By: Soraya Misleh
As the terrorist state of Israel moves forward with genocide in Gaza and ethnic cleansing in the West Bank, it has also put green marketing into action, covering up its crimes against humanity with “greenwashing.” It participated in the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 28), as it officially announced on its website, in order to “present Israeli climate innovation, since Israel’s greatest contribution to the global climate crisis is in the provision of practical technologies and solutions.”
This outrage did not go unpunished. Activists in solidarity with the Palestinian people have held protests at COP 28, demanding an immediate ceasefire and an end to Zionist apartheid and colonization. During the demonstrations they also read the names of the victims of genocide and denounced the contamination of water in Gaza.
With only a brief lull to break up the killing, more than 21,000 Palestinians have been massacred in the past 60 days, including approximately 11,000 children.
Beyond this, the Palestinian people have had to live with the damage Israel has done to their environment, and even their very skin. The poisoning of the land and the pollution caused by the murderous bombings will leave a trail of destruction that will continue for many years to come. It may even kill many of the Palestinians who manage to survive the direct genocide that is currently underway.
The official Zionist presence, despite its prosecution of a new phase in the ongoing Nakba, is the crowning shame of a conference that for good reason has been nicknamed the “Oil COP,” as it is being chaired by an oil tycoon, Sultan Al-Jaber, CEO of ADNOC, the state oil company of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which hosted the event in its capital, Dubai.
The outrage goes beyond this hypocrisy: the UAE played a key role in the Arab states’ normalization process with Israel, in the so-called “Abraham Accords.” Signed in September 2020, under the mediation of U.S. imperialism, these include a series of memoranda of understanding for the realization of joint projects in renewable energy, agribusiness, and water.
The eco-normalization reinforces the role of Israeli greenwashing as a money-making machine for Israeli companies, while undermining Palestinian energy democracy and food sovereignty, which are inextricably linked to the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.
This reflection appears in an article by a group of researchers and activists including the Palestinian Manal Shqair, the Algerian Hamza Hamouchene, and the Tunisian journalist Hafawa Rebhi. It should be recalled that natural gas was discovered on the Mediterranean coast, also reaching Gaza, and the genocidal Zionist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu granted, on October 30, in the midst of the bombings in Gaza, 12 licenses for the exploration of natural gas in the region to six companies, among them British Petroleum and the Italian Eni.
The Zionist presence at COP 28 may have the hidden objective of negotiating with the oil companies, but it is also part of this “eco-normalization,” as denounced by Palestinian environmentalists who refused to participate in the conference. “How can we ask for environmental justice when the world is silent about what is happening?” said Abeer Butmeh in an interview with Middle East Eye.
Butmeh also spoke to Middle East Eye about the Israeli startups present at COP 28, which runs until December 12: “They will be promoted as professional companies in recycling, clean energy, and water management, as well as sustainable agriculture and green building. But, to tell the truth… come and see what is happening in Palestine.”
Environmental Crime and Ethnic Cleansing
The extermination of Gaza’s future, with women and children comprising a majority of the dead, deepens the dramatic humanitarian crisis Palestinians are already facing in the narrow strip, which has been under criminal Zionist siege for more than 15 years.
Recognition of this tragic scenario for its 2.4 million inhabitants came in the form a UN announcement in 2015 that Gaza would become uninhabitable in five years. Israel had already been poisoning the Palestinians’ agricultural land, which, even before early October this year, had 96% of its water deemed unfit for human consumption.
More than half of the population, most of them the descendants of refugees from the 1948 Nakba, are under 18 years old and have already suffered five other periods of massive bombings in the last 15 years, in addition to more frequent isolated bombings, including in 2023, before the beginning of October.
“Final Solution” and Environmental Destruction
Now that Israel has felt free to move toward its “final solution,” the water crisis has become much more severe. Gazans have been drinking water contaminated with sewage since the start of this genocide on October 7.
“Whatever political fate the future holds for Gaza, the long-term consequences for the environment in the territory are clear: the pollution of a weeks-long war, from bomb shrapnel from fighter jets and tank barrels, will last for years and perhaps a lifetime,” notes a December 5 report in The New Arab.
On November 20, the Turkish news agency TRT World published the specialists’ warning about the environmental consequences Palestinians in Gaza will face when Zionist bombs finally stop falling on their heads.
They highlighted how the incessant use of munitions and explosives in Gaza has released toxic particles into the air and water, with the potential to poison Gazans in the coming years, or even decades, causing cancer, respiratory, and cardiovascular diseases, among others.
“Residential buildings, schools, mosques and even hospitals were left transformed into a mixture of dust and twisted metal. For the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons, the air has become unbreathable, water is contaminated, and food is lacking, exposing them to various diseases,” the report continues.
Indiscriminate bombardments such as those carried out by Israel release large volumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. “Estimates based on available information show substantial emissions of carbon dioxide, which pose serious health risks,” the report continues.
Chemical Weapons Dropped by Israel
To top it off, Israel has also dropped chemical weapons on Palestinians in Gaza, such as white phosphorus, which, again according to the TRT World article, when exposed to the atmosphere, “burns at extremely high temperatures – high enough to burn metal and bone – and often causes fires.”
The same report also reveals, “The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry states that white phosphorus can slowly accumulate in the bodies of fish living in contaminated lakes or streams.” In other words, if Gaza fishermen could not guarantee their livelihoods before because Israel increasingly reduced their fishing miles, with the cease-fire they will not even have fish to feed their families.
The environmental impacts have deepened the catastrophe and are already perceptible. Palestinians have suffered from infections and there has already been an epidemic of hepatitis in a school where refugees are housed. Eighty percent of Gaza’s 2.4 million Palestinians have been internally displaced in the last 60 days.
Environmental Nakba Promoted by Zionism
The environmental catastrophe is not limited to Gaza. In the West Bank, where ethnic cleansing is advancing and where Israel has already killed more than 260 Palestinians and injured some 3,000 in the last 60 days alone, the Zionist state practices environmental apartheid against the Palestinian people. They have transferred the most polluting industries there and installed landfills over aquifers that supply Palestinian families.
It has also usurped natural resources and, since 1967, has cut down more than 800,000 olive groves, which affects the livelihoods of thousands of families.
The ongoing genocide in Gaza and the surge in ethnic cleansing in the West Bank are a new phase in the ongoing Nakba, which, for more than 75 years, has also had an environmental component.
One of the founding organizations of the Zionist colonial project, the Jewish National Fund, was responsible for transforming the native landscape into a European-like one. In the process, it cut down thousands of trees, destroyed native forests, lakes and rivers, while cynically claiming to have made “the desert bloom,” in one of the Zionist myths sold to the world in the ethnic cleansing of 1948.
As activist Greta Thunberg, one of the voices denouncing the current ongoing massacre against the Palestinian people, emphasized, “there is no climate justice in occupation.” There is no climate justice in genocide.
Article published in http://www.opiniaosocialista.com.br, 6/12/2023.
Translation to Spanish: Natalia Estrada.
Translation to English: Carlos Sapir