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10.03.2009

Burin Tree Massacre

Settlers from the illegal Israeli settlement of Yitzar
cut down 97 olive trees.

(Click on picture to enlarge)

On Monday night, September 28, a group of settlers from the illegal Israeli settlement of Yitzar, near the small Palestinian village of Burin, used chainsaws to cut down 97 olive trees belonging to a Burin village farmer. The next morning, internationals, including MPTers, were invited by villagers to come to the site. They found branches and tree limbs scattered everywhere over a 100 square yard area. The Israeli occupation forces had arrived before the internationals. The farmer whose olive trees had been cut down had contacted Israeli authorities to ask for Israeli army presence as protection against further settler violence during the time the cut down olive trees were harvested.

Olives from the cut trees were beginning to shrivel
so picking was urgent.

A crew of ten Palestinian men tried to salvage as many olives as possible. The internationals assisted these pickers. At first, the Israeli occupation forces showed no objection. However, a little later another Israeli army jeep came with a new commanding officer who told the Palestinians that the internationals must leave the area. The officer would not give a reason, but it was noted that a settler security jeep had come earlier and its passengers had talked to the commander. After some consultation the Palestinians advised the internationals that it would be best that they leave the area, but asked the internationals to return the following day, which they did.

On the first day, the Israeli military would not allow the internationals in the olive grove.

In the two days following this, the Israeli military were not present in the olive grove. MPTers and other internationals provided accompaniment and labor to the Palestinian workers as they picked and bagged perhaps 30 bags of olives from the destroyed trees. There was no further interference or harassment from settlers.

MPTers for two days picked olives from the cut down trees.

Hearty breaks were enjoyed by all.

On Saturday, October 3rd, the villagers of Burin organized a march to the field of the destroyed olive trees. About 15 internationals, including 3 MPTers, and a dozen media people accompanied the villagers. Halfway to the site, Israeli military jeeps were already in evidence and for a time prevented some of the marchers and media from crossing the highway. Leaders of the march negotiated with the soldiers so that the media and the rest of the marchers could witness the destruction in the olive grove. [The media and the internationals will show the world what illegal settlers had done.]
Israeli military jeeps blocked the passage of marchers, including media, until a compromise was negotiated by the Palestinians.

For a few minutes those in the march were allowed to pile cut branches for burning, but after about 30 minutes the Israeli occupation forces ordered the marchers out of the grove. The marchers returned to Burin feeling satisfied that they had done something to express their feelings about this sad event.

Marchers were only allowed to work a few minutes before being ordered out of the grove by the Israeli occupation forces.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of olive trees to the Palestinian people. Olives are used for light and heat, soap and wood-art, food and oil; they are the mainstay of the economy. The olive harvest is beginning now and incidents like this are not rare. Consequently, the Palestinians must make special preparations for the olive harvest and seek the presence of internationals to help protect them from settlers who try in various ways to prevent the harvest from being completed.
Olive trees which are vital to the economic life of Palestine
are loved by Palestinians.

2 comments:

Isabella said...

I am deeply saddened by this horrific and mindless destruction of a people's livelihood, but I am grateful for the presence of MPTers who are witnesses to us back home of what is going on. Thank you for your courage. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

andre said...

I appreciate this documentation. It took me a while to understand how to read the blog -- the entries are in reverse chronological order, but WITHIN the entry one reads top to bottom; and the pictures are clickable. Finally I understand!

I'm also struck by the absence of women in the pictures. I understand there is an important division of labor, and that the confrontations will usually be men against men (or men against families). But I would appreciate more information about the lives of the women, including pictures if they are culturally allowed.

Anyway, thanks to all for your courageous work.