Farms, arms and Israel’s agro-diplomacy

The Minister of Agriculture of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jean Joseph Kasonga, with a delegation from Vital Capital Investments, December 7th, 2019. Photo: Desk Eco.

Israel has an international reputation for its high-tech agriculture. Its companies offer everything from the latest in drip irrigation systems to pesticide-spraying drones. But Israeli agribusiness has developed out of a militarised and illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and, in recent years, its growth is closely tied to the promotion of Israel’s diplomatic and economic agenda abroad. Much of this agro-diplomacy is carried out by a handful of little known companies led by former defence and secret service officers with high-level political connections. The companies they own specialise in expensive agricultural projects that are structured through offshore financial vehicles, involving the purchase of Israeli products and technologies and, often, connections with arms deals. Africa is a key target, but Israeli agribusiness projects are mushrooming around the world– from Colombia to Azerbaijan to Papua New Guinea. Few of these projects produce tangible benefits for local communities. But the consequences, from land grabbing to debts, can be severe and long-lasting. This report pulls back the curtain on the overseas activities of Israeli agribusiness and considers the consequences for local people as well as the ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands.