The path to liberation requires material support that is directed toward self-sustainability. The Palestinian Social Fund raises unconditional funding for cooperative farms in Palestine through grassroots efforts. These farms are started by youth who are returning to the land to reclaim food sovereignty and control their own destiny.
“Since the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, the agricultural sector dropped from 53% of the GDP to 3.4% in 2016.”
The occupation has continuously attacked Palestinian agriculture as a way to disconnect Palestinians from the land. Land theft, destruction of thousands of olive trees, and banning Palestinian indigenous practices in the name of environmentalism or "national security" are all ways the occupation uses to disenfranchise the Palestinian people. Since the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, the agricultural sector dropped from 53% of the GDP to 3.4% in 2016.
After the Oslo Accords in 1993, the occupation continued to control the imports and exports of the Palestinian economy, forcing its own produce into the West Bank and Gaza and selling it at cheaper prices to drive Palestinian farmers out of business.
About 80% of produce is from Israeli sources, which is a tactic to weaken Palestinian production and create a consumerist Palestinian population.
Another form of social control Oslo facilitated was the creation of a private lending system, which encouraged a culture of consumption and pushed many people into the debt trap.
This has caused the deformation of the social fabric in Palestinian society, driving the abandonment of strongly rooted communal values of solidarity and reciprocity, or Al-Ouna (العونة), in the pursuit of individual survival.
As a result of these repressive tactics, lands were neglected after an increase of migration to the cities in search of jobs and resorting to work in Israeli settlements and cities.
Oslo allowed foreign aid and outside investments to come into Palestine, thereby transforming Palestinian social institutions into passive recipients of aid, rather than empowering them to be productive actors in control of their developmental ends.
This depedency has created donor-driven organizations that compromise to conditions that depoliticize the Palestinian struggle and undermine Palestinian self-determination.
The Palestinian Social Fund aims to involve Palestinians abroad in raising unconditional funding for cooperative farms for 3 main reasons:
These are concrete goals we have in Palestine and the Palestinian diaspora has a big role to play. Historically Palestinians in exile supported by sending remittances back home to support the steadfastness, or sumud (صمود) of our people while they struggle for liberation.
This is crucial because Palestinians in the diaspora have largely been isolated after the Oslo Accords destroyed much of the institutions that allowed Palestinians abroad to engage in the struggle. We must reclaim our role by supporting the economic resistance of the youth on the ground.
On a biweekly basis, you’ll find a farmer’s market set up on tables laid out in front of the cultural center in Ramallah. A number of agricultural cooperatives from the surrounding municipalities come to sell their organic produce to passersby and to regular customers that come out in their support. Most of these cooperatives are youth-led farms inspired by a surge of interest in new models of community-supported farming using agroecological methods.
This farmer’s market isn’t just a place to buy organic produce, it’s a place to get a taste of what’s to come. The Palestinian youth today are paving the way toward establishing food sovereignty and reducing dependence on the products and employment of the occupation. They uphold their values and principles through a cooperative organizational model centered on equity amongst farmers themselves, between farmers and their community, and the environment.
Cooperativism is a way to organize production around strongly rooted communal ideals of solidarity and reciprocity. It applies a horizontal structure where all the workers and farmers have an equal ownership in the production.
Al-Ouna (العونة) is the historical term used for cooperativism in Palestine, it has always been a part of our Palestinian character, especially in farming. Families would cooperate in their olive harvests and sing folk songs sending gratitude and good wishes to each other. They would do the same when roofing a house, which till this day is a celebration and the house's owner invites everyone to food after the roof is finished.
The return to and protection of the land, under a cooperative framework means we’re returning to our roots.
Agroecology is an agricultural method that mimics the natural cycles of the environment, in order to reuse waste and avoid external inputs.
This method is a holistic approach to the problems that Palestinian farmers face. Agroecology pushes farmers away from using chemical fertilizers and pesticides that seep harmful chemicals into the food and soil. It also breaks the dependency on the occupation and outside corporations, who control these products and limit farmers to using seeds genetically modified to withstand the harsh chemicals.
“There can be no liberation if we don’t have sovereignty over our daily bread. Agroecology is a way towards food sovereignty, which can then enable us to consider questions of political liberation.”
Palestinian Social Fund © Non-profit registered in Canada