Working on one's land has become a dangerous endeavor in the Palestinian
Occupied Territories. Palestinian farmers have become subject to an Israeli
policy of starvation and terror. To date, Israeli occupation forces and
settlers have uprooted 181,000 trees and destroyed 3,669,000 square meters of
cultivated land. They have also shot or beat to death over ten farmers and
injured tens more while attending to their fields. Simply put, the message
has been "no planting allowed"!
The consequences however are not very simple!
Earlier this month, the Palestine Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS)
published the alarming survey results on the impact of Israeli measures on
the Palestinian economy. Presently, 64.2% of the Palestinian population,
equaling 2,107,200 people, live below the poverty line. What's extraordinary
is that 63% of Palestinians living in rural areas now live below the poverty
line, and 29% of them have experienced a 75% or more decline in their income.
As a result, 78.8% of the overall assistance given to Palestinian households
has been in the form of food. Hunger is knocking on Palestinians' doorsteps
in an unprecedented way.
Since much of the local economy in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is based
on agriculture, razing hundreds of dunums of cultivated land and killing
farmers while in their fields pose a threat to the very subsistence for
Palestinians living in the affected areas. Compounded with the Israeli policy
of siege and closures, destroying thousands of fruit trees and green houses,
other farms threaten to make hundreds of Palestinian families go hungry. In
addition, it impedes farmers from selling their crops to neighboring cities.
As a result, farmers' crops either rot while they attempt to transport them
to the cities or are sold at negligible prices in the immediate area. Either
way, the economic results are devastating to farmers. Farmers who own cattle
or chicken farms are also severely affected.
The most recent casualty of the Israeli occupation's aggression was 40-year
old Atef Wahdan, shot dead on Thursday, April 26, 2001, by Israeli sniper
fire while working on his citrus orchard next to Al-Bureij refugee camp in
the Gaza Strip. Earlier this month, a 60-year old farmer was beaten to death
by Israeli forces in the suburbs of Hebron. On April 15, Israeli troops fired
heavy machineguns on a group of farmers attempting to reach their fields near
a road used by Israeli settlers. The farmers turned back thankful that, at
least, none of them was injured!
On March 10, Palestinian security forces identified the body of 27-year old
Ziyad Ayad from Gaza City. Brigadier Sa'eb Al-Agez, Palestinian Security
Chief in North Gaza stated that Ziyad died after two tank shells from the
near-by Jewish settlements were fired at him while plowing his land plot.
Israeli soldiers prevented ambulances from reaching the area to rescue him.
Earlier that month, Israeli soldiers severely beat 34-year old farmer Imad
Hamdan while working on his land in the Jenin area. He was treated for
critical injuries. In January, Israeli soldiers fatally shot 70-year old
Ibrahim Abu-Mu'aisseb while tending to his orchard near Khan Younis in the
Gaza Strip. These stories are examples of the plight of Palestinian farmers.
Such a "farming-induced" death trend has terrified Palestinian farmers from
working the land that they depend on for food and income. Farmers run the
risk of being killed, injured, or having their land razed by Israeli forces.
This policy no doubt aims at starving the Palestinian population in the rural
areas. PCBS statistics demonstrate that clearly. Whether the farmer is alive
or not, her/his chances of planting their land are scant, because farming has
been converted into mission impossible. In order to avoid a dramatic decline
in their health, the Ministry of Health now offers complete medical insurance
to all farmers and Bedouin tribes for free because they can no longer afford
The facts are undeniable. So is the suffering of the Palestinian farmers. For
seven months now, their lives and livelihood have been placed in jeopardy.
However, the impact of their suffering reverberates throughout the Occupied
Palestinian Territories due to Israel's policy of siege and closure. Produce
shortages have been felt throughout the Occupied Territories. The "no
planting allowed" policy is challenging every Palestinian's right to food
and nutrition. The impact of this policy will sure be felt years after it
ceases to exist. Till then, Palestinian farmers will continue to plunge
deeper into destitution.
For further information contact:
Palestine Media Center (PMC)
Tel: 02 240 77 21/9
Fax: 02 240 77 30