Olive Harvest: Occupied
Kufr Qalil is one of the most dangerous places to pick olives north of Ramallah. Several years ago fanatical illegal settlers from Bracha descended from the top of a hill and broke a jaw of an elderly olive picker. Ever since the Kufr Qalil farmers pick their olives keeping an eye on the hills above and anticipating violence.
About a week ago IWPS volunteers, and other international solidarity activists who provided accompaniment to a Kufr Qalil farmer, were attacked by stone throwing settler thugs. Luckily nobody was hurt, this time.
Yesterday morning this farmer had to park far away from the field we were picking, because his land has been split by a busy settler’s only road, which we had to cross on foot quickly, keeping near to each other.
As soon as we arrived we saw a group of settlers watching us form a hilltop.
Shortly after a group of six of them descended to the nearby spring about 50 metres away from us. The spring belongs to the farmer’s family, but 10 years ago it was taken over by the illegal settlers who use it as a picnic area.
We contacted Rabbis for Human Rights, an Israeli organisation with good links with the Israeli army, for assistance.
When at least six young orthodox settlers, two using video cameras, moved to about five metres from where we were picking, several soldiers followed and prevented them from moving any closer. This was an outcome we could only hope for, because there are many examples from the recent past of the occupation army standing by while the settlers attack Palestinians, their land or their houses. After about 15 minutes the army escorted the settlers down the hill and then the Border Police arrived.
They were very civil, wished us a good day and one of them spoke Arabic to the farmer, taking details of what happened.
The Border Police bid us good-bye and left three soldiers behind who stood near us while we picked olives for a while and then moved on to the spring area. The soldiers were also very civil. Our farmer greeted them with ‘ salam aleykum’ (peace be with you) and then asked a shy looking soldier sporting an apologetic smile ‘keyfak’ (how are you?) and he answered ‘al hamdu lillah’ ( thanking Allah). The farmer repeated with an air of disbelief ‘al hamdu lilah? Are you an Arab’ and the soldiers responded that he was not.
Did we witness a change in the occupation army and police behaviour? Are they now trying to make the occupation more bearable for the Palestinians and why? Or were we just lucky to have a good contact in the ‘Rabbis’?
All those theories might be tested tomorrow when we are going to be back on the same spot accompanying the same family of farmers.