University Of Toronto Student Newspaper Claims Israel Carrying Out Colonialism & Climate Change

In an opinion piece published in the University of Toronto student newspaper The Varsity on April 7, “Israel’s assault on Gaza shows how colonialism and the climate are linked,” author Urooba Shaikh contends that Israel’s “assault on Gaza” is “the most current example” of how colonialism and climate change are linked. She argues that quite aside from any humanitarian crises created by the conflict, Israel is creating an environmental one as well.

While these are serious accusations, they are also based on a number of assumptions which do not hold up under close scrutiny.

The suggestion that Israel’s “assault” on Gaza is representative of a colonialist state must be addressed. After all, if one wants to make the argument that colonialism and climate change are linked, one ought to use an example of colonialism as evidence for the argument. Unfortunately for her, Israel is not, nor has it ever been a colonialist state.

First, Jews are the region’s indigenous peoples – archaeology, history and science all prove this to be fact – and they have maintained a consistent presence in the land for more than 3000 years. The return of the Jewish people in large numbers to their ancestral territory can hardly be considered ‘colonialist’. Indeed, it was the largest indigenous land-back movement in history.

Secondly, there is no larger Jewish nation-state of which Israel is a colony, or to which Israel’s Jewish people can return. As many anti-Israel pundits like to remind us, many Jews fled to Israel to escape antisemitism in Europe and other parts of the Middle East.

The Israeli immigrant Jewish population (that is, those who came from other countries to live in Israel) were not doing so at the behest of some foreign government bent on capturing land or resources (a pre-qualification for a colonialist state).

They were, at minimum, legitimate immigrants fleeing persecution in order to build a better life; something that Shaikh, herself a descendant of immigrants to Canada, ought to understand.

Finally, there is a colonialist population in the Middle East, but it isn’t the indigenous Judeans. An easy way to spot a colonialist empire is through language. Hebrew is an indigenous tongue, spoken by the majority in Israel, and nowhere else on Earth in any significant number. Arabic on the other hand, the language of the Arab Palestinians, is spoken by hundreds of millions of people across the region.

Indigenous languages are defined by their small native-speaking population. It is laughable to suggest that a group who are themselves colonizers was somehow conquered and subjugated by a small indigenous tribe, reclaiming their ancestral lands.

Since it is clear that Israel is not a colonialist state, Shaikh’s argument is already defeated, but it’s worth addressing her other erroneous accusations.

First, she cites a British newspaper and claims that “projected emissions from only the first 60 days since October 7 totalled 281,315 tonnes of carbon dioxide, and were greater than the annual emissions of 20 individual countries.”

Those are indeed some bleak statistics. Unfortunately, they conveniently leave out the fact that between October 2023 and January, 2024 more than 10,600 rockets and mortar shells were launched at Israel by Hamas, with approximately one-tenth of them failing and landing back inside Gaza. No mention is made by Shaikh about the environmental impact of these weapons and their fallout, either in Israel and Gaza.

Shaikh argues that “Israel’s bombing of Gaza has also destroyed solar panels that are a major energy source, and will make future clean energy efforts difficult.”

Given that Gaza’s energy primarily comes from Israel and a power plant inside Gaza, this claim is highly misleading.

Many individuals in Gaza have, in recent years, resorted to installing solar panels on their homes as a way of circumventing the rolling blackouts brought on by the unreliable power supplied by the Hamas administrative regime. To call solar power a ‘major’ energy source in the gaza strip is dishonest, and it certainly has nothing to do with a desire for ‘clean energy’ solutions.

It is ironic that Shaikh slanders Israel as being representative of some sort of climate damaging global behemoth, when nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, Israel is a world leader in finding innovative solutions to combat climate change and develop sustainable, renewable green solutions. Shaikh’s opinion column is just that – opinion –  because it is certainly not based on facts.

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