Zionism and Environmental Violation.

The following is derived from a contribution made by Eurig Scandrett of Stop the JNF to a round-table discussion on “The Environmental Consequences of Settler Colonialism” in September 2022.

Environmental violation as ethnic cleansing has been a modus operandi for Zionist colonisers since well before the establishment of the state of Israel. Central to this process is the Jewish National Fund, which Ilan Pappe describes as “the principal Zionist tool for the colonisation of Palestine”, and which describes itself as “Israel’s largest green organisation”.

The JNF was established by the World Zionist Congress in 1901 with the objective of acquiring Palestinian land for Jewish colonisation. In 1948 when the Zionist militia expelled Palestinians from their homes they handed large areas of Palestinian land to the JNF. In order to prevent Palestinians from returning, the JNF planted trees over their villages and agricultural land, which also had the purpose of ‘judaizing the environment’ – transforming the landscape from looking ‘Arabic’ to looking North-East European, which is where most of the early Zionist pioneers came from. The JNF continues to deploy ethnic cleansing for settler colonisation under the cover of environmentalism and, very pertinently for us, operates as an environmental charity in Scotland and the UK.

Settler colonisation is a distinct form of colonisation with environmental implications. While classical colonialism exploits the natural resources, the labour and the markets of colonised territories for the benefit of a colonising state, settler colonialism has no interest in indigenous labour, requiring only the natural resources of the colonised people. Settlers have no long-term need for the indigenous labour or their markets, and so expel or annihilate the indigenous population, including through the environmental destruction of their land. Settler colonial states include today’s USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, which have in common the seizure of natural resources and the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population.

Amongst many people, water apartheid is probably not the best-known environmental injustice practised through the Palestinian occupation. As a result of the Oslo ‘peace process’ accords, the Palestinian Water Authority has no authority to approve water infrastructure in the West Bank without the approval of the Israeli occupiers. Meanwhile, water infrastructure for the illegal settlements is provided by the state of Israel. As a result, on average, Israelis have access to 600 litres of water per person per day (those in the illegal settlements even more) whereas West Bank Palestinians have less than the minimum WHO requirement of 100 litres. In Gaza water access is even more dangerous. The aquifer that serves the Gaza strip is over-extracted, and the river that would replenish it dammed by Israel, so that sea water seeps into the aquifer. Moreover, the materials required for desalination on any scale, and for sewage treatment, are prevented from crossing the Israeli military blockade. 

So, between them, the state of Israel and the parastatal JNF work in tandem to make life ever harder for the Palestinians as part of the effort to drive them out.