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Palestinian farmers ordered to uproot 1,400 olive trees by Israeli Civil Administration 22.05.12

The Fairtrade Foundation has expressed outrage and shock at the news that Israel has ordered nine Palestinian olive farmers of Deir Istiya, Salfit on the West Bank to uproot 1,400 olive trees in Wadi Qana area by 1 May 2012.

An additional 600 trees were added to this number as a second notice was handed out. Taysir Arbasi, from Zaytoun in Palestine, described the destruction: ‘the age of the trees is between 3 to 15 years, belonging to farmers from Deir Istya. The capacity of production of these trees is around 5,000 kg of olives’. For farmers in this district olives are the primary source of income.

There is a protest camp of approximately 70 local farmers, international and Israeli activists at the site, as of 11am yesterday morning the bulldozers had not arrived. Zaytoun have been unable to reach contacts in Deir Istya to confirm what has happened today.

Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation said: ‘We are dismayed and appalled at this devastating news of what is a blatant act of aggression attacking people’s livelihoods. Many of us met Riziq Abunassar who toured the UK during Fairtrade Fortnight and we feel strongly that we should all take action to stop the daily harassment of Riziq and his fellow farmers and the destruction of their livelihoods and sign the petition set up by IWPS .

Olive oil production provides many Palestinian farmers with as much as 50 per cent of their annual income. Olive production also prevents the abandonment of the land and the spread of desertification. As a result of the conflict in the region, Palestinian farmers continue to face severe barriers in carrying out their normal day-to-day agricultural activities caused mainly through restrictions on movement, exacerbating levels of deprivation and marginalisation. Almost 75 per cent of Palestinians live below the United Nations poverty line of US$2 a day.

This is the largest order to uproot trees that the farmers of Wadi Qana have ever been given. Most of the trees were planted about five years ago on privately owned Palestinian property. The orders, placed on retaining terraces, rocks and fences in the vicinity of the trees, state that if the farmers do not uproot their trees they will face punishment which could, according to Deir Istiya mayor Nazmi Salman, include large fines and imprisonment.

Fairtrade olive farmer Mahmoud Issa and PFTPC member said ‘The zaytoun, the olive, means everything to us. My father and my grandfather farmed on this land, and now my children work alongside me harvesting. Our olive oil is of the highest quality because of the fertility of the land and we use traditional farming methods. Fairtrade brings stability to our farmers with the Fairtrade premium allowing for investment.’

The first olive oil to carry the FAIRTRADE Mark was launched by two separate Fairtrade licencees, Equal Exchange and Zaytoun CIC (who also sell Fairtrade Palestinian olives and almonds). The first supermarket to sell the oil was the Co-operative. The olive oil is also available via Oxfam shops, independent retailers nationwide and Traidcraft.

Peter Shield

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