Middle East Monitor / August 21, 2023
Palestinian villages and cities across the occupied West Bank are suffering from severe water shortages, while the illegal Jewish settlements that surround them are flourishing, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported yesterday.
Describing the situation in the West Bank, Haaretz wrote: “Across the dusty villages of the occupied West Bank, where Israeli water pipes don’t reach, date palms have been left to die. Greenhouses are empty and deserted.”
It reported the Palestinians saying “they can barely get enough water to bathe their children and wash their clothes — let alone sustain livestock and grow fruit trees.”
The Israeli newspaper compared the situation with the illegal Jewish-only settlements engulfing the Palestinians, saying they “look like oases,” stating: “Wildflowers burst through the soil. Farmed fish swim in neat rows of ponds. Children splash in community pools.”
“People are thirsty, the crops are thirsty,” Hazeh Daraghmeh, a 63-year-old Palestinian date farmer in the Jiftlik area of Jordan Valley, told Haaretz. “They [the Israeli occupation authorities] are trying to squeeze us step by step,” he added.
Across the West Bank, Haaretz said, “water troubles have stalked Palestinian towns and cities since interim peace accords of the 1990s gave Israel control over 80 per cent of the West Bank’s water reserves — and most other aspects of Palestinian life.”
Eyal Hareuveni, author of a recent report on the water crisis from Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, told Haaretz: “The amount of water that Israel is supplying has not adapted to the needs of Palestinians and in many cases has not changed since the 1970s… The infrastructure is designed to benefit settlements.”
The illegal Jewish settlers who live in the occupied West Bank are connected to the Israeli water grid through a sophisticated network that provides water continuously, Haaretz said, but Palestinian cities are not. “So in the scorching summer, Palestinians get municipal water only sporadically,” it added.
“This is the hardest summer we have had in nine years,” said Palestinian Water Minister, Mazen Ghunaim, who accused Israel’s national water company of reducing water supplies to the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem and Hebron by 25 per cent for the past nine weeks.
While Ghunaim said the reason for the recent water cuts were “political,” Israel’s water authority claimed the reason was “technical.”
Since 2021, the Israeli occupation authorities have demolished nearly 160 unauthorized Palestinian reservoirs, sewage networks and wells across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to the United Nations humanitarian agency, OCHA.
The rate of demolition is quickening: Over the first half of 2023, authorities knocked down almost the same number of Palestinian water installations as they did all of last year.
In the herding communities of the northern Jordan Valley, Palestinian water consumption is just 26 litres (seven gallons) a day. That is so far below the World Health Organization’s minimum standard of 50-100 litres that it is ranked as a disaster zone, according to B’Tselem.
In contrast, Jewish settlers in the Jordan Valley consume 400-700 litres per capita a day on average, the rights group said. This shows the difference very clearly.