Environmentalists demonstrate near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, as the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) meets, December 12, 2015.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The much-vaunted United Nations COP21 Climate Talks opened on November 30 in the suburban former Le Bourget airport under “red” security conditions in a traumatized Paris, a week after the terrorist massacre that took more than 130 lives.
More than 40,000 people convened with the extravagant aim to save the planet for future generations by containing global warming and curbing greenhouse gas emissions, even though resistance to the conditions of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol at subsequent gatherings wrapped the current Summit in skepticism.
COP21 concluded on December 12 with the 195 assembled state delegations jubilantly endorsing a final document that now requires ratification by each.
The Wiesenthal Center was present at the 2002 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Johannesberg (Rio+10), which was held in the shadow of the anti-Semitic paroxysm of the Durban World Conference Against Racism.
We were likewise at the Rio de Janeiro (Rio +20) follow up Summit in 2012. In both, we faced BDS demonstrations against our environmental protection agency, the Jewish National Fund/Keren Kayemet.
Whether the “parve” pro forma final document achieves its lofty aims,it is already compromised by a perhaps to be expected pollutant: COP21 became yet another UN tribune for an unwarranted environmental attack on Israel. The anti-Israel offensive was launched not by BDS marchers, but by European and UN diplomats endorsing delegitimization of one of those 195 member-states hosted by France In a letter to COP21 Climate Change Conference president – who is also French foreign minister – Laurent Fabius, I protested endorsement of Palestinian propaganda at a session ingenuously entitled “Climate Change Planning in Conflict Settings: State of Palestine.”
Addressed by Swedish, Belgian and UN officials, discussion was based on a 2012 Zoï Environment Network Geneva-based NGO report on “Environment and Security in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” All maps in this 56-page paper have “Palestine” super-imposed over all of Israel, West Bank and Gaza.
This is explained as: “The word Palestine is used to refer to British Mandatory Palestine.”
Except that the Mandate area of Trans-Jordan is, notably, marked as “Jordan.” An example of patent identity theft is the report’s claim that, “Potash was first exploited by Palestinians, during the British Mandate, through the Palestine Potash Company founded in 1929.”
Yet this revisionism distorts the fact that all Jewish citizens of the Mandate-held British colonial passports, stamped as “Palestine” and that, following the independence of Israel, the same potash company – founded by Palestinian Jews in 1929 – was renamed the Dead Sea Works Ltd.”
Photos throughout the report feature children playing soccer alongside a fence that hardly resembles a so-called “segregation wall,” or an infant filling a water container from a dripping tap supposedly illustrating Israeli denial of water to Palestinians.
The session’s stated aims were: • To enhance recognition of Palestine as part of the international community in dealing with climate change • To address challenges they face in implementing its mitigation and implementation plans • To highlight opportunities to move forward in better planning for climate change Indeed, such challenges were raised: • Palestinian 3.7% population growth – among the highest in the world • Diminishing water supply compounded by inefficient irrigation and water use • Contamination from waste and excessive use of chemicals • Pollution of the Mediterranean marine environment with faecal bacteria and pathogenic micro-organisms from Gaza.
This apparent Palestinian mea culpa was then,however, twisted into an environmental attack on Israel that emphasized an absurd argument that recurrent environmental abuses by Israel had made Gaza and the West Bank “highly to very highly vulnerable to climate change.”
While one wondered how Israel could technically keep Palestinian climate from crossing the green line, all speakers seemed to agree that Israel should be held accountable.
In my protest to the COP21, I drew attention to an 1867 ecological description of pre-Zionist Palestine by Mark Twain in Innocents Abroad: “… A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds… a silent mournful expanse… a desolation… we never saw a human being on the whole route – hardly a tree anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country…” Decades of European,US and UN billions of dollars of largesse have not prevented Palestinian continued self-inflicted ecological disaster. In fact,one might wonder whether the wish for a sustainable peace underpinning economic development and ecological protection is even shared by Israel’s putative negotiating partner.
Hopeful commentary followed Prime Minister Netanyahu’s handshake with President Abbas at the COP21. This was proven hollow by the Palestinian environmental attack on Israel that followed.
To paraphrase the late Israeli statesman Abba Eban: This hatefest session shows, once again, that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
Shimon Samuels is Director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.