Earth Day in Israel: Apartheid Showing Through the Greenwash

On April 22, as part of the global Earth Day celebrations, homes, offices and public buildings in 14 Israeli cities turned out the lights for one hour in an effort to “increase awareness of the vital need to reduce energy consumption.” The Earth Day celebrations included scenes of green fields, wind generators and rainbows projected on the walls of the Old City in Jerusalem, the Green Globes Award ceremony recognizing “outstanding contributions to promote the environment” and a concert in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv powered by generators running on vegetable oil as well as volunteers on 48 bikes pedaling away to produce electricity.

The irony was not lost on the 1.5 million residents of Gaza who have been living with daily power outages lasting hours on end for nearly three years due to the Israeli siege on the coastal territory. The Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) reports that over 100 million liters of fuel were allowed into Gaza in 2009.  However, as Gisha points out, that amounts to only 57% of the need. As summer approaches bringing peak demands, spare parts and tools for turbine repair are in dire need. There are currently over 50 truckloads of electrical equipment awaiting approval by the Israeli authorities for entry to Gaza.

The constant power outages have led many families in Gaza to rely on low quality generators running on low quality fuels, both brought in through the tunnels from Egypt, causing a sharp increase in accidents resulting in injury and death. According to the UN agency OCHA, in the first three months of 2010 17 people died in generator-related accidents, including fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

The mayor of the central Israeli city of Ra’anana, of which 48% is reserved for city parks, vowed to plant thousands of trees as part of the city’s sustainable agenda. Palestinian farmers from the West Bank village of Qaryut near Nablus had their own tree planting ceremony in honor of Earth Day, only to find the 250 olive tree saplings uprooted by Israeli settlers from Givat Hayovel. Another 300 were uprooted during the night of April 13 outside the Palestinian village of Mihmas by settlers from the nearby Migron outpost. The Palestinian Land Research Center estimates that over 12,000 olive trees were uprooted throughout the West Bank in 2009, with Israeli authorities responsible for about 60%, clearing the land for settlements and construction of the wall, and Israeli settlers the rest.

Earth Day in Gaza brought armor-plated bulldozers escorted by Israeli tanks that proceeded to rip through fields of winter wheat, rye and lentils at Al Faraheen near Khan Younis in the Israeli imposed buffer zone, destroying the livelihood of a Palestinian family because, as Max Ajl, who filmed the entire shameful episode, explained, “They could.”

But that’s not all that was being dug up in Gaza. The UN Mine Action Service uncovered and removed 345 unexploded ordnance, including 60 white phosphorus shells, left over from the Israeli assault on Gaza. Approximately half were found under the rubble of destroyed buildings.

As the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection was launching its “Clean Coast 2010” program for Earth Day, somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 million liters of raw or partially treated sewage was being pumped into the Mediterranean sea from Gaza’s overworked, under-funded and seldom repaired sewage treatment plant. Damage from Israeli air strikes and lack of electric power and spare parts due to the siege make it impossible for the plant to meet the demands of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents, with the daily overflow creating serious health hazards.

In addition to the Green Globe awards, the Ministry of Environmental Protection had it’s own award ceremony last month recognizing Israeli Defense Force units, soldiers and commanders who “exhibited excellence in protecting the environment, environmental resources and the landscape.” The theme for this year’s annual competition was water and included projects related to the “protection of water sources” and “water savings.”

For Palestinians living in the West Bank, this “protection of water sources” was documented in Amnesty International’s October 2009 report “Troubled Water”:

The Israeli army’s destruction of Palestinian water facilities – rainwater harvesting and storage cisterns, agricultural pools and spring canals – on the grounds that they were constructed without permits from the army is often accompanied by other measures that aim to restrict or eliminate the presence of Palestinians from specific areas of the West Bank.

The Amnesty International report also notes that for decades, Israeli settlers have instead “been given virtually unlimited access to water supplies to develop and irrigate the large farms which help to support unlawful Israeli settlements.” And nowhere is this more evident than the Jordan Valley where 95% of the area is occupied by Israeli settlements, plantations and military bases and where “Israeli water extraction inside the West Bank is highest.”

One such company helping to sustain the illegal settlement economy is Carmel Agrexco, Israel’s largest fresh produce exporter. By its own admission the company, which is half owned by the State of Israel, exports 70% of the produce grown in the West Bank settlements. Europe is by far its biggest market, though its produce arrives as far as North America and the Far East. Agrexco promotes itself as a green company, with a focus eco-friendly packaging and organic produce, though one could argue that transporting organic bell peppers from Israel to the US is hardly ecological. Even the self-proclaimed “green ships” used to bring fresh produce to Europe are named Bio-Top and EcoFresh. ”

But there is nothing green about occupation and colonization, nothing ecological in violating human rights and dignity. And that’s why an international coalition supporting the Palestinian call for boycotts of Israeli products has set its sights on removing Carmel Agrexco produce from supermarkets – and ports – across Europe.

The original Earth Day was about grassroots mobilization, public protest for change and political awareness of the issues. In Israel’s Earth Day celebrations, its Apartheid system is showing through the greenwash.

Stephanie Westbrook is a U.S. citizen who has been living in Rome, Italy since 1991. She is active in the peace and social justice movements in Italy. She can be reached at: Read other articles by Stephanie.

14 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Ismail Zayid said on April 24th, 2010 at 12:57pm #

    Stephanie Westbrook demonstrates accurately the Israeli hypocrisy in its celebration of the global Earth Day. The turning off the lights in Israeli cities for one hour contrasts clearly with the continuing black-out imposed on the 1.5 million Palestinians in the giant open prison of Gaza. The height of audacity is displayed by the Ministry of Environmental Protection in rewarding the soldiers for the “protection of water sources”, the same soldiers who deny the Palestinians the right to obtain water from their own wells and denying them the right to dig wells on their own land. These are also the same soldiers who have been playing a major hand in uprooting hundreds of thousands of olive and orchard trees in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

    However, we are told that Israel never does any wrong and pointing that out is not allowed here.

  2. Rehmat said on April 24th, 2010 at 6:30pm #

    Zionist leadership learned the propaganda tactic from their fellow Nazis. These tactics have worked quite well on many brainwashed world leaders. For example, Barack Obama in his goodwill message on Israel’s establishment (April 14, 2010) – called Israel a Jewish state though the country is listed at the UN as “State of Israel”.

  3. Don Hawkins said on April 24th, 2010 at 7:28pm #

    Chomsky Warns of Rise of the Far Right in the U.S.

  4. jon s said on April 24th, 2010 at 9:50pm #

    Ismail, here’s a challenge for you: where do the people of Gaza get their electric power from?

  5. dino said on April 24th, 2010 at 11:52pm #

    Chris Hedges on Chomsky:
    Jeff Blankforth is wrong,at least in my opinion.He claims that for a long time America interest is to settle a “peace” in ME.Obama and his “efforts” to implements this goal is the prove of this policy in this moment.But who is America,is Obama with his weak and hesitant measures proposed (freeze,don’t freeze totally and with Clinton lauding the courage of Netanyahu to freeze partialy to build in settlements),given in the same time with assurances for Israel that nothing will diminish the Israel’s security?or is the House which rejects Goldstone report with a vote of 410 -8,or the House which calls The President to not pressure Israel,or is the House which voted for sanctions against Iran and make all possible to draw others in the same direction(sanctions voted 400-11) or is American people who believe (58%) tha t Obama mishandling the “conflict”in ME” biasing the Palestinians.This is called that America is interested to settle a peace in ME???I understand something different.In fact “the free world” is USA and Israel.In their imperialist policy they can count only each on other.French ,Germany are drawn by its leaders now but are not a reliable allies.England also hesitated when the crime invasion of Iraq was “prepared”.Cligg ,the leader of democrats-liberal may change the political map in Britain because the public opinion oppose the actual trend.Only the people in USA and Israel are convinced of the superiority of their “values” and that the all world have to adopt its.

  6. mary said on April 25th, 2010 at 1:57am #

    I like your typo Dino. His name is Clegg (or Cleggover as we call him after he unwisely boasted of 30 ‘conquests’). Just as the Americans had no chance of ‘hope and change’ in 2008, neither do we. Our democracy is an illusion.

  7. dino said on April 25th, 2010 at 4:19am #

    Yeah,Clegg,sorry.Raimondo Justin wrote about him in antiwar a little bit optimistic. But Mary do you read the article?It is very interesting,it refers to America’s desire to make peace in ME and in the world.Chomsky says:” If the polls are accurate it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election.”.Because this reality i think that the lobby have not a hard work to get always what it wants.

  8. bozh said on April 25th, 2010 at 7:32am #

    I do not fear rise of the ultra Right, the Right 5, any more than the rise of the Left, the Left 5. I am using the word Left as americans use it; meaning a tad left of hitler and by at least 90% of amers.
    I do not fear Left 1; i.e., the Left which is creating an egaliatarian society.
    But as always before i fear the System 5; i.e., that of US. Because? It always wins!

    As for chomsky, at least three of his desires militate against much of what he says now: he’s against DBS, ROR, ONE STATE and not to mention his obvious ‘jewishness’.
    Perhaps, in his old age; surrounded by ‘jewish’ [grand] children and other ‘zionists’, he’s turning strongly ‘zionistic’; i.e., he’s now for theft of land with murder and expulsion.

    That he’s self-proclaimed anarchist and thus against building a more egalitarian society, describes him as one of the bigger accidents we did not want to have or live in peace with.
    For how is a wicked society like that of india, society 6, jump from hell to heaven directly?
    U can’t. It wld take several or many small jumps! tnx

  9. Don Hawkins said on April 25th, 2010 at 7:47am #

    that of US. Because? It always wins! So what we see in US is winning??

  10. Maien said on April 25th, 2010 at 8:20am #

    Ismail, I disagree with you. This site has helped to expose the reality of the Zionist roller coaster and the horrors it continues to perpetrate.
    In fact this site has succeeded so well that the site even attracts ‘commentators’ who attempt to distract readers with fallacious or very incomplete information. Note the comment from ‘jon s’. Silly boy, has forgotten that whatever the Zionists ‘give’ to Palestinians was stolen from the Palestinians in the first place.

  11. Don Hawkins said on April 25th, 2010 at 8:45am #

    A secret in fact this site has succeeded so well that the site even attracts ‘commentators’ from Fox New’s and maybe even the CATO institute with a few more and I have noticed they tire easily.

  12. bozh said on April 25th, 2010 at 8:51am #

    System 5 won vast expanses of lands and all of its wars; denied health care, education, right to be informed.
    In short, the system 5 always gets its way. Its way may be not right 1 or true 1 but it is always right 5 and true 5.

    And if one wld read US history, the history 5, all its wars are jsutified; none was wrong 5.
    If u read `zionist` history 6, u`d also find nary a thing wrong 6 with it!

    It is like: I did i my way 5 and I did it my way six 6! But this is valid only for ab 0001 to 2% of US and israeli pop; they are in, of, and for the system; the other 98% have no clue ab being ouside looking in!
    But, nevertheless, swear to god 6 and god 5 to defend them with their lives. Now, how`s that for systemic wins?

  13. Don Hawkins said on April 25th, 2010 at 9:22am #

    but there’s side effect’s

    We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

    The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Sagan

    Just a big misunderstanding and Monday we get to see more as we all go down the drain at least for now doesn’t have to be this way and will take a new way of thinking if we wish to survive. The right person in 2012 oh dear

  14. Don Hawkins said on April 25th, 2010 at 9:29am #

    Here’s one of the pictures