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Israeli planes spray herbicides inside Gaza for fourth time this year

Israeli planes have been reported spraying herbicides over land inside the Gaza Strip on four occasions in 2017, including twice in the last two days.

Israeli planes sprayed herbicides inside the Gaza Strip for the second day running on Wednesday and the fourth time this year, according to local farmers and Israeli rights NGO Gisha. A video published on Wednesday, allegedly of the crop-dusting, shows a plane flying low and spraying over farmland.

Palestinians who reported the incident said that the planes had dusted near the Gaza border fence, and the Gaza Ministry of Agriculture is investigating the extent of the damage from the herbicides sprayed over the last two days. Around 840 acres of crops were damaged during the last round of spraying in January 2017, according to Gisha.

The dusting of Palestinian-owned farmland inside the Gaza Strip did not begin this year. As +972 reported at the time, Israeli planes sprayed herbicides over vegetation in Gaza for several consecutive days in December 2015, damaging over 400 acres of crops.

The IDF confirmed to +972 that it was responsible for spraying the farmland, but didn’t elaborate as to why, beyond the amorphous designation of “security operations.” A number of Palestinian farmers have since demanded compensation from the State of Israel for what they cite as nearly $3,000-worth of damage to their crops.

Israeli planes have returned to spray herbicides numerous times since the end of 2015. The government, meanwhile, has contradicted itself over the area it claims to have targeted: despite the IDF’s confirmation to +972, and later to Gisha, that it had sprayed herbicides inside the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Ministry of Defense later claimed in a court hearing on the issue that the work had been carried out by private companies — and only on Israeli territory.

Palestinian children take pictures of each other in the no-go zone near Erez crossing, during the weekly demonstration against the occupation in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, February 7, 2012. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinian children take pictures of each other in the no-go zone near Erez crossing, during the weekly demonstration against the occupation in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, February 7, 2012. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Since 2000, Israel has maintained a no-go area inside the Gaza border fence — formally referred to as the “Access-Restricted Area” (ARA) — which currently reaches 300 meters inside Gazan territory. The army enforces this buffer zone with everything from “less-lethal” weapons to live ammunition and tank fire, making it a particularly deadly stretch of land. Israeli bulldozers also reportedly enter the Gaza Strip on a regular basis to level land inside the ARA.

Farmers and scrap collectors who venture near the border are frequently targeted by Israeli sniper fire, including those who were apparently well outside the buffer zone. Most recently, a 15-year-old Palestinian, Yousef Shaaban Abu Athra, was killed when an IDF tank opened fire at him and two companions, who were wounded. The army claimed that the three had been acting suspiciously.

In addition to the land buffer zone, Israel restricts Palestinians to fishing within six nautical miles of the Gaza coast, and the navy regularly opens fire on fishermen who are deemed to have ventured further away from the shoreline.

This year marks a decade since the start of Israel’s siege on the Gaza Strip. Israel controls Gaza’s airspace and territorial waters, as well as all of its land crossings save for Rafah, which is controlled by Egypt and closed on all but the rarest of occasions. Gaza’s exports and imports are also controlled by Israel, as is the movement of people — residents and otherwise — in and out of the enclave.

At the time of writing, the IDF Spokesperson had yet to respond to a request for comment on the latest incident of crop-spraying. Should a response be received, it will be included here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. i_like_ike52

      This is the second installment of the old “Jews poisoning the wells” calumny, after the earlier posting about a settlement supposedly dumping raw sewage in the territory of their Arab neighbors.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Nope. This contribution of yours is the second recent installment of the old right wing Israeli Jewish anti-Semitizing calumny and show of blatant contempt for non-Jews. Of course I emphasize very “recent.” We get into quadruple digits on this site if we go back past recent.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Firentis

      This is called defoliation. It is used to prevent the enemy from having cover when they attack you.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Firentis: As you can see from the photo, those peppers, watermelon and parsley provide heavy cover for Hamas:

        http://gisha.org/updates/6018

        Reply to Comment
        • Firentis

          Yep. You want to have an area completely clear of vegetation so you can have complete clear lines of sight, regardless of whether the enemy are walking or crawling.

          Reply to Comment
          • duh

            It’s a warcrime and potentially an act of genocide Israel committed because Gaza is a utility to segregate those Palestinians who would effectively nullify the colonial-settler demographic dominance of Palestine within the 1949 armistice boundary.

            Just to stay on the big picture.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Duh

            How can it possibly be a warcrime and act of genocide to surrender territory? You don’t make any sense at all.

            Reply to Comment
          • Joshua Fisher

            Poisoning agricultural land is a warcrime. You fascists will defend everything your settler regime does, will you?

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Joshua

            Duh’s claim was, “ because Gaza is a utility to segregate those Palestinians who would effectively nullify the colonial-settler demographic dominance of Palestine “. Your claim is something entirely different, “Poisoning agricultural land is a warcrime. “. And this is false. Starving civilians is a war crime. Removing a small section of foliage from a battlefield is perfectly permissible in war.

            Reply to Comment
          • duh

            JeffB, maybe I need to expand my syntax. Indeed, the spraying of the herbicide is a warcrime because it targets civilian objects. Segregation backed by military operations is an ongoing assault on civilians, so claiming this is a legitimate military objective holds no water. It would still be idiotic in any case, but doubly so because even the IDF spokesdrones aren’t trying to convince us there was an immediate objective in the area of spraying.

            It’s been clear to me for years that Israel tries to see what it can get away with before its military and politicians receive the kind of travel ban and sanctions imposed on other world leaders who commit atrocities.

            P.S. The information in this article proves the IDF still enforces control within the perimeter of Gaza which therefore is still occupied by Israel.

            Reply to Comment
          • carmen

            Excellent post.

            Reply to Comment
    3. carmen

      One person’s ‘defoliation’ is another peoples food poisoning. Go figure, blight among the nations.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      As soon as the Hamas recognize Israel as a Jewish State and give up terrorism and war, life will be easier for them and for Israel.

      Reply to Comment
      • john

        the middle east doesn’t need any more theocracies

        Reply to Comment
    5. carmen

      Some people need to get their hasbara up to speed. In the not so distant past, the demand of netanyahooo was that hamas recognize israel’s right to exist; stupid, I know, it obviously exists whether they like it or not, but this was just a stall, a distraction, bullshit, etc., until blue hair pulled out the big guns. As soon as hamas recognized israel’s right to exist, blue hair flipped the script and made the demand that hamas recognize israel as a jewish state. With millions of non-jews living in it? That’s not gonna happen. This is where the right comes in with their lovely suggestions ala nazi germany: resettlement; paying them to leave (handsomely too per Moishe Feiglin – what happened to him??) and/or more of the same (slow genocide). Who would accept one of those sweetheart deals? No one.

      Reply to Comment
      • JeffB

        @Carmen

        Where is this document where I can see Hamas recognizing Israel’s right to exist? There have certainly been Haas officers that implied they might be willing to do such a thing but saying they have done it is misrepresenting the situation.

        Reply to Comment
    6. JeffB

      @Duh

      — Indeed, the spraying of the herbicide is a warcrime because it targets civilian objects.

      An army is allowed to target civilian objects as long as the harm is proportional to the military objective gained by targeting them. Otherwise militaries could just make everything dual usage and not give their opponents any legitimate targets. So for example the USA highway system would be a legitimate target.

      — even the IDF spokesdrones aren’t trying to convince us there was an immediate objective in the area of spraying.

      There doesn’t have to be. There is no criteria of immediacy for a warcrime.

      — Segregation backed by military operations is an ongoing assault on civilians, so claiming this is a legitimate military objective holds no water.

      Actually segregating an enemy army and enforcing a border is a legitimate military objective.

      — The information in this article proves the IDF still enforces control within the perimeter of Gaza which therefore is still occupied by Israel.

      Being able to strike inside another state’s border doesn’t make it an occupation. The USA did a strike on Syria yesterday that doesn’t mean Syria is occupied by the USA.

      Reply to Comment
      • duh

        JeffB – This is not to imply either way whether I support or oppose the US bombing in Syria, the difference between overseas air operations and the IDF conduct over Gaza is that the IDF enforces a policy which all residents of Gaza are subject to. Ostensibly there’s a zone inside of Gaza which no one can approach or they are fired on, yet the IDF doesn’t strictly observe or delimit the exact extent of that zone. The US and Russia bomb specific targets in Syria which results in predictable yet not necessarily desired civilian casualties (again, my thoughts on that are outside the scope of the argument) while all Palestinians in Gaza are a potential target for the Israelis.

        Gaza is not “another state,” it’s a ghetto or a bantustan for the rightful citizens of post-British Mandate Palestine (and also part of its territory) who are imprisoned there so the Zionist movement can construct a “Jewish” state in most of said Palestine.

        So long as the Zionist movement has a vested interest in demographic engineering, any rationale such as “the harm is proportional to the military objective” is only a thin excuse for targeting civilian objects, period.

        Reply to Comment
        • JeffB

          @Duh

          — Gaza is not “another state,” it’s a ghetto or a bantustan

          It is territory under the control of a hostile military. Even if it were part of the same state with a guerrilla army war would apply. As for not a state: it has a military, it has a government, it is not claimed by any state… that’s a state.

          — for the rightful citizens of post-British Mandate Palestine

          You keep bring this up having to deal with deforestation. It isn’t relevant. Since you seem to believe this is a convincing argument let me just say it isn’t. We aren’t going to agree on this racist crap that some people are rightful citizens generation after generation to land, rather than being citizens in the country of their birth. I don’t find doctrines of racial land entitlement even slightly convincing. I firmly believe that people are rightful citizens where they are born not based on race. I moreover find it ironic that the hard left is more and more embracing essentially the Children of Han argument that was used in my country to argue that blacks could never be Americans and thus justified slavery.

          — So long as the Zionist movement has a vested interest in demographic engineering, any rationale such as “the harm is proportional to the military objective” is only a thin excuse for targeting civilian objects, period.

          How does deforestation advance demographic engineering? In other words how do those plants not existing cause Palestinians to leave for Gaza?

          Reply to Comment
          • duh

            “Even if it were part of the same state with a guerrilla army war would apply.”

            To unpack this a bit, it’s somewhat interesting that you’re simply talking about this “war” situation as if it just happens to be there without explicitly blaming Arab opposition to Zionism (and the existence of the Israeli state) as do most defenders of Israeli conduct. Herzl (the founder of political Zionism) contemplated hijacking the post-Ottoman order in Palestine and attempted to convince the Germans to seize the territory from the Ottomans. So the political movement to create Israel is the original belligerent in the conflict.

            By the way, South Africa under the rule of the Afrikaner National Party was clearly at war with the armed resistance to apartheid. That doesn’t change the fundamental nature of apartheid; likewise, the Zionist policies in the fmr. Ottoman Palestine west of the river.

            https://books.google.com/books?id=iv1DADhI6h4C&q=protectorate#v=snippet&q=protectorate&f=false

            “We aren’t going to agree on this racist crap that some people are rightful citizens generation after generation to land,”

            1. Most people accept that citizenship in a state is hereditary and that seems to be your position as well. So the state founded by the Zionist movement is robbing those Palestinians who were displaced in 1948 outside the armistice lines and their next-of-kin of their birthright.

            2. You have some gall to call this principle racist crap (not to mention irrelevant) when the most normative tenet of Zionism is that Jews are returning to Eretz Israel after a 2000-year exile. What you’ve written here is a perfectly good anti-Zionism argument.

            Someone whose ancestors were citizens of Ottoman or British Mandate Palestine can not acquire Israeli citizenship under the “Law of Return” (holding back on the scarequotes there) if they aren’t Jewish, yet a person deemed Jewish who has no verifiable ancestors of Ottoman nationality can get automatic Israeli citizenship on the grounds all Jews might possibly have had ancestors there 2000 years ago. That’s racial entitlement to land, buddy.

            “How does deforestation advance demographic engineering?”

            For starters giving Israel the benefit of a doubt that this herbicide had a legitimate military objective carries racist ideological baggage behind that assumption. The basic aim of Zionism means its adherents have a vested interest in civilian casualties, whether they acknowledge that or not. As to your specific question, I don’t think this operation was aimed at expelling more Palestinians into Gaza but simply to terrorize those already living there. In the more extreme case it may be a trial run for genocide. The more Israel gets away with today, the worse it will get tomorrow.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Duh

            Let me just add to my comment a bit more clarity on the issue of war crimes. One of the most key concepts in war crimes is to evaluate motives not the legitimacy for the war. Your argument is essentially, Israel is bad therefore its conduct constitutes war crimes. That runs completely counter to the neutrality of war crimes law.

            The reason for that is both sides usually consider themselves quite justified. Reasonable people disagree about matters of politics and policy, and those disagreements often underly the wars. If determination of whether war crime occurred or not, required agreement on the political policy and not just the military acts war crimes would lack any legitimacy for the side being charged with them, “war crimes” just becomes a synonym for “I disagree with your policies” not “I disagree with the morality of your objective acts even if I were to agree with your policy”.

            The quintessential example is the firebombing of Tokyo. Most reasonable people agree the Axis powers were atrocious. Most reasonable people agree that it is a good thing the Allies won that war. Yet despite this there was a desire to critique that sort of widespread annihilation of civilian infrastructure as a means of achieving war aims.

            Armies don’t evaluate political policies. Armies are supposed to determine for themselves whether a particular act would or would not be a warcrime. That becomes impossible if you conflate political policy with the definition. You are essentially undermining the whole concept behind anything being a warcrime ever.

            Reply to Comment
          • duh

            “One of the most key concepts in war crimes is to evaluate motives not the legitimacy for the war”

            Also, let’s remember that “conspiracy” to “wage an aggressive war” was one of the charges against the defendants at Nuremberg. So what’s that again about not evaluating the legitimacy for war? I think I just undermined your whole argument.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Duh

            Also, let’s remember that “conspiracy” to “wage an aggressive war”

            You are having a definitional problem. Aggression is not a war crime. Aggression is a separate class of crimes.

            So if country X invades country Y in response to a dispute that could have been handled peaceably X may be guilty of aggression but they aren’t guilty of a war crime. Y even while resisting the crime of aggression can commit war crimes on X. Not only that X and Y’s conduct is evaluated the same as far as determining whether a war crime took place or not. Which is exactly the point of war crimes law to not allow Y’s army to commit crimes and argue they are justified by the political circumstances.

            As an aside this comment was an addendum to a longer comment which may have been eaten. Odd they showed up in opposite order they were written.

            Reply to Comment
          • duh

            Jeff, I have a question for you. If the individual actions of the military are to be evaluated in a vacuum without any regard to the politics behind the war itself, how exactly is a clear partisan for Israel like Firentis (or you for that matter) competent to judge whether there’s a legitimate objective behind spraying food crop with herbicide? That seems to fall way short of the moral highground you stand on. Perhaps you support Israeli officials going on trial?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I have to laugh at the spectacle of an apologist for Zionist occupation and creeping annexation telling us that “I don’t find doctrines of racial land entitlement even slightly convincing.”

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            (moderators this is a repost if the original still exists in queue please delate)

            @Duh

            You need to separate the “I don’t like one side of the conflict” from any other considerations when addressing a warcrime. Warcrimes are just about the conduct of armies they aren’t about whether the fight is justified or not. In a conflict between A and B, agreeing with side A doesn’t make B’s conduct a warcrime. Deforestation is obviously used by armies all the time to maintain lines of sight. It seems like you don’t have a counter argument here. If you don’t you should rephrase your objection to being merely one of disliking the Israelis. There is no war crime.

            ____

            The rest of this gets into the constant argument the left does here where when faced with specific charges that fall apart under scrutiny. They then shift to another topic. I’ll address those briefly but likely those too will require several rounds but they are irrelevant to the original discussion of war crimes. As noted above pulling them in doesn’t advance the original charge, which I think has shown itself to not hold up.

            Herzl (the founder of political Zionism) contemplated hijacking the post-Ottoman order in Palestine and attempted to convince the Germans to seize the territory from the Ottomans. So the political movement to create Israel is the original belligerent in the conflict.

            True in a vague sense. There are a lot of assumptions here in the way you are writing. Most importantly at the time of Herzl neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis existed. The Palestinians developed a distinct nationality via. the conflict with the Jews, in Herzl’s time they were just another Levant people. Zionism gave birth to two nations.

            National Party was clearly at war with the armed resistance to apartheid.

            If you are including the activities both inside and outside South Africa I’d agree. Inside South Africa exclusively I’d disagree, the National Party government was facing massive terrorism but I’m not sure the ANC / blacks were holding guerrilla territory inside South Africa. This is yet another place where the South Africa analogy breaks down. I’m not sure how this is relevant though.

            Most people accept that citizenship in a state is hereditary and that seems to be your position as well. So the state founded by the Zionist movement is robbing those Palestinians who were displaced in 1948 outside the armistice lines and their next-of-kin of their birthright.

            I don’t agree there is a next-of-kin birthright. I think there is resident birthright, a hereditary right for inhabitants, not for descendants of racial groups that once inhabited a territory. I’m only 2-3 generations removed from many Ukrainians, 3/4s Ukranian that doesn’t give me a birthright to return to Ukraine.

            You have some gall to call this principle racist crap (not to mention irrelevant) when the most normative tenet of Zionism is that Jews are returning to Eretz Israel after a 2000-year exile. What you’ve written here is a perfectly good anti-Zionism argument.

            I would agree. The situation of ethnic Palestinians in the diaspora is very analogous to the situation of Jews in the European diaspora under British rule. Saying I agree with Zionism is 2017 doesn’t mean I would have agreed with it in 1917. We aren’t confronted though with the debate about whether Jews should have a state or rather be fully assimilated into their host countries. History settled that debate. The early Yishuv helped to radicalize the population of Palestine and caused Syrian nationalism to become their political ideology. Assimilation failed spectacularly in Germany and that failure resulted in the destruction of 1/2 of Europe’s Jews. The mass migration of Jews first from the death camp’s remnants then the Arab world then countries all over the planet happened. We aren’t faced with the situation regarding Jews we were faced with in 1917. We don’t have the same facts on the ground and thus we don’t have the same answers.

            In an alternative history of Europe we can imagine World War I not ending so destructively: Nazism never having occurred, the British and French empires having lasted another century or more and ending less disruptively, Stalinism never emerging. But that’s not the Europe that exists today and it is not the one we have to make policy for. One can object to France, England’s and Germany’s handling of World War I or not without any impact on how European policy should be constructed today.

            “Law of Return” … That’s racial entitlement to land, buddy.

            No it isn’t. Jews aren’t a race and moreover aren’t meaningfully or primarily biologically descended from the inhabitants of Judaea. You can see that immediately by noting that Jews look much more like the other inhabitants of the countries they come from than they look like each other. They are ideologically descended from the Judeans of course which is why they kept the name of the country as the name for the religion / ethnic groups. What Israel is today is an existing state practicing preferential immigration based on that ideology. That’s not unusual, my country to some extent practices a form of idealogical preferential immigration choosing people who value freedoms (religious and economic).

            Reply to Comment
          • duh

            “Deforestation is obviously used by armies all the time to maintain lines of sight. It seems like you don’t have a counter argument here.”

            To basically summarize my counterargument, which should be the takeaway from what I’ve written before, only a partisan for Israel would think spraying a parsley crop constitutes military deforestation. And that such arguments in general cover the fact that the Zionist movement entered the scene with a vested interest in removing civilians from the prospective “Jewish” state, thus there’s an ulterior motive to civilian casualties inflicted by Israeli operations.

            wrt South Africa, Namibia was considered annexed territory by the apartheid regime and indeed there was a guerilla war there. Had the SADF sprayed the exact same crop and called it an operation against SWAPO, I doubt any but the most dyed-in-the-wool apartheid supporters would have bought it.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Duh

            wrt South Africa, Namibia was considered annexed territory by the apartheid regime and indeed there was a guerilla war there. Had the SADF sprayed the exact same crop and called it an operation against SWAPO, I doubt any but the most dyed-in-the-wool apartheid supporters would have bought it.

            Totally fair analogy. I’m not a apartheid supporter. That being said yeah I would have bought it. I may not like SADF’s cause but they certainly would have been entitled to remove foliage near positions they needed to protect. 50k Angolans, 12K cubans and 32k natives is a real threat to South Africa. While this was nowhere near as serious as the Mozambique wars Cuba eventually established air dominance. As a matter of historical fact the length of this conflict undermined support for the government and created the anti-conscription / anti-apartheid internal groups that would in the end force a withdrawal and soon thereafter bring the government down.

            So yes. Perfect example. It demonstrates exactly the point about war crimes having nothing to do with the political dimension.

            Reply to Comment
    7. JeffB

      @Duh

      Jeff, I have a question for you. If the individual actions of the military are to be evaluated in a vacuum without any regard to the politics behind the war itself, how exactly is a clear partisan for Israel like Firentis (or you for that matter) competent to judge whether there’s a legitimate objective behind spraying food crop with herbicide?

      We aren’t. Neither one of us has the kind of information you would need to make that judgement for this particular operation. We can speculate and create theories that are likely to be true, but ultimately we can’t know. What we can know is the most likely cause. Deforestation is a rather typical military maneuver going back to wars centuries and millennia ago. Ultimately what the conversation in this thread was about was having the conversation where the anti-Israeli side understood it had to argue a plausible theory for the deforestation that would be a war crime (remember where the burden of proof would be).

      That seems to fall way short of the moral highground you stand on. Perhaps you support Israeli officials going on trial?

      I wouldn’t have a problem with Israeli officials being tried in a fair mock court (say a USA JAG court) for supposed war crimes. I think taking 4 example Palestinian war crimes claims and subjecting them to clear rules of evidence would be an extremely clarifying thing for the entire I/P debate. If anti-Zionists (especially the anti-Zionists states) agreed to abide by the actual results that would be terrific all around. I suspect leftists / anti-Zionists would be shocked at how quickly their arguments fell apart under customary international law. I think Israel is pretty far above the median in terms of trying not to commit war crimes and a full trial with evidence would show that. Where Israel I suspect is most vulnerable is using military rules of engagement for general policing. A police force not the IDF should be policing the West Bank.

      I think expanding the case law would be useful for justice across the board. The worst offenders by far are USA, Russia, Al Qaeda factions and Iran. The other side in USA and Russian interventions in particular would benefit from clarity and USA and Russian commanders would benefit from cutting the ambiguity. If the USA and Russia stopped violating these rules Iran could be more easily held to account.

      Reply to Comment
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