UN Calls for Protection of Olive Trees and of Palestinian Farmers Amidst Escalating Israeli Settler Violence – World Olive Tree Day 2023
26 November 2023
This World Olive Tree Day, the United Nations in Palestine calls for the protection of olive trees and farmers across the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and is reflecting on the values the tree embodies, including the peace a single olive branch signifies.
The olive tree holds profound significance in Palestine, lying at the heart of Palestinian culture, history, its economy and identity.
As global attention is focused on Gaza, many olive groves across the occupied West Bank have become the focus of heightened violence by Israeli settlers during what should be this year’s ongoing olive harvest season. But olives remain unharvested due to unprecedented threats to olive farmers and their livelihoods.
Over the past three years, settler violence has rapidly increased. In 2021, the UN recorded an average of one incident of settler violence a day, resulting in damage to Palestinian property or in Palestinian casualties. In 2022, the average stood at two settler violence incidents a day, while in 2023 – and prior to 7 October 2023 – it had increased to three daily incidents. Since 7 October, this count has more than doubled, reaching an average of seven settler violence incidents a day. A 29 year-old Palestinian father of four was shot and killed by an armed Israeli settler in As Sawiya village, as he was picking olives.
Reports of extensive damage to land and trees and stringent movement and access restrictions by Israeli forces hamper access to olive trees, especially those close to settlements. At the end of November, an initial estimate indicates 800,000 dunums of land have not been harvested due to Israeli settler violence and access restrictions. Many families who rely on the olive harvest risk losing their income for the entire year.
The centrality of the olive branch in the United Nations’ emblem is not coincidental. It reflects the UN’s mission of peace and a reminder of the importance of of the importance of dialogue and diplomacy – now more than ever. It must be protected.