The “You Are Not Alone” campaign – the collective efforts and the voluntary work to support the Palestinian farmers through the olive harvesting season – has once again provided essential support to the Palestinian farmers and continues to be the first backbone of the Palestinian farmers in front of the attacks of Israeli settlers and soldiers during the olive harvesting season.
Since 2004, Stop the Wall’s main aim is to strengthen the resilience of the farmers on their lands in the villages and marginalized communities, protecting the land from confiscation, and foster the spirit of resistance among Palestinians. This year the support was more urgent than ever: Palestinians in general went through a hard time this year and Palestinian farmers, in particular, due to the consequences of the “Deal of The century”, the spread of Covid-19 and the annexation plan of the Jordan Valley.
The struggles and challenges for the “You Are Not Alone” campaign were more than ever. The Israeli occupation government approved and started the construction of 15100 new settlement housing units since the start of this year. In addition, attacks on the Palestinian people and their properties and lands by Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank increased remarkably to over 410 attacks this year already. The Israeli government issued military orders to close off almost 6658 dunum of the olive orchards. These military orders aimed at preventing people from accessing their lands, made the efforts of the campaign this year harder than ever.
Burin – a constant target of attacks
The Israeli aggression every year intensifies during the olive harvesting season. Burin is one of the places where the ”You Are Not Alone” campaign has supported the farmers because it is particularly affected. Zaid Najjar, a farmer who owns 10 dunum said: “The Israeli settlers did not only use military orders to steal the Palestinian people’s lands and their properties, they staged frequent attacks, especially during the spread of COVID-19, as Palestinians are preoccupied like the other nations around the world to stop the spreading of this dangerous pandemic.”
Palestinians started to perceive the attacks by the Israeli settlers as a worse threat than the cases that the Coronavirus registered during 2020. They were caught between a rock and a hard place. Either they respect social distancing and lockdowns or they organize collectively and go out in the fields to defend their land.
Israeli settlers from Giv’at Ramen settlement have carried out some of these attacks. Giv’at Ramen is the settlement where the so-called “Price Tag” group lives. They attacked the Dawabsheh family home, orphaning Ahmad and killing his parents and baby brother, Ali, in 2015. Zaid added that the settlers burned his land several times already in the last years. During this olive harvest season only 30 olive trees out of 170 were left for him because the Israeli settlers had burnt the others.
The Israeli soldiers were protecting the settlers when they came to attack and burn Zaid’s olive trees, alleging that this was in order to ensure the ‘security’ of the illegal settlers. Zaid added that he was not able to plant more olive trees the days after this last attack, because the soldiers prevented him and told him that he needs coordination for it. Only in the warped logic of Israeli apartheid olive trees can become a national security threat.
Zaid was not the only one who suffered from the attacks of the Israeli settlers. His neighbors as well were attacked several times during the olive harvesting season. The Israeli settlers were coming at the end of every day to the village and stole the olives from the people after they finished the harvesting of the day. The Israeli settlers were attacking the people with stones to scare them and make them run away and steal the olives.
When the Israeli settlers and soldiers wage such fierce attacks on the Palestinians they attack not only farmers but the whole family, as the olive harvesting season is a family activity that depends on the collective efforts of the families – women, men, children and grandparents. It makes the parents think more than once to bring their children and old people to the olive harvesting, which leads to indirectly estrange and expel the family from their land.
A planned strategy across the West Bank
The same happens in the villages and areas surrounding Burin. One of the villagers Bashir Hamza Zabin from Kafr Qallil was attacked by the Israeli settlers this year while he was harvesting the olive trees on his land with his brother and their children. He had to be brought to the hospital and has since recovered as much as possible. The settlers attack has permanently impaired his ability to hear.
Wael Faqih, a popular activist from Nablus said that the attacks of the Israeli settlers were not only carried out in the villages surrounding Nablus. The settlers who live around the villages of Bethlehem were also attacking the Palestinians there. They were preventing farmers from accessing their lands, stealing the olives, and removing the fences that protect the lands. He added: “The Israeli settlers attacked one of the Palestinian farmers by throwing stones towards him while he was harvesting his olive trees”.
Suhail Salman, a grassroots activist of the Stop the Wall campaign, said “the Israeli settlers with the help of the Israeli soldiers uprooted, torched, and burned almost 9000 trees in the West Bank, including 7000 olive trees since the beginning of this year. This attack had a massive effect on the agricultural sector, especially because most of the trees that the settlers uprooted were olive trees, which are the main source of income for many Palestinian families.”
This year, the “You Are Not Alone” campaign organized 9 activities across the West Bank to support the farmers who are unable to reach their lands and are attacked by the Israeli settlers and the soldiers. “You Are Not Alone” is part of a number of other campaigns that aim at supporting the steadfastness of Palestinian farmers during the olive harvest. However, we are the first campaign that focuses on supporting the farmers whose lands are threatened by the Israeli confiscation and constantly attacked by the Israeli settlers.
We are supporting the Palestinian farmers and communities not only during the olive harvest season; “You Are Not Alone” is also working before the olive season and after. It works on cleaning and preparing the lands and after the olive harvest; we work on planting the trees in the land that is threatened by confiscation. Salman added: “The Palestinian people are still steadfast and attached to their lands even if they know that they are under danger.”