A Depopulated Paradise: Decolonizing Environmentalism for the Recovery of Palestine

Authors: Ghada Sasa*, McMaster University
Topics: Middle East, Indigenous Peoples, Environment
Keywords: Israel, Palestine, Syria, Green Colonialism, Environmental Justice, Orientalism, Post-Colonialism, Indigenous, Climate Change, Protected Areas, National Parks, Nature Reserves
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 39
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores the various means through which Israel establishes protected areas, namely national parks, nature reserves, and forests, to advance its settler-colonial project. I detail the role of these areas, or what I refer to as green colonies, in justifying the colonization of Historic Palestine and Syria, preventing the return of Palestinian and Syrian refugees, dehistoricizing, Europeanizing, and Judaizing the region, and greenwashing Israel's image on the world stage. I situate Israel's actions within a global historical context, including colonialism, Orientalism, and modern or Western enivronmentalism. The last falsely propagates a human-nature binary, justying the displacement of people, especially natives, on environemntal grounds, since its inception. Furthermore, I highlight how Palestinians and Syrians, Israelis, and others are resisting Israeli green colonialism, and how we must dismantle the human-nature binary to achieve environmental justice, which secures human and environmental rights, prioritizing the former. I draw from Palestinian and Syrian knowledge systems to assist in the re-orientation of modern environemntalism toward progressive ends.

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