[News] Water Apartheid in Palestine

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Mar 26 12:23:44 EDT 2014

March 26, 2014

*A Crime Against Humanity*

  Water Apartheid in Palestine


This week UN celebrated World Water Day 
<http://www.unwater.org/worldwaterday> - a day to remember the billion 
people who are unable to meet their needs for safe, clean water due to 
drought, poverty and official neglect.

But it's also a day to remember, and fight for, 2.1 million Palestinians 
who suffer something different -- an artificial water scarcity 
deliberately created and sustained by Israel's military occupation, and 
the private Israeli water company Mekorot.

Increased international pressure brings hope that the tide may be 
finally turning for Palestinians striving for water justice in the West 
Bank and Gaza -- in particular, recent investment and partnership 
decisons against Mekarot, which runs Israel's discriminatory water 
policy in the West Bank.

*Waterless in Gaza and East Jerusalem*

The situation in Gaza 
<http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/Blogs/2183842/gaza_living_under_artificial_drought.html> is 
especially dire. The tiny, densely populated territory relies entirely 
on its depleted, saltwater-contaminated and sewage-polluted aquifer, and 
the water it produces is unfit for consumption. Water has to be bought, 
expensively, in bottles or from mobile tanks.

Moreover restrictions on fuel imports mean that Gaza's single power 
station spends most of its time idle -- and so long as it's not running 
water and sewage cannot be pumped. So the taps are dry, toilets are 
blocked, and sewage pollution gets worse.

Not that Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have it a lot better. 
As reported on 17th March 
the city suffered a long water cut beginning on 4th March leaving Ras 
Shehada, Ras Khamis, Dahyat A'salam and the Shuafat refugee camp -- cut 
off from the rest of the city by the separation wall -- with no running 

The reason is simple -- old and inadequate water infrastructure, which 
there are no plans to improve or renew.

*Oslo II Accords -- the Palestinians were shafted*

For West Bank as a whole the facts speak for themselves. The Oslo II 
Accords dealt Palestinians a singularly poor hand - limiting the volume 
of water it could produce, as well as imposing severe restrictions on 
the development and maintenance of Palestinian water infrastructure.

The Accords allow Palestinans to abstract only 118 million cubic meters 
(mcm) per year from boreholes, wells, springs and precipitation in the 
West Bank. But Israel is allowed to take four times as much -- 483 mcm 
per year -- from the same Palestinian resources.

So not only does Israel now occupy 80% of the area of historic 
Palestine, but it -- via the water company Mekarot -- also takes 80% of 
the water resources from the 20% of the land that is left to the 

*Sold down the river*

But it gets worse. Oslo II's draconian restrictions on water development 
imposed by Israel mean that Palestinians can only actually abstract 87 
mcm in the West Bank, of the 118 mcm they are allowed.

The acute water deficit is made up by the supply of piped water from 
Israel. Mekarot currently sells the Palestinian Water Authority some 60 
mcm per year -- at full price.

As reported by Amira Hass in Ha'aretz 
<http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/1.574554>, /"in that agreement 
Israel imposed a scandalously uneven, humiliating and infuriating 
division of the water resources"./

While Palestinian water is piped into Israel at no cost, a fraction of 
it is then piped back again, and paid for. In this way Israel is 
extracting from Palestinians both their water, and their money.

In some cases Palestinians are forced to pay ten times more 
<http://www.promisedlandblog.com/?p=3273> for their water than the price 
in Tel Aviv -- as in the village of Sussia on South Mount Hebron, where 
they have to drive to the nearby town to buy over-priced water (see 
photo), even though a water main passes directly through the village on 
its way to an Israeli settlement.

*Water plenty, and water famine*

According to the UN Human Rights Council 
this all translates into a wide disparity between water use by 
Palestinians and by settlers in the West Bank. Settlers enjoy 400 litres 
per capita per day (l/c/d) while some Palestinians surive on a little as 
10 l/c/d.

All Palestinian populations receive water volumes far below the level 
recommended by the World Health Organization of 100 -- 250 l/c/d. 
According to the UNHRC:

/"Settlements benefit from enough water to run farms and orchards, and 
for swimming pools and spas, while Palestinians often struggle to access 
the minimum water requirements./

/"Some settlements consume around 400 l/c/d, whereas Palestinian 
consumption is 73 l/c/d, and as little as 10-20 l/c/d for Bedouin 
communities which depend on expensive and low quality tanker water."/

These very low levels of water provision fail to meet the water needs of 
many Palestinian communities -- leaving them with often contaminated 
water, and not enough of it.

While Palestinian water use 
<http://www.foei.org/en/resources/publications/pdfs/2014/Water-injustice-in-Palestine.pdf/view> may 
just exceed 70 l/c/d in the relatively well served urban centers of the 
West Bank, it drops much lower in rural areas that have no access to 
piped water and depend on wells and rainwater collection.

An estimated 113,000 Palestinians in the West Bank have no piped water 
supply, while hundreds of thousands more have only intermittent supply, 
especially in the summer.

*Additional restrictions*

The restrictions and limitations imposed on Palestinians to access their 
own resources and develop them have exacerbated the already severe water 
shortages among Palestinian communities.

Among the restrictions are limits on the size of supply pipe, intended 
to limit flows as a form of rationing. Typically 30% of the water leaks 
from Palestinian supply pipes -- because Israel refuses to allow their 

In 'Area C', which covers 60% of the area of the West Bank, Palestinian 
farmers and communities are not allowed to connect to the water network 
that serves the growing settlements -- and are forbidden even to dig out 

The international community considers the establishment of Israeli 
settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories illegal under 
international law, as set out in the report of the fact finding mission 
<http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session19/FFM/PR_FFM_31012013_en.pdf> of 
the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Yet the construction of new illegal Israeli settlements and 'outposts', 
and the expansion of existing ones, is proceeding apace -- and further 
reducing the quantity of water allocated to Palestinians.

*Your water or your life*

As reported by the UN 
<http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41579#.UyxbKvl_ufc> in 
March 2012, another threat arises from settlers seizing springs by 
force: /"Palestinians have increasingly lost access to water sources in 
the West Bank as a result of the takeover of springs by Israeli 
settlers, who have used threats, intimidation and fences to ensure 
control of water points close to the settlements."/

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) 
examined 60 springs on Palestinian land close to Israeli settlements. 
They found that:

/"In 22 of the water sources, Palestinians have been deterred from 
accessing the springs by acts of intimidation, threats and violence 
perpetrated by Israeli settlers, while in the eight springs under full 
settler control, Palestinian access has been prevented by physical 
obstacles, including the fencing of the spring area, and its 'de facto 
annexation' to the settlement."/

Violence and destruction may also come directly from the occupation 
authorities. /"Destruction of water infrastructure, including rainwater 
cisterns, by Israeli authorities has increased since the beginning of 
2010; double in 2012 compared to 2011./

/"The denial of water is used to trigger displacement, particularly in 
areas slated for settlement expansion, especially since these 
communities are mostly farmers and herders who depend on water for their 

/"A number of testimonies highlighted that the cutting off from water 
resources often precedes dispossession of lands for new settlement 

*Mekorot -- at the heart of Israel's water apartheid*

All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are connected to piped water 
supplied by Israeli water company Mekorot, which took over 
responsibility for the water resources of the West Bank from the 
occupying forces in 1982.

Thus it Mekarot which is both the on-the-ground enforcer, and the 
economic beneficiary, of the West Bank's 'water apartheid'.

As the UN Human Rights Council 
reports: /"In the Jordan Valley, deep water drillings by the Israeli 
national water company Mekorot and the agro-industrial company Mehadrin 
have caused Palestinian wells and springs to dry up. Eighty per cent of 
the total water resources drilled in the area is consumed by Israel and 
the settlements."/

/"The lack of availability of Palestinian water resources has led to 
chronic shortages among Palestinian communities in Area C and a 
dependence on Mekorot ... Mekorot supplies almost half the water 
consumed by Palestinian communities./

*Restricted access*

The UNHRC also reported that Palestinians do not have access to the 
cheaper 'recycled water' available to Israeli settlements, and have to 
buy more expensive drinking water even for irrigation purposes.

This injustice and inequity of access to water supply has always been a 
source of tension, especially when Palestinian villagers see water pipes 
leading to Israeli colonies passing through their land without supplying 
their village with water -- as reported above at Sussia.

/"The Mission heard of situations where villagers must travel several 
kilometres to get water when closer water resources serve neighbouring 
settlements"/, reported UNHRC.

And even when they do get water, they receive second class treatment. 
/"In the event of a water shortage, valves supplying Palestinian 
communities are turned off; this does not happen for settlements./

*'Week of Action Against Mekorot'*

Mekorot violates international law and colludes in resource grabbing 
-including pillaging water resources in Palestine. It supplies this 
pillaged water to illegal Israeli settlements, and engages in systematic 
discrimination and denial of water 
to the Palestinian population.

For this reason Palestinian organizations including PENGON / Friends of 
the Earth Palestine have co-organised a 'Stop Mekorot 
<http://www.stopmekorot.org/>' week of action starting today, on World 
Water Day.

The campaign aims to intensify pressure on governments and companies to 
boycott Mekorot and hold the company accountable for its discriminatory 
water policies and practices in Palestine.

On March 20, the environmental federation Friends of the Earth 
International announced its support for the campaign against the 
discriminatory practices of Mekorot -- joining the global call on 
governments, public and private utility companies and investors 
worldwide to avoid or terminate 
all contracts and cooperation agreements with Mekorot.

*Campaign successes*

In December 2013 the largest drinking water supplier in the Netherlands, 
Vitens, set a precedent when it decided that its commitment to 
international law meant it had to withdraw from a cooperation agreement 
with Mekorot. According to the company:

/"Vitens attaches great importance to integrity and adhering to 
international laws and regulations. Following consultation with 
stakeholders, the company came to the realization that it is extremely 
difficult to continue joint work on projects, as they cannot be 
separated from the political environment."/

Mekorot suffered another blow this week when authorities in Buenos 
Aires, Argentina, suspended a proposed $170m water treatment plant 
<http://www.alternativenews.org/english/index.php/features/economy-of-the-occupation/7881-170m-argentina-loss-for-israeli-water-firm-mekorot-as-bds-spreads-southward> deal.

The decision followed a campaign by local trade unions and human rights 
groups which highlighted Mekorot's role in Israel's theft of Palestinian 
water resources -- and raised the prospect that Mekorot might export its 
discriminatory water policies to Argentina.

Palestinians must have their rightful share of available resources and 
be granted full authority to manage them properly. Equitable and wise 
use of available resources among all people is the only basis for 
lasting peace in the region.

And until then the deliberate, systematic, purposeful water 
discrimination and resource theft carried out in Occupied Palestine by 
the Occupation and Mekorot must be recognised for what they are -- 
crimes against humanity. The perpetrators must be punished accordingly.

*/Ayman Rabi/*/ represents Friends of the Earth Palestine / PENGON 
the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network -- established in 1996 to 
serve the Palestinian environment by coordinating the scattered efforts 
of the different Palestinian NGOs working in the field of environment./

/This article originally appeared in The Ecologist 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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