How are Palestinians treated in Israel

Consequences of groundwater pollution

In the medium term, the ruthless extraction of groundwater will have catastrophic consequences. On the Israeli coast and in the Gaza Strip, the groundwater level sinks by 15 centimeters every year, causing seawater to seep in again and again, which leads to the salinization of cultivated areas.

The groundwater in these areas is already contaminated by fertilizers, around every fifth well near the coast would have to be shut down because the water contains too much salt and nitrates. In addition, there is pollution from the discharge of untreated sewage and toxins. Pollution is caused by Israelis and Palestinians alike, but the continued occupation means that nothing is being done about it.

Consequences of the lack of sewage treatment plants

The fact that the Israeli settlements do not have any sewage treatment plants has dire consequences for the Palestinian farmers: From the sewer pipes of settlements that are always on top of the mountain, the untreated sewage flows down into the valley and onto the Palestinian fields.

The Palestinians even more lack facilities for garbage and sewage disposal. Your international partners no longer finance such infrastructure facilities because they do not function under the Occupation Statute, and the Israeli government is refusing the necessary building permits. In addition, garbage transports are stopped at the roadblocks and workers cannot move around freely. But with their policies at the expense of the environment, the Israelis also contribute to the pollution of their own drinking water.

Environmental consequences of the »security wall«

This tragic situation is not even noticed by environmentally conscious Israelis - they are not interested in the environment of others. Almost no one protests against the environmental consequences of the barrier, which has been built since 2002 by government decision along the border as well as within the Palestinian territories.

The devastating consequences for the landscape as well as for fauna and flora have long been known. So far, more than 100,000 olive trees have been felled in the course of the construction work. This is not an issue for the Israeli public. Only the members of the peace movement do not submit to the prohibitions of thought stemming from the conviction that the "security wall" is necessary for the protection of the Israeli population. Here, as in other questions, the obsession with security blocks all rational considerations.

Recently, however, an astonishing alliance has come about: settlers and members of the left have demanded that the barrier should not be built in the Judean desert - for ecological reasons. In January 2007, the then Defense Minister Amir Peretz supported this line of argument and ordered construction to be halted. This ambivalent success was only possible because this region plays a major role in the Bible, but only a subordinate role for security policy.

Environmental destruction as a means of displacement

On the other hand, nobody is committed to the Palestinian environment. Rather, environmental degradation sometimes serves as a means to displace the population. The village of Wadi Fukin lies in a picturesque river valley west of Bethlehem, between the "Green Line" (the armistice line from 1949, which was Israel's state border until the Six Day War of 1967) and the Israeli settlement of Betar Illit.

The Israelis are practicing a downright clear-cutting policy here: the once green slopes are being built on with ever new settlements, and the construction of the barrage means that the soil will become even more deserted and agriculture will no longer be possible. Apparently everything is being done here to get the Palestinian peasants to give up and move away.

Destruction of the Palestinian environment

After the Palestinians had fled and were expelled and the state was founded in 1948, Israel gave hundreds of Arab places new Hebrew names. Many of the former Palestinian villages were also incorporated into landscape protection areas - also a method of appropriating the environment of another people. This process continues today, destroying what has always determined the identity of the Palestinians: the landscape, the fields and the olive groves.

Author: Raphaël Kempf

Raphaël Kempf is a researcher at the Arab Center for Applied Social Studies, Mada Al-Carmel, Haifa.

More information on the topic:

Human Rights Israel

Applied Research Institute

Eco Peace, Friends of the earth Middle East

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