Monday, February 16, 2009

you can't have tabbouleh without parsley farmers


North American versions of tabbouleh recipes call for more bulgur than parsley, but in Middle Eastern recipes, lots of parsley is a must. And you never just make a smidge (that is, the Canadian style of cooking where you count out exact serving-sizes per person), you make a huge bowl, enough to feed everyone plus. Think bunches of parsley, bunches and bunches of verdant, springy, deep green, fresh-scented parsley.

In the Middle East, parsley is a staple. You cannot live without parsley.

photo from inGaza.

Parsley farming in the Gaza Strip, however, has its hazards.

On January 27, 27 yr old Arwaan was shot in the neck and killed while picking parsley and spinach. He was 700 metres from the Green Line, inside Gaza. Israeli jeeps opened fire with machine guns on the farmers, killing Arwaan instantly.

Below is an excerpt of an eye-witness account of Israeli soldiers firing at parsley farmers in the Gaza Strip 2 wks ago, written by a Canadian human rights worker who was there with other solidarity workers trying to help the farmers harvest their parsley. Goodness knows the people of Gaza NEED FOOD! Why don't the Israeli soldiers stop their harassment of the people of Gaza?

Shooting at Farmers, What Gives Israel the Right?

"As the farmers tried to leave with their donkey carts, the shots continued. The two carts were eventually able to make it away, down the ruddy lane, a lane eaten by tank and bulldozer tracks from the land invasion weeks before. Some of us accompanied the carts away, out of firing range, then returned. There were still farmers on the land and they needed to evacuate.

As we stood, again arms still raised, still empty-handed, still proclaiming thus, the Israeli soldiers’ shooting drew much nearer. Those whizzing rushes were more frequent and undeniably close to my head, our heads. The Italian film crew accompanying us did not stop filming, nor did some of us with video cameras.

We announced our intention to move away, the soldiers shot. We stood still, the soldiers shot. At one point I was certain one of the farmers would be killed, as he had hit the ground again but in his panic seemed to want to jump up and run. I urged him to stay flat, stay down, and with our urging he did. The idea was to move as a group, a mixture of the targeted Palestinian farmers and the brightly-noticeable international accompaniers. And so we did, but the shots continued, rapidly, hitting within metres of our feet, flying within metres of our heads.

I’m amazed no one was killed today, nor that limbs were not lost, maimed.

The human rights workers called the Canadian embassy in Tel Aviv to report the shots by Israeli soldiers. Here is the lame response and advice to the Canadian human rights worker, which, once again, blames Palestinians for being on their own land and exonerates the continuing Israeli obstructions, threats to safety, and dispossessing Palestinians of their lands:

"My embassy rang me up, after we’d managed to get away from the firing: “We’re told you are being shot at. Can you give us the precise location, and maybe a landmark, some notable building nearby.”

I told Heather about the half-demolished house to the south of where we had been, and that we were on Palestinian farmland. After some further questioning, it dawned on her that the shooting was coming from the Israeli side. “How do you know it is Israeli soldiers shooting at you?” she’d asked. I mentioned the 4 jeeps, the soldiers on the mound, the shots from the soldiers on the mound (I didn’t have time to go into past experiences with Israeli soldiers in this very area and a little further south, similar experience of farmers being fired upon while we accompanied them.).

Heather asked if the soldiers had stopped firing, to which I told her, ‘no, they kept firing when we attempted to move away, hands in the air. They fired as we stood still, hands in the air. “ She suggested these were ‘warning shots’ at which I pointed out that warning shots would generally be in the air or 10s of metres away. These were hitting and whizzing past within metres.

She had no further thoughts at time, but did call back minutes later with Jordie Elms, the Canadian attache in the Tel Aviv office, who informed us that “Israel has declared the 1 km area along the border to be a ‘closed military zone’.”

When I pointed out that Israel had no legal ability to do such, that this closure is arbitrary and illegal, and that the farmers being kept off of their land or the Palestinians whose homes have been demolished in tandem with this closure had no other options: they needed to work the land, live on it… Jordie had no thoughts. He did, however, add that humanitarian and aid workers need to “know the risk of being in a closed area”.

Meaning, apparently, that it is OK with Jordie that Israeli soldiers were firing on unarmed civilians, because Israeli authorities have arbitrarily declared an area out of their jurisdiction (because Israel is “not occupying Gaza” right?!) as a ‘closed area’.

Filmed in Abassan Jedida, Gaza Strip on Feb. 02, 2009.
Returning to farm the land where Israeli soldiers had opened fire on them 2 days previously, farmers and HRWs [human rights workers] were able to harvest the parsley crop for only half an hour, before soldiers again began to shoot. A number of shots were fired into the air, before the soldiers started to aim in the direction of the farmers and international accompaniment. Bullets were heard to whiz past, close to peoples heads.

The Canadian human rights worker's eye witness account continues:

"If Israeli authorities recognized Palestinian farmers’ need to work the land, Palestinian civilians’ right to live in their homes, then they would not have arbitrarily imposed a 1 km ban on existence along the border, from north to south. What gives Israel the right to say that now the previously-imposed 300 m ban on valuable agricultural land next to the order extends to 1 full kilometre, and that this inherently gives Israel the right to have bulldozed 10s of houses in this “buffer zone” and ravaged the farmland with military bulldozers and tanks.

Furthermore, what gives Israel the right to assume these impositions are justifiable, and the right to shoot at farmers continuing to live in and work on their land (as if they had a choice. Recall the size of Gaza, the poverty levels?)?

Nothing does.


Merche Pallarés said...

Israel is slowly but surely strangling the Palestinians of Gaza. It's their way to reach their "final solution". Next, you watch, it'll be a 2km barrier. How SHAMEFUL and CRUEL!! Hugs, M.

northshorewoman said...

And it's happening in the West Bank, too. The Apartheid Wall not only encroaches on the Palestinian side but there is also a wide so-called "no-man's land" barrier created there, too. And further, this is still the case in Lebanon, too. Farmers there cannot access their lands along the Lebanese Israeli border. Land and People blogspot posted on that just a few days ago. So the problem is that this land theft in the name of Israeli security dispossesses farmers of their right to farm their lands and feed their people.