Click to go to the Subscriber Log In Page
Go to menu with buttons for all pages on BC
Click here to go to the Home Page
Est. April 5, 2002
July 19, 2018 - Issue 751

Bookmark and Share

Israel's New Form of Warfare
Against Palestinians:
Farm Chemicals


"The use of dangerous chemicals in the manner that
Israel has used them and still uses them and, for the
purposes they intend, is nothing less than a human rights
violation and a violation of international law, but neither
Israel, nor the U.S., its big brother in such operations,
pays much attention to such laws and conventions."

Glyphosate is just a popular farm chemical, designed by Monsanto to be used with its seed for genetically modified crops around the world, right? Under the guise of spraying Israeli crops, it happens to kill crops of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and they use it elsewhere, as well.

The United Nations has declared glyphosate, the principle ingredient of Monsanto's RoundUp herbicide, to be a likely carcinogen, but that hasn't stopped the spraying of it in close proximity to Gaza crop fields. Wind drift has taken care of the rest, according to Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper. The glyphosate killed crops.

The UN warning about the chemical has not stopped it from being the most popular herbicide in the U.S., whether it is used on farms or in suburban landscaping. It's everywhere. Glyphosate, better known as RoundUp, the trade name of the Monsanto chemical, was designed to be used with genetically manipulated crops or GMOs, which are engineered to be resistant to the killing properties of glyphosate, which kills the weeds among the crops. It was supposed to be a boon to farmers around the world who, with a spray tank, could wipe out the weeds that choked out their crops. All you had to do was buy the GMO seeds, raise the GMO crops and buy RoundUp for your sprayer. It was easy, farmers were told.

What they were not told is that glyphosate is rather persistent and, for developing country farmers, quite expensive, as are the GMO seeds that must be purchased from Monsanto that will resist the toxic material that is sprayed on them. Farmers in India, for example, already indebted to banks and other lenders, found the expense of altered seeds and the herbicide to be too much debt to deal with. As a result, farmer suicides were reported to be alarmingly higher than ever in recent years. Inroads into the farm economies of other developing countries had similar effects on farming communities. So much for the character of glyphosate and Monsanto, which this year has been purchased by Bayer, one of the world's largest chemical companies, for a reported $60 billion. Thus, Monsanto's name will all but disappear in time, but the effects of its toxic chemical will live long afterward.

The use of glyphosate in Israel is another matter and the way it is being used there is a matter of undeclared warfare, according to Haaretz. While the Israel Defense Force (IDF) has said that the spraying along the fence of the Gaza Strip is for the benefit of Israeli farmers and for security reasons, officials must know how the use of farm chemicals can affect neighbors, as they do in the U.S., where there is some consideration for neighboring farms when they are used. In Israel, the winds carry the sprayed chemical far into Gaza, destroying crops as it drifts and settles. It makes no distinction between crops and weeds, simply destroying what it contacts.

The Red Cross, which rarely comments on such matters, informed Haaretz of the following: “Some of the crops located between 100 and 900 meters were completely destroyed, including in some of the areas rehabilitated by the ICRC. [as part of a project to renew the earning capacity of farmers on land damaged by IDF attacks – A.H.] Irrigation pools located within one kilometer were also contaminated. The chemicals used for spraying stay in the soil for months and even years, and may have negative health consequences for people who consume contaminated crops and/or inhale the herbicide.” The paper noted: “The Red Cross message is clear. The damage goes beyond the immediate economic damage caused by the loss of the crops; the spraying has far-reaching health implications.”

Glyphosate and similar chemicals have drifted as much as two kilometers into Gaza, even into some areas that were being rehabilitated after some of the destruction caused by the IDF. Gaza is a small enclave that contains more than 1.8 million souls and is called by many “the world's largest prison,” because Israel controls much of the life of the Strip and its people. Whatever moves in or out of Gaza is controlled by Israel, even to those seeking medical treatment outside, including pregnant women, who are often forced to wait at checkpoints for official permission, though birth might be imminent.

Agricultural land is at a premium in Gaza and every square foot of land is precious to them because, if they can't grow it, food must be purchased from outside and, therefore, Israel determines what foodstuffs can cross into the Strip. Palestinian farmers are forced to put up with many barriers to their productive lives, including being denied access to their farm fields and harassment while they are working them, on those occasions when they are allowed access.

When any land is lost, any progress toward self-sufficiency is slowed or halted. This is in a living space that has been partially destroyed by the IDF from time to time, so that electricity, potable water, and sewage treatment are hard to come by and that deprivation has a profound effect on the general health of Gazans. Destruction of food crops is a violation of human rights when it is done deliberatly, so the IDF has said that the spraying close to the border fence is inadvertent, but they surely know the direction of the wind, the wind speed and the strength of the spray, as anyone who uses such chemicals would know. It appears to be a deliberate operation, with a ready-made excuse that they are either spraying Israel crops or clearing vegetation from the fence area for security purposes. They know.

It is an atrocity perpetrated against the Palestinians, who are seen as lesser beings by many in Israel and, especially by Prime Minister Netanyahu and other officials who determine the destiny of the millions of Palestinians who live in the Strip, in Israel, and in the West Bank. It may seem to be one of the minor offenses of Israel against Palestinians, but it is an important one, as it affects the health of all who live in Palestinian enclaves that are principally controlled by Israel. There has been little, if any, compensation paid to Palestinians for loss of crops by Israel.

According to Haaretz, however, back in the 2000s, the same glyphosate and similar chemicals were used to try to cleanse the desert of Bedouins, who had crop fields in the Negev Desert. The Bedouins are interlopers, according to the Israel Lands Administration, occupying state lands. In their effort to remove them, their crops were sprayed with lethal herbicides, including glyphosate. The aerial spraying replaced the removal of crops by mechanical means, such as tractors and bulldozers, because the latter methods required Israel to have crews on the ground, where they were subject to rallies and protests by the Bedouin.

The use of dangerous chemicals in the manner that Israel has used them and still uses them and, for the purposes they intend, is nothing less than a human rights violation and a violation of international law, but neither Israel, nor the U.S., its big brother in such operations, pays much attention to such laws and conventions. It's the results that count and they get results. While it is true that such offenses are committed around the world every day, Israel's treatment of Palestinians is a flash point that rightly has the attention of nations and peoples around the world. It will take action on the part of human rights advocates in all of those places to see a change in Israel's unique offensive against Palestinian farmers. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.

Bookmark and Share




is published every Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

Perry NoName: A Journal From A Federal Prison-book 1
Ferguson is America: Roots of Rebellion by Jamala Rogers