[News] Palestinian farmers caught between Israeli rock and PA hard place

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jan 10 12:21:48 EST 2019


  Palestinian farmers caught between Israeli rock and PA hard place

By Alaa Tartir - January 10, 2019
Agriculture is commonly perceived as the backbone of Palestinian society 
and economy, with farmers viewed as the last stronghold of resistance.

Working the land is seen as an illustration of steadfastness, as farmers 
continue to preserve and reclaim land, build self-reliance and challenge 
forced dependency and economic asymmetry. In essence, farming is a 
political act that aims to challenge oppression and achieve freedom.

In reality, however, this backbone has been severely damaged, if not 
paralyzed, by the continuation of Israel’s occupation and the damaging 
policies of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Palestinian farmers have 
been shackled by both Israeli colonialism and Palestinian neoliberalism.

*Stealing land
*As the colonial power, Israel continues its land confiscation and 
territorial annexation policy by expanding settlements, nourishing 
settler violence, stealing land and natural resources, imposing policies 
of siege and blockade, and controlling exports and imports. Each is an 
element within a matrix of control directed at colonizing Palestinians.

In recent decades, Israeli authorities have uprooted more than 2.5 
million fruit trees and 800,000 Palestinian olive trees - equivalent to 
33 New York Central Parks.

Meanwhile, PA policies and the donor-driven “development” model have 
contributed to the deterioration of the agriculture industry, with less 
than one percent of the PA’s budget allocated to the besieged sector. 
This terrible neglect has contributed to a pervasive process of 
de-development that has gradually deprived farming of its transformative 
potential, while expanding Israel’s territorial dominance and control.

While the implications of this politically constructed process extend 
beyond agriculture, this sector most clearly conveys the problem. By 
essentially adopting the “rich individuals, poor nation” mantra, the PA 
has unconsciously echoed the practices of the Israeli occupation.

*Bleak prospects
*Additional indicators illustrate the sector’s bleak prospects. 
Agriculture barely contributes to the Palestinian GDP, while the 
agricultural labor force has fallen dramatically as a percentage of the 
total labor force. The average yield per dunum (1000 square meters) is 
half that of Jordan and only 43 percent of that of Israel, despite the 
fact that these countries share an almost identical natural environment. 
Palestinian water use for agriculture is estimated to be one-tenth of 
Israel’s, according to the UN.

Only one in four households in the West Bank and Gaza is food secure, 
while more than 70 percent of communities located entirely or 
predominantly in Area C in the occupied West Bank, under full Israeli 
control, are not connected to the water network. Around 95 percent of 
Gaza’s main water supply is unsafe for drinking without treatment.

The World Bank has estimated the potential direct additional output of a 
number of sectors, including agriculture, at around $2.2bn - equivalent 
to 23 percent of the 2011 Palestinian GDP. The UN Conference on Trade 
and Development, meanwhile, has estimated that the Palestinian 
agricultural sector is currently operating at perhaps a quarter of its 

Yet, from the Israeli perspective, this damage translates to clear 
benefits for the Israeli economy and settlers. For the Israeli 
government, agriculture is an offensive weapon that can be used to deny 
Palestinian rights. Many of the agricultural products grown by Israeli 
settlers in the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories are exported 
to Europe.

*Colonial strategy
*The fundamental deficiencies that plague the Palestinian agricultural 
sector are driven by the decades-long Israeli colonization of Palestine. 
This process of colonization rested upon the conquest of Palestinian 
land, which sought to restrict and confine independent Palestinian 
development, both political and economic. De-development is not an 
unfortunate or coincidental outcome, but a deliberate and focused 
colonial strategy.

Far from challenging or contesting colonial power, the PA has instead 
often functioned as a conduit for it. Trapped as it is between Israeli 
colonialism and Palestinian neoliberalism, the Palestinian agricultural 
sector is in a pernicious double-bind that frustrates its contemporary 
and future development.

To continue under these circumstances is to undertake an act of 
resistance: to farm Palestine is to farm for freedom.

/- Dr Alaa Tartir is program adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian 
Policy Network, and a research associate at the Center on Conflict, 
Development and Peacebuilding (CCDP) at the Graduate Institute of 
International and Development Studies (IHEID) in Geneva, Switzerland. 
His article appeared in the Middle East Eye./

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