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      Interview: Don't Believe Everything You Hear About 'the Harvest'

      The olive harvest isn't just about olives, says Gershon Mesika, chairman of the Samaria Regional Council; nowadays it's an excuse to bash Israel.
      By David Lev
      First Publish: 10/17/2010, 8:40 PM / Last Update: 10/18/2010, 7:37 AM

      INN

      “The olive harvest in Judea and Samaria is no longer just about olives,” says Gershon Mesika, chairman of the Samaria Regional Council. “It's become about ways to defame Israel. No Jews living in Judea and Samaria are interested in stealing or damaging the olives of any of our Arab neighbors. It is the radical leftists and Arabs themselves who are doing the damage.”

      In what has become an annual ritual of Israel-bashing, reports on Friday claimed that groups of Jewish residents in several spots in Samaria prevented Arabs from harvesting their olives, with the “highlight” event occurring near Havat Gilad (Gilad's Farm) in central Samaria, where residents supposedly shot at Arabs and set trees on fire. In nearby Elon Moreh, meanwhile, they claimed the Jews fired shots in the air to chase Arabs away, preventing them from harvesting their olives.

      Typical of the anti-Israel reportage was the way the AFP news agency told the story: “Firebombers swooped down from Havat Gilad, a wildcat Jewish settlement,” and when the “old men” called the fire department to put out the blaze, “the soldiers wouldn't let them through to prevent clashes with the settlers.” A foreign  activist tells the agency “Every year, it's the same thing. They come with their ladders and their tea urns and they steal the olives.”
      In Elon Moreh, leftists approached the yishuv and began attacking residents. Fortunately, the town's civil defense squad was ready for trouble, and it was only because of their efforts that a lynch was avoided.


      But the story – which quickly replicated itself in the worldwide media – is nothing more than a classic example of a “big lie,” says Mesika. “The real story is exactly the opposite,” he says. “In Elon Moreh, Arabs and anarchists approached the town and began attacking two residents who were doing some infrastructure work. Fortunately, the town's 'kitat konnenut' (civil defense squad) was ready for trouble, and it was only because of their efforts that a lynch was avoided.” As far as the fire at Havat Gilad, “we saw the Arab run into the orchard, set fire to our field and run away. The fire spread to their olive trees nearby. Then the radicals began rioting, and alerted the press and others for whom they had staged the little show,” says Mesika.

      If anything, he says, it is the trees that belong to Jews that suffer; for example, on Sunday night, Arabs broke into a Jewish owned olive orchard near Shiloh in the Binyamin region, stole the olives, and destroyed the trees (pictured). “Every year during the olive harvest we suffer,” said orchard owner Ezra Ben-Sa'adon, adding that when Arabs present to the media scenes of olive trees allegedly destroyed by Jews, they were really displaying the trees belonging to olive farmers like him, which the Arabs themselves destroyed. “The situation is impossible,” he said. “The Arabs around here harvest their crops without interference, while the media shows lies that claim that we prevent them from harvesting their olives and burning down their trees – while they steal and damage Jewish agriculture in Samaria wherever and whenever they can,” Sa'adon said.

      Speaking to Israel National News, Mesika said that there was a simple solution to the problem; if the IDF were to prevent the entry of radical groups bent on trouble, the olive harvest would proceed without impediment. “There is no reason for the harvest not to go quietly,” says Mesika. “We are not interested in their olives, grapes or any other crops.” He compares the situation during harvest time to the weekly riots conducted by Arabs and leftists at the site of the building of the security fence in Bil'in and Na'alin. “The riots there take place on Fridays, because the Arabs and leftists have no work, so they come down to the fence to start trouble,” he says. “Here, too, Friday is a major day for trouble, with the radicals coming to olive harvest sites and making trouble.”

      Unfortunately, Mesika says, the easiest solution – having the army keep the rioters away from olive-harvest sites – is unlikely to take effect. “The army is apparently afraid of these people, who have a direct lifeline to the High Court, where their lawyers are always standing by.” But the more people that know the truth, he says, the more the army will be forced to, hopefully, finally take some action.