To the Editor:
“Clean drinking water is a human right,” says the N.H. Palestine Education Network (N.H. PEN). N.H. PEN has supported the “Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine,” a Massachusetts based organization (waterjusticeinpalestine.org) that has sponsored walks to raise funds to assist Palestinians who live in either Gaza or in the West Bank to gain access to water. Another Massachusetts group linked to the “Alliance” is 1for3.org, which works closely with Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, Palestine, to promote water security.
According to the Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine, “95 percent of the Gaza Strip’s two million residents, including 991,400 children, are without clean drinking water due to Israel’s continuing destruction of Palestinian wells and the water infrastructure, and its refusal to repair damage from its military onslaughts.” When Israel limits the electricity to Gaza to four hours a day to power the four dilapidated power plants and the necessary fuel to run them, the children of Gaza suffer. What the Israeli leaders are doing to the children and the elderly constitute, for many, crimes against humanity. Moreover, the coronavirus has begun to impact Palestinians as well. People are told to keep washing hands with soap and water so as to protect against infections, but what if there is no easy access to water?
Following the 1967 “Six-Day War,” Israel took control of all water resources in the Palestinian Territories, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and in Gaza, except for one small aquifer which runs under the Gaza Strip. Sadly, this aquifer has been polluted and thus the water pumped from this source is so contaminated that 97 percent of it is unsafe to drink. As a result, many children suffer from various diseases such as dysentery, diarrhea, kidney disease and gastroenteritis.
The 13-year-long Israeli blockade has helped create a massive sanitation crisis in Gaza where tons of sewage, raw and untreated, flow directly into the Mediterranean. The UN’s World Health Organization predicts that unless drastic steps are taken to provide clean water and stop the tremendous discharge of waste Gaza will be uninhabitable by the end of 2020.
When visiting Palestine, I have stayed in the houses of Palestinians and observed that on some days the water supply is turned off by Israel. This compels the families to buy trucked in water which the Israeli company charges Palestinians three to four times higher prices than for Jewish families. Al Jazeera reports that, “While Israelis have access to around 240 liters of water per person per day, and illegal settlers over 300, Palestinians in the West Bank are left with 73 liters—well below the World Health Organization’s minimum standard of 100.” During one trip to a settlement outside of Jerusalem, I saw green lawns and a very large swimming pool and fully thriving gardens. Later that same week, I travelled to a Bedouin village where there is no connection to a water supply so they must buy expensive “Israeli” water. Their water consumption can drop to 20 liters of water per person per day.
In conclusion, Camilla Corradin of Al Jazeera says that ”Israel’s discriminatory water policies prove that it is using water as a tool to dominate Palestinians, exercise its power, and punish an entire population by deliberately depriving its inhabitants the most basic rights.” And, as shown, water security is one such human right. One hopes that someday Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and its brutal military occupation will end and that justice and peace will prevail.
Will Thomas, N.H. Palestine Education Network
If we were to give one percent of our war budget to organizations like the Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine and 1for3.org, that would do more for our real security than the other 99 percent.