Question of Palestine home
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
16 October 2012
OLIVE HARVEST FACTSHEET
موسم قطف الزيتون
1. The annual olive harvest is a key economic, social and cultural event for Palestinians. Communities with olive groves located between the Barrier and the Green Line and in the vicinity of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and along the perimeter fence surrounding the Gaza Strip face serious challenges in maintaining and harvesting their olive crops which, in turn, undermine their livelihoods and increase their vulnerabilities.
2. Thousands of Palestinians are denied permits to access their olive groves located behind the Barrier for ‘security reasons’ or because they are unable to meet Israel’s criteria to prove a ‘connection to the land’. However, more are granted permits during the harvest period than during the rest of the year.
3. Those with permits must use ‘agricultural gates’ built along the Barrier, most of which are only open for a very limited time during the annual harvest. This restrictive regime prevents farmers from carrying out essential year-round maintenance such as ploughing, pruning, and fertilizing, which in turn undermines the quality and quantity of the yield.
4. Settler violence poses a serious challenge for many Palestinian farmers. Palestinian-owned olive trees have been damaged, uprooted, poisoned, burnt down or harvested by settlers. The Israeli authorities have sought to implement a system to limit Palestinian farmers’ access to olive trees near 55 settlements to a few days a year; Israeli soldiers are deployed to support their access during these periods. This has resulted in fewer attacks on farmers but is ineffective in preventing the vandalizing of olive trees throughout the rest of the year.
5. This system penalizes farmers by limiting their access, rather than enforcing the rule of law on violent settlers. The vast majority of complaints regarding settler violence against Palestinian farmers and their property that are filed with the Israeli Police are closed without indictment.
6. In the Gaza Strip, the majority of the olive trees located in areas within 1.5 km from the perimeter fence were destroyed in recent years by the Israeli military. Farmers are effectively unable to replant due to the high risk that their new trees will be leveled by the Israeli military during regular incursions and because access is restricted and dangerous.
7. Israel, as the occupying power, must fulfill its obligations under international law to protect Palestinian civilians and property. It must ensure Palestinians farmers’ safe and unimpeded access to their agricultural land throughout the year and ensure accountability for those responsible for attacks.