Visiting Palestinians believe Israel’s goal ‘is to uproot us from our land’

Farming couple from West Bank urge Irish politicians to back import banning Bill

Fayez and Muna al-Taneeb meet local farmer John O’Connell in Carrigaline, Co Cork, ahead of the Occupied Territories Bill going to the Seanad. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Fayez and Muna al-Taneeb meet local farmer John O’Connell in Carrigaline, Co Cork, ahead of the Occupied Territories Bill going to the Seanad. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

 

A Palestinian farming couple have urged Irish politicians to back a Bill by Independent Senator Frances Black which would prohibit Ireland purchasing products from the occupied territories.

They have said the legislation would help Palestinians to continue farming in the West Bank.

Fayez (58) and Muna al-Taneeb (55) farm 3.2 hectares of land near the Palestinian town of Tulkarm in the northern West Bank. They explained the impact that the Israeli occupation is having on their attempts to farm the small holding, which has been in the family for almost 100 years.

“Our farm is 3.2 hectares and my grandfather farmed it from 1922 until 1954 when my father took it over and then when my father died in 1984, I began farming the land. We grow mainly vegetables which we sell locally in Palestine, ” said Mr Taneeb, speaking through an interpreter.

But the small holding is literally in the shadow of the Separation Wall built by Israel to cordon off Israeli settlements on the West Bank deemed illegal by the UN Security Council. And trying to maintain it has presented a huge challenge to the couple whose five children assist them on the farm.

Military training

Mr Taneeb told how the Israeli army took over the farm to conduct military training but the family managed to regain the land and began planting it with crops. More recently, the Israeli army has built the separation wall through the property, resulting in the loss of over 60 per cent of the holding.

“The occupation and establishment of settlements – there is an Israel industrial settlement bordering our farm – has made our lives very difficult. The goal of the Israeli military occupation is to uproot us from our land and take it from us,” he said, as he met Irish farmers in Co Cork.

“As well, there is also pollution coming from the Israeli industrial settlement and that makes it more difficult, but we began to look at organic farming and now use specially designed greenhouses to avoid the pollution from the Israeli factories.”

Mr Taneeb said they have hosted international groups and they felt a bond with farmers at St Mary’s Church of Ireland in Carrigaline, Co Cork, whom they met on Monday. They too share the same universal ties to the soil and the land that unites farmers all over the world, he said.

Israeli occupation

He said Ms Black’s Bill was helping to highlight the illegal nature of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and it was important that Ireland backed the Bill to prevent the settlements like those impinging on his family farm from becoming legitimised.

Ms Black said her bill, the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) 2018, was the first its kind to come before a parliament in Europe and it sought to prohibit the import and sale of goods and services originating in illegal settlements such as those in the West Bank.

“The amount of produce that we import from the occupied territories is relatively small – mainly fruit and vegetables and some garden furniture, but the value of this Bill is symbolic in that it says very clearly that Ireland does not support the illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel”.