Sunday, December 06, 2020

New libel: "Israel criminalizes picking Palestinian spices"

At an online Palestinian literature event, according to JVP's Alice Rothchild:
Incredible #PalestineWrites Lit Festival continues. In Nature under settler colonialism lawyer Rabea Eghbariah discussed bizarre fact that Israel has criminalized the picking of zatar & akoub (tumble thistle) & lifted camels and removed them as a road problem #amwritingImage
Thus the control of herbs commonly used in Palestinian cooking and camels used by Bedouins is part of settler colonialism and continued efforts to erase Palestian life. Making and eating zatar is now an act of resistance!!! #PalestineWrites 
What is she talking about?

A far more objective description of the akoub issue is related in this February Undark article:
FOR JUST UNDER three months a year, towards the end of the winter rains, Samir Naamneh and his wife Nadya get up at 4 in the morning, gear up in improvised camouflage, and pack into a truck headed from Arraba, their Arab village in Israel, to the Golan Heights. During this season, the volcanic plateau is carpeted with delicate wildflowers and dotted with hundreds of endangered gazelles. To the trained eye, the lush, grassy slopes are also bursting with an unassuming, wildly lucrative thistle known as akoub.

“It’s healthy because it’s from the wild,” says Samir, who has been illegally foraging akoub with his wife for the last 15 years, in defiance of an Israeli ban intended to prevent over-harvesting of what officials consider an endangered native species.

While a handful of Jewish farmers in Israel have been cultivating akoub to feed the feverish demand among Palestinians, illegal harvesting remains the main method for getting akoub to market, where it is often bought in bulk and frozen for off-season consumption. If caught by Israeli authorities, akoub pickers have long faced substantial fines and arrest.

In 2005, when Israel put akoub on its protected species list and imposed the ban on its collection, the plant’s wild population was being devastated by commercial harvesting. But authorities say the ban has helped to replenish the plant’s numbers, and in August announced that the policy would be amended this year to allow small-scale collection for personal consumption. Even so, Samir, who is one of hundreds working in clandestine networks to fuel the akoub black market, says he’ll continue to illegally gather the plant in large quantities.

“We feel, and we know, and we’re sure, that the laws are made, on principle, against the Arab residents of the country, to hurt their livelihoods,” says Samir, 57, standing at his straw-thatched roadside produce stand outside the central market in Arraba, a sprawling community of just over 26,000 about an hour outside the Golan Heights. “It’s part of the pressure that Israel puts on us to starve us out.”

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority, however, asserts that it is their mandate to prevent akoub’s disappearance from the wild. Unchecked harvesting “is liable to obliterate the plant completely, which is something that would damage our legacy as well as the landscapes of our childhood,” according to the Nature and Parks Authority website. 
Shuki Donitza, the head of law enforcement at the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, who was responsible for the revised policy, says there is a crucial difference between the individual families who harvest akoub and the loosely organized networks of dealers...

Donitza says that under the new policy to be enforced this akoub season, rangers will be instructed to relax their approach to more carefully differentiate between commercial pickers and those whose collections weigh within the newly allotted limit. “At the end of the day,” he says, the rationale is “to save the environment — for all of us.”
Notice that there is nothing stopping Arabs from building lucrative akoub (and hyssop, for zaatar) farms, which would be legal. Instead they insist on plucking them from public lands (sometimes dangerous lands like minefields in the Golan Heights) and selling them. 

The idea that Israel is targeting Palestinian spices is slander. Israel has 257 plant species under protection. 

A far as the camel ban mentioned, well, 15 people have been killed in recent years from car collisions with camels. Making laws to keep camels off the roads is hardly discriminatory, unless you consider camel grazing to be more important than human lives.

The libels never stop.

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