After Harassment on Tuesday, Farmers, Activists Successfully Harvest in Saffa
On Tuesday, October 20, a small group of Israeli and international activists from Anarchists Against the Wall, Rabbis for Human Rights, and PSP, joined Abu Jabber Soleiby and his family to again harvest his few olive trees. The Abu Jabber and Hamad Soleiby families have not been allowed to work freely on their land without either Israeli settler attacks and/or Israeli military intervention, since March of this year. PSP, along with Israeli activists, have had an on-going campaign that has lasted over 5 months, accompanying the farmers to their land which lies in a valley in the Saffa area of Beit Ommar, just below the extreme right-wing Israeli settlement, Bat ‘Ayn. With the beginning of the national olive harvest, the Soleiby brothers have asked for support from solidarity activists in accessing their land freely and without fear of settler attack. On Tuesday, after the group had managed to pick olives for about half an hour, Israeli civilian police stationed in the nearby settlement Kfar Etzion, arrived and told the group that the Israelis and internationals would have to leave. They also attempted to intimidate the group by demanding to see all of the participants’ ID cards (including the farmers and Palestinian activists), copying down their identification information. After a short deliberation, the entire group decided to leave; the Palestinian farmers fearing that, like other times in the recent past, once the solidarity activists were out of sight the police would leave and settlers would be allowed to attack them.
On Thursday, October 22, a larger group of approximately 25 international and Israeli solidarity activists, including volunteers from the YMCA, and a large representation of local media, accompanied the farmers again to their land. Though Israeli soldiers confronted the group early in the day, they were allowed to pick for over 2 hours without incident, demonstrating the effectiveness of the accompaniment program, when combined with pressure from local farmers to access their land freely as they choose. The organizations involved, particularly PSP, will continue the program in Saffa throughout the fall and winter, when they will replant the hundreds of trees destroyed by settlers over the last 6 months.