Is it really a Happy Christmas in Palestine?

Happy Christmass from Palestine, the homeland of the prince of peace Jesus.

Christmas in Palestine

It is a hard reality that the trees are uprooted and Palestinians have to decorate barbed wires dividing their neighbourhoods.

Olive production contributes to about 38.2% of the fruit trees production income.

Olive trees grows at a rate of 1-2 feet each year, reaching a height of 20 – 40 feet after about 40 years

They generally live for about 400 years, but many are known to be 700 or 1000 years old

Historians date the first olive trees in Palestine to 4,000 years before Christ

Olive harvest account for about 15 – 20% of the total agricultural output in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, about 4.6% of the GDP

The Israeli Defense Force has historically uprooted olive trees to “build settlements, expand roads and lay infrastructure,”

The Israeli Defense Force has uprooted thousands of trees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In addition to the uprooting they have set these olive trees on fire, set up complete blockade of commercial movement between the Gaza Strip and each of the West Bank and Israel and vice versa. Exports from Gaza and the West Bank to the rest of the world were also blocked.

Olive groves along most of the road networks have been declared security zones, preventing farmers from tending their crops. Groves within 200 meters of the roads have been bulldozed in many areas to prevent them being sued as cover by Palestinian soldiers 
On October 22 of 2002, the Israeli press reported that the Israeli army prohibits Palestinian farmers from harvesting their olive crops in the West Bank, claiming that they cannot protect the olive pickers from attacks by Israeli settlers.

On October 23, 2002, hundreds of olive trees in Palestine were set afire by Jewish settlers. In addition, down the road about 100 other trees were sawed to the ground.

The curfew that has been placed in many cities caused tremendous destruction to the agricultural products as well as to the farmers’ economic well being. Since the curfew placed on many cities, the Israeli army has prohibited the farmers from cultivating their lands and from collecting the fruits.

Security closure and economic siege, which the Palestinian economy had been subject to since 1988. the closure, which continued even after the singing of Oslo Accords in 1993. Gaza International airport has been closed since February 2001 and the “safe passages” between Gaza Strip & West Bank closed since Oct. 2000. (Oslo Accords forbid its closure). There are frequent lengthy closures of the bridge to Jordan, the border with Egypt, and the entrance to Israel. (Palestine Monitor Fact Sheet). Professor Hasan Abu-Libdeh, head of the PCBS told BBC News Online that “olives could not be harvested because the groves were declared security zones by the Israelis and farmers were being shot at by Jewish settlers.”

There are laws that ban Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza from entering Arab Jerusalem and also laws that ban West bank residents from entering Gaza and vice versa. These have caused tremendous damage to the Palestinian agricultural sector, and especially to the historic olive trees.

Israeli police confirm that Jewish settlers repeatedly have harassed Palestinians gathering olives or interfered with their work since the start of the olive harvest season.

Other Palestinians believe that Israelis have taken advantage of the current situation in order to expand settlements (Jabr). They believe that Jewish settlers are using security concerns as a cover to plunder their olives and force them from the land. (Palestine Monitor-The Guardian)

In June 2001, 443 Palestinian farmers filed complaints to the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture. 95% of the total complains were against incidents of uprooted olive trees. In addition, the ministry stated that direct losses from September 28, 2000 June – 2001 reached approximately $280 million. The ministry said that some 374,030 trees were uprooted in various areas of which 108,951 trees were olive (Palestinian Agricultural Losses.) Other important trees include citrus trees 
Data collected by many different organizations indicate that the agricultural sector in Gaza and the West Bank has endured great losses. Olive oil is the second major export item in Palestine. The total quantity of pressed olives in 2001 was 22,154 tons, of which 23.8% were in Hebron, followed by Jenin Governorate and Tubas district with 18.5%, then Tulkarm Governorate with 11.4% of the total.

Estimates vary over the uprooting of the olive trees. They range between 112,000 and 30,000.

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