By John Sinha
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Environmental Warfare in Gaza by Shourideh C Molavi review: How Zionism causes climate catastrophe in Palestine

A new book exposes how Israel’s settler colonialism has turned thriving Palestinian agriculture into deserts—but resistance still blooms
Issue 2910
Environmental Warfare in Gaza by Shourideh C Molavi

Environmental Warfare in Gaza by Shourideh C Molavi

Settler colonialism and environmental destruction interact in devastating ways in Palestine.

The extraction of oil and gas in the Middle East is a major source of the hydrocarbons, which are causing climate change. And the water-stressed region is in the front-line of the impact of that change.

Until relatively recently, there hasn’t been much written about the environmental impact of Zionist military occupation and settler colonialism, even by those who support the Palestinian cause.

In this important new book, Shourideh Molavi has amassed a wealth of research to address this neglected but vital issue. As she points out, “The Nakba has also a lesser-known environmental dimension.”

The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians—known as the Nakba, which began in 1948—is “a process of colonially imposed climate change”. It saw “the complete transformation of the environment, the weather, the soil, the loss of the indigenous climate, the vegetation, the skies”.

This book exposes the Zionist myth that Israeli settlers made “let the desert bloom”. It documents the wholesale destruction of Palestinian agriculture, from the once lush citrus groves of towns such as Jaffa to the now desert-like Gaza perimeter.

One of the objectives of this type of settler colonialism is to actively deny and destroy what existed before.

A recurring theme of the book is the engineered water scarcity created by Zionist occupation. It includes damming groundwater for the benefit of the Israeli settlements surrounding Gaza.

Molavi points how Zionism has tried to “greenwash” the occupation—with NGOs claiming it’s helped the environment—to erase the memory of Arab villages and agriculture.

One NGO, the Jewish National Fund, planned and financed many pine plantations, but this meant the uprooting of Palestinian olive groves. This process explains why the pine has become a hated symbol of Zionist occupation and why many Palestinians counter it by identifying with the olive tree.

The book’s focus is the situation in Gaza, which was grim even before the recent Israeli onslaught.

Gaza is a creation of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). Molavi gives a blow-by-blow account of the creation of the Gaza perimeter, starting in 1970 with general Ariel Sharon’s “Pacification of Gaza”. Repeated assaults by the IOF have extended this perimeter security zone on numerous occasions.

The IOF used bulldozers as a tool of military domination and environmental destruction. They constructed watch towers which required clear lines of site for snipers and CCTV. They sprayed military grade herbicides which often spread into Palestinian agricultural land.

The IOF has created a lifeless moonscape, a killing zone that was once covered in orange groves.

In 2018, we witnessed how Israel used this infrastructure to kill and maim hundreds of unarmed Palestinians marching peacefully for the right of return to their land.  And we have seen it again since the Palestinian assault on the hated perimeter wall on 7 October 2023.

Molavi rightly emphasises Palestinian resilience to this multilayered onslaught. She concludes, “As long as this desire, conscious and tacit, to create a settler ecology out of the ecology of Palestine continues, novel and subversive frontiers of resistance to confront it will also continue to blossom.”

The climate justice movement is becoming an increasingly visible presence in the Palestine solidarity movement. This book is an invaluable tool to those climate justice activists who want to strengthen these growing links.

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