From the Trees to the Bottle: Olive Oil Production Under Occupation

2 November 2006

Today, Nov. 1, PSP went to the village of Surif to visit their olive oil production factory. We intended to write a report about the olive oil process from the tree to the bottle. Instead, we found ourselves writing a report on the devestating impact of settlements on the economic survival of Palestinian farmers and business owners.

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Factory owner, Mohammed Barathea, says that business in Surif used to be very busy, but now with the constant presence of soldiers and the completion of the Apartheid Wall which resulted in the annexation of more land after land had already been confisgated for settlement expansion, business is slow. Many Palestinian farmers have been cut off from their agricultural land by the Apartheid Wall throughout the West Bank. In Surif, those Palestinian farmers who do still have access to their land are not immune to the hardships of occupation. Many have had their olive trees cut or set on fire by Israeli settlers. Settlers have also brought their sheep to eat these crops, making harvests negligible. Palestinians are frequently met by military hummers and jeeps as they go to work these fields and are forced to return home, leaving their crops unattended. Soldiers have told them they cannot return to the fields without permission from the District Coordinating Office (DCO). However, the DCO will not grant them permission to harvest on their own land.

The DCO coordinates between the Israeli army and Palestinian farmers. Palestinians must apply for permission to work their land, and the DCO will either deny them or assign a few days of “legal” harvesting. The DCO overlooks the fact that olive trees need year-round care. The land needs to be tilled, and the branches need to be pruned, so that when harvest season comes the trees are fruitful. Without continuing care, the families will have little benefit from the harvest. The DCO does not grant permission for off-season care. They grant only a few days of their choosing, and even with this permission the army may still deny them the access to their lands and if they do access their land, they still face violence from settlers.

In Surif, the Wall has stolen 90 dunums of land. The families of Khalil Mohammed Baradaya, Sleman Abed Al-Hadi Baradaya, Ibraheim Abed Arackman Al-Hiya and Abed Al-Khadr Al-hiya are now without land and without work. A short time ago, these families went around the Wall to their land only to find that it had been destroyed by settlers and sheep. When they returned to repair the damage they were met by soldiers who told them to go home immediately, that “this is Israeli land now.”