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Thursday, 13 May 2021

Water as a weapon for racial discrimination

Israel's regime of racial discrimination touches every aspect of Palestinian lives, including — and especially — such simple fundamentals as access to water

Mustafa Barghouti , Tuesday 23 Aug 2016

The West Bank produces 932 million cubic metres of water from which Israel steals at least 800 million cubic metres (i.e., 86 percent of the West Bank's waters).

The water allocated to the Palestinian living in the occupied territories does not exceed 50 cubic metres annually while the illegitimate settler has the right to use 2,400 cubic metres (i.e., 48 times greater than that of the Palestinian who is the land's owner).

It does not stop here. Palestinians pay double what Israelis pay in return of their stolen water, which they are obliged to buy from the Israelis.

Palestinians are not allowed to dig wells at depths that exceed 100 metres, and this is in the Eastern Basin only whilst they are not permitted to dig wells in the Western Basin at all. 

As for the Israelis, they are allowed to dig wells 600-700 metres deep and sometimes 1,000 metres. Thus, they drained dry a large number of Palestinian groundwater wells, in addition to those they close forcefully.

It is no coincidence that many settlements were built particularly on the lands over the most vital groundwater wells in the West Bank.

The occupation authorities control water distribution and recently it decided to lower water supplies to large swathes of land in the West Bank by 40 percent in order to secure the flow of water smoothly to illegitimate settlements.

This is the reason behind the suffering of all our cities and villages from current water scarcity in summer, compelling thousands of households to practice water austerity in the scorching heat or buy water at expensive prices that low-income earners and large families cannot afford.

Even all this does not represent but half the picture. The greater tragedy is endured by Gaza, within which Israel built underground dams in order to prevent the Hebron Mountains' rainwater from reaching Gaza's groundwater, which was depleted extensively by Israeli settlements before they were vacated.

According to international reports, 96 percent of Gaza's water is undrinkable, either because of its salinity or pollution amid the sewerage crisis borne of Israeli military destruction.

The UN estimates that by 2020, Gaza will not be habitable.

Those who live in Gaza, and any of us who was able to visit it (although this is a very farfetched enterprise due to the blockade and travel restrictions) knows the meaning of taking a bath in salty water or drinking a cup of water that tastes both salty and sour.

After all this, an Israeli rabbi named Shlomo Melamed dared to call on Israeli settlers to poison Palestinian wells. It is a call to kill and terrorise. It should have led to his arrest and trial, if he had been living in a democratic state. But since he lives in Israel, where occupation is legitimate and racial discrimination official policy, and where the water policy became one of the most dangerous weapons in entrenching the Apartheid regime, he was applauded.

If any person anywhere dared to call for poisoning the Jews’ water, which of course we reject, the world would have stood still and aghast. But in our case, so far as I know, not a single international newspaper or foreign TV channel was generous enough to convey Shlomo Melamed's threat or even mention it.

It is our right to strive and struggle to gain our rights over our water because the right to water equals the right to life. We have the right to reveal, uncover and struggle against the use of water as a weapon of racial discrimination. We know that many of the unjust propaganda mouthpieces will call any such revelation of the facts "incitement."

Palestinians will not depart, no matter what inventions Israelis come up with in the field of racial discrimination, even if we were obliged to squeeze cactus leaves in search of water.

Standing united in the struggle for our right to water and to live is the best way to fulfill this objective and end Israel's racial discrimination regime.

The writer is secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative.

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