/ 3 August 2023

Water is used as a weapon against Palestinian people

Palestine Water
Carrying the can: A Palestinian woman fills her containers with water in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, this week. Israel has been controlling Palestinians’ access to water for decades. Photo: Said Khatib/Getty Images

‘The right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.” This is one of the resolutions adopted by the United Nations.

So why then, when Israel denies this to people in Palestine, is barely an eyelid batted? 

Al Jazeera recently released footage of this crime. It showed Israeli army personnel pouring cement into a resource that provides water to Palestinians living near the city of Hebron. 

Is this not an act that warrants the harshest condemnation? The denial of water to people is one of the worst crimes a state can commit. Yet, minimal outcry. 

Did you know that Israel is one of the most innovative countries in the world when it comes to water technology? It is one of the countries that has had success in desalination — basically the extraction of potable water from ocean water. 

When Cape Town almost hit Day Zero during a drought a few years ago, it took tips from Israel on desalination. 

But Palestinians languish without access to water. The Guardian reported that both the West Bank and Gaza Strip face severe water stress and drought.

Israel’s land occupation is clear as daylight. What is less known is its occupation of Palestinian water and the environment in which people live. Let’s take a further look.

Israel’s control of Palestine’s water runs deep. I’m talking as deep as the 1960s when a military order was signed saying that no water installation could be constructed without a permit from the Israeli military. These permits are basically impossible to obtain. 

To this day, water infrastructure cannot be developed. 

Amnesty International reported that Palestinians can’t drill wells or install pumps and they are denied access to the Jordan River and other fresh water sources. 

If you thought that was bad, Israel ensures that rainwater collection is managed as well. Often, the army destroys the collection cisterns that people set up.

There are numerous communities that don’t have access to running water, meanwhile Israeli crops in occupied lands thrive. 

Writing about the issue, The Guardian said: “Access to water resources is a potent state-controlled weapon for the settlement movement, allowing Israeli-owned vineyards, olive groves, livestock farms and date plantations to flourish.”

Israel has put its citizens front and centre of receiving water through a network, meanwhile it  is withheld from Palestinians and they suffer without it. 

In international law, that is illegal, but not a thing is done about it. There is no global outcry.

But, as usual, it doesn’t stop there. The Israelis sell this water back to the Palestinians. Can you imagine selling water back to the people you stole it from? The audacity!

Israelis living in settlements use three times more water than West Bank Palestinians, according to Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem.

Not only that but the water in Gaza is polluted — most of it is unfit for human consumption. 

Israel does not allow Gaza to receive water from the West Bank, according to Amnesty International. There is nowhere near enough water from natural sources for people in Gaza. The water is also contaminated with sewage and seawater.

There is clearly a water disparity in the region which escapes the world’s interest. 

Take a look at the following finding from Amnesty International: “Palestinians consume on average 73 litres of water a day per person, which is well below the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended daily minimum of 100 litres per capita.” 

There is a bit of confusion on this issue — some reports say the WHO recommends anywhere between 50 and 100 litres per person per day. 

But, in any case, check out the disparity: “By contrast, an average Israeli consumes approximately 300  litres of water a day.”

It is not only in the water sphere that Israel is committing violations. We all know the land issues and taking of land that is rightfully Palestine’s. But the Institute for Middle East Understanding has noted how Israel destroys trees and natural habitats. 

Since 1948, they have been uprooting trees and crops native to Palestine in an effort to erase its history and existence. Olives, figs, and almonds are some examples of what’s been wiped out or stolen. They have been replaced with European tree species, which have an impact on the land, are susceptible to fire and consume water. 

Olive trees, in particular, have faced Israeli wrath. Since 1967, nearly a million of these trees have been uprooted. Olives are a primary source of food for Palestine. 

Several years ago, Palestinian farmers were attacked during the harvest and more than 9 000 olive trees in the West Bank were destroyed. In March, reports surfaced of an Israel attack on Palestinian olive farms in Bethlehem. 

This is a major ploy to push people off their land.

Since it is illegal to carry a Palestinian flag, people needed something else to stick it to the Israelis. They chose something from the environment. Watermelon. 

The colours of a slice of watermelon mirror those of the Palestinian flag and, since the 1980s, the fruit has also been used as a symbol of resistance. 

The story behind this is that, in the 1980s, there was a clampdown on art containing symbols of resistance. A police officer told some artists that even the colours of the watermelon would be forbidden. And that sparked the idea. It has since been used as a symbol of resistance. 

To go with the theme of this piece I’ll end with a slightly amended quote: From the denied river to the occupied sea, Palestine will be free.