ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La zone fertile de Gaza saccagée à jamais
by Hassane Zerrouky
Translated Saturday 31 January 2009, by
Farmers beaten and thrown onto the streets, their land ravaged, their plantations burned and their houses destroyed: such is the terrible report drawn up by the PARC (Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee).
In a message addressed to French friends on 21 January, Ahmed Sourani, one of the directors of the NGO PARC, wrote: “This morning I went with my family to visit our little orchard, in the east of Gaza city. We found it had been completely destroyed. Not one single green branch remained. Most of the trees had been planted by my children. Other neighbouring orchards have suffered the same fate. Many small-time farmers are experiencing the same situation.”
The NGO describes itself as a secular and democratic organisation. Its head has composed a damning report on the agricultural situation in Gaza. The following extracts speak for themselves:
“Farming activity has become total chaos due to the thousands of tanks and military vehicles that have crossed the fields, and the bulldozers that have destroyed the arable land and plantations they’ve passed through. The Israeli army has unrelentingly attacked farmers in the isolated areas near the border. It has punished all those who lived there. These people are small-time farmers who lead a simple life and tend to their fields and animals, if they have any. The soldiers beat the farmers, tore off their clothes, blindfolded them and tied their hands behind their backs. They crammed the whole family into a single room for long hours in an inhumane situation.
The saddest and most terrible attack against agriculture is the destruction of all the cultivated fields (…). The fertile area in Gaza measures 175,000 hectares, 50,000 of which have been damaged (…). As a result, 50% of farmers have lost their property, thousands of farmers and their families are without work or shelter and have become a burden to society. The border area happens to be the most fertile part of the Gaza strip. At PARC, we are absolutely furious because this area is the Gazan food basket. It represents the emergency food reserve for the whole region.” (…)
“The material and financial losses caused by the war have been estimated at two billion dollars, including 50% for agriculture.” Not even PARC’s headquarters was spared. “The Israeli army struck and damaged the building, made up of two houses, then used it for military purposes. All the computers were destroyed. The folders and files belonging to PARC and other organisations were thrown outside and scattered across the fields. Other farming equipment was ruined and destroyed.”