We only shoot fish in barrels

October 10, 2006

In News

By Amira Hass, Haaretz Correspondent

The Israel Defense Forces is demanding that Palestinian farmers not
allow Israeli and foreign sympathizers to escort them during the
olive harvest to places where military protection is needed against
abusive settlers, Palestinian sources in the Nablus region told

An Israeli security source confirmed the report, saying that IDF
officers have been influenced by statements of settlers, who say they
are enraged during the harvest by the presence of Israeli leftists
who act as provocateurs. A 2005 memo to soldiers from the Civil
Administration regarding the olive-picking season states:
“Involvement of various entities, Israeli and foreign, is expected,
as an ‘aid’ to the Palestinians in the harvest and as a motive for
creating provocations.”

On the other hand, the 2006 Olive Harvest Order issued by the Samaria
Regional Brigade stated, under “Key lessons from the previous year”:
“Working axis vis-a-vis leftist organizations: During the harvest
season the left appeared largely as a coordinating force and for the
most part offered no provocations. The best and most effective axis
for maintaining communication is between the implementers [i.e., the
olive-pickers – A.H.] and the organizations.”

The contradictory policy was evident as the harvest season began last
week in the Nablus region. In the village of Burin, for example,
Israeli escorts were prohibited, but they were permitted later in the
week. In the village of Klil the army allowed women from an
international solidarity group to be present during the picking. Last
Tuesday, however, soldiers barred farmers from entering their
property, necessitating the intercession by phone of activists from
Rabbis for Human Rights.

Rabbi Arik W. Ascherman of RHR has for years organized groups of
Israeli peace activists to escort farmers in some 30 West Bank
villages, as protection against settler attacks.

The IDF Spokesman stated that the GOC Central Command had recently
signed several orders requiring advance coordination to enter limited
areas during the harvest period, but that most West Bank harvest
areas are freely accessible to farmers and Israeli civilians.
Regarding the incident last Tuesday, the IDF said that the Klil
farmers left the area of their own volition after soldiers asked to
check their ID because they had not coordinated their arrival in