Farmers in Palestine have criticized the Palestinian Authority for discontinuing a vaccination program that has proven crucial in protecting animals from an endemic disease.

An outbreak of the foot-and-mouth disease in the West Bank earlier this year killed tens of thousands of sheep and nearly bankrupted Palestinian farmers living under occupation. Mohammed Basheer recalled having to burn hundreds of his dead lambs when the outbreak destroyed West Bank cattle, resulting in a loss that transcended a painful financial loss.

This episode, according to Basheer, demonstrates the unique issues faced by farmers in occupied Palestinian land, who complain of mistreatment by the Palestinian Authority and continuous threats from Jewish settlers. “I received no assistance from the PA, not even a phone call,” Basheer, a Nablus sheep farmer, told AFP of the Palestinian agriculture ministry’s passivity.

Farmers in Palestine have condemned the Palestinian Authority (PA) for discontinuing a vaccination program that had proven important in protecting animals from an endemic disease.

Farmers are concerned about land grabs by Jewish settlers who have built illegal outposts on West Bank land that they believe is underutilized because of the absence of animals from vast grazing pastures.

Basheer added that the PA should protect us like we protect the environment. “Farmers are responsible for the land. Israel will take over the land if the farmers are forced to leave.”

Farmers have suffered greatly

In November 2016, it was discovered that livestock in Jordan had been infected with a rare strain of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), which can cause potentially fatal fevers and blisters in young animals.

It soon spread across the West Bank, a predominantly agricultural region ruled by Israel since 1967. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, on the other hand, has not attempted a routine immunization campaign since 2019.

According to a ministry official who requested anonymity, 60 to 70 percent of goats and sheep in the West Bank are vaccinated against FMD in a regular year. This number, according to the official, will decline to 20% in 2020 and 2021.

The coronavirus pandemic was blamed, with the ministry stating that acquiring FMD vaccines had become increasingly difficult as vaccine manufacturers altered operations to accommodate the demand for Covid vaccines.

Furthermore, the ministry argues that Israel has prevented the Palestinian Authority from acquiring critical supplies. The complaint was unfounded, according to COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry body in charge of civil affairs in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian Authority has not formally requested the procurement of these vaccines, according to a COGAT statement. Despite this, the State of Israel has provided the Palestinian Authority with vaccination doses that it possesses due to the ensuing health necessity.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture, around 2,000 animals have died as a result of the FMD strain this year. On the other hand, farmers and a ministry of agriculture spokeswoman believe the true number of cow deaths is likely much higher.

Basheer sought $150,000 in FMD-related damages and accused Israel of failing to provide vaccines. “Our residents have continued to receive vaccines for all farms, but we have received nothing for the last 3 years,” he claimed. Farmers have been annihilated.

Farmers are unable to exist on their own

Analysts believe that unoccupied agricultural land in Area C of the West Bank, which remains completely under Israeli control, is an ideal location for the creation of Jewish colonies. 

According to B’Tselem’s Eyal Hareuveni, Israel’s “twisted interpretation” of Ottoman-era legislation stating that uncultivated land might be claimed after three years is commonly used to justify settler land grabs. According to Hareuveni, even though Palestinians own the property privately, Israel can proclaim it its state territory and appropriate it for its use.

In violation of international law, over 475 000 Jews live in unauthorized West Bank settlements. The Israeli governing coalition has continued to authorize new settler homes around the region while opposing the establishment of new outposts on occasion.

According to officials, no new cases of foot-and-mouth disease have been detected in Pennsylvania since April. According to Abbas Milhem, executive director of the Palestinian Farmers Association, by disregarding vaccines, the PA has successfully supported the Israeli movement.

“The real battle against occupation and annexation is on the ground,” he continued, “but farmers cannot fight alone.” This necessitates accountability.

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