Israel bombs Lebanon green lands on World Environment Day

  • Post last modified:June 6, 2024
  • Reading time:7 mins read

On Wednesday 5 June it was World Environment Day. So naturally, the settler colonial state of Israel marked the occasion with another despicable act of ecocide. As it continued its genocidal assault on Gaza, it wreaked environmental devastation on communities. In short, Israel bombs Lebanon with white phosphorus.

The same day, two reports exposed Israel’s wave of ecocidal destruction against the backdrop of its imperial expansionist, and genocidal ambitions in the region.

Israel bombs Lebanon on World Environment Day

Since 1973, the UN has led World Environment Day – the largest annual international event for the environment – on 5 June.

This year, as the day kicked off, Israel rained down white phosphorus bombs in Lebanon:

White phosphorus is a lethal chemical substance that ignites on contact with oxygen and continues to blaze until deprived of it. Burning at more than 800°c, it eviscerates human skin through to the bone, and can cause dysfunctions in multiple organs of the body. Its munitions produce a white smoke that Israel utilises as a smokescreen.

Human Rights Watch also published a report on the same day Israel launched this latest assault. In it, the rights group detailed that:

verified the use of white phosphorus munitions by Israeli forces in at least 17 municipalities across south Lebanon since October 2023, including 5 municipalities where airburst munitions were unlawfully used over populated residential areas.

Notably, Israel uses this toxic substance to weaponise the environment. In comments to the National in November, environmental researcher at the American University of Beirut and activist of grassroots nonprofit Green Southerns Abbas Baalbaki described Israel’s tactics of environmental devastation. He explained that:

The Israelis have long employed a strategy to make the land inhospitable. Their targets are not military objectives; instead, they destroy centuries-old olive trees, which have been preserved for generations.

They understand that by targeting the ecosystem, they break the profound ties between the people and their ancestral land. People do not want to live in a wasteland, so they end up leaving: It is Israel’s strategy of militarising the environment

In just over a month between 8 October and 14 November, Israel had burnt approximately 462 hectares of land in Lebanon with white phosphorus bombs. Of this, 60% was woodland, 25% agricultural land, and a further 15% was fruit and olive trees. What’s more, Israel’s crusade on Lebanese soil had put hundreds of thousands of farm animals at risk and destroyed around 150 beehives.

Of course, Israel’s assault on Lebanon’s environment has continued unabated – as its most recent attack on Wednesday demonstrated.

Israel’s “catastrophic” environmental destruction in Gaza

Ostensibly then, these bombing campaigns forms part of its settler colonial expansion and annexation agenda in the region.

This is of course, nothing new. Israel has long targeted the environment to systematically deprive Palestinians of their basic rights too. As Zaki Mamdoo previously wrote for the Canary, this has involved the “deliberate unravelling of Gaza’s social fabric” which for instance:

has led to the collapse of waste management systems including water treatment, water pumps, sanitation, and desalination facilities. This has resulted in sewage flowing through the streets, seeping into the land and flowing into the sea – spreading water borne illnesses like typhoid, cholera and hepatitis while obviously having a devastating impact on ocean ecosystems.

What’s more, as with South Lebanon, Israel has purposely destroyed hundreds of thousands of ancestral olive trees across Palestine.

In other words, Israel has engaged in a torrid history of ethnic cleansing by environmental harm. Given this, it’s little wonder two reports have now underscored this in the context of its ongoing genocidal siege in Gaza.

Firstly, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and the Environmental Quality Authority in Gaza released a joint report on Wednesday. Crucially, this detailed how Israel’s assault on Gaza had caused immense environmental damage, rendering the strip uninhabitable.

Moreover, it pinpointed Israel’s deliberate targeting of vital civilian infrastructure in this. Specifically, it highlighted that two key water desalination plants are now operating at just 20% capacity. Alongside this, Israel’s bombing campaign and manufacturing of fuel shortages has decimated its wastewater networks. In particular, it described how Israel’s brutal attacks have halted 65 sewage pumps and destroyed 70km of sewage pipes.

In tandem with this, the United Nations refugee agency UNRWA echoed these findings on Wednesday.

As the Andalou Agency reported, in a statement UNRWA said that:

The war in Gaza has upended millions of Palestinian lives and caused catastrophic damage to the natural environment that they depend upon for water, clean air, food and livelihoods

What’s more, it relayed that:

Restoring environmental services will take decades and cannot even start until a ceasefire

Of course, all this is only exacerbating the humanitarian crisis Israel has fomented in Gaza. Evidently, the environmental destruction is by design, as part of its forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza.

No climate justice in a world set on fire by colonialism

In short, Israel’s ecocidal assaults in Lebanon and Gaza cannot be extricated from its broader settler colonial project. Destroying the very environmental foundations of life is a key tool in the Zionist’s tyrannising campaign of ethnic cleansing. Of course, ultimately this underpins its white supremacist imperial expansionism in the region. Once more, it’s a vital reminder that climate and environmental justice can never flourish in a world where settler colonists exist – because they’re the very reason it’s on fire.

Feature image via X screengrab

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