Monday, May 28, 2007

Killing the Past

May 26, 2007

For Palestinians, their olive trees are not only the mainstay of their economy, they are also an important part of their culture and identity. For Palestinians, the olive tree is the embodiment of their family history and their family's collective memory.

Ask any Palestinian farmer and he can tell you in which year, each and every single one of his trees were planted and by whom – his father, his brother, his son, his grandfather, great grandfather. As a result, when a tree is destroyed, it is as if a well loved member of the family has also been killed and the past has been murdered.

On Friday, our team received a call from a local villager, who requested that we accompany him to the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Revava to check on newly planted olive trees. As we walked the kilometre or two to the illegal colony, Abu S explained that the land on which it was built been had been owned by his family for more than 200 years. As we entered the land and walk down the side of the illegal colony, he proudly and sadly gave us a tour of his families land.
As we walked into the fields, Abu S pointed to one section of the land. Here were well grown mature olive trees. He pointed to each one and told us his families history – how old each tree was and which member of his family had planted it. As we walked further into the fields, we soon came to another section of the field, where few trees stood. Abu S explained that many of the trees that once stood here for hundreds of years had met their deaths at the hands of the illegal settlers now living in Revava settlement just a few hundred metres away. "The tree that stood here was 120 years" he said. "The one here was 200 years old but now they are gone".

There was little we could say, except murmur our sorrow. What do you say to someone who has lost not one, but many beloved members of their family? What do you say to someone, whose has lost the guardians of their families memories? Their family histography wiped from the face of the earth in a matter of hours?

We soon made our way to visit the newest children of Abu S's family, planted just months before. However, we were soon to discover that many of them were already dead at the hands of the illegal settlers. Their death had come about due to being ripped completely from their fragile root system or from simply being kicked and traumatised. Some of the trees in the more covered areas had survived but many had not. Abu S explained that this was the fourth time in a year that he and members of Rabbis for Human Rights had replanted the trees. Over the past year, more than US $5000 worth of trees had been wantonly and callously destroyed by the illegal settlers.

Throughout the Occupied West Bank and the Gaza the destruction of olive and fruit groves is a regular occurrence. Trees are regularly ripped from the earth that has cradled them for decades or centuries. Sometimes it is because the Israeli state wants to build new bypass road or the illegal apartheid wall or new illegal colonies. Other times they are destroyed as part of illegal collective punishment, razed by bulldozers or burnt to the ground. On other occasions, illegal settlers destroy the groves in an attempt to ensure that both the trees and the Palestinians are cleansed from the land that the settlers want to steal for themselves.

In the five years between the beginning of the second Palestinian Intifada and 2005, it is estimated more than 1 million trees in Palestine have been uprooted and destroyed by the Israeli Occupation Forces. Of that number, nearly half were olive trees. Over the past two years, as the Israeli occupation has deepen more thousands upon thousand more trees have been destroyed.

However, Palestinians like Abu S will not give up. For the Palestinians of the occupied territories, their past is their future. And as a result, they will continue to replant their trees and they will continue to resist the attempts by the Israeli state, military and illegal settlers to kill their future and their present, by killing the guardians of their past.

In Palestine to exist is to resist. The dogged refusal to give in, to reaffirm the Palestinian identity and culture by planting and replanting olive trees is a form of resistance. While these newly planted trees will never capable of replacing the guardians of the past, they do reveal the hope that they will become the guardians of a Palestinian future which will be free from occupation and Israeli oppression.

1 comment:

Pro America/Not Anti-Israel said...

Would Kim, the author of this post, please contact me by e-mail? Would very much like to write to you directly.