Monthly Archives: October 2012

HFOY member helps in the West Bank olive harvest

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.

Picking olives at Askar

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.

Olive trees are beside heavily guarded Israeli settlements

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.

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Filed under International volunteers, Olive Tree Campaign, Yatma

Gill’s blog from the West Bank

Living Under Occupation – West Bank, Palestine

A Visit to the Askar Refugee Camp Nablus

It’s my 3rd time in Palestine and for 3 weeks my emotions were on an even keel. I tune in and connect with the Palestinians, whether they chose to live out the occupation with a degree of acceptance or continue to resist; no more feelings of me being overwhelmed in the face of their oppression.

But then I visit the Askar Refugee Camp kindergarten and the juxtaposition of the political graffiti and the kids, kids just behaving like kids anywhere in the world – playing and learning – brings on the tears! These are 3rd generation refugees, 60 children including 7 that are disabled.

ASKAR Camp Background

The ‘old camp’ was founded in 1948, the core families coming from the villages destroyed by the Zionist forces in 1947/8, Haifa, Jaffa and Lydd. The camp has grown exponentially and a ‘new camp’ was built as an extension in 1965 (this is not recognised by UNWRA – United Nations Works and Relief Agency). Influxes have come from, for example, the 1967 war aftermath and displaced Bedouins from the Negev.

The camps suffer from overcrowding, unemployment and poverty – 30% in extreme poverty.


Out of the 11.2 million Palestinians worldwide, 1 in 4 are refugees – 4.7 million living in camps in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. In 2011 UNWRA recorded 848,494 registered refugees living in the 19 West Bank camps. There are an unknown number of unregistered refugees. On average the Palestinian population is young – 40% being under 14.


The right of Palestinian return to their land is enshrined in international law and historical precedent, and affirmed repeatedly by the UN. Resolution 194 was passed by the UN general assembly in December 1948 and called on Israel to repatriate those “displaced by the recent conflict” with compensation for their losses. The 1948 universal declaration of human rights states that those who leave their homes for whatever reason have the absolute right to return to them.

Quote from UNCHR 2006 ”one of the most protracted cases of forced displacement in the world today”.

Useful References:

Ilan Pappe The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

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Yatma teenagers in Israeli prisons

Sources in Yatma say that about 15 Yatma teenagers are in Israeli prisons, after being seized from their homes, generally in the middle of the night, over the past few months.

Many of these teenagers are followed to their homes after being seen throwing stones at the occupying Israeli armed forces at Za’atara, a large road junction and military checkpoint about 2 km from Yatma.

Palestinian teens seized for throwing stone are typically kept in prisons for long periods, without trial, while Israeli stone throwers are rarely sanctioned. The Yatma teens presently in Israeli jails have mostly been there since January. Teens often languish in jail because their parents cannot afford bail. Until last year, when world outcry focussed attention on the practise, Palestinian teens over 15 were treated as adults and kept in adult jails under adult conditions, while Israeli teens under 18 were treated as children, a clearly discriminatory practice.

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Yatma boys school has needs beyond new building

The Yatma Boys School has a new building thanks to a Jordanian donor. But the building is nearly empty, lacking basic facilities, even furniture. Computers are generally lacking, there is no phone line and there is only one water tap for all the students in the school. (This reflects the generally desperate water situation in Yatma, which was deprived of its spring by the settlers of the Rechalim colony).


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Filed under Education, HFOY projects in Yatma, Water supply

Water supply problems in Yatma mostly settler caused

This in from a recent visitor to Yatma:

……confirmed that the settlement of Rechilim had hijacked the spring  (as in the ISM report) and this had affected the water supply for Yatma and five other villages.  As Yatma village is very poor – the poorest of the villages around Nablus – the villagers rely mainly on rain water to fill their water tanks.  Obviously this is a problem during the summer and buying water from the Israeli is expensive for them.
But characteristically the villagers (Arafat interpreted) did not talk about this but took me to see a broken water pipe on Naim’s land. This farmer whose family Sarah and I visited on the CADFA tour (they have sold the goats Sarah!) The break has caused flooding, which could affect the olive trees, prevents the distribution of water to other fields and attracts the wild pigs who damage the trees. The Israeli’s are refusing to mend it and the Palestinian farmers cannot bring equipment to mend it themselves; the land is close to the watchtower/fence of Rechilim and the army will halt any repair operations. In fact the villagers were surprised that our group had not attracted the soldiers  as it usually does,  but is was Shabbat so maybe they weren’t around…….

Yatma residents are forced to buy water from very Israeli settlers who seized their spring!!!

A report on the Yatma water situation from a worker with the International Solidarity Movement described the situation in detail and we expect more updates soon.

(Yatma had a population of about 2900 in 2008).


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