PALESTINE: “WE DEMAND AN IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL OF ISRAELI OCCUPATION FORCES”
Peasants and environmental activists urge the international community to get involved in defending the rights of Palestinians
The Israeli blockade in Palestine has severe impacts on the daily lives of people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip: from blocking their access to water, to limiting their food sovereignty. Missile bombings over decades have damaged crop lands and wells, destroyed crops, killed hundreds of animals and deeply damaged artisanal fisheries.
These were some of the impacts denounced by peasants, fisherfolk, environmental activists and human rights defenders during a recent webinar “Palestine: the struggle for food sovereignty under occupation,” held on 5 October by La Vía Campesina, FIAN, Friends of the Earth International, and Palestinian organisations the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) and PENGON (Friends of the Earth Palestine).
Ashir, one of the activists speaking in the webinar, highlighted that while 33% of the Palestinian people suffer from food insecurity, this percentage rises to 69% in the Gaza Strip. The military occupation, which has increased in the past years, “is preventing all help from entering the borders,” she said. This results in “scarcity of all kinds of materials needed to rebuild homes and other infrastructure damaged during the war,” and limits access water and humanitarian aid that other countries wish to send in solidarity.
The military occupation, with at least 187 military bases spread across the small surface area of the West Bank, and the blockade of borders have also damaged the artisanal fisheries sector. This is not just because of the attacks, arrests and murders perpetrated by military forces against fisherfolk, but also due to bans on the import of materials such as fiberglass, which is needed for rigs. “All imports are banned. Equipment does not get to us. We need GPS devices and they don’t get to us; we don’t have the means to increase our capture yield, and in general, for the fisheries sector, all devices are broken,” said Basheer Al-Ankah, another spokesperson in the webinar. “If we go into the sea, patrols come to kill us. In Gaza we are currently under siege: they arrest us, they take us to another place, throw bombs at us, we don’t have access to ports or hospitals, they take away our fishing tools. We have been confined since 2014,” he added.
Access to water was highlighted as a key human rights violation issue, as water is not only scarce, but 97% of the water that is available in Gaza is not fit for human consumption.
From PENGON/Friends of the Earth Palestine, Abeer Butmeh reflected on the environmental losses that have happened over the decades of Israeli occupation, both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. “85 % of renewable resources, such as water, are in the hands of Israel; 56 wells have been confiscated by the Israeli army, even when they are in Palestinian territory. Just in 2020, Israel demolished 78 water tanks.” In addition to agricultural losses, mentioned by all panellists, Abeer added the impacts of chemical attacks on sea life and on land.
The activist also stressed that 5% of the West Bank territory has been confiscated by Israel to build the “Apartheid wall“, which adds to the 450 acres of Palestinan land that have been confiscated to connect settlements and build a motorway. “For each acre confiscated to build the motorway, four more are taken just to leave them empty, unused, without letting Palestinians to access them,” added Butmeh. The building of this motorway is another means to grab land from the Palestinian people: they have lost 1800 acres this way.
Moayyad Bsharat from UAWC made reference to the importance of continuing to build internationalist solidarity. He said: “La Vía Campesina is working to strengthen the Middle East region so that Palestine can get all the solidarity from around the world against the attacks of Zionism, which has the support of the capitalist system.”
Also, he suggested building cooperatives as an economic model where they can develop agroecological practices that respect the environment and “help farmers face up to corporations which force them in to depending on technological inputs.”
Meanwhile, Carlos Marentes a La Vía Campesina activist from the border between the US and Mexico in El Paso, urged to recover the land “to the benefit of the people,” and protect people from the devastation caused by settlers and corporations that grab land and other natural resources.
What can the international community do?
From Friends of the Earth, Abeer highlighted that the international community “must go from merely condemning Israel to holding it accountable and forcing it to stop human rights violations”. She shared PENGON’s declaration and call to action, which denounces the consequences of the last 15 years of blockade over Gaza and proposes different ways to support the Palestinian people.
“This is the time to demand the immediate withdrawal of Israeli occupation forces, the withdrawal of the air, land and sea blockade over Gaza,” said the PENGON coordinator.
What can you do?
- Demand an immediate end to the siege on Gaza: Contact your government representatives and demand that they call for an immediate and complete removal of the Israeli blockade of Gaza by land, air and sea. Despite the terrible human suffering caused by the blockade, the situation in Gaza should not be viewed as a humanitarian crisisthat can be resolved through the provision of international aid and assistance. Rather, the current situation in Gaza is a political crisis that can only be resolved through political action.
- Tag and contact your representatives in parliament/congress. Call on them to immediately denounce the closure of Gaza as collective punishment and exert pressure on their governments to take urgent, concrete and effective action.
- Support or join the solidarity action “Five minutes for Gaza”on 29 November 2021.
- Raise your voice for Gaza social media storm.From now until 29 November 2021, flood all social media platforms with messages in support of Gaza. Use the hashtags #JustRecovery for #Gaza and the statement ‘It is time for Israel to lift the illegal siege on Gaza.’ Share images from the “Make Noise for Gaza” photo exhibition, which is launching this October. Watch this space and stand by to share in solidarity.
- Watch this short film, ‘Bitter Almonds’, and share the voices from Palestine among your networks.
The entire webinar can be watched here.