Olives and the cost of Israel’s occupation

October 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

The olive harvest is a, “key economic, social and cultural event for Palestinians,” stated OCHA’s 2012 report on the annual harvest published Tuesday 16 October. The report iterated Israel’s obligation to protect Palestinians and their property while ensuring accountability when attacks occur.

Palestinians harvesting their olives in the West Bank village of Burin (Photo: Ryan Roderick Beiler)

Palestinians harvesting their olives in the West Bank village of Burin (Photo: Ryan Roderick Beiler)

In an overwhelming majority of cases, Israel has done neither.

Settlers cut down or set fire to over 870 trees during the first week of the 2012 olive harvest.

The Israeli NGO Yesh Din found that of 162 filed complaints of settler attacks since 2005, only one has led to an indictment of a suspect. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld called the findings, “inaccurate and out of date.”

On Monday, however, a report published by the AIC catalogues the increasing intensity and frequency of settler violence in the West Bank from May to August 2012 demonstrating the, “reality that Palestinians have no one to turn to for physical protection and legal recourse.”

OCHA estimates that there are 12 million olive trees in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt), mostly in the West Bank. In total, the olive oil industry makes up 14% of the agricultural income for the oPt (1.4% of GDP) and supports the livelihoods of approximately 80,000 families, says OCHA. One third of all Palestinian women working are employed in the agricultural sector.

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Lacking legitimacy, West Bank elections proceed anyway

October 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Saturday’s municipal elections in the West Bank are a step in the process before holding national elections. However, the Palestinian Authority is not likely, or politically able, to unilaterally decree presidential elections as it did with local polls. Analyst Majed Nassar explains the local elections as an attempt to reaffirm the Palestinian Authority’s legitimacy and postpone Presidential elections that might unseat the traditional power-holder. Furthermore, Saturday’s vote furthered the geo-political divide between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip while discouraging reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

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Election posters vying for the same lampost in the Bethlehem-area town of Beit Sahour (Photo: Thayer Hastings, AIC)

Hamas has boycotted local elections that concluded Saturday evening in the West Bank and prevented voting within the Gaza Strip where it governs.

Elections were held in 93 West Bank towns and villages as candidates in another 179 localities were appointed unopposed. The Associated Press reported that Fatah won local council majorities in six towns, but lost in five others to independents and leftist parties such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). Preliminary results indicate that Fatah won Hebron while losing Nablus, Jenin and Ramallah, the seat of Mahmoud Abbas’ government. Hebron’s voter turnout was 33.7%, reflecting the tangibility of Hamas’ call for a boycott in the pro-Hamas city, reportedMa’an. The Central Elections Commission will release official results later on Sunday.

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Facing settler violence, Burin welcomes internationals for olive harvest

October 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Sabreen expected a high likelihood of settler attacks this Shabbat, but experienced a strange mixture of relief and loss at finding the olive trees picked bare Saturday morning.

On Sunday, PLO leader Hanan Ashrawi wrote that, “Given Israel’s support for the settlers and its refusal to allow the Palestinian Authority to provide protection throughout the occupied territory, the Palestinian people require international intervention to ensure their security,” reported Ma’an. Lacking institutional support, Palestinians in the village of Burin are welcoming international volunteers (including Israelis) in a kind of grassroots ‘intervention’.

Ahmad Najjar and his foreign 'assistant' gather olives  (Photo credit: Ryan Roderick Beiler)

Ahmad Najjar and his foreign ‘assistant’ gather olives (Photo credit: Ryan Roderick Beiler)

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Interview with family of hunger striking Samer Issawi

October 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Samer Issawi is on the 74th day of an open-ended hunger strike in protest of his political detention by Israel. In October of last year, Samer was released in the prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel, but was re-arrested on 7 July 2012. Since 1 August, he has only ingested water and salt. International Committee of the Red Cross doctors have been refused access to Samer, but his lawyer, Fawaz Shalodeh, visited him on Tuesday and said that Samer is in a state of continuous deterioration, is experiencing constant joint, head and back pain and is unable to sleep.

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Samer’s father and sister, Tariq and Shireen, holding a photo of Samer in the family’s home in East Jerusalem’s Issawiya (Photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

At Samer’s family home in Issawiya, an East Jerusalem neighborhood infamous for neglected infrastructure and civil resistance, we are hospitably seated in the living room of Tariq and Shireen Issawi, Samer’s father and sister. The father is friendly and maintains a sense of humor despite the gloomy topic of our visit. From under a magisterial moustache he smiles and welcomes us into their home.

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Rachel Corrie lawsuit: an example of international solidarity

August 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

On Tuesday morning 28 August 2012 an Israeli judge will announce the verdict for a civil lawsuit the Corrie family opened in 2005.

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The day after Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist from Olympia, Washington, was driven over by a 55 ton bulldozer in Gaza in 2003, then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised US President George W Bush that Israel would conduct a “thorough, credible and transparent” investigation into the incident.

US fails to facilitate a diplomatic resolution

The family spent the two years following her killing in over 200 meetings with US government officials before filing a lawsuit. “We turned over every stone to get a diplomatic resolution,” said Rachel’s sister Sarah Corrie. After exhausting other options, Rachel’s family launched a civil suit in March 2005 that charges the State of Israel with responsibility for Rachel’s killing and failure to conduct a full and credible investigation in the case.

In April 2003, an internal Israeli investigation into the death of Rachel found the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) free from blame. In a message to the Corries last week US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, reaffirmed the US position that the military probe was not as thorough, credible or transparent as it should have been.

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Palestine’s big sister South Africa: precedents and pitfalls

August 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

On August 10th South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation announced that it would cancel visits to Israel by mayors and other members of municipalities in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province. As usual, SA is setting precedents when it comes to foreign relations with Israel, but Palestinian and Israeli visionaries should be wary of how they utilize the SA model when strategizing for decolonization.

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In 1994 South Africa became Palestine’s older sister/brother. However, economic inequality and a capacity for violence stand out as contradictions of the Rainbow Nation.

SA cancels officials’ visits to Israel

The decision is perceived as a win for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign and as a setback for the pro-Israel South African lobby: SA-Israel Forum, who had advocated for and organized the trips. The SA-Israel Forum had sought to promote agricultural and technological cooperation between the South African community and the Israeli State.

Pro-Israeli South Africans demonstrated against the decision suggesting prejudiced intentions behind the cancelation, singling out Israel over countries with questionable human rights records such as Myanmar or Syria.

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The best jokes are true: divergent imaginings of Tel Aviv

August 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

A popular joke among critics in Israel-Palestine goes: “What’s the only European city without a Muslim population?”

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