By: George Kurzom
collective punishment through Israeli water war against Palestinian children
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons:
With the start of the Palestinian hot summer, it is worth reminding that depriving Palestinians their water and making them thirsty, is considered among the worst and the most brutal measures taken by Israel to uproot them, or force them to buy their own water that was stolen. Israel’s systematic destruction of water pipes continues unabated in Palestinian villages, especially Hebron areas, just like what happened recently east of Yatta.
Despite the so called “Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee (JWC)”, created by the Oslo II Accord, and the security-intelligence cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Israeli forces execute daily savagery demolitions, prohibit construction, or help Zionist settlers with “racial superiority” zeal, by backing their attacks on Palestinian shepherds and farmers, forcing them away from their own lands. Many of such Israeli atrocities do not get mentioned in the Palestinian media, or do get mentioned only in the margins of the regular daily news.
Here, it must be stressed that the “JWC” is actually an occupational formality committee which aims to insinuate partnership between Israelis and Palestinians. An Israeli officer for water matters in what is called Israeli Civil Administration has the absolute authority over water resources. He also has the effectual power over JWC, since he can veto its decisions, despite that the committee’s membership consists of “an equal number of Israeli and Palestinian representatives”!
Therefore, the Israeli Civil Administration and Mekorot (Israel National Water Co.) are in effect the controllers of our water sources, deciding on amounts and shares, usage and management; whereas the Palestinian Water Authority is responsible of the administration of the water sources and distribution, in formality only.
As for those of the Palestinians still clutching to their lands, insisting on living outside the crowded pockets intentionally created for them by the occupation -called areas “A”-, they have to endure getting used to living in thirst and without water.
Most of the incomes by the Palestinian poor segments is spent on water. Tens of thousands live on waters brought to them in rusty tanks mounted on tractors using indirect destroyed dangerous roads; thus paying multiples of the price of the fresh water if it were to be in the taps. Both the Israeli Army and the Israeli Civil Administration make sure that the roads used for transporting water tanks are bumpy and rocky (by digging large holes, or block with huge rocks); hence rendering them impossible to use for transporting water to thousands of Palestinians and tens of thousands of cattle.
The Israeli Oppressive Pyramid in the West Bank is Headed by an Arab
The paradox is that he who sits on top of the Israeli oppressive pyramid, and implements the policy of denying Palestinians their right to water is an Arab Druze (Brigadier General Kamil Abu Rokon, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)) – a person, since early childhood, his mother taught him how to say in Arabic: “I want to drink”. The COGAT buzzes with officers and soldiers whose mother tongue is Arabic. They execute the orders of their governmental and military leadership, which is a colonial and settler leadership, of uprooting Palestinians and looting the largest areas possible of their land, in favor of Israeli settlers. They carry out these orders with diligence and determination just as their Jewish Russian, American, or French colleagues do.
From among all the Israeli measures used to uproot Palestinians from their land and granting it to colonial Jews, depriving Palestinians their right to water is considered to be the most savage measure. In principle, Israel does not recognize the equal right to water in ample quantities for all those living within its control. On the contrary, Israel believes in the “masters and emperors” Jews’ right to obtain much larger quantities of water than Palestinians. Israel has full control over water sources (surface and underground) in historic Palestine, including the West Bank. It digs out water from the West Bank, and transports most of it to Israel or to the lavishly green settlements from already profuse water supplies. This happens directly next to the barren Palestinian cities and villages where neighborhoods languish water and are forced to rotate access to water-hours, if and when pumped to their houses and facilities.
In the Jordan Valley, Mekorot’s thick water pipes crawling the landscape toward the Israeli settlements is now a very familiar scene. In a striking contradictory scene, a small tractor snakes its way along the nearby winding dust roads to a Palestinian village, to sell water which was transported from afar using a rusty barrel. During the summer, water taps dry out in Hebron, yet continues pouring generously and abundantly from the taps in the settlements of Kiryat Arba, Beit Hadassah, and the other settlements. In Jenin, the average daily supply of water for house-usage per (Palestinian) capita is 38 liters - the standard average set by the World Health Organization is 150 liters.
This mentality and its sickening colonial racist practices resulted in creating disconnected ghettos for Palestinian, sustained by a lengthy series of military and civil Israeli laws subjected on the Palestinians from both the 1967 and the 1948 occupied territory. Such laws are passed under the pretext of “maintaining internal order” of the Palestinian society, through oppression coated with colonial enactments and legislations, or through balancing butcherly military force with subtle power.
Palestinians have had water wells since the Jordanian era, most of which dried up. There are also some new wells, built within the last 20 years, but are not as deep as the Israeli wells. Combined, all these wells produce meager amounts of water, thus forcing Palestinians to buy water from Israel, whom originally had stolen it from them.
Since Israel has total administrative and security control over 61% of the West Bank, ruling all minor and major aspects of life, deciding regarding the general and infrastructural plans, accepting/rejecting construction permits, and issuing demolishing orders; it also restricts Palestinians living there from connecting to the Israeli water infrastructure in the area, under the pretext that the area is closed for military purposes, or the lack of the general plan.
The humiliating Palestinian reality verbalizes how the colonial agreements became established in consecrating the Israeli looting of the Palestinian water, thus hugely restricting any development of the Palestinian water sector. Those agreements also strengthened the Israeli army as the actual “master” over the Palestinian lands, and as the supreme “sovereign” reference. The Palestinian Authority cannot practice any of its powers, “granted” to it by the occupier, except on a very narrow scope inside the Bantustans that constitute less than 40% of the West Bank, and are surrounded by Israeli settlements and military bases and the colonial apartheid walls. Those same agreements entitled Israel to apply absolute “civil” and military powers over 60% of the West Bank; including construction (without specifying whether settlements or otherwise!), demolitions, access, allowing or prohibiting the establishing of new facilities, and so on.
These agreements follow, and had followed, a trajectory that runs against the natural flow of a nation that is crushed under the combat boots of the occupier, a nation lacking political sovereignty over its own land and natural resources and water sources, all of which are under the total grip of occupation. The natural flow of an occupied nation is the rebellion against these humiliating agreements, and the ongoing principled stubborn resistance in all of its forms, towards snapping its rights to the complete national sovereignty over the land, the surface and groundwater sources, even with the local human wall, which prevents direct engagement with the occupier.
Finally, we cannot but borrow the words of wisdom by the Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (peace be upon him): “What amazes me about someone with no food in his house is that he doesn’t go out in public with his sword drawn”. If we apply this saying, liberally, to our Palestinian case, it would become: “What amazes me about someone with no water in his house is that he doesn’t go out to the occupation with his sword drawn”!
Translated by: Carol Khoury