Op-Ed via Middle East Eye

Palestinian farmers caught between Israeli rock and PA hard place

Agriculture is commonly perceived as the backbone of Palestinian society and economy, with farmers viewed as the last stronghold of resistance.

Working the land is seen as an illustration of steadfastness, as farmers continue to preserve and reclaim land, build self-reliance and challenge forced dependency and economic asymmetry. In essence, farming is a political act that aims to challenge oppression and achieve freedom.

In reality, however, this backbone has been severely damaged, if not paralysed, by the continuation of Israel’s occupation and the damaging policies of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Palestinian farmers have been shackled by both Israeli colonialism and Palestinian neoliberalism.

Stealing land

As the colonial power, Israel continues its land confiscation and territorial annexation policy by expanding settlements, nourishing settler violence, stealing land and natural resources, imposing policies of siege and blockade, and controlling exports and imports. Each is an element within a matrix of control directed at colonising Palestinians.

In recent decades, Israeli authorities have uprooted more than 2.5 million fruit trees and 800,000 Palestinian olive trees - equivalent to 33 New York Central Parks.

Meanwhile, PA policies and the donor-driven “development” model have contributed to the deterioration of the agriculture industry, with less than one percent of the PA’s budget allocated to the besieged sector. This terrible neglect has contributed to a pervasive process of de-development that has gradually deprived farming of its transformative potential, while expanding Israel’s territorial dominance and control.

While the implications of this politically constructed process extend beyond agriculture, this sector most clearly conveys the problem. By essentially adopting the “rich individuals, poor nation” mantra, the PA has unconsciously echoed the practices of the Israeli occupation.

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