Rabbi Moshe Reiss
Stories #12 – Occupation – Obsession and Reality:
Occupation has a Reality:
Olive groves live for hundred of years and more than anything else
represent the tradition of the Middle East. High Priests and Kings are
anointed by their oil thousands of years ago and today Popes and Kings
continue to be so anointed. Thomas Friedman wrote a book entitled
‘The Lexus and the Olive Tree’ for that very reason. In the
Talmud after stating that olive tree is more important than other fruit
trees Rabbi Hanina tell us of his son’s death before his time as a
result of his cutting down a fig tree (B.T. Baba Kamma 91b).
Some 500 olive trees on dozens of dunams of land had been hacked
limbless over a weekend in July and on Sunday the Palestinian farmers
unanimously pointed an accusatory finger at their neighbors on the
hilltop: the ‘hilltop youth’ of Yitzhar. It looked as if a lumberjack
had run amok in the olive groves of the Palestinian village of Ein
Abus, just south of Nablus.
In November 28, 2005 Settlers cut down 200 olive trees near
Palestinians on Sunday said that settlers cut down more than 200 olive
trees in the West Bank village of Salem, near Nablus. The Palestinians
told the police that the settlers arrived during the night and cut down
the trees using chainsaws. Police were trying to track the settlers
responsible for the act.
The destruction of the trees came a day after after volunteers from the
Kibbutz Movement's assignment division, headed by Yoel Marshak, helped
the residents of Salem restore olive groves that were destroyed by Elon
Moreh settlers a month ago.
The Palestinian farmers had not tended the groves since they were
destroyed for fear of being attacked by the settlers.
This is the latest installment of an annual struggle between the
fringes of the settlement movement and Palestinian olive harvesters
across the West Bank. The IDF proudly stated that, as opposed to last
year, it has managed to limit settler vandalism of Palestinian olive
groves to only two or three incidents.
But that was not enough for Fauzi Hussein. Settlers from the
unauthorized outpost of Yitzhar – dismantled in July but since
repopulated – swooped down from their hilltop perch and hacked apart
255 of his olive trees, he says. The villagers only dare approach the
hilltops near the settlements when accompanied by human rights groups
and an IDF escort.
"I staked everything I had in those trees," pleaded Hussein, who had
worked in Tel Aviv's tourist hot spot of Kikar Atarim for 23 years
before the onset of the intifada. Hopping down from one of the
mountain's ragged terraces to talk to a reporter, the 53-year-old
Hussein said he had supported his entire family by his olive harvest,
the bulk of which he sold to Saudi Arabia.
His neighbor Abdula Yusuf is too afraid to climb the rocky terraces
beyond his village and see the damage for himself. "They'll kill me,"
he said, waving a hand at the container homes on the top of a
neighboring hill. "If they can do that thing to trees as old as the
Roman times, they will not hesitate to do it to me."
He stopped the car by a pile of uprooted olive trees and got out,
indicating that I should do the same: 'Such trees are 150 years old -
three times the age of the State of Israel,' he said, pulling out a
clod of earth from the roots and crumbling it in his hands. 'Generation
after generation our people have come three times a year to dress,
fertilize and harvest these trees. All our life, all our traditions,
are connected to such trees. But now they bring their powerful machines
from the USA and destroy our inheritance in fifteen minutes. Like us,
these trees have deep roots. Look how strongly these roots bond the
trees to the soil! But now they are uprooted, and with or without
Abu-Zeid, if the settlers get their way we will be next. Sooner or
later they will expel us all. It is only a matter of time.' (Haaretz)
“The police do not handle the uprooting of Palestinians’ trees by
settlers in the same way they handle Arab damage to Jewish property”
(Shlomo Politis, Modern Orthodox and deputy Judge Advocate General ret.
– Haaretz July 29).
Occupation and Suicide Bombing:
Hany Abu Assad wrote and directed a movie called ‘Paradise Now’. It
shows a person becoming a suicide bomber. The film is a thriller about
two young men who commit suicide bombing. “I chose something that in my
opinion serves as an opening for dialogue, between Israelis and
Palestinians and among ourselves."
He stated his recollection of the exact moment at which he understood
the suicide bombers: "I was at the Qalandiya checkpoint," he says, "and
an Israeli soldier decided to stand me up against the wall with several
other people. We stood there, under the burning sun, for three hours. A
sense of humiliation overwhelmed me, and I felt I was losing my
humanity. For the hours I was standing there, I was afraid to do
anything, for fear that if I just moved my head, the soldier would kill
me. I felt like a coward, I began to hate myself for not doing
anything. For a month after the incident I was impotent. I felt I was
no longer a man. At that same moment, I understood the suicide bombers:
The moment you kill yourself, together with the enemy, you kill your
impotence and make them impotent. I'm only glad I have the talent to
express my impotence in a different manner." (Interview by Goel Pinto,
Haaretz, Nov. 11.)
Some of my correspondents have disputed by story of Olive Trees. One
David Morris, asked me to state a copy of his repudiation. I do so.
Given the reaction of some zealous Jews at the disengagement I
personally have little doubt that Jews would do exactly what was
Tree-Cutting "Libel" - Once Again, Jews Stand Accused
Monday, November 28, 2005 / 26 Cheshvan 5766
Once again, reports that Jewish settlers cut down Arab-owned olive
trees are suspected to be a "left-wing provocation" against the Jews of
Judea and Samaria.
It was widely reported Sunday, in the name of Arab sources in the
Palestinian Authority-controlled areas, that Jewish settlers from the
Shomron had chopped down 200 olive trees owned by Arabs. The Ynet site,
for instance, wrote, "Palestinian sources reported that settlers from
an outpost near Elon Moreh had cut down" the trees.
The reports were immediately followed by condemnations of the Jewish
population in the Shomron and Israel's rule there. The extremist
left-wing organization "Peace Now" released a statement saying that the
incident was a direct result of the lack of law enforcement in the
areas and the continuing "problem of the [Jewish] outposts."
However, the Yesha Council looked into the matter and said that though
"we condemn all violence, including harming Palestinian property," it
had found that the incident was apparently a provocation staged by
extreme left-wing activists who "wish to sully their Jewish brothers,
while at the same time extending their hand to terrorists."
The residents of Elon Moreh, in a statement, "wish to emphasize that we
have no connection with this incident, which is based on the testimony
of a single Arab."
A widely-published AP photo of an Arab woman weeping and embracing an
allegedly chopped-down tree (similar photos were taken by Reuters, AFP,
and others] shows that the trunk is intact, and that only the top
branches are cut off - as if it had been purposely pruned. In fact, the
Haifa-based Land of Israel Task Force says that this is exactly what
"The left-wingers and Arabs pulled the same trick last year," Task
Force head Aviad Visuly said, "and using the same method." Photos of
the trees show that the branches were sawed off in a manner that is
beneficial to the trees. "Why would vandals bother sawing off each
individual branch? Wouldn't they just cut down the trunk?"
The branches begin growing back 2-3 months after they are cut, and grow
to full size within two years. "In the meanwhile," Visuly said, "the
orchard owners receive stipends from the Saudis, via the PA."
Visuly said that left-wing activists look for trees that have been
pruned, and then blame the Jews for cutting them. "They have even
admitted to the police that they do this," he said, "such as in the
case of Ein Avus near Hawara [south of Shechem]. In that incident, they
blamed the people of [nearby] Yitzhar, because Yitzhar was a convenient
media target. Two Jews were arrested for five days and were then
released with no charges whatsoever. Today, it's convenient for them to
accuse the people of Elon Moreh. If the police had an investigator who
was half-fair, he would throw the case out."
Two years ago, a similar story on Arutz-7 began as follows: "It led to
anti-settler headlines, international embarrassment for the State of
Israel, condemnations, and apologetics - and yet it all may have been
one big bluff, or worse." At the time, international media reported as
fact that Jews had destroyed the Arab trees, and President Katzav and
Prime Minister Sharon issued statements implying that the Jews were
responsible. Even the Yesha Council said that the tree-cutting had
"defamed the entire sector of Jews living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza."
What went under-reported was that the police began to suspect that
left-wing Israelis and Arabs were behind the incident. The police even
asked Rabbi Arik Asherman of the Reform Movement and an Arab who filed
charges against Jewish Yesha residents to submit to lie-detector tests
- but it was reported at the time that the two had refused.
A Jewish National Fund expert brought in by the police concluded that
no lasting damage was done to the trees, and that the tree-cutters did
not "cut down" the trees, but rather "pruned" them.