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The Weeping Olive Trees

Can there be anything more compelling as well as to, and making, the point as this piece, "The Weeping Olive Trees of Palestine" on CounterPunch?:

"Universally regarded as the symbol of peace, the olive tree has become the object of violence. For more than forty years, Israel has uprooted over one million olive trees and hundreds of thousands of fruit trees in Palestine with terrible economic and ecological consequences for the Palestinian people. Their willful destruction has so threatened Palestinian culture, heritage and identity that the olive tree has now become the symbol of Palestinian steadfastness because of its own rootedness and ability to survive in a land where water is perennially scarce.

Throughout the centuries, Palestinian farmers have made their living from olive cultivation and olive oil production; 80 percent of cultivated land in the West Bank and Gaza is planted with olive trees. [1] In the West Bank alone, some 100,000 families are dependent on olive sales. [2] Today, the olive harvest provides Palestinian farmers with anywhere between 25 to 50 percent of their annual income, and as the economic crisis deepens, the harvest provides for many their basic means of survival. [3] But despite the hardships, it is the festivities and traditions that accompany the weeks of harvesting that have held Palestinian communities together and are, in fact, a demonstration of their ownership of the land that no occupation can extinguish except by the annihilation of Palestinian society itself.

And that is precisely what Israel has been doing -- through brute force and far more insidious ways. Under an old law from the Ottoman era, Israel claims as state property, land that has been "abandoned" and left uncultivated for a period of four years and this land is then usually allocated to Israeli settlers. Of course, the land has not been voluntarily abandoned. Because of Israel's closure policy, which imposes the most draconian restrictions on movement, Palestinian farmers cannot reach their agricultural lands to tend and harvest their crops. Not only are permits required to move about in their own homeland, but farmers are forced to use alternative routes which must be negotiated on foot or by donkey because about 70 percent of these alternative routes -- those connected to main or bypass roads -- have been closed by the Israeli army with concrete blocks and ditches. And now a wall is being built for "security reasons" which will permanently separate Palestinian families from their farmlands, except for the gates that allow access at certain times, but more often than not, at the whim of Israeli soldiers who may not even turn up to open them. [4] This makes year-round maintenance of farmers' crops extremely difficult if not impossible. Hence, the "abandonment" of land that Israel uses to justify its land theft."

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