Thursday, March 22, 2018

Launching of new social movement La Via Campesina in Palestine

By Elizabeth Jenkins - March 05, 2018
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [agriculture] [Occupation] [Olive Trees]

On Tues. 28 Feb, twenty representatives of agriculture organisations and movements from across the West Bank gathered in Ramallah to plan ahead for future actions.

Among them was the Palestinian branch of La Via Campesina, an international solidarity movement defending peasant agriculture, officially launched in Nov. 2017.
La Via Campesina was formed in 1993, with the specific aim to bring together the millions of small and medium size farmers, indigenous people, landless people, rural women and youth to challenge “corporate driven agriculture that destroys social relations and nature;” according to their website.
The largest sector of the economy in Palestine is agriculture. Historically, Palestinians have depended on land for income.
Defending agriculture and its workers takes on a particular significance in the context of Israeli occupation and colonial practices.
La Via Campesina Palestine conference committee and establishment commission member, Ahmad Jaradat, pointed to the effects of the confiscation of land to make way for settlements.
“[These practices] also prevent the Palestinians from implementing their national rights to have their state,” Jaradat told Palestine Monitor.
In this context, the need for an umbrella organisation is all the more pressing, to coordinate the many different agricultural organisations and challenge the harmful practices of the Israeli occupation.
Such is the role of the Palestinian branch of La Via Campesina, which has emerged from the many international relationships developed by the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC).
La Via Campesina has been present in Palestine before. For many years, a yearly delegation was sent out from Brazil to assist during the olive harvest season.
La Via Campesina would often voice concern regarding Israeli violating practices – such as land confiscation and the uprooting and burning of olive trees – on their website and at conferences, circulating information and condemning such practices.
Jaradat hopes the establishment of a Palestinian branch will lead to a more systemic involvement from La Via Campesina, as opposed to a relation based on isolated events.
When asked by Palestine Monitor what the movement hoped to achieve in terms of concrete policy, Jaradat explained the aim is to increase democratic pressure and lobby for laws that protect the rights of farmers.
He gave the example of a law that would compensate farmers in the case of a bad season.
Last month, a demonstration organised by the Palestinian branch of La Via Campesina was held in Ramallah, calling on the Palestinian Authority to provide more food security for farmers.
The Palestinian branch is currently the coordinator for the Middle East, and La Via Campesina also has official branches in Tunisia and Morocco.
The multi-level dynamic of the organisation is particularly appealing for Jaradat.
Indeed, one of the objectives is to raise awareness about the settler-colonial practices of Israel in order to foment solidarity and support.

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