Why are we taking action on Palestine?

Why is Friends of the Earth speaking out on Palestine? We explain why we're acting in solidarity with those affected by the war on Gaza.
  Published:  24 Jan 2024    |      2 minute read

You might think the war in Gaza and repression of Palestinians isn’t an environmental issue, and it’s not our place to speak out. But environmental justice is at our core. That means we fight for the safety of our planet and its people too.  

Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Irelands is a member of the largest grassroots environmental justice network in the world. The network has over 70 member organisations, including Palestine. We focus our solidarity work on countries where we have a presence and where the need is greatest.

In solidarity with our sister organisation and all affected, we’re calling for an immediate ceasefire to save lives, as well as an opening of borders to allow crucial aid in and an end to the occupation. We also continue to condemn the killing of all civilians and call for hostages to be released.  

The human cost

The loss of life in Gaza cannot be understated. At the time of writing, over 23,000 people have been killed and over 50,000 have been injured. Health systems have collapsed. Save the Children reported that more children were killed in Gaza in 3 months than in all other conflicts combined in the past 3 years. Humanitarian workers, journalists and medics are also being killed at alarming rates.

Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Palestine (PENGON) have not escaped the suffering. Since the start of the Gaza War, 5 PENGON members have been killed by Israeli airstrikes. It’s estimated over two thirds of staff homes have been destroyed and all PENGON offices in Gaza have been damaged. Many PENGON members have been displaced more than 3 times. All members in Gaza experience daily trauma:  

I am now stranded away from my belongings, my house, my family, my country, and my life. 

Words of a PENGON member unable to complete their journey home from Egypt.  

The environmental cost

Research shows that just the first few months of the conflict have produced more planet-warming gases than 20 climate-vulnerable nations do in a year. Over a third of agricultural land in Gaza has been damaged, while its people face mass food insecurity. Israel has reportedly fired shells containing white phosphorous, which would contaminate soil for years to come. 

The war is also stopping climate action. Our colleagues at PENGON are facing immense challenges to deliver their vital work which usually includes supporting farmers, implementing renewable energy projects and documenting environmental violations:

The Israeli army blocked all the entrances to the cities and villages, this affected the ability to reach the communities that we tend to serve through our projects. 

PENGON member working in the West Bank.

Why solidarity matters

We know the challenges of the climate and ecological crises are global and as such we need a strong global network to respond. The way to build that strength is through solidarity and showing up for one another.

For those of us based in the UK, our solidarity is particularly important. The UK is one of Israel’s strongest allies. Our government is complicit in violations of humanitarian law and profits from this devastation through its sale of arms.

We’ve written to Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer to demand an immediate ceasefire and for international humanitarian law to be respected. We’ve written to our supporters asking them to do the same with their MPs. In solidarity, we’ll continue to put pressure on our leaders until Palestine sees justice.

If you’d like to stand in solidarity, consider attending a Palestine solidarity protest near you. You can also raise awareness of the conflict and our government’s role in it by speaking about it with friends and family. No act is too small.

You said you feel powerless but hearing about the things groups are doing makes us feel powerful. It gives us the energy to move on and continue our fight. Even if the action seems little to you, to us it means a lot.

PENGON member, January 2024