In July 2021, on the occasion of the 47th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, CETIM and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), a Palestinian peasant organisation aiming to promote the right of small-holder producers, sovereignty over natural resources, and the protection and defence of peasants’ rights, have submitted a statement to condemn the repression and systematic violations of human rights committed by the Israeli occupying forces and settler groups against the Palestinian peasants.
In Palestine, agriculture is the most significant economic sector, even though its contribution to the Palestinian economy has continued to diminish over the years. This decline is due to the Israeli occupation’s policies, characterised by the confiscation of land, restrictions of access and movement, damage to infrastructure, uprooting of trees, and the monopolisation over natural resources (in particular water sources, etc.). These policies aim to dismantle the Palestinian agricultural sector and in particular its capacity to produce and commercialize, in order to neutralise its capacity to supply adequate food to the population and to bring an entire people to their knees.
In this statement, CETIM and UAWC have underlined that it has now been broadly proven that the policies and practices of the Israeli occupation violate international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and in particular the rights enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. The practices of occupation are a blatant violation of the right to life and to self-determination of Palestinian peasants, nomads and fisher-folks, while also reflecting a permanent state of impunity as a result of the strategic importance of Israel on the international stage, which enables it to enjoy unconditional political support from major powers.
On the 7th of July 2021, an Israeli raid targeted the UAWC headquarters, causing severe damage. Afterwards, the Israeli authorities issued an order to close those headquarters. This attack is part of a strategy of persecution against this peasant organisation. In a statement, La Via Campesina – the largest international peasants’ movement, of which UAWC is the regional branch – stated:
“The Israeli military raid and closure order is part of a well-planned aggressive defamation and defunding campaign against not only UAWC but the Palestinian civil society at large. It is aimed at neutralizing any form of peaceful organization of the Palestinian people. The UAWC is not only one of the most active organizations in Palestine, but also spearheads the struggle for food sovereignty and peasant rights in the Arab region and North Africa. It also coordinates La Via Campesina’s regional articulation process of peasant movements the region. Through its work in and across rural Palestine, the UAWC has made extremely valuable and life-changing contributions to the lives of thousands of smallholder peasants, fishers, herders and agricultural workers.”
The CETIM condemns the Israeli attempt to dismantle the peasant organisation and urges UN mechanisms and all UN member states to make all possible efforts so that the Israeli government upholds the right of association and to freedom of expression of the UAWC and put an end to resorting to systematic violence. The CETIM and the UAWC will continue to seize UN mechanisms for the protection of human rights to condemn violations of Palestinian peasants’ rights and demand justice for Israeli crimes.