The olive harvest season is taking place over the occupied Palestinian territories.
About 80,000 to 100,000 Palestinian families rely on the olive harvest, which takes place every year between October and November, for their income – including more than 15 percent of working women.
According to the Palestine Trade Center, or PalTrade, the olive sector is worth between $ 160 and $ 191 million in good years.
Traditionally, a holiday is overshadowed by this year’s harvest due to frequent Israeli restrictions, settlement attacks and a weaker harvest due to harsh climatic conditions.
The olive and olive oil industry
Olive trees have been cultivated throughout Palestine for thousands of years and have become a symbol of Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation.
Almost half of all cultivated land across the occupied West Bank and Gaza is planted with an estimated 10 million olive trees (PDF). The small green or black stone fruits are mainly used to produce olive oil, which is never missing on a Palestinian dining table, as well as table olives, pickles and soap.
The Palestinian city of Nablus has long been known for its production of olive oil soap which is rich in antioxidants and gentle on the skin.
In 2019, about 177,000 tons of olives were pressed, which produced 39,600 tons of olive oil – about 30,000 liters (7,925 gallons) according to Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
The governors of Jenin, Tubas and Northern Valley produced the highest amount of olive oil at 10,442 tonnes, followed by Tulkarm (6,031 tonnes) and Gaza (5,582 tonnes).
Olive harvest during occupation
A study published 2012 by The Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ) estimated that since 1967, Israeli authorities have cleared 800,000 Palestinian olive trees in the West Bank.
Only in the last year, more than 9,300 trees was destroyed in the West Bank, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
In addition to the physical destruction of these olive trees, many Palestinian farmers in the West Bank require Israeli permits to gain access to their land in restricted areas near illegal Israeli settlements.
Israeli settlements are Jewish communities built illegally on Palestinian land. Today between 600,000 and 750,000 Israeli settlers live in at least 250 illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Palestinian farmers are prohibited from accessing much of their land in areas close to settlements, except for a few days a year. According to the human rights group HaMoked, the frequency of permit approval has fallen over the years. In 2020 only 24 percent of land access permit was approved.
Israeli settlers attack
During the 2020 olive harvest season, OCHA documented at least 26 Palestinians were injured and more than 1,700 trees were vandalized.
From October 4, 2021, the UN humanitarian group registered at least 365 settler attacks on Palestinians. This week, a 10-day campaign to help and protect farmers was launched in areas considered to be at high risk of Israeli settlement attacks.
The campaign, organized by the Union of Agricultural Work Committee (UAWC), will cover 12 villages, mainly across southern Nablus, but also in the Ramallah and Bethlehem areas.
Muayyad Bsharat, head of advocacy at UAWC, told Al Jazeera that the main purpose of the campaign is to “strengthen control over our natural resources by getting Palestinian farmers to their land in Area C” [under full Israeli control], and to other areas threatened by the Israeli occupation ”.