The settlement of Mehola is situated in the Northern Jordan Valley. It is comprised of a gated, fenced residential settlement and an agricultural area. The agricultural area is close to the Palestinian village of Ein al Beida and Palestinian workers, including child workers, work in the fields and packing houses.
Despite increased publicity regarding the labelling of Israeli settlement produce, and the recent DEFRA guidance on the matter which states that produce from the settlements should be labelled as such, it only took us a few minutes inside the illegal Jordan Valley settlement of Mehola to find herbs bound for a British company being mislabelled.
For the last month our TV screens and newspapers have been filled with reports of Israel’s massacre of the people of Gaza. The bloodshed and brutality have caused outrage across the world and calls for international actions to hold Israel to account are growing. Whilst this is going on, the people on the other side of Palestine continue their struggle in relative silence against the gradual ethnic cleansing of their land.
The Boycott Israeli Goods Campaign (www.bigcampaign.org) is issuing an international call to action against Carmel-Agrexco next February. Carmel-Agrexco is the Israeli national exporter of fruit and vegetables and imports large quantities of goods from illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
Boycott Carmel Agrexco
Agrexco is Israel’s largest exporter of fresh agricultural produce. The company is 50% owned by the Israeli state. Agrexco accounts for 70% of Israeli fresh produce sold abroad with annual sales of $750 million in 2006. Agrexco boast of being able to get produce to European markets within 24 hours.
Day One It takes a while to fully process what is going on. The past few weeks have been a blur of preparation, meetings, Arabic lessons, lies to parents (sorry mum, I’m afraid this isn’t Turkey), 30+ hour coach journeys, Lonely Planet guides, and border crossings. As such, it is only when we are actually in the taxi with Fathe that it finally hits me that we’re in the Jordan Valley, West Bank, Palestine. Fathe is a rich vein of information, and is truly passionate about the situation the Palestinians of this region have been forced into.
How do you make a living as a farmer when your land and water has been stolen from you by the Israeli invaders? The answer is that you don’t. You join the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in refugee camps in Jordan, or you work for a pittance in the illegal Israeli settlements spreading like a cancer over the once fertile land of Palestine. The Jordan valley was once the most fertile region for Palestinian farmers.
Waking up before dawn in the small village of Fasayil, deep in the heart of the Jordan Valley, we did not know what to expect. We were hoping to see, and maybe speak to some Palestinians that work in the nearby Israeli settlement farm: Tomer. After a walk down a mud track we arrived outside the farm gates. As the sun started to come up, the workers began to arrive – buses full of women and trucks full of men. It wasn’t until one had passed us by that we saw the line of children, perched along the back end – some no older than 12 or 13. Before long a factory worker arrived.