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Overwhelmed by waste from a state lacking compassion

The scorching sun beats down on the backs of the people walking through the souq al-rabish (market of rubbish) of Jenin. The stench of sewers and trash sears the hairs at the back of one’s nostrils. Merchants are often seen by outsiders discussing the price of, say, a Jewish ornament recently shipped from Israel and discarded on the streets of the occupied territories.

 Interactions like these form a part of daily life in Jenin, a Palestinian city in the northern West Bank. Overrun by the excess waste of the neighbouring Israeli state, trash has come to infringe on the health and mobility of Palestinians. Effectively,  the detritus of anything consumed by the Israeli people is put on a truck, driven across the border, and discarded in sites across occupied Palestine.

Scholars and analysts may be excused for not noticing the daily polluted life of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, and the subsequent egregious effects it has on the health and living standards of Palestinian people.

In her book, “Waste Siege: The Life of Infrastructure in Palestine”, Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins provides an insightful ethnographic study of the lived experiences of Palestinians and the way in which they are obliged to forge an existence. Waste curtails Palestinian people’s freedom in the city of Jenin. It forges a way in which the Israeli state exercises control and restriction over Palestinian bodies, Stamatopoulou-Robbins writes. The “rabish” markets signify a restrictive paradigm that both provides a level of upward mobility and a feeling of stuckness for Palestinians, explains Stamatopoulou-Robbins. The “rabish” markets are enormous flea markets that host an array of buyers and sellers of previously used goods.

Israel controls what goes in and what goes out of the occupied territories. Such items include solid waste such as household furniture, garbage, dried paint, sheet metal, industrial waste, pipes, and a variety of other items. It is predicted that 83 cubic metres of waste were dumped by Israel in Palestine last year, reporting from the Knesset Research Institute, which monitors government performance confirmed.

Considerably, trash is of course also generated by the Palestinian people. That being said, Palestinians are not only inundated by waste stemming from Israel, Palestinian territory’s war damaged-infrastructure also provides ample worry about the future of their curtailed lands. Last month saw a report commissioned and published by Human Rights Watch detailing that Israeli actions aggregate to collective punishment, compounding as a war crime perpetrated by Israeli authorities.

In a recent statement given to the HRW, Omar Shakir, Israel, and Palestine director at HRW said that “No grievance can justify the intentional targeting of civilians in Neve Yaakov, such attacks cannot justify Israeli authorities intentionally punishing the families of Palestinian suspects by demolishing their homes and throwing them out on the street.”  Indeed, reports such as these reinforce international fears raised by scholars and the Palestinian diaspora alike that egregious attacks alongside the curtailing of freedom of Palestinian people demonstrate the crimes against humanity perpetrated by Israeli authority.

“During the last war, due to airstrikes on our neighbourhood, the foundation and walls in our house have cracked,” Abukarsh, aged 70, an English teacher in Jenin, told Mondoweiss, from the window of her small and crumbling home. The proliferation of waste in the occupied territories works as another way to scorn the Palestinian people and paint them as an inferior population that lacks proper sanitation.

Inadequate waste management accelerates the climate crisis affecting Palestine because it pollutes the arable lands and destroys water sources. ClimaSouth, a European-Union funded project that aims to circumvent the effects of climate change, predicts that annual rainfall in the coastal territory will by 30% by the end of the 21st Century. The potent threat of severe water shortages promises an unsettling future for the livelihoods of the Palestinian people.

With few other options to curtail the causes of the climate crisis, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign - launched in 2005 – has emerged as an avenue for challenging Israel’s occupation and the accompanying destruction of Palestinian life and infrastructure. Indeed, individuals’ intent on change note the potential positive outcome of the international BDS movement. The BDS provokes international pressure on the occupation Israeli state to end Zionist expansion and return the land to the Palestinian people.

BDS activists hope their pressure will end Israeli occupation of Palestine. It would provide an opportunity for Palestinians to reclaim their land and take proper care of it to reverse the egregious effects of Israeli control on both the land and the people.

International pressure is imperative. Although this is not retracted from the hard work that individuals living in and on the fringes of Palestine are carrying out. There are people that are filled by and thrive on compassion to fight a greater cause than their own. One woman doing just this is an Israeli lawyer who gives a voice and defends those who lack the resources or authority to do it on their own. So many young Palestinians are caught up in the crossfire of a system created to infringe on their very existence. A system that shackles and destroys the lives of Palestinians alike. Lea Tsemel works arduously to provide a sense of relief and hope for those that are convicted by Israeli authorities of crimes that are either embellished or wholly fabricated. 

Tsemel’s actions alongside pressure groups within and beyond Palestine, and transnational relationships all amalgamate to forge new pathways to securing hope for change. There are genuine hopes for an alternative reality for those wrought by apartheid that, ultimately, was thrust on them by colonial authorities, such as the British government. Foreign governments alike lacked any greater understanding of a region that, historically, has been plighted by colonial misunderstanding and infringement. 


Whether historical curtailment of human rights or present infringement of individuals whether that be the inundation of rubbish or the destruction of infrastructure that impedes the quality of the life of Palestinians, there are individuals and groups fighting for systemic change. Liberating Palestinians from foreign control will bring justice for not only Palestinians but Israelis alike, whether living in Palestine or Israel, or whether part of the diasporas of people that could no longer live under an apartheid state. 

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Tags: #Justice #Palestine #Apatrthiedstate #Internationalthought #Transnationaljustice

1 comment

8 months, 1 week ago by Rutherv

The situation is absolutely appalling and has been destroying Palestinian life for far too long. When will an Israeli government act on this injustice?

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