Palestinian keffiyeh scarves are visible in almost every corner at the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference, COP28. A talk organized by Israel was occupied and canceled. Demonstrations are held almost daily. All around, there are creative shows of expression in solidarity for the Palestinian cause. Amid UN apprehension, crowds have been showing up for Gaza.
On Saturday, the 10th day of COP28, hundreds of protestors called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza as they marched for 2 hours across the UN-run Blue Zone at Dubai’s Expo2020 City.
Keffiyeh scarves are visible in almost every corner at COP28. A talk organized by Israel was occupied and canceled. Protests are held almost daily. All around, there are creative shows of expression in solidarity for the Palestinian cause.
The march comes a day after the United States vetoed a UN resolution backed by almost all other Security Council members demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, as the civilian death toll in Gaza closes in on 18,000.
“[COP28] is happening 2,500 kilometers from an ongoing genocide, a genocide that is brutal, barbaric and savage, one whose perpetrators are not held accountable and are, on the contrary, receiving support from the Western world,” Ahmed Droubi, International Campaigns Manager at Climate Action Network International (CAN), told Raseef22.
Amid UN apprehension at COP28, crowds have been increasingly showing up for Gaza.
“Israel has broken international law on all fronts”, Droubi stated, pointing out that if it has broken legally binding UN Security Council resolutions and transgressed on the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide without being held accountable, then “what is the point” of them negotiating a non-legally binding agreement at COP28?
The indications coming from Western governments is that “when climate impacts intensify, people of the Global South, the ‘human-like’ as they are called in Palestine, will be treated in the same way,” Droubi said.
“When laws step on the comfort and privilege of the West, they are flushed down the toilet,” Droubi said.
“In North America, when settlers came to our lands we [native Americans] welcomed them, just like the Palestinians welcomed the Jewish settlers that first arrived. We thought we could live side-by-side in harmony, but then this greed came about”
Indigenous peoples united
Indigenous peoples from North America and elsewhere took part in the Saturday demonstration, chanting, dancing, and ultimately delivering a speech on stage.
“I am here to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine who are experiencing violence, occupation, and attempted genocide as an indigenous person from North America, where my people have already experienced this,” Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, Executive Director for Indigenous Climate Action (ICA) said to Raseef22.
Drawing on historic similarities between Native Americans and Palestinians, Deranger explained, “In North America, when settlers came to our lands we welcomed them, just like the Palestinians welcomed the Jewish settlers that first arrived. We thought we could live in side-by-side harmonious relationships, but this greed came about”.
“The colonizers of North America came, and they started to make us big promises. And suddenly those promises were broken and suddenly they were murdering our people. Taking our lands, taking our children, and telling us that the ways that we were heathens, we were pagans,” she continued. Colonizers believed that “the only good Indian is a dead Indian, just like we hear the same sort of sentiments portrayed by Israelis about Palestinians”.
“We are told [by our leaders] in colonial North America that that happened so long ago, that we are way past that, and that they are different now. And yet the same states are the ones vetoing the ceasefire in Gaza. They're the ones that are supporting this occupation,” Deranger noted.
“We are told by colonial North America that [their violence] happened so long ago and that they are different now. And yet the same states are the ones vetoing the ceasefire in Gaza. They're the ones that are supporting this occupation, this genocide”
The protest also shed light on the ongoing conflicts in Sudan, Congo, and elsewhere.
Israeli ‘Food Security’ event canceled
Earlier on Saturday, activists took over the venue where the event, “Don't waste our food security! Food rescue as a solution to food scarcity”, hosted by Israel, was set to take place. It was canceled to the sounds of cheering and clapping.
A panel of representatives from a company based in Israel was set to engage in a conversation about food waste, according to Neeka Salmasi, Founder of Climate Alliance for Palestine.
“It's like a joke,” Salmasi said. “The way that Israel has dealt with Palestinian land, agriculture and food has been extremely disruptive and reminiscent of apartheid measures. They don't allow Palestinians basic food necessities or enough water. It is not right that [Israel] is talking about food waste” she underscored, highlighting how Israel has planted non-native, European pine trees on what used to be fertile agricultural Palestinian land.
Now two months into the conflict, thousands of Palestinians are at risk of starvation and thirst as Israel continues its offensive.
Salmasi described how UN security personnel were “very concerned” when activists walked into the event hall. They even slammed the door shut on activist Rahma Zein’s hand while trying to keep protestors out.
Activists are banned from chanting ‘From the river to the sea’, the much-debated slogan calling for freedom of the occupied lands from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, as the UN considers the phrase “offensive”.
“This has been our experience the whole time [at COP28]. The UN has been incredibly hostile to us,” Salmasi stated.
Organizers of mobilization actions denounced the UN for canceling previously-approved demonstrations, as well as changing the locations agreed on. “They give false reasons that the space’s capacity is too small… but it is because it is a busy area so we would reach a lot of media and people,” Muhammed Lamin, Head of Building Power at CAN International said.
Activists decried being banned from chanting ‘From the river to the sea’, the much-debated slogan calling for freedom of the occupied lands from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, as the UN considers the phrase “offensive language”.
UN personnel have also been harassing those wearing t-shirts with political messages on them, including “ceasefire”, threatening not to let wearers into the venue or to take away their badges.
“The UN is taking a so-called neutral stance, while they allow one powerful entity that's committing genocide to lie. Meanwhile we are allegedly causing harm or unease in the space when we try to raise the truth. But what about this entity that's lying? Why aren't they barred from this space [COP28]?” Salmasi said.
“It is clear that the constraints on civil society seem to align with the demands of global hegemony. It is heartbreaking to see that the will of a few outweighs the will of many…to see that at the United Nations is alarming and heartbreaking,” said Droubi.
Militaries account for 5.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, among the biggest global consumers of fuel, according to a study. The Costs of War Project estimated that the US military alone emitted 51 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2020, more than the emissions of most countries.
‘Decolonize to Decarbonize’
In civil society and other circles, talks about the climate crisis are intertwined with calls to end occupation and militarization. One of the banners at the Saturday protest read “Decolonize to Decarbonize”.
Mazin Qumsiyeh, Founder and Director of the Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS), condemned US hegemony over COP agendas and goals, stating that “US foreign policy is driven by domestic lobby activities, Zionists and the military-industrial complex, and it is now focused on one thing only: engaging in wars and militarism.” He underscored that militarism is a big contributor to greenhouse gasses.
Militaries account for 5.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, among the biggest global consumers of fuel, according to a study. The Costs of War Project estimated that the US military alone emitted 51 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2020, more than the emissions of most countries. Discussion of the climate and demilitarization “also highlights the hypocrisy” of Western governments, Droubi said.
Earlier at COP28, the US pledged a mere $17.5 million to the Loss and Damage Fund. Meanwhile, it is responsible for 25% of global historic emissions.
Yet “when it comes to funding genocide, and arming those committing genocide, and have openly declared their intent to commit genocide, $30 billion come out of the blue,” Droubi pointed out, adding that this “demonstrates the priorities of Western governments. It is hypocritical, racist, oppressive, and colonial.”
Earlier at COP28, the US pledged a mere $17.5 million to the Loss and Damage Fund. Meanwhile, it is responsible for 25% of global historic emissions. Yet “when it comes to funding genocide, $30 billion come out of the blue.”
COP28 creativity pockets for Palestine
Each day at the conference, a Fossil of the Day Award is handed out by CAN, a network representing 1,900 civil society organizations across over 130 countries. The prize was awarded to Israel on Sunday, the same day which marked the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
At the Youth, Women and Gender Pavilion, a large painting of women wrapped in keffiyehs surrounded by trees greets those entering the second floor. Artists sit beneath the painting, writing the names of killed Palestinians in henna across the forearms of protestors.
“It's a joke. The way Israel deals with Palestinian land, agriculture and food is disruptive and reminiscent of apartheid measures. They don't allow Palestinians basic food necessities or enough water. It's not right for [Israel] to talk about food waste now”
Lanyards in the colors of the Palestinian flag reading “Solidarity” have replaced many of the UN’s standard blue ones. These were distributed by CAN, as well as pins emblazoned with demands to “end settler colonialism”. CAN shared with Raseef22 that all 3,000 solidarity straps they printed have been claimed.
“If we don't stand up for justice now, we are doomed collectively. And that is why we will not stay silent. We will not be silenced, and we will continue to demand historic accountability, an immediate ceasefire, and an end to occupation,” Droubi concluded.
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