Open Brief: Israeli Violations of Palestinian Food Sovereignty

The image reads “Israeli restrictions on Palestinian food sovereignty affect every item on this table” in yellow font. To the right of this statement is an illustration of a round brown table full of illustrations of food items. The food items include water, goat milk and cheese, dairy milk, eggs, fish, zaatar, akoub, sage, grapes, tomatoes, onion, eggplant, strawberries, apples, olives, cucumbers, watermelon, mushrooms, wheat, millet, and barley.
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1. Theme

This visual will look at Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid through the lens of Palestinian food production as defined by Via Campesina. The story will be grounded in principles of food sovereignty and will build on Visualizing Palestine’s series on environmental justice in Palestine.

2. Key messages

  • Israel denies Palestinian food sovereignty: Israeli policies make Palestinians dependent on food they are unable to produce, in violation of principles of food sovereignty.
  • Food sovereignty is an environmental and human rights issue: Protecting small holder farmers, rural communities, and local agricultural practices is key to reducing food insecurity, poverty, and environmental harms perpetuated by industrialized agriculture.

3. Title and Introduction

Title Ideas (Brainstorm)

4. Food Restrictions List

This information was collected with the concept of a plate or table in mind, where each food item represents a fact or story about how Palestinian agricultural heritage and food sovereignty is disrupted by Israeli policy.

5. Other Research and Information

Loss of Palestinian Agricultural Land

  • Prior to Zionist colonization, Palestinians were cultivating around 85% of cultivable land in historic Palestine. “When Britain received the Mandate for Palestine most of the cultivable land was already under cultivation” by Palestinians (source / source)
  • In 1948, Palestinian refugees lost approximately 4.6 million dunums of farmland. “Of the 370 new settlements established in Israel in the 1948–1953 period, no less than 350 were located on refugee property” (source)
  • Israel has expropriated 85% of Palestinian Bedouin land in the Naqab as state land (source)
  • 35% of agricultural land in Gaza is inaccessible due to Israeli military measures (source)
  • 63% of agricultural land in the West Bank is under complete Israeli control, with Palestinian rural communities in Area C being some of the most vulnerable to Israeli policies of forced displacement (source)
  • 10% of the West Bank has been expropriated to build Israel’s wall, which separating thousands of farmers from their land (source)
  • In 2020, Israeli authorities denied 73% of farmer permit requests to access their farmland beyond the wall (source)
  • Under Ottoman laws, ownership of land was derived from cultivating it continuously. (Collective rights were also recognized for grazing.) Israel manipulates these laws to justify stripping Palestinians of land rights if they cultivate only part of an area of their land or if they stop cultivating an area of land due to Israeli restrictions or other factors (source)
  • 45% of the Palestinian population worked in agriculture in 2003, including forestry and fishing. By 2017, that percentage had dropped to 14% (source)
  • Palestinian agricultural area dropped from 240,000 hectares in 1980 to 183,000 hectares in 1996 and to around 103,000 hectares in 2010. The United Nations described the chief causes as: Israeli settlements, restricted access to water, urban expansion at the expense of agricultural land, and construction of the wall (source)
  1. Food: A Basic Human Right. Everyone must have access to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food in sufficient quantity and quality to sustain a healthy life with full human dignity. Each nation should declare that access to food is a constitutional right and guarantee the development of the primary sector to ensure the concrete realization of this fundamental right.
  2. Agrarian Reform: A genuine agrarian reform is necessary which gives landless and farming people — especially women — ownership and control of the land they work and returns territories to indigenous peoples. The right to land must be free of discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, race, social class or ideology; the land belongs to those who work it.
  3. Protecting Natural Resources: Food Sovereignty entails the sustainable care and use of natural resources, especially land, water, and seeds and livestock breeds. The people who work the land must have the right to practice sustainable management of natural resources and to conserve biodiversity free of restrictive intellectual property rights. This can only be done from a sound economic basis with security of tenure, healthy soils and reduced use of agro-chemicals.
  4. Reorganizing Food Trade: Food is first and foremost a source of nutrition and only secondarily an item of trade. National agricultural policies must prioritize production for domestic consumption and food self-sufficiency. Food imports must not displace local production nor depress prices.
  5. Ending the Globalization of Hunger: Food Sovereignty is undermined by multilateral institutions and by speculative capital. The growing control of multinational corporations over agricultural policies has been facilitated by the economic policies of multilateral organizations such as the WTO, World Bank and the IMF. Regulation and taxation of speculative capital and a strictly enforced Code of Conduct for TNCs is therefore needed.
  6. Social Peace: Everyone has the right to be free from violence. Food must not be used as a weapon. Increasing levels of poverty and marginalization in the countryside, along with the growing oppression of ethnic minorities and indigenous populations, aggravate situations of injustice and hopelessness. The ongoing displacement, forced urbanization, repression and increasing incidence of racism of smallholder farmers cannot be tolerated.
  7. Democratic control: Smallholder farmers must have direct input into formulating agricultural policies at all levels. The United Nations and related organizations will have to undergo a process of democratization to enable this to become a reality. Everyone has the right to honest, accurate information and open and democratic decision-making. These rights form the basis of good governance, accountability and equal participation in economic, political and social life, free from all forms of discrimination. Rural women, in particular, must be granted direct and active decision-making on food and rural issues.
Image shows an infographic by Visualizing Palestine and Growing Palestine. The infographic starts with a bold statement in yellow font on a green background: “Israeli restrictions on Palestinian food sovereignty affect every item on this table.” Below, there is an illustration of common Palestinian food items on a round table with text detailing the types of restrictions Israel enforces on Palestinian food producers.
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Visualizing Palestine

Visualizing Palestine

Visualizing Palestine is a project that creates data-led, visual stories to advance a factual, rights-based narrative of Palestine and Palestinians