Saturday 9 February 2013

Palestinian Farmers Call for International Boycott

The International Day of Action for the Boycott of Israeli Agricultural Products - Day of Action in Zaytoun, Gaza and Madama, West Bank
On Saturday 9th of February in the Zaytoun district on the outskirts of Gaza City, hundreds of local farmers and fishermen were joined by the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and activists from International Action for Palestine as they participated in the International Day of Action for the Boycott of Israeli Agricultural Products. They marched to Palestinian farmland in the 'buffer zone' near the eastern border of the Gaza Strip and planted olive trees on razed farmland which had previously contained vast numbers of olive and citrus trees until they were bulldozed by the Israeli army in recent years.

Planting olive trees in the ´buffer zone´ in Zaytoun, Gaza 
Photo courtesy of Desde Palestina

Palestinian farmers attempting to work on their land in border areas such as Zaytoun, all the way down the eastern length of the Gaza Strip, endure Israeli military aggression on a daily basis. A similar situation is faced by Palestinian fishermen trying to earn a living in Gazan waters, where Israeli naval gunboats open fire on them and abduct them and their fishing boats. Many farmers and fishermen have been injured and some have even been killed whilst going about their daily work. Since the ceasefire that was announced on 21st November, 4 Palestinians have been killed and over 80 have been injured in Gaza. The vast majority of these violations have taken place in the 'buffer zone'.

Demonstrators in Zaytoun, Gaza, calling for the boycott of Israeli agricultural products
Photo courtesy of Desde Palestina

In the West Bank, the villagers of Madama near Nablus, along with supporters from the Billal Najar Centre in nearby Burin and activists from the International Solidarity Movement marched from Madama to land belonging to the village. They planted olive trees where illegal settlers had destroyed hundreds of olive trees.

The village of Madama faces frequent collaborated attacks between Israeli settlers and soldiers. Settlers from Yitzhar settlement are notoriously violent, regularly attacking Palestinian farmers and shepherds from Madama and surrounding villages whose land they want to take. When Palestinians try to defend themselves from these attacks Israeli occupation forces take over, attack the Palestinians and kill, injure or arrest them to keep them off their own land.

Today's demonstrations in Occupied Palestine affirmed the call by Palestinian agricultural organisations and the Palestinian BDS National Committee for worldwide campaigns to boycott Israeli agricultural products and Israeli agricultural export corporations. These companies are deeply complicit in Israel’s ongoing violations of international law and Palestinian human rights. Whilst they profit from stolen Palestinian land, Palestinian farmers are unable to export their own produce, thereby crippling the Palestinian agricultural sector. The demonstrators called on the thousands of people simultaneously demonstrating in over 30 countries around the world to strengthen international BDS campaigns against the Israeli apartheid regime.

Mustafa Arafat, a farmer from Zaytoun, Gaza:
"The daily aggression suffered by us the Palestinian farmers every day must be highlighted to the world, so people can understand the reality of the attacks and the suffering that has continued throughout the recent ‘ceasefire’. The boycotts of Israeli companies in agriculture are so important as the Israeli occupation has destroyed our farming production and denied us the possibility of exporting our own products. International pressure on Israel is the only way our own economy will be allowed to develop and for us to live normal lives."

Zakaria Bakr, a fisherman from Gaza City:
"As some of the remaining Palestinian fishermen still able to fish, we urge all those around the world to launch campaigns to boycott Israeli Agricultural products and companies. Negotiations have for years only been a cover for making our lives worse. Boycotts are a peaceful activity and something that everyone can participate in. We have called for the boycotts because while our fishing industry, our communities and livelihoods have been destroyed by Israeli aggression, all of their industries have benefited from destroying and confiscating our land and violently denying our access to the sea."

Mamun Nassar, a shepherd from Madama, Nablus:
"I have been attacked, injured and beaten by settlers many times while tending my flock. I was just imprisoned for six weeks because I was attacked by settlers on our land. The settlers hit my face so hard they broke most of my teeth. My brother was shot and then arrested for trying to help me. All we want is to tend to our sheep."

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