Economic Issues

Palestinian Farmers: A Last Stronghold of Resistance

Al-Shabaka Policy Brief


Like many farmers around the world, Palestinian farmers are the victims of a top down neoliberal development approach that attempts to dispossess them of their land and seeds in service of banks, multinational corporations, and agribusiness giants. An instrument of this approach has been the Palestinian Authority’s creation of industrial zones that will entrench Palestinians’ dependency on Israel and sustain the current detrimental economic framework.

In this policy brief, Guest Author Vivien Sansour and Al-Shabaka Program Director Alaa Tartir give voice to a number of farmers currently trying to withstand these challenges. They focus in particular on farmers in Jenin and Jericho, where two large industrial zones are currently being constructed, and propose measures to help farmers regain their sovereignty and stay on their lands.1

Palestinian Industrial Zones: The New Threat

“One day we woke up to the announcement from the governor of Jenin that we must remove our crops from the land. If we didn’t do it willingly, they were going to do it for us. I had wheat at the time. I went down and harvested it so that it would not be destroyed.”2

These are the words of Mahmoud Abufarha, one of many farmers from the village of Al-Jalameh in the Jenin district in the northern part of the occupied West Bank who has been fighting to stay on his land. Today, Palestinian farmers like Abufarha are not only threatened by Israel’s relentless policy of land confiscation, they are increasingly facing land confiscation by the Palestinian Authority (PA) itself in order to build industrial zones that it claims will help farmers and create job opportunities. However, many farmers fear that these zones are only geared towards turning them into laborers instead of productive farmers and deliberately stripping them of their most valuable power source – land – while claiming to aid them.

Efforts to reduce Palestinian farmers’ power, however, are not new. In fact, multiple aggressive attempts and policies to practically eliminate Palestinian farmers have been underway since the beginning of the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, when a determined effort to “modernize” farmers began through the introduction of new seeds and methods that decreased their independence and prioritized quantity over quality in order to cater to the new Zionist project. While Israel promoted itself around the world as the country that “made the desert bloom,” Palestinian farmers were being manipulated and used for experiments that have cost them many of their native seeds as well as large portions of their productive lands. After Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories in 1967, it applied many of these methods to the West Bank. Since its creation in 1993, the PA has furthered this process rather than reversed it, leaving Palestinian farmers today in a dire situation.

In a global trend of industrializing agricultural land, farmers in Palestine are not unique: Growers all over the world have been under attack with attempts to weaken their autonomy over food production and increase their dependency on banks, multinational corporations, and agribusiness giants. Whether it is in Haiti, Honduras, India, or Palestine, small-scale family farming represents the last frontier of resistance to a worldwide capital-driven political system that dilutes people’s identities and strips them of their food sovereignty in order to ensure elite political and economic dominance of both human and natural resources.