International Solidarity Movement - 21 October 2009
On Wednesday, 21 October 2009, several international activists accompanied Kafr Qalil farmers for the olive harvest in their land. The olive fields of the village of Kafr Qalil, in the Nablus region, are close to the illegal Israeli settlements of Bracha and Yizhar. During the olive harvest there is a potential threat of settlers coming to the olive fields and harassing the farmers, so the farmers feel safer with an international presence.
Today, the soldiers presented documents written in Hebrew and Arabic which they claimed to be an order stating that the area was prohibited for internationals to enter. They said that they would call the police to come and arrest the activists if they did not leave the area. They also threatened to interrupt the harvest and force the farmers to leave their land if the activists came back, and said that this had been done in other areas in the past. When the activists questioned why internationals are not allowed to accompany the farmers on their land, they were told that their presence would bother the settlers. Considering the threats, two activists left the area at 8 am, only two hours after the harvesting started. Two other activists that were higher up on the hill were not approached by the soldiers and were able to remain until the end of the day.
The olive groves are in an area declared a closed military zone, so the farmers are not allowed to access their land without a permit. Yesterday, the Israeli military called the village of Kafr Qalil and told them that they will be permitted to access their land for four days during the olive harvest. Some of the farmers need a week to pick their olives.
The restricted access to the olive fields during the rest of the year results in thistles and weeds growing all over the olive fields. Normally, farmers would keep these away in order to improve the conditions for the trees and make the olive harvest easier.
The farmers said that they were attacked by settlers during the olive harvest last year, while the Israeli soldiers that were supposed to protect the farmers just observed without intervening. In the fields, there are a number of scorched olive trees that were set on fire by settlers two years ago.