Originally published by Green Left Weekly, November 23
Ownership of the land of Palestine is hotly contested, so it is
little surprise that the Earth itself is often the first casualty of
Israel uses a variety of tactics to try and drive Palestinians from
their traditional lands and claim the spoils. This can mean direct
violence against people, which includes settlers destroying the olive
groves that Palestinian farmers have maintained for thousands of years.
But Israel also uses a scorched earth approach: contaminating arable
land with garbage, draining aquifers of water and denying Palestinians
the ability to develop sustainably.
The apartheid practices of the state of Israel restrict day-to-day access to water for Palestinians. A 2013 report by Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq
shows that water consumption by Israelis is around three to four times
higher than that of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
Palestinian water consumption in the West Bank averages 73 litres per
person per day, well below the World Health Organisation minimum of 100
litres, while Israelis use 300 litres on average. Israeli settlers
consume even more — averaging 373 litres for personal use — while
agricultural settlements in the Jordan Valley draw a whopping 1312
litres per capita.
“The level of unrestricted access to water enjoyed by those residing
in Israel and Israeli settlers demonstrates that resources are plentiful
and that the lack of sufficient water for Palestinians is a direct
result of Israel's discriminatory policies in water management,” the
The way Israel achieves this plentiful supply of water is through
over-extraction from the Jordan River and the aquifers that lie
underneath Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and the Sinai. Al-Haq reports
that 38 Israeli wells are located in the West Bank, and Palestinians are
denied access to waters of the Jordan River, despite it forming the
eastern boundary of the West Bank under international law.
Friends of the Earth Middle East, a joint Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian organisation, reports that,
“Diversion of 96% of its fresh water, in addition to discharge of large
quantities of untreated sewage, threatens to irreversibly damage the
Sewage dumping is not just a problem for the Jordan River Valley.
Israeli settlements routinely release their waste water so as to
contaminate Palestinian agricultural land, while landfill is often
routinely dumped by Israeli companies on Palestinian land.
“Israel has been dumping waste, including hazardous and toxic waste,
into the West Bank for years as a cheaper and easier alternative to
processing it properly in Israel at appropriate hazardous waste
management sites,” Palestinian Environmental Authority (PEA) deputy director Jamil Mtoor told Inter Press Service in 2009.
Attempts by Palestinians to establish any kind of waste recycling are
routinely frustrated by Israel. Restrictions on construction outside of
the densely populated Zones A & B of the West Bank — under full or
partial control of the Palestinian Authority, respectively — are almost
Industries which are able to recycle waste have even been actively
targeted by Israel. In 2005, Israel banned sulphuric acid from entering
the West Bank due to “security concerns”. This has meant a recycling
plant used by the tanning industry in Hebron for removal of chromium has
been unable to function and Palestinian tanneries have been at risk of
closure since, Middle East Monitor reported in February.
There are a variety of ways in which Palestinians resist Israel's
environmental degradation of their country. Permaculture offers a way to
bring together issues of environmental degradation, food security and
maintaining traditional culture.
“Permaculture as a technique is not a new thing for us as Palestinians,” Palestinian farmer Murad al-Khufash told Green Left Weekly.
“Before the occupation, before the new technologies, chemical
fertilisers, pesticides, etc, we used to live in the permacultural way.
As a word it is new, but the lifestyle is old.”
Permaculture is an agricultural philosophy based on three principles:
care for the Earth — allowing all life forms in the ecosystem to
flourish; care for people — farming to provide for people's needs; and,
taking a fair share — reinvesting the surplus back into the ecosystem,
rather than the agribusiness logic of extracting as much value from the
soil as possible.
Al-Khufash owns a permaculture farm in the village of Marda, nestled
beneath the Israeli settlement of Ariel. Israeli human rights
organisation B'tselem reported in 2010 that "prolonged neglect of treatment of Ariel's waste water" had already resulted in damage to the surrounding environment.
"We want to show people you can resist the occupation by having your own security, your own food," al-Khufash told GLW.
"One day I'll have everything set up in the farm: milk, eggs, meats,
vegetables, electricity, water — you don't need anything from outside.
With the checkpoints closing the streets and cities isolated from each
other, it's not easy to get from place to place, so that is a kind of