September 30 Day of Action for Gaza Fishers and Farmers

PSN has endorsed the September 30 Cross-Canada and International Day of Action for Gaza Fishers and Farmers, called for by the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) in Palestine, and over the September 29th – 30th will be handbilling in various locations to about the struggles faced by Gaza’s fishers and farmers in trying to maintain their livelihoods in the face of Isarel’s siege

About the Day of Action for Gaza Fishers and Farmers

The farmers and fishers of Gaza, Palestine are under siege as they work to defend their land and sea from occupation and continue their harvest and their livelihoods. Many people in Gaza have always relied on the land and the sea for their livelihood. Generations of Palestinian fishers have worked the sea, and farmers harvested the land, to support their communities and their lives. Today, the fishers and farmers of Gaza are under attack – braving death and imprisonment to continue to harvest the land and sea. The Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) in Palestine has called for international action and solidarity to support fishers and farmers under siege.

The UAWC, a grassroots organization that works to support Palestinian agricultural workers and develop their steadfastness on their land, connected with the Vancouver Delegation to Gaza on its recent delegation, and has initiated a call to organizations across Canada, and around the world, to hold events, actions and protests in solidarity with Fishers and Farmers under attack in Gaza and throughout Palestine on a Day of Action on Sunday, September 30, 2012.

Gaza, Palestine, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, has been under Israeli occupation since 1967, and under a tight and brutal siege since 2006, denying people and goods access and movement from the small coastal strip, one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Over 70% of the people of Gaza are refugees who have lived in Gaza since the 1948 Nakba – the occupation and ethnic cleansing of most of Palestine. Since that time, Palestinians throughout Palestine live under apartheid and occupation.

Gaza’s Fishers: Today, over 70,000 Palestinians in Gaza rely on the sea and the fishing industry for their income and their lives.  However, the sea in Gaza and the fishers of Gaza are bearing the brunt of one of the most severe aspects of Israel’s siege on Gaza. Israeli warships constantly patrol Gaza’s shores and have unilaterally declared fishing prohibited outside 3 nautical miles. Tens of millions of dollars of income have been lost and fishers families forced into unemployment and poverty. Fishers who venture to the 3 nautical mile “border” are regularly shot at, their boats seized or damaged, and subject to arrest, detention and imprisonment. In 2012, there have already been hundreds of attacks on fishing boats by Israeli warships.

Gaza’s Farmers: Gaza’s farmers are also subject to an ongoing war against their lives, livelihood and land. Israel has unilaterally declared the northern and eastern edges of the Gaza Strip to be “buffer zones” or “no go zones”, often in some of the most agriculturally proficient areas of the often-dry region, on land farmed by Palestinian families for generations. Anyone who ventures into these areas regularly faces threats to their lives from soldiers, snipers, tanks, helicopters and drones that routinely patrol the area.  The “buffer zone” includes 17% of Gaza’s total land mass – but 35% of its agricultural land and 113,000 people. 305 water wells, 197 chicken farms, 377 sheep farms, and over 1000 homes have been destroyed by Israeli occupation military inside the “buffer zone.”

While Palestinian fishers and farmers are braving gunfire to work their land and sea, the Canadian government of Stephen Harper has nothing but praise for the Israeli state that enforces this siege on Gaza. On March 29, 2006, Canada became the first country in the world to impose a siege on the Palestinian people living in Gaza and the West Bank, declaring cancellation of aid to Palestine. Foreign Minister John Baird recently described Canada as “Israel’s best friend.”

Of course, Israel is not alone in denying indigenous people the right to fish and farm their land – like Israel, Canada was founded upon the theft of indigenous people’s land, a settler colonial reality of genocide and oppression that continues to the present day. Indigenous nations are engaged in constant struggles to defend their fishing rights against attempts to deny their right to fish their own waters commercially, as well as to defend their traditional territories from pipelines and resource extraction.

Statements of Solidarity with the Fishers and Farmers of Gaza

“Gaza’s fishers and farmers have long been the backbone of the area’s economy and their ways are an integral part of the culture.

Israel’s violent attacks on them and restrictions on their freedom to do their work is part of its policy of siege and reducing the Palestinian economy in Gaza to devastation and dependency. The right to work and earn a livelihood, and to feed your family and community, is a fundamental right. By standing up for Gaza’s farmers and fishers, we stand up for the freedoms of all Palestinians.”

– Ali Abunimah, author, journalist and co-founder, Electronic Intifada

“Under the pretext of ‘security’, Israel continues to punish millions of Palestinians by denying them every basic human right guaranteed under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While all of Gaza is suffering at the hands of Israel’s ruthless policies, its farmers and fishermen are perhaps affected most. Journeying out in the Gaza Sea, beyond Israel’s arbitrarily-declared 3 nautical mile ‘limit’, is a dangerous act that often prompts violent Israeli responses. It is as if the mere attempt at survival by the steadfast population of Gaza, is in itself an act of defiance that infringes on Israel’s ‘security’.

Many fishermen withstand untold humiliation, arrests and worse, as they attempt to provide for their families and 70 thousand other Palestinians. The Gaza Strip’s farmers are not much better off, as the Israeli military capriciously claimed for itself large portions of Gaza’s border areas, where nearly third of Gaza’s farmland now lies uncultivated. Many poor farmers were killed, wounded, arrested and fined for daring to care for their land.

These injustices scream in the face of every world government that pays lip service to human rights, yet does its utmost to support the Israeli government’s war against Palestinians. Standing in solidarity with Gaza’s fishermen and farmers, and taking action to bring this inhumanity to an end is a moral duty required of every person of conscience. Governments that blindly support Israel in its punishment of the Palestinian people of Gaza knowingly violate humanitarian laws and the very foundation upon which international law is based.”

Ramzy Baroud, editor-in-chief, PalestineChronicle.com, columnist, and author. His latest book is My Father Was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story

“At sea and on their farmland, Palestinians living under apartheid are targeted by the Israeli military and settlers.

It is vital for us to show solidarity with those experiencing the daily brutalities of colonial rule, wherever we are – and let Palestinian fishers and farmers know that they have allies in the struggle for freedom.”

– Ben White, writer and activist

“The struggle of the Palestinian people is well known in spite of the mainstream media blockade and bias. The UN is quite aware of the inhuman condition that Palestinians are subjected to and yet there is no concrete action, except allowing humanitarian aid. It is up to international civil society and individuals like us to speak the truth and raise public awareness.

Israeli occupation is relentlessly taking over what used to be and continues to be Palestine. The so-called settlements are nothing less than modern day colonization. The Apartheid State of Israel is in violation of international law and the human rights charter. This is all well documented even by the UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – occupied Palestinian territory (UNOCHA-oPt).

The UN May 2012 report titled “Fragmented Lives-Humanitarian Overview 2011″ states “Palestinian civilians throughout the oPt face threats to their life, security and property as a result of policies and practices relating to the ongoing occupation, as well as intermittent outbreaks of hostilities.”

The same document makes reference to threats to life, liberty and security, forced displacements, violence and restrictions on movement and action in a fragmented Palestine. Threats are often replaced by strong Israeli army violence against civilian population including children.

We regard this not as a situation that requires humanitarian aid but rather a situation where the dignity and safety of Palestinians need to be restored by ending, first and foremost, the Israeli apartheid against all Arabs, by ending all abuses and violence against civilians in Palestine and by ending the inhuman and illegal blockade of Gaza. We do not see any positive action from Israel and its supporters towards recognition of even the most basic Palestinian rights.

The Israeli land-sea-air blockade of the Gaza Strip constitutes a virtual siege of 1.6 million Palestinians. Fishers are limited to an insufficient fishing area of 3 nautical miles. Farmers see their crops destroyed, their land barricaded by a concrete wall and their lives threatened by Israeli settlers. These actions only result in severely limiting Palestinians’ livelihood and self-sufficiency.

As a Canadian, I join my voice with those demanding that the Canadian government stop its indiscriminate support for Israel until such a time when Israel complies with international law.

As a person of conscience, I stand in solidarity with the fishers and farmers of Gaza and endorse this day of action on September 30, 2012.

Long live Palestine!”

– Tim Louis, advocate, former Vancouver city councillor

You can read more statements of solidarity here.

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