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Israeli use of illegal toxic pesticides in settlements 'human rights violation'

Feb. 21, 2017 6:57 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 22, 2017 7:16 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli authorities have “knowingly facilitated” the illegal manufacturing, trade, and use of hazardous pesticides inside illegal Israeli settlements, which has resulted in serious human rights violations and contributed to food insecurity among Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, according to a recent investigation.

A joint fact-finding mission announced Monday by the Amman-based Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN) and PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) -- a regional branch of the Pesticide Action Network -- revealed that highly toxic pesticides that are banned by the Palestinian Authority (PA) were illegally traded into the occupied territory.

According to the report, hazardous pesticide runoff from agricultural operations and agrochemicals manufacturing inside the illegal settlements poison Palestinian farms, livestock, and water sources.

Dumping toxic waste on Palestinian territory was also documented -- including in areas with a high concentration of schools, while communities near industrial Israeli settlements have reported contamination of their soil and drinking water, proliferation of disease-carrying mosquitoes, and an increase in cases of respiratory and eye diseases, including among children.

The investigation found that 50 percent of pesticides in the occupied territory were illegal, though PA authorities do not have access to information on the chemicals manufactured and used inside the illegal settlements and are “in no position to dispose of these safely, and Israel refuses to take them back.”

“It is unacceptable that the PA, with one of the tightest pesticide registration and compliance systems... is thwarted at every turn by the Israeli authorities who knowingly facilitate the entry of banned highly hazardous pesticides into the occupied West Bank,” the report quoted investigation participant Dr. Meriel Watts of PANAP as saying.

APN founder Razan Zuayter noted in the report that some of the offending agrochemical companies have been shut down inside Israel due to environmental and health regulation violations, but meanwhile “operate with impunity inside illegal settlements at the expense of the health, livelihood, and environment of Palestinians.”

APN and PANAP's report said that they held the state of Israel and agrochemical corporations accountable for violations to Palestinians’ rights to information, self-determination, water, highest attainable standard of health and healthy environment, and livelihood.

“These human rights violations are perpetrated in the context of the Israeli occupation and expansion of the illegal settlements,” Razan highlighted, noting the fact that Israeli authorities prevent the PA from fully enforcing policies to restrict the trade, manufacture, and use of around 200 registered active ingredients in occupied West Bank.

Israel has also been the target of condemnation for crop spraying Palestinian farmland in the besieged Gaza Strip and causing long-term and serious damage, with a group of Palestinian human rights organizations demanding an investigation into the practice last year.
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