The Arab Center Washington DC held a July 8 webinar titled “Climate Change, Conflict and Water Politics in the Arab World.” Panelists agreed that climate change poses an existential threat to the Middle East, but also noted that ongoing conflicts and poor governance play a profound role in the region’s environmental crises. Climate change, they warned, will only hasten the damage caused by years of mismanagement and violence.
Zena Agha, a former policy fellow at Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, described climate change as a “threat multiplier” for the region. “Whatever preexisting conditions exist, climate change will draw them out further,” she explained. “Gaza is a prime example of this,” she noted. “You have the [Israeli] blockade, poor governance…and then you have rising sea levels [damaging] a coastal aquifer.”
In the West Bank, Agha said the Israeli occupation strips Palestinians of the resources and agency needed to respond to climate change. Furthermore, she pointed out that Israel is actively exploiting resources—mostly notably water—in the West Bank, even though it has an obligation under international law to protect Palestinian natural resources.
“It’s a complete contradiction to the international reputation of Israel as the bastion of green governance policy,” she said, referencing the fact that Israel proudly promotes itself as a global innovator of green technologies.