Denying Palestinians Fair Access to Water – by Stephen Lendman
Water is essential to life. Denying it is criminal.
Water and sanitation are recognized as indispensable human rights. In July 2010, the General Assembly’s Resolution 64/292 affirmed it. It called on member states and international organizations to:
“provide financial resources, build capacity and transfer technology, particularly to development countries, in scaling up efforts to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all.”
Dozens of countries incorporated water rights in their constitutional or statute laws. Most, however, haven’t fulfilled promised goals.
In her 2002 book titled, “Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit,” activist/ecologist Vandana Shiva called water rights natural and “usufructuary….water can be used but not owned.”
It belongs to everyone as an essential “basis of all life. (U)nder customary laws, the right to water has been accepted as a natural, social fact.”
Shiva’s nine water democracy principles, include:
(1) it’s nature’s gift;
(2) it’s essential to life;
(3) “life is interconnected through water;”
(4) it must be free “for sustenance needs;”
(5) it’s limited and exhaustible;
(6) it must be conserved;
(7) it’s a commons;
(8) “no one has a right to overuse, abuse, waste, pollute,” or own it; it belongs to everyone; it can’t be treated as a commodity; and
(9) there’s no substitute.
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) affirms adequate clean water as an essential human right.
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ (CESCR) Comment No. 15 states:
“(T)he human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses.”
In violation, Israel arbitrarily disconnects or excludes Palestinians from water sources, services or facilities. It contributes to polluting and reducing their resources. It fails to protect their distribution systems.
It hasn’t adopted or implemented a water policy designed to ensure equitable supplies for everyone. It also failed to provide Palestinians with essential minimum availability to allocate disproportionate amounts to settlers and Israeli Jews.
Al-Haq’s Report on Israel’s Water Policy
On November 29, the human rights organization Al-Haq published a report titled, “The Right to Water – A Policy of Denial and Forced Displacement in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” saying:
For many years, Palestinians “suffered from a shortage of clean, safe water.” With several productive aquifers, the Jordan River, and other natural water sources, scarcity’s not the issue.
Israeli policy’s at fault. By appropriating and controlling Palestinian water sources, unequal distribution resulted. Systematic discrimination allocates most water to Israel, its settlements, and East Jerusalem’s Jewish communities.
As a result, Palestinians have been gravely impacted. Around 313,000 people in 113 communities aren’t connected to a water network. They depend on costly private sources delivered by truck. Another 50,000 in 151 communities have less than 30 liters per capita daily (lpcd).
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends minimally 100 lpcd. Average daily Palestinian consumption is 70 lpcd. Many communities get only 20. WHO calls it the minimum amount for “short-term survival” in emergency/disaster situations.
The inequality level between Jews and Arabs is appalling. Israel’s Dead Sea Mitzpe Shalem and Qalya settlements consume about 700 lpcd. Beda’ot and Ro’i Jordan Valley settlements enjoy over 400 lpcd solely for household use.
Nearby Palestinian al-Hadidya village gets 22 lpcd. About 500,000 West Bank settlement Jews consume around six times more water than 2.5 million Palestinians. Including agricultural use, the disparity’s much greater.
Israel appropriates 70% of Eastern Aquifer water. Palestinians without springs, wells and other natural sources must travel long distances for access or pay exorbitant privatized prices. In contrast, settlers enjoy plentiful supplies for drinking, irrigation, gardens, and swimming pools.
Around 1.6 million Gazans have one source only – the Coastal Aquifer’s southern end. Israel denies importing water from natural supplies. To compensate, Palestinians over-used their one source at twice its annual sustainable yield. As a result, Gazan water quality experienced progressive deterioration.
While Gazans have marginally more water than West Bank Palestinians, 90 – 95% of it “is polluted by raw sewage and the infiltration of seawater, which is itself contaminated by raw sewage.”
As a result, serious waterborne diseases are common, including “watery diarrhea and acute bloody diarrhea.” Both are major causes of death. In addition, the Coastal Aquifer has nitrate levels exceeding WHO standards by up to 1,600% and chloride ones of 1,200%.
Under siege, moreover, materials necessary to improve water and sanitation infrastructure are denied. Through mid-2011, 17 water and sanitation projects were on indefinite hold due to lack of what’s needed to implement them.
It’s estimated that all natural Gazan water will be unusable by 2016. As a result, the Strip will be unfit for human habitation.
In the West Bank’s Israeli controlled Area C, Palestinian cisterns, wells and springs are regularly destroyed. At times, water infrastructure is also to free more water up for settlers. Israel also targets rooftop storage containers, water tankers and tractors used to transport water, including ones belonging to humanitarian organizations.
From January – July 2011, 755 Palestinians were forcibly displaced following destruction of their homes as well as water and irrigation infrastructure. The welfare of another 1,400 were also adversely affected.
In addition, settlers regularly attack Palestinian water sources and infrastructure. Vandalism includes filling a distribution pipe with concrete, dumping raw sewage, diapers, and chicken carcasses into spring water, and using large rocks to impede its flow. These and others like them happen regularly with impunity.
Israel’s Separation Wall not only steals Palestinian land, it denies them access, including often to water sources. In fact, the Wall’s path “clearly places control of Palestinian water sources in the hands of Israel.” It entirely denies them access to the water-rich Western Aquifer.
Cut off from two-thirds of their land, Jayyus villagers get only 23 lpcd. In summer, it’s rationed to two hours daily. Qalqilya’s 43,000 residents have been separated from 80% of their agricultural land as well as 11 wells.
International law obligates Israel to fulfill its occupying power obligations. So do numerous UN resolutions about respecting Fourth Geneva and other human rights and humanitarian law provisions.
Israel spurns all international laws with impunity, including to nondiscrimination, work, housing, property, healthcare, education, and environmental health. They get away with it because world leaders don’t enforce accountability.
A Final Comment
On November 30, the Palestinian Center for Human Right (PCHR) noted that December 3 marks UN International Day of Disabled Persons (IDoDP).
In 1992, the General Assembly proclaimed it to stress respecting, advocating and protecting their rights globally.
Nonetheless, disabled Palestinians are abused, not protected. Since January, Israeli soldiers killed two disabled children, saying they encroached too close to Israel’s border. Testimonial evidence refutes it.
Moreover, one child suffered from partial mental disability and speech impediments. Yet, 400 meters inside Gaza, ten bullets, mostly to the head, killed him. Shrapnel from an Israeli shell killed the second one. He was 300 meters from Israel’s border.
Since the beginning of the September 2000 second Intifada, Israeli soldiers killed 89 disabled Palestinians, including 15 children and seven women. They also wounded at least another 105.
Moreover, 45 physically or emotionally disabled Palestinians are incarcerated in Israeli prisons under appalling conditions. Some suffer from muscle paralysis or atrophy. Others lost limbs. Some were offered essential medical care only in exchange for spying for Israel.
Others experienced other abusive treatment. Overall, security forces make no effort to avoid further harm to disabled Palestinians. Instead of helping and protecting them, they exploit their limitations to enforce occupation harshness.
Rights afforded them under the 1999 Palestinian Disability Law Number 4 are denied, including Article Two, stating:
“The disabled have the right to enjoy a free life, dignified living, and various services in manner equal to that of other citizens and he/she shall have the same rights and obligations that are within his/her capabilities. It is not permissible to prevent any disabled (person) from enjoying these rights because of his/her disability.”
Like its other legal obligations, Israel spurns special protections for disabled persons, children, the elderly, infirm and ill.
In Israel and Occupied Palestine, only Jews matter. Increasingly, only privileged ones like in America and other Western societies.
Others are marginalized, exploited and forgotten. Social justice long ago was abandoned to enrich profiteers and top 1% elites.
Why else would rage be spreading everywhere for rights much too long denied. In Occupied Palestine, they never existed, even for those most in need.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.