In the age of phone cameras, we have become increasingly used to photos and videos of Palestinians in the West Bank being shot by soldiers in unjustifiable circumstances.
Think of 18-year-old Hadeel Hashlamon, who was killed late last month at a checkpoint in Hebron. A series of photos of her suggest, in the words of Amnesty International, that she was “executed” by the soldiers there. She was shot multiple times and left to bleed to death.
The army claimed she had a knife, which they photographed on the ground nearby. But whether she was carrying the knife or it was planted there, still an issue that has not been resolved, the more important point is this: she posed no threat, let alone a lethal one, to anyone when she was killed.
Now we have a disturbing video of a similar shooting but this time not in the occupied territories. This occurs inside Israel and the victim is an Israeli citizen — a member of the country’s Palestinian minority, which comprises a fifth of Israel’s population.
Israa Abed, a 30-year-old mother of three from Nazareth, was shot today at the central bus station in Afula, close to Nazareth. She was surrounded by many soldiers, police and what appear to be armed Israeli civilians. The soldiers there are probably passengers on the many buses that pass through Afula.
The Israeli media initially reported that she was shot while trying to stab a security guard. The video (below) shows that to be definitively not the case. She is shot after long moments of standing apparently terrified in the bus station, in what looks like a state of all-consuming panic, as more and more people point their guns at her.
From the quality of this video it is near-impossible to know whether she is holding a knife. But it is possible to see that, like Hashlamon, she poses no threat to any of the soldiers when she is shot. That point is underlined by the fact that several soldiers and policemen move closer to her, not away from her, in the final moments before she is shot. She does little more than sway throughout the video, appearing to turn when a policeman runs directly towards her as several gun shots ring out on the sound track.
Fortunately, she appears to have survived the shooting and is reported to be in a stable condition in hospital.
But this video is troubling for several reasons.
First, and most obviously, this woman was shot when she posed no immediate threat. The person or people who opened fire did so with no possible justification, apart from their own fears. One cannot help wondering whether the ease with which Israeli Jews shoot Palestinians, whether fellow citizens of Israel or victims of the occupation, reflects long-dominant discourses in the Israeli education system, media and politics that dehumanise “Arabs”.
Second, the shooting seems to occur not because the armed people around her fear they are in danger, but because the group push themselves into a collective frenzy about the alleged knife. In this kind of atmosphere, someone is going to pull the trigger sooner or later.
This is very similar to another recent video, in which a group of religious (and unarmed) Jews chase after Fadi Alloun in a large open area in Jerusalem calling for him to be shot. When security forces turn up, the video shows police opening fire, apparently on the orders of the crowd, killing him. Again, Alloun does not appear to be posing a threat to anyone at the time he is shot.
Third, Israeli politicians, including the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, have called on Israeli Jewish civilians to carry their weapons at all times and be ready to use them. This video shows where this policy is likely to lead: summary justice carried out by the most unhinged link in the security chain.
Fourth, it is a deeply worrying new trend inside Israel that Jewish civilians are starting to mimick the settlers in the occupied territories in believing they should be carrying out revenge attacks themselves. Today, a Jewish man in Dimona stabbed four Palestinians, two of them Israeli citizens. This video offers a vivid illustration of the mood of victimhood that is sweeping Israel, one that makes Israelis fast on the trigger and ready to play the role of avenging angel.
It is bad enough that Palestinians in Israel have to face security forces that treat them like an enemy. But things will get much, much worse when even the highly prejudicial rule of law in Israel is replaced by the lynch mob.
The development of “killer robots” is a new and original way of using human intelligence for perverse means. Human directing machines to kill and destroy in a scale not yet imagined is a concept that not even George Orwell could have imagined. In the meantime, the leading world powers continue their un-merry-go-round of destruction and death -mostly of innocent civilians- without stopping to consider the consequences of their actions.
Killer robots are fully autonomous weapons that can identify, select and engage targets without meaningful human control. Although fully developed weapons of this kind do not yet exist, the world leaders such as the U.S., the U.K, Israel, Russia, China and South Korea are already working on creating their precursors.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that in 2012, 76 countries had some kind of drones, and 16 countries already possessed armed ones. The U.S. Department of Defense spends $6 billion every year on the research and development of better drones.
South Korea is presently using the Samsung Techwin security surveillance guard robots, which the country uses in the demilitarized zone it shares with North Korea. Although these units are currently operated by humans, the robots have an automatic feature that can detect body heat and fire a machine gun without human intervention.
Israel is developing an armed drone called Harop that could select targets with a special sensor. Northrop Grumman has also developed an autonomous drone called the X-47B which can travel on a preprogrammed flight path while being monitored by a pilot on a ship. It is planned to enter into active service by 2019. China is also moving rapidly in this area. In 2012 it already had 27 armed drone models, one of which is an autonomous air-to-air supersonic combat aircraft.
Killer robots follow the generation of drones and, as with drones, their potential use is also creating a host of human rights, legal and ethical issues. Military officials state that this kind of hardware protects human life by taking soldiers and pilots out of harm’s way. What they don’t say, however, is that the protected lives are those of the attacking armies, not those of the mostly civilians who are their targets, whose untimely deaths are euphemistically called collateral damage.
According to Denise Garcia, an expert in international law, four branches of internationally law have been used to limit violence in war: the law of state responsibility, the law on the use of force, international humanitarian law and human rights law. As currently carried out, U.S. drone strikes violate all of them.
From the ethical point of view, the use of these machines presents a moral dilemma: by allowing machines to make life-and death decisions we remove people’s responsibility for their actions and eliminate accountability. Lack of accountability almost ensures future human rights violations. In addition, many experts believe that the proliferation of autonomous weapons would make an arms race inevitable.
As the United Nations is trying to negotiate the future use of autonomous weapons, the U.S. and U.K. representatives want to support weaker rules that would prohibit future technology but not killer robots developed during the negotiating period. That delay would allow existing semi-autonomous prototypes to continue being used.
The need for a pre-emptive ban on the development and use of this kind of weapon is urgent. As Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions stated recently, “If there is not a pre-emptive ban on the high-level autonomous weapons, then once the genie is out of the bottle it will be extremely difficult to get it back in.”
Dr. Cesar Chelala is an international public health consultant. He recently received the Cedar of Lebanon Gold Medal from the House of Lebanon in Tucuman, Argentina.
Isabel Kershner in The New York Times tells us that Palestinians are running amok, lashing out at Israelis not only in the West Bank but now in Israel as well. Prime Minister Netanyahu has vowed to quell this “wave of terrorism,” she reports, and Israelis are “unnerved” by the spread of incidents.
Kershner describes three alleged stabbing attempts, dwelling at length on one of them; recaps an earlier incident that left two Israelis dead; and in the final paragraphs of her story informs us that “at least two” Palestinians were killed, one of them a 13-year-old boy “described as a bystander.”
Nowhere do we learn that the major victims of violence in this turbulent conflict are Palestinians, not Israelis, as revealed in a recent United Nations report: In one week, ending Oct. 5, Israeli security forces injured 794 Palestinians, while Palestinians injured a total of seven Israelis. (As of Oct. 5, 30 Palestinians had been killed in 2015 compared with eight Israelis.)
This is an injury ratio of more than 100 to one, a shocking disparity, but the Times story shows concern only for Israeli injuries and fears. We find no accounts there of what the Palestinian victims experienced as they faced the aggression of heavily armed security forces.
Readers and viewers elsewhere, however, got a firsthand view of Israeli violence yesterday as videos emerged that revealed undercover agents inciting stone throwers in the West Bank. The agents, wearing keffiyehs and bearing a Hamas flag, urge bystanders to join them, then draw their weapons and assault Palestinian youths.
The videos, by several agencies, including Reuters and Agence France-Presse, went viral, appearing on French, British, Israeli and American media outlets. The Times, however, has so far failed to link to the videos, which show a soldier shooting a captive Palestinian in the leg at point blank range.
The newspaper also avoids any commentary that would shed a clear light on the nature of the conflict even as Israeli columnists have recently provided eloquent testimony of the despair behind Palestinian attacks.
Gideon Levy, writing in the Middle East Eye, notes that when Palestinians remain quiet, they reap nothing but “an intensification of the occupation.” He lists the constant attacks and humiliations they endure and asks, “Are Palestinians to assent to all this in silence?”
Levy notes that after a Palestinian family was burnt alive, Israeli officials admitted that they knew who was responsible but refused to make any arrests. “What people could maintain restraint in the face of such a sequence of events,” he writes, “with the entire might of the occupation in the background, without hope, without prospects, with no end in sight?”
Amira Hass writes in a similar vein, and the headlines on her Haaretz article express it well: “Palestinians Are Fighting for Their Lives; Israel Is Fighting for the Occupation—That we notice there’s a war on only when Jews are murdered does not cancel out the fact that Palestinians are being killed all the time.”
Both these Israelis speak with an honesty that rarely, if ever, appears in the Times. Readers of the newspaper of record instead face a determined effort to protect Israel’s reputation, to preserve the narrative of Israeli victimhood even in the face of the evidence.
As Palestinians fall to Israeli violence at the rate of 100 a day, the Times obsesses on Israeli Jewish victims. It ignores the numbers that reveal an enormous toll of Palestinian suffering and it excludes the news and the voices of conscience that could help readers gain a truer perspective in this conflict.
Sunday, I reported on the police execution of East Jerusalem Palestinian teenager, Fadi Alloun, outside the Old City. I noted the false reporting of the Jerusalem Post which stated that the police saw him “holding a knife” and “neutralized” him. There has been no supporting reporting in the Israeli media confirming this.
Now the international newspaper of record, the NY Times, gets in on the act. In Diaa Hadid’s report tonight, instead of focusing on his murder, she focuses on a supposed disagreement between villages and political factions about where he should be buried. The title of her story: Dispute Over a Burial Reveals Palestinian Divisions. Instead of focusing on the real news story of the video showing a flagrant execution, she invents a dispute purporting to show the Palestinian national movement in disarray.
This paragraph in particular irks:
“Mr. Alon was fatally shot by police officers early Sunday after he stabbed and wounded a 15-year-old Jewish boy on a road outside the Old City, according to the police. A video clip showed Mr. Alon being shot, apparently as he was trying to flee, with Israeli civilians in pursuit and shouting “Shoot him!”
In fact, no Israeli media has offered any proof that Alloun was the attacker who stabbed the Israeli. If you watch the video of the Alloun killing, he was not “apparently fleeing” the stabbing. He was fleeing the Israelis who were rushing at him. At one point, he says to his attackers: “Let me pass.” This is a youth being pursued by baying hounds, and seeking safety.
Why does the report not display the video of the Alloun killing in which the policeman exits his car and immediately murders Alloun without telling him to stop or saying anything to him? Why not note that when the policeman asks a bystander if Alloun had stabbed anyone, the bystander replies: “not yet.”
Why would the NY Times permit a regurgitation of police claims without offering any qualification or skepticism when no actual proof or evidence has been offered?
This is the rankest of journalism. Instead of providing illumination to readers in a dark hour of Israeli-Palestinian history, the Times gives us pandering and stenography.
Finally, there remains a possibility that Alloun was the attacker who stabbed the Israeli boy (the stabbing and later murder happened in the general vicinity). But there is not yet any firm evidence supporting this claim. The Times’ rush to judgment is irresponsible.
A minor quibble: though I am not an expert in Arabic (by any means), Hadid spells Alloun’s name “Alon.” That does not seem to be phonetically close to the spelling Electronic Intifada adopted and which I’ve used. The name Alon is a common Israeli name. But Palestinian?
JERUSALEM – Israeli forces on Tuesday raided the East Jerusalem mourning tent of a Palestinian teenager killed by Israeli forces in the early hours of Sunday.
The father of Fadi Alloun, 19, told Ma’an that Israeli forces and intelligence officers raided the tent in Beit Hanina and threw stun grenades and pepper-sprayed mourners.
They also removed Palestinian and Fatah flags from the tent and detained an unidentified youth, he said.
A Ma’an reporter said Israeli forces then fired stun grenades at cars leaving the mourning ceremony, including at the private vehicle of Fatah official Adnan Ghaith.
Israeli authorities on Monday night said they would not be handing over the body of 19-year-old Fadi Alloun to relatives, despite having agreed to do so earlier that day, a human rights lawyer told Ma’an.
Israeli authorities initially said the body would only be released on condition that no more than 70 Palestinians attend the funeral.
They also demanded that Alloun’s family pay a guarantee of 20,000 shekels ($5,200), which would have been refunded if the condition was met.
Alloun was shot dead by Israeli forces after he allegedly attempted to stab a 16-year-old Israeli in East Jerusalem early on Sunday.
However, Alloun’s family has disputed that he was involved in the attack, saying saying that Israeli forces shot him dead while he was fleeing from Israelis who were trying to attack him.
Al-Manar TV cameraman, Salah al-Zayyat, was shot by the Zionist soldiers at the Qalandiya checkpoint on Tuesday in the West Bank while he was shooting the occupation attacks against the Palestinian people.
According to Al-Manar TV correspondent, Zayyat was wounded by a bullet in the abdomen during the Zionist attacks, and he has undergone a surgery in Ramallah hospital to extract the metal pieces that infiltrated into his body.
“Three others were wounded by the Israeli attacks, and dozens of people suffered from asphyxia due to the use of toxic gases by the Israeli enemy were treated in the scene,” the reporter added.
The body of Abed al-Rahman Obeidallah at the funeral march
Bethlehem, occupied Palestine – The funeral of the 13-year old Abed al-Rahman Obeidallah, who was shot and killed by Israeli forces on his way home from school yesterday, took place today in Betlehem with over a thousand attendees. They marched from the Beit Jala hospital to Abeds house in Aida refugee camp. After the burial ceremony the mourning Palestinians were violently attacked by Israeli forces as they sprayed the streets with skunkwater and fired over a hundred tear-gas canisters, shot endless rounds of rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition. This resulted in more than 20 injuries. At least 13 Palestinians suffered from excessive tear-gas inhalation. At least 8 Palestinians were injured from rubber-coated steel bullets and at least 2 were shot with live ammunition.
Israeli forces sprayed the streets with skunk water
Excessive use of tear-gas by Israeli forces
As Israelis and Palestinians die in an upsurge of violence, The New York Times fails once again to give readers an honest look at the causes of this agonizing conflict. Missing from its pages is any real exposure of the brutal and illegal occupation of Palestine that underscores every aspect of the current crisis.
Thus we find a story today that focuses on the abstract: how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can “calibrate his response” to avoid provoking greater violence and satisfy his extremist opponents in the government. It is heavily weighted with Israeli punditry and refers to ongoing clashes and attacks, but it makes no effort to provide the essential context.
In this article by Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner the word “occupation” appears only in a quote by PLO official Hanan Ashrawi. “Palestine,” she says, “has been subject to the systematic and escalating violence of the occupation, whether in the form of settler-terrorism or at the hands of the Israeli military using live ammunition.”
Times readers are likely to dismiss her words as little more than rhetorical flourishes of the opposition, given that the newspaper has consistently failed to show the full reality of life for Palestinians, glossing over violence by soldiers and settlers and giving prominence to Palestinian attacks.
For instance, today’s report states that a Palestinian teenager was shot after he tried to stab an Israeli youth early Sunday, but it omits any mention that videos show he was chased down by a mob, shot by police, was carrying no knife and did not pose a threat to anyone in the area.
The story also says nothing of settler rampages throughout the West Bank in recent days, which have left dozens injured and forced the Red Crescent Society to declare a state of emergency after numerous attacks on its ambulances by both settlers and security forces.
Times readers rarely receive even a brief glimpse of what occupation means to Palestinians. The newspaper largely ignores the constant reports emanating from alternative media, the United Nations and monitoring groups that show how a sophisticated military power oppresses a nearly helpless population lacking even the most basic weapons for defense.
Readers remain ignorant of the Israeli abuse of Palestinian child prisoners, a situation that has been documented and criticized in numerous reports. They are unaware of the frequent Israeli attacks on Gaza fishermen and farmers and a recent United Kingdom report that states Israel has violated the 2014 ceasefire some 700 times since August of last year.
They hear nothing of the ethnic cleansing of the Jordan Valley, where Israeli troops harass the poorest and most vulnerable communities, burning their crops, destroying their tents and water systems and repeatedly forcing them from their homes for “maneuvers.”
They are unaware of the huge disparity in water supplies between the illegal settlements in the West Bank and the indigenous Palestinian villages, and they were never informed when hundreds of animals died in the West Bank community of Kafr Qaddoum this summer as Israeli officials cut off water deliveries during a stifling heat wave.
These constant, daily cruelties find no place in the Times, and readers likewise find no historical backdrop for the occupation. It is rarely, if ever, reported that Israel is in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a military occupying force and that the settlements are built in defiance of international law.
Without this backstory, it is not surprising when readers take Netanyahu’s claim at face value: that acts of resistance against the occupation are nothing but terrorist assaults arising out of a free-floating hatred of Jews.
Palestinians watch with dismay as Israel confiscates ever more land and resources, forcing the indigenous communities into poverty-stricken bantustans. This is the reality that is missing from the Times, deliberately obscured in the context-free reporting of Rudoren and Kershner.
ISM Gaza met the fisherman Sami Ali El Goga, 36, who lost his hand and part of his arm the 12th March 2007, when he was attacked by the Israeli navy. In the same attack his boat was completely destroyed and his 13-year-old nephew, who was in the boat with him, sustained shrapnel wounds throughout his body.
Eight years later he is still waiting for the assistance promised by several international agencies, as he hasn’t been able to work since the attack, and without the boat a 20-member-family lost its source of income.
On that day, Sami and his nephew had just reached the 1.5 miles naval blockade when the zionist army approached and started shooting rockets towards them. They attempted to escape to the closest beach, as there was no chance to reach the port. Once on the beach the shooting didn’t stop. Whilst attempting to escape from the boat with his nephew, it was hit by a rocket and in the explosion Sami was severely injured. He nearly bled to death waiting for medical assistance as the Israeli navy prevented any recue from reaching him until 30 minutes later.
After 3 hospitals in Gaza weren’t able to treat him the Palestinian Authority mediated in order that he could be treated in a Hospital in the ‘48 territories (AKA Israel), as the occupation had previously refused to allow him to exit Gaza. The doctors there amputated his hand and afterwards he was taken by the zionist intelligence for an interrogation before sending him back to Gaza.
This wasn’t the first attack Sami suffered, as another boat from his family had been stolen by the occupation in the past.
The UK government has said it intends to change legislation in order to prevent local councils divesting from the arms trade and Israeli human rights abuses.
Announcing the plans, a Conservative spokesperson said that “Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, alongside Labour-affiliated trade unions, are urging councils to use their procurement and pension policies to punish both Israel and the UK defence industry.”
The spokesperson continued: “Hard-left campaigns against British defence companies threaten to harm Britain’s £10 billion export trade, destroying British jobs, and hinder joint working with Israel to protect Britain from foreign cyber-attacks and terrorism.”
The proposed amendment to legislation will be aimed at stopping councils from incorporating the concerns of human rights campaigners into their pension and procurement policies.
According to Communities and Local Government Secretary Greg Clark, such a step would be a challenge to “the politics of division.”
The language used by the Conservatives, including the claim that divesting from companies complicit in Israeli atrocities “poison[s] community relations”, mirrors the rhetoric of pro-Israel lobby groups.
Clark added that “divisive policies undermine good community relations, and harm the economic security of families by pushing up council tax.” Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock said: “We will…prevent such playground politics undermining our international security.”
Palestinians displaced by Israeli strikes wait to get water from portable tanks near a makeshift encampment behind Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital, July 26, 2014. (Joe Catron)
UNITED NATIONS — Israeli restrictions on Palestinian water use, as well as damage to water supplies and infrastructure by both Israeli forces and Jewish settlers, continue to deplete the already limited water supplies available to millions of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“Water is used by the Israelis to achieve non-water interests, as a tool of punishment,” Dr. Abed Elrahman Tamimi, director of the Palestinian Hydrology Group in Ramallah, told MintPress News.
Meanwhile tens of thousands of Palestinians within Israel continue to lack access to running water, despite their citizenship in the state and the equality they should receive under its laws.
Israel has limited the water available to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank since its forces occupied the enclaves, placing them under military rule, in 1967.
‘Scandalously uneven, humiliating and infuriating’
The Oslo II Accord, signed by Israel and Palestine Liberation Organization on Sept. 28, 1995, formalized this disparity, imposing what Israeli newspaper Haaretz writer Amira Hass called “a scandalously uneven, humiliating and infuriating division of the water resources of the West Bank.”
The agreement afforded Palestinians 118 million cubic meters of water per year from the Mountain Aquifer that stretches into Israel from the West Bank, while obligating Israel to sell Palestinians a further 27.9 mcm annually at full price.
It also entitled Israel to claim 483 mcm per year – over four times as much – but allocated none to the Gaza Strip, which was left to rely on the small Coastal Aquifer.
According to its own terms, Oslo II should have terminated in Palestinian independence after five years, with a joint committee increasing Palestine’s water allocation through consensus in the meantime. Neither scenario has come to pass.
In coming years, Israel would make clear that it had no intention of ever ending its control of Palestinian water. A June 7, 1997 order reiterated its longstanding policy: “All the water in the land that was occupied again is the property of the State of Israel.”
Successive governments pushed new waves of settlement construction, universally considered war crimes under the fourth Geneva Convention, on Palestinian lands in the West Bank. By 2000, the number of settlers had swelled 26 percent.
Like earlier settlements, the sites of many new units were calculated to maximize Israeli control of Palestinian water. In 2001, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told Haaretz : “Is it possible today to concede control of the aquifer, which supplies a third of our water? Is it possible to cede the buffer zone in the Jordan Rift Valley? You know, it’s not by accident that the settlements are located where they are.”
Israeli measures to cement its occupation, along with provocative raids of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, ultimately produced the Second Intifada, a Palestinian uprising that erupted on Sept. 28, 2000, five years to the day after Oslo II.
A vicious water cycle
Palestinians currently use no more than 11 percent of the Mountain Aquifer, with Israel enjoying the rest, according to the Emergency Water, Sanitation and Hygiene group (EWASH), a coalition of 28 Palestinian and international agencies dealing with water issues in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, West Bank Palestinians purchase 50 mcm of water each year from Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, paying $50 million for the return of their own resources at prices up to three times those charged to Israeli consumers.
Oslo II obligated Israel to increase its water sales to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from 5 to 10 mcm annually during the supposed five-year “interim period.” But only this year, following widespread condemnation of its military operation against the besieged enclave last summer, did it finally do so, meeting 5 percent of the water needs of a population that has more than doubled.
On September 1, a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development report repeated a warning, first made by the UN’s Country Team for the occupied Palestinian territory in 2012, that the Gaza Strip could become unlivable by 2020.
UNCTAD cited the destruction of Gaza infrastructure during repeated Israeli offensives, including damage to 20-30% of the enclave’s water and sewer network, a water desalination plant, and 220 agricultural wells during last summer’s 51-day operation alone, as well as Israeli restrictions on economic development and reconstruction.
It also warned that “a severe water crisis” had forced the use of water from the Coastal Aquifer — 95% of it unfit for drinking — at levels “well above the recharge rate by over 100 million cubic meters, almost twice the sustainable rate.”
“The over-abstraction and scarcity of drinking water have been exacerbated by crumbling sanitation infrastructure, while the blockade creates chronic shortages of electricity and fuel, which in turn aggravate contamination and the water crisis,” the report said.
“The damage of contamination and over-abstraction is such that the aquifer may be unusable by 2016 and, if unaddressed, the damage may be irreversible by 2020.”
The total damage inflicted to the water sector by Israeli strikes last summer reached over $34 million, according to a report by the Palestinian Water Authority, although UNCTAD’s report says that “long-term repair of the accumulated damage and decay of the water and sanitation infrastructure will require $620 million.”
Palestinians have never extracted their full 118 mcm of water from the Mountain Aquifer, as Israeli restrictions on wells and other infrastructure across most of the West Bank prevent them from doing so.
These military orders stretch into the Gaza Strip, where the threat of airstrikes forces residents hoping to dig wells to first seek permits from the Israeli army.
While sometimes given there, such permission is usually denied in Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank under direct Israeli military administration, often on the claimed basis of Israeli security.
Israel targets unauthorized construction ruthlessly. Since the beginning of this year, its forces have destroyed 36 Palestinian water, hygiene and sanitation structures in Area C, usually citing their lack of permits, according to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs data reviewed by EWASH.
Rare permits come at high prices. A 2013 study found that Israel usually conditions its approval of Palestinian water projects on the Palestinian Authority’s acquiescence to the construction of new settlement infrastructure, forcing the occupied population to “consent to their own colonization.”
As Palestinians, particularly in agricultural communities, scramble to meet their needs for water, Israel’s demolition of the necessary infrastructure, from pipes in Kafr Qaddum and Khirbet Yarza to wells in Hebron, continues.
The pollution resulting from the destruction of wastewater treatment facilities has further damaged Gaza’s already depleted aquifer, rendering over 90 percent of local water unfit for drinking.
In the West Bank, 73.5 percent of Palestinians have expressed satisfaction with the quality of their water.
Yet the quantity remains woefully inadequate, as the average Palestinian can use only 70 liters of water per day – a figure that dips to 20 in some cases – while illegal Israeli settlers enjoy over 300. The World Health Organization suggests a minimum of 100 liters of water per day for sanitation, hygiene and consumption.
Confronted by a lack of water in some areas of the West Bank, and nearly all of the Gaza Strip, Palestinians face the “economic burden of purchasing water from tankers,” the Palestinian Hydrology Group’s Dr. Tamimi said.
In a March 2013 report, the Ramallah-based human rights group Al-Haq called Israel’s “demarcation of the population along racial lines,” their “segregation into different geographical areas” and the “use of ‘security’ to justify an institutionalized regime of domination and systematic oppression,” “the three pillars of Israel’s ‘water-apartheid.’”
“[A] second and disadvantaged Palestinian society living in the same territory is denied most of its basic rights,” Al-Haq stated. “Palestinians are forcibly confined to a land-locked archipelago of territory with minimal water resources available.”
This gross asymmetry extends inside Israel, where a June 2014 report by the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality found that 73,000 Palestinian Bedouin, living in villages unrecognized by the state, lacked sufficient running water.
Despite paying 30 percent more than other consumers for the meager supplies of water they received, the Israeli Ministry of Health did not monitor its quality.
Palestinian water supplies face further threats from pollution by Israeli waste, both dumped from nearby illegal settlements and shipped from inside Israel.
A June 2013 Israeli state report found that a third of sewage treatment facilities in settlements were either insufficient or inoperative.
The previous year, it reported, 2.2 mcm of waste had flowed from settlements directly into nearby waterways and cesspits.
As many settlements stand on hills, much of this untreated sewage then becomes the problem of neighboring Palestinian communities whose farmlands and groundwater it pollutes.
“The settlement wastewater goes to the aquifers and pollutes the groundwater,” Dr. Tamimi said.
The city of Salfit and nearby town of Kafr al-Deek have been repeatedly drenched with sewage from the settlements of Ariel and Yakir, most recently on Wednesday, affecting their agriculture and tourism, as well as local water supplies.
“Josephine,” a volunteer for the Ramallah-based International Solidarity Movement, noted that settlement pollution does not stop with sewage. “Many factories let out polluted water and waste into the water sources that Palestinians use,” she told MintPress.
In February, after Palestinian customs police discovered a truck transporting asbestos from Israel to a landfill in Tulkarem, the Palestinian Environment Quality Authority warned against attempts to smuggle Israeli waste into the West Bank.
‘A form of racism’
On July 2, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel announced that Israel’s High Court had ruled in favor of its clients, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who had faced years of water shortages and cutoffs.
Their neighborhoods, lying within the Jerusalem boundaries claimed by Israel but beyond its West Bank barrier, had been “perennially neglected by both municipal and national water authorities,” ACRI said.
The court’s ruling ordered the National Security Council to “investigate and work to mitigate the water crisis in East Jerusalem.”
By the following month, a new water crisis had gripped Palestinian communities throughout the West Bank as governorates in Hebron, Bethlehem, Nablus, Jenin and the Jordan Valley resorted to water schedules announcing planned cutoffs.
These windows of austerity, many Palestinians say, are nothing new. They often occur when demand for water is at its height, like during the hot summer months. Still, they never result in cutoffs inside illegal settlements or in Israel itself.
This disparate treatment, some think, aptly demonstrates the nature of the occupation itself. As Palestinian National Initiative leader Mustafa Barghouti put it: “Restricting water and electricity is a form of racism.”
Israel’s government no longer bothers to deny the intended permanence of its occupation. Last week, as Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely readied a diplomatic offensive against a pending European Union policy to label settlement products, she told the Times of Israel that withdrawals from “Judea and Samaria aren’t even on the list of options we’re offering the Palestinians.”
The occupied West Bank will remain under Israel’s “de facto sovereignty,” Hotovely said.
“It’s not a bargaining chip. It does not depend on the Palestinians’ goodwill. It’s the land of our forefathers. We don’t intend to evacuate it,” she continued, adding: “What I can promise is that Israel’s position will be very forceful and tough on this matter.”