The environmental impact of Israeli military activities in the occupied Palestinian territory

The environmental impact of Israeli military activities in the occupied Palestinian territory
An often-overlooked factor in the field of sustainable development and resource management is the impact of the military on the environment and unfortunately this is no exception in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).  Whilst there have been many studies and reports on the economic, social and political repercussions of the continued Israeli occupation, there has been scant attention paid to the detrimental effects on the environment from Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) activities and the military infrastructure which supports them.  This is in no small part because of the lack of information provided by the Israeli authorities and the high level of secrecy surrounding the IOF.  For example, whilst conducting research for this paper it was not possible to view any images of the military bases in the oPt post 2004 because all sources have been doctored to erase any evidence of their presence.
Nonetheless, this report will strive to provide a historical background and legal framework to the IOF presence in the oPt and assess some of the consequent environmental implications.
A historical perspective
With the routing of the Arab forces in June 1967 the Israelis began their illegal occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.  During more than 40 years of occupation the Israelis have confiscated a considerable proportion of the territory in the oPt under the auspices of military needs.  This is in addition to the extensive settlement developments which currently house around half a million illegal settlers in the oPt.
Israel has confiscated approximately 1000km2of land to create closed military zones, which amounts to more than 20% of the West Bank territory. Excluding the areas that fall between the green line and the segregation barrier, Palestinians are barred entry to all of the military zones which are mainly on the eastern slopes of the Bethlehem and Hebron Governates in the Jordan Valley.  In 2004 the Israeli authorities declared a buffer zone of 150-200 meters around the segregation zone resulting in an additional 252km2 of territory becoming inaccessible to Palestinians.  Map 1 on the following page illustrates how the closed military zones compromise large chunks of the eastern west bank and strategic areas along the green line.
In these lands reside some of the most vulnerable Palestinian communities including large numbers of small scale herding farming communities.  As well as severely impacting upon the livelihoods of these communities it is also forcing them to overgraze on their diminished territories leading to desertification of the terrain.  According to recent research by OCHA the expansion of existing military zones or the creation of new ones continues.  In May 2009 over 300 people, including 170 children, were issued with evacuation and demolition orders because of the expansion of the Israeli military zones in the West Bank.
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[i] Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA , . ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories – Humanitarian Update, May 2009.’ (17 June 2009): n. pag. Web. 13 Jan 2010.
Categories: Environment