Hundreds of olive trees have been uprooted, burned or cut down by extremist settlers since the annual harvest got under way in the West Bank this month, prompting calls for the Israeli authorities to protect Palestinian farmers and their property.
According to the UN, more than 870 trees were vandalized in the first week of the harvest, which began in early October. A coalition of four Israeli human rights organisations said more than 450 trees had been damaged over the past week.
The damage is usually discovered when Palestinian families arrive at their groves to gather the fruit. Sometimes Palestinians are attacked during the harvest itself.
Settler attacks on olive groves have increased over recent years. Since the beginning of this year, a total of 7,180 Palestinian-owned trees have been vandalized by settlers, according to the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Last year about 10,000 trees were uprooted or vandalized.
Robert Serry, the UN’s special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process, said the damage and destruction of trees was reprehensible.
“Israel must live up to its commitments under international law to protect Palestinians and their property in the occupied territory so that the olive harvest — a crucial component of Palestinian livelihoods and the Palestinian economy — can proceed unhindered,” he said.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, said settlers were launching attacks “under the protection of the Israeli military.” In a letter to diplomats, she appealed to international missions to send observers to at-risk olive-picking areas to monitor abuses.
“In the past month alone, Israeli settlers uprooted 300 trees in al-Mughir and Turmusaya villages, cut down 120 trees in Nablus, destroyed 100 olive saplings and 60 vine trees in al-Khader village, uprooted 40 trees in Ras Karkar and assaulted and hospitalized three Palestinian farmers and injured one other,” she wrote.
According to Oxfam, there are about 9.5 million olive trees in the West Bank.
On a visit to the West Bank village of Aboud on Monday, Waleed Assaf, the Palestinian agriculture minister, said the proportion of GDP earned from agriculture had fallen from 28 percent to 5.6 percent over the past 20 years. This decline, he said, was mainly due to the confiscation of land for Israeli settlements and the security barrier, as well as the difficulties faced by Palestinian farmers in accessing their land. Serious water shortages were also hampering agricultural output, he said.
“We have lost half a million trees,” Assaf said. “We are planting more, but it takes 10 years for a young olive tree to start producing fruit.”
On the edge of the village, Eid Khalil, 41, was harvesting his fruit. He said Aboud had lost 18 dunams of olive trees when land was confiscated to build the nearby settlement of Bet Arye.
“It used to take until Christmas to pick the village olives. Now it takes a month,” he said.
Aboud’s population of 2,200 is evenly divided between Muslims and Christians.
“The majority of people work in agriculture,” Greek Orthodox parish priest Emmanuel Awwad said. “The oil is the only income for most of the families.”
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable