The myth of land "redemption" and development was enshrined in Israel's Proclamation of Independence which declared, "Pioneers…… and defenders, they made deserts bloom...built villages and towns, and created a thriving community...bringing the blessings of progress to all the country's inhabitants..." According to the Zionist storyline, they did not rob the country's inhabitants of their land but redeemed it from desolation.
In truth, however, the Levant was a well-developed region, highly cultivated for many centuries by many peoples whose descendants comprised the indigenous population of Palestine. In 1948, Israeli "towns and villages" displaced 531 Palestinian villages and eleven urban centers which were either destroyed or simply depopulated and renamed.
And Palestinian soil didn't require Jewish agricultural expertise to produce fruits, vegetables, and the many other crops native to the land. Pre-Israel Palestine was far from the barren dustbowl of Zionist mythology. Most of us learned in school that Mesopotamia was the "fertile crescent," but the fertile valleys around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers flowing from the mountains of Turkey and converging into the Persian Gulf is more a wedge than a crescent. Mesopotamia was in fact the eastern arc of the crescent. The western arc looped south along the Mediterranean, including the Litani River and Bekaa Valley of Lebanon and the Jordan River valley and coastal plain of Palestine. Together these fertile areas were long the breadbasket of the Arab world.
In December 1945-January 1946, a comprehensive Survey of Palestine was conducted and published by British Mandate authorities on behalf of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine. At that time the population was approximately 70% Arab and 30% Jewish. Due to restrictions imposed by the Jewish National Fund that acquired most of the Jewish-owned land, Jewish landowners could only employ Jewish labor.
During the 1944-1945 planting season, nearly 210,000 tons of grain were cultivated in Palestine, of which 193,376 tons (92%) were Arab crops, compared to 16,579 tons of Jewish crops.
Almost 80,000 tons of olives were cultivated that year, over 78,000 tons of which (97.5%) were grown by Arab Palestinians.
Of the over 244,800 tons of vegetables produced in Palestine that season, Arab farmers were responsible for more than 189,000 tons (77%).
Of the 94,700 tons of fruit, Arab orchards produced 73,000 tons (77%). Almost all of the region's citrus groves were Palestinian owned and operated. Nearly 143,000 tons of melons were cultivated, over 135,600 tons of which were Arab-produced (95%).
Almost all of the more than 1,680 tons of tobacco grown were on Arab farms, as were 20,000 tons of figs and 3,000 tons of almonds.
Eighty percent of the 40-50,000 tons of grapes and 4-5 million liters of wine were produced in Arab vineyards.
The survey found that in Jericho, Tiberias, and in the central coastal plain, "about 60 per cent of the area (nearly 8,000 dunums) planted with bananas is Arab owned."
The overall price of the Palestinian agricultural yield that season was more than ££21,800,000. Jewish cultivation was responsible for nearly ££4,711,000 compared with Palestinian Arab production of over ££17,100,000, accounting for almost 80% of total value.
Only one month into Plan Dalet - the ethnic cleansing campaign by Zionist militias in April 1948 - Jewish farmers were already harvesting the crops that had ripened in the abandoned fields and were picking the citrus fruit in Arab groves. Palestinian farmland was seized by Israel through extra-legal means and retroactive absentee laws that by mid-1949 two-thirds of all land sown with grain in Israel was abandoned Arab land.
Most of the 150,000 dunams of citrus trees - the most valuable agricultural crop left behind by the Arabs - remained neglected and entire tracts of productive citrus trees, especially in the Tel Aviv-Jaffa area which produced world-famous oranges, were earmarked for construction of housing developments. Abandoned Palestinian olive groves and pomegranate orchards met the same fate, uprooted and replanted with fodder for dairy cattle and chickens.
Tens of thousands of dunams of olive trees were uprooted and replaced by non-indigenous European field crops, which the Jewish settlers preferred, The deliberate destruction of fertile land and bountiful groves and orchards was central to the Zionist enterprise, which intended to deny Palestinians the right to return to their own land in defiance of UN Resolution 194 in December 1948.
The destruction of hundreds of thousands of dunams of fruit-bearing trees is hardly consistent with a society that knows how to "make the desert bloom." Israeli agriculture represented only about 2% of the country's exports in 2010.
The natural ecology of Palestine has further been altered by the Israeli obsession with planting artificial forests of pine trees. Max Blumenthal has written that "the pine trees themselves were instruments of concealment, strategically planted by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) on the sites of the hundreds of Palestinian villages the Zionist militias evacuated and destroyed in 1948...The practice that David Ben Gurion and other prominent Zionists referred to as 'redeeming the land' was in fact the ultimate form of greenwashing."
And these non-native species are poorly suited to the Palestinian environment. According to Blumenthal, "Most of the saplings the JNF plants at a site near Jerusalem simply do not survive, and require frequent replanting. Elsewhere, needles from the pine trees have killed native plant species and wreaked havoc on the ecosystem. And as we have seen with the Carmel wildfire, the JNF’s trees go up like tinder in the dry heat."
The devastation continues. Israel and its colonial outposts in the West Bank consistently destroy what remains of Palestinian olive trees and wheat fields.
In a 2011 Ha'aretz article entitled Zafrir Rinat writes, "For Netanyahu, saving Israel's deserts is all about settlements."
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