Tony Greenstein | 14 March 2020 | Post Views:

Israel is systematically poisoning one million Palestinian children yet Labour’s Jon Lansman, Owen Jones and Jennie Formby say that such an accusation is ‘antisemitic’

For Six Months, 6 Palestinian Villages Had Running Water. Israel’s Army, ‘the most moral in the world’ Put a Stop to It

If you want to know what the IHRA and Labour’s ‘anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt is about, then you could do worse than read the 3 articles below. Human life is not possible without water and that is why Israel is making it as hard as possible for Palestinians to have direct access to clean, running water. The intent behind their poisoning of Palestinian water sources, the theft of their aquifer water and the destruction of water pipes that enable the transmission of water is simple – transfer.

Israel’s hostility to Palestinian obtaining water, such that they are forced to pay for their own water, is ethnic cleansing. But if you dare to say this then Jon Lansman, Owen Jones and Jennie Formby will call you an ‘anti-Semite’. It is what is called a ‘trope’.

The IHRA misdefinition of ‘antisemitism’ gives as an illustration of ‘antisemitism’:

Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

Gaza moonscape after Israeli bombardment

One such ‘stereotypical myth’ about Jews is that in medieval times they poisoned the wells of non-Jews. According to Wikipedia it ‘was one of the three gravest antisemitic accusations made against Jews during this period.’There is no doubt that the allegations made against Jews in the Middle Ages were without substance. It was the product of superstition, Christian anti-Semitism and the need for a scapegoat to explain e.g. the Black Death.

Palestinian accusations of water theft and poisoning are treated as ‘antisemitic’ by Israel’s right-wing Jerusalem Post because of false accusations against Jews in the Middle Ages

However Israel is not a Jew. It is a settler-colonial state, ‘Jewish’ only in so far as Jews are privileged. It is also a documented fact that Israel does poison Palestinian wells, water and farmland.

In February 2015 the Board of Deputies’ then Treasurer, Laurence Brass saw a rusty car that settlers had pushed into a Palestinian well. According to the IHRA Laurence Brass is anti-Semitic, for reporting what he saw!

Brass, who had gone on a trip to the West Bank, saw things that shocked him. Yet he was viciously and bitterly criticised for having spoken out.

Brass is a liberal Zionist, a member of Yachad with a house in Israel. He is no left-winger yet what he described should have prompted the Board, if they had any sense of ethics and values, as opposed to seeing their role as an Israeli Solidarity Society, to protest. Instead Brass was forced to resign.

As Laurance Brass Demonstrated You Cannot Oppose Israel’s Racist Treatment of Palestinians and remain an Officer of the Board of Deputies

Brass described to the Jewish Chronicle in an article, Board of Deputies treasurer ‘shocked’ by visit to West Bank his experience Susiya:

“The village spokesman told us that he was very worried at the prospect of local Palestinian children being attacked by settlers on their way to school.

Just 48 hours after we left, a six-year-old girl from the neighbouring village of Atuwani was admitted to hospital with head wounds after being stoned on her way to school, just as we had been warned might occur.

I was shocked that this type of behaviour goes unchecked by the IDF.”

Mr Brass added that the abiding memory of his visit would be “the sight of an old rusty car being dumped down the village well, thus preventing the locals from having fresh water.

“I had also not known previously that, on the majority of the road signs in the area, the Arabic words have been deliberately obliterated. I had also not previously appreciated the ever increasing number of settler outposts which have sprung up all over Area C, which, although illegal, no one appears willing to prevent.”

Mr Brass said:

“The miserable existence of the Palestinian villagers we met will stay with me for a long time. It was difficult to reconcile that we were celebrating the festival of freedom, while these villagers were surviving in such squalid surroundings. I returned very depressed.”

Yet the Israel lobby, people who, like Luke Akehurst, are paid large salaries, defend this behaviour. Their argument is that it is ‘illegal’ to build water pipes. Strange no Jewish settlers aren’t prosecuted. Even stranger the Israeli army has never entered a settlement and destroyed their water pipes!

Zionist propagandists like Gerald Steinberg of the semi-fascist NGO Monitor and ex-Labour MP Eric Moonman attacked Brass for speaking out.

But if you dare to mention ‘Israel Lobby’ Jennie Formby, Lansman and their faithful mouthpiece Owen Jones, will accuse you of ‘anti-Semitism’ as will Nareser Osei ([email protected]) the despicable woman who is the leading witch-hunter of socialists and Palestinian supporters at Labour HQ at Southside.

On resigning Brass said that:

‘There have been countless occasions over the last six years when I’ve been bursting to criticise the Israeli administration, but I’ve restrained myself.

“I want to be released from the chains of office to contribute to the wider debate on the Middle East, as well as on the critical political issues that I consider to be important here at home.”

We reach the absurd situation, as a result of the fake anti-semitism campaign, that something might be antisemitic even if it’s true! The idea that antisemitism is based on the truth is itself anti-Semitic but that is the situation that the adoption of the IHRA has led the Labour Party into.

Israeli bulldozer sets about destroying water infrastructure – this is why Israel’s army is ‘the most moral in the world’Destruction of Palestinian Water Infrastructure

Destruction of Palestinian Water Infrastructure

What possible reason could there be for Israeli forces to arrive in force, with excavating equipment, at the village of Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills, to dig up European Union funded pipes that had been laid to supply water to six villages and over a thousand people.

If you want to know why Israel is an apartheid state then all you need to do is to contrast the settlements, with their unlimited supply of (stolen) water with the water shortage that Palestinian communities experience.

This is what the Board of Deputies ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign is really about. After all, section 3 (d) of the Board’s Constitution under Aims, Purposes and Power contains the following clause:

Take such appropriate action as lies within its power to advance Israel’s security, welfare and standing.

The Board of Deputies’s ‘concern’ about anti-Semitism is in reality a concern or defending Israel right or wrong. The Board has never criticised racism in Israel still less the Zionist ideology that justifies it.

Palestinian children fill plastic gallons with drinking water from a vendor in Khan Younis. (AP)

There is only question one needs to ask.

What kind of state would uproot and destroy pipes carrying clean water to a Palestinian village?

It is a measure of the toothlessness of the European Union that instead of taking the cost of the equipment they destroyed from grants they give Israel, they continue to defend Israel as a ‘democracy’.

However we should remember that it’s not just Palestinians in the Occupied Territories who suffer from water shortage. Half of Israel’s Arab villages are ‘unrecognised’ and that means they have neither sewage or any other sort of facility, including electricity and running water. Could this happen to a Jewish community? Of course not. Israel is a Jewish state and therefore ALL Jewish communities are automatically recognised.

This is the kind of visceral racism that the Labour Party is defending today in its fight against ‘anti-Semitism’

Tony Greenstein

For Six Months, These Palestinian Villages Had Running Water. Israel Put a Stop to It

For six months, Palestinian villagers living on West Bank land that Israel deems a closed firing range saw their dream of running water come true. Then the Civil Administration put an end to it 

On February 13, 2019, Israeli forces arrived near the village of a-Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills. The forces used excavating equipment to unearth and destroy stretch of pipe, which was laid just months ago and supplied water to over 1,000 Palestinians. Residents say that without the system, “water has become every family’s largest expense.”

by Amira Hass, Ha’aretz Feb 22 2019

The dream that came true, in the form of a two-inch water line, was too good to be true. For about six months, 12 Palestinian West Bank villages in the South Hebron Hills enjoyed clean running water. That was until February 13, when staff from the Israeli Civil Administration, accompanied by soldiers and Border Police and a couple of bulldozers, arrived.

The troops dug up the pipes, cut and sawed them apart and watched the jets of water that spurted out. About 350 cubic meters of water were wasted. Of a 20 kilometer long (12 mile) network, the Civil Administration confiscated remnants and sections of a total of about 6 kilometers of piping. They loaded them on four garbage trucks emblazoned with the name of the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan on them.

The demolition work lasted six and a half hours. Construction of the water line network had taken about four months. It had been a clear act of civil rebellion in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King against one of the most brutal bans that Israel imposes on Palestinian communities in Area C, the portion of the West Bank under full Israeli control. It bars Palestinians from hooking into existing water infrastructure.

A little background

The residential caves in the Masafer Yatta village region south of Hebron and the ancient cisterns used for collecting rainwater confirm the local residents’ claim that their villages have existed for decades, long before the founding of the State of Israel. In the 1970s, Israel declared some 30,000 dunams (7,500 acres) in the area Firing Range 918.

In 1999, under the auspices of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the army expelled the residents of the villages and demolished their structures and water cisterns. The government claimed that the residents were trespassing on the firing range, even though these were their lands and they have lived in the area long before the West Bank was captured by Israel.

When the matter was brought to the High Court of Justice, the court approved a partial return to the villages but did not allow construction or hookups to utility infrastructure. Mediation attempts failed, because the state was demanding that the residents leave their villages and live in the West Bank town of Yatta and come to graze their flocks and work their land only on a few specific days per year.

But the residents continued to live in their homes, risking military raids and demolition action — including the demolition of public facilities such as schools, medical clinics and even toilets. They give up a lot to maintain their way of life as shepherds, but could not forgo water.

“The rainy season has grown much shorter in recent years, to only about 45 days a year,” explained Nidal Younes, the chairman of the Masafer Yatta council of villages. “In the past, we didn’t immediately fill the cisterns with rainwater, allowing them to be washed and cleaned first. Since the amount of rain has decreased, people stored water right away. It turns out the dirty water harmed the sheep and the people.”

The Big Missing Piece of the Kushner Plan: Water

One reason the Palestinians swiftly rejected the flawed U.S. peace plan was that it does nothing to address their claims for water rights.

Keith Johnson February 4, 2020, 1:02 PM

Among many other problematic aspects of the Trump administration’s peace plan for the Middle East, one glaring fault is its lack of any serious attention to the contentious question of how to divide up precious water resources between the Israelis and Palestinians.

One of the many reasons that the Palestinian leadership dismissed the proposal out of hand was that it included a demand for Palestinians to cede the water-rich West Bank and the entire Jordan Valley to Israel.

“What struck me when I looked at the plan is how devoid it was of a historical context. There was no recognition of the past agreements that dealt with water, or recognition of the steps that had been put into place to allow for water sharing, or recognition of water rights,”

said Erika Weinthal, an expert on water politics and conflict at Duke University.

Access to water has for decades been at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and many regional tensions more broadly. The arid region has limited supplies of water that are increasingly in demand for agriculture, and what water exists is largely shared across national boundaries, including the Jordan River and the critical underground aquifers in the West Bank and near the Gaza Strip.

That geology and geography helps explain why water conflicts have been behind a lot of the region’s sharpest clashes for centuries and even millennia, going back to when the biblical Isaac and the Philistines fought over access to water wells. More recently, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon blamed water for ultimately sparking the Six-Day War in 1967.

Since 1967, water has remained a big irritant in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in part because Israel made control of access to water a cornerstone of its approach to the Palestinians. Water access for Palestinians in the West Bank is limited enough, with catastrophic impacts on farmers, whose rain-watered fields yield smaller and less valuable harvests than the lush fields of their water-rich neighbors. In the Gaza Strip, the situation is genuinely dire: More than 90 percent of the water is unfit for human consumption, and the sole aquifer is being invaded by seawater.

Water is always mentioned as one of the core issues in the conflict—not as high as Jerusalem or the question of refugees, but it’s always been one of the core issues,”

said Clive Lipchin, the director of the Center for Transboundary Water Management at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel.

Hence it is odd that there is no real discussion about how to share water resources between Israel and the Palestinians in the plan proposed last month by U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. (Although, since Kushner deliberately refused to discuss any of the region’s history while working on the plan, it may not be that surprising.) Water was the third of seven major pillars in the 1994 peace agreement between Israel and Jordan, and water was a central part of the 1995 Oslo Accords, the closest the two sides have come to finalizing a deal that would eventually see the creation of a Palestinian state.

In contrast, water was allotted a single paragraph in Kushner’s blueprint, just after plans for building a tourist resort on the Dead Sea. Decades of bitter fights over who should get access to how much water, and years of Israel’s use of water as a tool to bolster the viability of its West Bank settlements while strangling Palestinian farmers, was dismissed thus in the White House plan: “The parties will work together in good faith to manage the details with respect to water and wastewater treatment issues.”

The remnants of deals related to water rights and water allocation in the Oslo Accords remain in effect to this day. But water is still a hot-button issue between the Israelis and Palestinians for two big reasons.

First, the Oslo commitments on paper regarding Palestinians’ access to water were never ultimately consummated in the hoped-for final agreement. That has left Israel in ultimate control of Palestinians’ access to water, whether from the Jordan Valley or the plentiful Mountain Aquifer. New Palestinian wells, for example, or irrigation systems or wastewater plants all require Israeli signoff, which almost never comes, leaving Palestinians’ water infrastructure woefully underdeveloped compared to that of their settler neighbors. By some estimates, Israelis use more than 80 percent of the water in the West Bank, leaving only a fraction for Palestinians. [in other words settlers, who make up 20% of the population use 80% of the water – TG]

Second, the water crunch has only grown more acute in the 25 years since the Oslo accords were signed. The Palestinian population has grown and with it demand for water, while Israeli allocations of water rights agreed to in the 1990s have hardly changed, Lipchin noted.

That’s why the Trump administration’s proposal, which talks a lot about supercharging the Palestinian economy through international investment and the creation of high-tech manufacturing zones, is jarring to many experts. It doesn’t take into account the fundamental requirements that Palestinians in Gaza need simply to find clean water to drink and bathe, or that West Bank farmers need to irrigate crops that could provide a livelihood.

If some version of the Trump proposal were implemented, including Israel’s now-greenlighted annexation of the entire Jordan River Valley, those water inequities would only grow. Weinthal has written previously of the securitization of water, where Israel controls access to the vital resource to bolster its own security and weaken Palestinian communities.

“This is a plan that continues to ignore any form of effective diplomacy, holding water and infrastructure hostage to the conflict, rather than prioritizing the basic human needs of the Palestinian population,” she said. “At the end of the day, water is a basic human need and a basic human right that should not be held hostage to the conflict or that makes one party acquiesce.”

Could technology come to the rescue and end the ages-old fight over wells and water? In recent years, Israel has made huge strides in bolstering its own water security thanks to big investments in desalination plants, which turn Mediterranean seawater into another source of freshwater. The Trump plan, too, speaks of new big investments by both parties in desalination plants that could provide ample supplies of water, with an eye, perhaps, to sidestepping the fight over precious groundwater resources and removing one of the roadblocks to a final agreement.

The Arava Institute’s Lipchin doesn’t buy it.

“Desalination will never take away water as a source of conflict,”he said.“While it’s a fact that Israel is much more water secure because of technologies including desalination, Israel will never relinquish its rights to the natural resources—those are always going to be the preferred source of water, and always going to be looked at and managed as a buffer in any crisis that may arise.”

The plan’s vision of a booming, peaceful, prosperous Palestine—even one under Israeli security tutelage and with little access to the outside world—is hard to square with a future state that will be still be wholly dependent on its neighbor for access to water to which it has a legitimate claim, Lipchin said. Water, as much as control over borders and airspace that are also lacking in the Trump plan, is the stuff sovereignty is made of.

If you’re talking about a viable and independent state, obviously you need to have control over your natural resources,” he said. “What kind of state is this going to be?”

Keith Johnson is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @KFJ_FP

Israel is systematically poisoning one million Palestinian children

Palestinian medical workers tend to wounded children, members of a family where six were killed in an Israeli airstrike in central Gaza Strip on November 14, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Gaza has become “uninhabitable,” not because of ecological disaster or Palestinian poor stewardship of the land, but because Israel chooses to destroy it by every means – poisoning, starvation, disease, poverty, medical neglect, and invasion – while the world stands silent. (Read this for examples of atrocities)

by Robert Inlakesh,

We have now entered 2020, the year in which experts at the United Nations (UN) once predicted Gaza would become unliveable. But the sad reality is not only that those same experts said that Gaza was already unliveable in 2017, but that now the population of 2 million residing in Gaza are under the real threat of genocide.

Sara Roy of Harvard University’s Centre for Middle Eastern studies, who is considered the leading scholar on Gaza’s economy, has written that “innocent human beings, most of them young, are slowly being poisoned in Gaza by the water they drink and likely by the soil in which they plant.” So let us break down that statement, based upon the data available to us.

Facts on the ground

The population of the Gaza Strip is over 2 million strong, more than 50% of which are children (18 and under). Ninety-seven percent of Gaza’s water is undrinkable with only the upper 10% of Gaza’s population having access to clean water according to the UN. If we take these statistics and we look at them critically that would mean that according to conservative estimates only 40% of Gaza’s children are consuming water that is fit for human consumption. This means that parents in the Gaza Strip are forced to make the decision to allow their children to drink contaminated water in order for them to survive.

Gaza humanitarian crisis: A Palestinian woman gives water to her son in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip December 19, 2018. (REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa – RC1E7E1A8CD

Israel, which has enforced its illegal blockade of Gaza since 2006 – although Zionist propagandists claim it started in June of 2007, which is incorrect – is under international law required to provide Gaza with the ability to sustain itself. Gaza is not a State; it is not a sovereign territory in of itself. According to the UN Gaza constitutes part of what is called the Palestinian occupied territories, with the focus here being on the word “occupied.”

According to the 4th Geneva Convention, Israel is required under International Law to provide the ability for Gaza and the West Bank to sustain an environment of liveability. Israel will argue, however, that Gaza specifically is not occupied; that it withdrew in 2005. However Israel still controls the population registry, the entries and exits, all imports and exports, the electromagnetic sphere, the armistice lines (what Israel calls the border), the territorial waters, airspace as well as having a monopoly on the electricity in Gaza. Israel controls Gaza through and through; meaning that if Israel does not declare an occupation, it is a de facto annexation of the territory.

Shocking realities

In excess of 108,000 cubic meters of untreated sewage water flows into the Mediterranean Sea from Gaza. This is due to a lack of power for Gaza’s desalination plant and the lack of building material required to expand, both of which are due to Israel’s policies towards the besieged coastal enclave. The situation is so bad that not only is Gaza’s sea water heavily contaminated, leading to deaths as recently as last year, but also Israel’s Askalan (Ashkelon) based desalination plant periodically halts operations due to the pollution, showing that Israel is willing to put the purification of 20% of its own water at jeopardy in order to punish the Gaza Strip.

Arising from the problem of water contamination is also disease. Gideon Grumberg, the founder and director of Israel’s ‘Ecopeace’, told the Jerusalem Post in 2016 that Gaza is a ticking time bomb for cholera and typhoid epidemics. Since then there have been repeated calls for a change to be made to Gaza’s lack of clean water by various experts. If a change is not made in 2020 then Gaza could become a hotbed for disease the way that Yemen has, again due to an illegally imposed blockade.

Beyond the water problem are also numerous other issues plaguing Gaza, all of which are again due to Israel’s illegally imposed – for nearly 15 years now – siege. Upwards of 80% of Gaza’s population are reliant upon international food aid in order to survive, with Israel enforcing a policy of “putting the people of Gaza on a diet,” entailing that Israel counts the minimum caloric intake for the Gazan population to stay alive. Israel of course controls the food aid coming into the Gaza Strip and even makes a profit off of it. The restrictions Israel applies to food coming into Gaza is also used as a political tool in order to punish the Palestinians for their acts of resistance against Israel.

The conservative estimates, according to the United Nations, also indicate that Gaza’s youth unemployment rate is close to hitting 70% with an overall unemployment rate recorded to be at around 50%. Israel also has repeatedly blocked Palestinian cancer patients from entering Israel in order to receive life-saving treatment. Not only this, but due to the lack of power in Gaza, cardiac monitors and X-ray machines become unreliable. In the first half of 2019, the Gaza Health Ministry, which has a regular budget of $40 million a year, had only 10 million dollars worth of supplies available to them and in July (2019) declared a warning of an unprecedented shortage of medicine and medical supplies. According to the World Health Organization 39% of Gaza applications for cancer patients to exit the blockaded Strip were “unsuccessful” in 2018.

A Palestinian man and boy navigate the streets of Gaza City, which are flooded with sewage. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

Gaza’s population is subjected to sewage regularly flooding, after rainfall, into the streets and causing sickness, especially amongst the poorer population. Even the more well-off, financially, of Gaza’s population, some of which reside in areas such as Gaza City (North East Gaza), are losing their wealth. Specifically the residents of the al-Rimal area, who are viewed by many as living in an area of prestige are having to flee to places like Istanbul, or become refugees abroad and are losing their families assets due to an absence of income.

Gaza currently survives on a few hours of electricity per day, this is due to the fact that Israel put a cap on the amount of electricity it allows into Gaza, as well as the fact that Israel has bombarded and destroyed Gaza’s electrical grid and power plants, on various occasions. The sole, partially destroyed by bombardment, power plant in Gaza is also in a semi-operational state due to the cutting of diesel fuel from the Strip in early 2018, after the Palestinian Authority stopped paying for the fuel.

As of February 2018, the Gaza Strip has been in a “state of emergency.” Enduring, since the beginning of the siege, eight large-scale military offensive massacres by Israel, with hundreds of smaller bombardments coming in between.

A 17 year old in Gaza would have experienced Israeli internal occupation, a 15 year long ever tightening siege, 8 large scale massacres, hundreds of other attacks, three wars, the constant buzzing of drones, the deaths of friends and family, temporary or permanent displacement and the list goes on and on.

To top this all off, when the people of Gaza rose up in their hundreds of thousands non-violently, beginning on the 30th March (2018), they were ignored by the world which has done nothing to stop Israel for its murder of 330+ unarmed demonstrators and the injuring of approximately 40,000. Until now, the demonstrations are still ongoing on a weekly basis and no Israeli soldiers have been killed or sustained any serious injuries.

Resistance is a right

According to International Law, the people of Gaza have every right to use armed force in order to struggle for self determination and to end the siege. Israel has no claim to a “right of self defence”, just as a rapist would have no claim to a right of self defence against their rape victim, and the next time we hear of Israel’s “right” in anyway to use force, we must know that whoever repeats this is contradicting the Fourth Geneva Convention.

File photo: A street scene looking down the street into a Bedouin community in Gaza.

Aviv Kochavi said recently in a speech pertaining to a future war against Gaza, that Israel will target electrical, agricultural and other structural components, which according to Israel contribute to keeping Hamas – Gaza’s governing Party – afloat. This means that if Israel does begin a new massacre (war) against Gaza – or Hamas as they will claim – then it will mean that all the statistics listed off above will accelerate to unprecedented numbers and that Gaza will become even more uninhabitable.

The only questions now left to be answered are, what will stop Israel from completely genociding the people of Gaza? and how will the world’s future generations look at us today for allowing this holocaust to occur against the people of Palestine. One million Palestinian children are being systematically poisoned by Israel and there is nothing but deafening silence.

Robert Inlakesh is a journalist, writer and political analyst, who has lived in and reported from the occupied Palestinian West Bank. He has written for publications such as Mint Press, Mondoweiss, MEMO, and various other outlets. He specializes in analysis of the Middle East, in particular Palestine-Israel. He also works for Press TV as a European correspondent.

Palestinians filling bottles and jerricans with drinking water at the Al-Shati refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, March 22, 2017. Hosam Salem / NurPhoto

Ninety-seven Percent of Gaza Drinking Water Contaminated by Sewage, Salt, Expert Warns

Zafrir Rinat 21 Jan 2018

Gazans are forced to buy water at six times the standard rate from private enterprises

Almost all of the drinking water in the Gaza Strip is impotable because of sewage pollution or high salinity levels, according to data presented last week by a hydrologist who advises the Palestinian Water Authority.

Ahmed al-Yaqoubi said most Gazans don’t drink the water from their taps because of its poor quality. Instead, they buy expensive water from private enterprises that operate small desalination plants.

Moreover, almost 90 percent of the drinking water in Gaza exceeds the maximum salinity standard of the World Health Organization and is expected to become even more saline in the years to come.

Yaqoubi was in Israel last week to take part in a discussion at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in southern Israel. Former Palestinian minister Tahani Abu Daqqa also participated in the session discussing the water crisis in Gaza.

The Strip’s 2 million residents depend almost entirely on the coastal aquifer for their water needs (other than a small amount that Israel sends to the area). However, population growth and low rainfall has led to overpumping in recent years.

Yaqoubi told Haaretz that while the annual quantity that can be pumped without compromising the aquifer’s ability to renew itself is some 60 million cubic meters, about 200 million cubic meters of water are actually being pumped every year.

Half of this is for domestic use – and this is only the quantity the authority can measure, Yaqoubi said. The other half, mainly for agriculture, is an estimate and includes water drawn from 5,000 private wells.

Overpumping has led to a sharp drop in aquifer levels, which in turn allows seawater to penetrate by as much as three or four kilometers (1.9 to 2.5 miles), which salinates the water table.

The concentration of chloride (salts) in Gaza’s wells is between 400 and 2,000 milligrams per liter, while the standard is 250 milligrams per liter. Only a little over 10 percent of the water in Gaza meets that standard.

Gaza’s water supply has also been extensively contaminated by sewage. Some 70 percent of Gaza’s homes are connected to the sewage system, but due to poor maintenance, much of that sewage seeps into the aquifer. As a result, the concentration of nitrates – which are indicators of contamination – has gone up. There are too-high concentrations of either chloride or nitrates in 97 percent of the water supplied to the residents of Gaza.

Due to this situation, the Strip’s residents have turned to private suppliers for their drinking water. These suppliers operate 136 small desalination plants that operate near wells and provide water that is low in contaminants. However, this water costs six times as much as regular water. For other household uses, Gazans rely on the contaminated water – but even that is in short supply.

Because of the shortage of electricity, Yaqoubi explained, the wells can’t be fully operated and sometimes only work for a few hours a day.

The electricity shortage also prevents the Strip’s sewage treatment plants from operating, allowing untreated sewage water to flow directly into the sea. The sewage reaches the adjacent Israeli coastal cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod, but first it pollutes Gaza’s beaches, Yaqoubi said.

Officially, swimming isn’t allowed at Gaza’s beaches, but since that’s the only place the people can go for recreational purposes, they do so anyway, he noted.

At a separate conference on the Gazan water crisis two weeks ago, sponsored by the Institute for National Security Studies, in cooperation with EcoPeace, Israel Water Authority head Giora Shaham said Israel is planning to supply another 10 million cubic meters of water to the Gaza Strip – over and above the 10 million cubic meters it already supplies. However, it has been unable to do so until now because there is no infrastructure to contain the water.

Yaqoubi said last week that the Palestinian Water Authority is preparing to issue a tender to build the pipes and reservoirs needed to hold the water Israel is planning to send to the Strip.

However, the long-term solution to Gaza’s water crisis is to build a large desalination plant there. In fact, one is currently in the planning stages that would be able to supply 135 million cubic meters of water annually. The Palestinian Authority has obtained half of the necessary funding from international sources and is now working on securing the rest of the funds.

Yaqoubi warned, though, that without electricity and funding for maintenance of the desalination plant, it will not be able to operate efficiently. That is also true of the new sewage treatment plants currently under construction, he added.

One of these, in the northern Gaza Strip, has already been completed but is difficult to operate due to the lack of electricity. Gazans’ economic situation needs to improve as well – otherwise it will be impossible to charge for the operation and maintenance of these facilities.

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Tony Greenstein

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