1967 - 40 Years of Occupation
Reaping a bitter harvest
The issue of water is proving contentious to both Palestinians and Israelis.
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2007 06:16 GMT
Yoav Noy's irrigation is subsidised
by the Israeli government

For decades, Israel has spent millions in the West Bank to develop farmlands for Israeli settlers, building a complex system of water pipes and subsidising the technology on their farms.

Meanwhile, Palestinian farmers face restrictions on the water they can access. Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin talks to two farmers about their struggle for water.

It is grape-harvesting season in the Jordan Valley and these Palestinian labourers are working frantically to pack bunches for export to Europe and elsewhere.

But this is not a Palestinian farm - the labourers are working on the Israeli settlement of Gilgad in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Profitable crops

On his date farm, 50-year-old Yoav Noy is tending to his trees, preparing to harvest his dates later this autumn.

He is using a computerised irrigation system that monitors and regulates the flow of water to the 175 acres on the settlement.

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The Israeli government provided about 40 per cent of the funding for the project, he says.

But it is not just the technology the Israeli government is helping with - it is distributing the water that makes it possible for these settlers to grow profitable crops like grapes.

"First of all they supply our water, because we need water to grow everything and then they take care all the way - from where it's come out of the ground to my place to the farm," Noy says.

"They are taking care of the water pipes, the system and the way its coming to me."

'Violation of law'

In contrast, Palestinian farmer Amid al-Masri gets his water to his crops - by 30-year-old diesel-powered engine.

"I don't think land for agriculture in Palestine is for sale or could forever be for sale - ere farmers consider the land part of the family"

Amid al-Masri, Palestinian farmer

It is a far cry from his high-tech neighbours down the road.

"To have a computerised system you need to have a continuous flow or pressured water over 24 hours a day, so the settlers are furnished with this luxury where the Israelis main lines are fully pressurised 24-hours a day," Amid says.

B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights organisation, says Israel provides vastly more water to settlements than it does to Palestinians, which it says is a violation of international law.

It is not just the quantity, it is the quality of the water Palestinians are forced to use that also makes a difference in their farming.

"We are limited to certain products due to the salinity of the water," Amid says.

"We don't have the best quality water for agriculture. Our new neighbours in the settlements they are getting the best quality of water from the West Bank aquifer."

This makes it difficult for al-Masri and other Palestinian farmers to grow grapes as their neighbours do.

Harvest challenge

It is taking a toll on the business of farming but not on their commitment to their land.

For Amid every harvest is a challenge
"This is the hardest time and the harshest time we are passing through ... in the occupation," Amid says.

"I don't think land for agriculture in Palestine is for sale or could forever be for sale. Here farmers consider the land part of the family."

For al-Masri and his family of farmers, every harvest is a challenge and marks a changing reality on the ground.

As Palestinians continue to struggle for statehood, Israeli farmland and settlements continue to expand - with no end in sight.

Al Jazeera
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