Disappearing Palestine and “typically Israeli” landscapes

The last paragraph of an article published by Haaretz today on the disappearance of wildlife in Israel reads: “Only 298 winter rain pools remain in the entire country, and other typically Israeli landscapes are also disappearing.”

“Typically Israeli” landscapes?

What characterizes a “typically Israeli” landscape is not elaborated on here; perhaps one could say features of a “typically Israeli” landscape may include severe cement buildings that have no relation to any architecture traditionally found in the region, or similarly, the red-roofed settlement colonies built on the occupied West Bank hills. Or Israel’s apartheid wall, which in some places is painted on the “Israeli” side with pastoral imagery to simulate whatever landscape view might be enjoyed had the 25-foot-wall not been built in the first place.

But back to the Haaretz article, which reports on a new study by the Israeli Academy of Sciences that finds that “almost 60 percent of mammals in the country are at risk of extinction, with over 80 percent of amphibians facing a similar threat. Of the 206 species of birds that nest in Israel, over 20 percent are also in danger of extinction.”

But the Academy found some “good” news to report as well: “in the last two years, more than 20 new national parks and nature reserves have been officially proposed.”

Of course, what is not mentioned is the colonial context of the proposal of protected “nature reserves.”

For decades the quasi-governmental organization the Jewish National Fund has been planting non-indigenous forests on Palestinian land, often covering up the remains of destroyed villages, as part of the state’s quest to colonize more and more land. The village of al-Araqib in the Naqab or Negev desert has been demolished numerous times to make way for a JNF-planted forest. Arwa Aburawa reported for The Electronic Intifada last year:

Inspired by Zionist mythology to make the desert bloom, the JNF’s forestation schemes now includes the “Blueprint Negev” project — a ten year and $600 million initiative which includes program for water conservation and further afforestation in the Naqab. None of these facilities, of course, will be for the benefit of the Bedouins living in “unrecognized” villages which Israel states are illegal although the Bedouin have lived there for generations.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government promotes the country as a “haven for environmental technologies,” as Ali Abunimah wrote for The Electronic Intifada last May when he exposed a former Quartet convoy’s investment in Better Place, an Israeli company that is “deveoloping tra nsport infrastructure for Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

Abunimah adds “The company has been a poster child for efforts to greenwash Israel — presenting it as a haven for environmental technologies — yet it has close ties to Israel’s military and political establishments and its principal officers express an explicitly anti-Muslim and anti-Arab agenda.”

The real nature (no pun intended) of Israeli environmentalism? Diverting water resources, causing the Dead Sea to further evaporate each year; occupying Syrian land to better control the region’s precious water resources; denying Palestinians access to West Bank water resevoirs — the list goes on.

As Palestine’s landscape and natural resources further disappear, so do any excuses not to boycott the colonist State of Israel and sanction the JNF.


Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.