Hatem Khadeir (r), with his brothers Ahmed
(l) and Jafer (c), in front of their rented farmland.

 

Hatem Khadeir (34) rents 5 dunnums of
farmland with his brother Ahmed (43) in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip,
just 700 meters from Israel’s border. 
Their older brother Jafer (52) rents another 5 dunnums of farmland
closer to the border.  On the surface it
is an idyllic life, with all three brothers working together on the land to
raise their families, and before the border closed, it was: “We farmed bell peppers,
potatoes, honeydew, onions, flowers and strawberries.  We were able to provide for 50% of our needs
by farming.  Now, we cannot provide for
any of our needs from farming.  Our lives
are completely different because of Israel’s closing of our borders.”

 

 

Hatem and his brothers are excellent
farmers, producing a high quality crop: “Before the border closure, we were
exporting 80% of our crop to the West Bank and abroad.  Last season we were only able to export 10%
of our crop abroad.  We were only able to
export this small amount because of a program funded by a European country.  All of our land is now funded by this
program, but we still barely meet our needs.” 
The majority of their crop goes to the local market now, where it is
difficult to make an income due to the low cost of produce in Gaza: “In the
Gaza Strip, 1kg of strawberries costs 3 NIS, but in Holland we can sell it for
20 NIS.  We lose a lot of income by not
being able to export our goods.”

 

Hatem and his brothers discovered after the
closure where their products were being shipped: “We never knew who we were
exporting to before, but after the closure we found out that we were exporting
to European countries, including Germany, Denmark and Holland.  We hope that these countries will one day
place pressure on Israel to allow exports again.”  Until that day though, they have to cope with
Israel’s difficult export process: “We have to ship through Israel, which can
be very difficult.  Our produce gets
ruined because of the security checks required by Israel.  We know that Israel is destroying our
products because someone sent us pictures of our products, which we had worked
so hard to grow, lying out in the sun at the border crossing to be ruined.  Last season, in January, we were only able to
export 2 truckloads of flowers and 2 truckloads of strawberries, in total.” Israel
only allowed approximately 45 truckloads of exports, in total, in January 2012.  Before the border closure, they allowed 70
truckloads of exports daily.

 

This loss of income has been felt by the
families of Hatem and his brothers: “Before the closure, in the summer the
children get to do something fun, like attend a camp.  There is no money for this anymore, so they
have to help out on the farm during the summer instead.”  Without assistance from an organization like
PARC, they would not be able to farm or support their family at all: “If we did
not receive help, we could not afford fertilizer or products.  We would only be able to plant 1 dunnum of
farmland and the quality would not be good. 
But, even with help from Europe, to get a good product, we do have to go
into debt.  We can no longer afford help,
we have had to reduce the amount of fertilizer we can use and our equipment is
wearing out.  Still, even with help, we
are going into debt to farm our land.”

 

After 21 years of farming this land, Hatem
knows no other trade: “All I know how to do is farm.  I tried to use my own car as a taxi once, but
that is not my trade.”  He is a Global
Gap certified farmer, capable of producing a product that meets European
standards.  If the border closure was
lifted by Israel, Hatem and his brothers would be able to succeed: “We hope
that we can export our products again one day, but Israel will not allow
it.  It is so hard and hopeless. But, we
hope still.”

 

The 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.


To see a video narrative given by Hatem Khadeir  please  click here