HIC-MENA [ Habitat International Coalition ]

Home| About Us | Contact Us

Environmental Apartheid

What is affected
Land Social/public
Type of violation Dispossession/confiscation
Date 01 May 2020
Region MENA
Country Palestine
City West Bank

Affected persons (number & composition)

Total 0
Men 0
Women 0
Children 0
Your solution
Download any important details
Download any important development

Duty holder(s) /responsible party(ies)

Interntl org.
Brief narrative

Israeli Plan to Erase Green Line, Destroy Ecosystem

By: Zafrir Rinat, Haaretz

Israel plans West Bank industrial zone that would `destroy` unique ecosystem

Settler leaders welcome the years-long planned move that would create urban continuity across the Green Line, while environmental activists warn of untold consequences

Israel’s Civil Administration, the branch of the military responsible for civilian matters in the West Bank, has been advancing a plan to establish a large industrial zone straddling the Green Line that is expected to cause great damage to a unique ecological area.

Welcomed by settler leaders, the project, called Samaria’s Gate, is also seen as a way to facilitate a larger influx of Israeli Jews into the West Bank. But it is facing opposition from residents and environmental groups, who cite risks in store not only for nature but deep water aquifers as well.

The Area of the Proposed Industrial Zone.

Samaria’s Gate, named after the area`s biblical name, has been in the planning stages for several years but has recently entered its final phase. The zone is supposed to cover more than 3,000 dunams (over 740 acres) of land east of Kafr Qasem and Rosh Ha’ayin, cities that lie inside Israel’s borders, involving land beyond the so-called Green Line.

An advanced planning commission decided a few weeks ago that the blueprint may be presented to the public, after which objections can be made before the project is set in motion. But as opposed to inside Israel, environmental groups are not represented on planning commissions in the occupied territories.

The plan calls for significant part of the industrial zone to be built near a riverbed, one of four tributaries of the Yarkon River, in an area considered one of a dying group of ecological corridors in Israel, and an area known for its wildlife despite the obstacles of settlements and roads that have been constructed there.

The area is known for its low-lying vegetation, carob and plum trees and a diverse population of mammals such as deer, rabbits, coyotes, boars and porcupines. Many types of birds and birds of prey nest or hunt in the area. Construction of an industrial zone would force wildlife to seek shelter in other areas, which are already overcrowded.

“The establishment of an industrial zone will bring total destruction to a natural system that works so extraordinarily well and block an ecological corridor,” Israel’s Society for the Protection of Nature says. There is already a surplus of approved plans related to building up employment opportunities in Israel’s central region, the group argues, saying it intends to suggest an alternative to this particular plan to minimize the ecological damage in the area.

“This is in light of the fact that this would be a large and very wasteful industrial zone,” and residents in the area are concerned about the project, the society adds.

They’re not the only environmental group to have expressed their opposition. Yossi Aram, a social activist from Rosh Ha’ayin, a town near the site of the planned industry, says “there’s great importance to preserving open spaces, especially in the center of the country. There aren’t many places like this riverbed where we can go at any time, any season and see a large variety of wildlife.”

Aran cited a plan to build a cemetery in the area soon and cautioned against hurting the contiguity of open land.

“Absurdity shouts out to the heavens”

Local Israeli council heads in the West Bank have embraced the project, viewing it as the latest step toward creating a contiguous built up area between the West Bank and Israel. Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria regional council, said after a planning commission meeting that the “Gates of Samaria industrial zone can be expected to change the equation on the way toward seeing a million Jews in Judea and Samaria.”

Mor Gilboa, an activist with Israeli and Palestinian environmentalists and in “Climate for Peace,” said “the military government in the territories has for decades created a list of climate blights on the environment. The plan ignores nature the same as it ignores Palestinian rights to these territories which don’t belong to Israel under international law.”

Ecopeace, an environmental organization of Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian activists voiced concerns that the park would hurt water springs and underground wells and do hydrological damage to the entire area.

“Approving such a project would be a tragedy for generations and pose a clear and serious risk for the Yarkon basin aquifer,” Gideon Bromberg, the organization’s Israeli director-general said.

“If Palestinians were trying to advance such a plan Israeli authorities would justifiably see it as a serious blow to water security. The danger is beneath the ground but the absurdity shouts out to the heavens,” Bromberg said.

The planning commission said that the industrial park would be split in two, with one part on hilltops and the rest at a lower level to avoid damage to the riverbeds and the rest of the ecological corridor. But the plan also calls for substantial changes on the ground which have the potential to damage natural sites.

The Civil Administration points to a regional survey that says no factories would be permitted in the industrial zone that are not hooked up to a purification system to prevent pollution of deep water wells, and that the sewage would be collected by a centralized system.

The Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories unit, which oversees the administration, said in response that the plan had been approved based on several conditions and that once it’s officially published there will be an option for members of the public to present their objections.

Original article

Photo on front page: The area where the new Samaria`s Gate industrial zone is expected to be established, May 2020. Source: Tomer Appelbaum. Photo on this page: Gazelles native to the region. Source: Tomer Appelbaum.


Environmental apartheid in the shadow of annexation

In an area like the West Bank where political boundaries are hazy, the issue of profits and tax payment should be examined in the context of environmental and social justice.

Though written nearly four decades ago, the lyrics of the song “Seeing Far, Seeing Transparent” by songwriter Yaakov Rotblit (who is known mainly for penning an anthem of the Israeli peace movement – “A Song for Peace” – in 1969) remain relevant to current discourse on development projects and political tensions occurring in the West Bank in the summer of 2020.

According to common interpretations, the song was inspired by the biblical figure of Moses, who was exiled from the “Promised Land.” Two lines in particular parallel current issues with Israeli policy in the occupied territories: 1) “A man like a tree planted on water” – perhaps in reference to the Book of Psalms (“and was like a tree planted on streams”) – likens man to a tree as he roots and clings to a tenuous land. 2) Then, later in the song: “So my way was lost, my life was a riddle, thirst was gone in the desert, to a word of truth that has the power to give a face for tomorrow.’

Read More Related Articles

US House overwhelmingly passes resolution condemning QAnon

Public safety must come before the right to protest


New on-trend styles now on sale (H&M)

Recommended by

This summer, the “truth” and “power” that Rotblit wrote of in the early 1980s will determine the political viability of a sustainable “tomorrow” in our region. At the moment, it is uncertain whether the question “To annex or not to annex” reverberating throughout Israel in recent months will be decided. Additionally, in light of an accumulating number of large, Israeli government-sanctioned development projects in the West Bank, it is also uncertain what percentage of the territory might be claimed in a de facto annexation.

The Association for Environmental Justice in Israel, civil rights organizations working against the occupation, and nature conservation organizations working in Judea and Samaria (the biblical name for the region of the West Bank), have been in a race against the clock in recent months to preserve the possibility of a “two-state solution,” which annexation inherently threatens. Therefore, efforts are aimed at halting the development plans that are currently in the decision-making pipeline of various government authorities, which, if approved, would further legitimize annexation in the eyes of the Israeli government.

The odds of success are small.

The following is a partial list of these proposed projects:

• The construction of a waste treatment and energy production facility near the Good Samaritan site, in the large municipality of Ma’aleh Adumim. A preliminary tender was published at the end of 2019 and now an international tender could be published any day. Once built, about 1,500 tons of garbage will be transported to the site from Jerusalem each day, thus leading Israel to violate its signing of the Basel Convention, an international treaty that prohibits trans-boundary waste transfer between countries (or political entities) that do not possess similar infrastructure and governance capabilities.

• The development of 3,500 housing units by Israel in Area E1 (between east Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim). If carried out, these developments will permanently negate the possibility of east Jerusalem becoming the capital of the Palestinian state. Objections to the plan can be submitted to the Supreme Planning Council of the Civil Administration arm of the Ministry of Defense.

• The expansion of the Nahal Raba quarry, located in an area between the “Green Line” and a Separation Wall that Israel constructed east of the line over a decade ago, close to Nahal Raba (the Raba Stream). The stream is one of the tributaries of the Yarkon River, an area rich in flora and fauna and attractive to many hikers seeking natural terrain in the center of the country. Expanding quarry operations would jeopardize the ecological integrity of this watershed. It would also pose a health risk and reduce the quality of life of communities living near the quarry - mainly the municipality of Rosh Ha’ayin, where many residents object to the expansion.

Implementation of the Nahal Raba quarry plan is a subversion of international law. In particular, it undermines a past Israeli High Court decision that prohibited construction of new quarries in the West Bank by Israel, on the grounds that such a unilateral transformation of land beyond the Green-Line would be an act of environmental apartheid. While technically no new quarries will be built under the Nahal Raba plan, the proposed expansion of the existing one will yield the same unjust result.

According to a report by Human Rights Watch, the Nahal Raba quarry was established on lands of the Palestinian village of Al-Zawiyah in the early 1980s. About 20 years later, in 2004, Israel built a separation wall east of the quarry, effectively claiming all land between the wall and the Green Line as Israeli territory. As such, any quarry that is built (or expanded) west of the wall is considered by the government to be on state land, and is not required to provide tax payments to the Palestinian Authority. The quarry stands between residents of Al-Zawiyah and the lands expropriated from them by the separation wall, depriving them of the opportunity to profit from that land. Though Palestinians can technically work at the quarry itself, they must obtain legal permissions from the Israeli military.

Nahal Raba is the subject of an additional program that concerns the creation of a new industrial zone, called Sha’ar Hashomron (Gate of Samaria) or the Nahal Raba industrial zone, and covering approximately 2,700 dunams. If the zone is developed, surrounding areas would incur significant environmental impact, including damage to the main ecological corridor of the central region of Israel. The planning of the project is being managed by the Civil Administration, the branch of the Ministry of Defense that maintains civil oversight and control in Area C of the West Bank, and which has not made all project information available to the public. Thus lack of transparency is another issue with the development plans for Sha’ar Hashomron.

IN AN area like the West Bank where political boundaries are hazy, the issue of profits and tax payment should be examined in the context of environmental and social justice. But in the case of the Gate of Samaria industrial zone, these values have been ignored.

Development of the “Nahal Raba [industrial zone] [was delayed] for many years due to conflicts [between neighboring Jewish settlements over tax allocations by the industrial zone], and in the last 10 years there has been almost a complete stalemate. About two years ago, the Samaria Regional Council, [a coalition of local authorities from the settlements, attempted] to resolve the issue, and after [much] hard work… [it] reached a historic breakthrough [after about six months], signing a tripartite agreement between the Samaria Regional Council, and the Oranit and Elkana local councils. The agreement significantly increased the Samaria Regional Council’s [share of] profits [from the project] to about 42%… and [ensured payment] on a regular basis” (Translation of a Hebrew publication on the Shomron (Samaria) Regional Council website shomron.org.il last month). However, this agreement utterly failed to consider nearby Palestinian municipalities and their right to a share of the profits.

The authors of this article hope that early celebration over this recent, one-sided agreement between the settlements does not distract from the Samaria Gate plan’s persisting issues. The broader political implications of such a major development, along with the other proposed projects in the West Bank outlined above, is what should be at the center of public discourse during this period of annexation talks.

Because the West Bank is subject to political, legal and international controversy, and despite the apparent truth that unilateral annexation is the will of most Israelis, a public discourse should be held in which the above plans can be discussed as part of a just and bilateral solution for the areas in question. Execution of these plans without fair discussion and involvement of all impacted parties will only increase the alienation and hostility between the Israeli and Palestinian populations. It will also cultivate a bitter awareness of the contrast between where these plans might lead us politically, socially and environmentally, and what leaders could have ensured instead if they had only been more farsighted and transparent, and acted on the behalf of both peoples, their future generations, and a fair and sustainable environment.

Carmit Lubanov is executive director of AEJI. Mossi Raz, a former Meretz MK, is an AEJI board member.

Original source

Costs   0


The Land and Its People
HLRN Publications

Land Times

All rights reserved to HIC-HLRN -Disclaimer