The Destruction of Food Systems as a Means for (Palestinian) Erasure
Complementary to Wolfe’s (2006) notion of settler colonialism as requiring an “elimination of the native”, Fanon writes in The Wretched of the Earth (1963) that mere survival on colonised land is an act of resistance (Clare, 2013, p. 69). By extension, he argues, the production of food is necessarily a site of combat: “every date grown is a victory…” Fanon writes, “the sole obsession is the need to fill that ever-shrinking stomach, however little it demands” (p. 232, as cited by Clare, 2013, p. 69). What logically follows then, is a mission for the colonizer to either control or destroy the means for subsistence of the colonized: a mission that agents of the Zionist project have evidently embarked on, arguably reifying its status as a settler colonial project. From the establishment of the state of Israel to the present, Zionist agents have actively curtailed Palestinian food production both in its efforts to seize and expand what originally constituted Israel in 1948 (Abu Awwad, 2016, p. 543). Whilst at the turn of the twentieth century Palestine had a predominantly agrarian economy marked by a traditional subsistence production, Israel’s establishment and Al-Nakba in 1948 led to the loss of ownership of and expulsion of farmers from over three quarters of Palestine’s arable land, forcing many to flee and resulting in food insecurity for those who stayed (Abu Awwad, 2016, p. 542). In the remaining territories, now occupied by Israel, a combination of land grabbing, destruction of farming communities and the expulsion of peasants, deliberate water deprivation and the restrictions on the movement of produce in and out of the territories have brought about an agrarian crisis for Palestine, resulting in extreme levels of food insecurity and poverty in these regions (Salzmann, 2018, p. 18). For example, where in occupied Gaza agriculture once acted as an economic safety net for employment, a combination of regular Israeli raids and “access restricted zones” have led to widespread unemployment, where 70% of farmers currently live below the poverty line, in addition to resulting in food insecurity and malnutrition in the region at large (Zurayk et al., 2012, p. 9). Evidently, food production has been a target in the Zionist projects’ struggle for establishing and expanding land, arguably as it undermines the means of subsistence for Palestinian population, necessitating their migration or resulting in outright starvation.