Oppressive pines: Uprooting Israeli green colonialism and implanting Palestinian A’wna

This article charts Israel’s cooption of environmentalism to discreetly colonize Palestine, focusing on the complicity of protected areas. I identify this manipulative strategy as Israeli green colonialism, tracing it back to the emergence of Western environmentalism and Zionism, in the 18th and 19th centuries respectively. After all, national parks, nature reserves, and other protected areas are colonial inventions. Their exclusionary design is based on the Western construction of humans – especially poor, racialized, and feminine communities – and non-human nature as inherently incompatible. Effectively, the human/nature dichotomy was fabricated to justify land grab, Indigenous dispossession, and the introduction of coercive population control measures, across the Global South, under the banner of ecological stewardship. Meanwhile, Zionism is the European ideology and movement that promotes the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and appropriation of its land for the creation of a Jewish state. Emulating other settler colonies, Israel produces national parks, forests, and nature reserves to: (a) rationalize the expulsion of Palestinians and annexation of their lands; (b) obstruct their return as refugees; (c) dehistoricize, Judaize, and Europeanize Palestine; and (d) greenwash its genocidal operations worldwide. First, I underline that Israeli national parks and nature reserves are advantageously concentrated in the most coveted regions and where most Natives live. These include the North and South of “Israel” or 1948 Palestine, the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Syrian Golan Heights, and Jerusalem, which remains sought-after by Israel as its future capital. I explain that when Israel creates a nature reserve or national park, Palestinians are prohibited from building or cultivating in it, dispossessing them of their territory. In the same space, Israeli colonizers are allowed to not only develop, but also pollute. Additionally, quotes are provided from directors of Israeli afforestation, corroborating its colonial, rather than environmental, purpose. Second, many Israeli protected areas are, literally or metaphorically, planted over destroyed Palestinian villages, and on the border between 1948 Palestine and the West Bank, to impede the ability of forcibly displaced Natives to reclaim their homes. Third, I argue that Israel’s preference for planting invasive pines and erasure of Palestinian history in the publications of its parks, fulfill its plan to dehistoricize, Judaize, and Europeanize the Holy Land. I emphasize that this process of memoricide erodes the identity of Palestinians and suppresses their resistance. Fourth, I center the role of the Jewish National Fund – a globally recognized environmental charity, whose underlying goal, since its founding, is the depopulation of Palestine on behalf of Israel – in afforesting Palestine and administering Israeli protected areas. I argue that its self-contrived environmental image greenwashes its reputation globally, enabled by Orientalism – or the racist view of Palestinians as backward, unsustainable, and violent nomads, as opposed to civilized, sedentary, and progressive European Jews. Then, I explore various paths of resistance, pursued by both Palestinians and their land. Outlining their values of sumud (steadfastness), a’wna (solidarity), and a’wda (return), in addition to the Islamic tenet of tawhid (unity), I present an anti-oppressive and scientific environmentalism as an alternative to its Western counterpart. Meanwhile, I reject the trope of the ecological savage, which seeks to dehumanize Indigenous people as closer to non-human nature, as I highlight their prioritization of their self-interests, akin to the rest of humanity, even if they deeply unsettle the human/nature dichotomy.

Ghada Sasa


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