News Release

50 Years After 1967 War: Environmental and Cultural Impact

_POL0179The 1967 War, in which Israel conquered lands including the West Bank and Gaza Strip, began on June 5.

MAZIN QUMSIYEH, mazin at qumsiyeh.org, Skype: mbqumsiyeh
Director of the Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability and a professor at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities, Qumsiyeh will be on a speaking tour in the U.S. beginning in mid-June. He is Palestinian-American. His books include Sharing the Land of Canaan; Mammals of the Holy Land; and Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment.

Qumsiyeh said today: “Israel has moved in 750,000 illegal colonial settlers into the West Bank since 1967. Jewish colonial settlements don’t blend into the landscape. Palestinian villages going back several thousand years are built on the sides of hills or in valleys. Settlements are built on top, which gives a commanding view, but is environmentally unfriendly.

“Occupation and colonialism over the last 50 years and in fact since 1948 have had a devastating effect. The colonial settlements (residential and industrial) and the wall impact the Palestinian environment. The future in places like Gaza and the West Bank is basically unlivable should trends continue.

“When Israel was created and destroyed 500 Palestinian villages and towns, the Jewish National Fund replaced endogenous trees and village homes with a monoculture of pine trees — fast growing, fire-hazard, and destructive to local flora. The Israelis have destroyed the Hula wetlands, syphoned water from the Lake of Tiberias, dried up the Dead Sea, and now are building an environmentally catastrophic Dead Sea-Red Sea canal.”

“The Israelis have put some of their worst polluting factories in the West Bank, producing toxic waste that affected nearby Palestinian villages. Scientific studies on such pollution in an area like Salfit show its health impact.

“Climate change effects developing countries drastically, though it’s mostly caused by developed countries. Palestinians use very little fossil fuels yet have already seen rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall. Paris accords were not good agreements, too little, too late and non-mandatory on the signatory countries. Yet even these small steps are now being undermined by the world’s largest economy.

“Palestine is part of the fertile crescent, where humans first went from hunter-gatherers to agriculture (Natufian and Canaanitic cultures) and we thus have a rich natural and (connected) cultural heritage. Yet the prolonged conflict threatens both. From embroidery, folk music and dance, proverbs, to knowledge of traditional medicine; all these are threatened by the fact that two-thirds of the 12 million Palestinians are now refugees.”

See recent Jerusalem Post report: “UN official: Gaza could soon be unlivable.”