The Peasant Movement in Palestine: A Crucial Step Toward Defending the Rights of Farmers and Social Justice

The specificity of the Palestinian agricultural situation

The Palestinian reality from the perspective of the agriculture, especially on the work of the masses and institutions, is related to the specificity of the Palestinian situation, the situation of the conflict. The conflict in Palestine represents the longest, most severe and most violent colonial-settlement process – at least as witnessed in contemporary history in terms of the proliferation of colonial settlements, the exclusion of an entire people from their land, and the continuation of the cruel project with the support of the Western colonial powers. The occupation project has succeeded in ethnically cleansing Palestine of the greater part of the Palestinian people, seizing our land, and stealing our land. The land that is left is being gradually destroyed and replaced with capturing settlers.

The settler colonial project in Palestine has forced the Palestinians away from their land, and this has dissociated the Palestinian people not only from their land but also their culture, values and customs. The Palestinian people are historically dependent on and connected to agriculture, that is, we are an agricultural society.

The land is the focus of conflict and the Palestinian farmer is at the forefront of resistance

The reality imposed by the seizure of Palestine, the expulsion of its people, along with the continued occupation of Palestine and its agricultural sector – the largest sector of Palestinian society –creates a demand on the farmers: defend the land. This task has two dimensions, a social and nationalist. These two dimensions shape the task of defending the land, whether through movements, institutions, committees, associations, etc. The multidimensionality of the struggle makes it difficult and complex. The struggle is further complicated by the ongoing Israeli attack on Palestinian movements, institutions and committees, which the occupation authorities target because they recognize the importance of these bodies as part of the agricultural struggle. Finally, the occupation’s awareness of the importance of controlling of the land results in the direct targeting of individual farmers. This is a continuation of a struggle that began decades ago.

With the escalation of the situation in Palestine, the complexities of defending the land are becoming more and more complex at the same time as doing so is becoming increasingly important, not only for the agricultural movement but to maintain a harmony between the social and national.

It is necessary to point out that in the past decades there has been a preference for the national-political aspect in the work of most Palestinian social movements because of our direct and bloody confrontation with the Zionist project. Therefore, the national-political dimension is a large part of any social issues that concern the sectors of the Palestinian people. A state of harmony has not been created between the social and national aspects of many social issues that concern the sectors of the Palestinian people.

Because of all of the manifestations of displacement and Israeli control of the land, only part of our people remain in their homeland and continue to cling to the ground by doing agricultural work. Agriculture has remains a large part of our people’s life, especially in the territories occupied after 1967.

In general, dozens of committees and institutions have been deployed in Palestine to support the farmers in order to promote steadfastness and cohesion in the land. This support was either financial through the implementation of special agricultural projects in the Palestinian countryside, or technical and vocational support, to raise the level of advanced awareness of agricultural methods and techniques. This field became part of the interests of the political and social movement, recognizing the importance of such projects to both develop and improve the agricultural reality along with the national-struggle against the occupation and settlement development.

Formation and launching of social movements globally

In recent decades, many social movements have been taking place in the countries around the world. Their main concern is to defend the social sectors as part of a struggle for social justice and equality and to improve living conditions generally. But, these local movements are increasingly aware of the importance of international action and solidarity, especially since social demands are so similar across borders. The causes and circumstances of repression are often similar even in details, especially since the proliferation of neo-liberal policies and globalization around the world. This has led social movements to work on framing their work, mission and solidarity in a globalized way, which has opened new horizons of cooperation, solidarity and collective experience. Many seek to increase the clip of coordination and write policies of struggle with a global dimension.

The peasant movements are suffering the brunt of globalization. The Global Peasant Movement (The Peasantry of the World) was established in 1993 to form a broad socio-economic platform for the benefit of the peasantry. The struggle focused on the demands of social justice for farmers, the development and improvement of agriculture, and human and civil rights in their countries. It is a legal-social project to level these broad demands and highlight the issue of peasants as a global and humanitarian issue that requires the highest degree of communication and coordination. It is a progressive, democratic and fundamentally social path.

Palestine in the interests of global social movements

In the vision and activities of all anti-neoliberal social movements, the issue and the rights of the Palestinian people are increasingly main focus. This is because Palestine is an issue of human justice. As a member and founder of the International Council of the World Social Forum, Rev. Pierre Bodiff, said:

We may be confused about many issues and we disagree about many things in the forum, which includes thousands of institutions and social movements from the civil society in the world. Solidarity with the Palestinian people is a case and cause of human justice, which requires the utmost degree of solidarity and international support, especially from civil society movements.

Indeed, the state of support and solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom and humanity has been a current item in global civil society movements since the beginning of Israeli occupation.

Palestine membership in the World Federation of Peasants

Recognizing the importance of Palestinian involvement and coordination with the social movements at the regional and global levels, especially with the agricultural movements, the Palestinian Agricultural Work Committees has developed international relationships for many years through continuous communication with movements and coordination in highlighting the struggle of the Palestinian farmer on his land. This work was eventually recognized when Palestine received membership in the World Federation of Peasant, Via campesina along with the temporary designation of the Palestine branch as the coordinator for all Arab countries, which includes more than 200 million farmers. This structure will prevail until the formation of the Union of Arab Peasants with Morocco through the National University of the Agricultural Sector and Tunisia through the Association of One Million Rural Women. It thus establishes the expansion of regional and global action to provide a social platform for the struggle of peasants rights and the justice of their cause.

The internationalist project also contributes to framing the Palestinian cause in its national and political sense by raising global awareness of the difficult reality faced by the Palestinian farmer under Zionist colonialism. In Palestine, there can be no discussion on any issue of a desired social dimension without discussing the national dimension in relation to it.

Through the effective, systematic and targeted use of information and media along with coordination between the Palestinian Farmers’ Union and international agricultural movements, the suffering of the Palestinian farmer can be addressed in all its details. It can also create a state of solidarity across members of the World Federation. We must recognize the importance of the work of social movements and civil society movements in their struggle against the oppressive and neo-liberal policies in order to secure social justice for peasants. We must also maintain communication between movements with similar interests globally.

Starting the movement of the peasants in Palestine is an opportunity to trigger democratic pressure that could lead to laws and legislation that protect and support farmers, both at the official level and in the private sector. Membership in the World Federation of Peasants also contributes to the involvement of the Palestinian peasant movement in the struggle of global civil society movements for a world based on equality, mutual respect and true justice. Wars, hostility, exploitation of the goods of weak states, the acceleration of unemployment and poverty, marginalization and disparity among peoples are at the core of neoliberal policies and exploitative capitalism.

Food sovereignty is a model of social justice

Food has been controlled by globalized economic policies that are governed by neoliberalism and a capitalist market economy that creates transnational monopolies to control local agendas. This situation has affected everything related to peasants ‘realities, whether in terms of seeds, pesticides, plant quality, and market control. The deceptive slogan of “food security,” which initially seems like a good concept for agricultural life, in practice forms the crux of exploitative companies both globally and locally.

These companies, under the facade of humanitarianism, have turned tens of millions of farmers around the world into exploited tools to work the soil and rapidly produce food using fertilization and other means of mass production. These conditions of farming exploit farmers for profit without any regard to the environment, the nature of the soil, or the long-term interests of farmers, especially that of small-scale farmers. Tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of farmers are now scrambling to salute the interests of these companies under working conditions that in many cases resemble slavery.

In 1996, with the proliferation of social movements calling for realistic and just alternatives to neoliberalism, the International Via campesina (Peasants Road) came up with a compelling new vision: fighting for food sovereignty instead of so-called food security. Food sovereignty is concerned with the preserving the environment as well as humane conditions for farmers, especially young farmers. The implication of this agendas that farmers must control all aspects of agricultural production, from seed to marketing. Control of production among worker-farmers leads to national sovereignty and also challenges capitalist-corporate monopolies. It may seem at first glance that the concepts of food security and food sovereignty are similar in form, but in fact they are contradictory in terms of goal and vision.

The vision and policies of the peasantry as an alternative global social movement are needed in our Arab world, as the Arab world is made up of countries that are both agricultural and targeted directly –with force and cruelty – by global capitalist-corporate monopolies. The movement is needed especially in light of the weakness of our governments to control the country’s national sovereignty and development due to dependence on global capitalist financial instruments and claws, such as the World Bank. Agriculture in our countries, farmers and especially young people, suffer the brunt of this exploitative reality.

Therefore, the formation and launching of peasant movements according to the vision of the global Via campesina is an objective necessity for the benefit of farmers and for the benefit of national sovereignty in general. The involvement of the Arab peasants in the movement and their active membership opens up an important horizon for the globalization of the struggle for social justice for farmers.

The concept of food sovereignty, in its broad and applied sense, rejects farms and farmers as dehumanized tools for monopolistic corporations. Instead, food sovereignty says that farmers must be the masters of the cycle of agricultural production. The movement of the peasantry for food sovereignty and rights in any country is a sign of strength. This social struggle continues to development in a three-dimensional fashion: national, regional and global.

by Ahmad Jaradat