A Palestinian Tree Resisting Occupation


A Palestinian Tree Resisting Occupation

Occupied Palestine

Its roots sink deep into the ground. It has a diameter of about 25 meters and a height of 12 meters. Its shadow covers a quarter of a dunum. This is the oldest and largest olive tree in Palestine. It clings to the mountains of the al-Walaja village located west of Bethlehem in the West Bank.

This 5500-year-old tree resists settlements and the Zionist separation wall that surrounds the entire village. The Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture has appointed Salah Abu Ali to tend to the tree. He waters it, grazes the grass under it and protects it from attacks by settlers and occupation forces. The tree belongs to his cousin Dawoud (Abu Ali), who inherited it from his father Muhammad Hussein Abu Ali.

Abu Ali, 45, said that he had been guarding the tree for many years from the hands of the settlers and the occupation forces, who repeatedly tried to uproot it but to no avail. He stressed that he would not leave it despite attacks from settlers and other “Israelis”.

“The tree is located in the original village of al-Walaja whose residents were displaced by the occupation in 1948. In 1956, its buildings were destroyed and a series of settlements were built instead,” Abu Salah said.

This tree has a special place in history as stories are told about it. One of these was born when al-Quds was liberated during the days of the “Islamic Conquest”. It was said that Muslim leaders sat under the shade of this tree. The inhabitants call the tree the “Badawi [Bedouin] tree” in attribution to a Sufi sheikh who had followers in Palestine. His name was Sheikh Ahmad al-Badawi. He was born in Morocco and died in Egypt in 267 AH. They also tell tales about the gifts attribute to him.

“The olive tree, visited by thousands of Palestinian, Arab and foreign delegations over the years, represents the image of the conflict between us and the enemy because it is older than the occupation of Palestine, which is trying to kill it,” Abu Ali added.

He pointed out that “the village has historical and archaeological features. It is part of the occupation’s ambitions. Olive trees are the most important component of their key ambitions. ”

Abu Ali calls the fruits of his ancient tree the “green gold”, noting that the taste is similar to the “urban ghee”.

He adds that there are those who resort to the use of its oil and leaves as a kind of treatment for some diseases. It is rich in benefits that restore human health after the illness.

In the early days, the tree used to produce about 600 kilos of olives, but its production declined to 250 – 300 kilos of olives due to natural factors and attacks from settlers.

Approximately 2,000 Palestinians live in al-Walaja village on an area of 4500 out of 17793 dunums – the majority of which the Zionist occupation has taken over and turned into settlements and security reserves.

Al-Walaja is one of the Palestinian villages that rely heavily on olive cultivation. It produces high quality olive oil due to its high altitude and it is one of the most beautiful villages in southern Palestine overlooking the occupied city of al-Quds.

It is noteworthy that years ago, an “Israeli” group working under the guard of the occupation army took a sample of the tree to examine and compare it with another tree, located elsewhere in Palestine, which was occupied in 1948. It found out that it was older than that tree.

Source: Al-Ahed News, Occupied Palestine



Greenwashing the Nakba: The Real Story Behind israel’s “Blooming Desert”

Whitney Webb | MintNews
Though the official narrative of the state of Israel claims that it has turned the land it occupies from an empty desert into a lush, agricultural wonder, the actual fate of the land following Israel’s establishment in 1948 tells a very different story.

In this Monday, Sept. 7, 2009 file photo, an Israeli flag is seen in front of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maaleh Adumim on the outskirts of Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue, File)

Were it not for Israel, the desert would have remained unproductive and fallow – or so the story goes.It has often been said that Israel, since its establishment in 1948, has presided over the “miracle” of making the country’s “desert bloom.” That heavily promoted narrative — which asserts that the Palestinians have long lacked the capacity, knowledge or desire to properly develop agriculture in the region — has often been used as a legitimizing factor in Israel’s establishment. As former Israel Prime Minister Shimon Peres once said, “The country [Palestine] was mostly an empty desert, with only a few islands of Arab settlement; and Israel’s [cultivated] land today was indeed redeemed from swamp and wilderness.”

There is, however, another side to this story, one that shows that the “blooming desert” of Israel is a convenient disguise for the degradation and destruction of Palestine’s natural resources, a means of obfuscating the worst of occupation by wrapping it in the cloak of Zionist mythology. While a central theme of Zionist mythology has long been the need for the Jewish Diaspora community to re-establish itself by returning to agricultural labor, the truth of Israel’s agricultural “success” involves the unsustainable use of occupied resources and the deliberate destruction of the land and water still used by Palestinians today.

Erasing a rich history
Though the official narrative of the state of Israel claims that it has turned the land it occupies from an empty desert into a lush, agricultural wonder, the actual fate of the land following Israel’s establishment in 1948 tells a very different story. Indeed, prior to 1948, the historical record demonstrates that Palestinian farms were very productive and that both Palestinian Arabs and Jewish settlers were successful farmers. For example, a UN report on agriculture in Palestine between 1945 and 1946 recorded that Palestinian-grown crops accounted for nearly 80 percent of Palestine’s total agricultural yield that season, with Palestinian farms producing over 244,000 tons of vegetables, 73,000 tons of fruit, 78,000 tons of olives, and 5 million liters of wine.

“Villagers of Sidna Ali drawing water from communal well. (source: Palestine Remembered)

Two years later, when the majority of Palestinians were forced from their land during the “Nakba” that founded the state of Israel, the farms and orchards that had previously been tended by Palestinians were left abandoned, as their owners fled under the threat of death at the hands of Zionist militias.

As Israeli historian and journalist Meron Benvenisti detailed in his book Sacred Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948:

By April 1948 Jewish farmers had already begun harvesting the crops that had ripened in the abandoned fields and picking the citrus fruit in Arab groves. […] by mid-1949 two-thirds of all land sown with grain in Israel was abandoned Arab land.”

Thus, it was land theft that was largely responsible for Israel’s initial agricultural production, not the labor or agricultural expertise of Zionist settlers.

In addition, the claim that Israel turned an undeveloped desert into an agricultural wonder seems to be – in part – projection on the part of the Israeli state. Indeed, as Benvenisti noted, following the removal of Palestinians, the vast majority of centuries-old fruit orchards that had long been maintained by the native inhabitants of the land were untended, neglected and, in some cases, bulldozed to make room for ever-expanding settlements.

According to Benvenisti’s research, that neglect led to a situation in which “entire tracts of productive citrus trees, especially in the Tel Aviv-Jaffa area, were earmarked for the construction of housing developments,” as was the case for Palestine olive groves and pomegranate orchards that the land’s new occupants considered “an annoyance.” Part of the reason for the destruction of the land was that it would weaken Palestinian claims to return to the land, as keeping agricultural infrastructure intact “might have made possible the absorption of the returning refugees.”

Current Israeli government policy, particularly its support for the construction of illegal settlements on Palestinian land, is the continuation of this effort to erase Palestine’s history by targeting its agricultural heritage as well as its natural wonders. Indeed, Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted back in 2011 that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s steady push for Israeli expansion into Palestinian territory had been coupled with “his insistence on seeing nature and landscape as no more than an obstacle to the realization of his settlement vision.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres, right, and French President Francois Hollande, plant a Cedar tree in Jerusalem. The National Lawyers Guild called for the investigation of the Jewish National Fund, an organization famous for planting tress on land forcibly seized from Palestinians. (AP/Abir Sultan)

Covering a crime with water-sucking pines
Another project central to the “desert bloom” mythology is Israel’s “afforestation” of the desert, which has helped “turn the desert green” through the planting of non-native pine trees. These forests, largely planted by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), have been touted as a “miracle.” Yet, the pine stands, much like Israel’s treatment of Palestine’s agricultural legacy, have been motivated by a need to cover up the events that led to the creation of the Israeli state.

Indeed, more than two-thirds of all JNF forests and sites lie on top of the ruins of Palestinian villages demolished during and after the founding of Israel, and the group’s continuing afforestation efforts are aimed at acquiring land in the occupied West Bank to prevent “trespassing” and “conceal” Palestinian villages in order to prevent the return of Palestinian refugees.

Moreover, the effort to maintain a forest of non-native trees – regardless of whether its chief aim is to cover up the true history of Palestine or “green” a desert — has come at a great cost to the natural environment. As journalist Max Blumenthal has noted:
Most of the saplings the JNF plants at a site near Jerusalem simply do not survive, and require frequent replanting. Elsewhere, needles from the pine trees have killed native plant species and wreaked havoc on the ecosystem.”
They also become fodder for forest fires that have caused major damage and mass evacuations throughout Israel over the years.

Another ecological consequence of JNF forests is their likely effect on Israel’s horrendous drought, considered to be the worst the region has faced in over 900 years. As studies have shown in other countries where non-native pine plantations have been introduced in vast numbers, pines consume a significant amount of water – leading to droughts and even the disappearance of entire rivers – as well as fundamentally alter and degrade the soil. While these forests have been presented as an ecological miracle, they are instead destroying the environment and degrading the land’s resources, suggesting that the main driver behind the long-standing project is aimed at covering up the ruins of Palestine.

Continuing the attack on Palestinian agriculture
Today, the stark difference in agricultural development in the land tended by Israelis and Palestinians derives from policies that often receive little coverage in the media and are largely absent from the “desert bloom” narrative. Indeed, much of the coverage the issue has received paints Palestinian agricultural successes as either the work of foreigners offering aid or resulting from the “theft” of Israeli-settlement agricultural infrastructure.

Such reports fail to acknowledge the realities of the issue, such as the illegal blockade of Gaza that has crippled its economy and agricultural sector, as well as Israel’s destruction of agricultural infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank. Gazan agricultural infrastructure was ravaged by Israel in times of war and, in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers regularly demolish rain cisterns, pipelines and irrigation systems installed by Palestinians, citing as a reason that such structures lacked the “proper authorization” from Israel. Farmers themselves, mainly in Gaza, are often targeted directly by Israeli soldiers if they come too close to the border fence.

A Palestinian elderly woman collects olives from broken olive tree branches in the village of Qusra, northern West Bank, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012. Palestinian farmers say Jewish settlers from the nearby settlement of Eli cut more than 70 olive trees overnight. Olives are the backbone of Palestinian agriculture. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

The Israeli government has also targeted Palestinian agriculture through chemical warfare. The use of white phosphorus as a weapon against Gaza, for example, has had major consequences for the area’s farmers. In addition to the chemical weapon’s often deadly effects on the human body, it has destructive effects on the environment and plants, as its incendiary nature often leads to the spontaneous ignition and burning of trees, forests and farmland. It also lingers in the environment for several years.

Beyond the use of chemical weapons, Israel has also directly targeted Gazan farmland with herbicide. In 2015, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) admitted to using herbicides and germination inhibitors to kill off vegetation along the Palestinian side of the border, damaging over 420 acres of land. A year later, tactic was repeated, this time destroying around 400 acres of farmland. The IDF has stated that it sprays the chemicals over the vaguely defined “no-go zone” it has established along the border “in order to enable optimal and continuous security operations.” However, the area accounts for a third of Gaza’s arable land and 17 percent of the entire territory.

Furthermore, the herbicides, like white phosphorus, have consequences for the environment long after they are sprayed. As Anwar Abu Assi, manager of the chemical laboratory at Gaza’s Ministry of Agriculture, told Al Jazeera in 2016:
Herbicides are sprayed in high concentrations. Thus, they remain embedded in the soil, and then find their way to the water basin. This constitutes a real hazard for the population.”
The targeting of Palestinian agriculture in the present and its treatment by the Israeli and American press suggest another and nefarious way in which Israel’s “desert bloom” mythology has manifested. In order for Israel’s agricultural “superiority” to remain unchallenged, Palestinian agriculture must also be suppressed. Were Palestinian agriculture able to develop unimpeded and flourish, it would call into question the idea that the land was barren before the Zionists, threatening the latter’s legitimacy.

The cover-story for all conquerors and colonizers 
The myth of Israel “making the desert bloom” has its basis in neo-colonial narratives that have long been used in other settler states such as Canada, New Zealand, the United States and Australia. In the cases of the latter countries, the native inhabitants and their culture have also inaccurately been depicted as “primitive” and incompetent, a narrative that suggests that the land would have remained “wild” and undeveloped were it not for the “fortunate” appearance of European settlers. Such narratives cast the settlers as both superior and normal while the natives become inferior and abnormal, thus obfuscating the settler’s status as foreigner and conqueror.

Zionist mythology reinforces similar themes. For example, as in the United States Native Americans were considered as uncivilized and wild as the natural environment, Zionist mythology reinforces the idea that all Arabs are “sons of the desert” while the desert similarly represents a barbaric obstacle to “progress” and development.

Another historical analogue is the 19th century concept of “manifest destiny” — the idea that the expansion of the United States had been preordained by God himself, which led the U.S. to break many of its numerous treaties with indigenous tribes and even go to war with Mexico in order to acquire the land it coveted. The Israeli government similarly sees its expansion and control of all of Palestine as a matter of fulfilling prophecy and “redeeming” the Holy Land. This effort of redemption continues to feed Israel’s expansion. As Netanyahu has said, Israel is “obligated to develop all parts of the country – the Galilee and the Negev [the West Bank].”

Living the myth and the lie
Yet, no matter how much evidence exists to the contrary, Israel will never tell the real story behind the “miracle” of making “the desert bloom.” It will never tell the real story precisely because it can’t – to do so would mean demolishing the neo-colonial narrative at the center of the settler state, a narrative that is the pillar of its legitimacy.

Indeed, if Israel has not actually improved the land by making “the desert bloom” but instead degraded the land, the legitimacy of the state of Israel itself becomes questionable, as it suggests that its native inhabitants – the Palestinians – were better caretakers of the land than the current occupiers. For this reason, Israel must continue to propagate the myth regardless of the facts, and continue to deny Palestine’s rich cultural history and agricultural legacy.

With Israel now facing the consequences of its mistreatment of the land and its resources, the historical revisionism once used to sell the disparity between Israeli and Palestinian agricultural prowess has become ineffective. For that reason, Israel must now use other tactics — chemical warfare through toxic agrochemicals, the physical destruction of Palestinian agricultural infrastructure, and illegal blockades – in order to keep the artificial narrative alive, creating the illusion of primitivism and scarcity where none exists.

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Israelis Stop Planting, Destroy Olive Tree Seedlings


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

By Joyce Kilmer

When Olives Need Harvesting

The challenges faced by Palestinian olive farmers during harvest season each year are considerable. This year has been no different.

Report: Israeli Settlers Steal Harvest of 400 Olive Trees

5 Pillars

Occupying Israeli settlers have stolen the harvest of 400 olive trees planted on private Palestinian land, farmers in Nablus told Ma’an News earlier this week.

Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement activities in the northern West Bank, told Ma’an that more than 30 Palestinian families from the Nablus district village of Deir Sharaf entered their agricultural lands yesterday after being banned since Friday by Israeli authorities.

According to Daghlas, the families “were shocked to find out that Israeli settlers had picked the olives of 400 olive trees planted in their lands,” near the illegal Israeli settlement of Shavi Shamron.

“Israeli settlers stealing olive harvests is a crime against Palestinian farmers and their properties,” Daghlas said, denouncing “the Israeli government’s knowledge [of settlers’ actions] and the complete silence of international society and human rights organisations.”

Daghlas also demanded compensation for the Palestinian families who lost their olive harvest.

The olive harvest is an important economic and cultural event for Palestinians, with nearly half of all cultivated land in the occupied Palestinian territory planted with olive trees, according to the United Nations.

However, due to illegal settlement expansion, land confiscation, mobility restrictions due to Israel’s Separation Wall, and various permit laws, Palestinian farmers are often unable to access their land and the number of olive trees is dwindling.

This year’s olive harvest season, which began in October, has already witnessed attacks by illegal Israeli settlers and Israeli regime’s restrictions on Palestinian farmers and their lands.

The Palestinian government has no jurisdiction over Israelis in the West Bank, and violent acts carried out by illegal occupying Israeli settlers go unpunished.

Israeli human rights groups Yesh Din and B’Tselem have previously condemned the Israeli regime for failing to protect Palestinians from settler violence or to investigate attacks, particularly during olive harvest season when incidents of attacks occur on an almost daily basis.


Gaza Farmers Succeed in Tending to Olive Harvest–With International Support

By Joe Catron

During the recent olive harvest, which lasted from the end of September through October, dozens of Palestinian volunteers joined farmers in their groves near the tense barriers of the Gaza Strip.

The volunteers worked during a week at the height of the harvest season, from 20 to 27 October, in two of the farming districts most often targeted by Israeli forces: Beit Hanoun, around the Erez checkpoint in northern Gaza, and al-Qarara, a town in the Khan Younis area of the southern Gaza Strip.

Along with others near the “buffer zone” separating Gaza from present-day Israel, these areas face regular incursions by Israeli forces, which often send tanks and bulldozers to level farmland. Even more frequent are the bursts of gunfire aimed at farmers or others near the barrier erected by Israel.

These attacks have claimed vast tracts of productive farmland stretching hundreds of meters into the Gaza Strip, converting them to wasteland or fields of low-maintenance crops, most of which are wheat.

Abeer Abu Shawish, project coordinator for the Protection for Better Production campaign — a project of the Arab Center for Agricultural Development — said that more than fifty volunteers joined the effort.

The mobilization involved farmers’ organizations, like the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and other groups across Gaza.

“Our partner organizations mobilized volunteers to help farmers in the restricted area harvest their olives,” Abu Shawish said. “They’re other farmers, civil society activists, women: all these people joined us this year.”


“We can just plant wheat and wait,” said Abu Jamal Abu Taima, a farmer in the village of Khuzaa outside Khan Younis. “Other crops need to be tended every day.”

Abu Jamal’s 50 dunams (a dunam is equivalent to 1,000 square meters), which he plans to sow with wheat after the November rains begin, once contained olive groves as well as greenhouses for an array of vegetables.

“We used to grow enough olives for seventy large bottles of olive oil,” he said. “Now? Six.”

In 2002, Israeli forces began razing Palestinian agricultural areas near the barrier, as well as along the Philadelphi Route by the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt.

This included the demolition of Abu Jamal’s olive groves and greenhouses, as well as his home. “The Israelis destroyed them with four bulldozers, five huge tanks and three Hummers,” he said.

Since its occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank in 1967, Israel has uprooted 800,000 olive trees in those territories, Oxfam reported in 2011. As the graphic design activism initiative Visualizing Palestine recently illustrated, those trees would cover an area 33 times the size of New York City’s Central Park.

By 2013, according to the Palestinian ministry of agriculture in Gaza, Israeli forces had leveled “some 20,000 dunams of land areas planted with half a million trees” in the Gaza Strip, contributing to a local deficit in olive oil production of 60 percent (“Israeli crimes against farmers cause 60 percent deficit in olive production,” Palestine News Network, 24 September 2013).

In the West Bank, the destruction of olive trees by both Israeli settlers and occupation forces continues. Stop the Wall and the Palestinian Farmers’ Union have organized an accompaniment project there, the You Are Not Alone campaign. By 8 November, its volunteers had documented the burning and uprooting of 1,905 olive trees by settlers during this harvest season alone.

Toxic sewage

A report by Stop the Wall states that its list of attacks does not “pretend to be complete.” Among the problems encountered by farmers trying to reach their olive trees are “settlers pump[ing] toxic sewage water on agricultural land” (“Settlers burn and uproot 1,905 olive trees during the harvest season,” 8 November 2013).

On 28 October, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published excerpts of a list of settler attacks on Palestinian olive groves and farmers maintained by the Israeli army (“Israeli attacks on Palestinian olive groves kept secret by state.”

The Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din has reported that Israeli occupation police “overwhelmingly failed to investigate the incidents and prosecute offenders,” noting that of 211 investigations actually opened between 2005 and June 2013, only four produced indictments (“97.4 percent of investigative files relating to damage of Palestinian olive trees are closed due to police failings,” 21 October 2013).

On 11 September, the Israeli army’s West Bank commander said his troops would destroy olive groves in the town of Yabad for unspecified “security purposes” (“Israeli authorities to destroy olive groves for ‘security purposes,” Ma’an News Agency, 9 November 2013).

“We are still here”

But the destruction of olive trees in the Gaza Strip is largely complete. For years Israel has used armored Caterpillar D9 bulldozers, accompanied by tanks, to clear away olive trees in the “buffer zone.” Farmers in the area, who face the constant threats of both gunfire and leveling of land, have little reason to plant any crop needing regular attention or significant resources, much less crops that require years of careful cultivation and maintenance.

“I want to plant more olive trees, and other things, but cannot,” Abu Taima said. “For now, I plant wheat.”

With exceptions — most notably a 28 October airstrike on an olive grove near Soudanya in the north of Gaza — the Strip’s olive harvest passed more quietly than most agricultural activities in the territory.

“We try to bring international attention to the farmers and discourage Israeli attacks on them,” the Protection for Better Production campaign’s Abu Shawish said. “By supporting them, we encourage them to access their lands and keep using them. It shows the Israelis we are still here, and we can access our lands without any fears. Farmers in the restricted area can resist the occupation by existing on their own lands.”

The Arab Center for Agricultural Development’s programs for farmers do not end with accompaniment, Abu Shawish explained. The organization has conducted intensive leadership training for 100 farmers from the Gaza Strip’s five governorates, in farmers’ rights as well as skills like public advocacy. It has also held awareness-raising workshops for 500 more farmers.

“We are interested in building a social movement for farmers in Gaza,” she said.

The workshops also aim to build popular support for boycotts of Israeli products and the purchase of Palestinian goods among farmers.

“These workshops are about how to encourage farmers themselves to be involved in the boycott campaign, and how they can help the national economy by boycotting Israeli agriculture,” Abu Shawish said.

“We try to encourage farmers to boycott Israeli agricultural goods and buy Palestinian products to support the local economy. It’s raising awareness. At the same time, it’s about getting farmers involved in the campaign itself.”

Abu Taima, too, has a path of resistance.

“For us, the land is something very important,” he said. “We cannot just leave it. We will not have another 1948. We will not leave our lands again.”

Joe Catron is a US activist in Gaza, Palestine. He co-edited The Prisoners’ Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag, an anthology of accounts by detainees freed in the 2011 prisoner exchange. He blogs at joecatron.wordpress.com and tweets @jncatron.


Poverty-Stricken Gaza Farmers Cheerful with Good Olive Harvest


GAZA, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) — For thousands of farmers in the Palestinian Gaza Strip, olive harvest season is a chance to gain some money amid the dire economic and living conditions caused by Israeli restrictions on the movement of people and goods.

The family of Kamal Obaid, from Gaza City, work shoulder to shoulder in harvesting their eight donum (1 donum is about 1 acre or a little more than 900 square meters) olive garden with much joy amid a cheerful atmosphere.

In the Gaza Strip, a tiny coastal enclave ruled by Islamic Hamas movement, olive industry has been a major business for thousands of farmers.

The harvest season is largely celebrated by farmers who spend a whole year taking care of the trees to ensure a bountiful crop of olive and an excellent produce of olive oil.

Every single member of Obaid’s family, from grandparents to grandchildren, put their efforts together to harvest their olive trees.

While men harvest the olives using tall ladders, women help by taking different tasks. While some prepare tea for the family, others sit on the ground and very thoroughly pick up the crop and pile it up to be sold.

The 56-year-old man believes this season is the best in decades.

“This season is really great. It is way better than last year. Last season’s whole produce of this garden did not exceed 200 kg, but one tree can produce so much this season which is really great,” Obaid said he collected fresh olive fruits.

The olive harvest season in Palestine starts in the beginning of October till the end of November. Most of farmers sell their crops as raw fruit in local markets, while others take the produce to mills for making oil.

Tens of thousands of olive trees, which are considered symbol of Palestinian culture, have been uprooted by Israeli troops during military conflict with Palestinian armed groups in the past decades in Gaza.

The territory has also been under a tight Israeli blockade since Hamas movement violently took over power there after routing government troops in 2007.

The blockade has pushed Gaza’s two million population deeper into poverty as unemployment rates hit 43 percent.

In the recent years, Israel and Hamas have been engaged in three major wars that claimed the lives of thousands of Palestinians.

According to official figures, Israel’s war on Gaza in 2014 destroyed 10,000 donums of land planted with fruits and other crops, 5000 of them were planted with olive trees.

Obaid was one of those farmers who lost some of their olive trees in the war.

“I have another three donum and a half farm of olive trees and it was totally destroyed during the war in 2014,” the man said bitterly as he watched his grandchildren taking part in the harvest.

Obaid added that the uprooted trees were over 60 years of age, saying it was a grave loss since the farm was a respected source of income for his large family.

“It also provided job opportunities for family members who wait for the seasons impatiently,” he explained.

Thanks to this generous season, the Hamas-run agriculture ministry expected that Gaza will not import any olive or olive oil this year.

According to the ministry, Gaza olive farms are expected to produce some 3500 tons of olive oil and 30,000 tons of olive fruits.

The ministry attributed the abundant crops to last winter’s plentiful rain in addition to planting thousands of new blossoming olive trees after the recent wars.

The olive business is considered to be the backbone of Gaza’s agricultural sector as 38,000 donums in the 360 square km seaside territory are planted with olive trees.

Palestinian Documentary Producers Need Your Support!

April 12, 2016  /  Gilad Atzmon

A DISTURBED EARTH is a documentary that follows a Palestinian man and his daughter as they embark on a journey back to his home village that was destroyed decades earlier. Travelling through refugee camps, family gatherings and militarised borders, they uncover a story long buried beneath a dangerous landscape.

The Story

A Disturbed Earth is a documentary about a small Galilean village invaded by Jewish Zionist militias during the olive harvest of 1948. Outnumbered and outgunned, the people were unable to protect their village from invasion. Over seventy men were lined up in front of an ancient limestone wall blindfolded and gunned down, their families as witness. The survivors were forced to seek refuge over the border in Lebanon where many still live today in refugee camps.

A Disturbed Earth reverses the journey back to the village. Fouad now lives in Australia. He is a father, grandfather, poet and survivor of the massacre. Accompanied by his filmmaker daughter and a small crew Fouad travels across three continents through refugee camps and militarised borders. The group attempt to return to the destroyed village to reveal and document its destruction.

A Disturbed Earth brings to life stories of the attack on the village through memories of its survivors. Israeli military archives are explored and surviving traces of indigenous life in the village prior to the invasion are found. With a small investigative team that includes a well-known Israeli historian, the film seeks to reconstruct pieces of a fragmented picture. What follows is a story about dispossession, memory and longing – a story buried under the breathing rubble of a village for almost seventy years.

The Approach

The refugee existence of Palestinians is the most long-term in the modern world, and a long-term refugee camp contains the despair and hardship of dispossession, but also the brilliance of survival.

Each location of the documentary will become one of its characters. While Fouad returns to the camp he grew up in, the camp itself with its surreal contradictions, architecture, colours, and special sound-scape determine the visual and sonic form of the film. The cracks of tired and weary windows become the fatigued exhale of the camp. The dirt ground transforms a voice speaking in dialect, evoking the image of trembling dust that swirls around the foot of a person lined up against a wall, waiting to be murdered.

The viewer not only learns about life in a refugee camp, but understands the way forced exile creates lives capable of living across multiple times, forced to remember and to dream while awake, both for those who physically left Palestine and the generations of the camps who came after.

A Disturbed Earth will explore this dreamscape using a style informed and inspired by the creative expressions of the people whose story it tells. Exile and struggle often create visual and auditory/sonic brilliance. Poetry, music and other art forms will be woven throughout the film.

Story sharing is an organic continuum of oral history traditions and in this spirit the interviews will not be filmed in traditional talking head set up. The interviews themselves will be a form of poetry, taking us back into the village over steel fortified and locked borders. They will tell of life in the village before the invasion, the wheat harvest celebration and help us get to know certain people murdered in the attack such as Mahmoud Zaghmout, Galilee’s best known singer of the time.

A Disturbed Earth will also seek to make historical archive out of the everyday. Here a village folk song, remains of an oil jar or a wedding scarf hastily packed in the bosom of a woman during the flight from home serve as historical document alongside more official and recognised sources. Archival materials help to gather fragments of the story and give it cinematic form.

The Team

Michel Khleifi – Co-Director (Khleifi is an award winning Director – awards include International Critics’ Prize at the Cannes Film Festival)

Rihab Charida – Co-Director, Writer, Producer

Tom Zubrycki – Producer

Theo Fatseas – Production Manager

Fabio Cavadini – Cinematographer

Project Status:

As well as the key creatives mentioned above, we have also secured a very dedicated production crew, including musical composer and musicians for original film score. Most of the research has been completed and locations scouted. We also have access to all of the places and people that we will be filming.

How will your donation be used:

We are seeking $25,000 funding to complete the development phase.

We anticipate that the full budget for the film will be $750,000. We are happy to discuss our production pathway with contributors.

All contributions to the ACF over $2 are tax-deductible.

Ten Facts Why Netanyahu is a Criminal and that Israel is a “Rogue State”

Global Research, February 07, 2016

1. Netanyahu heads the only undeclared nuclear weapons entity on the planet yet still ludicrously alleges that non­ nuclear Iran is trying to exterminate the state of Israel with its 100s of warheads in its Dimona secret arsenal, (all of which are outside the inspection of the IAEA), in an abortive effort to damage the agreed Iran peace deal, painstakingly negotiated by the UN Security Council members and the EU. His convoluted political machinations, in Washington and Europe, have resulted in ignominious failure as Iran rejoins the international community.

2. His government also refuses to be a party to both the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions (CWC / BWC) to which all EU members and most other UN states are signatories

3. His right­wing, extremist government supports the continued illegal occupation and settlement of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in violation of international law, in addition to continuing a blockade of essential materials to 1.8 million in Gaza that has received global condemnation.

4. He exerts a wholly undemocratic influence over the Republican­ AIPAC dominated US congress in Washington thereby disproportionately skewing American foreign policy in favour of Israel

5. His family background includes a documented association with terrorist organisations notably the Irgun Zvai Leumi paramilitaries

6. His government is in continued breach of the human rights provisions of the EU Association Agreement that affords Israel free trade access to the European single market

7. He allows the so­called ‘pricetag’ terrorists to continue to persecute Arab residents in the Occupied Territories by the burning and destruction of olive groves and businesses in a program of uncontrolled intimidation and violence

8. He continually threatens to restrict access to Jerusalem’s Al­ Aqsa mosque as did his failed predecessor, Ariel Sharon, apparently in a bid to provoke violence and dissent

9. He is the leader of a party whose published charter requires the ethnic cleansing of all indigenous Palestinians in order to establish a Greater Israel in all of former Palestine

10. Likud’s official agenda to establish the so­called ‘facts on the ground’ is a blatant attempt to abort the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. This illegal program has recently been condemned by China as well as by the EU, Russia and the US and is now expected to lead to economic, political and sporting sanctions.

Note: all the above facts are verifiable in the public domain

Palestine: A Case of Eternal Love

After 60 years in exile Alia (Middle) an Uprooted Palestinian Mother Visiting her Destroyed Village (Rass Alahmar  -Now Kerem Ben Zimra)  

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It is a clear-cut case…. it doesn’t need political or social or military “analysts”, it doesn’t need “middle east experts” or experts on the “Palestinian Israeli conflict”…. it is a clear-cut case, a case of eternal love; a pure love that defies time, a love that is inherited, that is transferred from one generation to the next, a love that moves in our veins, feeds the mind and enriches the soul, a love that keeps the heart pumping, a love that keeps us alive, a love that is life itself… it is the love of Palestine.

When you travel along Palestinian villages, you hear the houses whispering; beautiful houses, with their white stone darkened with the years, old houses with their green yards, arched balconies and domed roofs, with the jasmine flowers climbing the staircase and the poppies and the daisies decorating the threshold…. Beautiful houses, old houses, new houses, mixing the traditional with the modern, with their black water tanks, solar panels and satellite dishes, gathered in clusters, hugging one another, protecting one another, extending over hilltops and across valleys…. when you pass by these beautiful houses, you hear them whispering words of love to the olive field in the distance, and to the cactus walls defining the road to Safad and Bisan.

When you pass the men and women; young and strong, old and wise, working in the land, caring for the trees, digging water canals, planting seedlings, harvesting the fields…. some playing the flute over the hilltop while the sheep graze the pastures, some singing of love, of parting and yearning…. others telling tales of monsters roaming the land and heroes protecting the land; when you pass the men and women, you hear songs of love to the apple tree in the front yard that awaits the day of return, you hear love songs to the olive tree uprooted from its home and waiting to rise again, you hear tales of an ancient people watering the land with their blood, defeating the monsters and keeping the land alive.

When you pass the women and men harvesting the olive trees, a woman stands up; the colours of Palestine decorating her thob, the tales of the land imprinted in her eyes, tired but bright, smiles and waves at you, invites you to share their breakfast of olives, olive oil, taboun bread and hot mint tea… When you pass the green hilltops, an elderly man lying beneath an ancient olive tree, the kuffiyeh embracing him, taking in the scent of the land with every breath, watching his grandson running behind the goats…. he waves at you and invites you to join him, to watch the sunset over Al-Jalil in the horizon, and to hear the tale of a courageous warrior buried beneath the olive tree…

When you walk along the narrow streets of a refugee camp, you hear the joyous voices of children rising loud with revolutionary songs, familiar to the mind and close to the soul… you watch elderly women sitting on the threshold in front of their houses, lamenting the old days, discussing the celebration of return… stop near a window, any window in the refugee camp, lean on the rough wall and listen to a woman singing about her lover who sold her golden bracelet and bought a gun to fight the occupiers, join them in a verse or two…. pass a grandfather clutching the hands of his grandchildren as they walk along the narrow alleys of the refugee camp, listen carefully to his words of love and wisdom, listen carefully to his promise of return, listen to him say the land is dignity and dignity is life….

When you take a walk in Palestine; be it in a village in Bisan, along the beach in Gaza, up the hill in Hebron, or in the forest in Jerusalem; the stone speaks to you, the tree speaks to you, the wind speaks to you, the wave speaks to you, the bird speaks to you… they speak to you about the hands that plant the trees, about the souls that sing to the sea, about the hearts that build the houses, about the blood that waters the land and keeps her alive… they narrate to you the words of a lover, they sing you a love song; about a land that is alive, a land that never dies, a land where every stone has a tale and every tree has a tale, a land where life is precious, where life is sacred, where land is as sacred as life itself, and where the land is protected with lives and blood….

It is a clear-cut case….

It is a love the Zionists will never comprehend… a love they will never know….

It is the beautiful villages, with their houses, yards and cactus barriers, reminiscent of Jrash, Lubia and Saforia… it is the green hills overlooking the olive fields and the vineyards…. it is the 3ala dal3ona, Mejana and 3ataba…. it is Mish3al, Jafra and Zarif Il-Toul … it is Lina, Dalal and Ghassan… it is every Palestinian elderly safekeeping the culture of the land… it is every Palestinian man and woman walking the path of resistance towards the liberation of Palestine, all of Palestine … it is every Palestinian child carrying Palestine in their hearts and the key of Return in their hands.

The Zionists might think, they and their loyal slaves in the region, that they have killed us, broken our spirit, killed our will to resist. They might think, they and the heads of the “village leagues” appointed by them under invented names and titles, that they have shackled and enslaved us with the monthly salaries and with bank credits.

They might think, they and their new “Lahd forces”, that they have extinguished the flame of resistance within us. They might think, together with their loyal slaves and servants, that they have created a “new Palestinian”, a new “species” that believes Palestine is Al-Muqata’a, that believes treason is a matter of opinion, that believes negotiations are a way of life, that believes that resistance is lighting a candle and handing a flower to an occupation soldier. They might think they have erased Palestine, buried its villages and towns under Zionist colonies, subdued the Palestinian people and wiped out their collective memory and national identity…

But Zionists and co don’t comprehend that it is a hopeless case of eternal love. They don’t comprehend that with every Palestinian they murder, a million Palestinians are born. They don’t comprehend that with every resistance fighter they bury alive in their death dungeons, a million fighters carry the gun to continue on the path of liberation. They don’t comprehend that with every house they demolish, a million Shaja’iya, Deir Yasin, and Lifta arise.

They don’t comprehend that with every tree they uproot, a million olive, almond, carob and apple trees blossom. They don’t comprehend that with every tunnel they bomb, a million tunnels connect Rafah with Al-Naqurah, and connect Al-Nuseirat with Jerusalem. They don’t comprehend that with every inch of Palestinian land they steal, our roots clutch harder and deeper into the land and we become one with Palestine.

They don’t comprehend what Palestine is, who Palestine is; she is not a “piece of land” or a “lump of stones” or a “mere place”. Palestine is our mother, our father, our beginning, our end, our protector, our sanctuary, our all and everything.

Palestine is our dignity, our soul, our existence. How could they understand?

They who live on stolen land, erect colonies with stolen names, claim for themselves a stolen culture and existence, they who live a stolen time. How could they understand? They who kill the olive tree and the poppies, poison the land, strangle the sky and besiege the sea. How could they understand? They who kill the very same land they claim as their “promised land”.

No, they don’t comprehend …. They will never comprehend….

It is a clear-cut case, a hopeless case: it is a case of eternal love, of an unbreakable bond…. It is a case of a people, a land, an identity… it is a case of Palestine, her culture and her people…. It is a case of being Palestinian.

It is a case of being Palestinian… a case of being born Palestinian, growing up witnessing daily zionist crimes committed against Palestine and her children, growing up yearning for justice and return, growing up fighting for a free Palestine; free from zionist colonization, free from the river to the sea.

Palestinian children grow up seeing their houses bombed, their parents killed, their siblings maimed…. they lie on makeshift beds in over-crowded hospitals, wrapped in home-made bandages that have become red with blood, they search in vain for a familiar face to tell them that it is all nothing but a nightmare and that everything is going to be fine…. they stand outside the hospital mortuary, one carrying his baby sister while tears running down his cheeks, another sitting on the ground, clothes torn, speechless and staring at a world only he can see, a third clutching the hands of her younger sister and brother, holding back the tears and watching her father standing in the corner, trying to hide his tears….

They stand outside the door to the mortuary, and know that behind that cold iron door lies a mother whose body was ripped apart by an Israeli shell, behind that door lies a baby sister hugging her mother, behind that door lie parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles and aunts, comrades, friends and classmates….. and when they find refuge at a school or at a hospital before the next round of shelling begins, they play in the over-crowded rooms, they play mothers singing for their children before they sleep, they play fathers taking their children to the zoo, they play a grandfather gathering the children around him to tell them a story, they play the neighbour running after them with a stick for climbing his almond tree…. they imitate family members that have long gone, they recall days empty of bombs and F16s’ and navy bombardment, they play an endless spring with birds, flowers and sunshine… they play their mothers coming back to hug them, to tell them that it was all but a nightmare…

Their villages are raided, their homes demolished, they are kidnapped in the middle of the night, they are beaten by armed soldiers, left alone in dark interrogation cells, they are threatened with death… but in the darkened cells, they dream of running after the goats on the hilltops of Palestine…. and during interrogation, they close their eyes and smell the almond blossoms in the spring… and when they are beaten, the taste of blood in their mouths changes to the taste of zaatar and zeit… and when they are left standing for hours in the cold, shivering, they think of their mother making bread, their father sipping mint tea after a hard day’s work, their siblings playing in front of the houses, running and shouting in the alleys… and when they are free, they run to their siblings and friends, and they play their heroes; they cover their faces with their blouses and pretend they are freedom fighters, they carry tree twigs and pretend they are guns, and they run and jump and pretend they are carrying out a resistance operation against the occupation soldiers.

Their schools are bombed, they feel the classroom walls shaking around them, they feel the stings of the shattered glass as it cuts throw their young flesh, they try to breath amidst the suffocating clouds of smoke and burning books and desks, they see their classmates scattered across the classrooms, some bleeding, some crying faintly, others sleeping the eternal sleep… and when they return to school, they place poppies and daisies where martyred comrades once sat, they sing to them songs about Palestine, love and longing, they write them short letters of pride, and honour, they tell them about the sun shining over Jerusalem, about the rain drops over Nazareth, about the olive harvest in Nablus, about fishing in Gaza… and when they play, they fight amongst themselves who will be the “martyr”, they re-enact the funeral of their friends and classmates, they who win play the heroes, and they who lose play the terrorist soldiers… they carry the “martyr” on their shoulders, they promise him never to forget him, never to forget his killers, never to forget and never to forgive, and to fight till Palestine is liberated, to fight till no more Palestinian children are killed, till all Palestinian children can play in safety, till all Palestinian children are free, till all Palestinian mothers can laugh again, till all Palestine is free.

From Shaja’iya to Shu’fat, from Al-Khalil to Yafa, from Dheisheh refugee camp to Jrash, from Silwad to Al-‘Araqeeb, from Wadi Fuqin to Lifta, from Al-Quds to Safad, from Ras il Naqura to Im Il-Rishrash…. they run in the streets, in the narrow alleys, in the fields, along the beach, masked with their torn blouses, red, black, green and white… they wave their plastic toy guns and their home-made twig guns… they remember their martyred friends… they imitate their heroes; the heroes of resistance, the heroes of Palestine. It is not the love of death, as Zionists portray it to justify killing them… it is not the lack of parental care, as Zionists often describe it to give themselves a higher moral standard… zionists and co will never comprehend that it is the love of life that drives these children, drives every Palestinian… it is the yearn for freedom that makes them rise more determined after every Israeli aggression, it is the love of the land that makes them water the olive tree with their blood so future generation can sit under these trees, and enjoy a free Palestine

Zionists and co will never comprehend….

They will never comprehend that it’s a clear-cut case, a hopeless case: it is a case of eternal love, of an unbreakable bond…. It is a case of a people, a land, an identity… it is a case of Palestine, her culture and people…. It is a case of being Palestinian. zionists and co will never comprehend that it is a hopeless case of eternal love because Palestine is us and we are Palestine.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

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