The Palestinian Environment is within the Range of Israeli Targeting

Jun 26, 2023 02:59 pm

Elham Shamali

The Israeli occupation has targeted everything that is Palestinian on this land, from humans and birds to soil and air. The Israeli brutal practices committed against the Palestinian environment occur on a daily basis, and perhaps the most challenging issue faced by the Palestinian environment is the burial of solid nuclear waste in a number of the Palestinian cities: Hebron, Nablus and Negev. Thereafter, a large portion of these lands have turned into solid waste landfills, estimated at 250 thousand tons of waste being buried underground. What has probably aggravated the danger of waste is the Israeli occupation's transfer of 300 factories, including 29 facilities specializing in chemical production, into the Israeli settlements established on the West Bank lands, away from the Palestinian cities occupied in 1948. This move follows a series of complaints by Israeli human rights organizations regarding the emission of toxic gases from those factories and the breakout of some viruses affecting the respiratory system.

Such waste has overshadowed the groundwater aquifers and the Palestinian environment, which has lost a great part of birds and animals migrating to the Palestinian lands in certain seasons. Additionally, the apartheid wall which burdens the mobility of farmers from and to their lands, along with the iron gates being opened and closed according to the temper of Israeli soldiers negatively affect the environment as well.  

The Israeli bulldozers, moreover, have uprooted millions of wild plants and fruit-bearing trees before their harvest season, as Israeli settlers do every year once the olive harvest season approaches. Israeli bulldozers have reportedly destroyed 3.5-4.5 million trees, paving the way for the seizure of Palestinians lands and their annexation to settlements, and outposts in the West Bank.

The increasing land confiscation operations result in further depletion of Palestinian groundwater, which is then allocated to settlers. According to the World Bank, an Israeli settler in the West Bank consumes four times more water than a Palestinian citizen. Israel controls approximately 86% of the water resources, leaving only 13.5% for the Palestinian people, which is also controlled by the occupation, under Israeli Military Order No. 291 issued in 1967, declaring Palestinian water as property of the occupation. Additionally, these settlements flood fertile agricultural lands with wastewater estimated at around 40 million cubic meters, which seeps into Palestinian lands. This has had a detrimental impact on the groundwater reserves, increasing nitrate and salt levels, rendering it unfit for human use and increasing soil salinity, making it unsuitable for agriculture. This has led to the spread of desertification and the destruction of animal wealth and biodiversity. Over time, these areas become marginalized and abandoned, easily controlled by settler herds, resulting in a reduction of cultivated land in the West Bank. Palestinian farmers have resorted to agricultural fertilizers and pesticides, which have had negative effects on public health and the spread of chronic diseases such as cancer.

Numerous global scientific conferences were convened to discuss ways to preserve the environment, achieve sustainable development for environment conservation, establish natural reserves to protect biodiversity from extinction and address the threat of illegal hunting across the seven continents. Nonetheless, the Palestinian environment continues to face a fierce and continuous assault from settler herds and Israeli occupation forces. They engage in the heinous acts of burning, uprooting trees, stealing water, contaminating it with toxic substances and polluting the air with noise. 

Those who closely follow the Israeli violations committed against the Palestinian environment cannot differentiate between the ethnic cleansing policy practiced against the Palestinian people on one side and the Palestinian environment on another side. In 1948, entire villages were wiped out. Hence, the operations of confiscation of lands and stealing of water continue in all ways with any deterrence to the Israeli occupation, which strives to destroy all Palestinian life aspects through the assassination of environment. This aims to eliminate the foundations of Palestinian existence. However, Palestinian resilience and steadfastness demonstrate the Palestinians' ability to confront the Israeli oppressive machine.

Preserving the Palestinian environment is a collective responsibility that engages individuals and the government. It is crucial to activate laws and file international complaints against the Israeli occupation entity for its practices that violate international law, as it is an occupying state forced to protect the occupied land. Furthermore, there is an urgent need for international institutions to develop a strategy that targets the protection of the Palestinian environment from Israeli encroachment and pollution. Additionally, a Palestinian plan should be formulated to preserve and develop the land through continuous reforestation, especially in areas threatened with confiscation and daily presence. Continuous awareness campaigns should also be conducted.