Palestine is a cause of human rights and climate justice. The struggle to fight against the Israeli occupation, which has been based on the illegal exploitation of Palestinian lands and natural resources, are part of a liberation struggle, as PENGON / Friends of the Earth Palestine tell us in this interview. We met with Rasha Abu Dayyeh and Abeer Butmeh, two of their members, who shared with us what the reality is today in Palestine.
As an environmental activist, how do you connect your struggles in Palestine with climate justice and human rights?
It is imperative to recognize that addressing environmental issues cannot be separated from acknowledging people’s right to national sovereignty in their own land. Our liberation struggle is interconnected with global movements advocating for Indigenous rights, land rights, the fight against the fossil fuel industry and climate colonialism. This is part and parcel of the collective struggle for a world where everyone has the right to live with dignity, free from oppression.
In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinians are prevented from accessing, utilizing, and benefitting from natural resources. The Israeli occupation illegally controls over 65% of the West Bank and restricts agricultural practices in 35% of the Gaza Strip’s agricultural land (Access Restricted Areas (ARA)), all of which prevents Palestinians from coping with climate change. Without an end to the occupation and blockade, adaptive strategies will have a limited impact.
What are the environmental impacts of the war in Gaza and of the Occupation of Palestinian lands?
The global community is currently witnessing a series of attacks carried out by Israel’s occupation forces against the Palestinian population, their lands, and civilian infrastructure in Gaza. Environmental genocide practiced in the Gaza Strip following a nearly two-month-long assault by Israeli airstrikes and ground fighting. Large swaths of Gaza has been flattened, agricultural lands have been destroyed, olive trees that have stood for generations are scorched and dwindling water resources are now contaminated.
The continuous bombardment has left behind hazardous materials that contaminate the soil and groundwater, posing a significant threat to the ecosystem. Additionally, Israel periodically sprays highly toxic chemical pesticides in areas near the perimeter fence, further exacerbating environmental damage.
“The Israeli occupation illegally controls over 65% of the West Bank and restricts agricultural practices in 35% of the Gaza Strip’s agricultural land, all of which prevents Palestinians from coping with climate change.” – Abeer Butmeh
Israel’s blockade on the entry of fuel and equipment necessary for the sustainability of the energy sector in Gaza has created immense challenges in meeting the energy needs of the people. Disturbingly, even critical infrastructure such as hospitals, with solar panels installed on their rooftops, have reportedly been targeted by Israel’s forces during the ongoing war on Gaza.
This has direct environmental consequences, such as contamination of water sources, sewage spills, and disruption of essential services, which can have long-term health and environmental implications.
“ For those who have been stripped of their homeland, resources, and basic right to exist, it is impossible to work on environmental challenges while being denied the opportunity to build resilience and achieve collective sovereignty over essential resources such as food, energy, and water.” – Rasha Abu Dayyeh
How do you respond as an organization to all these challenges?
PENGON, which unifies 15 environmental organizations in the West bank and Gaza strip, has always fought to resist and bond with communities beyond borders to expose how injustice can be resisted.
We always find alternative in the marginalized communities we work with. In cooperation with our members we empower these communities to increase their steadfastness in their land, by implementing development environmental projects; solar energy, water networks, rehabilitation land, etc.
We empower the Palestinian communities to be able to advocate for their environmental rights. Our organization is actively mobilizing our supporters from international environmental organizations to advocate for an immediate ceasefire. Additionally, we are currently utilizing emergency funds to provide crucial support to the people of Gaza, particularly women, in meeting their urgent needs.
How can our federation and supporters help the Palestinian struggle?
- Contact your member of Congress and call for an immediate cease-fire;
- Help bring attention to what’s happening in Gaza. Lifting up Palestinian voices, sharing the realities in different ways in a way to support the struggle.
- Taking part in protests, marches, or media messages are a powerful way to publicly demonstrate solidarity with Gaza and to support Palestinian struggles;
- Promptly rally together to refute Israeli misinformation, whether disseminated through the media or propagated by the government;
- Urge your governments to endorse the Palestinian call for the immediate revival of the UN Special Committee against Apartheid.