The uprooting and cutting down of over a million olive and fruit trees in occupied Palestine since 1967 is an attack on a symbol of life, and on Palestinian culture and survival, writes Dr. Cesar Chelala. A grave crime under international humantarian law, the arboricide is also contrary to Jewish religious teachings.
By Dr. Cesar Chelala
The Economist writes: During the last few years, Palestinian olive trees – a universal symbol of life and peace – have been systematically destroyed by Israeli settlers. “It has reached a crescendo”, stated a spokeswoman for Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organization monitoring incidents in the West Bank. “What might look like ad hoc violence is actually a tool the settlers are using to push back Palestinian farmers from their own land.”
The tree and its oil have a special significance throughout the Middle East. The olive tree is an essential aspect of Palestinian culture, heritage and identity, and has been mentioned in the Bible, the Qur’an, and the Torah. Many families depend on the olive trees for their livelihood.
Olive oil is a key product of the Palestinian national economy, and olive production is the main product in terms of total agricultural production, making up 25% of the total agricultural production in the West Bank.
Palestinians plant around 10,000 new olive trees in the West Bank every year. Most of the new plants are from the oil-producing variety. Olive oil is the second major export item in Palestine.
Over a million trees destroyed in 40 years