“Greenwashing” the Occupation: The role of environmental governance and the discourse of sustainability in sustaining the Israeli occupation of Palestine

Authors: Sara Hughes*, University of California - Los Angeles
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Political Geography, Middle East
Keywords: Israel/Palestine, greenwashing, occupation, environmental governance, settler colonialism, West Bank
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Bonaparte, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Debate about the Israeli occupation of Palestine tends to focus on settlement growth in the occupied West Bank at the expense of Israeli ecological activity, despite the far-reaching territorial implications, humanitarian repercussions, and risks posed to Palestinian state-building and civil society. In this paper I analyze the use of agricultural innovation, nature reserves, and “green” technology—ostensibly aimed at sustainable resource management—as tools of land appropriation and dispossession. Through the lens of geopolitical ecology, I examine how Israel is managing the environment in the occupied territories to strategic effect (maintaining the occupation while promoting a “green” image and positioning itself as a global leader in sustainable technology, afforestation, and natural resource management), thus reproducing state interests as much as, if not more than, advancing sustainability and climate change mitigation. Nature plays a seminal role in the production of any political space, but land is particularly significant in settler colonial contexts which are premised on the replacement of an indigenous population on the land and are justified through appeals to “proper use,” what constitutes “ownership,” and Indigenous “wastelands” versus productive capacity (Locke, 1993; Tully, 1994; Veracini, 2010). This paper is situated at the intersection of political geography, political ecology, and comparative settler colonial studies, asking how modern discourses around climate change mitigation and sustainable ecological management offer new opportunities for settler colonial state-making and consolidation of state power in contested territories.

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