“Land means everything here” - Areej Ja’fari, Palestinian youth activist
Land and water have been at the core of the conflict between Palestine and Israel from its very origins. Access to and control of these resources is critical for achieving Palestinian self-determination and for an enduring and just peace with Israel.
Under occupation, Palestinians face the confiscation and destruction of land, private property, and water resources, the expansion of settlements and roads, the construction of the Separation Wall, the setting up of checkpoints and roadblocks; with Israel continuing to unilaterally define its borders.
Through partnerships with organizations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip), Grassroots International supports community-based organizations providing essential services and advancing rights to land, water and food. And working with allies and partners we facilitate international linkages to support and amplify the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and peace with justice.
Our partners are responding to the crisis in creative ways—individually and collectively. They use different tactics—from urban gardening in Gazan refugee camps to the Stop the Wall Campaign’s non-violent protests against the Separation Wall to the seed-saving projects of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.
To lessen the humanitarian crisis, we send emergency medical equipment and supplies to the Palestinian Medical Relief Society. These groups all share a common vision: protection of Palestinians’ basic rights, living in dignity and self-determination within internationally-recognized borders.
The social, political and economic environment in which our partners are operating is complex, dynamic and violent. They must contend with living under occupation, the resulting rising levels of human rights violations and the constriction of Palestinian economic development.
Our partner the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) documents rights violations and defends, for example, the rights of Gazan fisherpeople to gain access to Mediterranean fishing grounds.
Internally, they are facing an ongoing collapse of law and order, the resulting security chaos and the failure of accountable institutions to bring the situation under control. The economic suffocation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories has continued through frequent and long closures preventing the movement of Palestinian products and workers into Israel, between the West Bank/East Jerusalem and Gaza, or abroad. The Union of Agricultural Work Committees is committed to social change and justice from the bottom up. It works with Palestinian farmers, including women, to help them keep their lands under cultivation and increase women’s participation and leadership in family and community life through economic activity.
Although agriculture has always been a cornerstone of the Palestinian economy, it has suffered greatly under occupation. Palestinian farmers have seen their incomes fall and their food security decrease.
As the situation deteriorates, so too do Palestinian coping mechanisms. More and more Palestinian families are finding themselves dependent upon international food aid.
Our partner, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), is turning food aid that feeds dependency on its head. Their Farm to Table program purchases food for hungry families from local Palestinian farmers to address critical humanitarian needs and provide local farmers with needed income.
Our program also seeks to address the needs of Israel’s Palestinian citizens, 20 percent of the population. They face enormous obstacles in ensuring their minority rights and in exercising full citizenship without discrimination.
In addition to our grantmaking work, in the U.S. we are members of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. We advocate for a balanced U.S. policy that would advance rather than undermine the rights of Palestinians. We believe that respect for these rights will help the U.S. achieve its spoken goals for stability in the Middle East.
Together with our partners, we remain hopeful about opportunities for positive change. But the “facts on the ground” reveal just how long a road our partners still have to travel. We are committed to accompanying our partners as they strive to build viable communities based upon life-giving resources such as land and water, democratic institutions and a just peace with their neighbors.