In November 2023, Greta Thunberg made headlines after a man attempted to take her mic as she invited a Palestinian and an Afghan woman to speak at a climate protest in Amsterdam. The interruption was met with resounding chants of “no climate justice on occupied land!”.
Palestinian scientists, human rights advocates, NGOs, activists and policymakers have long drawn the links between environmental and climate injustice and Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine and apartheid regime. Now, with UN experts warning that the Palestinian people are at grave risk of genocide by Israel, it's more important than ever for the climate justice movement to connect the dots and show up in solidarity to demand a ceasefire and a free Palestine.
How does this connect to our climate work in Australia?
Human rights is a climate justice issue
Our fight for a safe climate is a global one, and human rights and survival is at the core of our efforts. As Israeli climate and environment researchers wrote about their Palestinian colleague Khalil Abu Yahia, who was killed in Gaza this month:
“It is near impossible to think about the climate crisis amongst this much death and destruction; but the reality is, this last month has set Gaza even deeper into a humanitarian crisis, and its two million residents are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change than ever.”
Fossil fuel company ties to Israel
Many of the companies we are challenging regarding destruction of land and climate damage in Australia are the same companies supporting the Israeli government actions. For example, Israel just awarded new gas licenses to 12 companies including BP, and the Adani Group is involved in weapons manufacturing and defence technologies with Israeli companies and recently purchased the Haifa Port from Israel for $1.15 billion.
Our government is complicit Every day the Australian Government fails to join the global call for a ceasefire, it is complicit in prolonging abuses of human rights and breaches of international law, and the destruction of land and water. Arms and weapons are exported from Australia to Israel. In November 2023, The Australian Centre for International Justice (ACIJ), with Palestinian human rights groups, Al-Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) launched a legal action in the Federal Court of Australia, the first legal challenge attempting to shed light on arms exports permits from the Australian Government. Companies funding weapons also fund the climate crisis The top financial institutions supporting weapons manufacturers supplying the Israel Defence Force are the same top shareholders and lenders of many coal and gas mining companies operating in Australia, such as BlackRock, Vanguard, and JP Morgan Chase. Read more about the corporate enablers of Israel’s war on Gaza here.
Gaza at a glance
- Gaza is a small strip of land on the Mediterranean sea which forms part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, along with the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It is one of the most densely populated places on Earth, with 2.2 million people, 50% of them children, living in 365 km2 of land.
- Gaza is known as the world’s ‘largest open air prison.’ Since 2005, Israel has imposed an illegal air, land and sea blockade on Gaza, controlling the movement of all people and goods in and out. While Israel claims to no longer occupy Gaza, the UN and human rights organisations consider Israel the occupying power.
- The Israeli government subjects all Palestinians to a stratified system of rights, laws, and access which Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem agree amount to apartheid.
On October 9, Israel announced a complete siege on Gaza, blocking all food, water, electricity, and fuel as part of its retaliatory attack following the October 7 attack by Hamas when 1,200 Israeli people were killed. Amnesty International has said this is cruel and inhumane collective punishment amounting to a war crime. As of November 18, Israel has killed more than 12,300 Palestinians including at least 5,000 children, displaced 1.5 million people, destroyed 225,000 housing units, damaged 260 educational facilities, shut down 25 hospitals, destroyed 55 ambulances, and killed 56 journalists.* * Data taken from the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the Government Information Office, and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - OCHA.
Climate vulnerability under occupation and apartheid
The Middle East and specifically Palestine is already impacted by global warming, with average temperatures already rising by 1.5 degrees and predicted to continue rising faster than the global average.
Israel’s military occupation and apartheid regime mean Palestinians face increased exposure to climate impacts such as water scarcity, food insecurity and displacement. Now, as the military attack and siege on Gaza displaces millions of people and completely cuts access to water, food, fuel, and healthcare, things are much worse.
With average temperatures already up by 1.5 degrees, extreme heat is a huge health risk for people in Gaza. This is made worse as Israel’s blockade and occupation, and now military attack, limits access to water, shelter, electricity for cooling, and healthcare.
Rising sea levels
Gaza lies alongside the ocean and overcrowding has pushed people to live close to the water. Sea levels are predicted to rise 0.7-1.8 m by the end of the century. Rising seas erode beaches and increase saltwater intrusion into the aquifer, and in some cases directly threatens homes and infrastructure.
Agriculture and fishing
Israel’s military prevents residents in the Gaza Strip from using the land next to Israel’s militarized fence, which makes up 20 percent of Gaza’s arable land. Explosives dropped on Gaza in 2014 damaged soil and reduced agricultural productivity. The unprecedented scale of Israel’s current bombing campaign has likely done untold further damage to agricultural land.
Climate change impacts on the sea have also reduced fishing catches; Israel already restricts how far off the coast Gaza’s fishermen may go and climate change is further impacting their livelihoods.