Pirate Arab quarry
Pirate Arab quarryRegavim

The Sierra Club, one of America’s oldest and most influential environmental groups, has reversed its recent cancelation of its trips to Israel. That brings the brief controversy to an end—but it leaves open the bigger, unanswered question of why so many environmentalists turn a blind eye to Palestinian Arab ecological abuses.

During the same week that the Sierra Club episode was unfolding, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority coincidentally reported that “hundreds of Palestinian hunters in the West Bank routinely kill wildlife including ibex and deer, porcupines, partridges, and falcons, and many rare animal species that are facing the threat of extinction.”

“In many areas there's almost no wildlife left," said Erez Bruhi, the Nature Authority’s enforcement officer. “There is competition between the villages regarding who can hunt more porcupines. They send each other pictures and videos to show proof of who's better. Deer hunting is the hardest. They go out wearing camouflage."

Bruhi said his officers had recently found nineteen (!) live deer in Arab homes. “They keep them for fun. They use them as pets, until they start to get wild, [then] they make kebabs out of them."

If Israeli hunters were driving animals to extinction and using them for dinner, do you think groups like the Sierra Club would remain silent? Somehow I doubt it.

But the hunting issue is just one part of a much more extensive pattern of abuse of the environment in and around the territories governed by the Palestinian Authority. A study by the BESA Center, a leading Israeli think tank, found that “water shortages in the Palestinian Authority are the result of Palestinian policies that deliberately waste water and destroy the regional water ecology.”

Arab sewage streams into Wadi Kelt
Arab sewage streams into Wadi KeltBinyamin Regional Council

The PA “refuses to build a seawater desalination plant, fix massive leakage from their municipal water pipes, build sewage treatment plants, irrigate land with treated sewage effluents or modern water-saving devices, or bill their own citizens for consumer water usage, leading to enormous waste,” according to the BESA report.

At the same time, the PA “sends its sewage flowing into the valleys and streams of central Israel…thereby polluting the environments and the aquifer and causing the spread of disease.” When was the last time the Sierra Club, or Greenpeace, or the Natural Resources Defense Council, said a word about all this PA-orchestrated pollution?

There is another important dimension to the Palestinian Arab leadership’s abuse of the environment—the impact of the terrorism that it sponsors. Think about the thousands and thousands of fires that Palestinian Arab arsonists have deliberately set in Israeli forests in recent years. Think about the destruction caused by the flaming balloons that Palestinian terrorists in Gaza regularly launch into Israel.

How about the animals that have been asphyxiated by the smoke inhalation caused by the terrorists? How about the mass destruction of beehives caused by the fires? How about the suffering that the terrorist-polluted air causes to Israelis with asthma or other lung diseases?

Israeli firefighters battle forest fire (file)
Israeli firefighters battle forest fire (file)Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

While ignoring the Palestinian Arab leadership’s environmental abuse, Israel’s critics in the news media often try to use environmental issues to smear the Jewish state. A classic example was the “baby-killers” hit-piece in the British newspaper The Guardian a few years ago.

The article, bearing the tugging-at-the-heartstrings headline “Who Will Save Gaza’s Children?,” claimed that many newborn babies in Gaza suffer a disease known as Blue Baby Syndrome, caused by contaminated water, which somehow they made into the result of Israel blocking the entry to Gaza of certain types of building materials (the kind that Hamas uses to construct terror tunnels).

But the truth, as CAMERA revealed, was that the World Health Organization had not discovered any recent documented cases of Blue Baby Syndrome in Gaza; the water in Gaza meets WHO standards for drinking water; and the main problems that have occurred involving the water there are the result of Palestinian farmers “using an excess of manure” as fertilizer, which the Hamas government does nothing about.

Another major common cause of water pollution in Gaza likewise has nothing to do with Israel—it’s “over-pumping from wells for domestic and agricultural use leading to diminishing groundwater and hence seawater intrusion.”

All of which brings us back to the question of the failure of environmental groups to speak out about Palestinian abuses. Is their silence the result of pressure from pro-Palestinian advocates, like the kind that initially led to the Sierra Club canceling its trips to Israel? Or are there political or ideological motives involved? Until these groups finally raise their voices, the rest of us are justified in asking that question.

Stephen M. Flatow is an attorney and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror” and a new citizen of Israel.