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Palestine and the Climate Crisis


Written by Audree Clint (she/her) | Contributing Writer

In the heart of the occupied state of Palestine, colonisation and war are making things so much worse for the climate. The occupier of this state, known today as Israel, is guilty of using environmental racism and injustice, as well as greenwashing, to distract from what it is really doing to the planet and the people whose land they are occupying. These offences are contributing massively to the climate crisis, and unless world leaders step in to stop them, it’s just going to keep getting worse.

Environmental racism means that marginalised groups, like the Palestinians, suffer more from the effects of climate change than others. Israel has used environmental racism towards Palestinians since they became an occupier nation in 1948. Instances of environmental racism towards Palestinians include the draining of the Hula wetlands, separation walls between Israeli and Palestinian settlements, massive destruction during settler attacks against Palestinian property, the illegal dumping of sewage on Palestinian farmland, the destruction of forests, the burning of trees, the loss of green land and natural resources, the contamination of water “sources”, and the destruction of beehives.

These examples of environmental injustice have two major consequences, the first being that climate change disproportionately affects Palestinians. Their food security is threatened, as well as access to clean water and power, and they become exposed to additional diseases and health concerns. A 2018 study found that 92.6% of groundwater in the Palestine region was unfit for human consumption. So why are world leaders so passive and even supportive towards Israel? There’s a multitude of reasons, but let’s talk about greenwashing.

According to de Freitas Netto et al. (2020), greenwashing is when public actors, especially politicians, boast of their contributions to climate health, when in reality they are doing much more damage than they let on. Israel uses greenwashing to get world leaders on their side and draw attention away from the human rights violations they are committing. They engage in greenwashing when they talk about green development to various audiences, deliberately excluding the real-life experiences of Palestinians. Experiences that include displacement from their lands, Israel’s contamination of Palestinian groundwater and the destruction of solar panels, all of which are important environmental cases.

In order to justify colonial projects, Israel blames indigenous Palestinians for wasting the land’s full potential. Zionist theorists (a nationalist movement advocating for colonial projects on Palestinian lands) assume the narrative that Palestine is a “land without a people for a people without a land” (Hughes et al., 2023), a barren desert ripe for settlers to salvage so they can revive the land themselves. Taking this argument at face value, we look at the effects Israel’s current siege on Gaza alone is having on the climate. According to AK (2023), the global military impression, including Israel’s military, on the climate accounts for an estimated 5.5% of global emissions. Only 35 days into Israel’s siege on Gaza produced an approximate of 60.3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Now, over 160 days after Israel began its onslaught, you can imagine that number to be much, much larger.

Even before this siege, the occupied state of Palestine was already suffering under Israel’s rule. The regional temperature rose by 1.5°C between 1950 and 2017 (AK, 2023) and with Israel’s ongoing siege, experts expect the temperature to rise by an additional 4°C by the end of the century. Israel’s bombings have also destroyed many of Palestine’s solar panels, proving that Israel’s war on Gaza is also a war on the climate (Saber, 2023).

The most important thing you can do to combat this issue is first and foremost to educate yourself. Use multiple trustworthy sources. Sources written by historians, scholars, and journalists who are there on the ground in Palestine. Look at both sides of the story, watch out for people who cite their sources and people who don’t. The second most important thing you can do is take action. There are plenty of communities who work right here in Auckland advocating and calling for New Zealand to hold Israel accountable, to stop the killing of innocent civilians and the destruction of Palestinian land. Communities like Palestinian Youth Aotearoa, Palestinian Solidarity Network Aotearoa and Auckland Peace Action. Join in these communities and engage in peaceful protest to advocate both for the lives of Palestinians, and the lives of every human being who lives right here on Papatūānuku.


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