Friday, September 22, 2017

Campaign asks Muslims across the world to “make a date with justice this Ramadan”


By Charlotte Drax - June 30, 2014
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation] [BDS]
Tags: [Jordan Valley] [Ramadan] [BDS]

Ramadan, a special month of the year for over one billion Muslims, is due to start soon. It is during this month that Muslims reflect on their devotion to God by fasting during daylight hours, as such abstinence is seen to encourage self-control and develop a greater sense of humility, spirituality and community within the individual. It is tradition for fast to be broken with dates and water, however, this year a campaign is asking Muslims throughout the world to make sure that their suhoor meal does not include any dates grown in illegal Israeli settlements.

To Muslims, the date fruit is symbolic. Palm trees are mentioned many times within the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad gave special attention to the importance of dates during the month of Ramadan: “When any of you breaks his fasting he should eat dates cause dates are blessing, if he doesn’t find dates then drink water cause water is purifying.”  Due to its high sugar content, the date is a great source of energy for any faster attempting to go long periods of time without food or water. However, a campaign initiated by the activist group American Muslims for Palestine, argues that dates have become a curse for the Palestinians employed to farm them and calls for all Muslims to “understand the history of injustice behind their production” in the occupied Palestinian territories. 

According to research conducted by the American Muslims for Palestine, Israel produces more than half of the world’s leading variety of dates and exports the fruit for an annual profit of $265 million, with large quantities of these exported specifically during Ramadan. Since 1967, Israel has enforced a military occupation throughout the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea areas, which contain the largest arable land reserves in the West Bank. 

“Restricted access to fertile agricultural Palestinian land and ground water, which are seized for use by Jewish settlements, prevent Palestinian farmers from using the Jordan Valley’s comparative advantage in agriculture” Maisa Manasrah of Nakheel Palestine, a company which works to promote and support Palestinian agriculture in the Jordan Valley, told Palestine Monitor

“Long enforced detours and delays at checkpoints result in high transportation costs for the Palestinian farmers and can potentially spoil the fresh produce. There are also constant threats to demolish wells, farms and housing for workers on the farms from the Israeli military and settlers,” she said. 

Maisa Manasrah also explained that once these vital wells are destroyed “getting a well license from the Israeli Civil Administration is theoretically possible, but practically impossible.”  

According to a report released by American Muslims for Palestine, almost all of the dates exported by Israel are grown in settlements on confiscated Palestinian land. At the centre of this boycott is the belief that buying dates from such settlements strengthens the Israeli economy and makes the occupation of the Jordan Valley profitable. 

Since 2005, there has been an international campaign to boycott Israeli settlement products and, according to an article by BDS, the “export-driven income of growers in the Valley’s 21 settlements dropped by more than 14%, or 29 million, last year, largely because Western European supermarket chains, particularly those in Britain and Scandinavia, are shunning the area’s peppers, dates, grapes and fresh herbs.” 

It is not always easy, however, to decipher when a produce is farmed on a settlement or not. “Every time a brand is exposed a new one is created to avoid losing market shares” Maisa Manasrah explained. “Usually, any box that does not state a clear origin or producer does so on purpose and should be treated as suspicious. The only way to be sure is to know the exact source of the product and to make sure that the company exporting it is credible and works with dates from Palestinian farmers and not otherwise. Well known Israeli date brands are King Solomon and Jordan River, but many of the settlement grown dates are packed and sold in private brands for big supermarket chains like Tesco and Sainsbury’s.”

After a sustained global boycott campaign Israel’s largest agricultural exporter Agrexco went in to liquidation in 2011. However, Hadiklaim, the Israeli Date Growers Cooperative, still sells 70% of Israel’s dates under a variety of brand names. For a comprehensive list of brands to avoid please click here.  

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