"I am disappointed to see that your article, which focuses on the environmental impact of the use of plastic bags in Gaza, completely disregards Israel’s environmental exploitation in Palestine/Israel which disproportionately affects Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied territories."
August 2, 2023
Nidal al-Mughrabi, Journalist, Reuters
Steve Bartlett, Senior Managing Editor, Saltwire
Dear Nidal al-Mughrabi and Steve Bartlett,
I’m writing to you on behalf of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME, https://www.cjpme.org) regarding your article entitled “Gaza campaign aims to replace plastic bags with cloth ones” which was published on August 2, 2023, on Saltwire.
We appreciate your efforts to include human interest stories from Gaza since news agencies in Canada rarely focus on the people living in Gaza and only report on them when violence breaks out. It is important for reporters, such as yourself, to include more stories of this nature.
However, I am disappointed to see that your article, which focuses on the environmental impact of the use of plastic bags in Gaza, completely disregards Israel’s environmental exploitation in Palestine/Israel which disproportionately affects Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied territories.
Israel’s environmental apartheid has been outlined by various human rights organizations. Palestinians, who for generations lived sustainably off the land, have been systemically dispossessed of their land since 1948. According to a report by the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) in November 2022, 93% of land in Israel is owned by the State of Israel and, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Israeli government restricts Palestinians from using the land in Area C, which comprises over 60% of the West Bank. In Area C of the West Bank, 70% of the land has been used to build illegal settlements, and 35% of East Jerusalem has also been seized for illegal settlements, according to the IMEU report. Israel uses Palestinian land to expand their settlements yet makes it almost impossible for Palestinians to use their land for residential, agricultural, or commercial purposes.
Additionally, the Israeli government has a history of destroying Palestine’s natural ecosystems to try and erase Palestinian history. Before 1948, many Palestinians grew olive, fig, and orange trees and many other crops as their source of income. Following the Nakba, Israel destroyed many of these groves and replaced the vegetation with trees that are native to Europe (IMEU, 2022). Since 1948, Israel planted 4.3 million non-native trees over the ruins of 89 Palestinian villages. This not only irreversibly damages the ecosystem, but it also serves as “green camouflage” for the State of Israel to obscure its war crimes (OHCHR, 2021). Israel also has a history of targeting olive groves in the occupied territories, which are a staple in the Palestinian environment and a huge source of food and income for Palestinians, as a tactic to push Palestinians off their land and increase illegal Israeli settlements.
Gaza, in particular, is disproportionately affected by Israel’s environmental apartheid. The blockade, which has been imposed since 2007, has created an environmental disaster according to the UN and the IMEU. The consistent attacks on Gaza by Israel have made it almost impossible to build good waste and water infrastructure, which has led to 96% of Gaza’s water becoming undrinkable due to wastewater being poured into the ocean and polluting vegetation. The lack of clean drinking water has increased the risk of kidney problems and cancer; 25% of diseases in Gaza can be linked to poor water quality.
Finally, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), Israel’s military, creates tons of waste and negatively impacts the environment. 30% of meals served by the IDF are thrown away everywhere, many IDF bases are not connected to the sewage systems, so waste does not properly flow into the sewage system, and recycling is barely maintained on the bases (Levy, 2023). In fact, the IDF does not even follow Israel’s own environmental laws yet seems to face no consequences for it.
Ultimately, your article would have been better served by including any of these topics as context for Gaza’s environmental efforts, as Israel’s environmental apartheid is causing much more damage to the ecosystems in Palestine/Israel than plastic bags in Gaza ever could.
Should you wish, you can contact me at 438-380-5410 for more information.
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
IMEU. “IMEU Institute for Middle East Understanding.” IMEU, 3 Nov. 2022, imeu.org/article/environmental-apartheid-in-palestine.
Levy, Liat. “Israel’s Army Has a Dirty Secret.” Haaretz.Com, 9 Jan. 2023, www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-01-09/ty-article-magazine/.premium/israeli-armys-latest-casualty-the-environment/00000185-7d62-d9ca-adb5-ffe3b2160000?v=1690990275592.
OHCHR. “Climate Oppression: A Major Tool to Establish and Maintain Israel’s Apartheid Regime over the Palestinian People and Their Lands.” Ohchr.Org, 30 Nov. 2021, www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/2022-03/al-haq.pdf.