Seeing Glasgow’s COP26 through Palestine
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Seeing Glasgow’s COP26 through Palestine

Glasgow’s UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) finished on November 12 with promises that are void of the binding commitments required to save our ever-heating planet. Like previous conferences, COP26 was another failure to acknowledge that to tackle climate change, capitalism, colonialism, militarization and other forms of oppression and injustices must be eradicated.

COP26 was yet another greenwashing platform for giant corporations and oppressive and white supremacist systems that continue to refuse to bear the cost of the cataclysmic consequences of the climate crisis.

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A perfect example of how the COP26 was a total failure to center the struggles of those who bear the brunt of climate change in the Global South and those who are oppressed and colonized in the Global North is the UK Government’s discriminatory measures against Global South representatives. For instance, the entire delegation that was supposed to represent the Palestinian civil society could not show up to the conference and the People’s Summit.

While recognizing Israel’s vaccination certificate, the UK Government did not recognize the Palestinian one. This meant that the Palestinian delegation would have needed to quarantine for 10 days- two weeks before the conference.

Travelling and freedom of movement is always a challenge Palestinian activists encounter due to Israeli control of our borders. We usually get inspected and interrogated for hours; and sometimes prevented from travelling. The restrictions set by the UK on Palestinians, like on many others from the Global South, to access the UK are just the insult added to injury.

Adding the high costs of a hotel to self-isolate to the other high costs of flights, visa applications and stay during the conference in the UK- expenses that the grassroots activists comprising the delegate can hardly secure- Palestinian civil society ended up excluded from this global event.  

120 Israelis to greenwash apartheid and colonialism at COP!

With no need to apply for a visa to the UK and less COVID-19 restrictions, Israel needed to send 120 people to greenwash its long-standing crimes against Palestinians. This large number of a delegate to the conference was also required to promote to the world Israel’s false solutions to tackle the climate crisis while destroying our environment to ethnically cleanse us from Palestine.

Similar to other colonial systems in Turtle Island, Africa Australia and elsewhere, Israeli practices of apartheid, colonialism, ethnic cleansing and exploitation of Palestinian land and natural resources have destroyed our ecosystem. In fact, Israel partly owes its success to the environmental destruction its oppressive regime has been causing.

Wadi Qana in the Salfit district to the north of the West Bank is a case in point here. Containing about 10000 dunums of agricultural lands, mainly dominated by the citrus trees and numerous natural water springs, Wadi Qana is historically known for its richness with biodiversity.

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What was once a place of sustaining life for both humans and animals has now become a life-threatening area to both humans and non-humans due to Israeli pollution that accompany and result from illegal settlement expansion.

Between 1978 and 1986, several Israeli illegal settlements were created on the hills that overlook the two banks of the Wadi. To drive Palestinian families off the area to make more room for settlement expansion, the Israeli authorities started discharging wastewater from the settlements into it. This has resulted in the contamination of water springs in the area. Consequently, in the 1990s, more than fifty Palestinian families who used to depend on the water springs for human use, agriculture and animal husbandry in Wadi Qana had to leave it.  

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A few months ago, the Israeli authorities announced a plan to construct a wastewater pipeline that would serve the surrounding settlements. The wastewater pipeline will run through Wadi Qana, which poses a further threat to the biodiversity and Palestinian existence in the area.

In addition to ongoing and future practices to turn Wadi Qana to a cesspool, it also serves as a rubbish dump for all the settlements and solid waste of the neighboring illegal industrial zone that is affiliated to Ariel settlement, as well as the industrial zone affiliated to Barkan settlement which contains about 80 Aluminum, Fiberglas and plastic factories. In addition, a highly toxic industrial chemical waste liquid flows into the valley from these settlements.

Despite this, Palestinians have never given up on trying to counter Israeli environmental destruction and settlement expansion in the Wadi. Some Palestinian families still live there, while others continue to come from the neighboring village of Deir Istiya to tend their land.

The families that still live in Wadi Qana are subject to the regular harassment of the Israeli authorities, which manifest in different ways.

Nazim Salman, a farmer whose family owns swathes of lands in Wadi Qana comments that “in 1986, the Israeli authorities announced Wadi Qana as a nature reserve.” This has never been an attempt to protect the environment from destruction. Rather, it is another tool in addition to destroying the biodiversity in the Wadi and ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their homes.

Nazim explains:

“Being classified as a nature reserve, we Palestinians are not allowed to construct homes and tend our land. In 2018, the Israeli occupation authorities demolished a home that belong to my family. They also killed our cattle during that raid. The Israeli authorities also uproot olive trees in the area as if planting trees is an environmentally-destructive act.”

Om Nasr (mother of Nasr) who lives in Wadi Qana with her husband and sons stated:

 “The olive tree, which strengthens our attachment to the land is Israel’s enemy. They particularly uproot olive trees in the area. The harassment of settlers who usually come and start throwing stones at us is another threat to our existence in Wadi Qana.”

Another way through which Israel seeks to take over Wadi Qana is through establishing parks and touristic facilities through the Jewish National Fund (JNF); Israel’s trailblazer in colonizing Palestinian land while projecting an environmentally-friendly image of Israel to the world.

Since 2010, the JNF has been involved in the implementation of a project to turn swathes of lands belonging to Palestinians in Wadi Qana to a touristic site exclusively for the use of Jewish settlers. The project is being implemented in coordination with the Israeli authorities and illegal settlements councils in the area.

COP is the JNF’s yearly event to greenwash the war Israel wages not only on Palestinian existence, but also on our ecosystem. Recognized as a UN NGO, the JNF joins Israel’s official delegation to COP to promote to the world false solutions that are based on oppression, injustice and colonization of the land of Palestine.

The People’s Summit for Climate Justice

The People’s Summit in Glasgow has enabled Palestinians to disrupt attempts to silence and marginalize us from discussions about the climate crisis. The People’s Summit was a space for oppressed peoples across the world to come together and denounce solutions that are not informed and guided by their struggles, as well as call for a system change to fulfill real and effective solutions to tackle climate change.

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As part of Palestinian involvement in the People’s Summit, the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network-Friends of the Earth Palestine, Stop the Wall, and the BDS Movement jointly with the Gastivists Network held a workshop titled ‘How Climate Change and Apartheid Israel are Intertwined on November 9.

On that same day, we, as part of the World without Walls Campaign, Stop the Wall and other movements endorsing the campaign launched an Urgent Letter titled, ‘Our Time to Become a Seed of Justice.’ The letter was a call for us to plant seeds of justice by planting memorial trees dedicated to those who were lost to violence, injustice and oppression in Palestine, South Africa, Colombia, Argentina and Kenya.

The #MemorialTrees planting took place in the occasions of both the COP26 and the International Day of InterAction for a #WorldWithoutWalls- the day when movements around the world have been coming together to denounce visible and invisible walls of oppression, including climate walls since 2017.

One of the memorial trees we planted was in honor of Mohammed Da’das’ memory, the 13-year-old boy who was lost to Israeli colonial violence during a peaceful demonstration in the Nablus district on Nov. 5. It was planted in the village of Sinjel in the district of Ramallah; in the same site where Israeli settlers uprooted over 4000 olive trees to take over the area last year.

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You can still endorse the letter and plant a #MemorialTree here.

Other initiatives that took place in the UK like the #WhoIsMissing projections, led by the Gastivists Network and Young Friends of the Earth Europe; and Palestine solidarity blocs in the decentralized demonstrations in different cities in the UK on Nov. 6  also played a role in amplifying messages from Palestine to the world.