(Oct. 13) -- It's harvest time in the West Bank, which means Palestinian farmers are again facing a common problem: Israeli settlers are stealing their crops. While the world remains focused on the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, it's worth noting the everyday obstacles to peace, which go far beyond illegal settlement construction.
Though the harvest season is only 10 days in, already there have been several instances of Israeli settlers descending on Palestinian olive groves under the cover of night and stealing the olives before Palestinian harvesters arrive. And while the Israeli Defense Forces posts guards to protect the Palestinian groves, settlers are aware of their schedule and target the olives when they're unmonitored.
"In a number of places where the Palestinians are not allowed for the rest of the year, when they come on the days allocated to them, they find the olives have disappeared," Sarit Michaeli, spokeswoman for the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, which monitors the olive harvest, told Haaretz. Adds the newspaper: "In two cases, Civil Administration personnel found the thieves, confiscated the stolen olives and returned them to their rightful owners. However, security sources say it is very difficult to prevent theft and the district police do not treat thieves harshly when they are caught."
Similar indignities, rarely reported in American newspapers, are commonplace. In April, for instance, raw sewage spilled from the Israeli settlement of Kfar Etzion, destroying adjacent Palestinian crops and contaminating Palestinians' drinking water. Meanwhile, only 17 percent of the water from the West Bank's main underground aquifer is distributed to the 2.5 million Palestinian residents of the West Bank, while the rest goes to Israel proper and the Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.