Harvesting olives in the Holy Land

 This weekend Palestinian from Yatta, Susiya and At Tuwani successfully harvested olives in the South Hebron Hills area. Palestinians families, helped by well over a hundred Israeli and international volunteers, fanned out to olive groves across the area, some butting up against a military base and settlement outposts, in order to harvest olives, a pillar of the local and the national economy. The harvest went on without interference from settlers in the nearby settlements and outposts of Susya and Ma'on, known for their violent attacks on farmers and shepherds. The Israeli army and police never interfered with the farmers' work and on one occasion were present to prevent possible settler disturbances in the harvesting. The village of Susiya has suffered from several evictions and home demolitions by the Israeli military in the last 20 years. Originally, these actions were carried out on the basis that the village is on an archeological site and next to a national park. The Israeli army executed further demolition orders due to settlers' claims that they were too close to the settlement located on the same land. On 6 June 2007, the Israeli high court removed the temporary+ injunction on further demolitions or evacuations in place since 2001, and ordered the Israeli Civil Administration to make a decision on whether villagers can remain on their land and build permanent housing. Otherwise the Israeli military will evict remaining families and demolish any structures. Currently around 35 villagers of Susiya are still living in the area in tent dwellings surrounded by Susya Israeli settlement, three outposts and a military base and face ongoing harassment by Israeli settlers. The right to access agricultural land has been clearly outlined by the Israeli high court in June 2006. Following a petition, the high court stated that Palestinians have the right to access their land without added permits or requests and that the Israeli army and police are obligated to act to protect farmers and their property from attack. (For backgrounds about Susiya see releases "Palestinian villagers from Susiya face threat of fifth eviction" from 15 June 2007 and Palestinians, Israelis and internationals show solidarity in Susiya village from 9 July 2007) Photos from the 2007 olive harvesting season where internationals and Israelis accompanied Palestinians from the villages of At-Tuwani, Susiya and Yatta are available in the CPT At-Tuwani photo albums at: www.cpt.org/

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