Farming the front line

Ron J. Smith
Martin Isleem, Bucknell University


UN OCHA, the international body tasked with the documentation of the impacts of the ongoing conflict and occupation in Israel and Palestine, noted as early as 2009 that the No Go Zones imposed by the Israeli military represented a taking of 30% of the total arable land in Gaza (UN OCHA OPT 2010. ‘Between the Fence and a Hard Place.’ UN OCHA Special Reports, 1–36). This taking, as part of a larger siege on Gaza, creates great difficulty for farmers attempting to support the nutritional needs of the population of the territory. These zones, coupled with the increasing reliance on unreliable food aid provided by the United Nations, undermines independent development and food sustainability within the Gaza Strip. In response, a small number of Gazan farmers are risking life and limb to return to these areas and plant essential food crops knowing that they are thereby targets of lethal violence from the Israeli occupation forces. This paper, based on a series of interviews and participant observation with farmers and activists in the No Go Zones, explores the resistance mobilized by a population deemed surplus and hostile to the Israeli state. It examines the border zones as sites of primitive accumulation, and the political effects of categorizing people as surplus.