Widespread destruction of olive trees in Yasuf village and beyond

Widespread destruction of olive trees in Yasuf village and beyond

When the farmers of Palestinian villages Yasuf and As Sawiya came on Sunday 10th November 2019 to their beautiful olive fields covering the rolling hills of the West Bank’s Salfit region, they walked into their worst nightmare.

olive tree

Farmers and volunteers trying to salvage the olives from the destroyed trees.

Parts of more than 60 olive trees were ‘butchered’ during the previous night and their torn branches were strewn across the slopes, with over 40 of them still covered in the olive fruits.

International Women’s Peace Service (IWPS) volunteers visited the location on Monday 11 November and spoke to the Yasuf farmer who lost 40 of his trees. He was in the field with his wife, both still visibly upset, together with two neighbours who were lucky to lose ‘only’ two of their olive trees. One of them was hardly managing to hold back her tears at the sight of this senseless and hateful vandalism.

Yasuf residents have become accustomed to being on the receiving end of violence over the decades long occupation and Israeli state sponsored settler terrorism. The same goes for the nearby As Sawiya village which shares the land in the attacked area; the owner of 20 destroyed olive trees being from As Sawiya.

The Yasuf farmer told us that at night only two weeks ago, all his olive harvest equipment -which included a gas powered olive harvester worth more than 2000 dollars, three ladders, plastic sheeting used to cover around the olives, buckets and even the coffee and tea cups and pots- were stolen. Three sacks with 150 kilograms of olives where included in the loot of the criminals, the illegal colonisers. The farmer managed to replace some of if it, only to lose it all again in the latest settlers’ orgy of destruction. Two of our volunteers stayed this morning with the farmer to pick the last crop from the butchered branches.

A number of the trees were over a hundred years old and some were younger. Regardless of their age, it is certain that it will take many years for them to grow new branches and start to produce fruit.

The scene of destruction when farmers arrived at their field.

The scene of destruction when farmers arrived at their field.

Osama Maslah, Director of Palestinian District Coordination Liaison (DCL), which is supposed to sort out any ‘issues’ with their Israeli counterparts under the Oslo Agreement, told us that the violence in the Yasuf and As Sawiya area is a regular occurrence.

A year ago, not even a 100 metres from the place of the recent acts of vandalism, Aisha Rabi, a mother from the Palestinian Bidiya village was killed by a settler hurling a rock into the car she was travelling in with her family, with her killer released’, Mr Masah said, adding ‘so what do you think the chance is that those destroying trees will be punished?’.

It is suspected that the perpetrators are religious fanatics from the nearby illegal settlement, Rachelim. Our Israeli counterparts visited the location yesterday and promised an investigation, but nothing has happened so far’, he said.

Mr Maslah continued to explain that the violence against the Palestinians and their property is the policy of the Israeli state and that the occupation army and the settlers are its executors. ‘That is why hardly anybody is ever been taken to court or convicted, while the Palestinians go to prison for as little as a Facebook post which is not to the liking of the occupiers’, he said.

A prominent Palestinian activist friend tells us that the destruction of the Yasuf and As Sawiya trees was not a random attack but a planned and coordinated one.

On the same night trees were destroyed in Burin, which is a located near Yitzhar, another fanatical illegal settlement. The similarity in the way trees were destroyed, branches were partly sawn and then broken off, indicates that there is a cooperation and coordination between radical settlements’, says our fellow activist friend.

Mr Maslah says that the settler and army violence during this harvest is significantly higher than in the previous years. The extent of violence this year is such that some farmers are sufficiently worried and afraid and have given up on harvesting their olive fields even if accompanied with the DCL staff.

And this is exactly what Israeli state and its apparatus in the occupied Palestine wants to achieve.

Volunteers in the olive grove surrounded by sawn off branches.

Volunteers in the olive grove surrounded by sawn off branches.