Yesterday, August 1, farmers and agriculture workers protested in Jerusalem during the weekly Sunday morning cabinet meeting of the Israeli government. As the meeting was getting ready to begin, thousands of protesters converged on Jerusalem driving trucks, tractors and other agricultural vehicles to decry the government’s proposed neo-liberal reforms they call “destructive.”
Last Thursday, July 29, farmers blocked eight major junctions around the country and scattered agricultural produce and eggs on the roads to protest the reforms proposed by far-right Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Agriculture Minister Oded Forer from the Israel Beiteinu part. Lieberman’s Finance Ministry reforms seek to reduce taxes on some agricultural imports from countries such as Egypt and Turkey in order to significantly reduce food prices for the Israeli consumer.
“Farmers from all over Israel hit the roads to protest and say clearly: The prices in supermarkets are high not because of the farmers, who only receive a few shekel per kilogram for their produce, but because of the supermarket chains, which exorbitantly increase the prices several fold, making millions of shekels in excessive profits off of the backs of the farmers and consumers,” said Avshalom (Abu) Vilan, head of the Israeli Farmers Union and former Meretz lawmaker. “The farmers have no control over the prices [of their produce] or on the cost of living” he continued. “What we see here is the cowardice of the Finance and Agriculture ministers, who are afraid to confront the retailers and supermarket chains, and therefore are bullying the farmers, who work in the fields no matter the weather.”
Vilan added that “we are deployed at junctions all across the country to prove that Israel’s agriculture will not be shut down. We will not comply with a reform that will harm the state, the farmers, the consumers, and the country’s collective physical and nutritional security.”