by Domenic DeMasi / Staff Writer
With the five-year-old Syrian Civil War dominating much of the media spotlight when it comes to world news, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has taken a backseat recently. But the daily suffering Palestinians endure, remains omnipresent.
The Gaza Strip has been under a brutal siege for 10 years, and Israel just approved more illegal new settlements in the occupied West Bank. For the past decade, Gaza has occasionally made the headlines, because of frequent wars plaguing the territory. After Hamas won the 2006 elections and took control of the government there, a brief civil war broke out between Hamas and its rival Fatah. Afterward, Israel launched three deadly offensives on the Gaza Strip. The first in 2008-2009, then in 2012, and most recently in 2014. While these wars have sparked plenty of media coverage on the Gaza Strip, the non-stop suffering caused by the siege is rarely touched upon.
So what’s going on in Gaza and the West Bank when they aren’t being destroyed by Israeli attacks?
For one thing, the Palestinians are getting thirsty. According to Al Jazeera, “only an estimated 3 percent of Gaza’s water is suitable for drinking” while many Palestinians in the West Bank have sometimes “gone as long as 40 days without running water.”
Of course, the devastation to civilian infrastructure brought by the frequent wars in the Gaza Strip is one explanation. As soon as something is repaired or rebuilt, it is destroyed once again in the next Gaza War. But if one digs a little deeper they will find that in addition to the wars, Israel’s control of Palestinian water resources stemming from its occupation of the territories, including its siege of Gaza, has exponentially exacerbated Palestine’s water crisis.
Palestine’s water resources are controlled by the Israeli company Mekorot. This past summer, the company announced water cuts for the West Bank, making water costs rise, adding another burden to Palestinian families already struggling to make ends meet.
Meanwhile in Gaza, only one aquifer is used to support the entire population of nearly two million people, which has caused over-extraction. Newsweek Middle East reports that “Gaza Strip’s consumption need is approximately 180 to 200 million cubic meters of water a year, but it receives less than a third of that amount – about 55 to 60 million cubic meters a year – which shows a severe shortage in supply.”
As a result, “Gaza’s water contains a large concentration of chloride, while infiltration of untreated sewage has raised the levels of nitrates to two to eight times higher than the World Health Organization recommends.” At best, Gaza’s water is salty.
In 2012, the U.N. warned that the water supply in Gaza “may become unusable by 2016,” and the damages caused would be “irreversible by 2020,” according to Newsweek Middle East.
This problem could simply be solved by Israel putting an end to its siege of Gaza, which prevents most of the materials necessary to build new infrastructure, including new aquifers, from entering.
These actions are part of a wider political move by Israel to impose its interests and control over the Palestinians and to encroach even further into their territories. Israel’s inhumane tactic of water control to squash Palestinian resistance is nothing new either. Even in Israel’s earliest days, during the Israeli War Of Independence, “Zionist militias cut off the water supply to scores of Palestinian villages around Jerusalem to facilitate the ethnic cleansing of that region. During the Nakba (or Catastrophe) of 1948, whenever a village or a town was conquered, the militias would immediately demolish its wells to prevent the inhabitants from returning,” Toward Freedom reported.
Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is inhumane, brutal and unacceptable for the international community to allow continue. Unfortunately, it has always been this way. In fact, the U.S. recently rewarded Israel with a $38 billion military aid package despite Israel’s egregious human rights record. The time is now to demand an end to these continual violations to international law.
The international community needs to treat Israel as a rogue state until there is finally an end to the siege, an end to Israel’s settler colonialism in the West Bank, and until Palestinians are finally granted their long-awaited rights to self-determination, including control over their own resources.
Sources to check out if interested: