Environment Up For Debate
The Equatorial Press Lead Story

Though Israel has temporarily removed its troops from Gaza, a fight of sorts continues to rage over an equally divisive topic: the environmental rights of Jewish settlers and Palestinian citizens. In a part of the world where it seems little can be agreed upon, the protection of the environment is no exception.

While environmental issues often engender far more cooperation amongst Israelis and Palestinians than other hot button issues, a report from the Peace Research Institute in the Middle East highlights some of the pervasive disagreements that keep both sides wary.

Work on water rights- a major roadblock in a largely arid region- is among the most controversial. In the West Bank and Gaza, where Jewish settlers claim hillside land, water resources are often diverted towards maintaining the settlements, with Palestinian areas subsisting off of tainted runoff and rainwater. Additionally, any information about water usage or supply in Israeli-controlled lands is tightly controlled, as was evident when Palestinians researchers were forbidden access to Israeli records during a cooperative research summit on the Jordan River basin. Though water is often at the forefront, this censorship, according to the Institute, is pervasive.

At the same time, Israeli conservation organizations are often turned down by some of their Palestinian counterparts, who refuse to work with the country until a Palestinian state is formally recognized. As the nonprofit NGO-Monitor reported in 2004, some Palestinian NGOs that work in the environmental field often use environmental concerns as "a pretext for political and ideological objectives."

While Israeli leftist political party Meretz has recently begun to curry support from younger voters with its pro-environment policies, the neutrality of environmental protection is continually called into question as the conflict spirals on.
-Equatorial Press Staff Report. Photo Courtesy of Beivushtang.