This Friday night I was watching the movie ‘Il Postino’, which tells the story about a beautiful friendship between the famous poet Pablo Neruda and his postman on a small Italian island in the ‘50s. Drinking water was supplied there by a tanker only once a year, leaving the inhabitants with water shortages during the dry season. This situation reminded me of Palestine, where others are also controlling the amount of water available to its people.
Water resources in Palestine
Palestinians have three main water sources, namely the river Jordan, the mountain aquifer (which is water underneath the West Bank) and the coastal aquifer (water underneath Gaza and the coast). These water sources are shared with Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel.
Water and occupation
When Israel occupied the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza strip in 1967 the common water sources were controlled by the Israeli government. Since then, Palestinian people don’t have access to the amount of water necessary to develop and survive in a human way.
Every Palestinian inhabitant receives only 95 litres water per day to cook, to wash, to irrigate their fields, for schools, hospitals and factories. A Jewish settler in Palestine receives 10 times as much.
The Israeli army destroys Palestinian water resources and often closes down the waterworks in cities and villages during summer. Sometimes they also penalize the Palestinian people this way after a bombing or attack by Hamas. Israel claims they need the Palestinian water to make the desert bloom; fresh green gardens and fields for the Jewish settlements in Occupied Territory. Israeli oranges, tomato’s and grapefruits are getting more water than the children of Hebron, Gaza or Bethlehem.
Palestinian farmers are hindered to sell their products in the cities by road blocks and checkpoints, which is advantageous for Israel: the less Palestinian farmers, the more water for themselves.
In Gaza, 80% of the available water is polluted and not suitable to drink. But it is the only water its inhabitants are allowed to use, which leaves them no choice. The expected consequences are miscarriages, kidney diseases, intoxication, etc.
Water and the Wall
Israel is building a barrier through Palestinian territory. But even more strikingly: this wall-fence-roadblock-thing is annexing the most fertile lands and the best water wells, which means they are now out of Palestinian reach.
The Wall makes the Palestinians lose a quarter of their water, a third of their citrus harvest, a third of their olive oil production, and half of their greenhouse vegetables.
If the available water in the regions would be divided in a just way, there is enough for all Israelis and Palestinians. Unfortunately water is still used as a way to make the lives of 3.5 million people even harder than it already was.
Next time: more about the Wall…
- by Pablo Neruda
Everything on the earth bristled, the bramble
pricked and the green thread
nibbled away, the petal fell, falling
until the only flower was the falling itself.
Water is another matter,
has no direction but its own bright grace,
runs through all imaginable colors,
takes limpid lessons
and in those functionings plays out
the unrealized ambitions of the foam