- About us
- Core issues
- Photo Gallery
- Contact us
With the generous permission of the Arab Network for the Protection of Nature (APN) we are republishing this the executive summary to this important report as well as further publications produced for APN:
Israeli colonization, occupation, and siege have been devastating for the food and agricultural system in Palestine. 33% of the population of the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) is food insecure1, spending 34.5% of their income on food – their biggest share of cash expenditure2.
Food Insecurity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (% Population)3
The oPt is now highly dependent on staple food imports, with an export/import ratio of 1.1 compared to a world average of 11.3, and food production per capita4 of 135, compared to a world average of 2335. The food production system in the oPt is small, and shrinking: in 1987 agriculture contributed to 18.8% of GDP, down to 5.6% in 20126, due primarily to Israeli appropriation of land, settlers violence toward Palestinian farmers, and restricted access to productive resources.
The occupation severely impacts the ability of Palestinian smallholders to access markets needed to purchase agricultural inputs and to sell agricultural goods.
Throughout the West Bank, the Israeli government maintains a series of checkpoints and closures which hamper movement and make the transport of produce unnecessarily onerous, often resulting in time delays and subsequent increased cost for transportation, storage and food losses. Palestinians moving agricultural products within the West Bank are also required to obtain permits, a system implemented and enforced by the Israeli military.
The 1994 Paris Protocol on Economic Relations reflects and entrenches Israel’s sole control over all external borders of the West Bank. Since it went into effect, the Palestinian agricultural sector has declined while dependence on Israeli and other foreign food products has increased. Israel has used the unequal power relations between the two parties to maximize the amount of produce it exports to the oPt, while minimizing the amount it imports: since the signing of the Oslo Accords and Paris Protocol, the oPt’s trade deficit with Israel has grown substantially, from $922 million USD in 1995 to $2.84 billion in 20107.
The Israeli agricultural sector is heavily subsidized, which keeps prices relatively low and ensures that the cost of Palestinian-produced food is unable to compete with Israeli imports. Much of the Israeli produce sold in Palestinian West Bank markets is grown illegally on large-scale industrial farms on stolen land in the Jordan Valley, cultivated by settlers who receive substantial support from the Israeli government8. Many small-scale Palestinian farms, which do not receive similar support, have been abandoned due to their inability to compete with Israeli agri-business products9.
Donor assistance and the international aid industry in the oPt have been widely criticized for directing Palestinians “to consume what they don’t produce; and eat only what and when their occupier allows”10. As part of international NGO projects aimed at helping producers, many Palestinian farmers have been encouraged to produce chemically-intensive, industrial-style11, export-oriented agricultural produce. This has contributed substantially to a decline in Palestinian production that supports local food needs, and also overlooks the context of occupation whereby Israeli control over the best agricultural land, access to subsidies, and control over Palestinians’ ability to export means that Israeli settlers are significantly better positioned to compete for export markets.
Development of industrial Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in the West Bank began in the 1990s as part of the neo-liberal economic movement implemented by the PA following the Oslo Accords. The SEZ model is promoted by major developed donor countries – such as Germany, France, Japan and the World Bank12. Increasingly, the PA is confiscating land belonging to Palestinian farmers in order to build these zones by claiming ‘eminent domain’, which allows the government to purchase land at below market value prices to use for ‘public good’13. By deliberately stripping food producers of their land, locals are concerned they will be turned from productive farmers into wage laborers. Critically, these zones also have a symbiotic relationship with the existing Israeli settlements, and provide an easy way for other Israeli companies to work within the Palestinian economy14.
In situations of protracted conflict, third parties – including governments, international institutions, and civil society – should commit to two basic principles:
Situations of conflict are often characterized by an imbalance of power and disregard for basic human rights and international law, which is also evident in the functioning of the food system. Solutions to asymmetrical market access should therefore not only focus on the ability of actors to function better within an asymmetrical system, but should also directly challenge the injustices of that system. In all cases of conflict and other protracted crises, cures for the symptoms of the problems must come in tandem with direct solutions to the problems themselves.
1Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics,FAO, UNRWA and WFP. 2013. Socio-Economic and Food Security Survey: West Bank and Gaza Strip.
2 PCBS. 2011. Palestinian Expenditure and Consumption Survey. By territory: 32.7% in the West Bank; 39.4% in Gaza Strip
3Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics,FAO, UNRWA and WFP. 2013. Socio-Economic and Food Security Survey: West Bank and Gaza Strip.
4 “Food production per capita is calculated as the vector of quantities of total food production multiplied by the 1999–2001 average international commodity prices in international dollars, and then divided by total population of the corresponding year.”[From Yu, You, and Fan. 2010. “Toward a Typology of Food Security in Developing Countries”, IFPRI Discussion Paper 00945.]
5 ESCWA. 2010.Food Security and Conflict in the Arab Region.
6UNCTAD. 2015.The Besieged Palestinian Agricultural Sector.
7UNCTAD. 2011. Report on UNCTAD assistance to the Palestinian people: Developments in the economy of the occupied Palestinian territory.
8Elaydi, H. 2013. Access Through Power: Assessing Mechanisms of Access for Settler-Farmer Agriculture in the Jordan Valley.
9 Sansour, V. and Tartir, A. 2014. “Palestinian Farmers: A Last Stronghold of Resistance.” Al-Shabaka, https://al-shabaka.org/briefs/palestinian-farmers-a-last-stronghold-of-resistance/
10Nakhleh, K. 2014. “Oslo: Replacing Liberation with Economic Neo-Colonialism.” Al-Shabaka, https://al-shabaka.org/commentaries/oslo-replacing-liberation-with-economic-neo-colonialism/
11 Mansour, A. 2012. Impact of Post Oslo Aid Interventions on the Palestinian Agricultural Sector.
12Bahour, S. 2010. “Economic Prison Zones”, MERIP.
13Sansour, V. and Tartir, A. 2014. “Palestinian Farmers: A Last Stronghold of Resistance.” Al-Shabaka, https://al-shabaka.org/briefs/palestinian-farmers-a-last-stronghold-of-resistance/
14Tartir, A. 2013. “PA Industrial Zones: Cementing Statehood or Occupation?”Al-Shabaka, https://al-shabaka.org/commentaries/pa-industrial-zones-cementing-statehood-or-occupation/