Olive Harvest Obstructed by Road Blocks and Checkpoints

18 October 2012

Olive harvest is upon us. Many Palestinians, as well as internationals, have been looking forward to this season. All family members, including small children and grandparents, gather to pick olives in the beautiful fields throughout the West bank.

Every autumn PSP participate in the olive harvest in solidarity with Palestinian farmers that experience harassment and attacks from either colonists or the Israeli occupation forces. Presence of internationals are also sometimes helpful in preventing or documenting such harassment. PSP contributes to the olive harvest in area C, close to either the segregation wall or Israeli colonies and the purpose of this work is to support and encourage farmers to continue to cultivate their land. It is important not to give up cultivating area C because if the farmers leave their land it will be easier for Israel to confiscate even more of the Palestinian land.

This week PSP and international activists joined two local families in their olive fields in area C close to the green line.

On Sunday 14th of October the activists went to Surif, a neighboring village of Beit Ommar. Surif is partly surrounded by the segregation wall; a several meters high electric fence.

The harvest this day took place in the land of Mousa Abu Fara. Internationals were happy to contribute as olive harvesting is a social event. After the harvest was done this day a lovely lunch was served under the olive trees by Mousa’s wife.

On Monday 15th of October PSP and its international activists went to harvest in Al Jab’a. The ride between Beit Ommar and Al Jab’a proved to be troublesome as the Israeli occupation forces had blocked the Al Baqah road “for security reasons” the night before when they raided Beit Ommar and arrested one child and three youths. This road connects Beit Ommar to Surif and Al Jab’a.

After clearing the road of stones the ride to Al Jab’a could continue. Right before entering the village of Al Jab’a they encountered yet another obstacle, a gate and huge rocks that have blocked the road between Surif and Al Jab’a since the second intifada in 2000. The delegation from Beit Ommar had to leave the cars behind and walk past the road block to a waiting car on the other side.

The third obstacle this morning was to pass through the Beit Shemesh checkpoint. This checkpoint is built well inside the “Green Line” and therefore several Palestinian farmers own land on the other side of the checkpoint. The olive fields in question this day, owned by Mohammed Abu Lateefha, are also located on the other side of the checkpoint.

Farmer Abu Feras in front of Beit Shemesh checkpoint built on his land. Israel does not pay any rent.

The delegation had to wait, together with the local farmers and their families, for the soldiers from the Israeli occupation forces to get back to them on whether they could enter through the checkpoint or not. After waiting for approximately an hour and a half the Israeli soldiers denied the Palestinian farmers entrance. The justification given was that Mohammed Abu Lateefha, in order to enter his land, had to apply for permission from the District Coordination Office a week in advance.

This office is a cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authorities on coordination of military affairs. PSP’s opinion is that Palestinians should not cooperate with this office because it should not be necessary for Palestinian farmers or others to apply for any kind of permission to enter their own land.

Since the workers were denied entry to land of Mohammed Abu Lateefha they walked to other olive fields close by the checkpoint instead. There they helped Feras Abu Lateefha, another local farmer. Feras told PSP that the Beit Shemesh checkpoint actually is built on his land.

After a good days work the workers had a delicious lunch under the olive trees.