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Stolen Harvest: Occupation and Palestinian Olive Trees

May 2014

Olives and olive oil are fundamental to Palestinian history, economy, subsistence, and culture. Olive trees symbolize Palestinian steadfastness and are deeply valued for their ability to thrive and send down deep roots in land where water is hard to come by. Many olive trees are thousands of years old and yet continue to produce olives. A worldwide symbol of peace, olive trees themselves have come under vicious attack by Israeli sol­diers and settlers.

This fact sheet highlights the impact of the occupation, settlements and the Separation Wall on olive trees, olive harvests and Palestinian society, including:

  • Olives and olive oil have historically formed the main basis for Palestinian livelihoods. Today 48 percent of agricultural land (mostly in the West Bank) is planted with olive trees.
  • To build the Separation Wall and infrastructure for Israeli-only settle­ments, bulldozers have plowed down more than 800,000 olive trees. That’s the equivalent of bulldozing all of Central Park 33 times.
  • The Wall routinely separates farmers from their olive trees. Farmers must seek permits from Israeli Authorities to work their own land and harvest their olives. 42 percent of applications to access land are denied. Even accepted permits are often delayed until the season is over, or granted for extremely short periods making the harvest – let alone the ongoing cultivation and care – exhausting or impossible.


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