Hastings Friends of Yatma member Gill Knight is in the West Bank, and one of her activities is picking olives. International volunteers are essential to the annual olive harvest in many parts of the West Bank because Israeli settlers harass Palestinians picking their olives, especially if the olive trees are located close to the illegal West Bank settlements. Knowing that international volunteers are with the local people as they harvest their olives lets the settlers know that harassment will be witnessed by the outside world. And when incidents happen, local Palestinians are treated more fairly by the Israeli occupation forces when international volunteers are present. Moreover, Palestinian farmers and their families are often buoyed by the feeling of solidarity of having international volunteers work beside them.
Olive trees are a point of conflict between Palestinians and militant West Bank settlers all year round. Olive trees are often uprooted by settlers, or burned. Sometimes they are enclosed by illegal settlement fences. Yatma farmers have experienced attacks on their olive trees by settlers from the nearby Israeli towns. Frequently farmers are prohibited from accessing trees that are close to settlement boundaries by harassment from armed settlers or by the occupation army.
On occasion olives are stolen by settlers. Here. It isn’t clear whether this is an act of simple theft, or a political act to harass Palestinian farmers. Here is an example of a recent attempt to steal olives by settlers. The thieves were sent on their way by the occupation army, but weren’t charged.