Despite efforts to combat this problem, toxic waste generated by industrialized countries is regularly dumped in the world’s developing countries. The Middle East is no stranger to this practice which has been reported in Lebanon throughout its civil war period. One example is unique though: the dumping of Israeli toxic waste on occupied Palestinian territories.
The environmental impact of the occupation has been very high. Polluting Israeli industries have often moved to occupied territories to circumvent strict environmental legislation in Israel. As early as 1982, a pesticides manufacturer in Kfar Saba, Geshuri Industries, was shut down for exceeding Israeli pollution standards. Instead of cleaning up, Geshuri moved its operations to land near Tulkaram in the West Bank, causing damage to citrus trees and polluting the soil. In 1998, several environmental groups accused Israel of dumping toxic waste in the West Bank. Since then, Israeli industrial waste has been disposed in a landfill in the West Bank in the Abu Dis neighbourhood, which is located over aquifers that are an essential source of water for the Palestinians. Over the years the Israeli government has constructed seven industrial zones inside the West Bank near that area. The Palestinian Authority has even accused the Israelis of dumping nuclear waste from the Dimona nuclear station in the West Bank. More recently, custom officials uncovered an Israeli truck carrying asbestos that was destined to a dumpsite in Tulkarem. Without having to dispose of this waste in an environmentally sound manner, Israeli companies save money and bear no consequences for their actions. This allows Israel to build its economy while destroying the livelihoods of the Palestinians. In an effort to combat the widespread practice of dumping toxic waste in developing countries around the world, the United Nations created the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste in 1989 to prevent such occurrences. Fifty-three countries have signed this convention, including Israel. The convention regulates the disposal of waste between two different countries, making Israel’s actions in contravention to the treaty. But the Palestinians are now fighting back by joining the Basel convention to hold Israel accountable. The chance of Israel paying compensation for their damages is very low, with their infamous record of flaunting international decisions. Nevertheless, it may provide an incentive to prevent future transgressions.