Israel Turning Palestinian Territories into Landfills

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Palestinian students hold signs and a poster reading in Arabic: 'No for pollution' as they protest against Israeli factories set up in the Nitzanei Shalom industrial area near the occupied West Bank Palestinian village of Tulkarem. AFP

By: Ilya Gharibah

Published Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Israeli occupation adopts various means and methods, but it has one goal: plundering Palestinian lands and everything on them, even the water and air, in order to empty these lands of their native inhabitants. In addition to the Israeli crimes, the occupation seems to be inflicting a “slow death” as yet another method to kill people.

Ramallah — It is not enough for the Israeli authorities to kill, arrest, displace people, and confiscate their lands. They have a new goal, which is to destroy the Palestinian environment, turn it into a landfill for solid and chemical waste, and ultimately direct the toxic gases toward Palestinian territories. This is the covert war being waged by Israel, which is channeling the waste generated by military and chemical plants, as well as radioactive and cancerous substances into confiscated lands on which settlements have not yet been built, or into other lands the Palestinians are not entitled to benefit from. Accordingly, Israel is disregarding Palestinian rights and international conventions, including the Basel Convention, which prohibits its member states from transporting hazardous wastes to the territories of another state, under the pretext that Palestine has yet to be recognized as a state.

The fact that some Palestinian citizens are unaware of the gravity of the situation, and accept money from the Israelis in exchange for burying toxic substances in their lands makes the situation even more difficult, especially given the absence of official supervision by the Palestinian Authority.

In the city of Tulkarm, the suffering continues as a result of Israeli factories polluting its air. Fayez al-Tanib is one of hundreds, even thousands of residents who are losing their livelihoods. He and his family live off a farm located west of Tulkarm, which is adjacent to the armistice line, currently known as the Green Line.

“This farm is everything to me. I have been in conflict with the occupation soldiers ever since it was built in the eighties. In 1984, this plant was located in an Israeli village near Netanya called Tel Mond. After the damages caused by the plant increased, the residents decided to file a complaint to court demanding the closure of the plant which was causing damages to their farms. The plant was shut down immediately and relocated to this area,” al-Tanib says resentfully.

His wife Mona adds: “I have worked on this farm for 30 years. This factory has been emitting toxins in Tulkarm and our farm since the very first day, and the very first plant.” Mona expressed hope that human rights organizations would consider their situation, because these “toxic factories” are killing plants and people across the occupied West Bank, especially since this factory is located in a crowded city.

Sharif Shahrour, member of the Human Rights Committee in the Society of Social Work Committees in Tulkarm, expressed his discontent over the situation. Despite all the calls and pleas he made to the relevant authorities, accompanied by recent data, facts, and studies, Shahrour did not receive any effective response. “These actions are aimed at killing Palestinians. Many studies, including Israeli ones, prove the danger of these factories and the pollutants they produce… The protests carried out by Israelis, with the participation of members of the Israeli Knesset, demanding the closure or relocation of these plants is evidence of that,” Shahrour adds.

The situation might become even more dangerous if the plants are moved to areas far from Israeli citizens. For example, one of these plants only operates when the winds are blowing from the west, so the toxic gases and air residues emanating from it would reach the citizens of Tulkarm. But when the winds are blowing from the east, the factory stops working so the toxic gases would not reach the Israeli areas and jeopardize the health of citizens.

Fulla Jallad, a fresh graduate who supports her family since her father’s death in 2011, may be the best example of how these plants affect people’s lives. She says that her father died of cancer, due to the effects of a chemical plant located near their neighborhood. “Because of these plants, I lost one of the dearest people to my heart. It is my father, who initially developed lymphatic cancer and underwent chemotherapy. However, a few years later, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. The doctors used to ask him where he came from. When he used to say that he came from Tulkarm, the doctors would immediately know that he lived near the Geshuri plants.”

According to Hanna Issa, an expert in international law, the occupation authorities are bound by international law to maintain the properties of the occupied state and administer them in accordance with the “rules of usufruct.” In a recent statement, Issa says that Article 55 of the 1907 Hague Convention stated that “The occupying State shall be regarded only as administrator and usufructuary of public buildings, real estate, forests, and agricultural estates belonging to the hostile State, and situated in the occupied country.”

In the same context, Article 33 of the Geneva Convention of 1949 stipulated that “pillage is prohibited.” Similarly, Article 54(2) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I provides: “It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population... whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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