The No. 1 polluter in the occupied Palestinian territories is the very control Israel exercises over the land and the settlement enterprise. That isn’t a verbatim quote, but that’s the spirit of what Palestinian PM Mohammad Shtayyeh said at the COP26 environmental summit in Glasgow last week.
His presence barely won a mention in the global media, let alone in the Israeli media, further demonstrating how sidelined the Palestinian issue has become on the global agenda. But that doesn’t make the harm to the environment any the less.
Any number of studies and articles about the environmental conditions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank draw a connection to Israeli policy. These include a detailed UN paper from 2020 ,reports by Palestinian legal organization Al-Haq over the years, and an article published by the pan-Palestinian think-tank Al-Shabaka in 2019 (“Climate Change, the Occupation and a Vulnerable Palestine").
Yet it is difficult to quantify the total contribution to climate warming by the actions of the Israeli government and civilians in those territories conquered in 1967.
The state’s comptroller report on Israel’s failure to curb greenhouse gas emissions doesn’t even mention the territories. Nor does it discuss the UN’s frightening projection made in 2012, that the Gaza Strip would become uninhabitable by 2020 if Israel doesn’t fundamentally change its policy toward this enclave. Almost two years have passed since the “deadline” that the UN gave, and nothing substantial has changed. The UN must have underestimated Gazans’ enormous aptitude for resilience.
Yet a key sentence in the Comptroller’s report sheds light on Israeli obliviousness of the occupation’s contribution to local and global pollution. It reads: “In a situation of conflict or potential of conflict between the main objectives of government ministries and the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the ministries prioritize the promotion of goals at the core of their ministerial purview over emission reduction – save at the Environmental Protection Ministry…”