By: George Kurzom
Israeli waste recycling facility in the settlement of Atarot near Ramallah
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons:
Israel is deepening its occupation of the West Bank by using diversified methods; one of these methods is the export of Israeli waste from inside Israel to the West Bank. The Israeli organization B'Tselem published a report on this issue in early December 2017, pointing out that Israel has been burying large amounts of its solid waste, especially hazardous waste, in many areas of the West Bank over an extended period of time through organized and systematic operations. Afaq magazine has addressed this issue repeatedly and has revealed its darker aspects but what distinguishes B'Tselem's latest report is that it provides some updated data on the scope of these Israeli practices and its legal and environmental consequences
According to B'Tselem, there are currently at least 15 sites in the West Bank that absorb Israeli waste. Some of these wastes are buried in their raw form without any treatment; others undergo different recycling processes and may be used for different purposes. Most of the Israeli treatment plants in the West Bank deal with hazardous waste. In all cases, Israeli waste disposal operations in the West Bank are carried out with the knowledge and encouragement of the Israeli authorities, including the so-called "Civil Administration" of the occupation, as well as the Israeli Ministry of Environment
B'Tselem report referred to a site for Israeli waste in the Palestinian Jordan Valley that absorbs 60% of the toxic sludge resulted from wastewater treatment plants in Israel. In some locations in the West Bank, hazardous waste recycling operations are being carried out, such as the site dealing with used oils located in the settlement of Ariel, located on the lands of Salfit and its villages. Another site is located in the colony of Shilo, which treats hazardous metals and chemical solvents. The largest Israeli site for medical waste treatment from hospitals and laboratories in Israel is located in the industrial area of “Ma’ali Ephraim" settlement in the Jordan Valley.
Some sites have modern facilities, such as the electronic waste recycling plant in the Israeli industrial zone "Barkan" located in Salfit; however in other sites, Israeli wastes are disposed of in primitive ways; such as in the Jordan Valley, where toxic organic and non-organic wastes are buried, specifically the site "Tovlan". The method of disposing Israeli waste is primitive, leaving waste in its raw form in open lands.
Israel transfers various types of waste to the West Bank, including but not limited to sewage sludge, infectious medical waste, used oils, chemical solvents, metals, electronic waste and batteries. All of these wastes are products generated by cities and industries in Israel consisting of a wide range of undesirable and toxic substances that pose a real threat to citizens and natural resources in surrounding areas.
According to data recently obtained by Afaq magazine from sensitive Israeli sources, more than half of the electronic waste generated in Israel is disposed in the West Bank. For example in the town of Ithna, large quantities of Israeli e-waste are found in open areas or in numerous workshops in the town and in surrounding areas. This waste includes computers, refrigerators, air conditioners, filters for gas masks, TVs and other Israeli electronic waste. As unemployment and poverty are increasing, many citizens in the region are putting their health at risk by burning some types of electronic waste in order to obtain the valuable raw materials that are being separated, as each component has a different use and price. Following the separation of the different parts of those wastes, they are sold to Israel.
Afaq Magazine Reveals Hidden Facts
In its report issued in September 2015, Afaq magazine revealed that Israel had closed several landfills and private waste treatment facilities in Israel and transferred them to the West Bank and the Jordan Valley in particular due to the large amounts of toxic and hazardous substances these wastes contain, in addition to the unpleasant smells emanating from them, especially the sludge treatment facilities.
About a year later, specifically in September 2016, Afaq magazine also revealed that toxic and polluting Israeli organic and non-organic waste is spread over thousands of dunums West of the Jordan River and North of Jericho. The magazine also revealed other open lands around Al-Auja spring (northeast of Jericho), where toxic Israeli compost waste is dumped; and the dumping of compost and contaminated waste in the area has led to the pollution of soil and springs in the area.
According to data from the Israeli Ministry of Environment, Israel uses more than 1 million tons of hazardous materials annually. In recent years, the amount of Israeli hazardous waste has exceeded 328,000 tons annually, without taking into account the different internal treatments of factories. According to the same data, about two-thirds of Israel's hazardous waste, meaning more than 200,000 tons, is disposed of outside the hazardous waste landfill in “Ramat Hoviv”, located in the Negev desert and specialized for the absorption of hazardous waste. It is widely believed that a large part of the hazardous waste that does not reach “Ramat Hoviv”, including the remnants of military industries, is buried in the West Bank. Israel considers “Ramat Hoviv” landfill as a major environmental problem due to its ecological-health effects on the population in the area, especially the bad odors, pollution of groundwater in the area, and contamination of the surrounding soil.
A Profitable Economic Project and Above Laws
Although waste treatment is better than disposal or burial of waste in its raw form, it is still a polluting industry. Many waste treatment processes, particularly hazardous wastes, can lead to health hazards and pollution, including damage to open spaces, pollution of water, air and land, noise and dust pollution, and visual pollution and pests.
In order to minimize the damage caused by waste treatment plants, various restrictions were imposed regarding their establishment and operation. However, these constraints are not unified, as there is a disparity between "developed" and "developing" countries”.
"Advanced" industrialized countries impose strict and expensive environmental restrictions and standards on waste treatment plants; something which is not found in “developing” countries.
It is known that international laws prevent the occupying country from using and exploiting the lands and resources of the occupied country. The Israeli occupation, because of its military strength, buries its waste in the occupied Palestinian territories (West Bank), forcibly and without consultation from the Palestinians. On the other hand, the situation is different in Israel, in recent years, the Israeli Ministry of Environment has faced difficulties in trying to develop and implement programs for the construction of waste treatment plants, due to the strong opposition from the Israeli population who fear environmental and health risks. The heads of Israeli local authorities refuse to set up waste recycling facilities in industrial areas under their influence, regardless of the modernity of these facilities, due to their fear that their ability to attract other plants to these areas will weaken. While the situation in the West Bank is different, where Israeli landfills, treatment and recycling sites are actually increasing, with complete disregard for international law.
As we know, Israel has a technical system for treating waste; however, the internal refusal to establish treatment facilities inside Israel itself, the high costs of strict environmental regulations and the international restrictions on the export of waste, have encouraged Israel to exploit Palestinian land in the West Bank to set up waste treatment facilities.
Israeli environmental laws that are strictly enforced within Israel do not apply to the West Bank and the industrial zones existing in the settlements, including the Clean Air Act and the law that requires reporting on pollutant emissions into the surrounding environment; in other words, the Israeli sites and installations in the West Bank that absorb Israeli waste are not subject to any supervision or inspection, as is the case in Israel. Indeed, these facilities, like the Israeli industrial zones in the West Bank, receive financial incentives, such as tax exemptions and large governmental support. This policy by the occupation has made the establishment and operation of Israeli waste treatment facilities in the West Bank much more profitable than the establishment of such facilities inside Israel.
Of course, Israelis responsible for such sites and facilities are not obliged to comply with the strict conditions and demands required by the Clean Air Act in all matters relating to the emission of pollutants to the surrounding environment.
Ironically, the so-called "civil administration" in the West Bank claims that it pays great attention to environmental protection throughout the West Bank and invests a lot of resources for this purpose. It also considers the introduction of Israeli waste into the West Bank without permit as a criminal offense!
The irony is that Israel has signed all the conventions and treaties that treat the movement of toxic waste and ways to get rid of it, yet it tramples on those conventions and treaties that prohibit the disposal and burial of hazardous and toxic wastes in the Palestinian territories.
The Palestinian institutions, forces, human rights organizations, Arab and international organizations should step up and be courageous to confront the Israeli attacks on the environment and therefore on the Palestinians, as well as put an end to the Western collaboration with Israel as a state above the law.
Until this moment, no serious pressure has been exerted by these forces and organizations to make a comprehensive scientific assessment of the damage and disasters caused by Israeli practices that have destroyed the environment and the Palestinian people in addition to bringing the criminals to an international tribunal.
Translated by: Ghadeer Kamal Zaineh