Stealing Land and Water in the West Bank

All too often, the details of Palestinian life under Israeli occupation are glossed over. But recently, during a Knesset speech by the German Speaker of the European Parliament, Martin Schultz, one detail of such a life came under increased scrutiny.

Schultz brought up the issue of water insecurity in the West Bank, which led Israel’s right-wing representatives like Naftali Bennett to walk out in protest. Schultz worried that Palestinians don’t have sufficient control of or access to their own water resources, given that Israel essentially exercises control over their sovereignty. Bennett slammed the notion as ludicrous and the controversy became a debate over data and numbers.

The Jerusalem Post tries to clear up the facts:

The truth is that on average the Palestinians in the West Bank are allocated 60-70 liters of water per day, though there are areas in Zone C where there is no running water and the daily water consumption is only 20 liters per day. According to Mekorot(2011 figures), the average water consumption in Israel is 100-230 liters per day (including desalinated water).

There are no official figures regarding the average water consumption of the Jewish inhabitants in the territories (why?), but it is assumed to be much higher (some say even double) the figure for Israelis within the Green Line.

Anecdotes about West Bank Palestinians lacking access to sufficient water supply while they peer over the walls of a Jewish settlement block with pristine blue swimming pools are not exaggerated. A complex network of infrastructure leaves hundreds of thousands of Palestinians unconnected to the West Bank’s water networks when, of course, the Israeli settlements are not so unconnected.

More importantly, note the Post’s explanation of how Palestinians in the West Bank are allocated certain amounts of water by Israel. Palestinians can have water when and how Israel says they can. That is the central indignity of living under occupation.

And as Amira Hass at Haaretz notes, “Israel doesn’t give water to the Palestinians. Rather, it sells it to them at full price.”

The Palestinians would not have been forced to buy water from Israel if it were not an occupying power which controls their natural resource, and if it were not for the Oslo II Accords, which limit the volume of water they can produce, as well as the development and maintenance of their water infrastructure,” Hass adds.

The overwhelming reality of the Israeli occupation is that it controls the excruciating minutia of every detail of Palestinian life, from access to water, to building permits, to freedom of movement and expression. It is suffocating. And yet, Israel manages to frame the U.S.-led peace negotiations in a way that depicts Israel as the weaker, more vulnerable side.