Appeal: Law Against Picking Rare Plant ‘Suppresses Palestinian Identity’

YERUSHALAYIM -
View of Israel’s Lower Galilee. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

A resident of the Galilee Arab village of Rama is appealing a conviction on violating the law against picking a rare plant, claiming that use of the plant is a long-standing part of Arab culture, and forbidding use of the plant is discriminatory. In his appeal to the court, the individual’s attorney said that “the use of the plants is well-known in Palestinian Arab culture. We request that the interpretation of ‘public interest’ regarding the use of these plants be expanded to include the cultural norms involved in using these plants.” The reason Israel forbids the harvest of the plant is, according to the attorney, to “suppress Palestinian identity.”

The plant in question is Tournefort’s gundelia (Gundelia tournefortii), a thorny plant that grows in marsh areas. The plant has been nearly decimated by over-harvesting and the loss of marshland due to urbanization, and is nearly extinct, according to the Parks and Nature Authority. The plant is protected, meaning that picking it is illegal and can lead to civil and criminal penalties.

The culprit in this case was caught picking the plant two and a half years ago at the Daliyot Junction on the Golan Heights. Upon investigation, officials found that the 70-year-old man had five kilograms of the plant in his possession. He was convicted in March, and sentenced to a suspended one-year prison sentence, and fined NIS 5,000.

The defendant’s attorney told a Nazareth court last week that the conviction was “small and petty.” Even though there were justifications to limit the harvest of the plant, it “is based on the control of Israel and its attempt to suppress Palestinian culture and identity. This is an attempt to impose a colonialist attitude on food.” There is no reason to ban the harvest of small amounts of the plant, and the attempt to brand as criminal the actions of “a group that ‘conspired’ to strip the country of the plant” is “an attempt to place criminal sanctions on Palestinian culture.”

Contacted by Walla News, the Parks and Nature Authority said that it could not comment on cases that were being heard by a court.