Water is a Weapon in the Battle of Racial Discrimination

By Dr. Mustapha Al-Barghouthi

The production of water in the West Bank is estimated at 932 million cubic meters annually, of which Israel steals at least 800 million cubic meters. In essence, this means it takes over 86% of the total amount of water in the West Bank.

A Palestinian citizen in the Occupied Territories receives not more than 50 cubic meters of water annually, while an illegal Israeli settler receives 2400 cubic meters of water annually, 48 times more than what Palestinians, the owners of the land, are entitled to.

However, this issue extends still further than this. Palestinians pay double what Israelis do to purchase their own, stolen water from the Israelis.

96% of Gaza’s water of Gaza’s water, according to international reports, is not fit for human consumption due to high levels of salt, pollution and sewage.

Palestinians are not allowed to dig water-wells deeper than 100 meters, and this is only allowed in the Eastern basin while they are strictly not allowed to do so in the Western basin.

In contrast, Israelis are allowed to dig at depths of 600-700 meters, and sometimes at 1000 meters, thereby drying a large number of water-wells in addition to shutting down other wells by force.

It is no coincidence that many settlements were built on lands under which the most important water basins in the West Bank exist.

The Israeli occupation authorities control water distribution. Recently, it decided to reduce the supply of water to large areas in the West Bank, with 40% of the total amount provided to Palestinians reduced, thus ensuring no disruption to water provided to illegal settlements in the West Bank.

This is the reason why our cities and villages are currently suffering from the lack of water in the summer. This is why thousands of households are forced to live on less water during the burning hot days of summer, or resort to purchase water at very expensive prices despite their limited income.

What I have mentioned is just half of the story. The larger tragedy that the Gaza Strip is living, is the second half. Israel built dams in order to prevent rainwater from Hebron’s mountains from reaching the aquifer. Gaza’s water was extremely overused by the Israeli settlements before they were dismantled (in 2005).

96% of Gaza’s water, according to international reports, is not fit for human consumption due to high levels of salt and pollution and due to the continuing water, sewage and lack of construction.

The United Nation estimates that Gaza will not be uninhabitable by 2020.

Gaza is currently out of reach due to the siege and restrictions imposed on the Rafah crossing, but those who live in Gaza, or those who managed to visit it, know well what it is like to shower with salty water, or even drink a cup of salty and bitter water.

An Israeli Rabbi, Shlomo Mlmad, has shamelessly called on Israeli settlers to poison Palestinian water-wells, amidst calls for murder and terror. Such a call would have led to his arrest and trial had he lived in a democratic country. However, he lives in Israel where an illegal occupation is legitimate, where racial discrimination is an official policy and where water has become one of the most dangerous weapons to solidify the discriminatory apartheid regime.

If anyone had the courage in any country to call for poisoning water used by Jewish people, which we of course object to, the Western world would be utterly outraged. In our case, no single newspaper, to the best of my knowledge nor any TV channel, mentioned the threat made by Shlomo Mlmad at all.

It is our duty to struggle for our right to our water, because the right to water equals the right to life. It is our right to expose and fight against using water as a weapon of racial discrimination. We know all too well that many propaganda outlets will call revealing the truth a form of incitement.

Palestinians will never leave (their land) no matter how much Israelis master racial discrimination, even if we are forced to squeeze cactus trees to look for water to quench our thirst.

Our struggle and unity for our right to have water and life is the best means to achieve our goals and to end the racial discrimination under which we are forced to exist. 

-Dr. Mustapha Al-Barghouthi is the General Secretary of the Palestinian Initiative and a member of the Palestinian parliament. (This article was originally published in Arabic by Al-Quds Newspaper and was translated by the Palestine Chronicle.)

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