A West Bank water crisis for Palestinians only

When Israel’s national water company operates more than 40 wells in the West Bank, appropriates Palestinian water resources and controls the valves, is it any surprise that priority is given to Israeli settlements?

By Stephanie Westbrook, published at 972mag.com

Qarawat Bani Zeid is a small Palestinian town of 3,500 north of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. There are no Israeli settlements in the immediate vicinity. The route of Israel’s separation wall does not run through the area and Qarawat is in Area A — under the full control of the Palestinian Authority. And yet, Israel’s military occupation and discriminatory policies manage to cut into everyday life.

Palestinian children bringing water to school
Children bring water from home to the school in Qarawat Bani Zeid where water from the school’s well is not safe to drink. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

“Our biggest problem is water,” explained Sabri Arah, a member of the town council.
Qarawat sits atop the Western Aquifer, the largest and most productive sub-basin of the Mountain Aquifer, the main groundwater source in the West Bank, yet 80 percent of the town’s taps are dry. “Water is pumped out before it arrives to the town,” noted Arah.

Water pipe
New water infrastructure in the Jordan Valley. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

 

The company pumping the water out is Mekorot, Israel’s national water company. Mekorot not only operates more than 40 wells in the West Bank, appropriating Palestinian water resources, Israel also effectively controls the valves, deciding who gets water and who does not. It should be no surprise that priority is given to Israeli settlements while service to Palestinian towns is routinely reduced or cut off.

The right to water was the focus of a recent delegation of the Italian Forum of Water Movements visiting Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Israel as part of the Beyond Walls project of Servizio Civile Internazionale, an Italian NGO committed to human rights and social justice.

Last December, during the Italy-Israel bilateral summit, a cooperation agreement was signed between Mekorot and Acea, Italy’s largest water utility.

Water tanker
Water tanker in the village of At Tuwani, South Hebron Hills. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Together with Palestine solidarity groups, Italian water movements have been waging a campaign calling on Acea, as well as the City of Rome, a majority shareholder in the company, to cancel the agreement due to Mekorot’s violations of international law.
The main goal of the trip was to gather documentation and direct testimony to support the campaign against the Mekorot agreement, identifying ways to further involve Palestinian groups.

Mekorot’s role in water privatization around the world was an added incentive for Italian water movements to get involved. Water as a common good has been their focus of the movements, which have been hugely successful, several times over.

Water tanker on the road
Water tanker near the village of Nabi Saleh. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

 

In 2010, over 1.4 million signatures forced a national Italian referendum on the issue. In June 2011, over 26 million ballots were cast, meeting the quorum for the first time since 1995, with a crushing majority of over 95 percent voting in favor of keeping water public.

Despite what could not have been a more clear indication, successive governments have attempted to circumvent the public’s will and the referendum remains unimplemented.

The Palestinians we met were able to relate to this turn of events. They, too, have to continually fight for their rights. Evidence of Israel’s discriminatory policies, which create an artificial water crisis affecting only one people, was everywhere to be seen.

Man looking in a well
Well in the Bedouin village of al-Mufaqarah, South Hebron Hills. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

 

At the Aida refugee camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem, a cramped, overcrowded home to about 5000 people, nearly 40 percent under the age of 14, water from the mains comes an average of 6 hours per week.

People at a checkpoint
Palestinian workers returning from Israel at the Nil’in checkpoint. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

In his award-winning short film “Everyday Nakba”, Mohammed al Azzeh, of the camp’s Lajee Center, captures the joy and the frantic rush to get the pumps working to fill rooftop tanks the moment the water comes on.

“Look at the settlement of Gilo next door. Do you see any water tanks on their roofs?” asked Azzeh. “They have water 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Palestinian rooftops
Rooftops jam-packed with water tanks in the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

 

The delegation also visited Palestinian communities within Israel, like Al Araqib where, despite being Israeli citizens, residents face nearly identical policies denying them access to water.

Tankers in the desert
Tanker trucks bring water to trees planted by the Jewish National Fund at Al Araqib in the Naqab (Negev). (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Across the world, as the part of the international campaign against Mekorot, those working for Palestinian rights have joined forces with those struggling against the privatization of water to denounce Mekorot’s role in both denying Palestinians access to water and in the commodification of a fundamental common good.

Stephanie Westbrook is a U.S. citizen based in Rome, Italy. Her articles have been published by Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Electronic Intifada, In These Times and Z Magazine. Follow her on Twitter at @stephinrome.

#PalestinaOlive: Tra olive e resistenza

#PalestinaOlive: Tra olive e resistenza

Raccogliere olive, accompagnare i contadini, ma soprattutto “far sentire ai palestinesi che non sono soli”. Il racconto dei volontari del progetto ICP, appena tornati da un mese di attività nei Territori Occupati.

di Cecilia Dalla Negra, OsservatorioIraq

Palestina fiore nella bomba

Raccogliere olive, accompagnare la popolazione locale sulle proprie terre, ma soprattutto “far sentire ai palestinesi che non sono soli”: è stato questo il lavoro dei ragazzi che hanno preso parte al progetto “Interventi Civili di Pace (ICP)” in Palestina tra settembre e ottobre scorso.

Un progetto giunto ormai al suo quinto anno, che si ripete grazie all’impegno e alla volontà di un gruppo di associazioni italiane e palestinesi (PSCC, Servizio Civile Internazionale, Un ponte per…, Assopace Palestina, IPRI-Rete CCP e Centro Studi Sereno Regis).

Un mese nei Territori occupati, tra i villaggi dove i Comitati popolari di resistenza nonviolenta resistono e manifestano ogni venerdì; tra le comunità, vicino alle persone, per accompagnare i contadini nella raccolta delle olive, tentando di mitigare con la presenza internazionale la violenza indiscriminata di militari israeliani e coloni durante il lavoro agricolo.

“Soprattutto per noi era importante che non si sentissero soli”, raccontano i ragazzi, che durante il loro soggiorno in Palestina si sono ribattezzati “Zeituna Resistente”, l’oliva che resiste.

Appena rientrati in Italia sono un po’ spaesati, come capita al ritorno da un viaggio che è stato soprattutto esperienza diretta, conoscenza, relazioni umane.

“Non conta la quantità di olive che hai raccolto, ma i rapporti personali che si sono intrecciati, il legame con le famiglie e con gli attivisti, la possibilità di raccontare e farsi raccontare, far sentire la propria solidarietà mettendo in campo corpi ed energie”, spiegano i ragazzi.

Palestina ragazzo e militareE la possibilità, anche, di fare “da cassa di risonanza” per una realtà che scompare tra le pieghe di una cronaca parziale.

“Attraverso il blog che abbiamo aggiornato giorno dopo giorno”, spiegano, “abbiamo avuto la possibilità di raccontare, anche in modo molto semplice e diretto, una realtà che vivevamo ogni giorno. Far conoscere a qualcuno che magari non è esperto la realtà palestinese, quello che accade ogni giorno”.

Un lavoro quotidiano coordinato dal Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC), parte di questo progetto, gruppo che dal 2009 orchestra il lavoro e la resistenza dei Comitati popolari nei diversi villaggi, e supporta i volontari quando arrivano in Palestina.

Un impegno che a volte può sembrare solo una goccia nell’oceano: “I problemi sono talmente tanti, e talmente grandi, che a volte il senso di impotenza ti coglie. Ma i legami che abbiamo stretto e la continuità che si sta dando a questo progetto ci permettono comunque di tenere un riflettore sempre accesso sulla Palestina, e impedire un piano israeliano fin troppo chiaro: normalizzare la situazione in un paese che normale non è, perché si possa continuare a fare quello che si sta facendo”.

Al Massara, Kufr Qaddum, Ramallah, Nablus: hanno attraversato i Territori mentre lì si ripercuotevano le conseguenze di quanto da poco accaduto a Gaza, con l’ultima offensiva israeliana dell’estate scorsa; mentre gli shabab manifestavano, come accade in queste ore, e a reprimerli arrivava anche la polizia palestinese.

Un fatto “sconcertante” secondo i ragazzi, che parlano di una “silent intifada” che sembra prendere piede per le strade della Palestina occupata.

“Eppure sembra che dietro ci sia una precisa strategia israeliana: quella di alzare e abbassare continuamente il livello della tensione e la militarizzazione nei Territori, un tira e molla fatto ad arte per sfiancare la popolazione”. Nelle ore in cui veniva bombardata Gaza ancora una volta i volontari non erano in Palestina, ma in autunno se ne parlava ancora.

Palestina muro“Tra i palestinesi c’è sempre una solidarietà altissima, purtroppo però si tratta di due realtà completamente separate: una scelta funzionale agli interessi di Israele”, commentano. “E la divisione di Hamas e Fatah, e dei quadri politici in generale, certo non aiuta. C’è uno scollamento sempre più forte con la popolazione, una lotta interna tra volontà popolare e autorità politica”.

È quella volontà popolare che i Comitati di resistenza nonviolenta cercano di intercettare. E di veicolare, a volte purtroppo con scarsi risultati.

Forse anche perché “la popolazione è sfinita, il ricordo della seconda Intifada è ancora molto forte, e la gente in fondo vorrebbe solo una vita normale”, raccontano. “Se si considera poi che l’economia palestinese è ormai completamente dipendente da quella israeliana, e che tante famiglie sopravvivono grazie al lavoro dentro le colonie, la situazione si complica ulteriormente”.

Nonostante le difficoltà, però, i volontari sono convinti che la loro esperienza, per quanto limitata, abbia avuto un significato importante.

“Per tutto quello che abbiamo imparato, e per quello che potremo raccontare. Se riusciamo ad avvicinare anche solo qualche amico o parente alla questione, sarà già un buon risultato”.

Restano convinti, ora più che mai, che la Palestina sia “un paradigma di molte altre lotte nel mondo in cui in una situazione di conflitto i rapporti di forza sono asimmetrici. Basti pensare al fenomeno globale del land grabbing: ci sono migliaia di contadini in tutto il mondo che lottano per difendere la propria terra, e la Palestina in qualche modo li unisce”.

La speranza che dai fatti di sangue degli ultimi giorni si possa uscire, e costruire qualcosa di positivo per il futuro non li abbandona.

Magari un maggiore sostegno ai movimenti di resistenza. Perché, come ricordano, “la gente è stanca di lottare. Ma anche di vivere sotto occupazione militare”.
Foto dal blog “Interventi Civili di Pace (ICP)”

#Water4Palestine: How do you tell the difference between an Israeli settlement and a Palestinian town?

Israeli settlements vs Palestinian towns
Photo by Cinzia Di Napoli

By Stephanie Westbrook

How do you tell the difference between an Israeli settlement and a Palestinian town? Just look at the rooftops.” That was advice given to a delegation of activists from the Italian movements against water privatization visiting Palestinian and Bedouin communities in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel as part of SCI Italy’s Beyond Walls project.

The rooftops of Palestinian houses are dotted with water tanks as a reserve for water that is never sufficient. However, it is not water that is lacking, but access. Israel’s discriminatory policies have created a manufactured water crisis used as one of the tools to drive Palestinians from their land.

The main goal of the delegation was to document these policies in support of the campaign against the cooperation agreement signed between Israel’s national water company, Mekorot, and Acea, Italy’s largest water company.

Mekorot operates some 40 wells in the occupied West Bank and regularly reduces or cuts off water supplies to Palestinian communities, who are forced to purchase their own water from the Israeli company, in order to guarantee service to illegal Israeli settlements.

Israeli water policies towards Palestinians, and Mekorot’s role in implementing them, are perhaps most evident in the occupied Jordan Valley. The date palm plantations and greenhouses of Israeli agricultural settlements stretch out as far as the eye can see. Perched on the hills throughout the valley are Mekorot water tanks, while the company’s deep wells and pumping stations are drying up Palestinian water sources, leaving Palestinian towns, and the valley’s farmers, without sufficient water. Some Palestinian farmers have taken the drastic step of cutting down their own trees and crops. No longer able to work their own fields, many Palestinians have no other choice but to work as day laborers in the settlements.

In the Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem, where 13,000 refugees have lived on little more than one square kilometer since they were forced from their homes in 1948, having water often comes down to timing. Water is turned on just once every two weeks and being home that day becomes crucial, as does having electricity and a working pump to fill rooftop tanks. Next door, at the illegal Israeli settlement of Gilo there are no water tanks on the roofs and water runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

However, it is not just in the occupied West Bank that Israel is using denied access to water to force Palestinians from their land.

Although Al Araqib was founded in 1905 in the Naqab desert, the Israeli government considers it to be one of 176 so-called “unrecognized” villages. Israeli authorities refuse to provide even basic services to these villages, whose residents are citizens of Israel, including water and electricity. Making matters decidedly worse, since July 2010, Israel has demolished Al Araqib 76 times. Israel has confiscated the villages water tanks and declared it illegal to bring in water from outside the village. Meanwhile, not only is the neighboring Jewish Israeli settlement of Givot Bar, created just ten years ago, connected to the Israeli water network, it also refuses to sell water to the families of Al Araqib.

Demonstrating extraordinary sumud, or steadfastness, Palestinian communities have stood firm against Israeli policies, refusing to leave their land. And across the world, as part of the international campaign against Mekorot, groups working for Palestinian rights have joined forces with those struggling against the privatization of water to denounce Mekorot’s role in denying Palestinians access to water and oppose its international efforts to turn a profit from a vital common good. The Italian Forum of Water Movement and the No Acea-Mekorot campaign plan to use the first-hand accounts and documentation gathered during the trip to maintain pressure on Acea and the City of Rome, which owns a majority share in the company, to interrupt the agreement with Mekorot, defending the fundamental right to water, from Rome to Palestine.

Leggi anche: 

#Water4Palestine, Valle del Giordano il granaio della Palestina

#Water4Palestine, Welcome to Nabi Saleh

Per gli articoli della delegazione sul web:

www.acquabenecomune.org

www.dinamopress.it

bdsitalia.org

Hashtag

#Water4Palestine

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