[News] Water apartheid in Gaza and Flint

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Mar 18 13:32:16 EDT 2016


  Water apartheid in Gaza and Flint

David Cronin <https://electronicintifada.net/people/david-cronin> 18 
March 2016

At first glance, the nature of the water crises in Gaza and Michigan 
look very different. Gaza’s water infrastructure has been bombed 
repeatedly by Israel. Despite their many problems, the people of Flint 
and Detroit <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/detroit> have been 
spared such overt brutality.

So why did women in Gaza send 
<https://www.mecaforpeace.org/news/women-gaza-women-flint> a message of 
compassion to women in Flint earlier this month?

The answer is simple: both are striving to hold the powerful to account 
for how the water on which they and their families depend has been 

The letter from Gaza to Flint — signed by various activists, including 
the prominent doctor Mona el-Farra 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/dr-mona-el-farra> — notes that 
Israel controls Palestinian water. The Israeli occupation steals from 
the coastal aquifer that is Gaza’s main source of water, prevents 
Palestinians from building sewage treatment facilities and forces them 
to buy water at prices they cannot afford.

Ordinary people in Flint do not enjoy any sovereignty when it comes to 
water, either.

Over the past few years, Rick Snyder, Michigan’s governor, has appointed 
a series of “emergency managers” — unelected technocrats, with powers to 
sell off public assets, invalidate union contracts and to undermine 
local democracy.

In 2014, Darnell Earley, one of these emergency managers, decided that 
Flint should begin using water from Flint River. That was despite how 
the Michigan authorities deemed 
water from the river to be unsafe for drinking.

    Blood poisoning

The decision had rapid effects. Locals complained that the water from 
their faucets was discolored and unpalatable. A research team at 
Virginia Tech confirmed 
that the water in Flint was poisoned.

The level of lead detected, for example, in some samples was 13,000 
parts per billion. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that 
lead in water should be no higher than 15 parts per billion.

Across Flint, the number of children with above average levels of lead 
in their blood has almost doubled. In “high risk” areas, it has tripled 

The people of Gaza are grappling with similar problems.

During 2014, it was reported 
<http://www.btselem.org/gaza_strip/20140209_gaza_water_crisis> that 90 
to 95 percent of Gaza’s water supply was unfit for drinking. The 
Palestinian Water Authority 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/palestinian-water-authority> found 
that the aquifer on which Gaza depends was highly polluted with 
pesticides and untreated sewage.

    Symptom of racism

Palestinians live under an apartheid system 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/apartheid>. And the impacts of 
apartheid are especially pronounced when it comes to water.

While Israeli settlers <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/settlers> in 
the arid West Bank can enjoy the sight of well-irrigated floral displays 
and dips in swimming pools all year round, Palestinians have access to 
considerably less drinking water than the levels recommended by the 
World Health Organization 

Michigan’s water crisis is also a symptom of institutionalized racism.

Snyder and his predecessors have imposed emergency managers mainly on 
towns and cities with large Black populations, including Detroit and Flint.

In 2013, /The Atlantic/ reported 
that the five cities in Michigan then under economic management 
contained just 9 percent of the state’s inhabitants. Yet about half of 
all Black people in Michigan lived in those cities.

Writing in /The Nation/ last month, Juan Cole argued 
that just as Flint’s residents  “had their access to a basic staple 
like clean water denied by decisions made by bureaucrats they did not 
elect, so the Palestinians of Gaza lack the basic rights of citizenship.”

The right to water has been recognized 
<http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/human_right_to_water.shtml> by the 
United Nations. Yet the dominant ideology treats water as a commodity.

It is only natural that alliances should be formed between defenders of 
the right to water in different cities and countries.

The government in my native Ireland 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/ireland-0>, under pressure from its 
masters in Brussels <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/brussels> and 
other EU capitals, has been trying to put control of water in the hands 
of a private company in recent years. The battle for the abolition of 
Irish Water, as the firm is called, has received support 
from activists in Michigan, Bolivia and Spain.

More than a few of Ireland’s right to water campaigners are also part of 
the Palestine solidarity movement. One such campaigner, Gino Kenny, has 
been elected to Dáil Eireann, the lower house in the national 
parliament. When his election was announced 
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1ixtpvkl3A> in late February, he 
celebrated by waving a Palestinian flag.

The gesture was appreciated by Palestinians — not surprisingly so. 
Struggles for justice will always be intertwined.

/Additional research by Jimmy Johnson./

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