According to a report by an organization which reviews school textbooks, Palestinian students are taught to blame Israel for their environmental problems but how accurate is the assessment?
The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE), which reviews school textbooks in the Middle East North Africa region, recently released a damning report on way that Palestinian school books represent Israel. As well the negative portrayal of Israel, the report revealed that Palestinian textbooks blame Israel for their environmental problems. But does this mean that all Palestinians actually blame Israel for their environmental woes? And more importantly, what role (if any) does Israel really play in environmental degradation in Palestine?
The first issue to consider here is whether Palestinians really do blame Israel for all their environmental woes. Based on the report which reviewed 118 textbooks used in Palestinian schools there may be reason to assume so. However it is rather simplistic to think that all Palestinians- young and old- believe this because: a) the report that IMPACT-SE launched only looked at school textbooks and not the entire cultural and educational influences informing Palestinians’ views and b) people don’t believe everything they read and therefore not everything they read becomes a belief.
If it did, than we could all be very hopeful for the future generation of Palestinian student who according to the report have also been taught the importance of respecting the environment and sustainable energy resources.
Sadly, things aren’t that simple.
We’re All Connected- Environmentally
Now, let’s get the more tricky stuff. Putting aside the report- whose remit isn’t to measure the accuracy of the statements in the textbooks but whether they encourage pluralism, tolerance and coexistence- the issue of what role Israel actually plays in Palestine’s environment remains. Of course, neighbouring countries do play a part in the ecological health of a country.
For example, Egypt’s recent concerns about its water supply following Ethiopia’s ambitious dam project near Sudan is one example of the interconnectedness of the environment.
However, this doesn’t mean that Israel is to blame for any of Palestine’s environmental problems just that they are undoubtedly interconnected. Even so, there are cases when Israel has negatively contributed to the ecological environment in the Palestinian territories. Untreated pollution from Israeli settlements do pose a real threat to the West Bank’s environment and in-fighting between Israel and Palestine has hindered Palestinian wastewater projects leaving the surrounding areas at risk from contamination. Unequal water distribution and conflicts such as those in Gaza have also left their mark on the environment.
Taking Responsibility and Moving Forward
This doesn’t mean that Palestinians should go around blaming Israel for all their environmental problems. This would be problematic on lots of levels- least of all for the Palestinian environment itself. If you blame a problem you have completely on an outside factor, then you’re not likely to do anything about this problem yourself.
If Palestinians blame all their environmental problems on Israel then their unlikely to get motivated about resolving issues themselves, improving their own environmental behaviour or collaborating with regional players to solve important ecological concerns.
This would be very bad- the Palestinian Authority doesn’t need any more excuses for inaction. We want to be able to encourage a Palestinian sense of responsibility and encourage environmentally aware projects such as the Rawabi city, organic small-scale farming as well as the country’s first environmental festival. Of course, Israel does play a role in Palestine’s environment but that needs to put into the correct perspective so that Palestine can move forward.
: Image via Arwa Aburawa.
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