Gaza’s olive harvest from farm to table

Widely regarded as the most blessed time of the year, Palestinian families in Gaza wait all year for the olive harvest season.


A Boy in the Shahin Family Helps His Family Pick Olives During the Olive Harvest Season in Gaza, October 2022. (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

Tareq S. Hajjaj, Mondoweiss, October 28, 2022

The Shahin family sits happily in a circle in their home, located in the Shuja’iyya neighborhood east of Gaza City. The house is warm and lively, and the smell of the meal inside the oven fills the whole room. Everyone can barely contain their excitement at tasting the season’s new olive oil. On the menu is musakhan, a traditional Palestinian dish utilizing the freshly harvested olive oil to make a layered dish of taboon bread, onions cooked in copious olive oil and sumac, and often topped with chicken.

Widely regarded as the most blessed time of the year, Palestinian families in Gaza wait all year for the olive harvest season. Starting in October, families prepare harvest tools, mats, plastic rolls, high ladders, and pails, venturing out in the early morning to visit their lands, finally able to pick the olives after an entire year tending to the trees. 

The Shahin family picking olives (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

Everyone in the Shahin family participates in the harvest, considered the most important season of the year. They spend weeks on end together, enjoying the olives, and the resulting fresh and thick green oil, as an accompaniment to their meals. “When I dip the first piece of bread into the oil we made, I feel all the effort we put into harvesting melting away,” Amr Shahin, 13, says from his family farm.

He is part of a group of teenagers participating in the harvest. As they continue to pick up olives from the ground, Hassan, 12, points his finger to his cousin Mahmoud, a year older.

“Take Mahmoud for instance,” says Hassan. “If he doesn’t have olive oil for a week, he will die!” They all snicker, coming down from their ladders to participate in the interview.

The Shahin family harvest their olive trees in Gaza, October 2022 (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

The olives go through a short process to be ready for consumption, either as pickled olives or as fresh-pressed oil. The family all joins together under the tree to carry out a designated task within the division of labor necessary for olive picking. 

Picking as a family tradition

The Shahin family owns eleven acres of land, home to three hundred olive trees. They work daily, from afternoon to sunset, taking advantage of the presence of the young boys after they get off from school to climb up the tall ladders and pick the olives from the top of the trees.

Their mothers wait for them to get back from school. They have their lunch at home quickly, then get to work. Mothers sit under the tree while the boys are up on the ladders, picking the olives and letting them fall down amid their mothers and sisters, who pick it up and separate the olives, dividing the green and black olives into separate bags. After harvesting, the olives are taken home in plastic bags. The family sells a few bags to their neighbors when they get back home.

The Shahin family harvest their olive trees in Gaza, October 2022 (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

The fastest way to prepare the olives for eating is to smash them with the flat side of a rock, without breaking the pits. Then the olives are mixed with salt and red pepper, and stored in containers for a week. After the curing period, the olives are ready.

And when the family judges the quantity it harvests to be enough, they send it over for pressing. 

Olives into oil

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Light in Gaza Speaking Tour in Milwaukee


Light in Gaza: Writings Born of Fire book cover. (Photo: AFSC)

American Friends Service Committee, Sep 27, 2022

    11/17/22 update: WORT’s Gil Halsted talks with Yousef Aljamal and Asmaa Abu Mezeid, two of the Light in Gaza authors now on tour in the U.S.

Light in Gaza: Writings Born of Fire brings together sixteen essays and poems by twelve Palestinian writers. The book includes political essays, personal narratives, economic analysis, and poetry. The book is edited by American Friends Service Committee staff Jehad Abusalim, Jennifer Bing, and Mike Merryman-Lotze and published by Haymarket Books. Read the full press release here.

AFSC is excited to host a speaking tour featuring Asmaa Abu Mezied and Yousef Aljamal, contributors to the Light in Gaza anthology.

Join us for a discussion of this new literary anthology featuring two of the book’s co-authors: Asmaa Abu Mezied and Yousef Aljamal.

This book imagines what the future of Gaza could be, while reaffirming the critical role of Gaza in the struggle for Palestinian liberation.

“This is a different view than most Americans see in the news.  Usually we see people in Gaza being killed or living without electricity. So they are either victims or superhumans. You miss the everyday family gatherings, the importance of nature. We hope this book inspires people to want to learn more,” said Jennifer Bing, director of the AFSC Palestine Activism Program in Chicago and editor for the Light in Gaza book project.

We will talk with the authors about their contributions to the book, and discuss the current conditions in Gaza. We will also be discussing the role that we here in Turtle Island can play in support the struggle for Palestinian liberation.

This event is co-sponsored by: Milwaukee 4 Palestine (milwaukee4palestine@gmail.com); Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition, Party for Socialism and Liberation (Milwaukee), Jewish Voice for Peace (Milwaukee), Students for Justice in Palestine (UWM), Students for Justice in Palestine (Marquette University).

About the speakers:

Asmaa Abu Mezied is economic development and gender expert working to address issues of gender, development, and climate change.  Her main area of focus is women’s economic justice through gendered economic policies, women’s rights in economic sectors, unpaid care and domestic work campaigning, inclusive markets, and feminist economics in fragile and conflict areas. Asmaa is a beginner gardener in the Gaza Strip and is interested in the intersection of Palestinian political, agricultural, and environmental identities. Asmaa is a policy member and a current fellow at Al Shabaka, a Palestinian think tank.  She was an Atlas Corps Fellow with U.S. President Obama’s Emerging Global Leaders, a Gaza Hub-Global Shaper Alumna in the initiative of the World Economic Forum, and a 2021 Mozilla Foundation Wrangler at “Tech for Social Activism” space. 

Yousef M. Aljamal is a Palestinian refugee from Al-Nusierat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. He has obtained an MA degree from the Department of International and Strategic Studies Department at the University of Malaya. He is now a PhD Candidate at the Middle East Institute at Sakarya University in Turkey. Aljamal, besides his research interests in diaspora, security, and indigenous studies, has contributed to a number of books which highlight the Palestinian narrative. He translated two books on Palestinian prisoners entitled The Prisoners’ Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag (2013) and Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Child Prisoners Speak (2016). He also co-edited the book A Shared Struggle Stories of Palestinian and Irish Hunger Strikers (2021). Aljamal has published a number of journal articles on topics that include Palestinians in the diaspora, travel restrictions imposed on Palestinians, and struggles for liberation. Over the years, he has spoken at various forums and platforms to highlight the plight of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation.

Love Football. Hate Apartheid.

Score a goal for Palestinian rights

The men’s World Cup starts in just a few days. 
The world will turn its attention to the largest sporting event on the planet. 
Major sporting events, organized by corrupt sports governing bodies and fed with dirty sponsorship money, are often used in an attempt to mask human rights abuses or push through unpopular policies.

Let’s turn that on its head.

As social movements across the world take advantage of the visibility of the men’s World Cup to call for justice for all, let’s shine a spotlight on Palestinian rights and on companies complicit in Israeli apartheid.

Score a #Goal4Palestine!
Score a #Goal4PalestineScore a Goal for Palestinian rights on InstagramShine a light on Palestinian rights on Facebook

Throughout the men’s World Cup, let’s keep the attention on Palestinian rights and call out the complicity of sporting bodies and companies like FIFA and PUMA in Israeli apartheid. Make sure the Palestinian flag is flying high. Hang it alongside the flags of teams you support and share it on social media.

Remind fans to #BoycottPUMA over its sponsorship of the Israel Football Association, which governs over and advocates to maintain teams in illegal Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land.

Take action: Love Football. Hate Apartheid.

Stay tuned for more actions throughout the men’s 2022 World Cup. 

DONATE

The nonviolent BDS movement for freedom, justice and equality is supported by the absolute majority in Palestinian society. BDS rejects all forms of racism and racial discrimination.

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Tell Marvel Studios: No Israeli Apartheid Superheroes

MPower Change

As salaamu alaykum, 

Marvel Studios is out of touch. They’ve announced a new film featuring an Israeli Mossad agent named Sabra.

Mossad agents are notorious for carrying out targeted assassinations of Palestinian leaders. They should not be held up as heroes — even in the fantasy world of Marvel.¹

Tell Marvel Studios to do the right thing: No pro-Israeli apartheid superheroes in the next “Captain America” movie.

The cultural impact of Marvel Studios films can’t be overstated. Marvel movies are seen in huge numbers — over 100 million people worldwide saw Avengers: Endgame.

If Marvel goes ahead with its plan to feature a murderous, pro-apartheid “superhero” named Sabra in its next Captain America movie, over 100 million viewers stand poised to see Palestinians dehumanized and vilified on screen.

The character Sabra has a long, disturbing history in Marvel Comics.² As written in the comics, the character Sabra is an agent of the real-world Israeli spy agency Mossad, who have an infamous track record of assassinations, torture, and numerous other egregious human rights violations.

The land theft and violent suppression of multiple popular Palestinian uprisings against Israel’s occupation have led to real tipping points in U.S. discourse. According to recent Gallup polling, progressives have now “fully crossed the threshold and now sympathize more with Palestinians” than with Israelis.³

The backlash against Marvel has already begun. But we need your help to ramp up the pressure.

Take 15 seconds now to tell Marvel: No Israeli apartheid superheroes.

A growing chorus of international human rights groups, from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to Israel’s B’tselem are finally echoing what Palestinians have said for decades: Israel is an apartheid regime.

Join us in telling Marvel Studios: Don’t endorse Israel’s apartheid regime with a pro-apartheid superhero.

We have the power to win this. 

In solidarity,
Granate, Linda, Lau, and the team at MPower Change


Sources:
1. ”A Secret History of Israeli Assassinations”, Newsweek, February 2, 2018
2. “Disney’s new Israeli superhero film hits a raw nerve with Arabs”, CNN, September 16, 2022
3. “Key Trends in U.S. Views on Israel and the Palestinians”, Gallup, May 28, 2021

Donate to MPower ChangeMPower Change Facebook MPower Change Twitter MPower Change Instagram

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FBI investigation is proof that continuous pressure works

Americans for Justice in Palestine (AJP Action) welcomes the U.S. Justice Department’s announcement that the FBI will be conducting an independent investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by the Israeli military.

AJP Action, along with our partners and supporters, has spent considerable energy in recent months lobbying Congress and the State Department, as well as petitioning the White House, to launch this investigation instead of taking Israel’s self-exoneration at face value, and we are glad that the Biden administration has finally come around to doing the right thing.

    “While we applaud this critical step to investigate Shireen’s killing, justice will not be served until her killers are held accountable and face the consequences of their murderous actions,” said AJP Action Executive Director Osama Abuirshaid.

    “We hope that the Biden administration is committed to seeing this process all the way through. This is critical for Shireen’s family, but also for the sake of all journalists who are targeted by oppressive governments to know they won’t be allowed to get away with it.”

Shortly after the FBI investigation was announced, the Israeli government indicated that it will not cooperate with this investigation. Israel has a lengthy history of refusing cooperation in investigations of its crimes by independent actors–a practice aimed at covering up the atrocities that have become routine against Palestinians.

    “It is simply unacceptable that Israel gets billions of our tax dollars every year and then refuses to cooperate with U.S. investigations into the killing of American citizens,” said AJP Action Advocacy Director Ayah Ziyadeh, adding: “It is time to end U.S. funding for the Israeli military until Israel complies with U.S. and international law and respects the basic human rights of Palestinians.” 

The announcement of an FBI-led investigation is a step in the right direction, however, our work doesn’t end here. We are deeply committed to continuing to pressure our government until Israel is held responsible for its crime and justice is served.

Sincerely,
Americans for Justice in Palestine Action

AJP Action, an affiliate of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization lobbying for legislation that supports the human rights of the Palestinian people.

FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA:  


Donate Here
Americans for Justice in Palestine Action
6404 Seven Corners Place, Ste N, Falls Church, Virginia 22044
Questions? Email us at info@ajpaction.org or call (703) 534-1904

FBI opens investigation into killing of Palestinian American Shireen Abu Akleh

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz called the FBI decision “a grave mistake” and said Israel will refuse to cooperate.

“The IDF conducted an independent and professional investigation. I have made it clear to the U.S. government that we won’t cooperate with any external investigation and won’t allow any interference in Israel’s internal affairs,” he added.


A Palestinian student from An-Najah University holds a picture of Shireen Abu Akleh during a protest in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus on Nov. 6. Photo: Nasser Ishtayeh/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Barak Ravid, Axios, 14 Nov 2022

The U.S. Justice Department recently informed the Israeli Justice Ministry that the FBI has opened an investigation into the death of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in May while covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, Israeli officials said Monday.

Why it matters: Such an investigation is highly unusual. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz called the FBI decision “a grave mistake” and said Israel will refuse to cooperate.

  • The investigation could lead to a U.S. request to investigate the soldiers who were involved in the operation — a request Israel would almost certainly reject.
  • The investigation could also lead to tensions between the Biden administration and the Israeli government.

Driving the news: The FBI decision to open an investigation into the case was first reported on Israel’s Channel 14 on Monday.

  • Five sources briefed on the issue, including four Israeli officials, confirmed to Axios that DOJ notified the Israeli Justice Ministry about the decision. The sources requested anonymity as they were not authorized to publicly speak on the issue.

What they’re saying: Gantz said later Monday that “the U.S. Justice Department decision to investigate the tragic death of Shireen Abu Akleh is a grave mistake.”

  • “The IDF conducted an independent and professional investigation. I have made it clear to the U.S. government that we won’t cooperate with any external investigation and won’t allow any interference in Israel’s internal affairs,” he added.

White House National Security Council spokesperson referred Axios to the DOJ.

  • “Our thoughts remain with the Abu Akleh family as they grieve this tremendous loss. Not only was Shireen an American citizen, she was a fearless reporter whose journalism and pursuit of truth earned her the respect of audiences around the world,” the NSC spokesperson added.
  • The DOJ did not reply to a request for comment.

Between the lines: The administration has faced pressure by dozens of congressional Democrats and Abu Akleh’s family to do more to ensure accountability. More than 20 Democratic senators signed a letter calling for an independent FBI investigation.

  • U.S. Sen Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said in a statement that “this is an overdue but necessary and important step in the pursuit of justice and accountability in the shooting death of American citizen and journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh.”

Flashback: Abu Akleh, an Al Jazeera correspondent, was wearing a bulletproof vest marked “press” when she was killed.

  • The Palestinian Authority and her family accused the Israeli military of intentionally targeting her.

The IDF concluded in September she was most likely killed in “unintentional fire” from an Israeli soldier who did not realize she was a journalist. The findings were a shift from the IDF’s initial position that it was not possible to know who shot Abu Akleh. Continue reading

Israel’s Far-Right Draw on U.S. Funding Despite Terror Labels

Some in D.C. express concern about Netanyahu’s coalition, but little is done about tax-exempt U.S. support of Israel’s far right.


Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israeli far-right lawmaker and the head of the Otzma Yehudit party, gives a statement following the exit polls of the 2022 Israeli general election on Nov. 2, 2022 in Jerusalem. Photo: Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images

Daniel Boguslaw, The Intercept, November 2 2022

ON THE WEBSITE for the Israeli group Chasdei Meir, one member of the staff stands out: “The Magician.” He’s the only employee of the anti-miscegenation group with a photo that doesn’t show his face. “He hits the streets every day to find Jewish women who are involved with Arabs,” his short bio says. “He works his magic to bring the daughters of Israel back to their people.”

This isn’t a Sacha Baron Cohen movie. Chasdei Meir is one arm of a far-right movement whose surging political party, Otzma Yehudit, or Jewish Power, appears to have propelled Benjamin Netanyahu to victory in Israel’s Tuesday election.

According to exit polls, Otzma Yehudit is poised to seize multiple seats in the Israeli parliament. Otzma Yehudit formed an alliance with two other extremist political parties, HaZionut HaDatit and Noam, as part of a coalition to boost Netanyahu. Should the coalition take control, as exit polls suggest it will, Netanyahu will reportedly give its leader Itamar Ben-Gvir a seat in his cabinet.

The party — and its leaders — are famously anti-Arab. On October 13, Ben-Gvir drew his gun in a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem and told his followers, on camera, to shoot Palestinians. For Ben-Gvir, the provocations against Arabs have proved effective at bolstering his image as Israel’s most hard-line extremist politician — and now a kingmaker in Israeli parliament.

The Jewish supremacists who delivered Netanyahu his victory are the ideological descendants of Meir Kahane, an American-born Zionist and founder of the Jewish Defense League, which has been responsible for bombings on American soil, killings, and attacks on both Arabs and moderate Jews in Israel. Organs of the Kahanist movement have been consistently designated as terror groups by the U.S. and continue to receive funding from a network of U.S. based allies.

FOR SUPPORTERS OF Israel in America, the ascent of the Kahanists raise troubling political issues. As a Nation investigation detailed in 2019, Chasdei Meir, Otzma Yehudit, and HaZionut HaDatit (also known as National Union or the Religious Zionist Party) are supported by a network of tax-exempt American nonprofits that fund Israeli extremists — many of them based in New Jersey and next door in New York. At least one of the far-right Israeli groups receiving support subsidized by American tax breaks is designated as a terror organization by the U.S.

Many of Israel’s backers in the U.S., however, oppose these groups, and some of them have made it known. At least one liberal Democrat on Capitol Hill who can be relied upon to take Israel’s side has reportedly expressed their concern directly to Netanyahu. Ahead of the elections, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., a Democrat and the chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reportedly issued a stark warning to Netanyahu in a closed-door meeting: “The composition of such a coalition could seriously erode bipartisan support in Washington, which has been a pillar of the bilateral relationship between the US and Israel.”

In his own backyard, meanwhile, Menendez has looked the other way, remaining silent on the network of tri-state organizations that fund the very groups he opposes. (Menendez’s office did not respond to a request for comment.)

The network of tax-exempt organizations in the U.S. funnels donations to Ben-Gvir and his followers, supporting their efforts to ethnically cleanse Palestinians through violent attacks and illegal settlements. The groups are still registered with the IRS, and filings show that since The Nation’s investigation into donations made in the early 2000s, many of the groups continued raising money into 2020, the most recent year for which records are available. Lawmakers and federal regulators appear to have done little. The Intercept also uncovered a previously unreported nonprofit — Tomchei Tzedaka — tied to the Israeli far right that has raised over $15 million dollars since 2017.

“It is unacceptable that the U.S. government continues to subsidize funds that are used for illegal activities and to fund violent groups operating in Israel-Palestine,” Raed Jarrar, advocacy director at Democracy for the Arab World Now told The Intercept. “This is an issue that has been going on for decades. The fact that there are nonprofits subsidized by America taxpayers that support organizations designated by the U.S. government as terrorist groups shows that Israel continues to be treated in an exceptional way in Washington, D.C.”

Israeli right-wing demonstrators gathering with the flag of the far-right Jewish group "Lehava" (Flame) and banners reading in Hebrew "Jerusalem is not Sodom" (referring to the legendary biblical city destroyed by God for wickedness), during a protest against the annual Jerusalem Pride Parade, in Jerusalem on June 2, 2022. (Photo by Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP) (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)
Israeli right-wing demonstrators gather with the flag of the far-right Jewish group Lehava and banners saying “Jerusalem is not Sodom” in Hebrew, during a protest against the annual Jerusalem Pride Parade in Jerusalem on June 2, 2022. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

JUST AS A tangled web of U.S.-based support groups fund the Israeli far right, a complex and dizzying network of organizations inside Israel and occupied territories is on the receiving end of those transactions. 

Among the main organs of the Kahanist right is Lehava, a 10,000-strong Jewish supremacist organization that has attacked police, committed arson against mixed Jewish-Arab schools, and organized pogroms in Arab neighborhoods. Lehava shares its headquarters with Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit party, and Ben-Gvir, a lawyer, has represented members of the group tried for crimes against Arabs. In addition to its political and activist wings, the movement has a religious arm: Yeshivat HaRa’ayon HaYehudi, or the Jewish Idea, which is classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. due to its affiliation with Kahane’s ideology.

Groups associated with Kahanism were delisted from the State Department’s official Foreign Terrorist Organizations list this year, but remain classified as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under Executive Order 13224, which allows the U.S. to block any financial support. Michael Ben-Ari, a leader of both the Otzma Yehudit party and the Yeshivat HaRa’ayon HaYehudi, was denied entry to the U.S. in 2012 for his terrorist affiliations.

The name “Jewish Idea” is itself drawn from the terrorist organization founded by Kahane in 1987. In addition to the yeshiva, a host of groups in Israel, the occupied territories, and the U.S. use the name. One such U.S. group, Friends of HaRaayon Hayehudi, is based in Skokie, Illinois. The group coordinates with its counterpart, the Charity of Light Fund, Inc., first registered in New Jersey in 2001. As recently as 2020, both U.S. organizations have donated to the Yeshivat HaRa’ayon HaYehudi in Israel, despite the terror listings.

Many top officials in the network of Kahanist groups have a history of violence. Levi Chazan, a director of both Friends of HaRaayon Hayehudi and the Charity of Light Fund, was convicted of shooting nine Palestinians in Ramallah in 1984. Chazan also works with the Kahanist organization Chemla in Israel, which counts multiple operatives in Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit party as employees. Among them is Ben-Zion Gopstein, who runs Lehava and was indicted in Israel on terrorism charges in 2019 for inciting violence against Arabs. The vigilante anti-miscegenation group Chasdei Meir, named after Meir Kahane, lists Chazan as a member. The organization says he runs a home to “save” Jewish women.

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ACTION ALERT: The Israeli army closes Youth Against Settlements Community Center

Friends of Hebron (FOH)

Dear Friends,

The Israeli army showed up and closed our community center! The house belongs to Human Rights Defender Issa Amro, who is now left alone and isolated while under threat from the nearby Israeli settlement and army base. Tell the U.S. State Department to act now!

While Americans were celebrating Halloween, Israeli soldiers enforced a special closed military zone order onto Issa’s house, which doubles as the Youth Against Settlements (YAS) center.

A closed military zone order (CMZ) means that no one can enter—no journalists, volunteers, family members, or medical personnel. Issa is left alone, isolated, and fears for his safety. He has already received multiple death threats from settlers and soldiers.

The CMZ order specifically targets Issa’s house, as this satellite image shows.

Please sign the petition and don’t forget to donate! 

Israel Hayom‘s lies were the same lies about Issa that have often been perpetrated by the Israeli settlers in Hebron who terrorize the local Palestinian population on a daily basis in the city. These lies show that the newspaper had gotten used to publishing slander promoted by settler populations about Palestinians without any consequences, promoting these narratives without any actual journalistic standards or investigation.

The house is a meeting point for international and Israeli delegations, a training center for local volunteers, and a community center for Palestinians living in Hebron’s most restricted areas.

YAS were in the middle of a campaign to help local Palestinian famers harvest olives from their trees. Israeli settlers assaulted and harassed the farmers and volunteers multiple times during this period. Mr. Amro attempted to file a complaint at the local Israeli police station, but was refused. His house was closed the following day.

Help us call on the U.S. State Department to pressure Israel to lift the closure!

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