREES PALESTINIANS AND ISRAELI ARMY IN AREA BURIN, WEST BANK (RECENT) (ORIGINALLY 4:3) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF STILL PICTURES OF SETTLERS CARRYING WEAPONS AND POINTING THEM TOWARDS PALESTINIAN FARMER TABOUH SETTLEMENT, WEST BANK (OCTOBER 18,2010) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF DAVID HA'IVRI , REPRESENTATIVE OF THE SHOMRON REGIONAL COUNCIL (SOUNDBITE) (English) REPRESENTATIVE OF THE SHOMRON REGIONAL COUNCIL, DAVID HA'IVRI, SAYING: "Almost any place that you go in the world you find problems between the neighbours, within our communities and within the Arab communities there are problems among neighbours and land disputes, but that's a minor issue. I think that if the foreign elements pull their hands out of the area and round the natural dynamics of our communities to exist, the situation will be much calmer than it is now than it is now with their interference." HA'IVRI WALKING AWAY QUFUR QADUM, WEST BANK (RECENT) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF PALESTINIAN FARMER ALI SAID PICKING OLIVES VIEW OF YITZHAR SETTLEMENT (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) PALESTINIAN FARMER ALI SAID, SAYING: "God knows. They may cut or burn the trees. We never know what they will do. " OLIVE BRANCHES BELIEVED TO HAVE BEEN CUT DOWN BY SETTLERS MORE OF YOUTH PICKING OLIVES NEAR SETTLEMENT VIEW OF SETTLEMENT
- Embargoed: 5th November 2010 12:00
- Topics: War / Fighting,International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA2WLH23IWW3SDY1WIPP7MHNGIW
- Story Text: Semi-automatic assault rifles are not usually associated with olive harvesting, but this is the West Bank where Jewish settlers and Palestinian farmers clash over the crop every year.
On the first day of the official harvest last week, Palestinians picking the fruit fled in panic when shots were fired and three or four Jewish settlers with assault rifles appeared running and crouching among the olive trees.
Israeli soldiers on standby for just such a clash were called to Elon Moreh after shots were fired near the settlement east of Nablus in the Israeli-occupied territory.
Conflicting accounts of the events were reported by settlers and Palestinians, who accused each other of initiating the violence. No injuries were reported. A Palestinian was arrested.
Visiting Palestinian olive farms recently, Reuters talked to Mohammad Zaben, who said he could not find labour for the harvest because of fears of attacks by Jewish settlers.
"I am not afraid, as I am in my house. If they want to fight with me, I am waiting for them. Whatever we do they attack us. They attack us everyday," said Palestinian farmer Mohammed Zaben.
The 60-year-old father of six had just received an Israeli notice that he could harvest his grove adjacent to the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar under Israeli police and army protection.
But the trees lie right below the Israeli settlement of Yitzhar and "no one dares to get out there". So Zaben and his son were harvesting on their own, aware Israeli protection was not available indefinitely.
Lethal violence is a latent danger in this season, when Palestinians garner olives from their groves that lie near locations where Jewish settlers have settled.
Rock-throwing, fist-fights, tree-burning and gunfire are frequent features of the harvest weeks, so much so that Israeli army and police units prepare specifically for the period.
A settler spokesman, David Ha'ivri, dismissed the complaints of "foreign organisations" who he said staged provocations to attract media attention and depict settlers "as a bunch of violent bandits" and themselves as "saviour of the oppressed".
"Almost any place that you go in the world you find problems between the neighbours, within our communities and within the Arab communities there are problems among neighbours and land disputes; but that's a minor issue. I think that if the foreign elements pull their hands out of the area and round the natural dynamics of our communities to exist; the situation will be much calmer than it is now than it is now with their interference," said Ha'ivri.
The Israeli rights group Yesh Din said last week that the olive harvest "is often disturbed by extremists among the settlers, who take the law into their own hands."
A report by the charity Oxfam, issued in Jerusalem last week, said "settler attacks or harassment against Palestinian olive farmers are common" and increase at harvest time.
There are over 100 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where half a million Jews live next to 2.5 million Palestinians. Many consider the West Bank, which they call Judea and Samaria, to be the biblical birthright of the Jewish people.
Israel does not accept a World Court ruling that its settlements are illegal under international law although it considers smaller so-called outposts, built in remote areas mainly by ultra-religious Jews, to be illegal.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is resisting Palestinian demands and U.S. pressure to extend a moratorium on settlement building which expired after 10 months on Sept 26, and peace talks remain suspended over this dispute.
Oxfam's report said olive oil currently yields up to $100 million a year in incomes for the poorest Palestinian families, a figure that could be doubled with modest investment and simple changes in farming methods.
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