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Sinking Of The ‘Rubymar’ Places The Environmentalist Movement Squarely In Middle East Controversy
Sinking Of The ‘Rubymar’ Places The Environmentalist Movement Squarely In Middle East Controversy

This article originally ran on Forbes.com on February 29, 2024. All rights reserved.

Daniel B. Markind is a Forbes.com energy column contributor. The views expressed in this article are not to be associated with the views of Flaster Greenberg PC.

Within days after the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas invaded southern Israel on October 7, 2023, mainstays of the international environmental movement, such as Greta Thunberg, were parading in the streets demanding to “crush Zionism.” It was difficult to ascertain the environmental basis for this, as the Israelis certainly have at least as good an environmental record as the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world.

Last week, the Iran-inspired multilateral fight against Israel took another turn, as the “Houthi” Rebels, who control much of the nation of Yemen located on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula and the Red Sea, adjacent to the strategic Gulf of Aden, fired a missile that sunk the “Rubymar”, a Belize-flagged, British-owned ship with a mostly British crew. Other than the mere happenstance of having British ownership and a mainly British crew, it is not at all clear what this ship has to do with the Israel-Hamas conflict at all, although the British government has mostly sided with Israel.

What is certain, however, is the substantial damage that the sinking has caused, including, most ironically for Ms. Thunberg and the rest of the Green movement, the significant environmental harm. The ship, which was carrying over 40,000 tons of fertilizer, sunk into the Gulf of Aden, causing an 18-mile oil slick (Source). The United States Central Command has called the oil slick an “environmental disaster,” which could even get worse if the fertilizer tumbles into the sea (Source).  

Additionally, the fertilizer that the Rubymar was transporting is classified as “high consequence dangerous goods” for its combustion risk by the International Maritime Organization, the international organization that regulates global shipping. Thus, the potential damage to the environment, which is already significant, could even become worse. Against this background, the relative silence that has come from so many of the world’s environmental organizations has almost been deafening. This is striking given the potential further threat to the world environment by the Houthis’ continued attacks on international shipping.

Meanwhile, and for whatever reason, Ms. Thunberg and the international Green movement have been strangely silent over the environmental damage resulting from the actions taken by Hamas and its supporters generally, as they try to destroy Israel. This includes, of course, the indiscriminate firing of rockets at Israel, regardless of what or whom they might hit, attempts to destroy Israeli infrastructure, including any environmental infrastructure, and attacks on the world’s waterways as now evidenced by the Rubymar sinking. Of course, Israel has responded to the Hamas attacks by utterly devastating Gaza, including its infrastructure, but the environmentalists have shown that they have no trouble criticizing Israel over that. Recently in Great Britain, the Greens demanded that Israel be banned from international sporting and music events and that Israeli political leaders be tried for human rights violations (Source).  No corresponding demand has been made about Hamas leaders.

The Green movement orientation has become a textbook example of “intersectionality,” in which seemingly unconnected events are linked together under an overall political heading. Outwardly, there seems to be no linkage between the environmental movement and the Palestinian cause. Indeed, it would seem that green activists would and should go out of their way to avoid any linkage, given that support for an organization like Hamas (or the Houthis) would likely limit their support among environmentalists on the whole. Further, what credibility would the Green movement have if it sits by silently while a military group is doing everything it can to cause havoc on the high seas, leading to environmental disasters such as the Rubymar?

However, that type of logical thinking seems increasingly lost in this time of world intersectionality. When the Israel-Hamas war ends, what remaining  credibility will people like Greta Thunberg and her cohorts have? She apparently believes that her support will remain, and indeed that she needed to speak up in such a way over such a seemingly unaffiliated issue in order to maintain her environmental “bona fides.” Is she correct, or is this just a product of modern shallow thinking that in the end will lessen her potential “gravitas” even on Green topics and issues? More profoundly, what credibility will the overall movement have if it just sits mute while the Houthis seek to destroy every ship within reach, regardless of its cargo or the potential further damage to the environment, not to mention human life as a whole?

It is hard to imagine a movement that purportedly supports the Greens’ goal of preserving the environment while remaining silent, or even approving, continued pollution of international waterways so long as a favored political cause is advanced. That, however, is where we are today.

Will this type of “intersectionality” end once the current international spasms are over? If it does, perhaps it will be the Middle East conflict that causes it.

Indeed, perhaps the sight of Green activists willing to tolerate the destruction of international treasures and to sit down on crowded highways in order to bring international attention to environmental concerns, while remaining strangely silent as the world’s oceans become increasingly despoiled as long as the  contamination results from a favored (by them) political purpose will finally put an end to the hypocrisy that flows from this rush to intersectionality. As with everything else, only time will tell, but we can certainly hope.

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