Faiez Taneeb

The story of an organic farmer in Tulkarem, Northern Palestine, surrounded by The Wall and 11 agro-chemical factories.

The first time I went to Turkalem, in the northeast of the West Bank, I did not know much about the situation there. I basically knew that it was mainly an agricultural region.

In Turkalem I met Faize Taneeb, an organic farmer, which already makes his story intresting, but the conditions he has to wrok his land, are the ones that make his case a special one.

Faiez's lands are surrunded in onde side by the Wall and Israeli control tower and in the other two sides by 11 Israeli factories of agro chemical products.

Faiez is a Palestinian farmer surrunded by the Wall and Israeli factories, but he is also an organic producer surrunded by agro chemical factories.

Faiez's problems began in 1995, the same year when his father died. That year Faiez rrived in his land to work and found bulldozers diging, however, it has to pass one year untill he really understood the reason for those exacations and the building being constructed arround his farm: a factory of chemical products, which was established in the nearby Israeli settlement of Natania was moving to Palestinian territories, just next to his farm. What was the reason? The Israeli settlers had made the factory to move out due to the oddor it produces and the harms to the health.

Natania's settlers took their case to the Israeli court and it decided that the factory had to move out, so the owner of the factory solve his problem by illegaly establishing his factory in Palestinian Territories.

Since then Faiez had to face the owner of the factory and the Israeli army, who constantly destroy his harvests and threat him making imposible for him to work his land.

Faiez told me that when the factory began to be built he did not really know what it was producing, he knew there were chemical products, but not which kind, so he began a reasearch, untill he discovored and learn what agro-chemicals are, the harms they cause to the helth when being produced and when being consumed through the harvests. At that moment Faiez decided not to use agro-chemicals never again in his harvests.

Then, by 1999 Faiez and a group of farmers were ready to take the factory case to the Israeli Court. This was the first organized action carried out by them.

That same year the owner of the factory formaly requested the Israeli Court a permit to work.

At the end the Israeli Court issued two sentences, one for each case: in the case of presented by the owner of the factory, the Court said that its functioning was illegal, as it was estbalished in Palestinian Territories, however in the case presneted by Faiez the Court said that there were not enough proofs about the factory affecting the health of the people living near it or affecting the harvests of the farms near by.

"I regret not being able to stop that first factory then, now I am surrended by 11 of them," Faiez said.

Faiez's story does not end here, after the last Intifada it was added one more ingridient to his struggle: The Apartheid Wall.

When Israel began building the Aparthaid Wall net to Faiez's farm, the Israeli arme blocked the entrance to the farm with two large blocks of concret, the also damaged that watering lines for the harvests.

When the Wall began to be built Faiez and his family where not able to enter their farm for 14 months, whenever they traied the soldiers would impidem the access with physical violence, so he lost all his production.

Due to this, Faiez had to go to the Court for the second time in his life. This time to request a permit to enter his land. He got the permit and after 14 months he was able to enter in his farma again and sow.

However, the fact of Faiez being able to enter his land did not mean his situtation improved or that his problems were finished. The Israeli Army and the owners of the factories, to the date, constantly destroy the green-houeses, damage the watering lines, and every winter without exeption his lands are flooded, because the soldiers close the locks of the water system taking water the to Natania.

However, Faiez does not give up and he is convinced that as Palestinian he has to face a fight against the Israeli ocuppation and as a farmer he has to face a fight against the agro chemical products.

"People buy what they eyes like, the fruits and vegetables that were grwon with agrochemicals are big, with brilliant colors and look almos perfects and people think that becuase they look preaty they are good. Mi production is organic, so my friuts and vegetables are not big, are not perfect and the people think it is because they are not good... it is harder for me to sell them, also because I produce organic my production is smaller," Faiez explained.

"It is difficult, but there is something inside me that pushes me to produce organic...," Faiez said with proud.

After their experience with the ISraeli factories, Faiez and the group of farmers are organized and now they give workshops about the harms produced by the agro chemical in the people's health and to the environment.

Faiez said he has to very important resons to stop using agro chemiclas: "They not only harm the health, but we (farmers) also have to buy those products to the Israeli factories, so we have two very big reasons for stop using fertilizers, pesticides or other chemical products."

Faiez does not give up and day by day he faces his struggles, if his gree-houses are destroyed he builds them again, if his watering lines are damages he repairs them, if his land is flooded he sows againa.But the frustration and despair sometimes toch him.

After talking about the problems he had and has to face as a farmer living under an occupation, he maks a pause and with tears in his eyes Faies tells me "I think the world does not understand us. The world does not know how it feels your children leaving home to school without knowing weather they will return, the world does not know what every child feels when leaving home without knowing if his parents will be still alive when he returns from school. The world does not know what happens here and we are alone. They hear about Palestine and they think they know what happens here and they (forigners) come and visit us and here they realize that things are not as the imagine, but even worse."

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