The People’s Climate March, preemptively billed as “the biggest climate march in history”, will take place in NYC on Sunday, September 21st and will precede a UN Summit on Climate Change by two whole days. The march was called for by some of the most recognized names in North American mainstream environmentalism, Avaaz and 350.org. Both organizations along with others involved in promoting and coordinating the event such as The Sierra Club, Energy Action Coalition, and Greenpeace (to name a few) are a part of the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC). The NPIC has been defined by activist, author, and professor Dylan Rodriguez as: “a set of symbiotic relationships that link political and financial technologies of state and owning class control with surveillance over public political ideology, including and especially emergent progressive and leftist social movements.”Put another way, The NPIC is how state and corporate interests use colonial and exploitative practices (branded as social movements) to manipulate and control the ways that dissent from the public manifests and operates. In her essay, “In The Shadow Of The Shadow State” – which details the relationship between state and non-profits as well as names the NPIC as the corollary to the Prison Industrial Complex– scholar, activist, prison abolitionist and co-founder of Critical Resistance, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, states: “…when it comes to building social movements, organizations are only as good as the united fronts they bring into being.” With this in mind consider that the People’s Climate March lists The Green Zionist Alliance as one of the organizations that is part of a coalition of partners organizing the event.
A wide variety of smaller grassroots organizations are involved in the organizing of this march, many from frontline communities. Their energy and efforts towards building power – both in their communities and for the march – should be valued and respected. The position of power the NPIC possesses through controlling resources and visibility for traditionally marginalized and underrepresented communities should also be considered. Many individual organizations and organizers participating in the event have publicly spoken out against the inclusion of Zionist organizations yet still the Green Zionist Alliance remains a partner in the People’s Climate March.
While this may be perceived by some as a reflection of “tolerance” or “diversity” towards the creation of a broad movement to confront climate change, this “inclusion” has the effect of greenwashing the violence committed in the name of Zionism. Never mind the fact the Israeli army’s recent escalation in genocidal violence is in part fueled by a move towards further exploitation of fossil fuels in Gaza. In any case, given the Palestinian call for a campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) targeting the Israeli occupation, it is particularly politically irresponsible to cross an internationally recognized picket line by collaborating with organizations supportive of the Israeli state.
The Green Zionist Alliance is a North American based 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization operating primarily out of New York City. The Green Zionist Alliance’s website openly quotes and praises Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism. Zionism advocates the theft of indigenous Palestinians’ lands for the purpose of constructing Israeli settlements and establishing and maintaining Israel as a settler colonial state. The Green Zionist Alliance is a member of the American Zionist Movement who, according to their mission statement “Acts on behalf of Israel… and defends Israel’s cause with vigor and confidence”. The American Zionist Movement is a federation of Zionist groups affiliated with the World Zionist Organization which was founded by Theodor Herzl. In the book “Der Judenstaat”, which translates to “The Jewish State” Herzl wrote: “Supposing, for example, we were obliged to clear a country of wild beasts … we would organize a large and active hunting party, drive the animals together, and throw a gelignite bomb in their midst,”
2014 marks the 47th year of Israeli colonial occupation of indigenous Palestinians’ lands. For 50 days over the summer of 2014 Israeli forces seized the Palestinian city of Gaza bombing, kidnapping, sexually assaulting, maiming, shooting, and otherwise torturing Palestinians who were trapped in what was repeatedly described by Palestinians as an open air prison. Over 2,100 people, a large percentage children, were murdered. According to the Department of Culture and Information in the Palestinian Liberation Organization, more than 99% of “Area C” in the West Bank is now under control of the Israeli government for the purpose of expansion of Israeli settlements following this most recent round of vicious acts against humanity in Palestine. Palestinian civilians were deliberately targeted and systematically killed; acts of genocide were committed. The buildings of Gaza now lie in massive mountains of rubble, four million tons of rubble and debris contaminating water, food supplies, and air, four millions tons of Palestinians’ homes, schools, places of worship and gathering.
When we construct an idea of what “the environment” actually is beyond the basic popular mainstream conception of the environment as simply consisting of vast wilderness and pristine nature we can come to the more realistic conclusion that the environment is in fact the land and earth that sustains plant, animal, and human life. For Palestinians, the thousands murdered and the tens of thousands displaced, Gaza was their environment. For those who survived the most recent relentless assaults on life, Gaza is their environment. The concept of environmental justice defines the environment to include public and human health concerns. Surely genocide is a public and human health concern.
Acts of genocide and structures of colonization that the indigenous peoples of Palestine are being forced to endure are similarly a part of the very construction and foundations of the settler colonial nation states of the so-called United States and Canada. Given that the Green Zionist Alliance has not only been included in the coalition of organizers for the march but also defended by PCM organizers and supporters/attendees it should come as no surprise that there is no mention on any of the promotional materials for the event that the Manhattan borough, in what is now known as New York City, sits upon stolen and occupied indigenous land. Buried underneath the concrete that 100,000 plus people will march upon are the ancestral homelands of the Lenni-Lenape. Ironically The People’s Climate March will begin at Columbus Circle.
Ultimately the People’s Climate March is being controlled by the Big Greens. Make no mistake, the green branch of the non-profit industrial complex is at the helm, making top down decisions to include Zionist organizations and manipulating, controlling, and dictating what they have repeatedly referred to as “the movement of movements”. As part of the NPIC, the Big Greens funding and facilitating logistics of the main event CAN NOT incorporate intersectional and anti-colonial analyses necessary for collective liberation.
Instead these Big Greens contribute to the maintenance of structural social inequalities and work to quell effective, meaningful alliance building and resistance. This includes working closely with the world’s seventh largest standing military, also known as the NYPD, as stated on the PCM’s website. The NYPD is well known for stalking, harassing, and inciting psychological fear in Muslim communities through widespread surveillance programs. These unconscionable tactics never returned any proof that Muslim communities in NYC constitute any threat to their fellow community members and neighbors whatsoever. The NYPD are also notoriously racist and anti-Black. They specifically target Black and Brown people through a form of legalized racial profiling and harassment called Stop & Frisk. Through the program the NYPD terrorize these communities and work to funnel people of color into the Prison Industrial Complex (remember Ruth Wilson Gilmore named the NPIC as the natural corollary to the PIC).
Environmental justice does not look like Big Greens controlling resource distribution to grassroots organizations or using their political and social capital to push false solutions and narratives that conveniently exclude connections between environmental and social justice issues. People’s Climate March organizers who insist that “solving the climate crisis” looks like working with the NYPD or Zionist organizations supporting genocide and colonization in Palestine are not only dangerous but reveal an alarming level of ignorance regarding the concept of justice itself.
Refusal (whether active or passive) to acknowledge that large forces and structures work together to ensure increased attacks on the lives and sovereignty of indigenous peoples worldwide – as well as the continued commodification of the earth for the purposes of industrial capitalism – is really nothing other than a refusal to work for any kind of justice, climate or otherwise. There can be no climate justice without justice for Palestine. There can be no environmental justice without a serious understanding of the ways that settler colonialism, white supremacy, anti-Black racism, border imperialism, cis-hetero-patriarchy, militarism, orientalism, and other systems/structures collectively inform, facilitate, and sustain environmental degradation and resource extraction and create and contribute to climate change.