Palestinian farmers under the Occupation

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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. Travel through it today and you will see piles of stones where once stood Palestinian villages - their occupants scattered as refugees far and wide, their houses bulldozed and their land an arid desert. Visit Fasayil, a wretched village of decaying houses with villagers living in abject poverty. The Israeli army which has total control over this area refuses them the right even to repair their homes, if they try to patch them up with anything but plastic sheeting they are served with a demolition order.Their lands have been confiscated and given to ilegal Israei settlements. They herd a few animals and live on handouts from international relief agencies or labour  in the green lush Israei farms  that surround their village. 

Israel controls 95% of the water in the Jordan Valley -the deep irrigation schemes and boreholes that irrigate the Israeli settlements dot the landscape, many of them proudly labelled with the names of their Zionist sponsors in the USA. The traditional Palestinian wells have been undermined and dried up. The produce from the settlement groves of date palms, fields of herbs and vegetables are flown to supermarkets in Europe and the settlers themselves enjoy a high standard of living with schools, clinics and facilities of European standard all subsidised by the state of Israel, and protected by the Israeli Army.

We came to the village of Fasayil and stayed with the villagers who welcomed us and treated us like their own families with unbelievable  warmth and hospitality.

Because there is no school in Fasayil we are helping them to build one - it will eventually provide education for 115 village children. But even this small improvement in the villagers’ lives is too much for the Israelis to allow - the school has been served with a demolition order before it has become more than mud walls and a tin roof. 

Meanwhile the few Palestinian farmers in the Jordan Valley  who have managed to hold on to a tiny piece of their land are struggling to survive. The Occupation is strangling the whole economy of the region. We visited a farmers’ cooperative - their seeds, imported through Israel cost more than their crop would fetch, their water was rationed, they were not allowed to irrigate their fields during the night, curfews frequently made it impossible for them to tend their crops and if they finally managed to produce any crops at all they could often not get them through checkpoints before they rotted, and found that the local markets had been closed.

So why do they stay on their land and struggle through hardships like this for year after year? Because it is their land - they know that if they leave it  they will lose it forever, and what else does an occupied peple have except the resolve to endure and struggle for survival while the world stands by and allows Israel to trample over international law and pursue its evil policy of ethnic cleansing in this once beautiful and fertile valley.

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