Destroying Palestinian Livelihoods

Bharat Dogra

While the attention ofthe world is focused on the huge tragedy resulting from the conflict in Gaza, on October 27 GRAIN, an organisation dedicated to support of agriculture and related rural livelihoods based on communities of small farmers, released a note on the disruption of Palestinian livelihoods over the recent years as a result of arbitrary and unjust actions and policies of Israel.

This review states—“Prior to October 2023, 35% of Gaza’s farmland lay within an ‘access restricted area’ on the border with Israel. As a result, 113,000 farmers lost access to their lands located in this area”.

This review titled ‘The Palestinian people have a right to their lives, land and sovereignty’ informs that since 2014, Israeli crop duster planes have been systematically spraying herbicides, including glyphosate, during harvest periods, often when the wind blows towards Gaza. In January 2020 alone, this spraying damaged 281 hectares of Palestinian crops, affecting 350 farmers.

Further this note says that Israel has turned fishing in Gaza–a livelihood deeply rooted in the local culture and economy–into a highly precarious and dangerous occupation. Due to fuel shortages and a lack of equipment, caused by restrictions on the entry of goods to Gaza, going out to sea for fishing has become difficult. According to this review, fisher-folk venturing beyond the designated 6 nautical miles often face imprisonment or direct gunfire by Israelis. This is in contravention of international law which allows the Palestinian State to claim permanent sovereignty within 60 nautical miles, this review says. As a result, only half of the 3,800 registered fishers of Gaza have the possibility to pursue their work, ultimately affecting 35,000 people who depend on the sector for their livelihood.

This review states that in the West Bank, some Israeli settlers have taken advantage of the present situation in Gaza to step up their own violent attacks to grab more land, displacing hundreds of Palestinian farmers.

Providing more details of the situation in West Bank, this review by GRAIN states, “The West Bank is 90% farmland, yet a substantial portion of it has been under direct Israeli control since the Oslo Accords of 1993. A separation barrier, mostly situated within the West Bank, has been significantly hampering access to land for thousands of Palestinian farmers by dividing farm and pastureland from their villages. In 2019, only 12 of the 76 gates designated to allow access to farmers opened daily, while 56 of them required permits”.

This review alleges that Israel pushes Palestinian farmers into using seeds and agrochemicals sold by Israeli companies, thereby destroying their soils and biodiversity and leaving them in debt and poverty.

Water is of crucial importance for agriculture. However Palestinians face severe discrimination in the sharing of limited water supplies. This review by GRAIN states, “In terms of access to water, the Israeli government has imposed severe constraints, which the human rights organisation Al-Haq calls “water apartheid”. Since 1982, Palestinians have depended on Israel for their water supplies, as the national water company, Mekorot, controls infrastructure...”In the West Bank, Israeli settlers consume in average over six times more water than Palestinians.

Waterborne diseases have become a leading cause of death in Gaza due to water shortages in the towns and villages, as well as the lack of access to running water in rural communities.

The review ends by drawing attention to the urgent need just now for ceasefire and peace, while making a strong case for longer-term protection of livelihoods too.

Back to Home Page

Vol 56, No. 22, Nov 26 - Dec 2, 2023