Charlie Finn traveled to Palestine in October 2018 as part of a delegation organized by Eyewitness Palestine. This article, which is based on his observations while participating in the delegation, was originally published by Eyewitness Palestine in November and is re-posted here (with minor edits) with permission.
Olives, garbage, and security are simultaneous embodiments of Palestinian resistance and Israeli settler colonialism.
Palestinian olive trees are repeatedly planted and destroyed, harvested and bulldozed; Israeli settlers dispose of their trash on Palestinians in hope of making their lives hell; and security is everywhere, from public spaces such as airports and streets to private spaces such as farms and homes.
An olive tree is more than just a plant to Palestinians. It is its own form of resistance and an act of sumoud or ‘steadfastness’.
Continuing to plant and harvest olive trees shows the settler state that Palestinians have no intention of leaving their land or giving up on their way of life. Rather, regardless of how many times the Israeli military may move in with bulldozers, Palestinians will continue to plant and continue to resist until Palestine is free.
At the Tent of Nations farm, Daoud spoke to the delegation about how the Israeli military continues to harass his farm and destroy his olive trees. However, Daoud, who preaches nonviolent resistance, continues to plant the trees and continues to farm the land as his own act of rebellion.
For the Palestinian, an olive tree is a reminder of life before occupation and a statement to the settler colonial state that shows how Palestinians refuse to sacrifice their way of life.
In Palestine you will find olive trees everywhere, but you will also find garbage everywhere.
In Hebron, Israeli settlers have occupied the areas directly above the Palestinian markets. There, settlers throw their trash out their windows and onto the markets where Palestinians work and shop. It does not just stop at garbage, however; settlers will throw sewage, bodily waste, and even acid down on the markets.
Israeli settlers try to impose their will on Palestinians and force them to leave by making their lives miserable, but Palestinians refuse to give in to the settler will. Instead, they carry on with their lives the best they can regardless of the trash that falls down upon them. Here again we see the notion of sumoud and the refusal to submit to the occupier’s wish.
When the IDF (Israel’s army) is not using sound bombs and tear gas on Palestine, Israeli settlers step in and use the trash they create. Palestinians have resisted both these tactics, however, and continue to fight for their homeland regardless of what the settlers throw upon them.
Israel’s security apparatus has permeated all of Palestine and Palestinian life.
From watchtowers to surveillance cameras to spotlights, it is nearly impossible to get out of the Israeli eye. Like a prison, Palestine is under twenty-four seven surveillance, with people being monitored and watched at all times. In the airports, every person is constantly being watched and checked, the streets exist under cameras and spotlights, farms are littered with sound bombs and tear gas, and homes are constantly raided by the military.
All of these are ways of surveilling and maintaining Palestinian life to try to force it to conform to the settler colonial mode. Yet this is another juncture where Palestinians display their resistance just through existence and the refusal to give in to Israel’s wishes. The constant presence of security has made Palestinians more creative in their displays of resistance and modes of communication.
Security is a central component of occupation and settler colonialism, but it is also a site of Palestinian refusal.
In Palestine you will find olive trees, garbage, and security throughout the land. These are all aspects of life that Israel tries to control and use to drive out Palestinians. At the same time, these are all sites that display Palestinian sumoud and resistance.
No matter how Israel tries to restrict Palestinian life, Palestinians continue to display hope, strength, and resistance in the face of the settler colonial state.
All images courtesy of the author.