The Symbolic Olive in Palestine-Israel

March 29, 2017

To international NGOs and development agencies, peace is often sought through economic cooperation. Olive Oil Without Borders is a program implemented by the Near East Foundation and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development that does just that.

The goal of the program is to bring together Israeli and Palestinian farmers by training them in effective olive oil production and having them work together in the industry. As shown in the video below, part of the goal is to foster peace in the region and have Israelis and Palestinians gain a greater understanding of one another.

The Palestinian man in the video says he dreams of an “olive peace”. It is fitting that the olive tree/olive branch is a symbol of peace, and that this program is using just that as its symbol. However, the history of olive trees in the region is not a peaceful one, and the symbol of an olive tree carries much more weight.

Multiple times, Israel has uprooted olive trees in Palestine in order to build settlements, pave roads, or further their colonial project in various ways. The symbol in fact embodies a different meaning than peace for many Palestinians. There is a sort of twisted irony that what is supposed to be a symbol of peace is in fact seen as the opposite due to a colonial occupation that is not addressed in the program that seeks to build peace from the symbol of the olive tree.

However, it is worth entertaining the merit of a program that creates tangible change by integrating Palestinians into the economy and facilitating cooperation between the two sides. The question is, how do we create a third space by tackling root problems, but at the same time bringing together both sides in the journey to move forward?

The economic and agricultural cooperation of Israelis and Palestinians through this program can certainly be seen as a valuable third space,especially when tensions are so high that many Israelis and Palestinians have never even worked together. Of course, it is not the lasting and comprehensive solution necessary, and is merely one part of a long process towards justice.

Author: Aastha Uprety



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