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COMMENTARY: Israel’s colonialism connected to climate


Commentary

On Sept. 20, the Central Jersey Climate Coalition (CJCC) led an amazing rally demanding climate action from Rutgers University and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.). 

Members of the coalition made speeches connecting the struggles their organizations represent with global climate justice. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is among the earliest student organizations from Rutgers to join the coalition, having been present since its first meeting. 

So, it only makes sense that they would be asked to speak before the march and continue an important conversation about settler colonialism and environmental destruction that most speakers mentioned in their speeches. 

SJP’s speech acknowledged the importance of securing a future for ourselves, our loved ones, all animals and all land before speaking on the connections between the purpose of their organization as advocates for Palestine to the future of the environment. 

We mentioned Lenapehoking, the Bahamas, India and of course: Palestine.

That is why it is a shameful hypocrisy for a faculty member to write a smear piece last Thursday invalidating SJP’s place in a mostly Rutgers student-led movement, as well as invalidating the oppression of Palestinians and how said oppression has negatively impacted the land, water and air that Israel occupies. 

Attempts to silence SJP’s rightful place in climate activism reveal an important double standard on what happens when activists criticize Israel.

It is this faculty member who has attempted to derail the climate justice conversation by demanding that SJP answers to every single social issue involving Muslims around the world in one speech at one climate rally, from the Rohingya refugee crisis to LGBTQ+ rights in Iran. 

As normal and compassionate individuals, it should go without saying that these are issues we care about. We will not let this faculty member’s smear article aimed to paint SJP as a solely Muslim organization, which we are not, silence all criticisms of Israel.

We are students of many cultures, many faiths, many genders and many sexual orientations fighting for justice in Palestine. But to push us into a box and essentially tell us to stay in our Muslim lane and shut up about Israeli occupation is highly offensive no matter how diverse or not our organization happens to be. 

So why is Israel immune to criticism? Do all other problems in the world have to disappear before Israel is held accountable? 

The article we are responding to is also full of fabrications on Palestinian history. To say that there were no mass killings, no mass deportations, no removals of citizenship and no detention of academics and journalists is a blatant lie. 

From the Deir Yassin massacre in 1948 that killed hundreds of Palestinian villagers and helped create the state of Israel to the assault on Gaza in 2014 that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, mass killings are weaved into our reality. 

There is no arguing that the creation of Israel displaced 750,000 Palestinians in the Nakba, and that the state of Israel continues to displace Palestinians today with the construction of more illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu constantly boasts. 

How can he deny the removal of citizenship when thousands of Bedouin Palestinians had their Israeli citizenship voided in recent years? How can he claim that Israel is some beacon of freedom that does not jail academics or journalists when Dareen Tatour was jailed for simply posting a poem on Facebook?

Furthermore, we must bring the conversation back to the link between settler colonialism and climate change. Israel conducts environmental apartheid practices towards the Palestinian people on a daily basis. 

Israeli armed forces and settler militias ruin water supplies in the West Bank. This is accomplished by either destroying the fresh rainwater tanks that sit on Palestinian roofs or dumping chlorine or sewage to poison the water supply. Israel has routinely interfered with Palestinians’ natural access to freshwater and forcing them to buy that same water, now bottled at unaffordable prices.

They are not the environmental angels of the world, immune to criticism. Israel has led the way on eco-colonialism, uprooting native trees and fauna such as olive and almond trees that are integral to Palestinian culture, subsistence and economy in favor of instead planting huge swaths of European coniferous and eucalyptus trees. 

This has led to a large increase of wildfires within Israel, as these types of plant-life were never adapted for Middle Eastern climates. Israel’s apartheid wall indeed ruin the ecosystem by interfering with animal migration and destroying biodiversity by preventing plant seed dispersion. 

Make no mistake — Israeli settler colonialism, eco-apartheid and climate change are all linked. Rutgers benefits from all three. They have holdings in Israel’s treasury bonds, which subsidize settlements, checkpoints and the destruction of Palestinian land. 

The University has a contract with Caterpillar Inc., a company that helps the Israeli army bulldoze Palestinian farms and people to the ground. They currently hold $80 to 100 million in fossil fuel assets. 

The Rutgers student body should be free to criticize Israel and demand that the University is not complicit in either human rights abuses or environmental destruction.

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*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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