For decades, Israel has boasted of “making the desert bloom,” as if Palestinians never even existed. As Israel today pushes Gazans toward mass dehydration, we should remember its longstanding efforts to colonize land through its control of the water supply.

An aerial view of the Sorek desalination plant is seen near the Israeli city of Rishon LeZion on November 22, 2021. (Gil Cohen Magen / Xinhua via Getty Images)

Today, as Israeli bombs pound Gaza, the risk of death does not only come from the sky. A blockade of fuel, water, and electricity has already pushed the Palestinian coastal territory’s infrastructure to a breaking point, including with the shutting of its last seawater desalination plant. The collapse of the drinking-water supply brings deadly dehydration, and the risk of diseases like cholera and dysentery.

Even before the recent days of war, control over vital resources had long been a key site of struggle in historic Palestine and the wider Middle East. The climate crisis and green transition have heightened the struggle over potentially vast resources, including energy and water supplies. The redivision of territory and forced movement of populations obeys the logic of resource colonialism, but also of Israel’s efforts to posture as a power “greener” than its neighbors.

These are among the themes explored in Dismantling Green Colonialism — Energy and Climate Justice in the Arab Region, newly available from Pluto Press. Edited by Hamza Hamouchene and Katie Sandwell, this collective work challenges Eurocentric understandings of environmentalism, and calls for a class-focused approach to climate justice, fundamental for humanity’s survival. In a contribution excerpted below, Manal Shqair explores how Israel uses its “green” image to justify its colonial policy and dispossession of its neighbors.

Israel has portrayed pre-1948 Palestine as an empty, parched desert, and has suggested that after the establishment of the state of Israel that parched desert became a blooming oasis. For Israel and its supporters, what surrounds that oasis is a fearsome, degraded, and arid Middle East that is sinking in primitiveness and backwardness. Israel’s green image, which is set in contrast to a savage and undemocratic Middle East, has been central to its efforts to greenwash its settler-colonial and apartheid structure. Israel uses its expertise in agribusiness, afforestation, water solutions, and renewable energy technology as constituents of its greenwashing efforts and narrative globally.

Israel’s green image, which is set in contrast to a savage and undemocratic Middle East, has been central to its efforts to greenwash its settler-colonial and apartheid structure.

The assertion of the environmental superiority of Israel over the rest of the Middle East (and North Africa) was reinforced after it signed the Abraham Accords with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan in 2020. The Abraham Accords are a US-brokered normalization deal that also seeks to reinforce (already-existing) normalizing relations with other Arab countries that are not officially part of the agreement, including those that have not yet formalized their long-standing relations with Israel, like Saudi Arabia and Oman, and those that have, like Egypt and Jordan. The coalition of these Arab states formed under the umbrella of the Abraham Accords has vowed to increase their collaboration with Israel on issues related to security, the economy, health, culture, and the environment, among others. In the last two years, under the deal, Israel and these normalizing Arab states have signed a number of memorandums of understanding (MoUs) to jointly implement environmental projects concerning renewable energy, agribusiness and water.

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), which is working to end international complicity with Israeli oppression, defines normalization as “participation in any project, initiative or activity, local or international that brings together (on the same platform) Palestinian (and/or Arabs) and Israelis (individuals and institutions).”

The BNC elaborates that spaces of normalization do not meet the conditions set by the BNC concerning the Palestinian right to self-determination, dismantling Israel’s three-layered system of oppression (settler colonialism, apartheid, and military occupation), and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes as enshrined in United Nations Resolution 194. Israel uses normalization to naturalize its apartheid settler colonialism. In this vein, the Palestinian think tank Al-Shabaka observes that so-called environmentally friendly collaborative projects between Israel and Arab states are a form of eco-normalization. Eco-normalization is the use of “environmentalism” to greenwash and normalize Israeli oppression, and the environmental injustices resulting from it in the Arab region and beyond.

Eco-Normalization Projects

Manal Shqair

Prosperity Blue: Israel Quenches Parched Jordan

Manal Shqair

Vanquishing the (Arab) Heart of Darkness

Manal Shqair

Prosperity Green

Manal Shqair


Manal Shqair

Violent Eco-Normalization

Manal Shqair

Critical Juncture

Manal Shqair

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