Bodies of Water Lies — Tricks used in Vilifying Israel
Look below to see a photogenic demonstration with dozens of Israelis and Arabs bringing a water container to Arabs “kept thirsty” under the brutal Israeli “occupation” Well, I have news for you. It is not really new news, but news you have likely not read lately, if at all. In fact, it took me some time to discover this information even after I began exploring the academic literature looking for historical context for what is going on now. What is interesting is that even the academic articles discussing the problems with water resource management and policies related to Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) write as if history began in 1967. If they were actually to take into consideration historical developments at least between 1967 and the Oslo Accords, it would probably be difficult even for the anti-Israel academics and activists to make the claims they make today as seen in the following Facebook post, for example.
Tricks Used to Promote Water Lies Against Israel
You have surely heard or read the proclamations accusing Israel of stealing, not only “Palestinian” land, but also “Palestinian” water. There are several leftwing media sites and NGOs who jump on this bandwagon. They use three tricks in their lies against Israel. Let us begin by looking at a particular quote from one of these, Amnesty International:
Soon after Israel occupied the West Bank,. . . the Israeli military authorities consolidated complete power over all water resources and water-related infrastructure in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). 50 years on, Israel continues to control and restrict Palestinian access to water in the OPT to a level which neither meets their needs nor constitutes a fair distribution of shared water resources.
The anti-Israeli Israeli NGO, B’Tselem, says exactly the same thing in different words:
In 1967, Israel seized control of all water resources in the newly occupied territories. To this day, it retains exclusive control over all the water resources that lie between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, with the exception of a short section of the coastal aquifer that runs under the Gaza Strip. Israel uses the water as it sees fit, ignoring the needs of Palestinians . . .
Here is the first common trick — talking about the whole time period between 1967 and the present as if nothing significant happened during that time to change the way water was managed, as if there was no establishment in 1995 of an Arab political entity called the Palestinian Authority. There are, in fact, two distinct periods of time that must be dealt with separately when examining Israel’s behaviour vis a vis water management in Judea-Samaria: 1967-1995 and 1995 to the present.
The second trick is the total absence of any reference to the time between 1948 and 1967 during which Jordan had had responsibility for water management. What was that like? What did Israel find in Judea-Samaria when she took over responsibility for the land and the population there after 19 years of Jordanian occupation?
Israel even controls the collection of rain water throughout most of the West Bank, and rainwater harvesting cisterns owned by Palestinian communities are often destroyed by the Israeli army. As a result, some 180 Palestinian communities in rural areas in the occupied West Bank have no access to running water, according to OCHA. Even in towns and villages which are connected to the water network, the taps often run dry.
And here is the third trick: complaining about Area C without any indication that, not only is this area is under exclusive Israeli control by mutual agreement, but that there are two other areas, A and B, that are under PA control. Furthermore, these 180 communities are most likely illegal and that is the only reason why they have no running water; were they legal, they would have been connected to the water and energy grids. I would like to know which legal towns and village they claim often have no water. Knowing their names would allow fact checking regarding that accusation.
Ignored Time Periods
First, let us compare the situation in Judea-Samaria between 1948 and1967. According to water resources expert, Dr. Haim Gvirtzman, it was not until 1965 that Jordan drilled any new wells; these were low-volume but did bring the rate of water supply to 66 MCM/Y (million cubic meters per year) versus the 25 MCM/Y produced by the end of the mandatory period and up until 1965. Most of this water was for agricultural consumption.
Note that by 1967:
only four of the 708 Palestinian towns and villages were connected to modern water supply systems and had running water. [emphasis added]
Gvirtzman informs us that
Given the lack of running water in most towns and villages in 1967, the Israeli administration drilled deep, wide wells adjacent to most of the large urban centers and connected them through a network of piplines . . . in the first five years of the Israeli administration, the water supply to the Palestinians increased by 50 percent, most of which was designated for domestic consumption. [emphasis added]
It is instructive to see what he writes about the period of burgeoning Israeli re-settlement of communities in Judea-Samaria:
In the late 1970s and 1980s, as many new Jewish settlements were built in Judea and Samaria, they were connected to the Israeli National Water Carrier (that passes along the coastal plain) by long pipelines. Consequently, the Palestinian villages and towns located along the pipelines were connected to running water as well and the standard of living in these communities increased considerably. [emphasis added]
In this way, by the time the PA was created by means of the Oslo Accords, the four towns connected to running water in 1967 had increased to 309 and supply increased to 120 MCM/Y.
The Oslo Accords and Water Management
By mutual agreement, it was understood that water needs in the PA (not including Gaza) would increase by about 25 MCM/Y for the 5 years of the interim period that was supposed to lead to a final settlement between the PA and Israel (see the sections regarding water resources here). According to Gvirtzman:
It was also agreed that new water sources should be developed (for example, sewage recycling and seawater desalination) and that management of water sources must be coordinated. As well, both sides agreed to prevent contamination and treat sewage effluents.
For this purpose a joint Israeli-Palestinian water management commission (JWC) was set up with an equal number of Israeli and Palestinian members. The Israeli firm, Mekorot, maintained control over Israeli infrastructure and infrastructure serving the Palestinians was handed over to the PA.
In order for more remote Israeli communities in Judea-Samaria to be independent of the PA, Israeli communities were disconnected from networks predominantly providing water to Arab communities and connected to Mekorot. While the infrastructure serving these Arab towns was handed over to the PA, some nearby Palestinian villages, in fact, continued to be supplied by Mekorot.
By 2010, 641 of the 708 PA towns had been connected to the water infrastructure, and an additional 16 were under construction. Only about 50% of the approved new wells had been drilled but water supply had increased beyond the additional 25 MCM/Y in the Oslo Interim Agreement and reached 180 MCM/Y. Gvirtzman writes that political issues in the PA prevented the application of donated funds intended for the establishment of sewage treatment plants for all major PA cities, only one of which had been built.
The impact of political issues preventing cooperation between the PA and Israel regarding water management was repeated to me by a scientist working on related issues whose personal political leanings are center-left.
The Amnesty article goes on:
In November 1967 the Israeli authorities issued Military Order 158, which stated that Palestinians could not construct any new water installation without first obtaining a permit from the Israeli army. Since then, the extraction of water from any new source or the development of any new water infrastructure would require permits from Israel, which are near impossible to obtain. Palestinians living under Israel’s military occupation continue to suffer the devastating consequences of this order until today. They are unable to drill new water wells, install pumps or deepen existing wells, . .
First of all, they write this as if they are surprised that a government that finds itself responsible for a particular piece of land, would make sure that water management is in the hands of the government. Even if you believe that Israel occupied the so-called “West Bank”, exactly who should have had responsiblity for water management then, if not Israel? After all, it was previously under the auspices of the Jordanian government and there never was a Palestinian government in recent or ancient history. So should the Israeli government have left water resources management to unorganized and sometimes competitive families or clans as was the situation in Jordan before it got serious about water management in the mid-to-late 1950s? In fact, Jordan apparently concentrated its efforts around the Yarmuk River region and only began to organize water management in the Jordan Valley in the mid-1960s, neglecting totally the rest of the land they occupied, i.e., the South Hebron Hills and more (see: Water Resources in Jordan).
Secondly, in spite of the well-known difficulty in obtaining construction licenses in Area C, the section of Judea-Samaria controlled by Israel, it is a fact that, as of 2012, of the 66 wells approved, 24 had not yet been drilled. Yet the propagandists go on and on about how Israel does not allow Arabs to build new wells, forcing these (illegal) villages to truck in water containers or build illegal wells.
Then, when Israel destroys illegal wells, they scream about her inhumane treatment of Arabs without giving any consideration to the fact that illegal wells siphon off water from the legal Arab and Jewish wells and from water resources that are supposed to benefit them all. It is as if the activists do not understand that wells are part of a huge network and all tap into a limited underground resource thereby affecting all other wells in the network.
The water lies include the argument that, whereas Israel has access to 80% of the water resources, the PA has only 20%. In an email, Gvirtzman informed me that this was true in 1967. However, with time, the proportion is changing and now stands at 60-40. In fact, neither Israel nor the PA use the full amount of water allotted to them. Moreover, Israel has less need for natural water resources because of her desalination plants and recycling of wastewater. In spite of Israel sharing these technologies with the PA, the Palestinian authorities are not taking advantage of them. Drilling illegal wells is cheaper, it appears.
If anti-Israel activists had even the slightest desire to be honest, they would have had to at least mention in brackets or a footnote that in 1967 Israel found that only four of the 708 villages in Judea-Samaria had running water while by 1995, when Israel passed control over to the newly created Palestinian Authority (PA), there were over 300 villages connected to the water infrastructure. Contrary to claims that Israel seeks to steal water and land, and thus force the Arabs off the land, then, Israel actually increased water availability to the Arabs and is continuing to do so by providing the means for improved water management technologies.
However, the European Union and leftwing Israeli organizations and their American counterparts seem to prefer photogenic images of Israel destroying illegal wells and so-called “water campaigns” to illegal villages in the South Hebron Hills to the truth. In their guise of protecting the Arab “victims” of Israeli “brutality and discrimination” they work toward their real goal, which is the delegitimization of Israel — at least in Area C, if not from the river to the sea — and water lies is a perfectly useful tool.