Friday, November 23, 2007

Palestinian food rights

Restoring Ancient Wheat
November 29, 2007, Israel Genebank
For Further Information Contact: Eli Rogosa, Email:
Ph: 011 972 2 9962849, Mobile: 054 8045 238
Registration Form
Nov 29 Donation at Door: 100 NIS
Farmers welcome for free.
Join generations of farmers who saved their own seed and developed the foodcrops we eat today.
Conserve the biodiversity that nourishes healthy communities

Presenters:From Israel, Jordan and Palestine
(I have erased their names)

Someone sent me this from Europe today and asked me if in my opinion, this was a good activity they could support. It looked pretty benign to them. Here's my answer:

This activity brings together Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians. Jordan has signed a peace agreement with Israel under US pressure. While the Jordanian people are still strongly opposed to Israel, some (but not many) academics, especially those working with foreign funds or government, have established joint research efforts with Israeli counterparts. Israel desperately needs this as it gives it credibility in the region and allows to divert attention from its daily abuses of human rights.

There are also few Palestinian who are willing to enter into partnerships with Zionist Israelis.

I appreciate the fact that this conference in Israel is bringing together some Palestinians, some Jordanians and some Israelis. However, let us not be fooled by thinking that this is a symbolic act of peace, or an act that puts Palestinians, Israelis and Jordanians at the same levels, as equal partners. The Palestinians are denied basic rights in their homeland and they have been oppressed for decades by one of the strongest nations in the world. Conserving wheat together will not change that. The important thing is that it should not cause more harm.

Here, questions have to be posed: Why this activity? Is there a program of seed conservation and use at the core? Can some of this lead to a commercialization of seeds? Will there be property rights? Who will own them? Who will effectively control them? Israel is a major player in the world seed industry, and I see that the Israeli government is involved (the workshop is taking place in a governmental location). Israel is technologically vastly superior to all the Arab countries, and it is unlikely that they will ever be equal.

There is also the issue of rights: When they say on the conference site that "Indigenous landrace (Baladi) foodcrops have been selected by generations of traditional farmers ..." one must realize that we are talking here about Palestinian farmers, as Israel is less than 60 years old, and the vast majority of its inhabitants came from outside Israel. This genetic material is the property of the Palestinian farmers, who have been forcibly evicted from their lands, turned into refugees, oppressed, cornered into a tiny apartheid zone, who are prevented from harvesting their crops by settlers, and who now have to share their indigenous knowledge "as equal partners" with the perpetrators.

These are of course my personal opinions. I see your organization as a defender of the oppressed, at all levels, but especially in issues related to poor farmers struggling in the neo-liberal world. The appropriation of Palestinian indigenous knowledge related to food by the Israelis is a major issue, one that is never addressed in the West, for fear of sounding like a critic of Israel and be branded as an antisemite. This is not an issue of race, this is an issue of oppression and of rights.

1 comment:

bech said...

well put... lah ya ekhwet al manioukeh!