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‘We ask you to show solidarity with the farmers and their families of Gaza’: Open letter to Neil Young from Gaza agricultural workers

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Neil Young (photo: Graeme Mitchell/NYT)

Neil Young (photo: Graeme Mitchell/NYT)

Dear Neil Young,

We are Palestinian farmers and agricultural workers in the besieged Gaza Strip.

As you have stood many times for farmers and agricultural workers around the world, you would have doubtless found yourself meeting some of the most dignified, hard working and family oriented people. You will know that life cultivating the land is not easy. For Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, you would have to see to believe what the Israeli Occupation Forces, many for whom you plan to perform in July this year, have done to our farming livelihoods, families and communities. Try and imagine continuing our lives as farmers while:

·         Getting shot at each day while planting or harvesting our crops with live ammunition by armed Israeli soldiers behind a fence with F16 machine guns

·         Having our crops and land overturned and destroyed by enormous American made bulldozers protected by jeeps, tanks and snipers of the Israeli army

·         Having our farmhouse crushed or demolished losing our possessions, farming equipment, livestock and water-wells.

·         Having huge areas of farmland bombed, with crop growth stunted by contamination from banned chemical weapons such as white phosphorous

·         Having replacement equipment, rebuilding of houses, restocking of crops made impossible by a medieval Israeli blockade of our border preventing materials and equipment from reaching the population, such as saplings, pesticides and fertilizers, plastic sheets for greenhouses and hoses for irrigation.

This is our daily life in the Gaza Strip. We ask for the simple right to live and work as farmers do anywhere in the world, instead of having the work and livelihoods we love destroyed by an occupying army no Western government or international institution will stand up to.

With Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp you organized the first Farm Aid concert to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farm families on their land. We share our solidarity with you and the entire world’s farming community. We also wish that you respond to the call of Palestinian farmers to not tolerate the Israeli occupation and siege that has suffocated our people and left our farming communities devastated.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has documented the brutal edge of Israeli policy that punishes and denies access to our own farms, seriously affecting the lives of 113,000 people, or 7.5 percent of our total population. Regular shootings make farming in the “buffer zone” next to the border “high risk”, where 35% of the most arable Palestinian land is situated. There are frequent incursions by Israeli bulldozers accompanied by Jeeps and Tanks, leveling the best land and destroying our property. The value of agricultural and other property destroyed from 2005 to 2010 is estimated at least USD 308 million. 90 percent of this cost is represented by fruit trees, greenhouses, chicken and sheep farms and water wells. Due to the blockade the lost agricultural output in this “buffer zone” totals 75,000 tons per year, representing lost income of more than US$50 million. More importantly for us farmers, our culture, self-determination and attachment to the land has been taken away from us. [1] The Israeli military has demolished over 150 water wells in the restricted areas since 2005 and routinely destroy any crop taller than 80cm, forcing farmers to grow basic crops such as barley or wheat. [2]

In Israel’s 2008-09 Cast Lead attacks on Gaza that killed 1400 Palestinians in 3 weeks, including over 330 children, a total of 46% of agricultural land in the Gaza Strip was assessed to be inaccessible or out of production. Residue from phosphorous and artillery shells seriously impact the quality of the food that farmers are able to produce and have impacts on health. [3] After the recent November 2012 Israeli onslaught on Gaza, the Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza estimated that the agricultural sector incurred losses totaling US$21 million.

The generating capacity and reliability of the Gaza power plant was massively impaired over the past eight years by the destruction of six transformers by an Israeli airstrike in 2006 and the restrictions of the seven year Israeli blockade have significantly restricted the import of spare parts, equipment, and fuel. Recently we have suffered day after day with access to only 6 hours of electricity. For farmers, as well as the other impediments, this means at least 140,000 dunums of land planted with fruits and vegetables are at risk of drought due to inability to use 85 percent of the agricultural wells operated with electricity. Reduced production and incomes for Palestinian farmers have left 80% of Palestinians in Gaza dependent on food aid. [4]

Says Mustapha Arafat, a farmer from Zeitoun, Gaza City:

“The daily aggression suffered by us the Palestinian farmers every day must be highlighted to the world, so people can understand the reality of the attacks and the suffering that has continued throughout the recent ‘ceasefire’. The boycotts of Israeli companies in agriculture are so important as the Israeli occupation has destroyed our farming production and denied us the possibility of exporting our own products. International pressure on Israel from people of conscience is the only way our own economy will be allowed to develop and for us to live normal lives.”

Thomas Jefferson, author of the US Declaration of Independence said “Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands”

In “Last of His Kind,” the words of your song resonate with farmers across Palestine:

“Don’t say much for the future

When a family can’t survive.
I’d hate to say the farmer

Was the last of his kind.” [5]

We are tied to our land, but we are being forced off it, watching rich land eaten away by erosion that the Israeli army who at gunpoint does not allow us to cultivate, and kills us if we do. We ask you to show solidarity with the farmers and their families of Gaza, by refusing to perform for the regime that is doing everything to destroy our means, our livelihoods and our communities.

Union of Agricultural Work Committees Association
Besieged Gaza



2 Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Israel Reduces Wheat Supply to the Gaza Strip: Food Security in Gaza at Greater Risk as Israeli Siege Continues, (2010)





Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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31 Responses

  1. lonely rico on April 8, 2014, 11:52 am

    Thanks Annie for this.
    There is an on-line petition to Neil Young launched by CJPME (Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East) at –

  2. Taxi on April 8, 2014, 12:58 pm

    I hope it works but I somehow doubt it.

    His state of mind is not sanguine; and if you look closely at Neil’s eyes, you’ll see he’s suffering from something the Japanese call ‘Sanpaku’, which in English translates into ‘three whites’, in reference to the white surrounding the iris of the eye. The norm is two whites on either side of iris. Sanpaku on a person indicates a critical imbalance of physical health and/or mental judgement – as if the eye is rolling up and backwards, exiting consciousness, slipping away from life and towards death.

    Never sign a contract with a person suffering from Sanpaku. Their energetics attract accidents, illness and tragedies. Oriental medicine has volumes of literature on this very subject.

    • libra on April 8, 2014, 4:17 pm

      Taxi: Sanpaku on a person indicates a critical imbalance of physical health and/or mental judgement – as if the eye is rolling up and backwards, exiting consciousness, slipping away from life and towards death.

      Good grief, what a diagnosis! If this is what passes for medicine in California these days, poor old Neil would be better off catching the next flight to Little Rock and chancing his arm (or indeed his life) with Dr. biorabbi.

      • Taxi on April 8, 2014, 9:18 pm

        It’s not “California” medicine, buddy. It’s Classic Chinese Medicine: older than you and me and judaism. If you don’t think that the human body is integrative, fair enough, but do you really have to knock things you hardly understand?

      • Woody Tanaka on April 10, 2014, 9:57 am

        “It’s not ‘California’ medicine, buddy. It’s Classic Chinese Medicine: older than you and me and judaism.”

        Oh, for love of pete, there’s no such thing as “Classic Chinese Medicine.” Those things that work are medicine; those that don’t (like using ground up rhino horn or tiger penises to treat impotence or determining “energetics” based on whether they have visible sclera above or below the eye) is superstition. And when it comes to medicine, “ancient” virtual always means “wrong” and almost as often means “stupidly wrong.”

      • annie on April 10, 2014, 10:38 pm

        Sanpaku is not superstition. it’s not usual to see more than a sliver of white under the eye. it’s a sign of imbalance. i learned that when i was a teen.

        i don’t think it’s applicable when a person is looking upward. but when they are looking straightforward and the white is showing below the pupil it is not normal health.

      • Taxi on April 10, 2014, 11:32 pm

        Go read this medical bible that has helped BILLIONS of people to better health for thousand of years, then get back to me. Ancient Chinese medicine has NOTHING to do with “rhino horns or tiger penises”, though I’d say you’re clearly in need of a dose to help you compensate for something.

        “stupidly wrong”, is clearly YOU, woody – so stfu about stuff you know absolutely NOTHING about you dick!

      • puppies on April 11, 2014, 12:24 am

        @Woody – Only that, as indicated in the text, it it Japanese, not Chinese. Not the same. Also, don’t mess with irrational belief if it’s not essential to the discussion, especially in a group involving Jews and Moslems and Christians and Californians and what will you…

      • Woody Tanaka on April 11, 2014, 10:37 am

        “Sanpaku is not superstition.”

        The fact that some people have more or less visible sclera is not superstition; it’s simply a fact. There is a natural variation in human physiology that account for some people having more or less visible sclera, and there are conditions, such as, for example, Graves’ disease or simply aging, which can affect it, as well. Needless to say, none of these things should have any bearing on whether you should enter into a contract with such a person.

        What is superstition is the notion that the presence of this fact means that a person has an “imbalance” (itself a reference to the balancing of qi [or chi], the pre-scientific concept at the heart of this stuff) or that their “energetics” attract misfortune. Such stuff is unscientific gibberish and ignorant nonsense.

      • annie on April 11, 2014, 11:38 am

        Such stuff is unscientific gibberish and ignorant nonsense.

        woody, one could claim centuries of chinese medicine is merely gibberish and ignorant too, but that basically an ad hominem argument. btw, just because western science doesn’t recognize, understand or is able to prove something doesn’t mean it’s just gibberish. and the same could be said about Acupuncture.

        Scientific investigation has not found any histological or physiological correlates for traditional Chinese concepts such as qi, meridians, and acupuncture points,

        also, sanpaku is not (necessarily or usually) a permanent condition. there are plenty of photos of neil young where you don’t see this condition and photos of jfk where you don’t see it either. there was a time i have looked in the mirror and saw it in myself. it was after my sister died and i was in horrible shape. they say the eyes are a window to the soul (i know i know ignorant gibberish) but i do believe it’s a sign of an imbalance.

        And when it comes to medicine, “ancient” virtual always means “wrong” and almost as often means “stupidly wrong.”

        hmm. so much for healing with herbs eh woody. no camomile tea for you.

      • Taxi on April 11, 2014, 11:45 am


        Japanese medicine is based on Chinese medicine – they just use a different language to describe the same thing. Just thought you should know this basic fact.

        And what intellectual giants you and woody are, critiquing a subject you know eff all about.

        For your information, I was on death’s bed after years of western medicine failure and so I took it upon myself, while in unbearable pain, to study Chinese medicine and nutrition and I am happy to inform you that since October 2004, I haven’t even had a single day of sickness, not even a single cold – if you do the maths, that’s almost ten years of DAILY perfect health. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and it is my practice of preventative Chinese medicine that has brought me the freedom from sickness and suffering. This means I eat right and never get sick, in case you don’t know what ‘preventative medicine’ actually means. But in order to eat right, one must know the properties of every food on earth and their impact on the human organs, which I do. I don’t think you and tanaka can say the same.

        There is a rational and effective system behind Chinese medicine – part of the reason why they are the most populace people on the planet. Think about it.

        Traditional Chinese medicine has nothing to do with rhino or tiger penises, as woody so ignorantly claims; and smirking with him about it just makes you his equal in ignorance.

      • puppies on April 11, 2014, 2:53 pm

        @Taxi – Sorry but it’s ingrained. I know of only one way to do science and medicine and it’s been a lifetime of it, so individual cases elicit no more than a lot of sympathy.
        Now to the essentials: my warning to Woody not to mess with irrational belief was just to avoid this kind of unnecessary outbursts about shit that has zilch to do with support to the Palestinian cause or politics in general. Please take it to some other discussion group, even if your holy of holies has been offended.
        I know it’s not easy –have my own irrational beliefs, too.

      • Taxi on April 12, 2014, 9:44 am


        It’s irrational AND foolish to judge something you know nothing about – it renders your judgement inconsequential and irrelevant.

        And it ain’t up to you to decide which way the thread goes – who the eff are you? You’re not a moderator; you’re some pompous smartypants assuming the position of ‘scientist’ and ‘realist’ in-chief above the “Jews and Moslems and Christians and Californians and what will you…”? Ridiculous and despicable prejudice.

        Unless you’ve studied traditional Chinese medicine, you won’t, of course, know that it IS a scientific system and it’s results aren’t random or hoogleyboogley: you follow the system and it produces results, time and time again and again and again: no two ifs or buts about it.

        Some people are just brainwashed and prejudiced and irrationally believe, like you do, that only western systems are ‘scientific’ – everything else is just inferior “superstition”.

        The human face is one area of the human body that the Chinese use for diagnosis and I commented that Neil’s eye condition indicates an imbalance. You find that irrational? Well, all western doctors examine the eyes when a patient goes to visit them with an ailment – what do you think they’re looking for? The tooth fairy?

        And by the way, annie is right: sanpaku is not a permanent condition.

        Now don’t you just wish you hadn’t butted into a topic you know sweet eff all about?

      • talknic on April 10, 2014, 6:15 am

        @ libra “Good grief, what a diagnosis! If this is what passes for medicine in California these days…”

        It has been known about for centuries and often used in th’ movies to portray a sense of vulnerability esp in women. Filming from a position slightly higher or with their head tilted slightly down so they have to look up.

    • talknic on April 10, 2014, 6:00 am

      @ Taxi ” Neil’s eyes, you’ll see he’s suffering from something the Japanese call ‘Sanpaku’”

      Left eye only ;-) and he’s always had it, tho to a slightly lesser degree

  3. Keith on April 8, 2014, 3:56 pm

    This is yet another example of how capitalism co-ops dissent. Back in the 60s before they were rich and successful, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young gave voice to an anti-establishment, anti-war generation. Neil Young’s “Ohio” still retains the power to move. Somewhere along the way, fueled to an extent by drugs and fame, they inevitably made peace with the system which had rewarded them so well, although they still thought of themselves as rebels. After 9/11, Neil Young supported the war on terror only to later do an about face and call for Bush’s impeachment when he finally figured out he had been duped. David Crosby and Graham Nash showed some awareness by serenading the occupy movement in Zucotti Park but then performed for Obama at the White House. Perhaps they were channeling Bono. I still love their music, but let us be honest, they have morphed into cocaine liberals. Success will do that to you. Fortunately, I have been spared that fate.

  4. BrianEsker on April 8, 2014, 7:16 pm

    Do the words “fucking idiotic” mean anything to you? Neil Young is going to cancel his sold out concerts in a place where he will be received with open and loving arms because a few 2 bit terror-loving busybodies are pressuring him to cancel because they hate the existence of Jews? I don’t think so.

    There is irony here too, because there’s been more danger, damage and hardship inflicted upon their own people with missiles that have fallen short and into Gaza than the Israelis could ever do.

    • lonely rico on April 9, 2014, 10:08 am

      @ BrianEsker

      Do the words “fucking idiotic” mean anything to you?

      The meaning certainly becomes clearer as I read your letter.

      Neil Young is going to cancel his sold out concerts ?

      Maybe yes, maybe no. If no, he will play knowing that thousands decry the ugly injustice visited daily (by the open and loving arms) on the Palestinians.

      because a few 2 bit terror-loving busybodies hate the existence of Jews?

      Busybodies perhaps, terror-loving NO – justice for the Palestinians far closer to the mark.

    • seanmcbride on April 9, 2014, 10:32 am


      Earlier you remarked “I’m not rude.”

      Do you consider any of these direct quotes from you to be rude or abusive?

      1. 2 bit terror-loving busybodies
      2. a pack of lies
      3. blood libel the Joos
      4. crank-filled terror cult
      5. fraud, racism and terrorism
      6. fraud, thuggery and racism
      7. fraudulent blood-libel
      8. fraudulent distortions
      9. fucking idiotic
      10. hate Israel crud
      11. hate Israel fad
      12. hate the existence of Jews
      13. highly synchronized Jew hatred
      14. hormonal drama queens and princes
      15. idiotic article
      16. idiots
      17. in a pig’s ass
      18. Israel hate stuff
      19. Israel haters
      20. ivory tower knucklehead
      21. Jamestown Kool Aid cult
      22. Jew haters
      23. Mondonut
      24. MORONS!
      25. PalArabs
      26. poisonous Kool Aid
      27. racist morons
      28. self-hating Jew
      29. Shamnesty International
      30. sheer idiotic hypocrisy of Queers beating Israel
      31. stupid resolutions
      32. suck it up
      33. the goals of eradicating Israel and killing all the Jews
      34. this is silly
      35. this is so stupid
      36. typical piss and moan go nowhere radical whine
      37. you dorks must be kidding

      By the way, I think your posts are enlightening — I hope Mondoweiss continues to approve your comments.

    • justicewillprevail on April 9, 2014, 10:53 am

      They clearly mean something to you, as they should, judging by your ranting and raving.

  5. Jeff Levy on April 9, 2014, 8:24 am

    Neil wrote the most incisive couple of lines in the history of rock and roll —

    We’ve got a thousand points of light for the homeless man
    We’ve got a kinder, gentler machine gun hand

    –in response to George Bush I, and was the only white superstar who publicly opposed George Bush II’s “war on terror.” (Living with War album, 2006)

    I hope he finds the guts and compassion to do the right thing here, too.

    • joecatron on April 10, 2014, 4:30 am

      “the only white superstar who publicly opposed George Bush II’s ‘war on terror.’ (Living with War album, 2006)”

      That’s a stretch in all sorts of directions. Without resorting to Google, I can think of several, with better claim to the status, whose opposition came earlier.

      • annie on April 10, 2014, 10:52 pm

        i remember when mosh came out, that was huge. i watched it over and over. killer incredible video. bush stole that election and they did it thru the poor districts.

      • joecatron on April 11, 2014, 12:55 pm

        Bush might have stolen 1% of it, I don’t know. But the Democrats definitely gave 99% of it away by nominating an awful pro-war ticket.

      • annie on April 11, 2014, 1:13 pm

        i’m talking about 04, the election before the mosh video. it was way way more than 1%. here’s robert kennedy jr. originally published in rolling stone

        As the last polling stations closed on the West Coast, exit polls showed Kerry ahead in ten of eleven battleground states — including commanding leads in Ohio and Florida — and winning by a million and a half votes nationally. The exit polls even showed Kerry breathing down Bush’s neck in supposed GOP strongholds Virginia and North Carolina.(30) Against these numbers, the statistical likelihood of Bush winning was less than one in 450,000.(31) ”Either the exit polls, by and large, are completely wrong,” a Fox News analyst declared, ”or George Bush loses.”(32)

        But as the evening progressed, official tallies began to show implausible disparities — as much as 9.5 percent — with the exit polls.

        and i recommend

        it’s been awhile so i can’t recall all the details, but i was following this very closely for many months after the election and it was astounding the info that came out in places like ohio, NM, many other states. even court cases completely ignored by the msm. just outrageous.

        i agree w/you tho about kerry, horrible candidate.

  6. Rational Zionist on April 9, 2014, 9:52 am

    Here’s a thought.
    If Gaza wants free and unfettered access and movement, maybe they should beat their swords (rockets, bombs) into plow shears. Israel doesn’t want Gaza. Hell, no one does. One Israeli and Egyptian imposed sanctions exist solely to control the militants.

    • puppies on April 11, 2014, 12:20 am

      Thank you for the laugh of the day.
      I’m sure they are not so needy yet at the Propagandaministerium as to pay you.

    • talknic on April 11, 2014, 2:33 am

      @ Rational Zionist

      “If Gaza wants free and unfettered access and movement, maybe they should beat their swords (rockets, bombs) into plow shears. Israel doesn’t want Gaza. .. “

      Gaza is a part of Palestine. You’re saying Texas should not fight for the USA were the USA invaded, even though the invader didn’t want Texas?

      As for Israel not wanting Gaza. Red Heifer sh*t pal. I defy you to answer these Q’s honestly.
      1) Why has Israel illegally retained and illegally settled most of the non-Israeli territory of and around the Gaza Strip and claimed it for the State of Israel without having ever legally annexed it?

      2) Why did Israel take military control of Gaza from Egypt and then begin to illegally settle it?

  7. Keith on April 9, 2014, 11:16 am

    JEFF LEVY- “…and was the only white superstar who publicly opposed George Bush II’s “war on terror.” (Living with War album, 2006)

    I am not going to delve into who may or may not be considered a “white superstar,” nor who all eventually publicly opposed the war on terror. My point is to ask WHEN this opposition manifested itself. Neil has an uncanny sense of detecting which way the wind is blowing and to posture accordingly. Finally opposing something years after it took effect doesn’t speak well for Neil’s analytical ability. Hey, I am glad he finally saw the error of his earlier actions, but let us not distort historical reality and Neil Young’s propensity to go with the flow. His initial support of the war on terror was well reported on dissident websites, I offer two quotes and links.

    “People for the American Way, which once described the goal of the PMRC censors as “to bring children and parents together on music selection,” gave Neil Young its Spirit of Liberty award at a December 11 Beverly Hills banquet. Young used the occasion to proclaim his support of the USA/Patriot Act, which became law on October 26. “To protect our freedoms,” Young said, “it seems we’re going to have to relinquish some of our freedoms for a short period of time.” (Lee Ballinger and David Marsh)

    “That may strike some as odd, given that Young’s 2006 “Living with War” CD was a direct challenge to the Bush administration and the U.S. occupation of Iraq. But the key to my criticism is the year — 2006. An anti-war record three years into the war should not be cause for uncritical accolades for a musician who claims to be a dissenter. We should be asking Neil Young, “Where were you in 2001?” The answer: He was writing and recording “Let’s Roll,” which was released on his 2002 CD, “Are You Passionate?” ….When the movement could have used an eloquent musical voice, Young was on the other side.” (Robert Jensen)

    • UpSIDEdown on April 10, 2014, 10:12 am

      Thank you Jeff Levy there was much info I had missed but thank you for pointing this out I imagine I must have somehow missed that…sure makes me wonder..

  8. UpSIDEdown on April 10, 2014, 10:08 am

    Neil Young was a huge help to First Nations here in Canada so it was quite surprising that he left here to go and perform for Israel Many of the same people he helped have written him numerous letters in the hopes her wont perform I imagine we will soon see what Mr. . Young is made of. However I’ve known him for many years and believe he will do what’s right He’s always been socially conscious but somewhat shy To be honest I was somewhat surprised at him talking out against the unfair treatment of First Nations in Canada surprised but proud of him for caring.

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