Thursday, December 13, 2018

Israel Sprays Gaza Border with Unknown Herbicides


By Martin Leeper - March 10, 2018
TAGS:
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Gaza] [agriculture] [Israeli border police] [environment]

The Gaza border with Israel is roughly 60 kilometers. From Erez crossing on the Northern border to Kerem Shalom crossing on the Southeastern tip, Israeli authorities control all manner of access to the Palestinian enclave.

Along the border fence there is a 300 to 500 meter security zone where development—roads, housing, planting trees—is forbidden. Due to the lack of development, the land adjacent to the security zone is often filled with agricultural plots where farmers grow a variety of crops.
 
On March 4th, Israel sprayed toxic herbicides over the security zone. The operation, according to the Israeli NGO Gisha, was meant to kill unwanted grasses in the security zone. However, due to the fluid, borderless nature of the environment, these herbicides inevitably damage the neighboring crops as well.
 
In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Nizar al-Wahedi of the Palestinian Agriculture Ministry said; “Israel has no right to spray herbicides on Palestinian farmlands.”   
 
The full story of these actions, however, are currently unknown. What the chemical composition of the substance is, is not understood.
 
Dr. Mustafa al-Hawi is an Environmental Professor at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza. He is a non-violent peace activist and international environmental advocate. For Dr. al-Hawi, the most important thing now is to learn what, exactly, has been added to the environment. Only then will they be able to determine the long term effects and risks at play.
 
A-Hawi hopes the UN or the NGOs in Gaza can create a team of investigators. “We need the international organizations to investigate these things and collect the evidence,” al-Hawi said.
 
“What they spray will spread,” al-Hawi said. “You can not say, this is an Israeli environment and this is a Palestinian environment.”
 
Al-Hawi has spoken with Israeli ministry officials and believes there is an honest chance for Israel and Palestine to work together over the use of land. “We share the same resources,” he said. “If you [Israel] allow your citizens to pollute Gaza today, the [next] day, it washes up in Tel-Aviv.”
 
In frustration, al-Hawi speaks of the shortsightedness of Israel only thinking of “security”. Using pesticides and herbicides to kill the plants on the border creates a desert. But while Israel sees a desert and sees security, al-Hawi looks ahead at the inability of upcoming generations to cultivate the land.
 
A decade long siege coupled with recent cuts to humanitarian aid has already brought Gaza to the brink of collapse. With a blockade, a political decision could change the policy from one day to the next. With the environment, however, it’s “the next generation that will pay the price,” al-Hawi concludes.
 

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