Having grown her olive trees for more than a decade, Ismail’s horrendous loss is just one example of Palestinian women farmers being abused by the Israeli state – and with these women’s only income being from their farms and olive trees, farmers like Ismail are now at a complete loss of how to make a livelihood or help support their families and children.
Israel Targets Palestinian Women Farmers as the Illegal Bulldozing of Land Continues
In Israel’s latest human rights abuses, it has been revealed that Palestinian women farmers are being targetted and affected by Israel’s state-sanctioned bulldozing tactics on destroying Palestinian farms, heritage, and livelihood.
Only last December, the Israeli army used bulldozers to raid the Khallet Al-Abhar area in Deir Ballout near the Palestinian city of Salfit – the aftermath of their targeted destruction saw one of the largest tree uprooting operations to this day in the West Bank, with 3,400 olive trees destroyed in just one day.
According to Israeli officials, the army also leveled hundreds of dunams of land in the area as well – Palestinian residents claim this is only the beginning of the complete confiscation of the land and village in the near future.
Earlier last year in August, Israel claimed that they have a right to confiscate Palestinian land because it is “state land”, and despite Palestinian landowners submitting a petition along with documents proving their land ownership, Israeli authorities disregarded this and continued on with its illegal land grab.
One Palestinian woman farmer, Khitam Ismail, told MME that she has lost 750 olive trees in just one day because of Israeli authorities bulldozing her farm. She explained:
I did not receive a warning to stop farming or a land confiscation order during all those years. I put all I have in money and gold into this land. In just five hours, they destroyed all the hard work we exerted over the past few years. They were not content with just that, they even confiscated the trees after they uprooted them, and some were chopped up and sprayed with chemical material to kill them.”
Ismail estimates that because of Israel’s targeted destruction of her farm, she lost around 300,000 shekel in total. Not content with just destroying her olive trees, the Israeli army also reportedly destroyed Ismail’s 40 almond trees, 40 fig trees, and 30 grapevines. Her gardens of thyme and sage were also razed and destroyed.
Having grown her olive trees for more than a decade, Ismail’s horrendous loss is just one example of Palestinian women farmers being abused by the Israeli state – and with these women’s only income being from their farms and olive trees, farmers like Ismail are now at a complete loss of how to make a livelihood or help support their families and children. Ismail stated:
I raised the trees as if they were my children…I would rather be dead than see this happen to my land. Whenever I wake up, I imagine this to be a nightmare that I will wake up from. They destroyed us. They destroyed all our dreams and aspirations.”
The area of Deir Ballout, where Ismail’s farm was destroyed among many others, is known locally as the Salfit governate’s “food basket” – in the spring, dozens of Palestinian women work in groups around the village harvesting local cucumbers and other foods, along with the area’s historic olive trees that help produce Palestinian olive oil. According to the Head of the Deir Ballout Ibdaa Cooperative Association for Women’s Agricultural Production, about 450 local women make up 90% of the agricultural workforce.
Palestinian women have long been an important and essential part of the agricultural landscape of Palestine – and in places like Deir Ballout, where Israel is now specifically razing the landscape to the ground, it is not only Palestinian women who suffer but the entire economy and livelihood of ordinary Palestinians who will suffer the most from the illegal destruction of land. With Israel ordering the destruction of land without any notice to Palestinian landowners and farmers, many women have now taken it upon themselves to guard their farms and plots of land against a sudden attack by the Israeli army.
This year, in January alone, Israel has so far uprooted over 15,300 Palestinian-owned olive, almond, and forest trees across the West Bank – and it does not seem to be abating at all. As the world continues to turn a guilty blind eye to the continued human rights abuses and illegal land confiscation by Israel, it remains to be seen just how far Israel will go to destroy Palestinian lives.