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June 7, 2023 23 mins

Shereen talks about the history of olive trees in Palestine and how they are significant in every aspect of Palestinian life, culture, art, and identity.

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Speaker 1 (00:05):
Hello, welcome, This is a could happen here, and I
am Scharene. Today I'm here to talk to you about, well,
you guessed it, Palestine, but today is going to be
a little different. I actually want to talk about olive
trees and how the olive tree came to symbolize Palestinian
national identity. The olive tree is not just symbolic as

it symbolizes their national identity, but the roots of it
are far deeper pun intended. So let's get into it.
Olive trees feature prominently in Palestinian art and literature as
symbols of steadfastness amid a life of displacement. Palestinian olive
trees are yet another target, however, for Israeli settlers and

the IDF. And this is why I wanted to talk
about this, because there's so much talk in Zionism about
how sacred the land of Palestine is and how sacred
their land is, the land that I will call Palestine,
and how this land belongs to only them, the chosen people.
But these chosen people are the same ones desecrating the

land and quite literally pulling out trees from their roots,
trees that have been there for centuries. Been part of
that land for centuries. I've never been able to reconcile
that with what Zionism pretends to be. That they respect
anything at all, not even the land they supposedly belong to.

And it's just something I always think about when I
read reports about olive trees being uprooted or chopped down.
Isn't that the land you pretend to love? What could
possibly be the Zionist rationale behind destroying the nature of
that land. The olive tree encapsulates the Palestinian identity. It

roots an entire nation to a land and livelihood lost
to occupation, while serving as a potent symbol of resistance
against the territorial encroachment of illegal settlements. The Mediterranean climate
is pretty balmy, and olive trees have for centuries provided
a steady source of income from both the sale of

their fruit and their silky golden oil derived from the
fruit to aka olive oil. The land around the Sea
of Galilee, which is an enclosed sea in the northeast
region of Palestine, was once the world's most important olive region.
The area was the site of the earliest olive cultivation,
dating back to five thousand BC, and this is just

a fun fact that I thought was interesting, But southern
Spain and southeastern Italy are now the biggest olive oil
producing regions. To this day, between eighty thousand and one
hundred thousand families in the Palestinian territories rely on olives
and their oil as primary or secondary sources of income.
The industry accounts for about seventy percent of local fruit

production and contributes about fourteen percent to the local economy.
The trees have been a target for violence and vandalism
in Palestine for decades, which is nothing new, but this
is also compounding the already damaging effects of climate change.
While other farmers around the world can work to adapt

their cultivation practices to a warming climate, Palestinians lack regular
access to their olive groves and is coupled with increasingly
violent attacks on the trees and the farmers themselves, and
all of this spells out just a grim future for
their historic way of life. An olive press owner and

Palestine Abuid, said, climate change and the occupation are making
our job more difficult than it already is. He owns
several dunums of land in the inaccessible seam zone. He
said bitter olives that is our present, that will be
our future. Palestinian farmers are also often restricted by Israeli

authorities from accessing their lands that are close to settlements
or the separation Wall. In twenty twenty one, the International
Committee of the Red Cross said for years, the ICRC
has observed a seasonal peak in violence by Israeli settlers
residing in certain settlements and outposts in the West Bank
toward Palestinian farmers and their property in the period leading

up to the olive harvest season, as well as during
the harvest season itself in October and November, and that
quote was said by Els Debouff, the head of ICRC's
mission in Jerusalem. They went on to say farmers also
experience acts of harassment and violence that aim at preventing
a successful harvest, not to mention the destruction of farming

equipment or the uprooting and burning of olive trees. Harvest season,
which runs between October and November, is a lifeline for
again about eighty thousand to one hundred thousand Palestinian families
in the occupied West Bank. Since nineteen sixty seven, more
than eight hundred thousand Palestinian olive trees have been illegally

uprooted by Israeli authority. In August twenty twenty one alone,
more than nine thousand olive trees were removed, and on
February ninth of twenty twenty fifty olive trees were forcibly
uprooted and destroyed in the occupied West Bank region of Selfet.
For the past several years, when the olive harvest begins

around October, both Israeli forces and settlers regularly attack Palestinian
villages and farmers and destroy their crops on almost a
daily basis. They beat farmers, they spray crops with chemicals,
and uproot olive trees by the one hundreds. In November
of twenty twenty two, Israeli forces uprooted two thousand olive

trees in the West Bank. Make it make sense, you can't.
It's stupid and illogical. On October twentieth, twenty twenty two,
a group of men armed with metal bars and stones
attacked Klasim At Hajbrahammad and his olive grove in the
village of l Lureyev, northeast of Vermola. This group of

nearly two dozen settlers from the nearby illegal Israeli settlement
of Adiad attacked the olive farmer and his friend Mazda Muhammad,
the owner of the grove next door, uprooting and heavily
damaging a total of eighty olive trees and all men
saplings between the two properties. The trespassers also set fire

to a vehicle and water tank just for good measure
before retreating to their homes in the illegal settlement in
the northern West Bank. Klosem At Hajrahammad is a forty
five year old father of four, and he said, the
Israeli army backed the aggressors and through tear gas canisters
and rubber bullets at us so that the settlers can

keep on destroying our crops. I thought the first time
this has happened. This man already lost an eye in
a similar settler attack a decade ago, and these are
far from isolated incidents. This man lost an eye, now
he was losing his entire livelihood and the thing he's
built for his entire life, probably his family's life as well,

for generations. Another incident came from Doha Assus, who is
a sixty year old farmer. She says that she got
up at five am to journey to her olive growth
to harvest, only to find thirty five of the precious
trees that were planted by her father seventy years ago.
These trees were scattered in pieces after settlers took a

chainsaw to them. I couldn't contain my sorrow. I hugged
the broken trunks and waved goodbye to them forever. Then
the Israeli army pulled me up way from my field.
Many of the groves of Palestinian farmers are located in
the vicinity of settlements in restricted areas under Israeli administrative
and military control, which means that farmers need to apply

for permits specifying when and for how long they can
gain access to their own property. On top of that,
Israeli law allows the government to seize Palestinian fields if
they are abandoned for more than three years, which is
a throwback to Autumn era land codes. Taken together, these

rules incentivize attacks to keep the farmers from accessing their groves,
thus allowing for claims of abandonment and eventual seizure of
the land, and many families have given up on reaching
their lands for fear of being killed, which is also
I think what the settlers want. Farming activists Gasan Najad

said during the harvest, settlers attack us on a daily basis.
They want to take possession of our lands and build
more settlements. Today, the number of Israelis living in some
two hundred and fifty settlements built on Palestinian territory illegally
according to international law is between six hundred thousand and

seven hundred and fifty thousand people, and as settlements keep expanding,
the rights of Palestinians to access their land in those
areas are stifled by ever more restrictive permitting. Since two
thousand and five, more than ninety two percent of investigations
into complaints made by Palestinian victims were closed without filing

legal charges, surprise surprise. According to independent observers appointed by
the UN, the violence attributed to Israeli settlers against Palestinians
in the West Bank has worsened in recent months amid
a quote atmosphere of impunity. In response to these attacks,
Palestinian farmers have been forced to plant about ten thousand

new olive trees in the West Bank each year to
prevent the region's five thousand year old industry from dying out.
Chauna Dullan, the director of international relations with the NGO
yesh Din, said impunity encourages settlers to take over more land.
They feel more empowered than ever to use violent means

to attack Palestinians. It's hard to imagine the situation getting
worse than this, but it likely will. And they also
added that cooperation between settlers and the army on these
organized attacks has become something of an established pattern. We've
talked about this on other episodes in the past, but
legislative elections in November of last year brought a sharp

rise in settler violence because the far right religious Dionist
Party and the Utzvah Yehudid party surged in the polls.
It'samar Benavide is now Israel's National Security Minister under a
new coalition deal, and this grants him control over the
Israeli Border Police Division in the West Bank. He proudly
advocates for expelling disloyal Arab citizens from Israel. Dior Sadat

from the Jerusalem based NGO bit Selim, which documents human
rights violations in the occupied territories and frames Israeli policies
in the West Bank as those of an apartheid regime.
They said, the State of Israel is using settlers as
its unofficial armed arm in the West Bank to take
over more land. Settlers are fully backed by the state.

We expect to witness much more violence as far right
parties gain positions of power. As the unfortunate triumph of
nationalist religious ideals has made the Israeli far right integrated
in mainstream politics, human rights groups are becoming increasingly concerned
with the implications for Palestinians and the occupied territories, going

as far as to fear a formal annexation of all
or parts of the West Bank through a Kinesset vote.
According to UE experts, twenty twenty two was the sixth
year of consecutive annual increase in a number of Israeli
attacks in the occupied territories, and the deadliest in the
West Bank since two thousand and five. Let's take our

first break right here. We'll be right back, because we
always are. Okay, Okay, we are back. Let's just trunk
right back in. In twenty twenty, Harts magazine publish an

article about Israeli's growing ancient olive trees in the Galilee
region in northern Israel. The article focuses on the Neu
Mayer family, who have been growing quote hundreds of these
ancient trees, many of which are between two hundred and
eight hundred years old, on land adjacent to Mojaved Zapori
in the Lower Galilee region. The olive oil produced by

Nei Mayor's company Nakish or lakish. Sorry he was pronouncing that, probably,
but this olive oil received high praise from Roanetz Vered,
the article's author, and the Harat's food critic. But my
question is how did such ancient trees fall into the
hands of the Neu Mayer family, who settled into Zapori
only twenty years ago. No historical context is given in

the article to explain the existence of these trees, which
the author rites are quote spread out over a large
area and found in pasture is difficult for cultivation and harvesting.
The answer to this question is that mojab T Zapori.
This region sits on land belonging to the destroyed and
depopulated Palestinian village of Sefuria. According to Palestine Remembered, a

website dedicated to preserving the memory of more than four
hundred Palestinian villages which were destroyed during the Nekba. Safuria
was a relatively large community, with over five thousand residents
in nineteen forty eight. The area around the village, according
to Wild Khalidi's book All That Remains, was quote well
endowed with fertile soil and surface and underground water resources,

with olives being the village's chief crop. Sefuria was conquered
by Israeli forces on July fifteenth, nineteen forty eight. According
to village residents, only a small number of people remained
in the village after it was bombed from the air
by Israeli forces, and very few people were able to
return and retrieve their property. We talked about the Nipka

in the previous episode. If you guys want to revisit that,
I won't get into it too much in this episode
because we already have one all about it. But I'm
just going to continue talking about this author Wild Khalidi
and his books. Wilid Khalidi has another book titled The
Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, which unveiled previously concealed
Israeli state archives, which Khalidi references in his book, Israeli

historian Benny Morris writes that those who remained in Sefudia
were expelled in nineteen forty eight, but that quote hundreds
infiltrated back in the months that followed. Israeli authorities, Morris wrote,
feared that if they returning Palestinians were allowed to stay,
the village would quote soon return to its pre war population.

By then, neighboring Jewish settlements had already coveted Safaria's lands.
According to Morris, one senior Israeli official stated in November
of nineteen forty eight, next to Nazareth is a village
whose distant lands are needed for our settlements. Perhaps they
can be given to another place soon. Thereafter, the inhabitants

were loaded on trucks in January of nineteen forty nine
and expelled again to neighboring Arab communities. In short, going
back to that Heartz article, the hundreds of ancient olive
trees that our reference did not just grow out of
thin air. The Palestinian residents of Safaria planted and cultivated them.
For sinses the trees were stolen from them by force.

The state leases those trees after claiming the village's land
as its own. Some of that land is now part
of a man made forest planted by the Jewish National Fund.
But to ignore the village's history, as the Heritz article did,
is no worse than ignoring the stolen land on which
Israeli companies like the one mentioned and many others produce

its olive oil in the West Bank. Taha Muhammadadi, the
famed Palestinian poet, was born in and expelled from Safuiya.
The family of Muhammad Bedeck, the politician who heads the
High follow Up Committee for Arab citizens of Israel, was
uprooted from the village. Safuriya may be gone, but its
memory lives. I want to talk about how olive trees

became a symbol in Palestinian art in literature. Olive trees
are featured so prominently in Palestinian art in literature even
the far flung diaspora, as symbols of rootedness in an
age of displacement, self sufficiency in times of hardship, and
peace in periods of war. Sliman Mansour, a Palestinian painter

in Jerusalem whose art has been long focused on the
theme of land, said the olive tree represents the steadfastness
of the Palestinian people, who are able to live under
difficult circumstances. In the same way that the trees can
survive and have deep roots in their land, so too
did the Palestinian people. Mahmoud d Ruish, the celebrated Palestinian

poet who died in two thousand and eight, his works
have many references to olives. In his nineteen sixty four
poetry collection Leaves of the Olive Tree, he wrote, olive
is an evergreen tree. Olive will stay evergreen like a
shield for the universe. Nabi A Nani, the celebrated Palestinian painter,

Saramesis and sculptor, believes that the olive tree a powerful
national symbol that must be protected at all costs. Anani,
who was considered one of the founders of contemporary Palestinian art,
told Arab News. For me, it is both a national
and artistic symbol. It reflects the nature and beauty of Palestine.

Our traditions, culture, poems and songs are often centered around
the tree. To the west of Ramolah, the administrative heart
of the Palestine government. Annani said that the hillsides are
full of olive trees as far as the eye can see.
They cover entire mountains, and it is one of the
most pleasant views that anyone can observe.

Speaker 2 (18:40):
He said. That is the economic and symbolic power of
the olive tree and Palestinian national life. The rural communities
that have tended to these crofts for generations are routinely
targeted by illegal settlers, attempting to strip families of their
land and living faudadal Ran, one of the most respected

female poets in Palestinian literature, saw olive trees as symbols
of unity with nature and of hope for the renewal
and rebirth of Palestine. In a nineteen ninety three poems,
she wrote, the roots of the olive tree are from
my soil, and they are always fresh. Its lights are
emitted from my heart, and it is inspired until my

creator filled my nerve, root and body, so he got
up while shaking its leaves due to maturity created within him.
More than just a source of income and artistic inspiration, however,
olives also form a vital part of Palestinian diet and
culinary culture. Pickled olives feature and breakfasts, lunches, and dinners

and also provides significant nutritional health benefits. Olive oil, meanwhile,
is used in scores of recipes, the most popular of
which is zata rouzet, which is basically fluffy pet a
bread dipped in oil then dabbed liberally in a time
based powder that includes sesame seeds and spices. My mom

actually talks about this all the time. It was what
our her staples growing up in childhood. Were obsessed with
it Palestinian zata. It is delicious in particular, but olive
oil is a huge part of this cultural Arab staple.
Beyond the dinner table, Olive oil historically has had many

other uses. It's been a source of fuel and oil lamps,
a natural treatment for dry hair, skin and nails, and
even as an insecticide. It is not only the fruit
and its oil, but the olive tree contributes to the
cultural and economic life of Palestine. Olive pits, the hard
stones in the center of the fruit have long been

repurposed to make strings of prayer beads used by Muslims
and Christians alike. As for the leaves and branches of
the trees. They are trimmed during the harvest season to
be used as feed for sheep and goats, while the
broad canopy of the olive grove provides animals and their
shepherds with welcome shade from the relentless afternoon sun. The

wood of Fells trees has also been widely used in
the carving of religious icons as far back as the
sixteenth century, and as a source of firewood before the
modern use of gas. In fact, the glassmakers of Hebron,
who are famed for their stained glass, continue to use
charcoal derived from olive trees to fire their kilns. And

while the quantifiably beneficial uses of the olive tree are many,
perhaps what is even more valuable to Palestinians is the
inspiration it has provided for poets, painters and prophets down
the ages. Not to mention this special place it continues
to occupy in their culture and quests for statehood. This

is all why I wanted to mention the olive tree
and really illustrate its significance to Palestinians, and also just
point out that destroying these crops and these trees, or
claiming them for your own it actually is an insult
to the land itself, and that is a Zionist action.

That I just think has no actual excuse or defense.
Why destroy the land that you want so badly if
not for spite and hate. So that's what I want
to talk about today. I hope it was interesting or
educational or whatever. I highly encourage you to try zetuzata

one day in your life from an actual Arab person
so you can make sure it's good. But yeah, that's
all I got, So thank you for listening and until
next time, Fuck the idea. The thug is real.

Speaker 1 (22:55):

Speaker 2 (23:00):
It Could Happen Here as a production of cool Zone Media.

Speaker 1 (23:02):
For more podcasts from cool Zone Media, visit our website
cool zonemedia dot com or check us out on the
iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Speaker 2 (23:11):
You can find sources for It Could Happen Here, updated
monthly at coolzonemedia dot com slash sources. Thanks for listening.

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