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Physicians: Israel Stop Poisoning Bedouin Crops

Petition to the Israeli High Court: Stop Aerial Crop Spraying

Four residence of the `unrecognized` villages and nine NGOs demand that the Israeli government stop all aerial poison spraying of the Bedouin crops in the Negev

In an appeal to the Israeli High Court today (March 22, 2004) Salim and Sayyah Abu Mdieghem, `Abed El-Karim Al-Tori, Salman Abu Jlidan, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, the Negev Coexistence Forum, the Association of the Negev for the Land and People, Bustan LeShalom, and other NGOs demanded that the government be forbidden to continue spraying crops from airplanes using the herbicide “Roundup”. Adv. Marwan Dallal from Adallah– the legal center for the rights of the Arab minority in Israel – prepared and filed the appeal.

Since 2002 the Israeli Land Authority has sprayed the fields of Bedouin-Arabs in Israel. On seven different days in the last years at least 30,000 dunams of wheat, barley, and some vegetables have been sprayed in 12 villages. The crops are a part of the food consumed by the villagers and their livestock in the 'unrecognized' villages.

An expert opinion by Dr. Elihu Richter was appended to the appeal. Dr. Richter is an epidemiologist and Head of the Unit of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the Hebrew University, and also a member of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. In the expert opinion Dr. Richter states that the professional literature shows that Roundup and the chemicals that form the herbicide are a health risk to the residents and their animals, and can cause fertility problems, birth defects, and there is even some evidence that this substance is cancerous.

The Israeli Ministry of Health states “… according to the literature research we conducted, the Roundup is not poisonous to humans when it is used according to manufacturer’s specifications.” (In a letter from the bureau of health, southern province, from April 27th 2003.) The manufacturer’s directions state: “DO NOT APPLY THIS PRODUCT USING AERIAL SPRAY EQUIPMENT.” The reason for this instruction is the danger of spread of drift to adjacent residential areas and human exposures. In the warnings it is written: “regular caution must be used, as is used with any herbicides. Do not inhale; during spraying wear clothes that cover the entire body, keep livestock away from the sprayed area for seven days after spraying.”

The spraying was done without any early notice. Part of the spraying was done in close vicinity to people’s residences; in two cases people were in or near by the fields and were sprayed directly. The residents of the villages did not receive any information about the compound with which their fields were sprayed, and no guidance was given as to the correct dealing with the livestock. The area was not marked, nor were there fences to obstruct the livestock from entering the area. The residents of the 'unrecognized' villages obtain their food from these livestock, and the harm caused to the livestock could bring about indirect harm to the people.

The closing statements of the expert opinion are: ``What happened here is an example of an unintended and unethical exercise in human exposure involving entire communities... The authorities ignored the simple instructions prohibiting aerial spraying… the exposures were produced without the notification or consent of the subjects, which, even if given, would still make the entire exercise unethical.``

The residents of the 'unrecognized' villages and the NGOs that are signed on the appeal demand that the government discontinue impairing the health and the right to health and dignity of the Arab-Bedouin citizens that live in the 'unrecognized' villages in the Negev, and to act in a constructive instead of a destructive manner.

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