By: Omar Asi
On the banks of Al-Awja River. ... in the least polluted area on the lands of Almahmudiyah village
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
In every memory of the Nakba of 1948, we evoke the “conspiracy theory,” “the crushing of the revolution,” and the “ethnic cleansing,” which are important issues that must be remembered and observed through the documentaries that perpetuate the stories of the Nakba.
Some of us choose to be more specific and talk about the issue of the "assassination of the city" or even the "catastrophe of the curricula", but there is a catastrophe that we do not know well and we have not yet realized the aspects of it.
Although we live this catastrophe with every drop of water we drink, with every meal we eat, or even with every walk we take in the nature.
The disaster of water ... from "Herzl" to the "Harvesting wells"
With every drop of water, we drink in Palestine, politics is present, even if we do not tend to raise it; "Water" cannot be separated from "politics" and this is not something new. Even before the establishment of the Zionist entity in 1886, Theodor Herzl (the spiritual father of Zionism) described the water engineers as the true founders of the new land "Israel".
A few years after the establishment of the entity (in 1955) Ben-Gurion declares that the battle that Israel is waging is the "battle of waters" and that Israel’s destiny depends on the outcome of this battle. He said at the time: "If we are defeated in this battle, Israel will not be able to exist."
In the Encyclopedia of "Jews, Judaism and Zionism" Dr. Abdel-Wahhab El-Messiri mentions in his talk about "Zionist expansionism" that "the countries of the Middle East view the water problem in general from the viewpoint of existing needs except for Israel, where they look at the problem from the angle of the insufficiency of the existing water resources to meet its goals in the displacement of the world's Jews.”
The Amount of Rainfall ... Ramallah vs London!
The importance of Al-Messiri’s words lies in indicating that water resources can be sufficient, but not for all potential immigrants. Therefore, our country that we may imagine a desert due to all the talks about the water crises in it, is not so, as the German researcher Clemens Messerschmid, who specializes in the study of "hydro-apartheid" in Palestine, asserts.
He says: "The amount of annual rainfall in Ramallah in the West Bank is 619 mm compared to an annual amount of 596 mm in London which is obviously less than Ramallah while in Brandenburg in Germany is even less, only 550 mm.
The issue is not a matter of lack of resources, but rather in the management of resources, and specifically the control of Israel over water according to military orders, such as Military Order No. 158 issued in 1967, which stipulates that no Palestinian project in the field of water is permitted without permission of Israel.
Al-Auja River…Natural resources depletion and settlement expansion
The issue of controlling water did not begin with the 1967 setback, but rather its roots go back to the catastrophe of 1948 and the abnormal increase in the number of settlers. As the process of depleting the water of the Al-Auja River (The Abu Fatrus River) began, which led to a massive drainage of the river, especially in the 1950s, when Ben-Gurion began to encourage settlement in the Negev and Beersheba and established a project to draw a large portion of the water to the new settlements.
The depletion continued until its terrible effects began to reflect, especially after the increase in industrial facilities on the banks of the river in the 1960s, when 90% of the river’s water was pumped to serve Tel Aviv and the settlements in the Negev. This made the flow of water drop to a very low level (500 cubic meters per Hour) and sometimes would lead to the cut off of the water flow.
It did not stop here. It was not a matter of draining the water and pumping it. This river which was one of the most beautiful sceneries in Palestine turned into a channel for sewage water from the nearby Zionist settlements and factories. This continued until recently in 2008 a huge fire broke out in the factories of the Israeli Sano company, and at that time the company pumped huge quantities of cleaning materials into the river, which led to serious pollution of the water, until the water smelled like chlorine, and the result was catastrophic. This pollution caused the death of 100 tons of fish.
This is not a rare incident. Israeli Environmental reports have confirmed that the "Taas" factories of the Israeli occupation army have polluted the groundwater in the area of the river at Ramat Hasharon, which is built on the lands of Arab Abu Kishk. This forced the environmental authorities to stop water withdrawals from some of the wells there.
Harvesting Wells and the control over Rainwater
In addition to the depletion of resources, Israel strives to control every "drop of water", even the one descending from the sky. Even though it did not succeed in preventing harvesting wells in the West Bank completely, it succeeded in doing so in the occupied lands of 1948. After thousands of years of using rain as a source of water, local Palestinian residents were banned from digging wells to collect or even hold rainwater.
During the Ottoman period, there were 6,600 rainwater wells in Jerusalem alone. Those wells have a capacity of about half a million cubic meters. This quantity increased in 1948 to reach 10,500 wells, with a total capacity of about one million cubic meters. This was the source of water for most of the city's residents.
Unfortunately, most of the rain today is no longer collected and is not allowed to be collected to benefit from it according to Israeli laws. Because of these policies, we find that it contributes to the increase in the intensity of floods in the areas before it reaches the drainage canals passing it to the sea, often without benefiting from this water.
Recently, Israel has established desalination plants for sea water with very huge financial investments and environmental and health impacts that are still being studied, in order to benefit from sea water, bearing in mind that most of the rainwater could have been used before even reaching the sea and without the need to desalinate it. A lot of Israelis call for the need to return to collecting rainwater and using it before it reaches the sea, but it seems that this is not on the top of the priorities of the arrogant Israeli government which thinks that the desalination of sea water is one of its biggest achievements.
The draining of Hula... A Zionist Environmental disaster
There is no doubt that the water crises and disasters cannot be covered in one report. In fact, there are several books written in this field about the drainage of the Jordan River, the Dead Sea, and the draining of Hula.
The draining of Hula was considered one of the pioneer Zionist projects in order to benefit from the land to the maximum extent in 1951, as 62 thousand dunums of Lake Hula were drained. Disastrous effects resulted from this project in the seventies. Experts began noticing the disappearance of creatures such as the cypinid fish of the Sardinids family. Its scientific name was associated with acanthobrama hulensis.In addition to the Palestinian Hula painted frog (Latonia nigriventer). Along with other environmental damages.
The government had to flood 15,000 dunums of water again using the Jordan River water in the summer of 1993, and only then did it begin to notice the return of some of these varieties of fish that are not found anywhere in the world except in Hula.
Translated by: Rasha Abu Dayyeh