By: George Kurzom
A tobacco field in Jenin district
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons:
Although the Palestinian government programs are aiming to end the dependence of the Palestinian economy on the Israeli economy, they do not provide direct and specific mechanisms to break and end this dependency. In fact, the role of the Palestinian Authority is focused mainly on providing services and facilities to the private capital and strengthening its role by enacting legislations and regulations.
The chaos of free market and violations perpetrated by the Israeli occupation did not only lead to the deterioration of the Palestinian agricultural production but also generated dangerous Palestinian practices in the agricultural sector that seriously threaten its existence.
One of the recent examples is the widespread cultivation of toxic herbs, particularly tobacco, in different areas of the West Bank, especially in Marj Ben Amer (Jenin) that is considered one of the vast and most fertile areas in the West Bank. In fact, the Green areas (planted with poisonous herbs) are currently posing a deadly threat to the agricultural lands and soil and are causing an environmental and agricultural disaster due to tobacco cultivation along with extensive and random cement expansion that has been underway for several years.
With the absence of farmers’ protection, including the agricultural insurance law, a large number of farmers moved towards the very profitable cultivation of tobacco. Currently, the cultivated tobacco area in the northern governorates of the West Bank expands over tens of thousands of dunums, at the expense of horticulture and field crops
Scientific studies in different tobacco-producing countries have proved the devastating impact of tobacco cultivation on soil and its essential elements such as phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen, manganese, magnesium, copper and iron; in fact the decline of these elements in the soil is nearly 20 times higher than other agricultural crops.
In addition, the pesticides dependent crops are still dominant in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It is worth noting that the Israeli companies are the main and sole source for these pesticides and fertilizers and only a few are imported from outside Israel, which require Israeli approval.
Essentially, the justification for the use of certain pesticides in the West Bank and Gaza Stripe is often based on the claim that these pesticides are "licensed" in the EU, USA or Israel. Such a justification is unconvincing as the license of a specific pesticide in the USA or Europe does not mean that it does not cause serious and fatal diseases, as evidenced by periodic declarations from international health organizations that this or that group of pesticides cause serious and chronic diseases, despite the fact that they have been allowed for use since many years.
Translated by: Ghadeer Kamal Zaineh