October would bring some happy moments for Palestinians, but not this year.
The month escorts the olive harvesting season in Palestine, a place where the olive tree is not just another tree, but a symbol of steadfastness and attachment to the land. It is the symbol of Palestinians’ resistance against Israeli occupation.
Olive is a major agriculture crop in both Gaza and the West Bank as most farmers are associated with this 5,000-year old industry. It is the bread and butter of more than 100,000 Palestinians families who toil to produce one of the best olive varieties.
If the olive trees knew the hands that planted them, their oil would become tears: Mahmoud Darwish, Palestinian poet
According to the Palestine Trade Center, the olive sector in Palestine is worth between $160 million and $190 million in good years of harvest. The small green or black stone fruits are used to produce olive oil – a never miss from a Palestinian dinner table – as well as soap, pickles, and table olives.
Last year, as per an article in Al Jazeera English, the Ministry of Agriculture determined that the area of land planted with olive trees in the Gaza Strip was about 4,400 hectares (10,800 acres) and estimated that they could produce 35,000 tonnes of olives.
However, most olives won’t be pressed and the folk songs won’t create a festive atmosphere as it’s melancholy’s reign this year in Palestine.
The world after October 7
“The Bible says there is time for peace and a time for war. This is a time for war,” Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu said as he ruled out calls for ceasefire, even after dropping over 6,000 bombs in less than a month and killing over 10,000 Palestinians.
On October 7, Gaza’s Hamas shocked Israel in an unprecedented attack that killed some 1,400 people (according to Israel’s estimates), and over 200 were taken as hostages back to Gaza. The people got killed in the Hamas attack and those taken as hostages also included some foreign nationals.
In return, a stunned Israel has dropped over 6,000 bombs all over the Gaza strip, not barring children and women, hospitals, and even the famous Jabalia refugee camp.
Horrific scenes in Gaza shifted the world’s focus to the Middle East as the United Nations called for measure to maintain peace in the region. However, just as before, the UN has been unsuccessful in playing some meaningful role as Israel openly refutes to follow the resolution passed in the UN General Assembly for a humanitarian truce in Gaza.
In all his speeches since October 7, Netanyahu has cited references from the Bible – an attempt to present the decades-long territorial conflict as a holy war.
As Israel continues its airstrikes and ground operations in Gaza, especially the northern side, farmers in the city have been forced away from their land and homes
On the ground, Hamas is playing hide and seek using its tunnels with the Israeli troops who have vowed to vanquish the group once and for all. Only if Hamas had dug the tunnels more and discovered some oil, the US and West would be treating them differently.
The story is not different at the West Bank
The West bank, larger than Gaza Strip and home to some 3 million Palestinians and more than 500,000 Israelis, is not governed by Hamas but still faces mayhem.
Since the war started, over 100 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank, many by the settlers who are dear to the current right-wing ruling government in Israel.
The situation has incentivised the Israelis to increase their violence and attacks on the farmers - that too under the nose of the United Nations (UN) and the United States (US).
Haaretz, the oldest newspaper in Israel, published an article in May 2023 that cited data from the UN showing that the settlers had vandalised at least 5,000 trees, mostly olive ones, in Palestinian West Bank villages in less than five months.
A top UN official resigned from his post last week saying the organisation had failed to prevent what he called a “text-book case of genocide” in Gaza. Meanwhile, there is an environmental genocide or ecocide happening in the West Bank
The ecocide is not just limited to the Palestine as Lebanese agriculture minister has said that some 40,000 olive trees were destroyed due to fires caused by Israeli airstrikes and shelling in southern Lebanon, targeted on Hezbollah.
The month-long war between Hamas and Israel has also increased tension at the Israel-Lebanon border, as Hezbollah, not declaring all-out war on Israel, has praised Hamas for the October 7 attacks, saying “all options are open” on the Hezbollah side.
Exchange of shells and rockets are observed on daily basis on the northern border of Israel.
Lebanese agriculture minister accused Israel of using shells containing white phosphorous, which caused serious damage to the olive trees at a time when the country is already facing an economic meltdown.
According to the UN data, olive output covers more than 20% of farmland in Lebanon and feeds over 100,000 farmers and their families in the country.
A lot has changed after the October 7 incident. Israel is facing an unprecedented backlash for its decades-long atrocity on the land of Palestine, the West has been unveiled with its double-standards, and the US struggles to cope with the situation amid rising multi-polarity.
Amid all this, olive trees of Palestine continue to be resilient at the face of tanks moving forward in Gaza, seeing the children who would play under their shade being killed everyday.
Even if Israel succeeds in bulldozing the whole Gaza Strip, it will not be able to guarantee security for its people as the idea that was born in the conditions of misery on the back of Israeli occupation and the failure of the international community to solve the crisis will live.
A 19-year old Israeli girl who survived the October 7 attacks summed it up: “Bibi chose to give us Iron Dome instead of a diplomatic solution”.
There should be a diplomatic solution that could ensure that both Palestinians and Israelis live contently on their land. Otherwise, Netanyahu’s and his right-wing allies’ intent to continue displacing Palestinians and settle more settlers on their land would cause more instability in the region.
We will die here, here in the last passage. Here and here our blood will plant its olive tree: Mahmoud Darwish
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