Environmentalism of the occupied: A slow violence perspective on the West Bank’s deteriorating agricultural sector, and an overview of Palestinian agro-resistance in the struggle towards food sovereignty
Abstract: This thesis explores what it means to struggle for food sovereignty under belligerent occupation. It makes the argument that the deliberate suppression of agriculture in the West Bank (occupied Palestinian territories) and ensuing deterioration of food sovereignty can be understood as an example of “slow violence,” further entrenching the settler-colonial occupation of Palestine. The settler-colonial occupation, along with the creeping annexation of land, agro-military settlements, hydro-hegemony, and asphyxiating checkpoint regimes strip Palestinians of their traditional forms of livelihood. This is a most urgent issue, with access to agricultural land rapidly diminishing and Palestinians increasingly finding themselves as a captive market, left to rely on imported food from Israel. In this thesis, therefore, I explore how Palestinians’ agro-resistance, and struggle to achieve food sovereignty, is also perceived and operationalized as resistance to the occupation. The research was carried out using secondary sources, as well as field work in the West Bank, primarily through interviews and participant observation, and also draws on insights gained during an internship with Palestine’s largest farmer’s union; the Union of Agricultural Work Committees. It explores a range of different examples of agro-resistance in the West Bank (e.g., rooftop gardens in refugee camps, land reclamation, the revival of local seeds and community supported agriculture). The results are analyzed through a political ecology perspective, drawing on theoretical concepts, including; slow violence and food sovereignty. Extending on the concept of “environmentalism of the poor,” this thesis suggests that an “environmentalism of the occupied” can be observed in the West Bank, where environmentalism can be understood as a struggle to sustain current and future livelihoods, but also aimed at securing self-determination/sovereignty over land and resources. In a climate-changed future, with agriculture increasingly under threat across the globe, the strategies and especially the perseverance of Palestinians in their agro-resistance serves as an example for all of us.
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