Herds are decimated and Palestinian nomads try to recover from foot-and-mouth disease

Mohammed Basir, the owner of a farm in Wadi Alfara, a suburb of Nables, shows a dead lamb from foot-and-mouth disease on the west bank of the occupied Jordan River on April 25, 2022.
Mohammed Basir, owner of a farm in Wadi Alfara, a suburb of Nables, shows a dead lamb from foot-and-mouth disease on the west bank of the occupied Jordan River on April 25, 2022 (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP).

In recent months, Palestinian nomads have lost more than 2,000 cattle on the west bank of the occupied Jordan River. Reason: A new species of foot-and-mouth disease emerged when local governments were braking animal vaccination.

From his farm in a rural area just outside Nables (north), Mohammed Basir has attributed his loss to $ 150,000 (€ 139,000). From February to March, during an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, the breeder lost more than 300 animals and his team was forced to burn hundreds of lambs in a small corner of his land. ..

After the emergence of a new species of foot-and-mouth disease first discovered in Jordan in November, Palestinian nomads on the west bank of the Jordan River accused the Palestinian government of suspending vaccination campaigns for animals due to thinning of livestock.

“I didn’t get any help or phone calls from the Palestinian Authority,” laments the owner of thousands of animals, Mohammed Bashir. “They should protect us and protect the land,” which is also at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture, 2,000 animals died this year, but interviewed breeders believe the numbers are incomplete and point out low vaccination rates for cattle.

On April 25, 2022, an employee carried a lamb dead from foot-and-mouth disease on a farm in Wadi Alfara on the west bank of the occupied Jordan River.
On April 25, 2022, an employee carried a lamb dead from foot-and-mouth disease on a farm in Wadi Alfara under occupation on the west bank of the Jordan River (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP).

60-70 percent of goats and sheep are vaccinated against foot-and-mouth disease on the west coast each year, according to Palestinian provincial officials who speak on condition of anonymity.

However, local governments have not conducted vaccination campaigns since 2019, which has reduced this rate to 20%, the official said.

Responsible person?

The ministry has turned its finger to a pandemic, authorities are focusing on a human vaccination campaign against Covid-19, which killed thousands of people on the west bank under occupation, and vaccine manufacturers are facing the outbreak of pollution around them. A world that is redirecting production.

On April 25, 2022, farm workers inspect a flock of sheep after a new species of foot-and-mouth disease in the occupied Wadi Alfalar on the west bank of the Jordan River.
On April 25, 2022, farm workers inspect a flock of sheep after a new species of foot-and-mouth disease in the occupied Wadi Alfalar on the west bank of the Jordan River (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP).

The Palestinian ministry has also accused Israel of blocking the import of vaccines against foot-and-mouth disease, a highly contagious animal disease that is not transmitted to humans.

In error, he argues against Kogat, the Israeli Department of Defense’s agency that oversees the civil activities of the Palestinian Territory.

“There was no official request from the Palestinian Authority to import such vaccines,” Kogat told AFP. “And given the health requirements that have arisen, Israel has transferred the dose of its vaccine to the Palestinian Authority.”

Political agriculture

For Abbas Milhem, the secretary-general of the Palestinian Farmers’ Union, the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that ended in April thanks to measures to isolate affected cattle is for local farmers who are considered “guardians of the land.” It was another plague. “By Palestinians in a conflict with Israel, which has occupied the West Bank since 1967.

A farmer at the entrance to a sheep shed on April 25, 2022, after a new species of foot-and-mouth disease in the occupied Wadi Alfalar on the west bank of the Jordan River.
A farmer at the entrance of a sheep shed after the emergence of a new species of foot-and-mouth disease at Wadi Alfalar on the west bank of the occupied Jordan River on April 25, 2022 (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

“The real battle between occupation and annexation is on land, but farmers can’t fight on their own,” he said. The settlement is considered illegal under international law.

In “Area C” on the west bank of the occupied Jordan River, the farmland that has not been cultivated for three years is reclaimed by Israel due to the concentration of Jewish settlements under the full military and civilian control of Israel. Critics explain that it could be done.

Eyal Hareuveni, a researcher at the Israeli anti-settlement organization B’Tselem, said:

Mohammed Bashir, owner of Wadi Al-Farrah's farm, will inspect his herd after a new species of foot-and-mouth disease emerges on the west bank of the occupied Jordan River on April 25, 2022.
Mohammed Basir, owner of Wadi al-Farrah’s farm, will inspect his herd after a new species of foot-and-mouth disease emerges on the west bank of the occupied Jordan River on April 25, 2022 (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH /). AFP)

Therefore, the understanding of some farmers in the face of the freeze on vaccination campaigns is that it is the duty of the Palestinian Authority to protect them, in addition to the killing and economic loss of livestock.

On his farm near Nables, Mohammed Bashir has no doubt about it: “Peasants protect the land (…) If you take the peasants away, Israel will rob them.”

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