***image2***October is the month of the olive harvest for Palestinians, and it is an extremely important time culturally, socially, and economically. The harvest has gained political significance, since it has become a symbol of strength and solidarity in the face of rising settler attacks, increasing land confiscation, and destruction of farmland. This year, 106 villages across the West Bank have been identified as being under threat from the Occupation, but farmers still refuse to be forced off of their lands, and they continue the harvest despite the violence and abuse that they face. The following are testimonies from farmers and villagers in Kafr Qadum, who have been threatened and attacked by Occupation forces, and also by settlers from the Kedumim settlement.

The following is a testimony from a group of olive farmers whose agricultural land lies southeast of Kafr Qadum. They have been subjected to aggression by Occupation forces, who have told them to leave the land and never to return, despite the fact that the farmland lies two and a half kilometres from the Kedumim settlement, and permits have never before been required to work the land:

“At approximately 10:30 in the morning on Sunday October 5, we were working with a group of farmers in an area of land about two kilometres southeast of the village and two and a half kilometres southeast of the Kedumim settlement. Our work was part of a construction project which was in its second consecutive year, funded by the Red Cross. As we worked, two Israeli military jeeps came towards us from the main road, No. 55. A group of soldiers got out and approached us, with a brown-skinned soldier in the lead. One of the soldiers behind him was plump with blond hair, resembling a soldier who was part of a group that attacked our village on September 27.

The brown-skinned soldier began speaking to us, saying that we had to leave this place and that we should not return to it. Another soldier with a blond beard said that there was a group of ten to fifteen unarmed settlers ranging from eighteen to twenty years of age who were standing on top of the mountain where we were working, and who saw us on this land. The soldier with the blond beard asked us what we were doing here, to which I replied that the land upon which we were working was our land. The soldier responded saying that we had to leave the land of Israel, and that we needed a permit to be here. I told him in Hebrew that we were working for the second consecutive year on a project with the Red Cross, and that I would contact the Israeli police to inform them that we were being unjustly expelled from our land.

“When I contacted the police, however, I was told that our dispute was with the Israeli army, and that the police would not take any action. I then told the soldier with the blond beard that we would not leave the land until we spoke with the Red Cross. At around 10:45, when I was explaining the situation to the Red Cross liaison officer, Khalid, the settlers began to throw stones at us and into our well, which is a primary source of water for our agricultural land. I reported these attacks to the soldier with the blond beard, and he replied that they had the right to do this since this was their land, and that we were visitors in the land of Israel.

“At approximately 11:15, Khalid told me that it would be best if we left the land. So we began leaving, and the soldiers stayed to watch and make sure that we departed completely.”

The following is a testimony from a Palestinian farmer, who tells how he was expelled from the agricultural land adjacent to his home. The reason given for the expulsion was that he did not have prior consent for being on the land, but as the farmer explains, prior consent is not normally required to access the farmland:

“On Sunday October 5, I was harvesting olives with my wife, aged 48, and our children. Our farmland lies east of bypass road number 55, and around 10:00 in the morning we heard shouting going on between Israeli soldiers and a number of religious settlers from the Kedumim settlement. After five minutes, four soldiers came towards us, and one of them, a plump blond who looked to be a little more than seventeen years old, asked me what we were doing here. I replied that this was our land, and then he said “this is not your homeland, this is the land of Israel, and you are just visiting here.” He said that if we did not leave the land immediately, the soldiers would begin shooting at us. I asked him how he could make us leave the land, since it was our land, and our home was only twenty metres from the farmland. We have never needed consent to work this land, and nobody has ever asked us for a permit or official consent.

“At this point the soldier hit me in the face with one of the ladders we use to harvest our olives, and he put the barrel of his gun to my chest and threatened to kill me. My wife then fainted due to the extreme fear and terror that she felt, and when I went to her to make sure she was alright, the soldier tore apart the canvas upon which our harvested olives lay. As he destroyed the harvesting work that we had done, I told him that we would leave the farmland. One of my sons and I carried my wife into our home, while the rest of my sons took the canvasses and the remaining olives home. The Israeli soldiers stayed and watched us until we had fully moved away from the area at around 10:30.”


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