Saturday, October 25 2008 Olive harvesting close to the Otniel outpost

The olive harvest took place on Saturday 25/10/2008 close to the settlement of Otniel. The harvest was organised by Combatants for Peace together with Ta’ayush, in the framework of the Olive Harvest Coalition. That same week settlers from Otniel had attacked Palestinian farmers who were harvesting their lands close to the settlement. The soldiers who were there to protect the farmers were also attacked and one of them was wounded. At this the olive harvest was halted by the army and the area declared a closed military zone. During the week contact was made with the owners of the land and it was decided that on Saturday Israeli activists would accompany the farmers so that they could finish the harvest.

On Saturday we set out in two groups. A group of 50 went to harvest close to the Palestinian village of Karma whose olive groves are in the valley a few hundred metres from the army base and the fence of Otniel. The harvesting was done without interference on the part of the settlers, the army or the police, but not all the area was harvested and we did not reach the olives close to the army base (the villagers told us that volunteers from Europe would come to help them there).

The second group of 15 people went to the place where the attack had been earlier that week. As we said, the place is right next to the fence of the settlement, between the old neighbourhood and the new one under construction. This extension makes the Palestinian land into an enclave between two settlements and access to it very problematical. The activists and the land owners started to harvest and worked for half an hour. After half an hour 10 settlers arrived from the direction of the settlement and tried to block the way to the lands. The harvesting was interrupted and very quickly the army arrived in force and an hour later also the police and a representative of the civil administration. Unfortunately, as usually happens in such cases, the harvest was stopped and we (Palestinians and Israelis) were shown an order making this a closed military area. The representative of the civil administration did not deny that this is Palestinian land but insisted that harvesting would only be done in coordination with the Administration. Once again the settlers were the winners and managed to prevent the harvest by using violence.