Destruction of Olive Trees in West Bank Is an Attack on Palestinian Sovereignty, Activists Say

The vandalism comes at a time when Palestinian olive oil production is being threatened by Israel’s steady acquisition of territory in the West Bank.
Getty Images
Aug. 12, 2020
Pia Koh

Recent News

The olive tree – a sym­bol of Palestinian iden­tity – is under attack by Israeli set­tlers, argues Burhan Ghanayem, co-chair­man of Voices for Justice in Palestine, a human rights organization.

According to United Nations mon­i­tors, more than 4,000 olive trees and other tree crops have been burned or removed by Israeli set­tlers and sol­diers since the start of 2020.

The objec­tive is, okay you destroyed 100 trees, we’re going to plant another 100. It’s just, we’re not going to let go. It’s a form of resis­tance.- Burhan Ghanayem, co-chair­man, Voices for Justice in Palestine

The most recently recorded episode of van­dal­ism in Palestinian olive groves came last month when roughly 30 olive trees were burned near the city of Nablus, famous for its his­toric olive oil soap pro­duc­tion indus­try.

Ghanayem told Olive Oil Times that olive trees, for Palestinians, are not sim­ply a source of income, but also indi­cate own­er­ship over the land.

See Also: Despite Challenges, Soap Production Continues in West Bank

I know that what we own now was grandfather’s olive trees and land, and my father inher­ited it,” Ghanayem said. My grand­fa­ther used to tell me that he inher­ited it from his father, so I can know for sure that my great-grand­fa­ther, grand­fa­ther and my father are the own­ers of our olive tree orchard.”

Got a few minutes?
Try this week's crossword.

The van­dal­ism comes at a time when Palestinian olive oil pro­duc­tion is being threat­ened by Israel’s steady acqui­si­tion of ter­ri­tory in the West Bank. Palestinians have also accused Israel of attempt­ing to under­mine the Palestinian olive oil market.

The destruc­tion of olive trees in the West Bank is noth­ing new. In a 1974 speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Palestinian polit­i­cal leader Yasser Arafat stated that ter­ror­ism fed on hatred and this hatred was even directed against the olive tree in my coun­try, which has been a proud sym­bol and which reminded them of the indige­nous inhab­i­tants of the land, a liv­ing reminder that the land is Palestinian. Thus they sought to destroy it.”

Since the time of Arafat’s speech, it is esti­mated that Israeli set­tlers, in efforts to develop set­tle­ments, build roads and con­struct new infra­struc­ture, have uprooted or burned more than a mil­lion olive trees.

Israeli author­i­ties have argued that some of these olive groves rep­re­sent a threat to local secu­rity. One Israeli Defence Force com­man­der, Colonel Eitan Abrahams, said that olive trees are removed for the safety of set­tlers,” claim­ing that the trees pro­tect Palestinian gun­men or stone-throwers.

No one should tell me that an olive tree is more impor­tant than a human life,” Abraham said.

However, Ghanayem sees the destruc­tion of Palestinian trees as a way for Israelis to try and erode Palestinian iden­tity and force them to cede more land to Israel.

Palestinians plant around 10,000 new olive trees in the West Bank each year, most of which are of oil-pro­duc­ing varieties.

My fam­ily has planted thou­sands of trees in the last 10 to 15 years,” he said. The objec­tive is, okay you destroyed 100 trees, we’re going to plant another 100. It’s just, we’re not going to let go. It’s a form of resistance.”





Related News

Feedback / Suggestions