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Food Security in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

MA’AN Development Center
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Food insecurity is defined as a situation in which a state or household does not have access to the proper amount of “sufficient, safe, [and]nutritious food [required] to maintain a healthy and active life.”1 It is a global phenomenon that affected 925 million people worldwide in 2010, 98% of whom were in developing countries.2 In Arab countries, 31 million people, or 10% of the population, are classified as food insecure.3 A variety of conflating factors may contribute to a region’s food insecurity.
These include environmental conditions, global food market fluctuations, development, as well as global and national politics.

Food insecurity is a major issue facing Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt.) Over 20% of the population of the West Bank and over 50% of the population of the Gaza Strip live in food insecurity.4 While it is also affected by global phenomena such as environmental degradation and rising food prices, food security in the oPt is largely dependent on the lack of Palestinian food sovereignty. Though closely linked to food insecurity, food sovereignty involves the right of a state to be food self-sufficient based on their own democratically-determined polices.
Unlike food security, which measures the type and amount of food people receive, food sovereignty measures the extent of control a state has over its own food resources. Food insecurity in the oPt is caused by unemployment, poverty, as well as high food prices. Therefore, issues of food insecurity are compounded by a lack of food sovereignty.

Since the Occupation began in 1967, Israel has confiscated thousands of dunums of land from Palestinian farmers and has used this land to build illegal Israeli settlements, settleronly roads, and the Separation Wall that runs through the West Bank. The 519 checkpoints, roadblocks, and other closures throughout the West Bank create extreme challenges for farmers attempting to reach their land and their markets.5 Farmers in the West Bank are also subject to repeated destruction and vandalism of their land and crops by the Israeli military and settlers. In Gaza, farmers have lost 25% of their most fertile agricultural land to the “buffer zone” that borders Israel. Israeli patrol boats further limit fishermen to only three nautical miles off the coast, just 15 % of Gaza’s legal territorial waters promised under the Oslo Accords.6 The Israeli blockade of Gaza continues to impede agricultural production and access to food and has rendered 80% of Gaza’s population dependent on international emergency food aid. Therefore, due to the effects of Israeli land and resource confiscation and destruction, Israeli imposed limitations on trade, environmental issues, and a growing global food crisis, Palestine is unable to achieve the food sovereignty that could enable the economic and social conditions necessary to reduce the levels of food insecurity.

This report outlines both the multiple causes of Palestine’s lack of food sovereignty and highlights broad policy and development options from the local to the national levels to alleviate this crisis. The report will first define the concepts of food sovereignty and food security and explain the effects of food insecurity on the Palestinian population. It will then analyze how Israel’s land policies limit Palestine’s ability to create a self-sufficient food sector, thus increasing dependency and unemployment. Related to Palestinian food dependency, Israeli limitations imports to the oPt, thereby increasing local food costs for Palestinians, will be detailed. The report will then show how environmental issues including climate change, water shortages, desertification, and biodiversity compound these food shortages. Finally, this report will connect growing food insecurity in the oPt to the global food crisis.