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Palestine harvests under threat from conflict

Farmers in Palestine’s West Bank have saved their heritage wheat harvest from a fire started in the fields during clashes between protestors and the Israeli army.

Fairtrade organisation Canaan Palestine, which grows heritage wheat varieties in fields around the village of Jalameh in the West Bank, said farmers raced to contain the blaze and managed to continue to harvest during the clashes.

In a Facebook post, the group said: “Thankfully we ploughed around the fire and have contained it thus far. We continue to harvest in the middle of ongoing clashes.”

Social enterprise Zaytoun, which imports Fairtrade Palestinian food, said it had received reports of Israeli settlers setting fire to olive trees belonging to seven farmers in Burin, near Nablus. 

In the same village, settlers uprooted 3,000 tomato plants from a polytunnel belonging to farmer Raed Issa and that were due for harvest this week in time for Eid celebrations, Zaytoun said.

"We have media reports from the Nablus villages of Burin and Madama, with whom we have long held ties, of the killing of a child and first-hand accounts of the destruction of crops and trees," said Zaytoun founder, Cathi Pawson. "We are also hearing of attacks on communities around Jenin, from where we source our produce."

Canaan Palestine
Palestinian farmers have continued to harvest surrounded by fires from the conflict. Image Canaan Palestine

Almost two weeks of airstrikes between Israel and the Palestinian territory of Gaza came to an end today (21 May) with a ceasefire brokered by Egypt.

Tensions have been rising in the West Bank after forced eviction orders were handed to Palestinian residents in Jerusalem, and Israeli airstrikes into the coastal territory of Gaza killed over 200 people including children, and wounded over 2,000. Israel has reported 12 dead after rockets were launched from Gaza, according to news outlet Al Jazeera, whose building in Gaza City has been blown up.

Pawson said: “Our suppliers and friends in Palestine are telling us they don’t feel safe to travel between towns in their own country, because of the risk of attack by armed settlers, who receive full army protection.

“These are by no means isolated attacks. They are part of an ongoing pattern of violence, intimidation and land theft both in this region and across Palestine,” she added.

Charity The Olive Harvest Trust is calling for donations to help rebuild community solar panels that have been destroyed and a school growing project, as well as asking people to email their MPs and share social media posts to raise awareness.

    Comments

    Judith20

    1 Month

    You write "Tensions have been rising in the West Bank after forced eviction orders were handed to Palestinian residents in Jerusalem, and Israeli airstrikes into the coastal territory of Gaza killed over 200 people including children, and wounded over 2,000. Israel has reported 12 dead after rockets were launched from Gaza, according to news outlet Al Jazeera, whose building in Gaza City has been blown up. "
    This is a misrepresentation of events. Tensions have arisen because the Palestinian authority cancelled plans to have elections because they feared that Hamas would be elected. Hamas then used a tenant dispute in Jerusalem as an excuse for inciting violence on the Temple Mount and then firing over 4,000 rockets from Gaza into Israel.
    The land dispute has been going on for some time through the courts system in Israel. It was established that the properties belonged to the Jews, but allowed the Arab tennants to continue to live there as long as they paid rent to the owners of the properties. The Palestinian Authority threatened the lives of the Arabs living in the properies if they paid rent to the Jewish owners of the property.
    Hamas (a terrorist organisation) claims that 200 people have been killed and over 2,000 people wounded. What they don't say is how many of these people (if the figures are even accurate) were terrorists trying to kill Israeli citizens and how many were killed by Hamas when the rockets they were firing at Israeli communities fell in Gaza and killed Gazans.
    The Israelis try to make sure that they target only the terrorists, but Hamas don't care who they kill and wound even if it is their fellow Gazans. The Israelis drop leaflets so that people can get out of the way and send a "knock on the roof" projectile to alert people to leave a building they are about to target.
    Thousands of Israelis were forced into bomb shelters (some with only a few seconds of warning before the bomb will land). The reason that there were not more casualties on the Israeli side is because they care about their citizens so they provide bomb shelters & have developed the iron dome system to take out rockets which would otherwise cause loss of life in Israel. Hamas in contrast has used international aid to build an underground network of terror tunnels in which terrorists can hide while ordinary Gazans are left exposed.
    The Israelis call off hits on targets where they can see that civilians might be harmed. Hamas try to convince their citizens that the more blood is spilled the more likely it is that Israel will be destroyed.
    The Al Jazeera building was destroyed (with no casualties as Israel had warned people to leave) because it was being used by Hamas.
    I don't know much about the other allegations in this piece, but I do know that the Palestinians engage in the destruction of Jewish olive groves, steal their sheep, attack them when they are travelling etc etc.
    The Israeli Defence Force does try to protect citizens from violent attacks, unfortunately they have not always been successful and Israelis have died in unprovoked attacks.
    I urge you to be very careful when donating money to organisations in this area so that it doesn't go to organisations who are engaging in terrorist activities.

    3 Replies

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    colin bannon

    1 Month

    It seems to me this reply might have been written by an official Israeli body, its that one-sided.

    1 Reply

    Vegnut

    1 Month

    I agree. ‘Jewish olive groves’? I wonder who they belonged to originally, and how they were obtained?

    0 Reply

    Vegnut

    1 Month

    Here’s a copy of an extract from Wikipedia, but it can be easily fact checked:- ‘ As of 2013, Israel had been condemned in 45 resolutions by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Since the creation of the Council in 2006, it has resolved almost more resolutions condemning Israel than on the rest of the world combined.’ Israel has ignored these with impunity, with the support of the US. I have lived in the Middle East and have met many peaceful and educated Palestinians who have been thrown off their land and who have been forced to leave their country and settle elsewhere. Criticism of Israel is always countered with accusations of anti-Semitism, when it is nothing of the kind. I have Jewish friends who are also appalled and ashamed at the behaviour of the Israeli government. It’s time they were held to account for their continual flouting of international law and their total disregard of any human rights but their own.

    1 Reply

    Anonymous

    4 Weeks 1 Day

    That is a very selective quote from the Wikipedia article on the UNHRC. You have failed to mention that the same article also says:
    "The UNHRC has been criticised for the repressive states among its membership. Countries with questionable human rights records that have served on the UNHRC include Pakistan, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, China, Indonesia and Russia."
    "The UNHRC has been accused of anti-Israel bias, a particular criticism being its focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at each session as Agenda Item 7."
    "UN Secretaries General Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon, former president of the council Doru Costea, the European Union, Canada, and the United States have accused the UNHRC of focusing disproportionately on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and Israel's occupation of the West Bank. Many allege an anti-Israel bias"
    "A Reuters report in 2008 said that independent human rights groups say that UNHRC is being controlled by some Middle East and African nations, supported by China, Russia and Cuba, which protect each other from criticism. This drew criticism from the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the ineffectiveness of UNHRC, saying it had fallen short of its obligations. He urged countries to 'drop rhetoric' and rise above "partisan posturing and regional divides" and get on with defending people around the world. This follows criticism since UNHRC was set up, where Israel has been condemned on most occasions and other incidences in the world such as Darfur, Tibet, North Korea, Pakistan and Zimbabwe have not been discussed at the council."
    Balance is everything.
    In short the UNHRC is run by a bunch of antisemitic Islamic countries with their own abysmal human rights records.

    0 Reply

    Thea

    1 Month

    Hello Judith, I am shocked that you have managed to fit so many falsehoods in to your reply and I'd like to respond to your points one by one;

    1. "Tensions have arisen because the Palestinian authority cancelled plans to have elections because they feared that Hamas would be elected. Hamas then used a tenant dispute in Jerusalem as an excuse for inciting violence...."

    What is happening in East Jerusalem is not a 'tenant dispute' as you call it. The reality is that Palestinian families are currently being threatened with forced expulsion from their homes by Israeli settlers, who are being backed by an Israeli court and security forces. This is all part of a wider pattern of Israeli colonisation which involves the denial of Palestinian basic human rights, displacement from their homes and land, punititive house demolitions, military detentions, and use of lethal force. Israeli forces also attacked the Al-Aqsa mosque, with stun grenades and rubber bullets fired on worshippers during Ramadan prior to the escalation of violence between Hamas and Israel.

    2. "Hamas (a terrorist organisation) claims that 200 people have been killed and over 2,000 people wounded. What they don't say is how many of these people (if the figures are even accurate) were terrorists trying to kill Israeli citizens..."

    The figures for civilians deaths of Palestinians killed by Israeli airstrikes are widely reported by mainstream media so you can easily look them up if you are in any doubt. This includes the deaths of 65 Palestinian children and entire families who died when their residential buildings were targeted by Israeli airstrikes. How exactly were the children and families responsible for any terrorism? I'd also like to point you to a quote from an Amnesty International article about the recent violence, (Israel/OPT: Pattern of Israeli attacks on residential homes in Gaza must be investigated as war crimes); 'it is hard to imagine how bombing residential buildings full of civilian families without warning could be considered proportionate under international humanitarian law. It is not possible to use large explosive weapons, like aircraft bombs that have a blast radius of many hundreds of meters, in populated areas without anticipating major civilian casualties". In addition to this Israeli attacks have also damaged critical water and electricity infrastructure as well as medical facilities including the only Covid testing site. This may also be a very obvious point but Hamas doesn't represent all Palestinians in the same way that the Israeli government doesn't represent all Israelis or Jewish people.

    3. "I don't know much about the other allegations in this piece but I do know that the Palestinians engage in the destruction of Jewish olive groves, steal their sheep, attack them when they are travelling etc".

    Firstly, Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law so I am not sure what 'Jewish olive groves' you are referring to here. Israeli settlements are connected by roads that only Israelis are allowed to use while Palestinians have to use different roads manned by Israeli military checkpoints and have restrictions on their travel. So I am not sure where the attacks on travelling Israeli settlers are supposed to have taken place. What you have written seems to be a deliberate attempt to obscure the reality that Palestinian farmers are frequently threatened by armed settlers and have their trees uprooted or destroyed. Again, if you are in doubt then please read the 2018 article by Noor Ibrahim in TIME magazine which is about the reasons why international volunteers help Palestinians during the Olive harvesting season. It states, 'Over 800,000 Palestinian olive trees have been uprooted by Israeli authorities and settlers since 1967, according to research from the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem. In 2012, two E.U. heads-of-mission reports found that violent Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians especially targeted farmers. Between 2005 and 2013, Israeli NGO Yesh Din found that, out of 211 reported incidents of trees that were cut down, set ablaze, stolen, or otherwise vandalized in the West Bank, only four have led to police indictments'.

    4. 'I urge you to be very careful when donating money to organisations in this area so that it doesn't go to organisations who are engaging in terrorist activities'.

    This is actually just racist. And it seems to be an attempt to smear organisations that are doing invaluable work supporting Palestinian farmers.

    Lastly, seeing as you have yourself admitted that you don't know much about the points raised in this Wicked Leeks article, I would strongly encourage you to educate yourself by reading the recent report by Human Rights Watch titled 'A Threshold Crossed..'. It very clearly details the ways in which Israel is committing crimes of apartheid and the persecution of Palestinians.

    1 Reply

    Anonymous

    4 Weeks 1 Day

    I was with you until you threw the allegation of racism to Judith20. A low blow used to try to discredit your opponent. Given that Gaza is controlled by Hamas, a terrorist organisation, I think that it is prudent to be careful that funds do not have a final destination of Hamas or its associates. I fail to see how that is racist.
    Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are both biased organisations. The "Times" of London said "HRW has been accused of being unwilling (or unable) to perceive threats posed by Islamic extremism because their leftist ideology leads them to see criticism of Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda and similar groups as "a dangerous distraction from the real struggle." "An example was a 2006 verbal attack on Peter Tatchell, who was accused of racism, Islamophobia and colonialism by HRW staff for criticizing Iran's execution of homosexuals." There is a whole article on Wikipedia on the criticism of HRW and another on criticism of Amnesty International
    I would also refer you to "American Jewish Congress: Amnesty International’s Criticism of Israeli Action in Gaza Distorts the Law of War" for a justification of Israel's right to self defence against Hamas rocket blackmail and use of human shield tactics.

    1 Reply

    Thea

    4 Weeks 1 Day

    Hello Roger, thanks for responding.

    The problem is that this article is talking about Palestinian farmers in the West Bank not Gaza, and Judith has commented that sending money to groups in the area (again we are talking about the West Bank here) is actively funding terrorism. The simple equation she therefore appears to have made is that all Palestinians are somehow involved in terrorism without actually distinguishing that a) the West Bank and Gaza are two separate occupied territories and b) Hamas does not represent all Palestinians. This to me showed quite a clear narrative of all Palestinians as being terrorists and an insinuation that giving money to charities such as the one mentioned in the article above is somehow funding terrorism, which is why I called it out as racist.

    Put very simply, people are not their governments. The Israeli government does not represent or speak for all Israelis or Jewish people, and this point has been highlighted quite clearly this last week in the rightful condemnation of increased antisemitic abuse directed at Jewish people living in the UK. In the same way, Hamas does not speak for or represent all Palestinians, which is why the repeated framing of the Palestinian struggle through discussion of Hamas/ terrorism is at best inaccurate and at worst racist. It also obscures the legitimate demands for equal rights, justice and freedom for Palestinians who are being systematically oppressed.

    A quick look at the website for American Jewish Congress tells you it works to 'strengthen the ties between the United States and Israel', and goes on to further list their activities as 'Promoting cooperation and trade between Israel and countries around the world' and 'addressing anti-Israel sentiment at the United Nations and other international institutions', so clearly they are not coming at this from an unbiased perspective. And it is worth pointing out that Israel's right to self defense does not justify targeting civilians, including Palestinian children and families. This is a crime under international law and should be condemned in the same way that any deliberate attacks on Israeli civilians by Hamas should be. I would also be careful about citing articles on Wikipedia as a credible source.

    If you are in doubt about the validity of HRW or Amnesty's reports then may I recommend you look up the work of the Israeli Human Rights Group B'Tselem, which has some really good information about the Israeli occupation. This includes documentation about state-backed settler violence, and incidents of  'Shooting, assaulting, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at cars and homes, raiding villages, torching structures and fields, vandalizing property and crops: settlers exercise harsh daily violence against Palestinians, with state support, to drive them out of their land'. Their reporting on the field provides a wider context for Israel's denial of Palestinians basic human rights, and shows that settler attacks such as the ones highlighted in the article above are not isolated incidents.

    0 Reply

    marymary

    1 Month

    I can’t comment much on your article but would point out that on persons terrorists are another persons freedom fighter. History suggests the same was said of the first leaders of Israel who kicked out the Palestinians from their homes. This current problem stems from a failure of governments to find proper solutions for both sides. I hope peace comes to both sides soon.

    0 Reply

    ElizabethS

    1 Month

    I am very disappointed that Wickedleeks associated with Riverford should weigh in with such partisan views. No destruction of agricultural land can be excused, whether by Israelis, or Gazans firing burning missiles onto farms over the border, or by the UK government destroying our wildernesses (for seven commercial spaceports in Cornwall, Snowdonia, the Shetlands and four more in Scotland.)

    In Gaza, the government of Hamas spend 20% of their budget on armaments, rockets and tunnels – hardly on the welfare of their people. Riverford and the authors of Wickedleeks would harden their stance if they were on the receiving end of four thousand rockets fired from N France or Ireland, with 300 miles of tunnels ready to take the fight into the heart of Devon.

    0 Reply

    colin bannon

    1 Month

    Well done Wikileeks for bringing this up and reporting from the ground what is happening to farmers in the West Bank. The sad reality is the Israelis are happy with the present situation; they expand the occupation of the West Bank and happily run the biggest open prison in history in Gaza. They know the two state solution is dead and seem to be able to do whatever they like. It's very very sad. It's right to boycott Israeli goods produced in occupied territories and to help the Palestinian farmers in whatever way possible. Thanks again.

    0 Reply

    Geoff

    1 Month

    I love what Riverford do, the food, weekly news, the ethics, and more recently Wicked Leeks.

    But today I was dismayed to read in this usually excellent magazine a very one-sided article about recent clashes in Israel and Palestine. There is no mention that the battle with Gaza was started by Hamas, a terrorist organisation with a murderous antisemitic covenant, which fired over 4000 rockets at Israeli towns. Nor that Israeli police entered Al Aqsa mosque to stop rocks stockpiled there being thrown from the Temple Mount. Nor of the fact that potential evictions of a few Palestinian residents of Jewish-owned property in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem, are to do with refusal to pay rent.

    The issues there are highly complex, and cannot be understood properly without appreciating the full history. Those who reject the recreation of Israel still try to destroy it by war and propaganda. Your sources are all from the Palestinian side, there is no checking or balance, and it sadly undermines your editorial reputation. I think Wicked Leeks should stick to its core expertise.

    1 Reply

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    Comments Editor

    1 Month

    Hi Geoff,

    Wicked Leeks covers sustainable food and ethical business, and as such often covers the related challenges and barriers faced by small farmers and producers both in the UK and further afield. This can be anything from subsidised industrial farming, exploitative prices, modern day slavery, worker rights or the impact of conflict. In this case, we covered the impact of the conflict in Israel-Palestine on a group of Fairtrade farmers in the West Bank area who have struggled to bring in their harvest amid the recent escalation of violence.

    This fits within our remit of covering sustainable food from both an environmental and social perspective, which we see as inherently linked, giving voice to sustainable farmers and producers and the struggles they face. Wicked Leeks is editorially independent from Riverford and does not represent the company’s direct stance on any issue.

    As a magazine, we believe food has many important links to the wider world, politics being one of them, and without shying away from difficult topics we aim to cover complex issues in and around food and ethical business.

    0 Reply

    Caroline

    1 Month

    Absolutely disgusted at this one sided mis informing article that will only help spread antisemetic views in the UK.

    An immediate retraction and apology should be made to all your Jewish customers.

    2 Replies

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    Comments Editor

    1 Month

    Hi Caroline,

    Wicked Leeks chose to cover this story as we feel it is important that the farmers who dedicate their lives to growing food globally have a chance to tell their story.

    We often cover the related challenges and barriers faced by small farmers and producers worldwide. In this case, we covered the impact of the conflict in Israel-Palestine on a group of Fairtrade farmers in the West Bank area who have struggled to bring in their harvest amid the recent escalation of violence.

    This is in keeping with our approach of covering issues around sustainable food from both an environmental and social perspective, giving voice to sustainable farmers and producers and the struggles they face.

    0 Reply

    Anonymous

    4 Weeks 1 Day

    Me too Caroline. I too am disgusted. This one-sided article on such a contentious issue enables antisemitism. You only have too read some of the biased and misinformed comments here to see that.
    However, I am not sure that a retraction and apology are required. That is cancel culture in my opinion. But I will be voting with my feet, or rather my wallet.

    0 Reply

    jdholloway1@live.co.uk

    1 Month

    Thank you for an informative piece all about the harvest in Palestine without getting in to the politics of the current situation. I have friends in Palestine and have frequent reports of the destruction of harvests, particularly of Olive trees and when it's your sole source of income it can be devastating. Thank you for being so impartial

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    MK

    1 Month

    Well done for your straightforward reporting of the situation in Israel-Palestine. I am the grandson of survivors of Czarist anti-Jewish pogroms - there is nothing anti-Semitic in what you have said.

    In response to some of the above comments, here are some additional facts:

    • On 13 April Israeli forces stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque, worshippers were tear gassed, attacked with rubber bullets & stun grenades.
    • On 22 April 2021, Israeli settlers, roamed the streets chanting ‘death to Arabs’, throwing rocks and attacking Palestinian cars, homes & businesses: 105 Palestinians were wounded, 22 were hospitalized.
    • Since April, at least 1,800 Palestinians in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and historic Palestine have been arrested and/or detained.
    • In East Jerusalem, Israeli forces & settlers assaulted Palestinians, destroyed property, fired tear gas, rubber bullets, sound bombs & skunk water; and extrajudicial killings of Palestinians.


    • In 11 days in Gaza, 243 people were killed, including 66 children, 39 women, 17 elderly, and 1,910 people were injured.
    • Six hospitals & 11 medical centres were damaged, including the main laboratory for COVID testing.
    • 1,335 homes were destroyed & another 12,800 partially damaged.
    • Over 75,000 people had to find shelter.
    • The power grid was damaged; electricity supply was reduced to three or four hours a day.
    • Due to the siege & bombing, water & sanitation systems have been destroyed - 95% of the water from the Gaza aquifer is unfit for drinking.


    0 Reply

    Thea

    1 Month

    Hello Geoff,

    It's really not complicated. You may use sanitised terms like 'rent dispute' but what you're actually describing is people being forcibly expelled from the homes they have lived in for decades. At its core, the 'highly complex' issue you refer to is one of justice, equality and in this case, the freedom of Palestinian farmers to grow their crops without fear of violence or intimidation.

    It is not complicated to understand that nothing Hamas does can justify settler attacks on olive trees and crops belonging to farmers in the West Bank. Neither does it justify Palestinians living under occupation by Israel and being systematically oppressed.

    You don't need to be an expert to know that apartheid and ethnic cleansing is bad. However, if you do need further information then please read the recent Human Rights Watch report which details the ways in which Israel is committing crimes of apartheid and persecution.

    0 Reply

    Thea

    1 Month

    Hello Geoff,

    Its really not complicated.

    Its not an issue of non rent payment, which is a false way of describing families being forcibly expelled from the homes they have lived in for decades by Israeli settlers. And neither is it an issue about Hamas, because nothing Hamas does justifies Israeli settlers destroying the livelihoods of Palestinian farmers in the West Bank.

    By referring to it as 'clashes' you are also conveniently ignoring the context in which Palestinians are living under Israeli occupation and experiencing systematic oppression and persecution.

    The core issues highlighted by this article are about equality, justice and the freedom for Palestinian farmers to grow their crops and tend to their olive trees without fear of violence and intimidation. You don't need the 'full history' or to be an expert to understand that.

    0 Reply

    Anonymous

    4 Weeks 1 Day

    Nina Pullman. I come here to read articles about food, the environment, sustainability, etc. I do not come here to read a Guardianista Israel BDS campaign. This article is so one sided with regard to a contentious political situation that it is inflammatory. One can see from some of the comments here that you have, even if unintentionally, encouraged a distortion of the relevant history that could be seen as thinly disguised antisemitism.
    The situation is extremely complicated and both sides have wrongs and rights but Hamas started this current round of fighting by launching rockets against Israel. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the land disputes a military assault against Israeli civilians is no solution. Hamas has no regard for the safety of the people of Gaza, including the very farmers you mention.
    I appreciate that you have a perfect right to publish your article, as do the commentators to espouse their opinions, and I understand that your editorial control of Wicked Leeks is independent of Riverford. However, it is Riverford that finances you with customers money, and some of those customers are Jewish. I am not Jewish but I cannot abide any whiff of antisemitism. I will not be buying from Riverford again as I do not wish for my money, however small, to finance your agenda. I hope that the employee owners will not be too upset with the loss of revenue if other customers decide on the same course of action because of your partisan reporting.

    0 Reply

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