Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Khudarji Report 04

The Khudarji Report 04: 27/06/09

The summer starts and the market is steady, with little change in terms of new produce.

Syrian figs have arrived. Much larger than their Lebanese counterparts, they are at 4,000 LL/kilo.

Lawz (almonds) are now too hard to bite in half and are at 3,000 LL/kilo.

Granny Smith apples, referred to as "tifah amerkani" ("American" apples), have found a place in the market. They currently are imported from Chile.

Larger lemons are preferred for the making of lemonade. Eggplants are preferred with small seeds.

The army has re-established a presence in the neighborhood. Soldiers' purchases are usually "on the house", although many insist.

The Khudarji Report, by Zayd,
conditions unique to a neighborhood in central Beirut; the status at your local mahal al-khudra will most likely vary.

New key issues

Excellent resources on new key issues in food and agriculture by Eldis

Monday, June 29, 2009

It's not BDS but it can't hurt

"Meanwhile, lawsuits against Nestle have already started to roll in. One food safety law firm has taken on a lawsuit against Nestle on behalf of a seven-year-old Georgia girl who became sick after eating the cookie dough while baking with her grandfather.

The firm, Neblett, Beard & Arsenault, said it has been contacted by “many victims associated with this outbreak”.

Other lawsuits against the food giant have been filed by an 18-year-old Californian woman, a Colorado family on behalf of their six-year-old daughter, and an 18-year-old Washington State woman.

According to the CDC, two-thirds of those infected with the E. coli strain are children. No one has died."

I dont understand the surprise. Wasn't that exactly the point?

"Food companies in developing countries may face being squeezed out of the market by the proliferation of public and private food safety standards, a report by the United Nations will spell out this week."

When we said it was speculations they laughed at us

"Excessive speculation on the futures market fuelled last year’s wheat price surge that led to higher prices for industry and consumers, according to the results of a year-long Senate investigation.

Wheat prices peaked in March 2008 at $13.34 a bushel, but disparities between cash and futures prices first emerged in 2005. The futures price has since landed above the cash price by as much as $2 a bushel, undermining the market’s value as a hedging tool. High prices were further exacerbated by soaring energy and fertilizer costs and an increased demand for grain from rapidly developing nations such as China and Brazil."

We are possessed!

Do you want to know who owns the world's organic sector? Look here. And the world's seeds? Look here. And the food system? Look here. SCARY STUFF

The caring banks

"To overcome these constraints, the bankers say that it will be necessary to explore alternative approaches to present-day agribusiness practices. Such alternatives would include radical shifts in land use, genetically modified crops and organic farming.

Farmers, markets and governments will need to look at “a whole host of options” including “the re-emergence of small, self-sufficient organic farms, characterized as local, multi-crop, energy and water efficient, low-carbon, socially just, and self-sustaining,” according the Mark Fulton, the bank’s global head for climate change investment research." (Thanks D.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mon Santo, Ton Santo...

For those who may have missed an earlier posting, the French documentary on Monsanto's cotrol of our food system. (Thanks Daniel)


Also in Saturday's Al Akhbar, the saga of the Litani project that could irrigate a great deal of South Lebanon: we're only a couple of hundred millions $ short.

And while you're there (and if you can read Arabic), check As`ad's excellent gigantic article on elections and voting for the right candidate: a lyrical political manifesto.

Land rights in Lebanon

Al Akhbar has an excellent "Justice" page (`adl), managed by Omar Nashabeh. They address numerous topics that are often neglected by others. Here, they are covering a legal dispute between the absentee land owners of a small village in the South and the users of the land who have been there for decades if not centuries. The article is not very very clear, but it is the second time I read about the rights of customary land users in the Lebanese press. The first time was by my dear friend yasmine Ryan writing in the Daily Star about my village of South Lebanon, Sinai where the farmers do not own a single parcel of the land they plant. Because the DS requires a subscrition, check a better versio of the article published in Scoop.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

On Iran

I have not commented here about Iran, because I was out of the region and because this blog is primarily about food and farming. I got news of what was going on when I was in France, and then heard more from the US where Twitter is definitely the next Pulitzer winner. European or US mainstream press does not constitute reliable sources of information on Iran for this blogger.

But then I had a long chat with my brother who has lived in Iran until recently, who speaks Farsi and whose partner is Iranian and still lives in Iran. Here's what he thinks of the situation, as a bona-fide Iranian.

On one level, what we are seeing is the unfolding of an old rivalry between two poles within the Mullahs group: Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on one side and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on the other. Rafsanjani is the richest man in Iran (and that’s beaucoup) and he controls the pistachio trade (hence the food and farming connection to this blog) as well as the oil contracts. He is the head of the Assembly of Experts which has the constitutional power to appoint (and depose) Khamenei. Rafsanjani never digested his defeat in the 2005 elections when Khamanei brought an unknown Revolutionary Guard leader, Ahmedinajad, to the post of President through a combination of (probable) rigging and en masse voting at the last minute by the Baseej (the youth incubator for the Revolutionary Guards) and the Revolutionary Guards. Rafsanjani was humiliated as much by the defeat as by the "quality" of the winner (read "class"). He vowed revenge, and championned Musawi, not wanting to risk another humiliation. I gather he figured it would give him more freedom of movement should "The People" decide to reject the outcome of the elections, as has happened.

But "The People" are apparently not players in this power game. Most are genuinely seeking Change, but many differ on the nature of this Change. While the 2005 elections were met by populat apathy, with a turn out of around 50%, these elections had a reported turn out of 85%. Clearly, many were fed up with Ahmadinejad and sought something else. This explains in part the general feeling of frustration that drove them into the streets.

But one has to cautiously qualify "The People". Iran is a country where 60% of the population is under 30 years old. Contestation is common, even under the regime of the Mullahs. My brother told me of incidents he witnessed where young people would argue with policemen in the street about right of way and then beat the policeman, the symbol of the State's authority. It is also a country where many youth are very branché on the West and where there are 30 million internet users (about half the population). After high school in Iran, you can go generally in one of 2 directions: to the free University where the programs are excellent and very Westernized, or to the Baseej. I am told the bright go to University.

So the protesters are a heteroclite assemblage of small groups and individuals ranging from bourgeois who would like to see Iran join NATO, to extreme leftists. But many if not most of them are not demanding the overthrow of the regime. According to my bro, what they would settle for is better economic policies to address unemployment and to stop the Ahmadinejad's demagogic disaster, and the removal of dress restrictions for women: veil and coat. Basically people want to live better. Austerity is not the modern youth's favored mode.

The Baseej, of course, are on the other side. They support Ahmedinejad and they also form a significantly large group of young people. There are regional differences in the distribution of the relative importance of the two groups, but, unlike what has been implied, not one group has the monopole of the rural or the urban fabric, or of the provincial cities versus Teheran. There is everything everywhere.

An issue of relevance to Palestine and Lebanon is that dislike (not to say repugnance) of Ahmedinejad and of his policies is spilling over on what he is seen as political choices he has imposed, especially in regional politics: Palestine and Lebanon. So while it was Musawi who had institutionalized the Iran-Hizbullah relationship when he was president (and this was during Hizbullah’s darkest days), support to Palestine and to the Lebanese group is now being seriously criticized by those who are contesting the results of the elections. This is where support to the protests gains increased importance for the US-Israel agenda in the region. A nuclear Iran wouldn’t be that bad if it was chummy with Israel. Remember the Shah?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Land grab live!


Palestine land grab map


(Thanks Marcy)


I this week's Badael in Al Akhbar: My editorial "Land and People and Rights" on how permaculture must become a main item in the resistance toolbox. Plus a main article on permaculture in Palestine, and another on the plight of the Lebanese food inspectors by Muhammad muhsin

On Zionism and frozen yoghurt

"Good morning Israel! It is very late, and you have overslept. One can’t call a country peaceful when it has an extreme right-wing government and Ariel Sharon’s party in opposition. One can’t – not logically – describe any criticism of Zionism as anti-semitism and at the same time concede that 75 per cent of Israeli Jews wouldn’t want to live in the same building as an Arab. One can’t teach high-school students about the dangers of racism and discrimination, and the next day lecture them about the Israeli government project to Judaise the Galilee. One can’t describe ending the military occupation and handing the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to its rightfullegal inhabitants as a ‘painful Israeli compromise’. ‘A villa in the jungle’ is how Ehud Barak described Israel’s position in the MiddleEast. It’s a fantasy that the whole of Israel takes part in. In the heart of Tel Aviv onecan find the Ha-Kirya complex, the headquarters of the Israel Defence Forces. Thefact that Tel Avivians can calmly walk past this building without making a connection between their army and the occupied Palestinian territories, between their independence and the continued Palestinian suffering, is alarming. Israeli decadence isn’t measured in crime rates or corruption, but in their opposite: inhaving a prospering society and democratic elections while directly abrogating the Palestinians’ most basic human, national and political rights.

The way of fantasising another Israel – peaceful and moral, Jewish and democratic, not perfect but not harmful – has brought into being a virtual reality in which historical and contemporary events are blurred by wishful, deceitful and blinkered thinking. In order to recruit Israeli Jewish society to this mission, no induction orders were needed. Everything has come together – Israel’s political and religious institutions, its media, its ‘friends’ around the world, its borders, its terminology, its collective memory, its imagination and also its ice-cream parlours – to enable Israel to reach the stage where it has completely lost any connection with reality." (Thanks Izzat)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Lebanese are not going to appreciate

"Not without reason do guidebooks charitably call Iraqi Kurdistan the “Switzerland of the Middle East.” " (Thanks D.)

Quelle salade!

"Researchers from Which? magazine looked at 20 salads from the major outlets and found many contained a large proportion of the recommended daily intake of fat. At least two had higher quantities than a standard McDonald's meal. Others had misleading labels, Which? said.

Retailers said they offered a range of clearly labelled salads. Smedleys Atlantic Prawn Marie Rose Salad, sold at Morrisons, was highlighted by the magazine as one of the key offenders on the fat and calories front.

Which? said it contained 855 calories and 66.3g of fat - nearly half of a woman's recommended daily energy intake of calories and nearly all of the fat.

In comparison, a Big Mac and medium fries contains 820 calories and 40g of fat - although this meal does contain twice as much saturated fat as the prawn salad.

Marks and Spencer's Pasta with Tomato & Basil Chicken, which came in a slightly larger portion, contained 760 calories and 46g of fat - nearly 70% of a woman's daily intake of fat and half of a man's. " (Thanks Muna)


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Khudarji Report 03

The Khudarji Report 03: 20/06/09

Karaz aswad (black cherries) are now joined by karaz ahmar (red cherries), also known as "abou hazz" for the dark red incision-like stripe down one side. Cherries are at 5,000 LL/kilo.

Nectarine (nectarines), mottled red and yellow, are appearing. They are at 4,000 LL/kilo. Mishmush (abricots) are stocked both `ajameh (slightly unripe) and mistiweh (ripe).

A customer's daughter, hand on hips, inquired: "What are these? What are they?" The customer replied: "It's bamiyeh (okra)--your teta makes it for you."

Banadoura jabaleh (mountain tomato), mottled red and green, have started to come in.

Citrus fruits are now from cold storage.

Somalian bananas are currently from Honduras. They carry the Chiquita label.

The Khudarji Report, by Zayd, reflects conditions unique to a neighborhood in central Beirut; the status at your local mahal al-khudra will most likely vary.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Streets of New York

I have been particularily lucky during the few days I spent in New York. I got to visit a legendary city and to love it. I got to meet old and new friends, and people I had not seen for almost 30 years as well as people I did not expect to meet here.

I was also lucky because I got to visit two of New York producers markets, all part of the Greenmarket network of 46 markets in Manhattan alone. The Greenmarket farmers market has been around since 1976, and the best known is probably the Union Square Market, where everything green and fresh is sold, including potted plants and flowers.

I was also able to visit and buy food from the smaller market in Dag Hammarskjold plaza, right across AUB's NYC office. It is held every Wednesday and had excellent produce.

And just when I thought that was it for street fun, I happened to walk into the street fair on Lexington Ave this morning. The fair extends over nearly one kilometer. The stalls are a bit repetitive, without fresh produce but lots of cheap ethnic foods and products.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ilili event

Great event last night at Ilili in NYC. Great place, great people, great food. Philippe Massoud is a super chef and Paumanok wines are fabulous. I fell in love with their Chenin Blanc, apparently the only one on Long Island. I didn't even know they made wine on Long Island! Paumanok is family-managed by the Massoud family (Charles, Ursula and their children) and it is just beautiful. The Slow Food NYC family is extraordinary. Thanks Philippe, Ed, Deborah and Charles.

It's all about numbers

Lou sent me this (I post with her permission)

"je suis allée manifester à l'ENS à Lyon pour protester contre la collaboration scientifque entre Lyon et Israel,
ci joint un lien,
le nombre des policiers était bien supérieur à celui des manifestants

The fertilizer divide

"Now a new analysis of agriculture patterns in three parts of the world where corn is grown shows that there is also a glaring “ fertilizer divide.” The authors write that overuse of fertilizer, particularly in China, where chemical fertilizers are heavily subsidized, is generating large amounts of air pollution, including the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, and big water pollution problems. Among other findings, the authors said that fertilizer use on corn in northern China could be cut in half with no loss of production.


In stark contrast, cornfields in Kenya are starved for nutrients, according to the analysis in Science, which was led by Peter Vitousek, a professor of biology at Stanford University. In 2004 Kenyan corn farmers were using about 1 percent of the fertilizer per acre that their counterparts in China do. In 2007, Celia Dugger reported how Malawi went from the brink of famine to becoming a corn exporter in part through subsidies for fertilizer." (Thaks Laila)

Excellent article for understanding fertilizer use and its impact in productivity and environment.


June 20, World Refugee Day

"On Saturday, June 20, activists will gather at Trader Joe’s in different cities to demand that the company stop carrying Israeli goods such as Israeli Couscous, Dorot frozen herbs, as well as Pastures of Eden Feta cheese. A letter was sent to Trader Joe’s on June 6, 2009 but no response has been received yet. More than 200 individuals and organizations signed the letter. Note that we are not calling for a boycott of Trader Joe’s." (Thanks Marcy)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Boycott works, formal or informal

"Israeli manufacturers say that they are already feeling the effect of an informal boycott.

A private survey carried out by the Manufacturers Association of Israel has identified a huge decline in demand for Israeli exports.

That has been caused, in large part, by the global economic slump. But one in five exporters said that "being Israeli causes some problems".

In this case, the problem stems from the recent conflict in Gaza. An official from the Association, who asked not to be named, because the publicity had not been helpful, said that a boycott "happens every so often" - during wars, or Palestinian uprisings."


Remember to boycott

"Settlement of occupied territory is illegal under international law.

But the Settlers' Council has grand plans for the Psagot winery. The Council is talking about building as many as 20 holiday homes around the winery."


On Arab blogging

"The one political topic that did cut across all the various clusters in the Arabic blogging world, however, was the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, in particular the situation in Gaza." (Thanks Muna)

Maybe this could serve as an answer to the guy in today's meeting who challenged the speaker who stated: "the Palestinian issue is still the only issue that can bring people out in the streets simultaneously in Beirut, Cairo and Barbes"

But note how the BBC places Iran among the Arab countries.

Oh and in the same article, this gem too my quote of the day:

Jihadists aren't blogging

Prof Daniel Brumberg, Georgetown University


Nawf, the Bedouin designs project is the subject of a long article by Rameh Hamiyyeh in today's Badael: meet the face behind the project. My editorial asks: what's next for food and farming after the Lebanese election? and RH reports on an innovation by a farmer in the Bekaa to mechanize tobacco transplanting.


Possibly the best analysis of the Lebanese elections by Karim Makdisi. I particularily like this part:

"Civil society played an important role in the technical aspects of the elections, though in general it will have to reverse the worrying trend towards de-politicization, “Ngo-ization,” and infatuation with Western donors to present a genuine check on the political elite. " (Thanks Karim)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

And poets too...

"In another video, a Palestinian is seen sitting inside a vehicle reciting the words "One Hummus and one ful [cooked broad beans], I love you Border Police" (which rhymes in Hebrew), while applause and shouting is heard in the background. " (Thanks Marcy)

Ilili event

More about the Ilili event in The Strong Buzz

Food is Identity

"La gastronomie, image de marque du pays

La directrice générale estime que tous les moyens sont bons pour véhiculer une belle image du Liban, depuis le petit dépliant, jusqu'aux offices de tourisme au Liban et à travers le monde, en passant par les films DVD et les CD de photos. Elle indique que le site web du ministère du Tourisme a été totalement relooké et publié sur Facebook, soulignant dans ce cadre l'importance de l'interactivité avec la jeunesse. Elle insiste aussi sur l'impact de la participation libanaise aux salons internationaux, « active et efficace » malgré le manque de moyens. « Avec nos partenaires du secteur privé, nous tentons constamment d'innover », dit-elle, révélant deux projets destinés à attirer des touristes au Liban : l'un concerne « le Liban scène de tournage » et l'autre le tourisme médical, lié à la chirurgie plastique.

Mme Sardouk précise que de nombreux projets ont été initiés avec des ONG, des ambassades, des organisations internationales, notamment au niveau du secteur hôtelier, de la restauration et des festivals. « Même le site Internet du ministère du Tourisme, sa communication, sa promotion et ses films ont été réalisés avec la collaboration du secteur privé qui a assumé les frais de ces projets », affirme-t-elle.

Le troisième volet concerne les investissements dans l'infrastructure touristique. Mme Sardouk explique que son ministère, toujours en partenariat avec le secteur privé, investit dans différents projets, dont le plus important se situe au niveau de la gastronomie libanaise. « La gastronomie est devenue l'image de marque du Liban », observe-t-elle, remarquant que le mezzé libanais est à la fois synonyme de savoir-faire, de savoir-vivre et d'attachement à la tradition, au terroir, à la famille. Elle évoque le projet en question, baptisé « Food is Identity » (la nourriture c'est l'identité), en préparation avec la Lebanese American University (LAU). Le projet consiste à lancer une recherche scientifique sur les origines des plats libanais, dans l'objectif de les inscrire auprès de l'Organisation mondiale de la propriété intellectuelle (WIPO). " (Thanks Barbara)

From L'Orient-Le Jour of June 16, 2009

Charitable eating

"If Atlantic Avenue has more or less informed your knowledge of Lebanese cuisine, consider this outing an essential primer. This Friday, chef Philippe Massoud (Ilili) and Rami Zurayk (cofounder of Slow Food Beirut) will host “A Night of Old, New and ‘Slow.’” This charity dinner benefits Slow Food and Land & People—a nonprofit that supports small farms in Lebanon. On the menu: traditional mezze, braised octopus, striped bass with za’atar, as well as a tasting of kibbeh—Lebanese steak tartare.

Wines from New York’s Paumanok Vineyard and Lebanon’s Massaya Winery will be paired with the meal. Stick around for a Q&A with Massoud and Zurayk about the country’s unique cuisine. 6:30pm, $100; Slow Food NY members $90.—Justine Sterling"


Organic boost

"Under its programme for internal market promotions, the European Union offers a matching fund for member states to promote organic food to consumers. Although other member states have benefited, the UK has not yet made a successful bid.

In September 2008 Sustain, the campaign for better food and farming, was charged with coordinating a UK application for funds. Its goal is to reach ₤500,000 by October, which would total budget of ₤1m, including the matching funds from the EU.

The goal is to bring about a 15 per cent increase in the volume of organic sales each year. The UK organic sector was valued at £2.1bn in 2008 by the Soil Association."

In Amrika

I arrived to Amrika yesterday. The flight was very nice, especially that I was given a seat in the Business Class. This Business Class business is very good: I was allowed to use the airport lounge where they give free food and drinks and where people take their shoes off and lie on the couches without being bothered by security. I watched 3 movies on the flight and it was so nice that I made myself stay awake so as not to lose a single moment of Business Class. They gave great food and drinks and I could ask for coffee or drinks anytime I felt like it and the hostesses smiled brought it.

When the plane landed, we, in the Business Class, were ushered out before everyone else and we got to the immigration area before the great rush. There were only 40 or so people ahead of me so within 20 minutes I was presenting my passport to a nice man behind a desk. He asked: "What do you do? Why are you coming to the United States? When was the last time you were here? Where do you live?" I answered everything. And then he took prints of the four fingers of my left hand then of the thumb and then of the four fingers of my right hand then of the thumb. He also took my picture. After that, he crossed the form I had filled in the plane with a yellow highlighter pen, and told me that he needed to escort me to another place for further questionning. He left his desk and walked me to a room at the end of the hall.

The place was smelly and poorly ventilated and there were more than 50 men women and children sitting on plastic chairs. He told me to take a seat and wait for my name to be called. He put my passport into a red plastic folder and placed it into a folder holder, behind many many others. Around me everybody looked poor, sad and tired. There were Chinese, Turks, Moroccans and people from Latin America and Central and Western Africa.

The two officers behind the desk were partly hidden by their computer screens. Their job was to empty the red files from their content on the table and to study them. When they were done studying, they called the owners to the desk and asked them: "What do you do? Why are you coming to the United States? When was the last time you were here? Where do you live?" Many could not speak English, so the officers called a translator.

I learned so much during the next few hours. First, I learned about the preferences and the hobbies of the two officers because they discussed their lives and joked as if we did not exist. We kept quiet, so as to not bother them. But I now know that the tall one with glasses loves lemonade from a place called Bernardo, while the woman has a soft spot for nachos.

Because the interviews took place in front of everyone, I also learned a lot about my roomates of a few hours. The big African woman with a child, for instance, was a most dramatic case: she had lived in Amrika where she had delivered her baby. But the authorities had obtained a hand written piece of paper in which she admitted to have been in employment. She told them she had to write it for the hospital to be able to deliver the baby. One officer kindly explained that she had lied, and that because of that, she will have to spend the night in the custody room and to travel back to Uganda tomorrow.

My turn arrived after about 2 and a half hours. The man asked me: "What do you do? Why are you coming to the United States? When was the last time you were here? Where do you live?" and I answered. He took my fingerprints and told me to go to another desk at the other end of the large hall. I went there, and a man took my passport and asked me: "What do you do? Why are you coming to the United States? When was the last time you were here? Where do you live?" and I answered. He also took my fingerprints and a photo. When this was done, he grinned at me and said: "Welcome to Amrika, how long are you staying for?" and I said: "one week". He said: "on your way out, you have to do the same procedure, so come at least 4 hours before your flight."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Worldwide Movement

"Rami Zurayk, a founder of Slow Food’s Beirut chapter, will attend a Lebanese dinner on June 19 at 6:30 p.m. at Ilili, 236 Fifth Avenue (27th Street). Wines from Paumanok Vineyards in Aquebogue, N.Y., and the Massaya winery of Lebanon will be poured. Tickets, $90 for Slow Food members, $100 for others, will benefit the Slow Food Harvest Time program in New York schools and a program at the American University in Beirut that supports small farms: (212) 481-1840. " (Thanks Philippe)


Tanoreen, Brooklyn

"Palestinian-American chef and proprietor of the Brooklyn-based Middle Eastern restaurant Tanoreen, Rawia Bishara's culinary creations have been praised by some of the most respected food critics in New York City. Infused with the aroma of nine different spices imported regularly from her hometown of Nazareth, Tanoreen was chosen as New York Magazine's Critic's Pick and has been featured in The New York Times, The Village Voice and the Zagat Survey, among many others. When asked about the inspiration behind her cooking, Bishara answers in no uncertain terms: "my mother"." (Thanks Marcy)


Monday, June 15, 2009

Stem rust

"Farmers have been battling stem rust for as long as they have grown wheat. The fungus' ancestors infected wild grasses for millions of years before people began cultivating them for food, said Jorge Dubcovsky, professor of genetics and plant breeding at UC Davis."The pathogen keeps mutating and evolving," he said. "It's one of our biblical pests. This is not a small enemy."" (Thanks Anna)

I have blogged several times about this (one of my earliest posts, nearly 2 years ago). But we are only half way towards a solution, which, as it looks now, may come from old varieties and wild relatives. Long live biodiversity.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The khudarji report 02

The Khudarji Report 02 by Zayd: 13/06/09

Due to the souq being mostly closed on the Monday after election day, there was an obvious lack of hashayish and khudra (herbs and greens) in the early part of this week. Monday evening the shop closed quickly and early--around 9:00 p.m.--with the help of some neighborhood chabaab. It's hard to tell when gunfire is not just in response to a speech on television.

Qara` (a type of edible gourd) is coming in, as is me'teh (snake cucumbers). Kuusa (squash) is now arriving "ndiife" (clean). Corn has arrived; bamiyeh (okra) has appeared as well. Toot (mulberry) are now available. Fresh mulukhiyyeh hangs in bags in the shop. Wara' aanab (grape leaves) are in plentiful supply.

The current supply of batteekh (watermelon) is from the South; their storage takes up much floor and shelf space. Customers want perfection in their batteekh; they employ a critical vocabulary: "Grainy". "White". "Not sweet". "Not red". "Spongy". "Not delicious". "No taste". There are two ways to test watermelon; one is to drum with the palm of the hand, looking for a deep, hollow sound. One is to cut open the watermelon to examine for color and also taste. There are two types of "3a sekkeen" (under the knife) testing. One involves cutting the watermelon in half to show its redness. The other requires that a quadrangular wedge be lifted from the heart of the fruit and a slice from its tip be served. This is accomplished by making four cuts, blade pointed to the center of the melon, and wrist-punching both ends to release the wedge. The knife is used to serve a slice. There are two types of watermelon customer: more likely to keep, and more likely to bring back. The first kind prefers no test at all, or the in-half test; the second kind prefers the wedge test, and provides our list of descriptive terms.

Lawz (almonds) are large and mid-season; the green fruit is now discarded with the starting-to-harden shell inside. They are at 2,500 LL/kilo. Kiwi are from Italy. Grapefruit are gone. Khawkh aswad (black plum) is at 5,000 LL/kilo. The local crop of shammaam (cantaloupe) has entirely replaced the Jordanian one. They are in plentiful supply and are 4,000 LL/kilo.

Another item stocked for those who prefer things more "extra" than flavorful is "iceberg", also known as khass franji (French lettuce). Army soldiers and construction workers tend to buy potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions in bulk. The transitional onions from Holland have given way to the local crop from Syria. The Lebanese crop of basal abyad (white onion) is in.
Fruit and vegetables in white styrofoam tend to be from Syria; those in dark grey plastic crates from Lebanon.

The Khudarji Report, by Zayd, reflects conditions unique to a neighborhood in central Beirut; the status at your local mahal al-khudra will most likely vary.

The killer cereal

"The global Nestle food company is, for the first time in its history, producing a new breakfast cereal in the southern Israeli town of Sderot.
Osem's nougat-filled Bamba was born at the request of soldiers who would eat Bamba with chocolate paste. The project was initially launched in a limited edition as a marketing campaign, but quickly became a hit. " (Thanks Marcy, who added: need I say more about boycotting Nestle?)

Meanwhile in the land of the free...

"Covering this story has been like stepping back in time. Farmworkers in New York do not have the same legal rights and protections that other workers have, and the state’s multibillion-dollar agriculture industry has taken full advantage of that. The workers have no right to a day off or overtime pay. They don’t get any paid vacation or sick days. When I asked one worker if he knew of anyone who had a retirement plan, he laughed and laughed. To understand how it’s possible to treat farmworkers in New York this way you have to look back to the 1930s when President Franklin Roosevelt was trying to get Congress to pass the Fair Labor Standards Act to provide basic wage and hour protections for workers. Among the opponents were segregationist congressmen and senators who were outraged that the protections would apply to blacks as well as whites." (Thanks Yaz)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Financial crisis= more hunger


“Communities are still reeling from food and fuel price rises which peaked in 2008,” Ms. Sheeran said, “and the present crisis threatens to undermine progress made in the fight against hunger.”
The studies found the groups most affected by the financial crisis were unskilled workers in urban areas, families who rely on remittances from abroad,workers laid off from the export sectors and those working in mining and tourism.

“The worst hit were not necessarily the poorest of the poor,” WFP said,“but a new group of people who face a downward slide into poverty.” (Thanks Nada)

Free trading our jobs

Note this important paper (Thanks Nada)

Trading away our jobs: how free trade threatens employment around the world
Authors: Hobbs,G.; Tucker,D.Produced by: War on Want (2009)

This report examines the employment impacts of trade liberalisation, as well as impact assessments for the current round of world trade talks and the new wave of bilateral EU trade deals. The paper shows how past trade liberalisations caused huge job losses in both Africa and Latin America, the two continents that bore the impact of early experiments in structural adjustment. Moreover, the paper finds that those experiments reveal a pattern of deindustrialisation, job losses and falling wages whose impact continues to be felt to this day, stifling hopes for sustainable development.

Nevertheless, the paper notes that some politicians are still calling for the swift conclusion of the Doha round of negotiations at the WTO, although millions of jobs are at risk as a result of the required trade liberalisation. Indeed, a conclusion to the Doha round along the lines currently proposed will cause significant job losses across the agricultural, industrial and service sectors of the developing world.

Correspondingly, the paper considers that free trade is no answer to the current economic crisis. In addition, it thinks the free market approach undermines the possibility of decent work and of achieving sustainable development. Therefore, it deems that states must retain the policy space and tools of control in order to govern markets, manage international trade and provide decent work for all. Furthermore, the paper finds it vital to grasp the current opportunity and replace the neoliberal model with a new way of thinking. The new model should be made in a way that prioritise the economic, social, political and environmental rights of people over the profits of transnational capital.
Available online at: http://www.eldis.org/cf/rdr/?doc=43346&em=110609&sub=trade

Friday, June 12, 2009

L' Institut du Monde Arabe

The fabulous Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris is selling Nawf, the hand stitched Bedouin cushions made by the women of the Abu Eid tribe. If you live in Paris, please go to the Institut's shop and ask for the Bedouin cushions. C'est pour une bonne cause and they are superb: follow the link above if you dont believe me.


"Now is the time to take advantage of lower advertising and input prices to prepare for the future.” Buchholz used the example of cereals giant Kellogg, which saw 33 per cent growth in the first years of the depression. "


I ask a silly question in my editorial, I know: "Where will the issue of quality assurance of traditional foods fit in the priority list of the next government?" But I can't help it, somebody has to think about this stuff. Rameh Hamiyyeh writes from the Beqa` about the production of grapes in the Beqa`where the production becomes economical when complemented by the sale of vine leaves for stuffing and rolling into wara' `inab. See how useful traditional food can be? And Muhammad Muhsin sheds new lights on our habits to eat unripe fruits.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

New York

I will be at this event in New York



"I've heard the rumours about [Kuwait and Qatar]. I heard they might get our land because they need food," he said" (Thanks Daniel)

Vote et tais toi

"In both countries, whatever they are wearing and whatever they look like, women are highly educated (in Iran they are majority of university students) and have brains of their own in perfect working order. The way these consecutive election campaigns were/are being conducted – with Lebanese politicians ignoring women’s demands in favor of appealing to their presumed vanity, and Iranian politicians at least making an effort to promise things like cabinet posts to women – says a lot more about how women are viewed as citizens than their dress codes." (Thanks Anna)

Anna Sussman offers a feminist analysis of the Lebanese and the Iranian elections


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cairo goes local

"The Cairo Study Day specifically focused on the valorization of quality and identity of Egyptian productions and food heritage and of Mediterranean agricultures, considering the peculiarity of their agricultural system and food traditions, the role of quality agriculture and Mediterranean diet in the development and the promotion of a Mediterranean model.

In the final conclusions it was highlighted that organic agriculture and geographical indications have to be considered strategic production patterns, particularly referring to the relevant role that quality productions can play on local markets. To enhance local market means also gaining consumers awareness and trust, improving market access for farmers and local productions also through restaurants and tourism industry sectors. "

Khodarji post

The khodarji post was a hit, thanks to Zayd who promised to make it a weekly feature. Zaynab kind of offered to send a khodargi (in the egyptian accent, as AA would say) post from Cairo, and Muna sent me this:

"btw my local khodarji abu-ibrahim stocks yemeni mangoes"

Land grab site

GRAIN is launching today a new website that offers the mostcomprehensive information tool on the global land grab for outsourcedfood production: http://farmlandgrab.org. This new site is an improvedversion of the site initiated by GRAIN last year, which provides anopen, up-to-date and easy to search library of over 800 articles,interviews and reports on farm land grabs around the world publishedsince the outbreak of the food crisis in 2008.
The global trend to buy up or lease farmlands abroad as a strategy tosecure basic food supplies, or simply to get rich, is not slowing down-- it is getting worse. The scale is becoming more apparent now, withresearchers counting some 20 million hectares of good cropland alreadysigned off to foreign investors, or soon to be, worldwide. Morecountries and corporations are getting involved, from Sri Lanka toCongo or Hyundai to Varun. Farmers' organisations, human rights groupsand other social movements are agitating against this obscene approachto feeding their countries, while at least one government – theRavalomanana regime in Madagascar -- has been brought down because ofits involvement in such a deal.
Next month, through a move by the Japanese government, which has adirect stake in locking down its own outsourced food supply, the Groupof Eight most powerful countries are going to release a set ofcriteria to make these deals look "win-win". The words will be smooth,but people won't be fooled.
Like its predecessor, this new website contains mainly news reports,videos and audio interviews to help people track and understand whatis going on. However, its role as a public clearinghouse on otherwisesecret deals will be stronger:
- The new site is open-publishing, meaning anyone can register andupload material.
- The website will contain as many land grab contracts as possible,releasing them into the public domain because the secrecy surroundingthese deals is unacceptable. (Please contact us if you have any suchdocuments to share. Anonymity will be respected.)
- The website will serve as an active forum for debate and proposalson how to turn things around, with free and open space to write yourown piece, comment on someone else's or create new sections.
The site is updated daily, with all posts entered according to theiroriginal publication date. If you want to track updates in real time,you can subscribe to the RSS feed. If you prefer a weekly email, withthe titles of all materials posted in the last week, you can subscribeto the email service.
This land grab blog is an open project. Although currently maintainedby GRAIN, anyone can join in posting materials or developing itfurther.
Further information:
- URL: http://farmlandgrab.org
- Email: info@farmlandgrab.org
- In October 2008, GRAIN published "Seized: The 2008 land grab forfood and financial security", one of the first overall analyses ofthis new trend. It is available in English, French, Spanish, Arabicand Bahasa Indonesia. http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=212
- GRAIN also maintains a landgrab resource page bringing togetherGRAIN materials, other organisations working on the issues, andrelevant actions & events. There are also a number of land grab mapsfrom various sources. http://www.grain.org/landgrab/
GRAIN is a small international non-profit organisation that works tosupport small farmers and social movements in their struggles forcommunity-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems.http://www.grain.org

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Khudarji Report 001

Khudarji: owner of a mahal al-khudra, a fruits and vegetables shop. My friend Zayd spends a lot of time at the local kudarji. He promised to send regular reports.

The Khudarji Report 001: 06/06/09

Spring stone fruits have replaced most of the late winter citrus. Darraaq (peaches) and khukh al-aswad (black plums) are plentiful right now. Mishmush (apricots) are at 2,500 LL/kilo. Cherries are in short(er) supply due to problems during the bloom this season: 6,000 LL/kilo. Janarik (unripe green plums) are turning golden yellow and are thus almost finished season-wise; customers ask whether they are considered plums yet.

Acadania (loquat) are now imported from Turkey; they are more watery and less flavorful. They are also larger and darker orange in color.

Jordanian watermelons have given way to the local crop. Watermelon growers have taken to packaging their melons one to a cardboard box. Watermelon is at 1,000 LL/kilo.

Saudi potatoes are long gone. The Egyptian crop has given way to the local one. The Egyptian potatoes come packed in sacks surrounded by what seems to be brown earth; in fact it is sawdust. Saudi potatoes are often rejected for political reasons.

Imported bananas are always referred to as "Somalian"; the current crop of "Somalian" bananas is from Ecuador. Spinney's customers especially see this moniker as implying "extra".
Requests from a customer have led to the appearance of Granny Smith apples from Chile. They are about 7,000 LL a kilo; the customer refers to them as "extra". They go unsold.Another customer made a similar mistake in requesting broccoli and red cabbage.

Mangoes make a nice gift when visiting someone in the neighborhood. Their high price (10,000 LL/kilo) is due to importation from Australia. A customer further asks: "There's no Lebanese mango?" Another customer replies: "The apple! The apple is the Lebanese mango!"

The local crop of onions has given way to a variety from Holland. The skins are salmon-colored and they are preferred by khudarjiin (plural form of khudarji) because they are less prone to sending up shoots and going mushy.

The local crop of garlic has arrived; it cannot displace Chinese bagged garlic. The Chinese garlic carries the name Garlic King and is pure white. The local variety has a purplish tinge.

Kuusa (squash) are delivered with the flower still attached. Customers are endlessly surprised to learn that the flower is eaten in France and Italy.

The crop of foul (faba beans) is slowing down; that of fasooliya (haricot beans) has arrived.The extremely short season of buying full, immature hommous bushes (green chickpea, called ‘um ‘ulaibeneh) has come and gone.

The Khudarji Report, by Zayd, reflects conditions unique to a neighborhood in central Beirut; the status at your local mahal al-khudra will most likely vary.

Rush hour

I met someone who is connected to the Ministry of Economy and Trade. He confirmed what I had thought: the rush to join the WTO is happening with the strong encouragement of the US and Europe, and without any governmental measures to support this important move and reduce its impact on the vulnerable. And with the March 14 win and the new parliament it looks like all the legislations that will open markets and remove poverty shields are going to be enacted, especially the decrees taken by the government-before-this-one, which did not have full sectarian representation as we like them in Lebanon.


The results of the Lebanese elections are out. March 14 won by a confortable margin. I had predicted this win, but I didn't think they would win by such a margin. However, the real winners of the Lebanese elections were:

1. Sectarianism. Electoral turn-out was very large because people voted in small districts dominated by one sect. It is likely that people felt that this scale of elections represents them better. In other words, voting for one's sect is more important than voting for one's nation.

2. Money. Sectarian money showed that it can really sway elections. Massive amount of money was spent on the electoral campaigns, on buying votes and on flying people in so that they can vote fpr one group or another. On a per capita basis, this must be one of the most expensive election ever. Just like Lebanon's debt: one of the highest on a per capita basis.

3. Inherited parliamentarism. A large number of "political families" are represented in this parliament: Frangieh, Karameh, Gemayyel, Murr, and the newest addition: Tuwayni, a family which in record time has sent 3 generations to the parliament.

4. Ultra liberal economics. Both sides subscribe to this creed, but the March 14 people have a more formal, structured approach to its implementation. Rough days ahead for the poor.

Now it is all wait and see: will the winners invite the other side, especially the Shi`a block, to take part in the cabinet? Will they give them veto power as in the last government? What will the role of the President, who aligned himself with the March 14 in Jubayl and lost in his own district, be? Will he get the veto power in government? Will the new government avoid the issue of disarming Hizbullah or will it raise it again? How will this be done? To what extent will it allow itself to be manipulated by regional and global powers such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the US, who have been actively promoting March 14? Things might totally get out of control if wrong steps are taken. After all, as As Safir put it, the elections re-created the type of Parliament that brought Lebanon to Civil War in 1975. They called it: the Parliament of Civil Partition.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Is organic only for the rich?

"Bref, c’est à se demander pourquoi les Français ne consacrent au bio que 1,5 % de leurs dépenses alimentaires (soit 2,4 milliards d’euros en 2008), loin derrière les Danois, les Autrichiens ou les Suisses. A cause du prix ? Sans aucun doute. Pour en avoir le cœur net, nous sommes allés faire nos courses à quatre reprises la même semaine. Dans une grande surface, nous avons rempli notre Caddie uniquement de produits bio, puis le lendemain, de produits de marques, et enfin, de premier prix. Puis, le quatrième jour, nous avons poursuivi le test en nous rendant dans un magasin spécialisé. Résultat : le prix de ce dernier cabas « boutique bio » est 160,3 % plus élevé que le même rempli de produits premier prix, soit 2,6 fois plus important."

From the latest issue of Terra Eco

Palestine is permaculture

"At five in the morning on 8 November 2000, Israeli troops invaded the Sustainable Development Centre in the West Bank village of Marda, tearing doors off their hinges and smashing windows. They destroyed seven years of work on the permaculture project. During the two-and-a-half hour rampage, the plant nursery, seed bank, agricultural equipment, computers and files were all wrecked.
The Bustan Qaraaqa community -- a big stone farmhouse surrounded by 12 dunums of land -- also acts as a testing ground for ways of living "off the grid" in Palestine. Like Murad al-Khufash in Marda, Gray believes that lifestyles more associated with alternative communities in Europe and the US could offer new solutions to farmers cut off from their land by the Israeli Separation Wall."One of the Occupation's methods is to refuse to give people infrastructure," Gray explains. "Some farmers are saying OK, you build the Wall between me and my land. I choose my land. So the Israelis say -- you can have no infrastructure. No electricity, no running water. Now try living there."
As Gray emphasizes, the denial of services is one of the Israeli State's means of enforcing a political agenda aimed at removing the Arab population, from "unrecognized" Bedouin communities in the Negev as well as Palestinian villages near to the Wall. But, she believes, permaculture's reinvention of ways of living that might have been familiar generations ago can help to circumvent the occupation's methods, and farmers from villages like al-Walaja where land confiscation has been a major issue are wiling to try out some of Bustan Qaraaqa's ideas." (Thanks Marcy)

Where are the Israeli green peacenik liberals when one needs them? No where to be seen. You want to know why? Simple: you cannot be a true green, peace-loving, believer-in-equity-and-social-justice when you are a Zionist.

Israeli farewell presents to South Lebanon

"The presence of cluster bombs in the area meant that, until MAG began work here in January, the Shahar Restaurant sat empty and unused following the 2006 war. Ismael lost out on the US$4,000 a year of summer seasonal income that would support his family of four and was unable to carry out his plan to hire five part-time workers. "

Listen without illusions?

Friends have asked me what what I thought of Obama's speech in Cairo. I sent them this article by Slavoj Zizek

"Days before the election, Noam Chomsky told progressives that they should vote for Obama, but without illusions. I fully share Chomsky’s doubts about the real consequences of Obama’s victory: From a pragmatic-realistic perspective, it is quite possible that Obama will just do some minor face-lifting improvements, turning out to be “Bush with a human face.” He will pursue the same basic politics in a more attractive mode and thus effectively even strengthen U.S. hegemony, which has been severely damaged by the catastrophe of the Bush years."

Friday, June 5, 2009

No impact

No economic impact of a win by the Opposition say these economic experts.


What's beyong the WTO is the title of my editorial this week. Rami Bleibel writes from Hermel about the Kweikh women's coop (truly amazing people) and Samar Sleiman about the disappearing fruit trees of Lebanon.

What do you call sectarian elections? Answer: selections.

I am leaving later today for Paris where I am talking about quality control for traditional foods in Lebanon at this Unesco conference. I am leaving right before the Lebanese parliamentary elections. I did not plan it, but I am not displeased about it.

I have not addressed the matter of the elections on this blog, in spite of the fact that Lebanese life has been revolving around them for a number of weeks now. This is a blog about food and farming, and while the candidates have been feeding us vapid words and cultivating sectarian hatred, this did not qualify for posting here. I also blog about politics in times of crisis, but this is hardly a crisis, although its outcome may cause a crisis at a later stage.

I am a non-voter in these elections. Not a blank-voter, just a non-voter. I have been criticized by many friends because I am not chosing to "exercise my democratic right", and I am not participating in the choice of my representatives. What democracy? What choice? Tons of money are flooding the country, to buy votes and sway results, in contravention with all accepted and acceptable norms: these are elections for the rich and powerful. And the country is so divided along sectarian lines, that out of 124 available seats, only 14 seats will actually be fought over. The others are "assured" to the selected candidates of one sect or the other.

Lebanon is a country of sectarian discrimination. There are posts and positions one cannot access because one belongs to the wrong sect. Parliament seats are divided according to sect, and so are state appointments and governmental jobs. People hide behind sects and sectarian leaders who are often also business people and warlords, because they are afraid that the other sects may become too powerful and take some of their privileges. Leaders cultivate fear and hatred with a demagogic discourse. This is how the wars of Lebanon are fueled. To achieve their sectarian goals, the Lebanese use regional and international political dynamics. Sectarian leadership is not ideologically picky: they have been all over the place in the past 30 years, and the same group can swifly move from being pro-US to anti-US, strike deals with Syria and then attack it or open up to Israeli advances and then declare its full support to the Palestinian cause. What is important is the survival of the sect and the retention of its priviledges: this is the real source of power in Lebanon.

It is against this background that the elections have to be perceived. And while there are sects that are more unfavored than others, economically or socially, sectarianism provides the wrong entry point for correcting these situations. This is principally because sectarianism and the discrimination that accompanies it are is the principal forces underlying these inequities. They cannot be corrected by a sectarian agenda or through the sectarian system.

Many people agree with me in Lebanon, or at least they say so. There is a lot of political dissimulation and double discourse going around, and my belief, based on numerous observations over many years, is that people whose ideologies are not strongly anchored in the radical left will always find the right non-sectarian argument in support of their sect.

People often challenge me by telling me to vote for change. Politicians in Lebanon regularly declare themselves secular and anti-sectarian. Why not chose one of those as the recipient of my vote? There are 2 reasons: 1) voting in sectarian elections implies that one endorses the principle of sectarianism as a basis for electing representatives and 2) who can really believe that someone who has been elected within a sectarian system will work towards the destruction of that same system? Logic, strengthened with years of observations, imply that they will contribute to the continuation of the system that gave them power and glory.

One reason that is often given for voting one way or another in these election by people who I know are truly non-sectarian and often atheists (one does not necessarily imply the other in Lebanon), is that one of the 2 choices available (the March 14 coalition and the former Opposition) represent more than the sects they include. For example, the former Opposition, also known as the March 8 coalition (but this should not really apply because of the presence of the Free Patriotic Movement of Michel Aoun in the coalition, and he who was not there on March 8- long story) stands also for Resistance and opposition to the Israeli agenda and the US plans for the Middle East. But looking beyond that, one finds that this coalition has no real social and economic agenda, and that past performance does not really indicate that they are concerned with acting on issues of poverty reduction and equity and social justice. The March 14 group, at least, is dominated by neo-liberals, and this provides an important entry point in opposing its program.

To sum up, one has to see these elections as a simple referendum with a yes/no outcome. The question of the referendum is: do you endorse sectarianism? If you do, then go vote, and if you don't then abstain. Within the sectarian system, a vote in these elections is a vote for sectarianism. The only way we have to express our dissatisfaction with the sectarian system is by refusing to play its game. We have to withdraw legitimacy from the system by reducing the number of people who participate in it. And while I fully agree that this is a very long shot (I believe that there will be a very large turn out for these elections), I do not see a better starting point.

There is a big flaw in my position, and it was pointed to me a couple of days ago by a friend who was justifying his decision to vote. He said that this whole line of reasoning would be correct if "not voting" was part of an organized political movement, and if the results were used towards political action. I agree with him, and this needs long term preparation: maybe for the 2o13 elections, if, as we say in Lebanon, we are still alive.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bedouin designs 2: The story of Nawf

In classical Arabic, nawf means exalted. In Bedouin folk culture, it is a name given to a woman of sacred beauty. Nawf is the name of the brand of hand-made quilted cushions produced by the bedouin women of the Abu Eid tribe, in the Northern Bekaa. I have posted about the cushions before, and now the designs and the quality control have been improved. The cushions are 40cmx40cm, made from high quality pure egyptian cotton and they are for sale at $20 per piece. The women who make them have created a small microfinance fund into which all profts are channeled and which serves as a pool of small loans for their individual projects of for emergency expenses.

There is no local retailer yet (they are looking for one who will give them good terms), and I will be taking some to Paris and New York soon, avis aux interesses !

Contact me on the blog if you want some. Hurry, they are going fast: they look much better than the pictures.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


"Well, OK, Professor Zurayk may have veered beyond the textbook a little bit. But then again, what if he's onto something?" (Thanks Joshua)

No rice for Iraq

"On 24 May Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Turkey, the source of the two rivers, had agreed to increase water flows into the Euphrates by 130 cubic metres a second from 22 May.

Whilst Al-Dabbagh welcomed the move, the Water Resources Ministry’s Abdullah was more critical. He said: “This isn’t enough; it is modest and has come too late… We asked them to release 350 cubic metres a second in March and increase this to 700 cubic metres a second by November.”

Abdullah said the situation was critical as Turkey had five major dams on the Euphrates, and Syria two. All rice fields depended especially on the Euphrates, he said. However, in some places tributaries of the Tigris feed into the Euphrates, so water levels in both rivers affect rice growing in Iraq, he added. " (Thanks Annia)


UN: Israeli buffer zone eats up 30 percent of Gaza's arable land

"Israel's warning came from the sky, as it often does in the Gaza Strip. But this time warplanes dropped neither bombs nor missiles on the impoverished Palestinian territory, but thousands of tiny leaflets warning Gaza's residents to keep away from the 30-mile-long border they share with Israel.

Stay at least 300 meters (1,000 feet) from the border, the May 25 pamphlets advised Palestinians, or risk being shot by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

Once a plush scene of rolling olive, citrus, and pomegranate groves, much of the border region is now just a barren landscape, marked only by the presence of IDF tanks, military watchtowers, and the occasional pop of gunfire.

Farmers and their families have been displaced, too afraid to return to their fields, while international humanitarian organizations are unable to make an assessment of the needs and damages of the area in the aftermath of the assault."

From CSM (Thanks Marcy)

Burning life

"A group of extremist settlers burnt on Monday hundreds of acres planted with olive trees, wheat and barley near the Palestinian villages of Burin, Aseera, Tal and and Sorra south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

Ali Eid, head of the Burin village council, told the Maan News Agency that the fires consumed olives trees, and large areas planted with wheat and barley.

Also, local sources in Jeet and Far’ata villages, near the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia, stated that the settlers set ablaze hundreds of acres planted with wheat.

The sources added that Israeli soldiers did not attempt to stop the settlers and instead protected them and barred Palestinian fire trucks from reaching the burnt lands. "