The Israeli Solar Energy Industry and Palestinian Forced Displacement
This report comes as a follow up to two reports published by Who Profits in 2017: “Greenwashing the Israeli Occupation: The Solar Energy Industry and the Israeli Occupation” and the flash report “Greenwashing the Naqab: The Israeli Industry of Solar Energy”. Here we shed light on how, while the Israeli solar energy is flourishing on occupied Palestinian land in Area C and in the Naqab, Palestinian communities in those areas are deliberately marginalized and un-electrified, contributing to a coercive environment that leads to forced displacement.
The global demand for electricity is constantly rising, and with it - awareness of the irreversible ecological damage caused by using limited natural resources (oil and gas) for its production. This awareness has raised interest in generating electricity from renewable and non-polluting sources, also known as green energy. Israel follows this trend and plans to generate 10% of its energy from solar power by 2020, backed by domestic and international corporations.
For this endeavor, Israel uses swaths of land in the Naqab (Negev) desert in southern Israel and in Area C of the occupied West Bank. Israel's complete control over these two areas, with their vast lands, intense sunlight and scarce population, renders them ideal for the Israeli solar project. However, in the Palestinian context, even access to the sun has become political and carries extensive implications for Palestinian communities on both sides of the Green Line.
Palestinian communities living in these resource-rich areas bear the brunt of Israel's brutal militaristic and discriminatory and economic marginalization policies. The majority of their Palestinian residents are deliberately left with no connection to the national Israeli electricity grid - the only electricity grid covering both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).
In this flash report, we look at how the fruits of Israel's flourishing green industry are not only denied to Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank and Palestinians living in unrecognized villages in the Naqab, but they are gained at their expense, leading to further dispossession and land annexation and contributing to their impoverishment and forced displacement.
The report provides further evidence to support the assertion made by Natalie Grove, a representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), that the Israeli policies in Area C create a "highly coercive environment that forces [Palestinians] to leave." These policies ultimately seek to clear the land of its people and further entrench the settlement enterprise in the occupied West Bank. For Palestinians living in unrecognized villages, the displacement from their ancestral land to make way for Jewish-only towns, commercial centers and military facilities is an official state policy.
Faced with no alternative and despite the considerable risk, some communities try to install solar panels to provide basic electricity needs. In contrast to Israeli solar panel fields, armed with the latest technologies and lavishly funded by the government and private companies, the Palestinian off-grid, community solar panels are small and often sponsored by international and local donors. However, their modest size and crucial role in sustaining life has not stopped Israeli authorities from confiscating and demolishing them.
In this flash report, we will first outline Israel's booming solar energy industry, which is supported by state policies and financial incentives for corporations. We will review specific policies incentivizing investment for commercial and residential solar fields in both the Naqab and Area C. In both places, communities are deliberately marginalized and un-electrified, contributing to the coercive environment that leads to forced displacement. In section 4, concerning systematic un-electrification and dispossession, the report will demonstrate that while the overall strategy of marginalization and displacement is common in both areas, it is implemented using different mechanisms.
Finally, the report reveals Israeli and international corporate agents who support Israel's political objectives, in violation of international law, whilst reaping immense financial gain. We will note the entry of four additional international corporations - ABB Group, SMA Solar Technology, PGR Drive Technologies and JA Solar Holdings - since Who Profits' previous reports on this area. Who Profits documented the involvement of 18 Israeli and international corporations in selected solar fields. In Area C, Who Profits documented the commercial involvement of seven Israeli and eight international companies. In the Naqab, where the Israeli solar energy industry was first launched, Who Profits examined some of the biggest solar fields and documented the involvement of four Israeli and four international companies. This flash report will also demonstrate the involvement of two international corporations, Volvo Group and Fassi, in the confiscation of Palestinian solar panels installed with the aid and financing of non-governmental organizations.
 Tovah Lazaroff, "UN: Israeli Policies Forcing Palestinian to Leave Area C of the West Bank," Jerusalem Post, 27 July 2016.
B'Tselem, Acting the Landlord: Israel's Policy in Area C, the West Bank, June 2013.