The occupation is not only changing the map, it’s changing traditional agricultural practices, pushing Palestinian farmers into monoculture, with associated heavy use of chemicals and commercial hybrid seeds, as they try to produce more food on less land.
Fighting the agri-business model
“Today, it’s not just the military occupation that we live under in Palestine, but it’s also a greater political and economic system in the world that is causing us to be slaves to agri-business companies, to multinationals that want to dump their terrible food on us”, says Vivien Sansour when we meet at her Palestinian Heirloom Seed Library in Beit Sahour, Bethlehem. “Israeli agri-business has managed to sell the myth that agri-business all over the world is selling, that we need them and we need their seeds for more production. […] Now you are not a producer, you’re a consumer. And what better way to enslave someone than make them your consumer.”
Our project, Baladi - Rooted Resistance in Palestine, is an ongoing multi-media exploration of initiatives to regain food autonomy in a country where everyday life is itself resistance to the occupation. Sansour’s Seed Library is one of these initiatives, saving native seeds from extinction and working with Palestinian farmers to preserve biodiversity and regain their autonomy.
This independence is crucial in a land where the markets are flooded with cheap produce grown in Israel or on West Bank settlements while at the same time it is made increasingly difficult for Palestinian’s to grow their own food.
The BDS movement
It is under these conditions that, inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, Palestinian civil society organisations in 2005 called for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a form of non-violent pressure on Israel until it complies with international law by meeting three demands: ending the occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands and dismantling the wall, recognising the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality and respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
Endorsing the BDS movement is one of the most important ways that Palestinians have asked international citizens to support their resistance to the occupation and struggle for self-determination.
The garden on the roof
Meanwhile, in the crowded Dheisheh Refugee Camp we find a little oasis amongst the concrete and noise where Draguitsa Alafandi is growing vegetables on her rooftop to serve fresh food to her family. 15,000 people live in the camp, built in 1949 to house 3,000 refugees.