The Olive Harvest: A Symbol of Palestinian Resistance and Heritage

“If the olive trees knew the hands that planted them, their oil would become tears.” – Mahmoud Darwish

For Palestinians, geographical ties to the land are not only woven deeply into every aspect of their identity, but depended on for survival. One defining element of Palestinian identity that remains threatened by Israeli forces is the generational farming practice of planting and harvesting olive trees. The prominence of olive trees in Palestine is one that extends deeply into every aspect of society and contributes to the overall livelihood and sustenance of the Palestinian population.

Often regarded as a symbol of vitality and peace, olive trees are known for their ability to thrive in harsh conditions. These drought-resistant trees can grow and produce fruit for thousands of years and are a staple in Palestinian households. They represent a resilient and unwavering attachment to the land that parallels that of the Palestinian people. 

This symbolism dates back to one of the oldest trees in the world, Bethlehem’s Al-Badawi, which stands at 4000 years old and is named after Ahmad Al-Badawi, a villager in the town of Al-Walaja who was often found reflecting under the tree over two centuries ago. This olive tree was reported to be the meeting place of villagers who gathered to distribute food to the poor and is a staple piece of local heritage. Like all agriculture in the region, Al-Badawi remains vulnerable to confiscation and is carefully guarded by the community, representing yet another manifestation of Palestinian resistance.

The olive harvest also has economic significance as a source of income for over 100,000 Palestinians. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, approximately 45% of agricultural land is made up of olive trees, and the olive oil industry makes up a quarter of the region’s gross agricultural income. The harvest season also creates ample job opportunities for Palestinians, with an approximated 1,353 people employed to work across the 265 operating olive presses in the West Bank. Without the maintenance of these century-old agricultural practices, the remaining economic agency in the region would diminish, causing already high unemployment levels to increase exponentially. 

Despite their evident importance to Palestinian livelihood, the full potential of the olive sector remains thwarted by the occupation. Israeli settlers utilize the destruction of olive trees as yet another means to forcibly exile Palestinians from their own land. Olive trees are often maintained within Palestinian territories that should be free of militarized presence, yet Israeli forces politically weaponize the harvest season by invading even the last morsels of land belonging to Palestinians. Farmers are vulnerable to random attacks, loss of crops to illegal settlers, and even the contamination of their already scarce water supply. More than 1 million olive trees have been uprooted since 1967.

Aside from the destruction of trees, water theft continues to be an alarming issue for these farmers. 85% of water resources in Palestine go directly to illegal settlers. With Israel seizing complete control over all water-related infrastructures in the Palestinian territories since 1967, Palestinian access to water is restricted on an inhumane level. Palestinians cannot undergo any sort of water installation without being granted a permit from the Israeli army, which is nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain. Parts of the West Bank that neighbor Israeli settlements are labeled as closed military areas, barring Palestinians from entering and thus restricting their water access. Meanwhile, Israeli settlers that live among Palestinians in the West Bank face no restrictions and remain unaffected by licensing requirements. This contributes to the economic decline of agricultural efforts in Palestine and ensures that Palestinians are held economically captive.

 According to the Applied Research Institue – Jerusalem, an estimated 50.9% of Palestinian families in the West Bank have daily access to water while only 30% have access in Gaza. With a reported 72 liters per capita per day in the West Bank and 96 liters per day in Gaza, the occupied Palestinian territories rank in as having some of the lowest per capita water accessibility worldwide. In addition, the water that is available faces extreme contamination, specifically in Gaza where this issue makes 90-95% of water unsuitable for irrigation or drinking. Despite Israel’s legal obligation to make sure that the needs of the occupied territories are met in regards to access to natural resources, water continues to be inhumanely weaponized against the Palestinian people. In fact, the United Nations Development Programme affirms that “the Israeli disruption and destruction of Palestinian water and agricultural infrastructure (e.g. prevention of the development of water infrastructure, destruction of olive groves) is prima facie breaches of international humanitarian law.”

Israel systematically causes the erasure of Palestinian culture, heritage, and livelihood–all elements that arise from the physical geography of the land. Palestinian history and culture are deeply connected to the land and its bounty. The olive harvest is not only an important means of economic gain, but one that fosters a sense of community and retains heritage. Thousands of Palestinian families unite annually to gather olives from trees before they are taken to olive oil mills. Soon after, the olives turn into elements of traditional dishes at celebration and gatherings that fuel Palestinian culture and life. 

Palestinians celebrate the olive season by taking the whole family out to the groves, teaching children how to make olive pickles in the classroom, and even singing traditional songs about the prized trees. Most importantly, the harvest season brings Palestinians together to tend to the same trees for which their ancestors fought and protected for generations. Due to their long life span, many of these trees have survived generations, and their maintenance directly contributes to the retention of Palestinian history which constantly faces the threat of erasure. The olive harvest in Palestine is an act of resistance to Israel’s occupation, and the removal of these trees is yet another tactic to forcibly exile an indigenous population from a land that is deeply embedded into every aspect of their existence.

Senate Resolution

Below is the following:

An ASUCD Senate Resolution to stand in solidarity with the Dalit, Bahujan, and Adivasi students, staff, and faculty in the University of California, Davis and the rest of the world, to recognize the 2,500 years and counting of oppression and violence due to caste apartheid towards marginalized South Asian Communities.

Click on this link and comment below any suggestions you may have on this resolution!

Black Lives Matter Sacramento Protest

Chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “George Floyd” rang out across Sacramento yesterday as hundreds of people peacefully protested in solidarity with the protesters in Minneapolis. Our Photography Editor, Maayez Imam, captured these photos showing how the protest unfolded.

If you want to help out, consider donating to the National Bail Out Fund, the Minnesota Freedom Fund, and Black Lives Matter.

You can also text “FLOYD” to 55156 or text “JUSTICE” to 668366

Photography by Maayez Imam

Cowtown or Browntown

By Sona Bhargava

Without all my brown friends at college, one might mistake me for a human hermit. Almost every organization or club I’ve joined, and almost every friend I’ve made shares my cultural ties (cough, cough Other Collective). This is interesting, considering my culture did not influence my upbringing in the same manner that it is affecting my college life.

 

Growing up, my parents implemented cultural values and rituals into my everyday life. Every morning my brother and I would sit in the corner of my parents’ bedroom, and pray to a shrine to both thank God for our blessings, and pray for safety and good health among other things. But my “brown identity” was not an essential part of my life. Living in a predominantly white suburb of Los Angeles, I did have brown friends, but the majority of my friends were of other ethnicities. Growing up, I had a friend group of five girls; Filipino, Irish, Mexican, Argentinian, and me, Indian. Due to our diverse backgrounds, the activities we participated in were not culturally connected. We watched movies, ate food, and got  together to indulge in pastimes that did not associate with culture. We simply partook in these cultural undertakings on our own times with our families.

 

Upon entering college,, I adopted the typical college student mindset: I wanted to make new friends, and join a few clubs. When Other Collective came to my Indian Civilization class, looking for staff writers, my interest piqued. I was a journalist in high school and adored writing, so the chance to continue expressing myself through words was exciting. I joined Other Collective mostly because of the writing aspect, although the cultural ties were intriguing to me as well.

 

I later joined UC Davis’ Raas-Garba team, UCD Raasleela, on a whim. I went to their dance workshop and auditioned for fun, thinking I would never make the team. I danced as a child, and was heavily interested in dancing in college. But the traditional folk-style of dance that Raasleela is was very out of my comfort zone. However, I soon became accustomed to the style of dance and hence, the plethora of new brown relationships.

 

I became part of a brown girl friend group within the first few weeks. The idea of making all brown friends from the get-go was unintentional, but I loved the company of these girls so much so that it did not matter. I had no clear vision of where I saw myself on campus, but I was open to joining just about anything to get involved from the beginning. After reflection, I realized  connecting to my culture in college occurred because it has helped me feel a sense of family. I never needed to look elsewhere than my family for my culture because they were always right there. Now, being over 400 miles from home, turning to my friends here in the same way I used to turn to my family makes me fulfilled. I feel content in cultural spaces on campus and a strong sense of community.

 

The connections in brown society between colleges across the nation have yet failed to amaze me. Last week, I discovered that one of my best friend’s friends from home is friends with one of my close friends here at Davis. I quickly uncovered that the reason there are so many connections between my friends at Davis and my friends from home is due to a shared culture. Originally, I was thinking it might just be a weird Bay Area cult-type thing, but lately I’ve been hearing about people from all over the nation who are friends of my friends at Davis, but also of my friends at home. Weird, right?

 

I hope my college experience continues the way it has so far. I have been blessed with an easy adjustment period because of the new relationships I have made. These friends I have made at Davis have quickly turned into family, and I believe a strong part of that is the culture we all share. I feel a sense of positivity with my friends that excites me for the next four years.

No War With Iran Protest & Vigil: A Photo Essay

Members of the Davis community gather to peacefully protest the possibility of entering a war with Iran on January 9th, 2020. This protest was organized in light of heightened tensions following the U.S. airstrike on Iran and assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, as well as the attack on U.S. military bases in Iraq. With the Trump Administration imposing more economic sanctions, detaining Iranian-American citizens at the border, and threatening to destroy cultural heritage sites in Iran, protestors dissent further conflict with Iran. The following week, the Iranian Student Organization at UC Davis held a candlelight vigil, honoring the memory of the 176 lives tragically lost in the shooting down of Boeing 737.

Photographs by Megana Bobba

Demonstrators gathered at ‘No War With Iran’ protest in Davis, CA on Thursday, Jan 9th
Three of over 48 protesters at ‘No War With Iran’ protest in Davis, CA on Thursday, Jan 9th
Sign on sidewalk of B Street, reads “We Will Not Be Lied Into Another War”
Protester holding sign that reads “War Is Not The Answer”
Protest organizer interviewing with FOX40 news
Protest organizer holding sign “Tell Congress: #No War With Iran”
Demonstrators protesting escalating U.S. – Iran conflict on 5th and B Street, Davis, CA
UC Davis student holding a candle at Candlelight Vigil held by Sedad on Thursday, Jan 16th outside Memorial Union
Candlelights placed in shape of 176, honoring the 176 lives lost in the shooting down of Boeing flight PS752

Holi Against Fascism

Students, staff, and faculty at UC Davis come together to stand in solidarity with the protestors in India as northeast Delhi broke out into serious violence last week. With countless reports of Muslim homes burning, religious sites and common folk being brutally attacked and losing over 40+ lives, clashes between Hindus-Muslims and the police only continued through the week. With the right-wing Hindu nationalist government’s still refusing to reconsider the two new laws – Citizenship Amendment Act and National Registry of Citizens – that threaten citizenship for Muslims in India, the situation forward seems bleak. Folks came forth to fight fascism on the UC Davis campus, chanting for “Azaadi” (freedom) and the revolutionary cry “Inqalab Zinadaabad.”

Photography by Maayez Imam

99 Nights in Logar Book Review

By Kiana Borjian

“Five is a good number. Five pillars. Five prayers. Five players on a basketball team.” So says Marwand, the protagonist of Jamil Jan Kochai’s 99 Nights In Logar (4). Marwand is visiting family in Afghanistan from the United States, reconnecting with cousins who are much more interested in soccer than basketball, a strange American sport where the whole team never plays at once. Even the family dog, Budabash, can sense Marwand’s dislocation and bites off the tip of his index finger to inaugurate Marwand’s homecoming. But when the dog runs away, Marwand is eager and insistent to find and bring Budabash back. Thus begins an adventure: a band of boys in search of a dog, sweeping through the villages and mountains of Afghanistan at a time when the war is at a low frequency, a familiar background noise of daily life.

In many ways, the novel is a werewolf story. For Marwand, Budabash is more of a demon than a dog. Though his twelve year old imagination may be spurred by the bootleg DVDs like An American Werewolf in London he watches with his cousins, Budabash certainly has some supernatural tendencies. The dog disappears from photographs – classic demonic behavior. But as we learn more about the history of Marwand and Budabash’s relationship, it becomes clear that Marwand, too, has a streak of evil. At age six, Marwand tortured Budabash profusely, and “the dog just suffered it” (78). His simultaneous villainizing and villaining toward the dog is not unlike the United States’s relationship to Afghanistan. What are the mythologies and stories we create and tell ourselves when we go to war? What stories get lost or eroded in the process? 

The penultimate chapter is written in Pashto (or Farsi?). My confusion and readers’ confusion at large seems to be exactly the point, powerfully protecting a part of the story so that it is accessible only to those who know, are tied to, or have learned the language. Kochai’s novel not only explores what American imperialism looks like, but directly resists American narrative imperialism in which English and US centric narratives are the only ones disseminated and understood. Even though I have a first grade reading level in Farsi, I couldn’t muster the energy to attempt to translate, and found myself in a similar predicament to Marwand – patchworking languages to communicate with his family, discomfort with the tongue of his homeland. Maintaining and persevering language, culture, and stories is an active process in the diaspora, a truth explored in 99 Nights in Logar and embodied the experience of reading itself. 

In this reinvigoration of a coming of age story and werewolf saga, stories lost and drowned by the United States imaginary are brought back up to the surface. Readers witness Marwand learn and remember, be clueless and be curious, and create and tell his own stories. Just as Budabash’s strong and scarred body is a stunning reminder and testament to the simultaneity of beauty and trauma, Kochai’s novel resists a neat narrative, weaving humor, history, pain, and growth to invite readers to experience Logar alongside Marwand and his family.

Diaspouric Tones

By Ariana Boostani

BACKGROUND: 

The term diaspora is something many of us can connect to or so electronic producer, Diaspoura hopes, having chosen their name to reflect community experiences. Diaspoura grew up in South Carolina and first came to Davis in May 2019 to record with UC Davis radio station KDVS. I was fortunate enough to interview and connect with them, and learn about their diasporic experience as a queer artist. Diaspoura’s performance revealed the freedom independent artists have over their identity, rewarding nonconformity in oppressive systems of identity, making it a memorable performance. As an artist, being transparent about queer identities can be very difficult; it may displace them further from an already displaced community. I relate to Diaspoura’s experience of understanding discovering this liminal state of identity, and it was inspiring to hear about how music gave them the ability to express their identity truthfully and connect queer people together, which is why music is such a powerful thing. I caught up with Diaspoura after their performance in October to explore their musical career and discuss the topic of displacement. 

What inspired you in using the name Diaspoura?

“I remember reading my first ever account of a South Asian diasporic feminist. My college professor showed me a scholar named Chandra Mohanty, and in the essay, she was talking about the experience of living in America and being from India. I wasn’t born in 

India, but the word…how it bridged people…it felt like a void had filled. [I] started looking [the word Diaspora] up to find more people talking about this. I was so fascinated, this was in 2015 or so, that I literally just started publishing things under the name hoping people would see it and be like ‘cool, they’re here talking about this shit too… and the music is good’. And now I’m seeing new people and articles every day who are normalizing the word ‘diaspora’. It just shows that building community across borders and oceans – it’s needed.”

How did getting into art and music let you express your identity better? What were your hardships identifying as those and showing your art and being public about it? 

“As a revolutionary, art is a great way to plug people in and it’s shown to be a form of resistance to me – to be able to make content about the struggles that I have, and then organize around it. It’s helped me own my identities, and break out of this weird shame cycle that I was socialized with. In controlling societies, we are told to be quiet about our experiences and what we’re upset about, and when we vocalize them normally, it’s hard for people experiencing shame or guilt to receive that information, but art is a good way to communicate. People will listen, re-listen, and double-take, like ‘oh, I feel this too!’ It’s a great way to rebuild the public narrative. But I do want to add, musicians have the power to contribute to movements beyond narrative-building. In this way, I’m thinking, ‘OK, so my music is bringing people with a shared narrative together. What’s next after building community? What are we all doing when we’re all together?’ I’m on tour on the West Coast right now in part to host workshops to explore this topic! I am grateful to host them with my artist friend and organizing comrade, Joseph Quisol, and we hope to continue in 2020! Book us please.”

How does your experience of being queer displace you from an already displaced community? 

“It is really hard noticing and speaking on your own trauma. In this light, it’s hard for me to publicly delve into it for a quick and free interview, but I will say that the transparency in my public image has helped me understand who in my extended biological family is on my team. I have two cousins who reached out this year and let me know like ‘hey what you’re doing is cool, keep doing it’, and it was really, really relieving. That relief is even a trauma-informed response, one that says we’re not normally both acknowledged and validated within our extended family. I am grateful for my parents’ effort in growing acceptance and support of my wholeness each year; my mom started practicing pronouns last summer and we will hopefully move into the sex-positivity ballgame in 2020, haha.”

How was the barrier to making music inspiring? 

“Platforms create barriers for artists because they are designed and marketed as headless entities. Tech heads design them so that nobody really knows who’s developing the stuff and what their lives are like, and namely, the insane amounts of money Big Tech investors, leaders, and workers earn off the backs of independent artists, musicians, and writers. Once I had taken the first dose of platform suspicion, I started writing about the experience of being an independent, assessing my grief and fear by song-writing.”

Diaspoura uses their experience as an artist to advocate for social changes; They hold workshops about unlearning oppressive systems through their patreon website, which directly fund their art and mission. Support Diaspoura by checking out the website they created and listening to their music on Bandcamp or Spotify! 

Follow Diaspoura!

Bandcamp: https://diaspoura.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/diaspoura/

Website: https://diaspoura.com/

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/diaspoura

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/diaspoura