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Palestinians Denied Access to Water - Palestinians Denied Access to Water

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Palestinians Denied Access to Water
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Oslo's Established Joint Water Committee (JWC)

 

AI called it a "pretense of cooperation," composed of Israeli and Palestinian representatives, ostensibly requiring both sides to agree on water sector activities. In fact, however, Israel dominates it, an international donor saying "The interaction between the two sides during the meetings can best be described as an exercise in subjugation and humiliation," Palestinians entirely shut out, needing Israeli permission for all water related activities, even minor ones, restricting supplies by limiting access, and destroying Palestinian facilities, including storage cisterns, agricultural pools and spring canals for harvested rainwater as well as unlawful water network connections.

Barring Water Access by the Separation Wall

A Jayyus hydrologist expressed angst saying:

"We are here and our water is there. Many farmers don't have permits to go to cultivate their land where the water is, and on this side of the wall we suffer from lack of water."

Tens of thousands of Palestinians are affected, separated from their land, farms and water resources and denied their means of livelihood - the Wall's route confiscating some of the most fertile, water-rich areas, Palestinians denied permission to use it.

Prior to the Wall's construction, Jayyus, near Qalqilya, was the region's food basket, its land some of the most fertile because water was plentiful. No longer, agricultural output falling to a fraction of its former level, making most families dependent on humanitarian aid. Other area villages were also affected, including Ras al-Tira, Dab'a, Wadi al-Rasha, and Ramadin, cut off and trapped in the "Alfei Menashe enclave," so-called because the Wall encompasses the Alfei Menashe settlement and much land around it. Qalqilya has been severely impacted, surrounded by the Wall on three sides, cut off from access to 80% of its agricultural land and 11 wells.

Movement Restrictions Affecting Water Access

Besides the Wall, they include hundreds of checkpoints, other barriers and various obstacles, including cement blocks, earth mounds and gates, creating a nightmarish system to negotiate, obstructing access and requiring detours, delays, and time-consuming journeys, what used to be less grueling.

According to a Susya resident:

"It takes me most of the day to go to the well, fill up the tanker and bring the water to the village....I have to rent the tractor, pay for fuel and spend a lot of money and time just to bring some water for our basic needs. At such a high cost, we cannot afford to buy water to irrigate the land....so we have no fodder for the sheep. We are being forced to sell some sheep because we cannot afford to feed them, but the sheep are our livelihood and if we are forced to sell them we will lose (it) for good."

Other towns and villages are just as impacted, seeing their way of life destroyed with few ways to compensate.

Military Attacks Destroying Water Infrastructure

Wells, water connections, cisterns, roof water tanks, mains and sewage conduits "have been routinely (destroyed by air strikes or) crushed by tanks and armoured vehicles during Israeli military incursions" in both Gaza and the West Bank, and efforts to repair damage have been obstructed or prevented, exposing residents to long periods without water, forcing them to rely on unsafe sources and consume less.

During Cast Lead, attacks caused millions of dollars of damage to Gaza's water supply, sewage and wastewater facilities and infrastructure. In northern Gaza, three facilities were destroyed and the emergency sewage treatment plant damaged, as well as water distribution networks. In central Gaza, the Sheikh 'Ajlin sewage treatment plant was damaged, causing raw waste to flood over a square km of agricultural and residential land, ruining crops and contaminating neighborhoods.

In northern and eastern Gaza, Israeli tanks and bulldozers destroyed or damaged water mains, leaving over 800,000 people without running water. More recently, contamination is still high, and repairs not made because needed parts and materials are banned.

A September 2009 UNEP report called Gaza's water resources in crisis before Cast Lead, its destruction and damage aggravating a bad situation, accelerating aquifer pollution and reducing the supply of available drinking water.

Settlers' Attacks on Water Facilities

Attacks are frequent, damaging, and done with impunity, Israeli authorities doing nothing to stop them or punish those responsible. "Indeed settler attacks (are) often perpetrated in the presence or with the knowledge or tacit consent of Israeli soldiers, and in some cases with their active participation."

Even if injuries or deaths occur, offenders aren't prosecuted, settlers getting carte blanche to pillage, destroy, and at times kill. AI and other human rights representatives have been targeted while investigating or documenting incidents, making them as vulnerable as Palestinians.

PA/PWA Failures and Mismanagement

Evidence reveals corruption, mismanagement, a lack of transparency and accountability, an audit saying "chaos reigns in the water sector (because of) political/personal infighting...."

They're also hamstrung by lack of control, a water and sanitation sector in duress, an insufficient water supply to meet needs, a dependence on international donors, their own self-interest prioritized, Israeli-imposed restrictions, and a population disenfranchised by decades of occupation.

As a result, both authorities face an impossible challenge, unable to provide enough water to millions of Palestinians, undermining their credibility.

Dependence on International Donors

Because of Israeli control over permission to pursue projects, international donors have borne the costs of emergency ones, including repairing damaged infrastructure and providing services to Palestinians who lost their homes and property and have no adequate access to water. Because of the siege, Gaza is especially impacted, its water sector damaged or destroyed, creating grave problems for the people dependent on it for survival.

International Law - The Right to Access Water

"Under international law, Israel, as the occupying power (has) well defined responsibilities to respect the Palestinians' human right to water, (and) must take deliberate, concrete and targeted steps to ensure this right is fulfilled and fully realized."

Various human rights laws are relevant, notably the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Fourth Geneva and both Hague Conventions also apply as binding international law, protecting civilian populations, Israel alone contending these obligations don't apply to OPT Palestinians, just its own settlers, despite UN bodies and ICJ rulings stating otherwise, including the right to water, required to be adequate for human dignity, life and health under ICESCR's Articles 11 and 12.

It must be available, sufficient, safe, accessible, and affordable on a non-discriminatory basis, including to the most vulnerable and marginalized, Israel prohibited from interfering directly or indirectly with its delivery, the obligation including:

"refraining from engaging in any practice or activity that denies or limits equal access to adequate water; arbitrarily interfering with customary or traditional arrangements for water allocation; unlawfully diminishing or polluting water....; and limiting access to, or destroying, water services and infrastructure as a punitive measure," including during armed conflicts.

Systematically, Israel has been grievously in breach, spurning its well-defined obligations, harming millions of Palestinians, including their right to food, clean water, and life, inviolable ones under international law, obligating it supply what no one can live without, requiring that member states assure it, and hold Israel accountable otherwise, assuring no one is above the law - not Israel or its Washington paymaster/partner.


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