Despite the beautiful atmosphere the Palestinian watermelon season usually creates every year in the Jordan Valley, it has become part of the conflict with the Israeli occupation that cannot be separated from the settlement and annexation schemes targeting the area.
With great regret, Palestinian farmer Ayman Sawafta from Kardala village told Palestinian media outlet that he could not harvest his watermelon crops because the Israeli occupation authorities deliberately flooded the Palestinian market with Israeli watermelon, forcing Palestinian farmers out of the competition.
In response to this heavy blow to watermelon farmers in the northern Jordan Valley, local organizations and groups, led by activist Alaa Dweikat, have initiated campaigns to market the Jordan Valley’s watermelon in the West Bank cities to reduce the losses. This still has not solved the problem, according to Dweikat.
Sawafta and Dweikat raised questions about the role of the Palestinian government, which repeatedly talked about disengagement from the Israeli occupation and opposition of the annexation plan.
Sawafta said that the Palestinian farmers in the Jordan Valley are facing alone an Israeli political, military and economic war.
Lack of action
Sawafta added, “We do not want compensation from the government, but if the government had made a serious decision to prevent the entry of Israeli watermelons into major markets, we would have avoided many losses.”
“The government should have tightened restrictions on the entry of Israeli watermelons into Palestinian markets for one month only so that Palestinian farmers could sell their crops,” Sawafta said.
Near the border with Jordan in the northern Jordan Valley, Palestinian farmer Ali Daraghma, angrily, complained, “For those who don’t understand what’s going on, by cultivating our lands we are resisting [Israeli] settlement and annexation.”
“Israel is flooding our markets with its crops in a systematic attempt to force us out,” he stressed.
About 1,000 dunums of land planted with watermelon, which found no buyers, have caused heavy losses this season to more than 100 Palestinian farmers.
To make matters worse, the Israeli occupation’s policies, which serve larger annexation and displacement schemes, have been left unanswered by the Palestinian Authority government.
Daraghma said, “When we get to the stage of letting watermelon ripen and die without harvesting it because the cost of collecting it is greater than its financial return, this is a crime par excellence. A bigger crime is having to sell the kilo for half a shekel.”
The Palestinian farmer continued, “Agriculture is at the forefront of resistance against the occupation in the Jordan Valley, but the farmers are the only soldiers,” wondering, “Where is the Palestinian government’s plan?”
Palestinian Authority starts multi-million Jordan Valley fund days before Israel begins annexation
For its part the Palestinian government has launched a multi-million fund to support inhabitants of the Jordan Valley, less than a week before the Israeli regime intends to implement its plan to annex the strategic Palestinian territory.
“The government has decided to establish projects to support the residents of the Jordan Valley,” said Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, stressing that the scheme would be implemented within days and amounts to $10 million.
According to Shtayyeh, the fund will largely concentrate on agricultural improvements in the Jordan Valley, although it also covers education and health projects.
The Palestinian Authority would “allocate land to all Palestinians who want to invest in the Jordan Valley,” he added on Wednesday.
In the fertile Jordan Valley, which makes up some 30 percent of the occupied West Bank, Palestinian residents outnumber Israeli settlers to a great extent. However, the Tel Aviv regime considers the region crucial to its security and has determined to annex it.