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The Environmental Impact of the
Israeli Occupation

By Eve Gardens

A disaster is facing the Palestinian olive farmers and as a result the downfall in another sector of the Palestine society, the agricultural, the backbone of the Palestine national economy. But a few seem to care about the environmental impact of the Israeli occupation.

One distinct ecological balance on ancient agriculture land is disrupted and partly destroyed by Israel with probably fatal future consequences. There are plenty of examples that strengthen such an argument: the eroding of large farmland areas, the draining of water resources, the destruction of roads, new construction of bypass roads, uprooting of ancient olive trees, Uprooting of old landscapes, the artificial divide of land and property, the building of concert walls and wired fences, ambush snares and deadly traps.

Now the UNEP, the UN Environmental Programme, is preparing for a desk study on the Palestinian Territories. A study of the casualties and the damage already done is indeed necessary, and hopefully it will not be too late to prevent a coming disaster for the agricultural environment on Palestinian territories.

"While environmental damage is a common consequence of war, it should never be a deliberate aim," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a message marking the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.

For his part, the President of the General Assembly, Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic, called for the protection of resources such as timber, minerals, water, fish and ivory, which are vulnerable to illegal exploitation in conflict situations.

Describing the environment as the "unpublicized victim of war," the Executive Director of UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Klaus Toepfer, said that although mankind had always counted its war casualties in terms of dead and wounded soldiers and civilians, the environment was a bigger casualty, due to damage done to air, water and land, unregulated plunder of natural resources.

Since 1999, he noted, UNEP had participated in a number of monitoring and assessment missions. The UNEP has also dispatched a mission to Afghanistan to pinpoint areas where degradation occurred and is preparing a desk study on the Palestinian Territories, which will identify the priorities for short- and long-term environmental rehabilitation.

Considering all of these efforts, one is still forced to ask the question: will this very special ecological environmental habitat in Palestine ever recover?; The insects, the birds, the fish, the flowers, the plants and the mammals. The Israeli occupation is not only killing the Palestine human population, but also the ancient Palestinian ecological habitat, life it self.