Introducing PENGON, by Abeer al Butmeh
The Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network- Friends of Earth Palestine (PENGON-FoE Palestine) is a coordinating body among different Palestinian NGOs working in the field of the environment. It aims to serve Palestinian environmental issues by coordinating endeavours between the member organizations. The idea of establishing a network of Palestinian environmental organizations took root when a number of NGOs felt the urgent need to protect our environment and face the violations perpetrated on it.
PENGON leads environmental advocacy campaigns, working with people at the grassroots to make their voices heard and help them build their capacity to pursue their environmental rights, fighting together in the cause of environmental and social justice.
PENGON members conduct projects on various issues such as for environmental justice and against violations of rights, pursuing the equitable management of natural resources and sustainable development, advocating and lobbying for environmental research and gender equality.
One of the main campaigns organized by PENGON is the Climate Justice campaign that contributes to the strengthening of claims for justice in Palestine based on the vision of human rights, sovereignty, the fair and gender-just control over resources and full access to the decision-making processes. Our campaigns highlight the linkages between environmental issues and dimensions of equality, human rights, gender and sustainability. In addition, these issues promote debate and discussion on environmental sustainability and justice.
Although climate change is affecting the whole region, it seems that Palestine is more vulnerable than others due to the Israeli occupation and its colonial system of oppression and discrimination; Israel imposes on Palestinians a complex system of violations of human and environmental rights, built on a model of the subjugation of the people, land and natural resources of the indigenous people.
The Israeli occupation is the biggest non-environmental threat facing the Palestinians; it ignores the rights of sovereignty for Palestinians over their own natural resources; it controls and steals Palestinian water resources; it puts a whole series of restrictions on the development and adaptation of the Palestinian territories: all these steps undermine the resilience of Palestinians in the face of climate change.
At the same time, Israel portrays itself as the eco-friendly country par excellence, – pioneer in agricultural techniques such as drip-irrigation, in dairy farming, desert ecology, water management and solar energy – while practising environmental colonialism and eco-apartheid. It operates through different institutions that support Israeli state polices, including the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which proclaims itself to be a transnational environmental NGO, planting 250 million trees, building more than 210 reservoirs and dams, developing more than 250,000 acres of land, creating more than 1000 parks and providing the infrastructure for more than 1000 communities throughout Israel.
Throughout, the JNF – helping to exile hundreds of thousands of Palestinian families, their homes bulldozed to make way for Jewish settlement – bought large tracts of land from absentee landowners, evicted local Arab tenant farmers, uprooted the natural vegetation of olive, carob and pistachio trees and planted throughout the land, in place of indigenous arboreta, vast swaths of European Pinera (conifers) and eucalyptus trees.
Forests, parks and recreational facilities were strategically placed atop the ruins of destroyed Palestinian villages, so that the fast-growing pines would erase the history of Palestinian existence and prevent refugees from ever returning to their homes. In addition, pine forests were planted to guard and expand settlements built on stolen land and, after 1967, to seize and divide Palestinian territory within East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.
In Israel’s occupation of Palestine, we see how environmental devastation coincides with ethnic cleansing and how the former is used to deepen the latter.
The quest for climate justice in Palestine lies at the heart of the struggle to defend the land and the rights of the Palestinian people.