Agro-Resistance : a model of self-sufficiency and dignity for Palestinians

AMEU / 14.08.2016 / By Jonathan Cook : … even those Palestinians who managed to stay in agriculture found themselves in ever harsher economic straits. Even though the West Bank sits atop aquifers that supply most of the water to Palestinians and Israelis, Israel decides how much goes to the Palestinians. Typically Palestinian households receive less than a fifth of the supply to Jewish settlers living close by. With water for domestic use hard to come by, many Palestinians in Area C collect winter rainwater in large underground storage tanks. Those who need additional water for agriculture usually have to truck it in privately at great expense.

The result was that many farmers in the West Bank concentrated on a single crop, the olive, because mature trees can survive through a dry summer, even if the yield and size of the fruit are greatly reduced. But the laws of supply and demand cannot be ignored. If most Palestinians farm olives, there is an abundant oversupply. With most farmers unable to export their produce outside the limited markets of Israel and the occupied territories, prices fell. Olive farmers found it increasingly hard to make ends meet, adding to the pressure on them to abandon agriculture – and with it, their ancestral lands.

The architects of the Oslo process recognised these dual pressures, and the potential danger they posed to Oslo’s success. Israel had transformed Palestinian farmers into a causal labour force by stealing their land and resources. These Palestinians had joined what economists now call the “precariat”, a proletariat class living in economically precarious conditions. They had been made entirely dependent on unskilled work in the Israeli economy. But if Israel then denied them access to Israel and jobs as part of a new policy of “separation”, it risked stoking a dangerous social and political instability. A new kind of employment option was needed – and so was born the idea of free-trade industrial zones …

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