Green Prophet: The Place of Politics in the Middle East’s Environment

I write about  the never-ending battle I have with myself when I’m writing on environmental issues in the Middle East about whether politics should be at the centre of my reporting or not…

A couple of weeks ago, Green Prophet reported on the news that Israelis and Palestinians were working together to build a restorative eco-park. It was a relatively feel-good piece showing that despite the political conflict, joint projects could be useful in building bridges between the two nations. One commentator, however, felt that our coverage was politically naïve.

H.Shaka remarked: “I appreciate that GP is trying to report on ‘green’ in the whole Middle East, including both Israel and the Arab world, and I have come to see this as a step in the right direction. However, given the strong political drivers in the region, I think GP should aim to be much more politically informed and balanced if it wishes to gain the respect of its readers, at least in the Arab world.”

From me personally, the comment struck a chord. I can see why the commentator would prefer that politics play a bigger role in the way we see green initiatives in the region. I am the first to admit that green campaigners can be a little idealistic about joint Israeli and Palestinian projects, and tend to ignore their political downsides.

I remember speaking to a green Bedouin organisation about such joint projects and they were eager to point out that they are deeply problematic as the partners are in no way equal. They explained that the Israeli side have more say, more influence and a lot more to gain than Palestinian Bedouins, who are almost token players.

Others add, that joint Israeli-Palestinian projects can be seen as ‘normalisation’. That they allow and even encourage greater acceptance of the unfair political situation and distort the oppressor/oppressed relationship between Israel and Palestine. I understand all that. I also understand that not everyone sees the political situation the same way. That the political situation is quite complex and that solutions are not as easy to point out as the problems are.

If you don’t think that joint Palestinian-Israeli projects are fair, does that mean that allowing environmental resources to deteriorate further to make a political stand is the solution? I don’t think I can accept that. There has to be a better option – what that is, isn’t clear right now.

I also have to defend Green Prophet’s openness to discussing these political issues. As well as covering these joint projects, we have reported on less ‘positive’ stories such as Israel’s water apartheid, the dire environmental situation in Gaza and the environmental impact of the conflict. Indeed, the Green Prophet writers are quite a varied bunch of writers and I don’t always agree with my fellow colleagues on issues such as nuclear power, working with corporations, green gadgets and lots more. I also think we don’t need to agree.

All writers are given the freedom to talk about every political issue they feel is important. If coverage appears to be apolitical, I can only guess it’s because writers may feel that there is nothing to gain from bringing up these political issues time and time again. The reader will most probably still believe what they believed when they started reading the article. I know that sound cynical but I am being honest. I have seen how political argument blow up on some websites and blogs and they not only achieve very little but are corrosive too.

I don’t really know how to end the post other than to say that I speak for myself. This is not some attempt to say ‘yes, Green Prophet has it right/wrong’ but rather my personal perspective on things. Yes, I think we need to include politics more in our coverage of green issues in the Middle East. But I can also understand why many of us choose not to. It’s too messy, too complicated and I am not sure that it is what the majority of our readers want.

I guess, now it’s your say.

Do you feel that the political dimensions of environmental issues in Israel-Palestine are being sidelined in our coverage?

And do you want to see more or less politics?

: Image via Michele Benericetti/flickr.

:: Originally published at GreenProphet.

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