Greenwashing Palestine: Zionist green technologies and the making of settler expertise

Authors: Stepha Velednitsky*, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Sara Salazar Hughes, University of Southern California
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Political Geography, Middle East
Keywords: israel-palestine, green technology, settler colonialism, expertise
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Truman, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Israeli innovations in environmental technology are ostensibly aimed at sustainable resource management and climate-change mitigation. Indeed, Israeli popular discourse positions the country as a world leader in “green” technologies such as desalination, drip irrigation, and solar energy. Taking into account the historic and geographic context of Israel’s scientific development, we argue that Israel’s green technologies are fundamentally structured by the Zionist project of appropriating Palestinian lands. In fact, we argue that Israel is managing the ecology of historic Palestine to strategic effect. By promoting a “green” image and positioning itself as a global leader in sustainable technology, afforestation, and arid land management, Israeli leaders frame Israel as a responsible—and, by proxy, legitimate—steward of Palestinian lands. As such, Israel’s advancement of sustainability and climate change mitigation works to reproduce the settler state occupation of Palestine. In this paper, we analyze the use of “green” technologies, specifically in the areas of solar energy, water management, and waste processing, as mechanisms for land appropriation and dispossession in Palestine/Israel. This phenomenon, termed “greenwashing” by activists (Benjamin et. al., 2011), reflects a constellation of state, environmental, and settler colonial interests, and informs scholarly engagements with the political ecologies of state-making. Situated at the intersection of political geography/geopolitics, political ecology, and comparative settler colonial studies, our analysis asks 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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