It wasn’t too long ago that Agent Orange, a devastating chemical produced by Monsanto, was used in the Vietnam War to strip the jungle environment of its foliage and give the U.S. military an advantage. At the time, the effects of the toxic herbicide weren’t well-known, but it’s now understood that the chemical causes unspeakable damage to humans, wildlife, and the environment.
Once again, herbicides are being weaponized – but this time in the Middle East.
972 Magazine reports that the Israeli army has admitted that it used crop-dusters to kill off vegetation – and perhaps inadvertently, agricultural crops – inside the Gaza Strip just last week. Palestinian officials claim that over 420 acres of land were damaged by the spraying, which destroyed spinach, pea, parsley and bean crops.
The sprayings – which lasted for several days – were condemned by Shai Grunberg, spokesperson for Gisha, an Israeli rights organization:
“Spraying crop-killing pesticides, like opening fire at people of all ages and gender in the vicinity of the fence, puts civilian lives at risk and hurts livelihoods,” he said. Unarmed farmers and scrap collectors are reportedly shot in this area, which the Israeli side maintains as a “no-go zone.”
Reportedly, the army prefers to keep the border areas clean of vegetation to “counter the laying of IEDs, ambushes and border infiltrations” and maintain sight lines for what could be possible threats.
The military spokesperson did not respond to a follow-up question about the destruction of agricultural crops.
A Palestinian farmer walks through fields near Gaza’s eastern border, Al Montar, February 17, 2014. An Israeli military post is seen in the distance to the left, with the border indicated by the dark green areas passing through it. Credit: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org
Gaza’s Agricultural Ministry became aware of the herbicidal warfare when several farmers contacted Wael Thabet, head of the plant protection department, with the news that Israeli planes had sprayed their land with pesticides, killing off important crops.
For years, the IDF has imposed a lethal no-go buffer zone along the Gaza border. In recent months, 16 Palestinians were killed, and 379 more who entered or approached the zone were wounded. It is reported that most were participating in protests along the fence.
Clearly, the conflict will not be easily resolved, but herbicidal warfare cannot be allowed to continue. According to a recent study, there is a higher incidence of Parkinson’s disease among those living in Jewish agricultural communities near the Gaza border; researchers believe pesticide exposure plays a role.
This news was not covered by Israeli media.
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