Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Water, Water, and Less Water

For years, I have lived up on a mountainside in North Georgia. It’s not a mansion, but it is ours and we are happy. At least we were until some pretty rough looking guys built a house right up the road from us. I went up to investigate and lo, they had built a big house on my property. I took my case to international court and I won, but nothing happened. There is no enforcement of the law. My neighbors love guns and have a lot of them. So they keep adding to their house on my land and there is nothing I can do. Also, I noticed and smelled open raw sewage, coming from their house running down through my yard. When I went up to investigate, I saw that they had built a wall around my pond. It is my pond and my sole water source. It should be enough for both of us, but they have walled it off and are piping my water to their family on the other side of the mountain. My water supply has dried up. I have resorted to building a large water barrel on the roof on my house to try to capture rainwater, but my neighbors drive by and shoot holes in the tank just to see my little supply of water drain out on the ground. Sometimes I get frustrated.

Of course, none of this story is true for me. I live in a beautiful community with wonderful neighbors. I have all the water I need. But this is precisely what is happening to the Palestinians seeking to survive on their own land.

Soon after the 1967 war, Israel transferred control over all the sources of water in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the military. The reason is simple: 80 percent of the mountain aquifers, the region’s largest reservoirs, are located under the West Bank and Israel desires the great majority if it for her use. Though the aquifer is the sole source for residents of the West Bank, Israel uses 83 percent of its annually available water for the benefit of Israeli cities and its settlements, while West Bank Palestinians use the remaining 17 percent.[1] “Both the Jordan River and the Palestinian aquifers have been over-pumped by Israel…The average settler in the West Bank uses almost six times as much water per day as the Palestinians who live there.[2]

It is not unfair to say that Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, killing over 19,000 and making 100,000 homeless, to get to the Litani River, invaded the Golan Heights in 1967 to get to the under ground water resources of Syria, walled off the city of Qalqilya to control the largest aquifer of the West Bank and sealed off the Jordan River by roads and settlements.

Israel’s continued brutal occupation of Palestine and refusal to accept any peace treaty has very little to do with security and much to do with WATER. Water is even being used as a weapon. “Palestinians attempt to collect rainwater in rooftop cisterns...are vulnerable to Israeli rifle fire and house demolitions.”[3]

In the West Bank, about 50 groundwater wells and more than 200 cisterns have been destroyed or isolated from their owners by the construction of the separation barrier, affecting the domestic and agricultural needs of more than 122,000 people.[4]

And that part about sewage running through Palestinian yards? That’s true too.

Rajah Shehadeh, co-founder of Al-Haq tells of his feet getting wet while walking through a Palestinian village:

We soon realized that we had walked into the open sewers of the Jewish settlement of Talmon…which did not have a collection system for treating sewage, which was just disposed of down the valley into the land owned by Palestinian farmers.[5]

The London based newspaper, The Independent, reports the dumping of raw sewage into Palestinian lands;

Across the occupied West Bank, raw untreated sewage is pumped every day out of the Jewish settlements, along large metal pipes, straight onto Palestinian land. From there, it can enter the groundwater and the reservoirs, and become poison.[6]

Years ago, I sat in the home of a Palestinian family in Hizma. Looking straight out from the bullet pot-marked home was a settlement on top of the hill. To the left was another one and to the right, still another. Israel not only confiscated the land on which these huge apartments were built, but also land for parks, libraries, government buildings, schools, swimming pools and roads…and roads…and more roads, on which Arabs were not allowed to drive or even cross. However, the most devastating effect of all this encroachment was the drying up of water wells. Israel siphons off so much water that it lowers the water table and the wells of Hizma dry up. “We aren’t even allowed to dig deeper to get water in our own well,” my host explained.
“How would the Israelis know if you slipped out here and dug your well a little deeper?" I asked.
“They would notice if we reached water.” He answered.

In the meantime, the wells in Hizma are dry. And any resistance, even peaceful demonstrations, are reported in the West as acts encouraging terrorism.

Thomas Are
July 7, 2010

[1] Breaking Down the Walls, Report of the Middle East Study Committee to the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), p.80.
[2] Baylis Thomas, The Dark Side of Zionism, (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. New York. 2009.) p.232.
[3] Ibid., Thomas, p.233.
[4] Steadfast Hope, Published by Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. p. 27.
[5] Breaking Down the Walls. p.82.
[6] Ibid., p. 82.

1 comment:

  1. Dusa GyllensvardJuly 7, 2010 at 2:08 PM

    Thank you for this elegant essay. When Bush I launched the Gulf War, he obtained support from the Turks by promising that a Mid-East water conference would be held after the war was over. BushI "forgot" his promise and no water conference took place.

    In Martin Gilbert's book on Israel, the story of Jewish settlers (from 1900 on) grabbing water sources is clearly told.

    Why does the United States continue to support Israel with billions of dollars every year? If Russia did to, say, Georgia, what Israel is doing to Palestine, would we not be complaining loudly at the UN?