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Will the flowers of Gaza break Israel’s siege this Valentine’s Day?

By Tom Anderson and Therezia Cooper |  Corporate Watch |  February 12, 2014

Flowers from Gaza being prepared for export (Photo by Corporate Watch)

Flowers from Gaza being prepared for export (Photo by Corporate Watch)

Gaza, Occupied Palestine – Valentine’s Day is almost upon us and for supermarkets and florists that means a massive increase in the sale of flowers. But how many romantic couples consider where the flowers they exchange are grown?

Farmers in Gaza have long been encouraged by Israeli export companies to focus their production on high risk ‘cash crops’ such as flowers and strawberries, and the arrival of carnations from Rafah to European markets for Christmas or Valentine’s day is often cheered on by the Israeli Government who uses it as a PR exercise to show how it ‘facilitates’ Palestinian exports. Unsurprisingly, this is not the full story.

According to the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) there used to be over 500 dunams of carnations planted in the Gaza Strip, but since the beginning of the siege in 2007 flower exports have plummeted year on year and there are only around 60 dunams left. The planted land used to produce over forty million stems for export, but now the few carnation farmers who are left are struggling to sell 5-10 million.

“The Israeli occupation allows us to export a small quantity of produce, just to show the world that they are nice to the Palestinians, but they are using us. Everything we do is controlled by them”, said Saad Ziada from UAWC when we met him in his Gaza City office in November last year, just before what was supposed to be the start of the flower exporting season. This statement is true of all produce in Gaza but flower exporters are particularly susceptible to the control Israel holds over exports, as their produce relies on hitting the market at exactly the right time for popular flower buying holidays. If the border is closed for a week and the flowers miss the export window for Valentine’s Day, for instance, their profit for the whole year can be lost.

We visited Rafah to talk to one of the few flower growers still in business and hear about the situation for farmers under the siege.

“The problem is the border and the siege”

Hassan Gazi al Hijazi has been in the flower business for over 25 years and has seen many changes in the flower export industry. When he started out he had to be registered as an Israeli grower, despite growing his flowers in Gaza, and he gave classes in the art of flower growing to new farmers. “There used to be 53 flower farmers in the Rafah area and now there are only 4 of us left” he told us. “I personally used to have 40 dunams and now I only have 4”. He said that he needs assistance from outside to even operate them now, his flower packing house displays signs showing that he receives financial support from Spain.

(Photo by Corporate Watch)

(Photo by Corporate Watch)

Just as with all produce from Gaza, his flowers have to be exported via Israel, through an Israeli company. In the past this used to be Carmel Agrexco, which used the name Coral for Palestinian produce, but after its liquidation he now works with a Palestinian Co-operative which exports under the brand name Palestine Crops using the slogan ‘From Palestine Land to Global Markets’. Palestine Crops is a Gaza initiative which works with agricultural co-ops in the strip and aims to create a market for Palestinian labelled goods and, eventually, independent exports. For now, however, this is impossible and although some exports from Gaza come with Palestine Crops branding, they are dependent on their Israeli distributor. In the case of flowers, this is primarily the Flower Board of Israel. Once transported out of Gaza, the flowers are taken to the big flower auction houses in Holland, where they are sold by grower name. By the time the bouquets reach our shops they will have been mixed with other flowers and it is unlikely the the buyer will be aware of their origin.

Talking to Hassan, it becomes obvious just how much the farmers of Gaza are at the mercy of the Israeli occupation forces. Palestine’s flower export season lasts from December until May. The most important sales periods are Christmas and Valentine’s Day. According to Hassan, these are often the seasons when the border is closed. Our interview took place on 5 December, a time which should be busy in Rafah. “I should be exporting my flowers around the 15th of December to be in time for the Christmas market, but I do not know how much I will be allowed to export yet”, Hassan told us. “if you are not able to export for those occasions the price for flowers drops and you lose”. Farmers in Gaza are not able to export flowers during the summer as this is the season when Holland grows the same crops.

“The problem is not the growing of the flowers, the problem is the border and the siege” Hassan said whilst showing us his beautiful dunams of ready to go flowers. As with most custom designed cash crops there is not enough of a local market for Hassan’s flowers if he fails to export them, they either just go to waste or become animal food. No one in Gaza can pay a price which would even make the enterprise break even.

In the past Hassan could get around $120 000 for exporting two million flowers if he had a good season, but for the last five years he has been paying the big upfront outlay necessary in flower growing from his own pocket, just dreaming that he will be able to get a return on his investment.

The statistics: The decline of Gaza’s flower exports

Recorded Gaza Flower Exports (according to Palestine Crops):

Date Carnations
Stems Trucks
End of 2004 44,000,000 200
2005 30,700,000 210
2006 21,500,000 205
2007 37,400,000 187
2008 2,100,000 10
2009 0 0
2010 10,668,520 74
2011 8,974,890 57
2012 0 0

The table above shows that flower exports have decreased to a fraction of what they were in 2004. During 2012 and 2009, the years of major Israeli attacks on the Strip, exports were prevented entirely.

Gaza’s flower growers see no light at the end of the tunnel with most not having the cash flow to continue their profession. Exports are declining and becoming even more unpredictable with increased border closures.

We asked Hassan for his opinion about the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. We particularly wanted his opinion as his livelihood relies on exporting produce through Israeli companies. “You should continue these campaigns even if it damages our business” he said. “The problem for us is that there is no other way we can export, but people on the outside should continue to boycott and help us keep the borders open”.

This sentiment was one that was repeated over and over again across the Gaza Strip, and the challenge for the solidarity movement is clear: in order for Palestinians to be able to control their own exports we first need to break the siege -permanently.

We will publish some further articles on the problems faced by Palestinian exporters in the coming weeks.

February 12, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Changes in Net Flow of Ocean Heat Correlate with Past Climate Anomalies

Press release from the University of Rochester:

August 14, 2009

Physicists at the University of Rochester have combed through data from satellites and ocean buoys and found evidence that in the last 50 years, the net flow of heat into and out of the oceans has changed direction three times.

These shifts in the balance of heat absorbed from the sun and radiated from the oceans correlate well with past anomalies that have been associated with abrupt shifts in the earth’s climate, say the researchers. These anomalies include changes in normal storm intensities, unusual land temperatures, and a large drop in salmon populations along the western United States.

The physicists also say these changes in ocean heat-flow direction should be taken into account when predicting global climate because the oceans represent 90 percent of the total heat in the earth’s climate system.

The study, which will appear in an upcoming issue of Physics Letters A, differs from most previous studies in two ways, the researchers say. First, the physicists look at the overall heat content of the Earth’s climate system, measuring the net balance of radiation from both the sun and Earth. And second, it analyzes more completely the data sets the researchers believe are of the highest quality, and not those that are less robust.

“These shifts happened relatively abruptly,” says David Douglass, professor of physics at the University of Rochester, and co-author of the paper. “One, for example, happened between 1976 and 1977, right when a number of other climate-related phenomenona were happening, such as significant changes in U. S. precipitation.”

Douglass says the last oceanic shift occurred about 10 years ago, and that the oceans are currently emitting slightly more radiation than they are receiving.

The members of the team, which includes Robert Knox, emeritus professor of physics at the University, believe these heat-flux shifts had previously gone unnoticed because no one had analyzed the data as thoroughly as the Rochester team has.

The team believes that the oceans may change how much they absorb and radiate depending on factors such as shifts in ocean currents that might change how the deep water and surface waters exchange heat. In addition to the correlation with strange global effects that some scientists suspect were caused by climate shifts, the team says their data shows the oceans are not continuously warming—a conclusion not consistent with the idea that the oceans may be harboring “warming in the pipeline.” Douglass further notes that the team found no correlation between the shifts and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration.

“An interesting aspect of this research is that no reference to the surface temperature itself is needed,” says Knox. “The heat content data we used, gathered by oceanographers, was gleaned from temperature measurements at various ocean depths up to 750 meters.” The team also found that the radiative imbalance was sufficiently small that it was necessary to consider the effect of geothermal heating. Knox believes this is the first time this additional source of heat has been accounted for in such a model.

The team notes that it’s impossible to predict when another shift might occur, but they suspect future shifts might be similar to the three observed. Both Douglass and Knox are continuing to analyze various climate-related data to find any new information or correlations that may have so far gone unnoticed.

February 12, 2014 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

Ariel Sharon: another war crime surfaces

By Jonathon Cook | February 12, 2014

Forty-two years late, another Israeli war crime emerges from the shadows. In this case, dozens, and more probably hundreds, of Israeli soldiers kept a decades-long vow of secrecy. One of them is Shlomo Gazit, today a respected (in Israel, at least) academic at Tel Aviv University.

In January 1972, Ariel Sharon decided that 3,000 Bedouin were in the way of a massive military exercise he wanted to conduct in the southern Negev and northern Sinai. So he summarily expelled two tribes in the el-Arish area of the Sinai from their homes, during a deep winter spell. At least 40 people died, mostly babies, children and the elderly.

A young army researcher, Clinton Bailey, heard from other Bedouin of the expulsion and went to meet the families. He photographed 28 small graves at their new makeshift location.

He then brought the expulsion to the attention of the head of the army, David Elazar. Although Elazar ordered the tribes to be returned to their land, it was too late for the dozens who had died. No action was taken against Sharon or anyone else. In fact, Sharon’s military and later political career prospered on such “exploits”.

Bailey and everyone else covered up the crime for four decades, fearful of the damage it would do to Israel’s reputation. The silence has been broken now because Bailey divulged the incident to journalist David Landau, who was preparing a new biography of Ariel Sharon.

Haaretz coyly admits that its military correspondent of the time knew of the war crime too but kept quiet. The paper has published the story now, but one cannot but ponder its motives. This revelation should help book sales, and Landau is a former senior editor at the paper.

No one is denying that these events took place. The Israeli army even comments that the “case is known”, though it wishes to say nothing more. Gazit has no recollection of being told about it at the time.

What other such crimes do we still not know about because Israelis consider their loyalty to their state more important than their responsibility as human beings to the truth and justice?

And although Haaretz, and most of those involved in the cover-up, treat this as some footnote in the historical record, or another aberration to lay at the feet of Sharon, the reality is that Israel is still driving Arabs – Palestinians – off their land. The people of the Jordan Valley, Sussiya and East Jerusalem know this only too well.

February 12, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

Israeli forces protect settlers as they cut down Palestinian family’s trees

International Solidarity Movement | February 12, 2014

Hebron, Occupied Palestine – On the afternoon of February 11, 2014, settlers in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Al-Khalil (Hebron) cut down trees belonging to the Abu Eisheh family. While attempting to film the destruction of the trees, four human rights activists were arrested by Israeli police.

At approximately 3:30 p.m., three activists, a Swiss-American, an American, and an Italian, were sitting in their apartment in Tel Rumeida when they heard a commotion outside. Outside the apartment, they found a group of settlers, Palestinians, Israeli soldiers and Israeli police. They were informed by the Palestinians that a group of settlers was cutting down trees at a house just up the road.

The three activists began filming but were not allowed up the road to where the tree-cutting was taking place. While filming, the American activist was physically assaulted by a settler. None of the soldiers or police officers present intervened. Instead, the Israeli police took the passports belonging to the American and Swiss-American and told them to sit on the ground.

At this time, the Italian citizen returned to the apartment, where she was joined by a fourth activist, an American, who had just arrived. Shortly thereafter, a group of soldiers and police officers attempted to enter the apartment. They were not allowed entry, but briefly questioned the two activists outside the apartment door. The Israeli police then confiscated the passports belonging to the American and the Italian.

Not long after, all four activists were transported to the police station near Kiryat Arba, where they were interrogated and threatened with deportation. After seven hours, the activists were released.

The following day, February 12th, two activists from Christian Peacemaker Teams visited Tel Rumeida to document the destruction of the trees. They were not there long before several Israeli soldiers approached them, told them to stop filming, and took their passports. They were held for two hours before their passports were returned.  Israeli soldiers informed the two activists that if they approached the trees again they would be arrested.

The destruction of Palestinian trees by settlers is a chronic problem, not only in Tel Rumeida, but all over the West Bank.  In the past month alone, more than 2500 trees in the village of Sinjil were destroyed by settlers. Trees have also recently been destroyed by settlers in Qusra, Ramallah, and Nablus. Fruit trees are an essential resource for the Palestinian community, and their damage causes serious economic loss. It takes as long as 12 years for an olive tree to reach full maturity.

dave

ISM activist with settlers in Tel Rumeida (photo by ISM Italy)

February 12, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Leave a comment

UK’s Prince Charles to visit Qatar, Saudi Arabia

Press TV – February 12, 2014

Prince Charles, the heir apparent to the British throne, is set to make a four-day official visit to Saudi Arabia and Qatar later this month.

According to a statement on the British government website, released on Wednesday, the Prince of Wales is expected to begin his trip to the Middle East region from Saudi Arabia on February 17 and end it in Qatar on February 20.

He will meet King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani during his trips.

In March 2013, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, also visited Saudi Arabia as part of a nine-day tour of the Middle East, with stops in Jordan, Qatar and Oman.

This comes as Britain as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar are considered as major foreign supporters of the ongoing militancy in Syria.

The UK has also played a major role in fanning the flames of unrest in Syria by arming and training militants fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

February 12, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

German Government Tries To Neuter FOI Requests By Refusing To Allow Responses To Be Published

By Glyn Moody | Techdirt | February 11, 2014

Freedom of information laws are one of the most powerful tools for holding governments to account. No wonder that every now and then, attempts are made to limit their effectiveness. Here’s an example from Germany, where the freedom of information (FOI) portal FragDenStaat.de asked for and received a five-page study written by government staff analyzing a ruling by the German constitutional court:

When the study in question was received from the Ministry of the Interior through an FOI request on FragDenStaat.de, the ministry prohibited publication of the document by claiming copyright. FragDenStaat.de has decided to publish the document anyway to take a stand against this blatant misuse of copyright. The government sent a cease and desist letter shortly after. The Open Knowledge Foundation Germany as the legal entity behind FragDenStaat.de is refusing to comply with the cease and desist order, and is looking forward to a court decision that will strengthen freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of information rights in Germany.

Of course, if it were not possible to publish information received through FOI requests, the latter would become almost useless, as the German government doubtless well knows. So it’s great to see the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany fighting this attempt to undermine the entire FOI system there (donations gratefully received.) It’s also interesting to note how, once again, copyright is being deployed not as a means for promoting creativity, but as a weapon against openness and transparency.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

February 12, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , | Leave a comment

EU spending over $400m on secret drone project – Civil rights group

surveillance drone

RT | February 12, 2014

The EU is investing hundreds of millions of taxpayer euros in the development of surveillance drones without political oversight, a report claims. The authors of the document warn the EU is secretly encouraging “the further militarization” of the region.

A report entitled ‘Eurodrones Inc.’ published by rights group Statewatch describes how the EU is channeling taxpayers’ money into surveillance drone projects without their knowledge.

“More than 315 million euro ($430 million) has so far been spent in EU research funding on drone technology or drones geared towards a specific purpose such as policing or border control,” writes the report.

However, the document points out that the research funding is largely “invisible” to the people and parliaments of Europe and lacks the proper political oversight. According to the report this was achieved by a secret budget line that was included in new EU legislation on air traffic control for this year.

The report describes a 20-year roadmap that aims to introduce surveillance drones into EU airspace and highlights that this plan is being shaped by “thinly accountable officials” and representatives of large corporations.

“The EU’s emerging drone policy has come about following years of successful lobbying by defense and security companies and their associates,” said co-author of the report Chris Jones in a statement on Statewatch’s website, adding that these are the same defense and security contractors that have the most to gain.

The drones in question would engage in civilian surveillance activities, such as border patrols and the search for criminals. However, Statewatch is concerned that the convert nature of the program lends itself to the “further militarization” of the European Union.

Calling for “proper democratization” and the opening of public debate on the issue, the report notes the EU turned a blind eye to a European Commission statement in 2012 that declared the development of unmanned surveillance craft should be more transparent.

It recommended the issue be discussed with a number of organizations, including the European Group on Ethics, the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament or the European Agency for Fundamental Rights and Data Protection Supervisor.

“Yet none of these bodies have been involved,” writes the report. “Their absence from policy debates means that many of the conversations the EU should be having about drones – such as what they should and should not be used for, and how to prevent further militarization and the deployment of fully autonomous weaponized drones – have been all but ignored.”

Although the authors of the report do not outwardly criticize research into drones, they do stress the fact that the current program is too “heavily skewed toward the interests of the big defense contractors.”

They argue that this could lead to “unwarranted state surveillance and repression,” as well as enhanced prospects for combat drone research for a global arms race.

“It’s easy to see why people are so excited about drones: there are many positive things they could be used for,” said co-author Ben Hayes. He concluded that given the “clear implications” for civil liberties in the balance, the EU has a “moral and legal obligation” to uphold fundamental rights and the rule of law.

February 12, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment