The late Fadia Daibes Murad was a world-recognized Palestinian water expert, young, vibrant, articulate, with a recent PhD in hydrology. She published a tome about Palestine water rights and won an Edberg Award in 2005 for contribution to peace in the Middle East through her work on water rights law. She emphasized using water rights as a catalyst for peace in the Middle East. She had embarked on a path to bring the water rights’ issue to world attention thru the international court system. She told me, “I’m beyond writing about the conditions. I want solutions, and I feel the main route to solutions is thru adjudication by international bodies.” We intended to work together, me supplying photos and she the analysis.
—From my journal about Fadia
A dialog between Susan Koppelman of LifeSource & Skip Schiel. We try to clarify the water rights issue in Palestine & Israel based on our many experiences there. Missing from this exchange are Israeli voices. I invite them to join us. This post is dedicated to Fadia Daibes Murad (with special thanks to Cliff Bennett for inspiring it).
I thought you may be interested in this article about Israeli Water Tech.
School in Gaza
the obvious omission, the grand ocean in the room so to speak, is the hydrological injustice heaped (or deluged) upon the palestinians. i’m sure you noticed this. regardless, the pals might emulate some of what israel’s water technology is doing—and the pals are, slowly, more in water harvesting (from greenhouse roofs for instance) but not yet water disposal (a very curious omission which i hope soon changes).
i could stand correction if any on this list have any to make. i’d like to be up to date.
Harvesting rain water from a rooftop in the West Bank
I’m interested in why you think that Palestinians are “slowly, more in water harvesting”? Water harvesting is an ancient technique and practice in Palestine, perhaps inherited by the Romans. Solomon’s pools are still the largest reservoirs in the West Bank. Canals feeding the pools, however, were systematically destroyed by the Israeli army.
Today Israel destroys Palestinian water infrastructure, including rainwater harvesting cisterns, citing permitting infractions. International law is clear that this is a violation of human rights. In fact, one of the cisterns destroyed by the Israeli army this year in Susya was built during Roman times!, while according to official Israeli policy, anything built before Oslo is grandfathered in.
In regards to wastewater treatment, Israel blocked the construction of wastewater treatment facilities for Palestinians for years. The only completed project was built after Oslo but before the Joint Water Committee was established. For 15 years! Palestinian engineers jumped through hoop after hoop following every Israeli requirement that was communicated one by one as to what was necessary for more than 5 different plants to be approved, and only after 15 years with international pressure were they approved. The proposed plant in Sulfit in fact was approved earlier by the Joint Water Council, it was not vetoed by the Israeli water commissioner, it was approved by 12 Israeli ministries, and then after it was licensed for construction and tendered, in the first month of construction the Israeli army shut it down, declaring the site a closed military zone and required that the location be moved!
The water injustice deluged upon Palestinians is not one of technology but one of Israel’s egregious violations of international law and human rights. Human rights conventions ratified by the state of Israel are clear that ‘state parties must not interfere directly or indirectly with the enjoyment of a right’. I support Israel being commended for its advances in technology, some of these are truly a marvel. However, as long as Israel is committing such flagrant violations of Palestinians human right to water, it is important that global citizens and institutions take every measure to hold Israel accountable to international law and to protect the human rights of all the region’s inhabitants. This may mean even boycotting this very technology that could bring improved standards of living to certain regions of the world, until Israel simply lifts its ban on water development for the Palestinian people. Would Israel stop violating Palestinians’ human right to water and sanitation for 2 billion dollars a year? What if countries promised to use Israeli technology after Palestinians were allowed all of their rights, thus expanding this market further? What should the cost to Israel be for these human rights violations?
Susan [Koppelman of LifeSource]
Thanks for your thoughtful views. You are one of the leading experts on water rights in Palestine/Israel, no doubt. I value your contribution.
We have no essential disagreement. I understand the gross hydro injustice perpetrated by Israel upon the Palestinians, and I like your idea of boycotting Israeli technology until they end the injustice. I am aware of the situation in Salfit; I photographed the area including the newly constructed piping that has not to this day been used. I’ve seen and photographed numerous sites, like Wadi Fukin, where Israeli settlements wantonly dumped sewage into Palestinian water resources. I realize the Gazan water authority for years has held volumes of raw sewage in lagoons in Beit Lahiya, awaiting Israeli permission to construct new facilities. I’ve visited most of the Gaza water sites, spoken with engineers, and contributed to a UN report about that situation. No argument with you there.
Betar Illit, illegal Israeli settlement overlooking Wadi Fukin and allegedly dumping raw sewage down the hillside
My quote, extended a bit, was the pals might emulate some of what Israel’s water technology is doing—and the pals are, slowly, more in water harvesting (from greenhouse roofs for instance) but not yet water disposal (a very curious omission which i hope soon changes). By which I meant, yes, the Palestinians have developed their water resources as you so cogently point out, but my impression based on my study, discussions, and observation is that both water authorities in the West Bank and Gaza tend to emphasize water input rather than water output.
The Jordan River valley from Beit Shanean
These observations are shared with the late Palestinian hydrologist Fadia Daibes Murad, who I worked closely with, and I believe the water expert Robin Twite of the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, IPCRI. Unfortunately I’ve not been able to document this. But here are a few examples:
That sewerage complex in Beit Lahiya. The UN for years had warned the Gaza authorities of the dangerous condition the lagoons are in, urging them to at least strength them. Not done, resulting in a major burst a few years ago. One might argue that the governing party, Hamas, did not have the funding—or the decision makers might have prioritized other aspects of the system. In addition, that authority has attempted digging new lagoons, but these are often blocked not by Israelis but by Gazans who do not want them in their neighborhoods.
Sewage lagoons in Beit Lahiya—click image to enlarge
Further, some years ago the UN offered training and equipment for garbage disposal in Ramallah. For a short period the streets and vacant lots were cleaned. The program ended. And the areas were once again strewn with rubbish, often burning rubbish which is toxic and demoralizing. Not the Israeli’s fault, maybe the UN could have assured more continuity, I’m not sure, but probably indicative of attitude. And the Kidron River running near Bethlehem thru the Judean wilderness desert. A few years ago I trekked across this region, needed to cross the river, and our guide explained that settlements—and Palestinian villages—both dump raw sewage in it.
Detritus of effluent onto Gaza City shore
Netting fish near a raw sewage outflow, Gaza City, Mediterranean coast
In short, and this is my main point, when assessing responsibility for injustice we must be careful to not pin everything on the bad guys, in this case the Israelis. I call for shared responsibility. When it is up to the Palestinians, then we make that call. The fact of occupation, horrendous as it is, can not universally be used to absolve Palestinians of their responsibility.
I’m curious what you think of this argument and value our conversation.
TO BE CONTINUED
My blog post about Fadia Daibes Murad (with links to some of her writing)
PHOTOS: a small sample from my hydropolitics series: