A former head of Israel’s Shin Bet,Israel’s security agency, recently said that Israel doesn’t want to stop the price tag attacks that have terrorised the residents of Yatma and Palestinian communities throughout the West Bank. Carmi Gillon’s comments at a cultural event were reported in Jerusalem Post. He said that Shin Bet could stop the attacks if it wanted (presumably as criticism of the present administration). His comments were echoed by former head of Mossad, Shabtai Shavit.
‘Price Tag’ attacks are carried out by extremist Israeli settlers typically when the Israeli government does something they don’t like. For the most part the victims are Palestinians, although occasionally the extremists target Israeli government property. Attacks are often arson attacks against cars, spray painted walls, slashed tires, burned olive trees, uprooted crops. Yatma and the area south of Nablus have been plagued by these attacks, and the Israeli occupation forces have rarely done anything to identify the attackers. (In a rare exception, Israeli police recently arrested several people from the settlement of Yitzhar, which is just a few kilometres from Yatma).
Olive trees destroyed in ‘Price Tag’ attacks
Picking olives at Askar
Britain and Germany have blocked Palestinian member in the International Olive Council. Palestinians wanted to join the council to further development of the Palestinian olive industry. Observers believe that Britain and Germany blocked the Palestinian bid on the basis that it threatened the ‘peace process’ between Palestinians and their Israeli occupiers. Palestinians argue that the International Olive Council is primarily a technical body, providing opportunities for grants and training, and that in any case ‘peace talks’ are stalled and it is time to move on in some areas. Sectors of Israeli political spectrum oppose the Palestinian Authority joining international organisations, anything that solidifies the idea of a Palestinian nation.
Olive trees are a vital part of Palestinian life. Palestinians produce a surplus of olive oil and struggle to find export sales from inside occupied Palestine. Thousands of olive trees have been destroyed by militant Israeli settlers in the West Bank in 2012 and 2013. Recently the Palestinian Authority announced a plan to plant 750,000 olive seedlings throughout the West Bank, to expand olive production. Solidarity activists in Britain have mounted a campaign to sell Palestinian olive oil outside Palestine to make Palestinians less dependent on local brokers. (To purchase Palestinian olive oil and other Palestinian products in Hastings, call: Gill 01 424 715881)
Write to Amber Rudd and the Foreign Secretary William Hague, asking them to be aware of this issue and to withdraw British objections to the Palestinian Authority being a full member of the International Olive Council.
Amber Rudd contacts
William Hague contacts
Settlers, probably from the Rechalim settlement, have destroyed olive trees belonging to farmers from Yatma, in the West Bank, near Nablus. The attacks on trees are part of an escalation of attacks on Palestinian property throughout the West Bank this year. Some of the attacks have been part of the ‘Price Tag’ programme, some are unattributed.
(more to come)
Olive tree destroyed by settlers at Yatma
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.
Settlers uprooted 120 olive trees at Yatma on about July 6, 2012. The olive trees belonged to Yatma resident Bade’ Nasser.
The settlers are believed to come from Kefar Tappuach settlement, or possibly the ‘Taffouh’ settlement. An earlier attack on 30 trees in January was blamed on settler dissatisfaction with the forced evacuation of Jewish militants from three outposts. The ‘Price Tag’ campaign targets Palestinians in the West Bank in retaliation for actions by the Israeli government that the settlers don’t approve of. While the Israeli government claims to be against the Price Tag attacks, it generally sanctions the perpetrators only if they attack Israeli facilities. In a rare exception, Israeli occupation forces arrested the young woman in this video, for damaging Palestinian property in Luban Ash-Sharqiyia village.
A photograph in this blog, shows some of the damage done to the olive trees in Yatma.
This month’s attack is just the latest in a long string of attacks by settlers in the area south of Nablus. Perpetrators are rarely charged and compensation is not paid. This report compiled by the Palestine Centre for Human Rights documents some of the Israeli human rights violations in the occupied territories for the week ending 12 July 2012.
As near as we have been able to ascertain the olive harvest at Yatma went of without serious incident this year. The olive harvest is an important cultural time of year for Palestinians and provides an considerable portion of the year’s income for many families.
The olive harvest frequently brings residents and settlers into conflict as Palestinians’ olive groves are often adjacent to illegal settlements. At the time of the harvest militant settlers often take advantage of the occasion to attack harvesters, and to assert their control over olive groves near settlements. Yatma has been the site of conflict in the past. Many see it as part of an organised campaign against Palestinians.
There were frequent incidents in the West Bank in 2011, but Yatma has apparently been spared this year. Here is a collection of 95 photos or a recent Yatma olive harvest, posted by Combatants for Peace. It isn’t certain what year these photos were taken.