Approximately 100 activists from the NGO Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) and the Israeli grassroots movement Standing Together gathered on Friday to participate in the season's 17th joint olive harvest in the West Bank, but were subsequently driven out by the IDF and Border Police forces, according to new footage.
The harvest is taking place in several locations across the northern West Bank, according to Standing Together, in the Palestinian villages Yusuf, Burin and Atara and "done in solidarity with Palestinian farmers who live in the West Bank." The organization's director Roula Daud, who took part in organizing the event, said that the activists "will not surrender to government-supported settler violence. We will stand together, Jews and Arabs, with the residents of the West Bank."That is, following a recent incident where, according to Rabbis for Human Rights, five RHR volunteers and Palestinian farmers were attacked by settlers from the Yitzhar area two weeks ago, while participating in the annual harvest in the villages Burin and Hawareh. The NGO said that the attackers cut the olive trees following the alleged assault.80-year-old Rabbi Moshe Yehudai, alongside four other volunteers, was reportedly attacked by a group of over 30 settlers armed with crowbars. Yehudai was evacuated by a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance with a broken arm. A resident of Yitzhar was arrested for allegedly participating in the attack, but was released from custody. The suspect claimed that he was "attacked" by an officer during his interrogation.According to Standing Together activist Doron Aruch, the harvest has been taking place for 17 years. The Friday harvest in Burin, she said, was interrupted by settlers from Yitzhar called IDF troops to the area where the harvest was taking place, in order to sabotage the event. The soldiers, as seen in the video, declared the area a "closed military zone," driving out the activists. One of the soldiers can be heard saying that "harvesting is allowed, but not for left-wing activists."Yitzhar is a settlement often seen associated with religious extremism. Its residents have reportedly participated in several attacks against Palestinians, causing damage to property and have attacked IDF soldiers on several occasions. In 2006, a group of settlers who studied in the Yitzhar yeshiva were arrested for allegedly firing several hand-made Qassam-style rockets into the neighboring Palestinian villages.The Civil Administration (CA) responded to the article, saying that "during the harvest season, the Civil Administration and the Central Command [of the IDF] designated areas where coordination [with the CA] is required for security reasons due to the likeliness of friction [between Palestinians and settlers].""The place mentioned [in the article] is a closed military zone, the access to which requires coordination [with the CA]. In the mentioned incident, only the access of the land's owners was coordinated while that of the activists was not—hence, [the activists] were asked to leave the area."
"Harvest is allowed, but not to left-wing activists" - IDF soldiers (Credit: Doron Aruch)