Shaath in his office at PARC.
the last 3 years, Yousef Shaath has been the Cash Crops Project Manager for the
Agricultural Relief Committee (PARC) in Gaza City. This particular project has been operating
since 2006, just before the closure of the Gaza Strip: “The Cash Crops Project
helps farmers by supplying them with inputs for their crops, providing
necessary training to properly grow the crops, capacity building to help them
succeed and, finally, marketing assistance to get the products outside of
farmers assisted throughout the Gaza Strip, this program has helped enormously
during a tough economic time: “Before the closure of the border, farmers in
Gaza would plant 1,000 dunnums of carnations each year without help; they would
plant 3,000 dunnums of strawberries without help. With the closure of the borders, there is no
market for these products. Last season,
we were able to support 187 dunnums of carnations and 350 dunnums of
strawberries. Next year, even less will
be planted if the border closure is not lifted.” It is currently estimated that only 127
dunnums of carnations can be supported next year, a significant decrease of
almost 96% in just 5 years.
problem facing PARC is an inability to get exports out of the Gaza Strip. At the moment, the only possibility to get
products to Europe is through Israel, who has created a system that almost
guarantees that Gazan products will not leave the Gaza Strip: “Before, at the
Karni crossing, it was easier to get exports out. Products were always refrigerated and the
process was smooth. At Kerem Shalom, the process
is long and dangerous for the products.
When our trucks arrive, we have to put the products out in an open area,
which is not refrigerated or even covered.
Then, after the product is inspected, it is carried on a truck, which is
also not refrigerated or even covered.
Only then is the product transferred onto a proper transport
vehicle. If the products are left
outside a fridge for more than 20 minutes, the quality begins to decline. The border officials know this. So, even if we can get a truck of products to
the border, there is no guarantee it can be exported. Out of the 10 trucks that reach the border,
maybe 5 or 6 end up exporting products of a good quality.” At the moment, Israel only allows 10 trucks
per day, maximum. However, although the
border is supposed to be open 5 days a week, Israel often closes it with little
notice, which means that yet another 10 trucks of products will not be
exported. In January, Israel only
allowed the exportation of 1,205,550 flowers and 172 tons of strawberries, 2,384,300
flowers and 33 tons of strawberries in February, 2,384,300 flowers and 7 tons of
cherry tomatoes in March, and 2,490,000 flowers in April. This reflects the significant decrease in
exports noted by PARC.
PARC does their best to help farmers, without a lifting of the border closure,
there is little they can do: “Gaza has excellent farmers. They are highly trained and Global Gap
certified. If the border was open, there
would be possibilities and profit. We
have high quality products here and they are well-known. If the border was open, these farmers would
not need our help, they could be self-sufficient again.”
Cash Crops Project was designed to be a temporary measure to assist Palestinian
farmers during the tough times of the closure: “This was intended to be a
temporary measure. [PARC] has no
pressure tool to persuade the Israelis.
We need more pressure by the international community and donors.” Israel claims that exporting presents a
security risk, but Yousef points out that the closure “affects hundreds of
families, increases unemployment, poverty and a potential for violence. When people see no light at the end of the
tunnel, there is always potential for violence.”
Cash Crops Project, while providing short-term assistance, is unsustainable
under the current closure regime: “2 years ago, we helped about 47 farmer’s plant
carnations, 80 farmer’s plant strawberries and 50 farmer’s plant vegetables. In total, we helped about 180 farmers that
year. We are optimistic that the border
will open one day and we plan for it.
However, we cannot support the farmers forever.”
closure of the Gaza Strip, enacted by Israel as a form of ‘economic warfare,’
constitutes collective punishment, and is explicitly prohibited under Article
33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The
closure regime also violates a number of provisions of international law,
including, for example, the obligation under Article 43 of the Hague
Regulations to maintain the material conditions under which the occupied
population live. Given, inter alia, the resultant poverty in the
Gaza Strip and the foreign aid needed to support the population, it is clear
that Israel’s policy also violates its obligation under international human
rights law to ensure the progressive realization of economic, social and
cultural rights in the Gaza Strip.
see a video narrative given by Yousef Shaath please click here
 Al-Bassiouni v. The Prime
Minister, HCJ 9132/07 (not published), 30 January 2008, from the State’s
response from 1 November 2007, para. 44.