| Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center an Israeli nuclear installation southeast of the city of Dimona Wikimedia Commons | MR Online Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center, an Israeli nuclear installation southeast of the city of Dimona. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

A mirror of our immediate future

Originally published: Science for the People on April 8, 2024 by Erica Jung and Calvin Wu (more by Science for the People)  | (Posted Apr 10, 2024)

The assassination of more than 14,000 Palestinian children in the span of mere months and the deliberate starvation of two million people by Zionist occupiers with the full support of western governments assault our preconceived notion of rationality. It is as if “civilization,” “democratic values,” and the “international rules-based order” are mere facades for an irrational system that is incompatible with what is human. Yet we have been led to believe that these crumbling norms and institutions are our species’ only bulwark against climate change. As Gaza’s death camp burned, the month of February 2024 saw record highs in both fossil fuel extraction and global sea surface temperature.1 President Gustavo Petro of Colombia warned sternly during COP28:

Gaza is a mirror of our immediate future.2

It is thus crucially important, in order to prevent such a future, to understand the logic behind these seemingly parallel irrationalities. In this article, we elaborate on recent theorizations of Palestine and imperialism, and discuss how the world capitalist system dominated by the United States assumes the emergent form of green imperialism as an attempt to resolve structural crises engendered by its impinging upon ecological limits and popular resistance.3 Palestine contra Zionist settler-colonialism is on the frontline of the imperialist process, where the fetish for green technology manifests in the most contradictory (and dangerous) manner as colonizers inch toward terraforming “a land without a people.” Finally, we offer an outlook for organizing toward anti-imperialist degrowth as the only viable strategy to amend the human and ecological tragedy after centuries of “progress” under capitalism.

What is Green Imperialism?

At the tail end of Israel’s “War of Independence,” that is, the Nakba of 1947—1948, the Zionist leaders moved swiftly to establish a nuclear physics program. Its goal of obtaining a nuclear arsenal for the nascent nation had long been without doubt, despite obfuscating rhetoric about nuclear energy as part of Israel’s green transition strategy that arose in recent years.4 Rich in uranium, the Naqab (Negev) desert became prime real estate for nuclear weapons production after its native Palestinian inhabitants were expelled under the guise of the Jewish National Fund’s tree-planting campaign.5 It was more an open secret than a covert operation, as Israel did not possess its own technology and expertise, and was never self-reliant for its sovereign development—whereas the United States feigned ignorance about Israel’s nuclear armament, France directly assisted its construction. The west’s machinations and ambiguity allowed Israel to escape nuclear nonproliferation treaties as well as supervision by international regulatory agencies.

To use a common saying, Israel’s acquisition of a nuclear arsenal unchallenged by international institutions and legalities is not a bug, but a feature; it is just one tip of the world capitalist iceberg, where the commercial interests, technological monopoly, and political maneuvers can be seen and traced back to the late Ottoman era of British colonization. From the Balfour Declaration to the violent repression of the 1936—1939 revolution in Palestine, from unconditional military aid to financing Israel’s weapons industry, from justifying genocide to vilifying dissent, the ruling classes in Britain followed by the United States and its subordinate allies in Europe have always considered Israel as the vanguard of their economic and geopolitical domination.

1. Industrialization of the Colonial Frontier

At the turn of the millennium, large injections of financial capital to the high technology industry began to supercharge Silicon Valley into a cultural juggernaut. Its libertarian spirit of entrepreneurship and meritocracy carries on American capitalism’s obsession with “taming the wild west.” This U.S. settler mythology with modern Californian flavor saw nature as a maiden landscape, prime for human ingenuity and exploitation by science in the form of high-tech R&D. The speculative and unstable form it took notwithstanding, the accumulation of high-tech capital and the concrete utility of some of its products were something the world’s ruling class could all get behind. Israel, with decades of western-backed development since the late 1960s, rebranded itself as the “startup nation” with no sense of irony. Celebrating its technoscientific achievements, Israel’s lobbyists spoke candidly to their intended American audience, articulating what “development” meant:

Moving from an economy previously based on agricultural, textile, and mineral exports, Israeli high-tech export had its beginnings in government and privately-held defense industries; i.e., IAI (Israel Aviation Industries), Rafael (The Armament Authority), Elbit, Tadiran, El-Op, and Elta. It was in these firms that advanced technologies turned into electronics-defense products which were intended to be used by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) alone. Demand for the “proven in battle” products from Israel led to a developing export industry of defense-related products which still comprises a large percentage of Israeli high-tech export. In addition, technologies which were utilized by the defense industries were later used by the growing civilian electronics industries.6

To say Israel’s economy is built on war and oppression is no more an exaggeration than to say that Israel’s science, technology, and industrialization have been built for the primary purpose of safeguarding western interests in the region of the Middle-East and North Africa (conveniently cleaved in half by the Zionist entity) as well as globally. First, as a cost-saving measure, an Israel industrialized around its own arms industry reduces the quantity of the still astronomically high amount of direct military aid from the west, while also appeasing Israel’s neighbors.7 Second, Israel’s export of weapons and other oppressive techniques served to cover up the dirty work of the western ruling class. Israel is the world center of counter-insurgency training and weapons provision, from the former Rhodesia and Pinochet’s Chile, to Marcos’s Philippines and Modi’s India today—neocolonial regimes that welcome the west to plunder its peoples and lands. Third, an economically and technologically advanced Israel propagates the ideology of developmentalism. Just as victims of capitalist exploitation are blamed for their own failure to correctly apply the bootstraps, victims of imperialist plundering are shown to be essentially backward, i.e., “racially/culturally inferior,” further justifying their subjugation by the west and occupation by “an army with a state.”

In effect, Israel is part and parcel of U.S. imperialism, as “the purest expression of Western power, combining militarism, imperialism, settler colonialism, counterinsurgency, occupation, racism, instilling ideological defeat, huge profitable war-making and hi-tech development into a manticore of destruction, death, and mayhem.”8

2. Original Expropriation and Accumulation of Waste

But could there be a “rational” imperialism, where its power is not projected through Israel and at the expense of century-long Palestinian suffering? The question may seem superfluous, given the empirical evidence for the past six months of genocide—when have the United States and its subordinate allies ever deviated from Benjamin Netanyahu when it comes to carpet bombing with white phosphorous and weaponized famine? However, this is a question about how we understand the roots of western world domination and the immanent drive to extend imperial geopolitical, economic, and ideological tendrils. Articulating briefly on the theory of imperialism will allow us to identify the linkages between human crises in Palestine and ecological crises writ large, and to predict the future evolution of “green imperialism.”9

Whereas Marx elucidated the inner working of capitalism and modeled its effect on an abstract society, he did not have more than one lifetime to also elaborate on the real dynamics of capitalism as a world system, how capital is accumulated unevenly both in space and time, and how this structural determinant with concrete historical origins results in power imbalances not just between owners and workers, but between the colonizers and colonized. However, Marx’s indomitable contribution to the theory of imperialism is explicit in the concept of so-called “primitive/primary accumulation”—an awkward translation that should be more accurately coined as “original expropriation,” as elaborated by John Bellamy Foster.10 The term refers to the beginning of any given accumulation process with the transformations of money, commodity, and surplus. “Where did the original investment come from?” was the essence of Marx’s insight: through colonial conquest, pillaging of land, natural resources, brutal pre-capitalist forms of forced labor (e.g., chattel slavery). Capital thus comes to this world “dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.”11

The extremely violent process of original expropriation, as seen daily in Palestine today and for the past 75 years, cannot be easily captured in abstract economic models, resulting in inadvertent or willful relegation of its role as a determining factor in political economy. Yet any analysis of capitalism that fails to address imperialism, especially for those who seek to overthrow it and for the vast majority of the world that has for centuries endured it, is ultimately a waste of time.

War and genocide, thus, are not merely capitalism “mutated” or “gone berserk,” but born out of a history that imprinted such patterns of operation upon it. A prime example is capitalism’s inherent tendency toward fascism, which has been much studied by the western left and widely accepted as canon. But according to Aimé Césaire, the Nazi Holocaust should be viewed as European colonialism turned inward.12 It is also important to recognize that, despite the limited success of political decolonization symbolized by thinkers and fighters like Césaire, colonialism became neo-colonialism after the worldwide counter-revolution, exacerbated by the fall of the Soviet Union.13 Nominal independence of “decolonized” states does not negate the fact that the sole hegemonic power of the United States and its subordinate allies imposes colony-like economic conditions on the Third World, with an increasing number of erstwhile Second World states joining its ranks via de-development.14

Palestine, without a state to organize its society, without the ability to keep all of its people alive and defend itself against constant Zionist aggression, facing daily land theft, environmental destruction, and mass assassinations, occupies the bottom of the current world’s hierarchy. There, a particular process of what Ali Kadri calls “accumulation of waste” works in conjunction with expropriation to perpetuate the imperialist status quo.15 As generalized monopoly-finance capital becomes unable to realize profit through adequate consumption, it turns to “production of pure waste”:

It is the explosion of bombs—their related killing of humans and waste of the planet—that functions as both ends and means. Logically and absurdly, if war kills everyone, there would be none left to perform concrete labour. Nonetheless, war and its ensuing austerity depopulates to resolve the underutilisation of human resources attendant upon overproduction.16

Where Marx lamented the inherent, irrational, and irreformable cruelty of capitalism for those who produce wealth, that workers as human beings are “crushed beneath the wheels of the Juggernaut of capital,”17 today, for Palestinians—and Iraqis, Syrians, Libyans, and Afghans before them—the poetic imagery becomes literal.

3. Emergence of Green Imperialism

We therefore turn to the newly emerging phenomenon of green imperialism to understand how the framework of green energy transition is nothing less than the greenwashing of an inherently violent and destabilizing status quo that seeks to preserve the interests of global monopoly capital, responding to its impinging upon various ecological boundaries, in the name of sustainable development and progress.18 How does this green transition framework, enabled by the broader processes of green imperialism, ensure business-as-usual and therefore normalize the genocide of Palestinians?

Green imperialism, as defined by Pedregal and Lukićs, “aims to preserve the imperial mode of living in the core at the expense of the labor, materials, and energy of the periphery.”19 Renewable energies such as solar and wind, as well as false solutions such as hydrogen and nuclear energy, are simply energy additions rather than energy substitutions; under global capitalism, there can be no real move towards phasing out the use of fossil fuels as the use of energy overall continues to skyrocket to meet the demands of capital accumulation.

Such methods of legitimization reinforce the normalization of settler colonialism in the Global North, as these tactics of greenwashing will necessitate the further exploitation of and control over Indigenous and colonized lands and peoples here and abroad.20 They also seek to reframe the problem of climate catastrophe as a mere technological issue rather than focusing on the primary perpetrators of environmental destruction: monopoly-finance capital, which simultaneously churns out useless values and destroys existing values via the U.S. military, its 800+ military bases around the world, its subordinate allies in Europe, Israel, and Japan, and its neocolonial puppets in the Global South.

The occupation of Palestine is a crucial cog in this global engine of ecocidal accumulation.21 The first two months of Israel’s offensive in Gaza generated more emissions than the annual carbon footprint of higher than twenty of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries.22 This includes the CO2 generated from aircraft emissions and the production and explosion of bombs, artillery, and rockets.23Almost half the total CO2 emissions were from U.S. cargo planes flying military supplies to Israel—an energy-gorging conveyer belt of expropriation and waste accumulation. Israel also weaponizes its expertise in agribusiness, afforestation, water solutions, and renewable energy technology as parts of its broader greenwashing efforts.24Neocolonial Arab states have signed a number of memorandums of understanding with Israel to jointly implement environmental projects around renewable energy, agribusiness, and water.

Collaborations such as these are an example of eco-normalization, the “use of ‘environmentalism’ to greenwash and normalize Israeli oppression.”25 Any technological and diplomatic achievements toward the greening of U.S. imperialism are nothing more than replacing the diesel engine of a Merkava tank with solar panels and lithium batteries.26

Toward Anti-imperialist Degrowth

The overaccumulation of the Global North is only made possible through the underdevelopment and “accumulation of waste” in Gaza and beyond. Everyday, we are witnessing more and more the full extent of atrocities necessary for the world capitalist system to function. The only way out of this vicious, irrational, and hellish spiral is through processes of degrowth and de-accumulation. But degrowth cannot be achieved without an internationalist, anti-imperialist solidarity to be carried out through a variety of tactics. While a plethora of labor unions have issued statements in support of the Palestinian struggle for liberation, unions as a whole have yet to adopt more militant strategies toward disrupting the war machine and challenging genocidal capital at the point of production. An end to weapons production is directly tied to the project of degrowth, whose basic principle is to sustain life through a reconfiguration of the social relations of production rather than to destroy life for the sake of profit and economic growth.

In other words, workers themselves must be able to wield control over the means of production in order to redirect it towards socially beneficial needs rather than towards the destruction of life. When such redirection is not possible under the current systemic constraint, workers must be prepared to act against their own material interests in principled solidarity with the people of Palestine and elsewhere. The position of Northern workers—both as the exploited and beneficiaries—within the imperialist world system’s hierarchy is yet another contradiction that must be reckoned with.

A broader coordination by the working class across various sectors of the economy is both a means and an end; it not only affords workers the ability to take more militant actions, but is necessary to achieve degrowth in any meaningful sense. Anti-imperialist degrowth is ultimately the transition of the world economy into a “unified multifaceted planned economy, which would encompass multiple levels and [enact] social controls allowing for the mobilization of the economic surplus in ways that benefit the population in its entirety.”27

In the meantime, several examples of international labor solidarity have emerged in the absence of a strong state-led planned degrowth. Just this past February, port workers in India refused to load or unload any “weaponized cargoes” headed for Israel.28 Two years prior, call center workers from the Communications Workers of America organized a solidarity delegation trip to the Philippines to discuss common concerns regarding job security and overtime.29 When such actions cannot be carried out by the workers themselves, this is then left up to activist groups like Palestine Action, which carried out a series of sustained direct actions against weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems, forcing Elbit to sell their “Elite KL” factory in Tamworth, Britain. Falling profits, increased security expenditures, and higher supply chain costs were reasons that acknowledged Palestine Action’s efforts.30 In addition to such tactics, it is vital that people commit to joining a revolutionary organization to build power in the long run and for these organizations to build coalitions as part of a “coordinated plan of action to transform structures, shift paradigms, and mobilize people to reconstruct the world in which we live.”31

By simply appealing to a set of green social reforms, as encompassed by the social democratic left’s beloved Green New Deal, we fall into two traps set by the ruling class. First, we enable them to paint their accumulation of profit green while claiming blood-soaked green crumbs as (Northern) proletarian victory. Second, we legitimize the representation and consent to the discourse set by social democrats who in the same breath preach Palestinian rights and justify weapons and technology provisions that obliterate said rights.32 Climate activists and anti-war advocates alike must therefore recognize how green imperialist tactics have been used by monopoly capital to expropriate more and more Indigenous lands and natural resources, and thus more CO2 emissions and death of Palestinian children. In the last analysis, there is no climate justice without Palestinian liberation.

Solidarity Before Technology

The western ruling class knew about an impending climate catastrophe and the necessity to overcome the world economy’s fossil fuel dependence as early as the 1970s. Given what was elucidated above, it is no surprise that the rhetoric of transition still leads many astray. For this complacency-generating trick to work—including for it to successfully delude the tricksters themselves—it requires a blind faith in unilinear technological progress, which stipulates that nature must be subjected to the fire of Prometheus, i.e. science. Yet, although science and technology are key contributors to humans’ interaction with nature, they are not neutral tools, and the ideology of progress is nothing but reactionary teleology. The peril of techno-solutionism can be summed up concisely:

The debate should not be about whether technology is good or bad, or whether humans should or should not shape the environment; rather we must find a way to incorporate ecological complexity into a democratic system. When we neglect the historical and social context in favor of a narrow focus on technical aspects of a problem, the sources of the problem remain unaddressed.33

An Israeli nuclear fusion energy startup34—built on expropriated Palestinian land, funded by Silicon Valley capital in collusion with the U.S. military,35 employing experts trained in uranium extraction and plutonium refinement at a nuclear weapons lab in the Negev desert—will inevitably produce a science that is only good for furthering Zionist colonialism. Fusion energy as a way to resolve the climate crisis, despite unceasing hype by the scientific and media establishment, will likewise remain a pipe dream.36 So too with every other attempt at technological innovation based on an ideology of “taming nature.”37 Zionism’s perpetual lies about “making the desert bloom,” demonstrating the folly and perniciousness of ecomodernism, are not an exception but the ideological norm that underpins technology and capitalism.

Two months into the genocide, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres robotically intoned that humanity must “stand as one,” “protect all communities from the climate crisis, and spur the renewable, sustainable and equitable future people and planet deserve.”38 Such a future is impossible as long as Gaza in particular, and the Global South in general, continue to be subjected to imperialist violence. Our only hope to survive as a species and achieve the bare minimum of decent lives for all is to heed the urgent call for decolonization, begin dismantling imperialism, degrowing and de-accumulating its core.

Erica Jung is a graduate student in Environmental Policy at the New School. She co-founded DegrowNYC in 2021.

Calvin Wu is a neuroscientist and SftP organizer based in unceded Massachusett. We thank Charles Xu, Josh Lalonde, Chhavi Goenka, and Aditi Bansal for their editorial comments.


  1. U.S. Oil and Natural Gas Production Hits Record Highs,” World Oil, February 2024, accessed April 7, 2024; “February 2024 Was Globally the Warmest on Record—Global Sea Surface Temperatures at Record High,” Copernicus, March 5, 2024.
  2. In COP28 Speech, Colombian President Gustavo Petro Calls for a Free Palestine,” Peoples Dispatch, December 3, 2023.
  3. Two recently published articles on this topic strongly influenced our understanding: Alejandro Pedregal and Nemanja Lukić, “Imperialism, Ecological Imperialism, and Green Imperialism: An Overview,” Journal of Labor and Society 27, no. 1 (March 13, 2024): 105—38 and Max Ajl, “Palestine’s Great Flood: Part I,” Agrarian South: Journal of Political Economy 13, no. 1 (March 1, 2024): 62—88.
  4. Israel has never had a fission power plant in operation.
  5. S. Ilani and A. Strull, “Uranium Mineralization in the Judean Desert and in the Northern Negev, Israel,” Ore Geology Reviews 4, no. 4 (August 1, 1989): 305—14; Alexander Glaser and Julien de Troullioud de Lanversin, “Plutonium and Tritium Production in Israel’s Dimona Reactor, 1964—2020,” Science and Global Security 29, no. 2 (May 4, 2021): 90—107.
  6. Nisso Cohen, “Fifty Years of Excellence for the Israeli High-Tech Sector,” Jewish Virtual Library (May 1998), accessed April 1, 2024.
  7. Max Ajl, “The Biggest Israel Aid Deal in History Will Bolster Occupation and the U.S. Defense Industry,” In These Times, September 20, 2016.
  8. Ajl, “Palestine’s Great Flood: Part I.”
  9. Because here is not the place to engage in internecine theoretical debates on specific definitions of imperialism, less so about whether it exists as a structural process, we refer readers to the following resources that frame our understanding: Utsa Patnaik and Prabhat Patnaik, Capital and Imperialism: Theory, History, and the Present (Monthly Review Press, 2021); Samir Amin, Modern Imperialism, Monopoly Finance Capital, and Marx’s Law of Value: Monopoly Capital and Marx’s Law of Value (Monthly Review Press, 2018); John Bellamy Foster, Naked Imperialism: The U.S. Pursuit of Global Dominance (Monthly Review Press, 2006); Max Ajl, A People’s Green New Deal (Pluto Press, 2017).
  10. John Bellamy Foster, “Extractivism in the Anthropocene,” Science for the People 25, no. 2 (November 21, 2022).
  11. Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy Volume One (New York: Penguin Books, 1976), 926.
  12. Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism (Monthly Review Press, 2013).
  13. Kwame Nkrumah, Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism (Nelson, 1965).
  14. Samir Amin, “Implosion of the European System,” Monthly Review 64, no. 4 (September 2021).
  15. Ali Kadri, “The Accumulation of Waste: A Political Economy of Systemic Destruction,” in The Accumulation of Waste (Brill, 2023).
  16. Matteo Capasso and Ali Kadri, “The Imperialist Question: A Sociological Approach,” Middle East Critique 32, no. 2 (April 3, 2023): 149—66.
  17. Marx, Capital Vol. 1, 799.
  18. Alberto Garzón Espinosa, “The Limits to Growth: Ecosocialism or Barbarism,” Monthly Review 74, no. 3 (July 1, 2022).
  19. Pedregal and Lukić, “Imperialism, Ecological Imperialism, and Green Imperialism.”
  20. David Peerla, “The Dirty Secrets of Canada’s Clean Energy Agenda,” Science for the People 25, no. 2 (February 7, 2023).
  21. Ajl, “Palestine’s Great Flood: Part I.”
  22. Nina Lakhani, “Emissions from Israel’s War in Gaza Have ‘Immense’ Effect on Climate Catastrophe,” The Guardian, January 9, 2024.
  23. Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, “Impact of the Israeli Military Activities on the Environment,” International Journal of Environmental Studies (March 7, 2024).
  24. See also: Sara Salazar Hughes, Stepha Velednitsky, and Amelia Arden, “Greenwashing in Palestine/Israel: Settler Colonialism and Environmental Injustice in the Age of Climate Catastrophe,” Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space 6, no. 1 (2022).
  25. Hamza Hamouchene and Katie Sandwell, Dismantling Green Colonialism (Pluto Press, 2017).
  26. It would still blow up all the same under the Palestinian resistance’s rocket fire.
  27. John Bellamy Foster, “Planned Degrowth: Ecosocialism and Sustainable Human Development,” Monthly Review 75, no. 3 (July 21, 2023).
  28. Tanupriyah Singh, “Indian Port Workers Refuse to Handle Military Cargo Bound for Israel,” People’s Dispatch, February 19, 2024.
  29. Sarah Prestoza and Brenda Roberts, “Why U.S. and Filipino Call Center Workers Are Working Together,” Common Dreams, December 12, 2019.
  30. Nur Ayoubi, “Israel-Palestine: Activists in UK Shut down Second Israeli Arms Factory in a Week,” Middle East Eye, May 25, 2021.
  31. Jamie Tyberg and Erica Jung, “Degrowth and Revolutionary Organizing,” RLS-NYC, October 21, 2021.
  32. Following Lenin’s terminology, it is appropriate to call them “green social imperialists.”
  33. Erik Wallenberg and Ansar Fayyazuddin, “No Wiser than Before,” Science for the People(Summer 2018).
  34. Natalie Lisbona, “The Israeli Plan to Fit a Fusion Reactor into a Container,” BBC, April 27, 2023.
  35. For a history of the Silicon Valley and its inextricable coevolution with U.S. imperialism, see Malcolm Harris, Palo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism, and the World (Little, Brown, 2023).
  36. Naomi Oreskes, “Why Nuclear Fusion Won’t Solve the Climate Crisis,” Scientific American, June 1, 2023.
  37. On the flip side, technology for national liberation will require different relations of production and application. See also: Max Ajl, “National Liberation and Sovereign Technology: The Contribution of Slaheddine el-Amami,” Science for the People 25, no. 1 (2022).
  38. United Nations, “Develop Comprehensive Net-Zero Transition Plans, Demand Seat at Policymaking Table of National Governments, Secretary-General Urges at Local Climate Action Summit,” accessed April 1, 2024.
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