Monday, November 20, 2017

Palestinian agricultural and civil society organizations calls for agribusiness boycott with Israel


By Henrique Dores - March 02, 2013
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [BDS]
Tags: [BDS] [agriculture] [European Union] [trade and diplomatic relations] [settlements] [UAWC]

Palestinian fruits and vegetables market in Beit Ommar. Photo by Lazar Simeonov.

On February 9, Palestinian farmers’ organizations and unions called for an international boycott to all agricultural trade with Israel. According to the official statement of the Palestinian Agricultural Organizations and Civil Society Networks, the main goal is to sensitize international civil society organizations to effectively build campaigns that can help to end the agrobusiness with Israel, and thus stop rewarding Israel for the destruction of Palestinian farming.

The call for boycott comes in the sequence of a week of protests in Gaza, locally organized by the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), one of the many Palestinian agricultural organizations that form together with the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, the platform calling for the boycott of Israeli agricultural corporations.

However, the alerts of civil society organizations regarding the trade of Israeli produce are not novel. For instance, according to the report “Feasting on the Occupation: Illegality of Settlement Produce and the Responsibility of EU Member States under International Law” by the Palestinian human rights organization Al Haq, "trading in settlement produce has become an essential step in the consolidation of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise." The study highlights that international stakeholders, particularly the European Union (EU), are directly contributing to the growth and viability of settlements by providing an essential source of revenue that allows them to thrive.

According to the same study, by trading in settlement produce, EU member states are basically ignoring the illegality of settlements and settlement-based production operations. Therefore, in doing so, they are breaching their customary international law obligation not to recognize as legal a situation arising from a serious breach of peremptory norms.

By engaging in the trade of settlement produce, states help to sustain their very existence and consequently do not comply with their obligation to actively cooperate in order to put the Israeli settlement enterprise to an end. Hence, a ban on trade in settlement produce is one of the measures that EU member states should adopt to comply with their customary international law obligations.

The numbers in the report are quite clear: according to estimations of the Government of Israel, the value of goods produced in settlements in the West Bank and exported to Europe amounts to approximately 300 million USD per year. One of the most flagrant cases of this profiting reports to the settlements in the Jordan Valley, at least 60 per cent of which are dependent on agriculture.

By trading in settlement produce, EU member states are basically ignoring the illegality of settlements and settlement-based production operations and are breaching their customary international law obligation not to recognize as legal a situation arising from a serious breach of peremptory norms

One of the reasons stressed by the platform for the boycott to all agricultural trade with Israel is that produce from settlements is routinely disguised in order to mislead retailers about its origin, and also because any trade with Israeli companies operating in settlements sustains and supports these settlements.

The platform also rejects and condemns the idea that the fact that Palestinians are sometimes left with no choice but to export fresh produce through Israeli companies or work in illegal settlements in order to survive, should be impeditive of an effective course of action, like the boycott attempts to be.

The situation in Gaza

The situation in Gaza is especially delicate. Since the beginning of the illegal Israeli-imposed siege on the Gaza Strip, nearly five years ago, any movements to and from the Gaza strip are restricted, and the consequences to the agricultural sector just add up to Israel’s land confiscations, demolitions and theft of water.

Although Israel has, in theory, eased its restrictions on land and sea, allowing fishermen to venture up to six nautical miles from shore and farming by small groups as close as 50 meters from the border barrier, farmers who still have access to land and water face systematic restrictions and violence. Reports from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights say that only during the month of January of the present year, there were at least twelve attacks from Israeli gunships on fishermen, while two civilians were killed and 10 other were wounded.

Moreover, the siege on Gaza prevents farmers from accessing basic equipment, which has made exports of fresh produce almost impossible, while the Palestinian market is flooded with Israeli products.

Perfect illustration of this is the number of Israeli and Palestinian trucks that entered and left Gaza: according to the UN’s Office for Humanitarian Affairs, in 2012, 131,997 truckloads of food and agricultural products entered the Gaza Strip through checkpoints controlled by Israel, while only 148 truckloads of human food related exports were allowed out of Gaza. The volume of exports from Gaza is still less than 2% of the pre-2007 levels, while tons of fresh produce is left to rot in the Israeli’s borders.

Israel’s strategy of putting “the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger” as described by senior Israeli official Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after Palestinians voted for Hamas in the 2006 elections, is working out perfectly and Israeli companies like Mehadrin or Hadiklaim keep on profiting and participating in Israel’s colonization of Palestinian land by using stolen Palestinian water and growing cash crops for export markets in illegal settlements established on land in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Meanwhile in the occupied Gaza Strip, which was described by British Prime Minister David Cameron in 2010 as ”a prison camp”, the population strives to survive the blockade. The agricultural sector is not only part of Palestinian identity but also irreplaceable source of income, and at least to the platform of organizations calling for the boycott to all agricultural trade with Israel, action must be taken.




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