Issues Home About Contact Us Issue 21 - December 2020 عربى
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Agriculture as Resistance

Agricultural Resistance in Occupied Palestine: The Pillar of Steadfastness amid the Pandemic

The Palestinian farmer, the first and singularly most-effective weapon of resistance to the occupation, is even more consequential and effective at defending the land than any meager “peace process” negotiation. Realizing the value of agricultural land and the importance of agriculture as a means of subsistence for Palestinians, Israel has pressured the Palestinian team negotiating the Oslo Process to accept the majority of agricultural lands in the West Bank of Palestine as Area C. That meant that more than 67% of the West Bank’s agricultural lands remained directly under the complete control of the occupation and, in the same context, the occupation is keen to urbanize the occupied Palestinians, relegating them to the centers of cities and villages in the so-called Areas A (the rump of the Palestinian state). Thus, urbanization in the Palestinian context means preventing the survival and self-determination of the Palestinians in the rest of Palestine`s occupied lands.

Since 1967, Zionist/Israeli occupation forces rule by issuing multiple Military Orders to target all components and activities of the agricultural sector within the framework of preventing Palestinian cultivation and development of their land. This leads to desertion and degradation of agricultural lands, giving the occupation forces the opportunity to take advantage of the situation by using the illicit legal weapon of “unused land, whose ownership devolves to the state” [of the occupier; i.e., Israel], which pretext serves as a catch-22 and self-fulfilling prophesy. The statistics below during the period 2012–2016 show the scale of the Israeli occupation’s attack strategy to suppress agriculture as a means of resistance against colonialization:


Table 1: Israeli Attacks against Components of the Agricultural Sector



Agricultural lands

Agricultural roads

Fruit-bearing trees

Agricultural lands































































Source: Field research, Department of Monitoring Israeli Violations, Land Research Center, 2012–2016.


Israeli occupation forces’ targeting all aspects of the Palestinian agricultural sector indicates the occupation’s realization of the effectiveness of agriculture as steadfastness and resistance. Thus, it is the Palestinian farmers` hands that have planted and harvested the olives since time immemorial in the now-occupied land. It is the farmers’ feet that accompany the occupied Palestinian land to its abundance, and the breath of the steadfast farmer on his land that gives the land its fertility and bright, flavorful fruits. As with other nations, it is the farmer who maintains the heart of Palestine’s culture rooted in the indigenous people’s land.

As a lethal pandemic sweeps over the planet, a call goes out to reverse man’s inhumanity to man and halt conflict. It entreats everyone to respond through consensual alliance in the fight against an external foe that does not distinguish between one person and another. Rather it spreads without discrimination and reaps lives without mercy, without identity, and is not deterred by temporal borders.

However, this normal human instinct is not found in this occupier. Rather, he continues with his crimes against the Palestinian people, continues to confiscate lands, continues to demolish homes, continues to issue unjust Military Orders, and continues to uproot and destroy the olive tree.

The following table shows the rates of violations in the specific context of the Israeli occupation of Palestine’s West Bank before and after the pandemic. It reflects the redoubling of these measures, taking advantage of the harsh circumstance as the world is busy combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Table 2: Israeli Attacks against Components of the Agricultural Sector since COVID-19


Violations before the Pandemic (2019)

Violations during the Pandemic

Land confiscation – dunums (1,000m2)



Attacks on trees – number of trees



Demolition of structures



Threat of demolitions – incidents



Attacks on land and crops – dunums



Attacks on farmers – incidents



Conclusions and Recommendations

As the olive tree is a Palestinian national symbol of persistence on the land, the farmers, together, are understood to be the guardian and protector of the Earth, the fighter against the occupier’s larcenous ambitions and designs on the land of Palestine. So, as other Palestinian civil society organizations and institutions, Land Research Center (LRC) seeks to strengthen steadfastness in defense of the human rights to adequate housing and land protect the Palestinian farmer, reduce losses and enhance resilience at this extremely lethal stage of the occupation. The Center’s vision is grounded in general principles to optimize current strengths, namely:

  • The Palestinian person joins the farmer in love for the land of Palestine and is extremely attached to it as the pillar of steadfastness.
  • Despite the relatively small area of ​​Palestine and the loss of most of its land due to colonization and occupation, and despite the drought and desertification of the region and the scarcity of water it faces, Palestine still possesses a great biological diversity, both in the classification of lands and soils, the diversity of the climate and the diversity of animal and plant life, as well as agricultural produce suitable as means of subsistence.
  • The steadfastness of the peasant farmers deserves support to preserve the land of Palestine and to suppress the onslaught of settler colonialism.
  • The Palestinian Bedouins are to be credited with preserving many of the lands targeted by the occupation, and their presence has thwarted many settler-colony plans.
  • The residents of the Palestinian refugee camps have enormous human energy; however, their energies are not invested consistently to optimize their potential.
  • The Palestinian people possess numerous national and non-governmental institutions that protect the Palestinian social fabric and count among the most-important tools of resistance at all stages. These include private organizations; universities; research centers; professional associations; cultural, sports, charitable and cooperative societies; and professional, labor and student unions in all sectors and specializations.
  • All the lands of Palestine are regulated by a large number of land laws and the occupation’s Military Orders, which are often overlapping and sometimes contradictory, always with complex regulations. While this is a problem, it may also constitute a motivation for revolutionary decisions by individuals and groups.
  • The system of municipalities, village councils and local committees that the Palestinian National Authority has helped develop is capable of achieving some measure of protection for the Palestinian social fabric and economy, if it cooperates meaningfully with Palestinian civil society institutions.

Based on these principles, LRC recommends developing a permanent methodology to enhance the steadfastness of the indigenous Palestinians on their land, which is the best guarantee to resist and thwart the plans of the occupation. This requires an in-depth collective effort and, on this path, proposes the following:

  • Promoting the municipal committees and village councils established by the Land Research Center, and continuing to create more of them, until each municipality effectively addresses the issues of its land and its citizens as a kind of distribution of responsibilities and burden sharing to facilitate tasks.
  • Distributing unexploited public, communal and endowment lands to (non-owner) farmers and Bedouins on condition that they reclaim, live on and protect them. This is not to exclude outright ownership of land plots, or parts of them, so that they could better defend them, since these lands are always targeted by the occupation for usurpation under the pretext that they have no proprietor.
  • Investing in the energy of the Palestinian refugee camp youth who have no place to reside inside the camp and have no way to buy lands outside. These youth could be eligible for tenure on state treasury lands and endowment lands distributed to them at affordable rents, or without fees and taxes, in order to protect Palestinian inhabitants’ tenure on them. Such an arrangement would be grounded in formal criteria and binding conditions that would protect the land from settler-colony expansion.
  • Renewing the prohibition of the sale of lands, as Palestinian land is not for sale.
  • Reducing the anachronistic phenomena of landlords and feudal land holdings, as these never proved to protect the land.
  • Focusing on small-scale and family agricultural and industrial projects that enhance resilience and resistance to pressure from the occupation.
  • Reducing mega-projects that limit opportunities for small producers and their economic viability by forcing them to cooperate with the occupation, in order to avoid economic collapse, thus breaking any firm national position in the face of the occupation.
  • Focusing on general agriculture and home-farming techniques (vegetable, poultry or other animal) that produce food needed for local Palestinian consumption, and not for export. This would increase the capacity to bear the burdens of national situations such as civil disobedience, curfew, or closures that may occur at any moment.
  • Strengthening Palestinian collective action programs through cohesion among the official, public and civil institutions, and developing real cooperative work that is not organizationally politicized.

No doubt the indigenous people of Palestine is living a protracted crisis and complex epidemic of occupation that challenges the nation and denies its subsistence. People living and working on the land face these challenges bare chested on behalf of the entire nation, and they risk liquidation with no alternative but to uphold the Palestinian people’s human right to the land of Palestine and permanent tenure on it. Facing these challenges demands struggle in various ways to preserve this historical entitlement that will be restored one day when the nation awakens to realize its transcendent destiny.

Jamal Talab al-Amleh and Murad Alhousani

Land Research Center

Jerusalem, Palestine


See also from Land Research Center:

Israeli Occupation of Palestine’s West Bank during the COVID-19 Pandemic

الاحتلال والأرض الفلسطينية في ظل وباء الكورونا

الهدم الذاتي لمساكن الفلسطينيين في القدس: جريمة احتلالية مضاعفة بحق الإنسانية


Photo on front page: Palestinian Mahfudha `Awda, 60, cries as she hugs one of her olive trees in the West Bank village of Salem, 27 November 2005. Mahfudha and other villagers lost dozens of their olive trees after they were chopped down by Israeli settlers from the nearby Elon Morei settler colony. Source: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP via Getty Images. Image on this page: Map of Areas A, B and C in the occupied West Bank, as determined by the Oslo Agreements. Source: UN OCHA.


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