Participants of the webinar 'Colonizing the Palestinian Food Basket' stressed that current conditions the world is passing through provide opportunities for joint action to defend the Palestinian cause, and to confront Israeli aggression, the latest of which is attempts to pass a resolution to annex the Jordan Valley. Participants called on Arab governments to stop normalizing with the occupation, to break away from the Oslo and Wadi Arabah agreements, and to resort to applying the principles of sovereignty over food as a way to maintain sovereignty over land. They also called on Palestinian factions to reject rivalries and unite to face Israel's colonial plans together.
A number of Palestinian and international experts participated in a webinar organized via Zoom by the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN) in cooperation with the Arab Network for Food Sovereignty (ANFS) and the Global Alliance for Food Sovereignty on Friday, July 10, 2020. Participants discussed the motives for targeting the Jordan Valley, the implications of the annexation, and ways to confront it, at the local, regional, and global levels.
At the beginning of the webinar, Razan Zuaiter, General Coordinator of APN and President of ANFS, referred to a statement issued by 47 experts of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The statement says that the decision to annex the Jordan Valley is a violation of the United Nations and that the occupation violates the human rights of the Palestinian people, to include confiscation of land and natural materials, demolition of homes, forced migration, excessive use of violence and torture, poisoning by exposure to toxic waste, and food insecurity. The statement warned that the annexation would make West Bank communities islands that are isolated from their regional surroundings, pointing out that this is Apartheid in its worst forms.
Zuaiter, who moderated the webinar, drew attention to demands made in the statement that it is not enough to make abstract condemnations and that there must be sanctions against Israel. Also, civil society must assume its responsibilities to defend the rights of the Palestinian people, and ask countries not to assist in the annexation or illegal activities such as building settlements. Zuaiter called for the use of all available forms of resistance, including boycotts and 'green resistance' to support agriculture to confront the violations and crimes of the occupation.
Fathi Khudairat, an expert on the Jordan Valley and Coordinator of the 'Save the Jordan Valley' campaign, talked about the importance of the region. He said that the Palestinian side of the valley can produce many crops in the first month of the year. He warns that the annexation will deprive the people of the Jordan Valley of the goods of their country, and contribute towards the systematic destruction of their sources of livelihood.
Khudairat, who is a native of the Jordan Valley, sheds light on the history of Israel's interest in the area for its unique environmental wealth. He notes that Israeli companies consider the Jordan Valley a space for experiments in the chemical and industrial sectors. He lists arbitrary measures and violations that have been committed by the occupying entity for more than 100 years in the Jordan Valley against its inhabitants. He also discusses methods that are pursued by Israeli administrations and the political elite at the international level to legitimize its plans in violation of all international charters to steal land and displace its residents.
Khudairat called for establishing and supporting projects that benefit Jordan Valley residents. He also called for combating corruption and the rise in taxes that were imposed by the Palestinian Authority on farmers, pointing out that the occupation is making it easier for settlers to invest in agriculture.
Abdel-Ghani Hamdan, who is Director of Agricultural Relief, an expert accredited by the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development, and affiliated with the Arab League, said that there cannot be food sovereignty without sovereignty over land and natural and biological resources. Hamdan said that it is important to undertake initiatives in the Jordan Valley before it was too late. He points out that there is a study being conducted to determine the needs of Jordan Valley farmers in order to support them adding that "we should reduce the talk and do more than work."
Hamdan stated that the food insecurity rate for the Palestinian people will constitute approximately 60% if the annexation is implemented and that the economic loss incurred annually by the Palestinian economy due to Israeli control over resources is estimated at 3 million dollars. According to Hamdan, the annexation will deprive Palestinians of around one million dunums of arable land, 25% of the total livestock in the West Bank, and 88% of the area of natural reserves and forests.
Malcolm Jay, Vice President of the International League for the Peoples Struggle (ILPS), said that the US-led imperialism is increasing its attack worldwide, and the Israeli Zionist regime's latest plan to annex the Jordan Valley is a glaring example of that. He points out that the Corona pandemic revealed the aggressive nature of imperialism and reactionary regimes, stressing that annexation is an attempt to provide a legal cover for the ongoing colonization, land theft, and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
Malcolm indicated that the ILPS now exists in more than 40 countries and territories, with more than 400 collective organizations as members. He said that the organization will use its strength of hundreds of thousands of workers, peasants, students, women, teachers, and activists to push for an end to annexation and occupation, and will seek to educate the world about the occupying entity's attempt to seize the fertile food basket of the Palestinians.
The guest of the webinar, Mandela Mandela, the grandson of the freedom fighter Nelson Mandela, expressed his dissatisfaction with the painful reality at hand, saying that every stone has become a house for the settlers, every olive tree has been uprooted from the Jordan Valley, every drop of water has been deprived of the dry lips of Palestinian children, and every well is now full of rubble.
Mandela called for building a global network of solidarity to combat the Israeli annexation scheme, saying, "We live in hope day by day, like the seedlings on the ground, that we will come out of the darkness and greet each other one day in a free Palestine."
Mandela added that colonialists possess military power and the support of the U.S. and its friends in the East and West. However, those who own the land have the weight of justice, a global network of human solidarity, and unwavering hope for the future on their side. He points to the story of the successful struggle to obtain justice in South Africa, as similar to a point in the opinion of Mandela, to the Palestinian cause.
Mandela warned that the colonialists have set their sights on the Jordan Valley and that tomorrow Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and possibly other countries will be under threat. He said that everyone should respond quickly to confront the grand scheme of Trump and Netanyahu in what he called 'the trick of the century.' He also said that they will not be satisfied with colonizing the Palestinian breadbasket and that their ultimate goal is to eliminate the idea of Palestine from being.
Silvia Malaria, Co-Chair of the Global Alliance for Food Sovereignty, concluded the webinar by emphasizing an opportunity for joint action to develop practical plans to confront the annexation and work towards liberating Palestine from the river to the sea.