Norman Finkelstein’s new book indicts the ICC for whitewashing “israel”

“The prime impetus. . . was almost certainly to stem the rising tide of humanitarian vessels destined for Gaza.” He concludes that the fundamental truth is that the attack was a key part of “an Israeli plan or policy targeting humanitarian missions destined for Gaza so as to perpetuate crimes against humanity in Gaza.”

This May 31 marks 10 years since Israeli commandos attacked the Gaza Humanitarian Flotilla in international waters and killed 10 people. Norman Finkelstein, one of the world’s most effective critics of Israel, is observing the occasion with a persuasive indictment of Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, for refusing to take legal action over Israel’s lethal attack on the Mavi Marmara, the Flotilla’s flagship.

At first glance, Finkelstein’s new book resembles a legal brief. But start reading more closely, and you soon see his trademark indignation, intense and eloquent. The Comoro Islands, where the Mavi Marmara was registered, brought the Gaza Flotilla case to the ICC in 2013, and Finkelstein points out that the chief prosecutor since then has tried to bury it 3 times. He is not diplomatic; he charges that she “defiled her office by refusing to investigate credible allegations of Israeli criminality.”

Finkelstein, with his characteristic Talmudic scholarship, scrutinizes various human rights reports on Israel’s killings on the ship, examining them alongside the Israel government’s own alleged self-inquiry. He points out, chapter and verse, just how Fatou Bensouda accepted Israel’s version of events (which Amnesty International described as a “whitewash”) while dismissing contradictory reports from the U.N. Human Rights Council and the U.N. Secretary-General’s Panel of Inquiry.

He argues that as a consequence Bensouda “grossly misrepresent[ed] the facts of the assault” itself. But even worse — she took Israel’s armed commando attack as an isolated event, instead of connecting it to even larger Israeli crimes: “the illegal Israeli blockade and the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.”

Let’s start with the actual Israeli assault. Bensouda echoed Israel’s alibi; it planned to stop the Flotilla peacefully, its commandos met with resistance when they boarded the Mavi Marmara, after which perhaps some excesses happened but the actions of a few Israeli soldiers didn’t rise to the level of a case that the International Criminal Court should take up. Finkelstein crushes this version. If Israel truly expected to act nonviolently,

then why did they deploy an elite commando unit trained to kill, not the Israeli coast guard or a police-like unit accustomed to handling civil resisters?

His indignation rises further when he considers Israel’s allegations that some of the passengers on the ship planned “extremely violent” resistance. He asks why these allegedly violent resisters “didn’t manage to kill any of the commandos,” but Israeli soldiers who were supposedly “rehearsed in the moral imperative to execute the operation ‘without any injuries’ ended up killing 10 passengers by shooting each of them multiple times, five in the head and even at point-blank range.”

(Another reason the outside world was confused about what happened on the Mavi Marmara was awful mainstream press coverage. At the time, this site noted that the New York Times religiously transmitted the Israeli version, but did not interview one single eyewitness from on board the ship.)

But Bensouda’s ignoring the Israeli siege of Gaza is the even greater injustice. Finkelstein concludes:

She refused to pronounce the blockade illegal, she effectively ignored the humanitarian catastrophe induced by the blockade. . . Had she properly rooted the assault [on the Mavi Marmara] in its critical context, the Prosecutor would have been hard-pressed to curtly dismiss the charge of Crimes against humanity.

Norman Finkelstein has a sharply different interpretation of the Israeli attack. He makes “the reasonable inference that Israel sought a bloody confrontation, although probably not on the scale that ensued.” He adds, “The prime impetus. . . was almost certainly to stem the rising tide of humanitarian vessels destined for Gaza.” He concludes that the fundamental truth is that the attack was a key part of “an Israeli plan or policy targeting humanitarian missions destined for Gaza so as to perpetuate crimes against humanity in Gaza.”

What’s worse, in the past 10 years Israel’s plan has largely worked. Resistance inside Gaza does continue, but the besieged territory is poorer and more isolated than ever. Finkelstein includes a long Appendix detailing Israeli crimes during its 2014 invasion of Gaza, and he traces the ongoing impunity right back to the failure of justice for the 10 dead on the Mavi Marmara. (He has even more detail in his vital longer work from 2018: Gaza: An Inquest Into Its Martyrdom.)

I Accuse! ends on a slightly upbeat note. In a last-minute postscript, Finkelstein notes that on December 20, 2019 Prosecutor Bensouda announced that, in response to a referral from the “State of Palestine,” the Court will open an investigation — although not into the Gaza Flotilla. He closes:

It is imperative to stay vigilant. The evidence amassed in these pages makes clear that the Prosecutor will not be persuaded by facts and reason but, instead, by the political forces at play behind closed doors and in the court of public opinion. Whereas Israel will bring to bear every squalid and sordid instrument in its arsenal, the forces arrayed against it will be able to draw on the mighty weapons of Truth and Justice. All eyes are now riveted on the Chief Prosecutor as the unfolding drama decides which side will prevail in this epic struggle.

Thanks to Gaza protests, Israel has a new crop of ‘battle tested’ weapons for sale

Life is too short!

Israel maintains robust arms trade with rogue regimes. Israel tries out weapons in the West Bank and Gaza and then presents them as “battle proven” to the international market.

A new report reveals how Israel is using the protests in Gaza to test and showcase its arms industry. From grenade-carrying and skunk water-carrying drones to “smart fences” and more, Israel is profiting from the carnage it is causing in Gaza.

In an interview earlier this past April, Sa’ar Korush, who until recently served as the CEO of the company that built the wall surrounding parts of the Gaza Strip, told Bloomberg that “Gaza has become the showroom for the company’s ‘smart fences,’ as customers appreciate that the products are battle-tested.”

For Israel’s arms industries, the Great Return March, which began two weeks before Koresh spoke to Bloomberg, likely gives them an opportunity to develop new means to put down demonstrations, and to sell these new products abroad.

Korush’s remarks can be found in a new report put out by Hamushim, a joint project of Coalition of Women for Peace and American Friends Service Committee, which works to expose the true human price of the Israeli military industry and arms trade, as well as to mobilize against it.

The report, titled “A Lab and a Showroom: The Israeli Military Industries and the Oppression of the Great March of Return in Gaza,” details the new weapons Israel used against the protesters, as well as the attempts to profit from them.

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The newest weapon used against protesters on the Israel-Gaza fence has been “Sea of Tears,” a drone that can hold and drop tear gas canisters. The drone was originally designed by Da Jiang Innovations (DJI) and was adapted by Aeronautics, an Israeli company that specializes in reconnaissance drones, following a request by Border Police Commander Kobi Shabtai.

According to Israel Police Spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld, the drone was used in the weeks leading up to the demonstrations; once they began, it was used much more frequently.

“Beyond the fact that it neutralizes all danger to our forces, it allows us to reach places that we had yet to reach,” Shabtai told Channel 2 news. Hamushim’s report, however, states that despite the army’s claims that the drones allow for better accuracy, in at least one case the army dropped tear gas canisters on a tent full of women and children in Gaza.

Another video shows a scene in which gas canisters are dropped on journalists covering the protests.

Following the first day of protests in late March, likely due to the drones’ “success” in suppressing the protests, the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure, known in Hebrew as Ma’fat, purchased hundreds of drones.

“We operated quickly and made immediate purchases of many drones from abroad,” a nameless source from Maf’at told Ynet. “We learned how to improve their response during the fighting.

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The devil’s mission

Our first task was to use drones as a platform for ‘non-lethal’ weapons. We conducted field tests around the clock and developed a combat doctrine. The drones are a groundbreaking tool, easy to operate, and have tremendous operational potential.”

According to Hamushim’s report, the use of drones for monitoring protests was first used by the Jerusalem municipality to track Palestinian demonstrators who tried to damage the city’s light rail, following the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir in 2014.

In May of this year, the Defense Ministry issued a tender to develop drones that would replace the ones produced by DJI.

Drones developed by Aeronautics are already being used to disperse protests. In Gaza, Aeronautics drones were used to spray “skunk water,” a foul-smelling liquid, at demonstrators.

On May 16th, two days after the IDF killed over 60 protests, the Defense Ministry released a video on Twitter showing off its latest development: the “Shocko Drone” — a UAV that is able to release bags containing skunk water.

Israeli financial newspaper Calcalist confirmed that the drone was manufactured by Aeronautics, and a day before the Twitter update, the company signed a contract with the Croatian Ministry of Agriculture valued at 4.87 million euros.

Aeronautics drones have also been used to shoot down so-called “fire kites” that are sent from Gaza. According to the report, there have been reports of drones firing warning shots at groups of Palestinians preparing to launch “burning balloons” at Israel. The Israeli government denies using drones to harm people.

In June, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) showed off a new grenade-carrying drone that could “commit suicide” on enemy targets to a foreign customer. The drones can fly ten kilometers, spend half an hour in the air, and it are so light that a single soldier can carry three of them at once.

That same week, it was reported that the IAI signed a deal with the German army to provide it with $600 million worth of drones.

The report warns that the “use of drones to attack is a dangerous strategy that can be used in the future against protestors and passerby civilians in Palestine, without any accountability.” These drones, says the report, have the ability to “re-shape the reality in the occupied territories. Today, Israel already sells those drones, for example, to five different armies using them in Afghanistan. However, use in Gaza and in the West Bank are new developments.”

A new security drone seen flying near a Palestinian village, May 6, 2018.

The report ends by describing the scene that took place on May 15th, a day after the bloody protests at the fence. Israeli magazine Israel Defense put on a conference titled “Fire, Maneuvering, and Intelligence in a Complex Environment” at the Tel Aviv Convention Center, with around 1,000 Israeli security officials, members of the Israeli military industries, and foreign representatives.

Among the keynote speakers were Yoav Galant, who previously headed the IDF Southern Command during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon, and Maj. Gen. Kobi Barak, the Commander of GOC Army Headquarters.

At the conference, sponsored by Elbit Systems, Aeronautics, and others, attendees enjoyed a fancy cocktail party and learned about the latest developments in Gaza.

According to the report, “the elaborate expo reveals that in times of conflicts, as Palestinians grieve, the Israeli military industry continues their business as usual, aggressively marketing their products, signing new deals, and mingling with government officials.”

Making the ‘Desert Bloom’ a Myth Examined

In Response to the best myth makers on earth:

Shimon Peres: “The country [Palestine] was mostly an empty desert, with only a few islands of Arab settlement; and Israel’s cultivable land today was indeed redeemed from swamp and wilderness.”

Levi Eshkol (a former Prime Minister of Israel): “It was only after the Zionists “made the desert bloom” that “they [the Palestinians] became interested in taking it from us.”

Zionists are the world’s best liars and con artists.

A central theme of Zionism has always been that the Jewish people could regain their dignity, after centuries of restriction to urban occupations, only by a return to agricultural labor. In their enthusiasm for this ideal, Zionists have displayed an understandable tendency to overstate the extent of their achievements. There have, however, been other, less honorable, reasons for such exaggeration. During the Mandate the Zionists’ overriding concern was to ensure unhindered Jewish immigration to Palestine.

To this end, they attempted to convince world opinion that the country was a virtually uninhabited desert – a land without people for a people without a land – in which Jewish immigrants could settle without prejudice to anybody’s interests. At the same time, to those who knew that Palestine was already inhabited by Arabs, the Zionists emphasized the technical superiority of their agriculture to that of the native farmers. The latter, it was argued, would benefit greatly from the adoption of modern farming methods learned from the Jewish immigrants.

Since the establishment of Israel, Zionists have most frequently used the contention that they have “made the desert bloom” to justify the establishment of the State of Israel in Palestine in 1947-48. On the one hand, the extent of the catastrophe suffered by the Palestinians is belittled by repetition of the old assertion that the country had been an almost unpopulated desert before the Zionists’ arrival.

On the other, Zionists have taken their argument about the superiority of their own, to Palestinian, agriculture one step further and contend that they have a stronger claim to sovereignty over the country because they have exploited its agricultural potential more efficiently than the Palestinians could have done.

Whether or not Israel’s agriculture is more advanced than the Palestinians’ might have been had they not been dispossessed, it is an astonishing assertion that sovereignty over a territory should belong to the people best able to develop its resources. One wonders what the state of the world might be today if this principle were adopted by the superpowers as a basis for their foreign policies.

Despite their inaccuracy, repetition of statements such as those quoted above by Peres and Eshkol has resulted in a widespread belief that Palestine really was a barren wasteland which the Zionists have trans- formed into a Garden of Eden. What are the facts?

Since the idea of Zionism first gripped the minds of a few intellectuals and the limbs of many agrarian pioneers in the early 20th century, the state of Israel has presented its settlement of the land of Palestine, and its uprooting of the Palestinian people, as a rejuvenation of the earth. By “greenwashing” the occupation, Israel hides its apartheid behind an environmentalist mirage, and distracts public attention not only from its brutal oppression of the Palestinian people, but from its large-scale degradation of the earth upon which these tragedies unfold.

Determined to “make the desert bloom”, an international organization — the Jewish National Fund-Keren Kayemet LeYisrael (JNF-KKL, or JNF) planted forests, recreational parks and nature reserves to cover over the ruins of Palestinian villages, as refugees were scattered far from, or worse, a few hilltops away from, the land upon which they and their ancestors had based their lives and livelihoods.

Today, as Israel portrays itself as a “green democracy”’, an eco-friendly pioneer in agricultural techniques such as drip irrigation, dairy farming, desert ecology, water management and solar energy, Israeli factories drain toxic waste and industrial pollutants down from occupied West Bank hilltops into Palestinian villages, and over-pumping of groundwater aquifers denies Palestinians access to vital water sources in a context of increasing water scarcity and pollution.

The Dead Sea is dying

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This iconic salt lake, is woven into the history of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Turn the clock back about half a century, and the Dead Sea’s surface area was almost 1,000 square kilometres, a figure that had remained roughly constant in records going back to the beginning of the 18th century.

After the establishment of Israel, though, it has shrunk at what few would deny is an alarming rate. It now covers about 667 square kilometers and its water level is dropping by a remarkable 1.4 meters per year. Israel is using the water to irrigate the Negev desert, which lies in the south and covers more than half the total area of the country.

Jewish National Fund

The Jewish National Fund (JNF), perhaps the first transnational environmental NGO, was established in 1901, as the first wave of Jewish immigrants were settling in Palestine under the banner of Zionism. Throughout the 20th century, as the indigenous Arab population of Palestine found itself either expelled from its homeland or oppressed under the hand of a foreign invader, the JNF succeeded in raising enormous amounts of money to acquire and develop land throughout the territory that, in 1948, would become known as the State of Israel.

Distinct from other transnational Zionist fundraising and advocacy organisations, such as the Jewish Agency, the JNF portrayed itself, from the beginning, as an environmental organisation, serving, according to its website, to “protect the land, green the landscape and preserve vital ecosystems” by “planting seedlings, maintaining forest health, combating desertification, protecting watersheds and managing water flow … [and] balancing the phenomenal growth and development Israel has experienced in the last decade with the maintenance of an ecologically sound environment”.

Proud that “Israel is the only country in the world that will enter the 21st century with a net gain in numbers of trees”, the JNF credits itself with planting 250 million trees, building more than 210 reservoirs and dams, developing more than 250,000 acres of land, creating more than 1000 parks and providing the infrastructure for more than 1000 communities throughout Israel.

Suiting a state constructed for a single cultural-religious group, the JNF promotes an exclusionary, discriminatory brand of environmentalism. From its inception in 1901 — when the JNF controlled but a single olive grove in a land where 94% of its neighbours were Arab — to today, working closely with the Israel government, the JNF directly owns 13% of Israel’s land and effectively controls another 80%. The JNF’s constitution has explicitly stated that its land cannot be rented, leased, sold to or worked by non-Jews.

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the JNF– helping to exile hundreds of thousands of Palestinian families, bulldoze their homes and clear the land to make way for Jewish settlement — bought large tracts of land from absentee landowners, evicted local Arab tenant farmers, uprooted natural vegetation of olive, carob and pistachio trees, and planted throughout the land, in place of indigenous arboreta, vast swaths of European pinera (conifers) and eucalyptus trees.

Forests, parks and recreational facilities were strategically placed atop the ruins of destroyed Palestinian villages, so that the fast-growing pines would erase the history of Palestinian existence and prevent refugees from ever returning to their homes. In addition, pine forests were planted to guard and expand settlements built atop stolen land and, after 1967, to seize and divide Palestinian territory within east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

The pines helped evoke images of a European wilderness, creating a familiar “natural” environment for the mostly European Jewish settlers, so much so that settlers affectionately nicknamed Carmel National Park, planted partially over the destroyed Palestinian village of al-Tira, “little Switzerland” for its resemblance to the Swiss Alps.

Foreign species, these pine forests, then and now, often fail to adapt to the local soil and require frequent re-planting. As they age, they demand more water and become more prone to problems like pests, disease and conflagrations, such as the 2010 Carmel wildfire, deemed the worst in Israel’s history. As their fast-growing acidic pine needles fall to the ground, they destroy all other surrounding small plants, thus ruining the livelihood of Palestinian shepherds, whose animals depend on grazing land.

Clear-felling Palestinian villages

The JNF’s time-tested method of ethnically cleansing and then “greening” the desert continues to this day. An ongoing $600 million, 10-year JNF program called Blueprint Negev seeks to develop reservoirs, pine afforestation and water conservation programs in the Negev desert at the expense of more than 150,000 Palestinian Bedouin, whose “unrecognised” villages, as a direct result of Israel’s policies, already lack electricity, running water and sewage disposal.

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Since 2010, the JNF has attempted to “green” the Negev by planting the 1 million-pine “GOD TV Forest” over the Palestinian village of Al-Araqib, which, as it steadfastly resists extinction, has been demolished eight times. GOD TV Forest is named after its proud sponsor, a far-right, pro-settler Evangelical Christian organization whose stated purpose is “to plant a million trees to prepare the land for the return of [God’s] son”.

As GOD TV Forest and Blueprint Negev seek to flood the semi-arid Negev with the invasive European pine trees, Israel seeks to tear the historically semi-nomadic Bedouin from their ancestral grazing lands, and to herd them into unnatural, sedentary lifestyles in impoverished and isolated townships. Social strife and decay of traditional values inevitably accompany this forced acculturation process.

Growing up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., my family, along with the larger middle-class Jewish community, was, knowingly or not, complicit in the JNF’s environmental colonialism. Nearly every room of our local synagogue and Hebrew School displayed the iconic blue, tin JNF donation box, where, by simply dropping a coin, one could affirm one’s ethnic nationalism by helping “plant a tree in Israel”. Throughout my early childhood, my mother worked at a local JNF donation office, helping US Jewish families “plant a tree in Israel” to commemorate the death of a loved one.

Today, after a century of expulsion, settlement, development and rapid industrialisation, indigenous arboreta make up only 11% of Israeli forests, and pre-1948 growth accounts for only 10% of Israel’s greenery. Jewish National Fund pine forests, parks and recreation areas blanket the hills of Israel, and tour guides, in the midst of a hike, dread the inevitable moment when someone asks “what is that old abandoned mosque doing in the middle of this forest?”

The parallels with European colonisation of the American continent are obvious, and in a cruel twist of historical irony, the construction, by JNF Canada, of Israel’s Canada National Park, covering over the destroyed Palestinian village of ‘Imwas in the mid-1980s, was initiated as a simultaneous twinning project along with Toronto’s Downsview Park, which sits atop unacknowledged First Nations territory.

Zionist image

The actions of the JNF fulfil the Zionist desire to transform and control the land of Palestine, to shape its hills in the Zionist image. When the pioneer Zionist movement arrived from Europe in the late 1800s, they found themselves dissatisfied with the rocky, semi-arid eastern shore of the Mediterranean, and they sought to “make the desert bloom” as proof that the Jewish people, and not the indigenous Arabs, were the destined cultivators of “a land without people for a people without land”.

Bringing little agricultural experience from their mostly lower-middle class urban backgrounds, these pioneers first adopted local Arab small-scale dryland subsistence farming methods, producing mainly unirrigated wheat, barley, potatoes, grapes, olives and figs for domestic consumption.

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Soon, however, they dismissed centuries-old sustainable Palestinian agricultural practices as “undeveloped”, and, funded by French banker-philanthropist Baron de Rothschild, used sophisticated European steam engines, mechanized ploughs, reapers and threshers to develop capital-intensive vineyards and cash-crop plantations for commercial marketing.

The passionate attachment to the land evinced by these Zionist pioneers often concealed an anthropocentric kernel. Many of the first European Jewish immigrants struck the soil of Palestine with a devout and even mystical appreciation of nature, driven to escape the economic, industrial and social alienation of European society and, through the sweat of agricultural labour, to birth themselves, and the Jewish people, anew as an ecologically integrated, utopian socialist community.

Living in collectivist communes called kibbutzim, their sense of destiny magnified by the redemptive, exalted status that the land beneath their feet held for thousands of years of Jewish cultural mythology, they filled their journals with passionate, sensual, ecstatic, mystical and sometimes erotic descriptions of the joys of the earth and agricultural labor.

As Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann observed, “it seems as if God had covered the soil of Palestine with rocks and marshes and sand, so that its beauty can only be brought out by those who love it and will devote their lives to healing its wounds”.

At the same time, their ecological zeal betrayed a deeply colonial, anthropocentric desire, not to respect and adapt to the land, but to subjugate and transform it, to conquer it through the machinations of human development. “Where we modern ones appear with our auxiliaries”, announced Zionist prophet Theodore Herzl at the turn of the century, “we turn the desert into a garden”.

The motif of “making the desert bloom” emphasizes not the desert rocks, but the human agency which controls nature for its own purposes. In one fell swoop, the land of Palestine would be cleared, along with its people, the Arab Palestinians, who, Weizmann maintained, were no different than “the rocks of Judea … obstacles that had to be cleared on a difficult path”.

Green, racist capitalism

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Today, thanks to decades of largely US aid, the old kibbutzim have become factory suburbs, and the small, start-up socialist Zionist experiment has ballooned into the fourth-largest arms exporter in the world, the privatized, globally competitive, hyper-militarised Israel that markets itself abroad as a model for 21st century green capitalism, while perpetuating widespread ecological devastation and blatant environmental racism on the ground.

“What country would not experience environmental woes”, says Jewish eco-socialist Joel Kovel in his book, Overcoming Zionism, “with a sixfold population increase in half a century in a context of rapid industrialization?” Kovel describes the steady expansion of Israel’s infrastructure of occupation, and the irreversible build-up of its desert war machine, as an “eco-destructive accelerant”, wedding colonizer and colonized together in a “parasitic order” that “builds parallel systems, of roads, water and sewage, electrical networks… [that] both colonize and destroy the land of the Palestinians, while creating, necessarily, a myriad of spaces … chaotically thrown up and turning into sites of a proliferating set of ecological degradations”.

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Gaza: sewage as a weapon of Zionist hate and cruelty

Today, Israel covertly transports waste products from its own country into dumps and quarries throughout the occupied West Bank, polluting the Palestinian earth and water supply, while Israeli settlers in the West Bank — who produce similar amounts of wastewater to the Palestinian population, despite being outnumbered more than six to one — deliberately poison the water, land and livestock of nearby Palestinian villages.

Solid wastes from Israeli settlements and military camps throughout the West Bank are dumped without restriction on Palestinian land, fields and side roads, and industry regularly moves from Israel to the West Bank, where labor is cheaper, environmental regulations are lenient and waste products, generated from the production of aluminum, leather tanning, textile dyeing, batteries, fiberglass, plastics and other chemicals, can flow freely down to Palestinian villages in surrounding valleys.

At least seven industrial zones, and at least 200 factories, have either moved from Israel into the West Bank, or have been constructed by the Israel government, inside the West Bank, a blatant violation of international law.

After one such factory, Geshuri Industries, moved its pesticide, insecticide and fertiliser production from Israel, where it was declared a health hazard, into the West Bank in 1982, the owner began the courteous practice of closing the factory for the one month every year that a change in wind direction would blow its pollutants towards Israel.

The construction, beginning in 2002, of Israel’s mammoth separation/apartheid wall, while separating Palestinian farmers from their fields, has destroyed Palestinian legally owned fertile agricultural land, and has brought with it all the extensive contamination of natural habitats associated with the use of heavy machinery and millions of tons of concrete. The wall has isolated Palestinian communities from vital water sources, and has interfered with natural drainage systems in the West Bank, causing flooding and substantial environmental and agricultural damage in times of high rainfall.

West Bank and Gaza

The JNF’s “greening” of Israel does not extend to the West Bank and Gaza, where the infrastructure of occupation breeds widespread deforestation. While the JNF made the hilltops within the internationally recognised borders of Israel bloom with forests, parks, playgrounds and recreation areas so that, to quote its website, “the heroic men and women of the Israel Defense Forces can share precious time with their loved ones”, 95% of the forests of Gaza have disappeared between 1971 and 1999, due to the extensive spread of settlements and military bases alongside Israel’s pervasive bombing.

Contrary to the JNF’s commitment to “combat desertification”, the threat of permanent desertification looms over the West Bank, as increasing illegal settlement expansion, facilitated by the JNF, steals large tracts of land traditionally used by Palestinian villages for grazing, leaving the few remaining grazing areas available to Palestinian pastoralists threatened by overgrazing.

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For Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, the monitoring, maintenance and protection of natural ecosystems becomes impossible, as the Israeli occupation paralyses their sovereign ability to regulate usage of a contiguous piece of land. Restrictions on freedom of movement, such as road closures, checkpoints and permanent roadblocks, impede the collection, processing, treatment and disposal of waste products, which, when released into residential areas, agricultural land and groundwater aquifers, cause soil contamination and potentially irreversible ground water pollution.


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Israel’s discriminatory distribution of water is an instance of environmental racism at its worst. “Presently”, writes Joel Kovel, Israel “faces both an absolute shortage of water owing to persistent over consumption, as well as persistent contamination of the existing water thanks to rampant ‘development’ and industrialization”.

As population growth, combined with a rising standard of living, has led to an over-utilisation of renewable water sources, Israel embarks on costly cloud-seeding and desalination experiments to increase its water supply, while destroying the rain-water cisterns and wells of agrarian Palestinian villages.

The Jordan River, an international river basin unilaterally monopolized by Israel, has seen its average flow decrease from 1250 million cubic metres (mcm)/year in 1953 to 152-203 mcm due to two enormous reservoirs, and has become so polluted by Israeli settlement and industry run-off that, to the dismay of Christian pilgrims worldwide, the environmental group Friends of the Earth Middle East decreed it unsafe for baptism in 2010. As the Jordan River is drained to a trickle, the Dead Sea, also polluted, has shrunk into two separate, and rapidly drying, seas further downstream, as its salts are pumped by Israeli companies to flood the global market with exotic cosmetic products.

As over-pumping of regional underground aquifers, all monopolized by Israel, has lowered the groundwater table below sea level and caused saline water intrusion in many areas, growing water scarcity is used by Israel as a tool of oppression against the Palestinians. In the Jordan Valley, an oppressive matrix of checkpoints, closed military zones, army training grounds, nature reserves, settlements and settler-only roads striates the desert with the infrastructure of environmental racism, isolating Palestinian Bedouin villages from access to water sources.

 Impoverished communities — 40% of whom consume less water than the minimum global standard set by the World Health Organization — must travel across a desert, criss-crossed with Israeli checkpoints, to bring overpriced and often unsanitary water tankers home to scattered villages of makeshift shacks and mud-brick houses. While the 56,000 Palestinian Bedouin in the Jordan Valley consume an average of 37 million cubic metres (mcm) of water per year, the 9400 Israeli settlers consume an average of 41 mcm.

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Sustainable agricultural practices are made difficult because of water scarcity, and perishable produce, delayed for hours at Israeli checkpoints, often spoils on its way to market. While “unrecognized” Bedouin villages live in dire poverty, cut off from basic services such as health care, education and employment, and barred by Israel’s laws from building any permanent structure, be it a water well, an animal pen, a storage shed or a family home, 36 Israeli Jordan Valley agricultural settlements utilise state-of-the-art technology, along with an unlimited water supply, to grow a wide variety of genetically modified fruit and vegetable produce, propelling Israel into the international agribusiness industry as the world’s sixth-largest cultivator of genetically modified crops.

While Bedouin families see their makeshift structures demolished by Israeli bulldozers on a daily basis, every Israeli settler family in the Jordan Valley is given, in addition to an unlimited water supply, a free house, US$20,000, 70 dunnams (km2) of land, free health care and a 75% discount on electricity, utilities and transportation.

Lake Hula

JNF, anxious to form a buffer of agricultural expansion between Israel and Syria, drained Lake Hula in 1950 without a study of its ecological impact, ignoring the warnings of scientists that the peat soil under the swamps would not make fertile land.

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The ethnic cleansing and ecological degradation of Lake Hula in 1950 provides a perfect example of the JNF’s catastrophic failure as an environmental organization, and cruel success as a colonial enterprise. In 1933 the Palestine Land Development Corporation, using JNF and private funds, forcibly evicted the Ghawarani tribe from one of the oldest documented lakes and wetlands in history, the Huleh Valley in the eastern Galilee near Syria.

Descendants of deserters from the invading Egyptian army in the 1830s, and Algerian refugees from the failed 1847 revolt against French rule, the Ghawarani had lived for two centuries in reed huts, mud-brick shacks and woollen tents, practicing reed basket and mat weaving, seasonal agriculture, fishing and the raising of livestock such as chicken, geese and water buffalo.

Echoing founder of Israel David Ben-Gurion’s 1944 proclamation that “we must conquer the sea and the desert, for those will provide us with room for new settlers and will serve as a laboratory for the development of new forms of economic and agricultural endeavor”, the JNF, anxious to form a buffer of agricultural expansion between Israel and Syria, drained Lake Hula in 1950 without a study of its ecological impact, ignoring the warnings of scientists that the peat soil under the swamps would not make fertile land.

Agricultural development of the exposed peat soils, weathered and eroded by wind without their vegetation cover, proved unsuccessful, and the reckless experiment destroyed a rich, diverse ecosystem of aquatic biota, flora and fauna unique to the region. Despite one JNF hydrologist’s certainty that “our peat is Zionist peat … our peat will not do damage”, the decomposing peat soils released nutrients and ground pollutants into the Jordan River and the entropic Lake Tiberius, creating crop-damaging black dust and making large tracts of land susceptible to damaging underground fires. The Hula Valley was left stagnant and largely depopulated, until a $23 million JNF re-flooding in 1996 created the smaller and shallower Lake Agmon, restoring a meagre portion of the area’s now-extinct wildlife.


As the dependence of the imperial West on Gulf oil increases precipitously, Israel’s occupation of Palestine becomes a crucial focal point for the global dominance of Empire, and a concentrated site of its cruellest eco-genocidal machinations. In Israel’s occupation of Palestine, we see how environmental devastation coincides with ethnic cleansing, and how the former is used to deepen the latter. The quest for justice in Palestine lies at the heart of anti-imperialist struggle worldwide, a struggle in defence of the Earth, and the dispossessed who wander upon it.

In the words of Coya White Hat-Artichoker, member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota and founding member of the LGBTQ Two Spirit First Nations Collective:

I see what is happening in Palestine as an indigenous struggle for sovereignty, at times, even the right to exist. It is also one of genocide… I see Israel’s systemic and intentional destruction and removal of Palestinian lives, homes, and communities as very similar to the destruction of communities, lives, and removal of Native people from their traditional lands. I no longer see terrorists there anymore; I see people resisting and fighting extinction… I believe that as people in the US who make these connections, it’s important to be thoughtful about what is happening, in our names and with the US government’s money.

Paul McCartney Says Won’t Come to Israel to Receive Wolf Music Prize

Joan Rivers supported Israel’s genocidal Operation Protective Edge operation which left 2,000 Palestinians, moms, dads, grandparents and children dead .  “You’re dead, you deserve to be be dead. Don’t you dare make me feel bad about that.”

John Lennon would’ve boycotted Israel. Roger Waters does.

The musician Paul McCartney announced Thursday that he would not come to Israel later this month to receive the Wolf Prize for Music he was awarded in February.

“It’s very flattering and I’m grateful to be chosen for the Wolf Prize for Music this year,” wrote McCartney. “It’s certainly a great honor for me to be included among the greatest artists, creators, scientists and writers of today’s history. But after reviewing my schedule I have to announce that I will not be able to arrive at the date set.”

Last month, actress Natalie Portman announced that she would not arrive in Israel to receive the Genesis Prize. The dual American-Israeli citizen said in a statement that she cancelled her arrival upon knowledge that Netanyahu was scheduled to speak at the ceremony.

‘If they say something they will no longer have a career – I have been accused of being a Nazi and an anti-Semite’- Roger Waters

Adam Sandler has sided with Howard Stern in his war of words against former Pink Floyd singer-songwriter Roger Waters. “I’m very pro-Israel,” the comedian told Stern earlier this week, via Jewish Journal. “When you go off on Roger Waters, I fucking love that you do that. I’m disgusted that they single out Israel. All those nice Israeli people are getting a ‘fuck you’ from Roger Waters. … I’m not a crazy religious, but I’m proud of being a Jew, and that’s what I am.”

Earlier this year, Stern ripped into Roger Waters for his extremely vocal support of a cultural boycott of Israel. “Where do you want the Jews to go, Roger?” he said. “You want them to go back to the concentration camps? What is it you want, fuckhead?” In an interview with Rolling Stone, Waters refused to respond in length. “I wouldn’t waste a single one of my precious breaths on that asshole,” he said. “And I just did. That was a waste of breath.”

Colonel Says Israel Is Dragging the United States Into World War III

Israel is in the process of plunging America into a war with Iran that could destroy what’s left of the Middle East and ignite a third world war, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, warned in Washington approximately a week ago.

Wilkerson explained that Israel is headed toward “a massive confrontation with the various powers arrayed against it, a confrontation that will suck America in and perhaps terminate the experiment that is Israel and do irreparable damage to the empire that America has become.”


Wilkerson, a retired army colonel who now teaches at Washington-area universities, didn’t hold back in his critique of where the status quo is leading the United States via its client state, Israel.

At the annual Israel lobby conference at the National Press Club, sponsored by the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and Institute for Research: Middle East Policy, Wilkerson explained that Israel is headed toward “a massive confrontation with the various powers arrayed against it, a confrontation that will suck America in and perhaps terminate the experiment that is Israel and do irreparable damage to the empire that America has become.”

One of the principal antagonists begging for a war with Iran that Wilkerson identified was none other than Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Russian-born Defense Minister. Wilkerson stated:

“Lieberman will speak in April in New York City at the annual conference of the Jerusalem Post. The title is, ‘The New War with Iran.’ It is clear that he’s [at] the forefront of promoting this war.

“And nowhere does my concern about such a war focus more acutely at the moment than Syria. As [the] president of France Emmanuel Macron described it recently, ‘The current rhetoric of the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Israel is pushing the region toward conflict with Iran.’”

Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s incessant denigrations of Iran, including claiming the greatest danger facing the Jewish state is the Islamic republic — a country he accuses of fanning the flames of anti-Semitism — Wilkerson blew these accusations out of the park using simple logic. He said:

“This antisemitism bit, of course, as we’ve heard today, is almost always a weapon of choice for Israeli politicians under stress hurled, in this case, at the country whose Jewish population — by the way, the largest in the Middle East outside of Turkey and Israel — lives in Iran in reasonable peace.”

He continued:

“And don’t forget that these words were uttered by the man who, as we’ve heard today, is doing everything he can to expel dark-skinned African refugees largely from Eritrea and Sudan from Israel, where most have come as legitimate refugees.”

Wilkerson highlighted the hypocrisy of Netanyahu and his cohorts in more ways than one. For example, Wilkerson referred to Netanyahu’s grandiose speech at the Munich Security Conference in which he directly challenged Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif while holding remnants of a drone allegedly downed over Israeli airspace. Israel claimed the drone was Iranian-manufactured. Wilkerson noted that in response, Iran found itself being rescued by Lebanon’s Defense Minister, who said he had an Israeli drone over his head virtually 24 hours a day.

Further, the mainstream media and the governments that benefit from their narratives pay close to zero attention to the fact that Israel routinely violates Lebanese airspace with its sophisticated aircraft. Rather, Iran is constantly painted as the major threat and violator of international law.

“Of late of course,” Wilkerson continued, “Tel Aviv is increasingly using Iran’s presence in Syria, its support for Bashar al-Assad, and its alleged drive– and I love this one, and my military comrades love it, too– for a Shia corridor from Tehran to Aden, as the hoary beast that must not be at any cost, including of course America’s treasure and lives, as his probable cause and existential prompt for action.

But why is there a danger that the U.S. will be dragged into this war, and why does Israel need America’s help? As Wilkerson explains:

“I believe the answer is fairly clear once you push aside the cobwebs that surround it. The legitimacy of great power is what I call it. And that is precisely what Netanyahu and Lieberman desire.

“It’s also what Riyadh desires, especially with the new boy king Mohammed bin Salman, now an erstwhile ally of Israel.

“In short, the IDF could defend Israel but it could not attack Iran. Not successfully, anyway. And were it to do so, it would be damned internationally and thus isolated even more than it already is today, perhaps devastatingly so.”