By the Jordan Valley team,
Tanks took my water…
Abudallah Sawafta, age 78, a senior resident in Bardala, the northernmost village in the Jordan Valley, occupied Palestine, describes what happened when the Israeli military visited his village.
“They (the Israeli water company and the Army) took our fresh water well. They connected another pipe and just took the water – and now they sell our own water back to us at very high prices”
Israeli authorities altered the village pipework, drilled new, deeper wells nearby and fitted smaller pipes. As a result, the Palestinian village of Bardala has barely enough water to sustain itself in a climate where summer temperatures can reach 55C.
Israeli settlements (illegal under international law) are supplied with subsidised water and generous pipework. They stand out against the dusty Palestinian villages and desert landscape; the Israeli settlements tend to have lush vegetation, ornamental grass, mile upon mile of irrigated crops and greenhouses.
Abudallah describes the impact of loosing this traditional Palestinian village well to the Israeli occupation authorities
“…we used to get around 250 cubic metres per hour from our well, now we end up getting as little as 40-50 cubic metres per hour – and we have to buy it from the Israelis….now the type of crops we can afford to grow is limited…Before it was free, it was our water, now we have to pay for it.”
Over 60% of the West Bank is what Israel calls ‘Area C’. Much of this area has been allocated for the benefit of Israeli settlements, which receive preferential treatment at the expense of Palestinian communities.
More than 70% of the Palestinian communities located in Area C are not connected to the water supply; they rely on water tanks at a vastly increased cost. Personal water consumption in some of these communities can be as low as 20 litres per day, one fifth of the World Health Organisation recommendation. (OCHA report)
The Palestinian Governor of the Jericho governorate in the Jordan Valley area describes the Israeli control of the Palestinian water resources as the most dangerous situation facing the Palestinian people.
“Before the Israeli occupation, we had control of our water and we had 500,000 dunnams planted, now we only have 1/10th of that planted…that is why parts of the valley now look like a desert…and the Palestinian people have had to leave…we used to have a population of 250,000, now is is around 75,000”
Mekorot, the Israeli state owned water company describes its water supply network as ‘Israel‘s greatest infrastructure work of the 20th century‘. However, a report by the World Bank (2009) found that water supply to the Palestinian community was seriously compromised. For example, Palestinians are restricted to drilling wells to a maximum depth of 150m, often insufficient depth to reach adequate supplies of fresh water. Israeli-drilled wells are not subject to the same restrictions.
The Israeli occupation of Palestine is approaching its 50th year and is deemed to be in breach of international law.
As the occupying power, Israel uses Palestinian water for uses other than non military purposes and discriminates against the Palestinian population. (B‘Tselem: Article 55 Hague Regulations and Article 27 Fourth Geneva Convention)
The ongoing occupation of Palestine and the inherent discrimination against Palestinians is harmful. It undermines the reputation of Israel and if left unchallenged is likely to encourage rogue states who see such breaches of international law going unchecked.
The Palestinian Govenor of the Jericho governate states:
“The water situation is bad, but it is going to get worse…it is our responsibility to save the Israelis from their own foolishness”
If you are lucky enough to have freedom of access to water, without discrimination, then please remember the Palestinian communities.
It is time for a just peace. It is time for the occupation of Palestine to end.