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by Moshe Dann

In case you didn't notice, olive trees in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) are under attack. The alleged culprits are Jews living there. U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry called it "terrorism."

Will this "crime against humanity" be on the agenda of the U.N.? Will NGOs demand that this "Holocaust of the trees" be prevented? Will the EU lavish funds to make up for the poor harvest, a result of intense heat waves and lack of rain? Will the International Court of Injustice condemn this as a "violation of international law"?

Where are these fervent "guardians of the trees" when Jewish fields are torched by Arabs and Jewish vineyards are ripped up by Arabs, assisted by "peace activists" like ISM "anarchists" and Rabbis for Human Rights ?

AND, btw, TO WHOM DO THESE ENDANGERED TREES BELONG? Well, that depends on whom you ask. Palestinians claim them "for generations," although there are no deeds or indications of ownership, and most are recent plantings. Maps of the disputed areas during the British Mandate show that Arabs have encroached on state land, planting and building; uncontested, they claim legal possession. Fair enough.

During recent decades, this encroachment has become widespread, and planting olive trees has become one of the most widely used methods by Arabs to assert legal claims and acquire land rights. Why olive trees? Olives are in high demand, and the trees are easily maintained; they require no irrigation and little care beyond occasional pruning, which helps new growth the following year.

And pruning, when convenient, can look like destruction, make a case against "the settlers," and get media attention and government compensation.

Arabs also plant olive trees in disputed areas near Jewish communities, often with help from Peace Now and pro-Palestinian NGOs, to check the growth of settlements and provide cover for terrorists who seek to infiltrate and murder. In the struggle over property rights, olive trees serve as signs of ownership and boundary markers, and they are valuable forward positions for asserting strategic advantage.

True, both sides play this game, as Jewish communities expand as well. But only one side gets condemned, and the poor olive trees are caught in the middle. But who has a right to plant, who has a right to harvest, and to whom do trees, whose lineage and ancestry cannot be traced, belong? And, of course, who owns the land? .

Arabs and much of the international community claim that Jews have no right to live in areas conquered by Israel as a result of the 1967 "Six Day" War. Although designated part of "the Jewish national homeland" by the League of Nations and other international agreements, the U.N. proposed dividing Palestine in 1947 (a two-state solution), which was rejected by the Arabs, and then five Arab armies invaded Israel in 1948. An armistice in 1949 left Israel in control of one part, Jordan in control of Judea and Samaria, and Egypt occupying the Gaza Strip. No one proposed a separate Palestinian state alongside Israel, nor did Palestinians consider themselves "a people."

Egypt never claimed the Gaza Strip, which is now the first Islamist state of Hamas; Jordan relinquished its claims to the West Bank in 1988; and both countries have signed peace treaties with Israel. Legally, therefore, sovereignty over these areas should revert to their original status -- part of "the Jewish national home," the State of Israel.

Assigning these disputed areas to Palestinians is unique: it is the first time in history that a proposed country preceded the national identity of those who claim it.

One of the very few places in the world whose status is disputed and undetermined, Judea and Samaria, is embroiled in a struggle over political and national rights. It is important, however, not to forget the forest -- Israel's survival -- for the trees, olives and others.

Though metaphors for conflicting claims and sources of contention, olive trees can also nourish mutuality. Robert Serry's exaggeration is an example of what is wrong with the U.N., its hostility towards Israel, and its encouragement of extremism and misunderstanding -- which prevents true peace.

Moshe Dann is a writer and journalist living in Jerusalem. This article appeared November 5, 2010 in the American Thinker.


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