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UNEP-Accredited environmental organisations in West Asia condemn Israel’s ‘inhumane’ actions against Palestinians

By Mays Ibrahim Mustafa - Nov 20,2023 - Last updated at Nov 20,2023

APN is an independent, non-profit organisation founded in 2003 by a group of environmental activists and agricultural engineers with the aim of protecting the environment and natural resources in the Arab world (Photo courtesy of APN)

AMMAN — Environmental organisations accredited by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in West Asia have recently issued a statement, condemning the “inhumane” crimes perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians, particularly those in the long-besieged Gaza, prevented from access to basic life necessities, including food, water, medicine and fuel. 

The statement was made available to The Jordan Times by the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN), which contributed to formulating it. It affirmed the right of the Palestinian people to “defend” themselves and “liberate” their land from occupation by all available means “sanctioned by international laws”.

“The mass killing of children cannot be justified as self-defence; instead, it represents a continuation of the approach of an apartheid regime, aimed at annihilating everything in its path,” the statement said. 

It added that this “approach” is evident in various practices Israel has perpetuated in Palestinian land.

These include uprooting trees, bulldozing and burning land, cutting and contaminating water sources, and deliberately targeting religious sites and sanctuaries, such as churches, mosques, schools and hospitals, leading to the death of thousands of displaced civilians in a “flagrant” violation of international law, according to the statement. 

It further condemned the silence of the international community over the crimes committed by Israel in Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria, expressing “astonishment” over its failure to halt the “genocidal” war waged on Gaza.

The UNEP-accredited organisations also blamed the financial and military support provided by certain Western governments to Israel for encouraging what they described as an “occupying force” to kill more children in Gaza with impunity.

Their statement demanded an immediate cessation of the brutal bombardment and massacres targeting civilians in Gaza, in addition to promptly lifting the land, sea and air blockade imposed on Gaza, and ensuring unrestricted access for humanitarian aid to all people in Gaza. 

It also urged the international community to take action in order to bring Israel before international courts, through deploying “fact-finding missions” to investigate its human rights violations, including those targeting the agriculture and health sectors, through the utilisation of internationally prohibited chemical weapons. 

Moreover, the organisations said that it’s necessary to exert pressure on countries supporting the war on Gaza to uphold their “extra-territorial” obligations and hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes against humanity. 

They further demanded compensation for the damage caused by the Israeli aggression on southern Lebanon, including destroying 40,000 perennial trees, and burning 1.4 million square metres with white phosphorus, in addition to the resulting displacement of civilians. 

 

Israel ‘systematically’ targets food resources in Gaza 

 

“We believe that every person can play a role in amplifying the voices of people in Gaza and alleviating their suffering,” APN President Razan Zuayter told The Jordan Times. 

She urged all local organisations concerned with the environment in Jordan to “speak up” against the crimes perpetuated by Israel. 

“If we work in a scientific and systematic manner, we can succeed in pushing for the imposition of economic and military sanctions on Israel for its 75-year-old record of crimes committed against Palestinians, provided that our representatives to the United Nations (UN) take on an active role in supporting such efforts,” added Zuayter. 

She also pointed out that it’s currently difficult to accurately evaluate the environmental impacts of the ongoing war waged by Israel on Gaza, as its “relentless” bombardment of the besieged territory continues. 

However, “It’s evident that the environment and food resources have been systematically targeted by Israel throughout all its previous wars on Gaza,” Zuayter said. 

The Palestinian Agriculture Ministry estimates that the value of directed and indirect losses incurred by the agriculture sector in Gaza, following the 2021 war on the territory, exceeds $200 million, according to APN. 

A report made available to The Jordan Times by APN showed that the war resulted in the destruction of 13,800,000 square metres (over 25 per cent) of land cultivated with vegetables, 2,725,000 square metres (over 17 per cent) of land cultivated with field crops, and 730,000 square metres of land cultivated with fruit-bearing trees. 

The war also destroyed 165 agricultural ponds, 1,433,000 linear metres of irrigation networks, and 2,090 (over 17 per cent) of greenhouses, the report showed. 

Zuayter referenced remarks made by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Michael Fakhri, during his speech at the 51st Session of the Committee on World Food Security.

She noted that he emphasised that the current situation in Gaza is an example of how the weaponisation of food can lead to genocide, and cautioned that current food systems are going to produce more violence in the future, particularly due to “unilateral coercive measures, occupation and armed conflict”.

“We raised the alarm and warned that food was being increasingly used as a weapon all over the world to starve civilians, most acutely it is being used to starve civilians in Gaza,” Fakhri said. 

APN is an independent, non-profit organisation founded in 2003 by a group of environmental activists and agricultural engineers with the aim of protecting the environment and natural resources in the Arab world.

It has launched the Million Tree Campaign  in 2001 during the second Palestinian Intifada (uprising), with aim of replanting trees destroyed by Israeli forces under the slogan “They Uproot a Tree… We Replant Ten”, according to its website. 

Over the past twenty years, APN has helped plant approximately 2.8 million trees in Palestine, including half-a-million trees in Gaza. 

 

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