Our regular Waterstink readers will know that we usually stick to technical or more social matters and keep well clear of political and moral issues. However yesterday we were saddened if not frankly appalled by an Amnesty International report accusing Israel of denying the West Bank and Gaza access to adequate water via ‘most unreasonable‘ restrictions imposed by Israel on Palestinian access to this regionally scarce resource.

The Amnesty International report was covered by The Independent and paints a picture of many Palestinian families struggling, and often failing, to secure sufficient water for basic drinking, cleaning and agriculture uses whilst Israelis’ (including residents of Jewish settlements in the West Bank) appear to have all they need to support lush, irrigated farmland, gardens and even swimming pools. Irrigation sprinklers often water fields in the midday sun in Israeli settlements, such that much water is wasted by evaporating before it even reaches the ground.

The full Amnesty report goes on to claim that the 450,000 settlers who have taken up residence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the Six Day War in 1967 consume as much as or more water than the 2.3 million Palestinians living on the West Bank. It quotes overall Palestinian per capita consumption as around 70 litres per day (the WHO recommended minimum is 100 litres per day but in some rural communities Palestinians survive on barely 20 litres per day, which is the minimum amount recommended for domestic use in emergency situations). The Israeli daily per capita water consumption is apparently around 300 litres.

Of course the Oslo accords in the mid-1990s did agree highly unequal distribution of water, but the Amnesty report suggests disparities have worsened since then. The Independent’s report also suggests that settlers may be deliberately contaminating Palestinian rainwater cisterns, making an already dire situation even worse.

The basic human right to adequate water has long been a tenant of all civilised nations (and advocacy for this right has gained significant international momentum in recent decades). Surely such severe water discrimination between people living in the same region must also be regarded as a very serious and dangerous violation of human rights? Perhaps it could even be argued to be at least somewhat comparable to the herding of specific ethnic groups into resource-limited ghettos?

Surely Israel will be compassionate over this water issue and take some positive action to protect this human right? The alternative seems to be to inflict life-threatening hardships on Palestinians that echo ones they themselves suffered – and which of course every civilised nation absolutely abhorred.

Update (16/11/2016): Public domain featured image added from this source.

Roger Ford

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