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About the Author

Lara Smallman
Campaigner, film-maker, blogger (London, United Kingdom)

Self-taught film-maker interested in exploring human rights issues. See more on larasmallman.com.

Post

Why impartiality matters: A closer look at Gaza’s water crisis

Published 13th April 2010 - 42 comments - 9053 views -

The recent post WATER IS ANOTHER MATTER brought Gaza’s water crisis into focus. But it did something else equally important, it reminded me just how crucial getting both sides of a story really is.

In the case of a country being accused of ‘controlling the amount of water available to its people, thereby preventing Palestinians from being able to develop and survive in a human way, and that the only water accessible to them is so bad it causes kidney infections and even miscarriages,’ further investigation, I feel, is an absolute must...

 

The idea of control

Much of what I found online and the central gist of the initial post suggests that Israel directly controls the amount of water in Gaza.  But there were even more worrying claims to follow, namely that more water is given to Jewish settlers in Palestine than to Palestinians. The implication being that the Israeli government is not only controlling access to water (a frightening enough accusation), but that it values the life of its settlers much more than the natives.

The fact that none of the online resources quote Israeli’s spokespeople or even give the impression that they had tried to get an explanation or a comment from the Israeli government puzzled me. This is a democratic country, right on Gaza’s doorstep, with such dangerous claims flying around, why was nobody seeking answers from the alleged perpetrators?

 

Jumping the gun

I was surprised by how thick and fast responses came to the initial post with comments such as, Sadly, water and other resources are always used to control territories and people... Water is something it is impossible to live without, and sad that it is controlled this way to destroy people. 

 

De-politicizing the issue of water

In an ideal world, there wouldn’t be wars, but as things stand today there are many conflicts around the world. The first thing we need to do is gather the facts in order to understand the situation. And so, whichever side you do or don’t support in is wholly irrelevant, and best left at the door.

When it comes to ascertaining the extent of Gaza’s water crisis, and in due course, attempting to resolve it, impartiality is absolutely crucial. Pushing an agenda, omitting information, or only showing one side of the story serves only to do more harm than good.

I wanted to avoid being political here, because I feel it irrelevant in this instance. However, I do feel compelled to respond to the mention of Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints and explain, to those who made be unaware that there is a necessity for these due to the longstanding and ongoing threat of suicide bombs to Israel. They were never introduced nor intended as a measure to aggravate or deliberately hamper the lives of those who have to use them.

In an ideal world, we also wouldn’t have any overtly bias propaganda, but we do. It only took a little bit of investigative digging this morning to realise that much of what can be found online is not the full story.

 

The other side:

Reports on this issue compiled by Amnesty do contain a lot of misinformation. One of my sources reveals that in actual fact, Palestinians in Gaza have refused help to build a desalination plant even thought they have had grants for it. Below are refutations of some of Amnesty’s claims, which they have been notified of, but, for whatever reason have chosen not to respond to or act on:

Amnesty p3: “Palestinian consumption in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is about 70 litres per day per person whereas Israeli daily per capita consumption is about 300 litres”

Truth: In 2008 Palestinian per capita daily consumption was 270 litres per day, Israel’s was 405, a factor of 1.5, not 4. Egypt, Lebanon and Syria consume about 5-6 times more water per capita than Israel. Israeli consumption has dropped dramatically due to the need to use water more economically after consecutive years of drought. (Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from Israel Water Authority). The claim that the Palestinian water supply is beneath that recommended for basic living standards is entirely false.

Amnesty p3: “Palestinian families must spend as much as a quarter or more of their income on water”.

Truth: No source is cited by Amnesty to support this assertion.

Amnesty p4: “Israel has used the OPT as a dumping ground for its waste”

Truth: Some time ago an article by David Ratner appeared in Haaretz with the title “Israel to dump 10,000 tons of garbage a month in the West Bank.” It was rife with serious factual errors. It wrongly stated that the new Kedumim dump would not benefit the local Palestinian population. Ratner falsely wrote that the new dump would accept only garbage from Israel. Ratner claimed that the Israeli government refused to let Palestinians build modern waste disposal sites. It’s nonsense. In Area A the Israeli government has no say in what is built.  Moreover, a number of Israeli-administered sites in Area C service the Palestinian population. For instance, the Tovlan dump services household garbage from the Nablus area. A site near Abu Dis services the Palestinian population in Bethlehem, Abu Dis, and surrounding areas. And, a site near Psagot, next to Ramallah, services Ramallah, Al-Bireh and other neighbouring Palestinian towns.

In fact in all of Israel and the Palestinian areas, there is only one site designated for hazardous material – Ramat Hovev, in southern Israel. So Palestinian hazardous waste is deposited in Israel – the opposite of what Amnesty alleges!

Amnesty p10: “According to the World Bank, “Palestinians have access to one fifth of the resources of the Mountain Aquifer. …..Israel overdraws without JWC [Joint Water Committee] approval on the “estimated potential” by more than 50%…. Over-extraction by deep wells combined with reduced recharge has created risks for the aquifers and a decline in water available to Palestinians through shallower wells”

Truth: The source for this is an April 2009 World Bank Report. Here is what the Israeli government commented at the time (MFA Press Release): “The authors of the report met with Israeli government officials and were briefed on all the factual details. They were also presented with the Israeli position paper on the subject, which contained verifiable facts that contradict all the objections presented in the World Bank’s report. Significantly, the authors chose to ignore the MFA position, and declined to take the facts presented to them into consideration in the published report. They rely totally on unsubstantiated information supplied by the Palestinian Authority, which raises a serious question mark over the credibility of the report and the intentions of its authors.” Amnesty cites this World Bank Report six times.

Amnesty p11: “Today some 90-95 per cent of Gaza’s water is polluted and unfit for human consumption”

Truth: No source is cited by Amnesty to support this assertion.

Amnesty p17: “… the PA did not acquire control of water resources in the OPT under the Oslo Accords. It acquired only the responsibility for managing the supply of the insufficient quantity of water allocated for use by the Palestinian population …”

Truth: (Source: Israel Water Authority, March 2009) The Water Agreement (Oslo II, September 1995) determined that water supply to the Palestinians would increase during the period of that Interim Agreement by 28.6 Million Cubic Meters/year, of which 5 MCM/yr would be supplied to the Gaza Strip and 23.6 MCM/yr to the West Bank. It was agreed that this quantity would be in addition to the quantity consumed by the Palestinians in 2005, namely, 118 MCM. In other words, it was agreed that water supply to the Palestinians during the Interim Agreement period would in the West Bank increase by 20%. This quantity of water would be part of the quantity defined as the “Future Needs” of the Palestinians in the West Bank, ie about 70-80 MCM/yr, which would be provided in the framework of the permanent arrangement. In practice, during the 13 years that have elapsed since the Interim Agreement was signed, water supply to the Palestinians in the West Bank has been increased by 60 MCM/yr (not including Gaza), ie by about 50%.

Amnesty p22: “Israel has forcibly imposed other changes in the OPT whose impact has reduced access to water for the Palestinian population, notably …. the prohibition on Palestinians taking measures to develop their own infrastructure and economy”

Truth: The West Bank economy is growing strongly despite the worst global recession in decades. The IMF is forecasting a 7 percent growth rate for 2009. It is not possible for growth to be this strong when water is as scarce as Amnesty alleges.

---------------------------------------------------------

Beyond the spreading of misinformation about Israel's actions, there is an equally perturbing lack of information to explain the irresponsible behaviour of the Palestinians. The case of the missing water is just one of a number of examples I have found. The media coverage contrasting Israel's bounty of swimming pools and the West Bank's empty reservoir is yet another falsification, as proven by this.

Yet when someone asked for an explanation of the missing water at an Amnesty meeting,  the answer given was simply that the Israel Water Authority “lies”.

Another report will also open your eyes to the fact that Israel has fulfilled all its obligations under the water agreement regarding the supply of additional quantities of water to the Palestinians, and has even extensively surpassed the obligatory quantity, and that The Palestinians, on the other hand, have significantly violated their commitments under the water agreement, specifically regarding important issues such as illegal drilling (they have drilled over 250 wells without the authorization of the Joint Water Commission) and handling of sewage. (The Palestinians are not constructing sewage treatment plants, despite their obligation to do so and the important foreign funding earmarked for this purpose).

Data regarding consumption of fresh natural water clearly shows Israel's fair treatment of Palestinian requirements: In 1967, Israel's per capita consumption of fresh natural water was 508 (m3/person/year). In 2008, it dramatically dropped to 149. The Palestinian figures for the same consumption went from 86 (in 1967) to 105 (in 2008).

Israel has offered to supply Palestinians with desalinated water, but this possibility is systematically rejected due to political motivations.

While Israel has significantly reduced its use of fresh natural water since 1967, consistently closing the gap between Israeli and Palestinian consumption, it remains unclear how Amnesty's claims of "discriminatory policies" towards Palestinians can sustain the trial of reality. The authors of the report chose to ignore Israeli data, papers and reports, although they contain verifiable facts presented with total transparency. This questionable approach, which consists in systematically disregarding  
Israeli material while relying exclusively on Palestinian allegations, raises doubts as to the real intentions of the report's authors and of the organization itself.

A thorough report on the issue of water between Israel and the Palestinians can be consulted on the website of the Israel Water Authority.

---------------------------------------------------------

Finding the truth and getting it out there

It’s not easy deciphering fact from fiction. We aren’t there, we don’t know what is happening, and of course, the situation is constantly changing. With a conflict going on, as job as bloggers/journalists/writers/passive spectators/concerned citizens, is made ten times harder.

One thing is for sure, the only way forward is talking to both sides, opening up a dialogue and in this case especially getting both sides to work together to solve problems. Since water scarcity is a big problem in the Middle East, particularly for Jordan, Israel and Gaza. 

When I started delving into the issue, I didn't know what I would find. I am relieved to find progress in the area. Relieved that the situation is not as desperate and dire as is so often described, and even more glad to read that meaningful agreements do exist between Israel and Palestine. The two sides are engaged in dialogue and are looking to work together to overcome the problem of water scarcity in the region as a whole.

 


Category: Human Rights | Tags:


Comments

  • Andrei Tuch on 13th April 2010:

    Bravo Lara! Very good to see detailed, sourced, factual analysis of an issue that suffers from overwhelming emotion.

    Here’s a link that offers a good perspective on how untrustworthy most of the discourse is (http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/5455761/how-human-rights-have-turned-into-inhuman-wrongs.thtml):

    “Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world — many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.”

    The author of that comment is the founder of the Human Rights Watch.


  • Lara Smallman on 13th April 2010:

    Thank you Andrei, I am glad you found it of interest.

    As for the link to the article, brilliant, thank you.


  • Leila on 13th April 2010:

    As long as Israel and Egypt keep Gaza under a siege, I wouldn’t be expecting clean water to make it’s way there.


  • Lara Smallman on 13th April 2010:

    Well they do have some clean water there. One other thing, Hamas refuses offers of help from Israel with infrastructure and with water, as I mentioned in the post. Hamas has to take some responsibility for its actions, don’t you think?


  • Hanna Clarys on 13th April 2010:

    Hi Lara, it’s great you reacted on my post by claiming that we should all try to be as neutral as we can be. And you are right! I admit my blog only shows one side of the story and I am glad you made the other one known.

    But at the same time, I am a little surprised all of your sources seem to be linked to the Israeli government (like the reports from the Israel Ministery of Foreign Affairs and the one from the Israel Water Authority). And the one that contradicts all of the Amnesty statements comes from only one blog written by a Jewish journalist. Of course, they have to be heard too - as I admitted before - but why not use sources like the Israel-Palestine think tank, which seems to be the most neutral one but which nevertheless claims that: “The mountain aquifer below the West Bank is a shared resource between Israel and the Palestinians. Even though most of the fresh water recharge takes place within the area on the Palestinian side of the green line, the most important springs and the most favourable pumping conditions can be found within the Israeli borders. Therefore, the biggest amount of the aquifer’s fresh water - especially within the most productive western aquifer - is abstracted and used by Israel, whereas the quality of the ground water is mostly dependent on the environmental conditions within the Palestinian territories”.http://www.ipcri.org/

    And furthermore, your comment “Well they do have some clean water there” sounds rather odd, because ‘some clean water’ just isn’t enough for 1.5 million people living in an area of 40 kilometres on 12 kilometres (the Gazastrip).

    And the refusal of Hamas can seem to be just deliberate obstruction of the peace process and maybe it is, and I also think that the Palestinian Authority should start looking after its people, but Palestine is politically too fragmented for that. And I also think that accepting help - although maybe they should - is very very difficult when that help is offered from a state that once declared Palestine not to exist: “A land without people for a people without land”.

    Anyway, I hope this doesn’t seem to much like an attack on you or your blog, because it truly isn’t meant to be that way! I think this is the way we have to communicate together and I like it that this topic causes a lot of discussion.
    So hope to hear from you soon!


  • Lara Smallman on 13th April 2010:

    Thanks for your comments Hanna. I don’t take anything you said as an attack at all.

    A few things, when I said ‘they have some clean water’ - that was flippant of me. My point was that the water situation is not as it is made out to be. Of course I recognize the problems there but it has to be noted that offers of help have been made and regrettably, some might say, foolishly, have been turned down by Hamas. 

    This is why I talked about trying to de-politicize the situation. The welfare of citizens must come before the lost pride/compromising of principles. If there is a lack of water and people are suffering ill health and miscarriages as a result, and an offer of help is made, it ought to be seriously considered. Personally, I see the fact that help is being offered, as a very positive sign. (Also, I don’t know that Hamas’ refusal is directly linked to the peace process.)

    One also has to look at the Hamas charter which calls for the destruction of Israel and its people and spends money on ammunition, pursuing the desire to wipe Israel off the map, rather than infrastructure which would benefit the Palestinian people.

    Back to your point about my sources. Just because something is from the Israeli government, is it untrustworthy? And just because something is written by a Jewish person, does it have to be dismissed?


  • Tiziana Cauli on 13th April 2010:

    Hi Lara,
    I think it is always good to show both sides of a story and it’s great you felt the need to do that. Just as Hannah, though, I am not too convinced about the sources you picked and the relevance you gave to them.

    I think the point here is, why would a blogger (the fact that he’s a journalist and that he is Jewish is really not relevant here) and a government (the Israeli government or any other)be more reliable than Amnesty? You just copied and pasted what this person wrote using the same “Amnesty” Vs. “Truth” classification. I think the word “truth” there, no matter what version one agrees with, sounds just wrong. From a journalist’s point of view at least, unless you have unconfutable evidence supporting the information you are providing. But it would have to be really unconfutable, because truth is a very big word and it should be used very carefully.

    I am not an expert in water issues in the Middle East and I am sure you are better-informed than I am on this topic, but I do have my opinion on check-points and road-blocks. They did directly affect the lives of people I met and I think they are sometimes - at least in a couple of cases I am aware of - deliberately used to make it extremely hard for Palestinians to move around and access places such as international conference venues in neighbouring countries.

    I am sure those check-points were created to protect Israel from terrorist attacks, but the people I am talking about, who were held there for 3 to 10 hours and sometimes told to come back a day later, were researchers and students who actually interact with their Israeli colleagues on a regular basis for science and study purposes.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I found your post very interesting and I am glad I can read facts and datas from different sources. I just disagreed with the way you presented some of the information you gave and I thought it would be worth discussing.


  • Lara Smallman on 13th April 2010:

    My only aim was to get people thinking about the other side. Who can say what the most reliable source is? As you say, ‘why would a blogger (the fact that he’s a journalist and that he is Jewish is really not relevant here) and a government (the Israeli government or any other)be more reliable than Amnesty?’, my point is why is Amnesty exempt from questioning. We should question everything, or at least as much as we can.

    I definitely would not profess to know more about the situation that anyone else, but I did notice that people were very quick to make comments (on the previous post) before hearing the other point of view. The situation is a very complex one as so sources from as many places is really useful.

    It is interesting that when I reference the Israeli government I am called into question but this hasn’t happened with other posts.

    As for the Amnesty vs Truth, I totally agree with you. I wanted to include it to see what people thought.


  • Hemant Jain on 14th April 2010:

    I thought this was a brave article. It got me thinking and reading and researching. And I think I have a few questions and comments.

    1. When you say the other side: it is just a reaction to the Amnesty report. Let’s say both Amnesty and the other side in this case were taken out. Now what is the objective situation? I ask this because whenever there is a humanitarian crisis, there is considerable debate on what a humanitarian organization says and the counterattack.
    This happens every time when Amnesty or Greenpeace or Action Aid take up the issue of mining for example.
    The truth is somewhere out there and not within the confines of these papers.
    To say that this article brings out the truth of the other side…well, I don’t know.

    2. According to me, the other side is the real people. On both sides. And what is the truth that is facing those other people???
    Isn’t this worrisome?
    “In Gaza there is now no uncontaminated water; of the 40,000 or so newborn babies, at least half are at immediate risk of nitrate poisoning – incidence of “blue baby syndrome”, methaemoglobinaemia, is exceptionally high; an unprecedented number of people have been exposed to nitrate poisoning over 10 years; in some places the nitrate content in water is 300 times World Health Organisation standards; the agricultural economy is dying from the contamination and salinated water; the underground aquifer is stressed to the point of collapse; and sewage and waste water flows into public spaces and the aquifer.

    The blockade of Gaza has gone on for nearly four years, and the vital water and sanitation infrastructure went past creaking to virtual collapse during the three-week assault on the territory almost a year ago.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2009/dec/09/gaza-children-palestinian-babies

    Isn’t this outrageous?
    The blockade on Gaza is also taking its environmental toll on Gaza and southern Israel. For almost two years, supplies necessary to rehabilitate and upgrade Gaza’s sewage networks and treatment plants have been banned. Attempts by the international community and the Palestinian Authority to persuade the military authorities to treat the discharge of sewage into the sea from Gaza as an important humanitarian issue have so far failed.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jun/06/gaza-strip-water-supply


    Forget about the terrorists on both sides. Official and unofficial. Don’t we as humans have the common sense to believe that: “Confining people in abject poverty in a tiny slice of territory is a recipe for continued bitterness, fury and radicalism”???
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/22/lift-the-gaza-blocade-nick-clegg

    My final question then is: Yes I agree with you when you say we think about the other side. But what is the other side? Is it not humanity?
    To me there are two sides to the story: One is the political conflict. And the other is the human and envrionmental suffering.
    Can we address that then?


  • Andrei Tuch on 14th April 2010:

    “why would a blogger (the fact that he’s a journalist and that he is Jewish is really not relevant here) and a government (the Israeli government or any other)be more reliable than Amnesty?”

    1) A report that gives its sources and encourages you to verify its numbers is inherently more trustworthy than one which doesn’t.

    2) Similarly, the side that is under more scrutiny is more trustworthy.

    3) Government officials are at least somewhat accountable. If it is proven that they lied, they can lose their jobs, or even go to jail. Who does Amnesty answer to? What is Amnesty’s motivation to be truthful and considered? The language in their reports certainly doesn’t suggest they are trying to be.

    “I think the word “truth” there, no matter what version one agrees with, sounds just wrong.”

    No, I think truth is what we should be focusing on. The issues will not be resolved by opinions.


  • Hemant Jain on 14th April 2010:

    “the side that is under more scrutiny is more trustworthy…”
    Highly debatable in a not so ideal world.

    And what is happening with the water crisis has nothing to with Amnesty. It should not become a fight about Amnesty. (Just like climate change isn’t about the environmental organisations and god forbid, about Al Gore or IPCC)

    This is about people. On both sides of the border. Doesn’t matter if they are Israelis or Palestinians. They are suffering while politics is taking its course. And we all know that course is not right.

    This conflict has to end. Period. Blockades are the worst possible solution. It’s like labelling the entire community as bad. Which can never become a solution to this or any other crisis in the world. No matter what anyone thinks or says otherwise.

    Coming back to the water crisis: That there is a severe problem at hand is the only one TRUTH in this case. The rest are numbers, date, claims and counter claims. When someone is drinking sewage water, all the numbers and papers and theories come to nothing.


  • Andrei Tuch on 14th April 2010:

    “Highly debatable in a not so ideal world.”

    Really? The world isn’t ideal - that’s what your common sense is for. If you would rather believe soundbites than verifiable numbers, you can’t contribute anything meaningful to a conversation.

    “This conflict has to end. Period.”

    Agreed. How?

    “Blockades are the worst possible solution.”

    No, Hemant, suicide bombs in market squares and tanks firing at apartment buildings are the worst possible solution.

    “It’s like labelling the entire community as bad. Which can never become a solution to this or any other crisis in the world.”

    It’s like labelling the entire community as *responsible*. Which is the only way to achieve a viable, lasting resolution to any crisis in the world.

    “When someone is drinking sewage water, all the numbers and papers and theories come to nothing.”

    You’re wrong. I drink sewage water every day. The fact that numbers and papers say it’s been cleaned properly and is safe to drink, is everything.


  • Hemant Jain on 14th April 2010:

    @Andrei good to know that you are so sure of what is right, what is wrong and what the solutions are.
    Unfortunately, some of us are not so lucky.


  • Leila on 14th April 2010:

    Lara Smallman:

    Gaza is under a siege. Israel, if it truly believed in the Gazan people’s right to infrastructure, could lift the blockade at any moment and allow building materials to the strip. They are the ultimate imposers of this siege and if they wanted Gaza to have homes, schools etc they would simply allow it.

    Also, yes Israel does aid Gaza. Check out what they gave Gaza last week. Shoes and clothes:

    http://aljazeera.net/mritems/images/2010/4/9/1_983430_1_34.jpg

    That is mockery. It’s truly disgusting when you see these things. So why on earth would Hamas want their “aid”? When Gaza was starving, you know what Israel gave them? Bird seeds and shoe polish. They were forced to make bread from bird seeds. So really I don’t blame Hamas for not accepting their aid.


    Here is a good report by Al Jazeera English on Gaza’s water

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuhB93AT7ME


    Here is also a great article I read today, it’s called “How to market Gaza as an Israel success story”

    http://theonlydemocracy.org/2010/04/how-to-market-gaza-as-an-israel-success-story/

    Take care.


  • Leila on 14th April 2010:

    I would also like to respond to Andrei Tuch’s comment:

    “You’re wrong. I drink sewage water every day. The fact that numbers and papers say it’s been cleaned properly and is safe to drink, is everything.”

    Most of the water in Gaza is contaminated with chemicals due to Israeli bombs and white phosphorous.


  • Ian Sullivan on 14th April 2010:

    Grat post and interesting discussion. I think that it’s good to try and de-politicise a clearly emtotive subject. The discussion on this page shows how emotive it can be.

    However, I also take issue with the fact that the Israeli government source is put under the headline ‘truth’, that seems naive. I also think in your efforts to show the other side you lean way too much to a position that Israel is the good guy and Amnesty the bad. But you are correct that Amnesty - and any other NGO - should be scrutinised.

    One line that seemed to me to sum up your lack of questioning of Israeli motivations is this when discussing roadblocks “They were never introduced nor intended as a measure to aggravate or deliberately hamper the lives of those who have to use them”. Yes they are used to stop suicide bombings (rightly) but the Israeli blockade of Gaza is clearly shown to do just that.

    Good article though - got me thinking!


  • Andrei Tuch on 14th April 2010:

    “Israel, if it truly believed in the Gazan people’s right to infrastructure, could lift the blockade at any moment”

    It could. I guess it believes in its own people’s right to life first. Can’t really blame them.

    “So really I don’t blame Hamas for not accepting their aid.”

    I blame Hamas for putting politics ahead of their own people’s survival.

    “Most of the water in Gaza is contaminated with chemicals due to Israeli bombs and white phosphorous.”

    Do you have a source for that? The Al Jazeera reports suggests the water is contaminated because it’s a tiny territory with a huge population density and outdated infrastructure. That is exactly the difference between opinion and fact that is preventing a practical solution.


  • Hanna Clarys on 14th April 2010:

    It didn’t use to be a tiny territory with a huge population.
    http://moinansari.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/israel-palestine_map.jpg


  • Andrei Tuch on 14th April 2010:

    True. How does that help solve the issue?


  • Hanna Clarys on 14th April 2010:

    I am not trying to solve the issue. There are always rights and wrongs on every side. Just putting up some information that cannot be contested.


  • Benno Hansen on 14th April 2010:

    “They were never introduced nor intended as a measure to aggravate or deliberately hamper the lives of those who have to use them.”

    While you may be right, you are not impartial. This is the postulate of Israel.

    The claims in the Amnesty report seems to be - as far as I remember - to be very well in line with UN reports. So, don’t just discard it on the basis of a link or two.

    As for hailing Israel as some kind of ideal democracy… look into the Anat Kam story. Truly disturbing on many levels.

    Otherwise I agree care must be taken when dealing with this. There sure are a lot of sources out there who talk one side only. And I guess it is understandable they have dehumanized each other.

    Then there is <strong>Anderi Tuch<strong>‘s first comment. It commits a basic logical fallacy in pulling in Iran and “Arab states” to the equation. Wrong. “I wanna go to Disney Land because the other kidst go” - don’t do this.


  • Andrei Tuch on 15th April 2010:

    Benno - my first comment is a quote from the founder of Human Rights Watch. You should go and tell *him* he’s not being impartial.

    “While you may be right, you are not impartial. This is the postulate of Israel.”

    So anything positive about Israel, *even if it’s true*, is automatically not impartial?

    “As for hailing Israel as some kind of ideal democracy…”

    I don’t think anyone did.

    “look into the Anat Kam story. Truly disturbing on many levels.”

    Why? She leaked classified documents to the media. If she was summarily executed, it would be disturbing. She’s being tried in a court of law, where it can be decided if the public benefit of reporting on the actions of the special services outweighs the requirements of national security. This is how a democracy (for any degree of ideal) works. Remember, I actually asked this question of the panelists back in Brussels - aren’t journalists asking to have extraordinary rights (such as the right to steal documents from army headquarters and publish them), and if so, shouldn’t they also be held to higher standards?


  • Benno Hansen on 15th April 2010:

    The article and your comments veil itself in “impartiality” while it’s really a defence of Israel. Which is fine. But call it what it is. And please explain to me why Amnesty International is now a bunch of crackpots?

    So anything positive about Israel, *even if it’s true*, is automatically not impartial?

    In all honesty, I believe it is you who owe us to show how the blocks - on occupied territory - are necessary. Not the other way around. The postulate that the blocks are necessary and for the greater good is so obviously not particularly impartial as it is the postulate that Israel/IDF makes. Why is it you feel the need to generalize my statement by accusing me of lumping “anything positive about Israel” as impartial. That is absurd.

    She leaked classified documents to the media.

    Again, let’s not overlook the most central issue: what was in the docs? “the army used targeted assassinations against wanted Palestinians even when they knew that arrest was possible, in apparent violation of Israeli Supreme Court rulings”. Plus it appears to be only part of a general trend towards censorship. And that’s just the beginning. I’ll get some more quotes about the docs if you need it, which it seems you might do.


  • Andrei Tuch on 15th April 2010:

    The article and your comments veil itself in “impartiality” while it’s really a defence of Israel.

    Are defending Israel and impartiality mutually exclusive?

    And please explain to me why Amnesty International is now a bunch of crackpots?

    I don’t know. You said they were, not me. Why don’t you explain it? I only said that reports by people who are likely to lose their jobs if they are proven to lie, are inherently more trustworthy than reports by people who are not accountable.

    I believe it is you who owe us to show how the blocks - on occupied territory - are necessary.

    First of all, the territories are not occupied. They are blocked off by Israel and Egypt, but as of 2005, there are no IDF troops in Gaza. So that’s a factual error already.

    Second, I’m nor sure I do owe you that, because I never said the blocks are a good thing.

    What I did say was that defense against terrorist attacks is a higher priority than water infrastructure. Immediate threat versus delayed threat. In this regard, the blocks have been relatively effective - the more effort Israel and Egypt make to restrict the entry of goods into Gaza, the less attacks there are in Israel. When the Egyptian border was breached and tunneled, it resulted in rocket attacks and a war.

    Why is it you feel the need to generalize my statement by accusing me of lumping “anything positive about Israel” as impartial. That is absurd.

    You claimed Lara’s statement - that the blockades were “never introduced nor intended as a measure to aggravate or deliberately hamper” - was not impartial because “This is the postulate of Israel”. You made no effort to prove Lara wrong.

    Again, let’s not overlook the most central issue: what was in the docs?

    I already answered this: the courts will decide whether the public knowledge of the contents is more important than secrecy.

    Plus it appears to be only part of a general trend towards censorship.

    Your own link says it isn’t. Your own link says the Military Sensor of Israel allowed the docs to be published, despite a legal right to block the publication. Your own link says that the Military Sensor said the gag order was excessive. Your own link says gag orders on investigations can be extremely beneficial, citing a recent case against a top Israeli government official.


  • Lara Smallman on 15th April 2010:

    Clearly my article is not 100% impartial, I never intended it to be. I deliberately focused on the side that rarely gets shown. I never claimed to be impartial. I wanted to show what is rarely heard.

    Originally, nobody questioned Amnesty or any other similar source they had come across before making quite bold statements about the situation. More worrying is that nobody went to the Israelis to get a comment.

    Pictures showing someone holding up a dirty shirt and links from other sites also aren’t probed in the way my information has been. I have no problem with Amnesty, all I want to know is why they aren’t above suspicion? And, what is so wrong with me wanting explore the possibility that they got some bits wrong.

    I also noticed that the Guardian and Al Jazeera are also exempt from questioning. A pattern is emerging, anyone who denigrates Israel is to be put on the highest platform. Fine, but why can’t be hear the other side too? Why can’t we ask questions? Has everyone forgotten that all media outlets have an agenda, never mind the politicians?

    However, as soon as someone sources something related to the Israeli government or something that explores the possibility that there may be more to the situation than previously covered, then there is strong doubt, ‘veiling’, and a debate about road blocks ensues. It is clear that information coming from other sources isn’t being given a fair hearing and I’m quite puzzled by the expectation that I should shy away from giving prominence to comments made by a ‘Jewish journalist’, why?

    I simply wanted to point out that the only way of solving this and any problem is to get both sides. I was giving the other side because nobody else did.

    And finally, in response to Hemant - absolutely we should be talking about the humanitarian and environmental impact, on both sides.

    That’s the starting point. How does it help if we only hear one side? That won’t t right the wrongs of the conflict, will it?


  • Hanna Clarys on 15th April 2010:

    You are right, Lara, by saying we have to hear both sides and have to question both sides. So all together, we just did, I guess… grin


  • Benno Hansen on 15th April 2010:

    First of all: Why are you guys pitting Amnesty Intl vs Israel? Last time I checked the conflict is between (parts of) Israel and (parts of) Palestine. Amnesty is a 3rd party, as is UN, Red Cross, the Guardian etc.

    Second, I don’t like the religious fanatics who incite this conflict. OK? I hope we’d all speak up against something like Hamas if we were subject to their insanity, right?

    And Andrei, could you please argue with things I actually write?


  • Andrei Tuch on 15th April 2010:

    Benno - I’m quoting what you wrote.


  • Iris Cecilia Gonzales on 15th April 2010:

    hi Lara,

    I think it’s also a problem in Asia. Thanks for this second post.


  • Hemant Jain on 15th April 2010:

    I think for years now we have only heard the ‘other’ side, which is Israel’s point of view.
    To pitch it as ‘truth’ is an absolute. It isn’t objective or impartial. At all.
    It reads as: Amnesty’s Lie vs Israel’s Truth.
    Who decides?
    And then we begin to lose all logic and start fighting.
    With a cool head and common sense one would see the problem for what it is:
    1. Politics is one side. People are the other side.
    2. Politics and war and arms and the bigger Arab-Christian issue keeps muddling things up in this crisis.
    3. People suffer. Arabs. Israelis. Everyone.

    Lara, it reminds me of a conversation while the plane was circling over London. I don’t think I have found an answer yet out of this conundrum.


  • Andrei Tuch on 15th April 2010:

    I think for years now we have only heard the ‘other’ side, which is Israel’s point of view.

    This thread shows that’s not the case.

    To pitch it as ‘truth’ is an absolute. It isn’t objective or impartial. At all.

    Why? Facts, if proven, are by definition impartial.

    1. Politics is one side. People are the other side.

    Politicians came from Alfa Centauri? Politics is a function of people.


  • Hemant Jain on 15th April 2010:

    Dear Andrei, I am surprised that since you have all the answers, you haven’t been called by the UN to mediate in the conflict. I am sure the world can benefit from your amazing powers of deduction.


  • Benno Hansen on 15th April 2010:

    Andrei,

    You repeatedly quote only part of what I write then twist my words. Imho how not to discuss.

    Scrolled up for a quick example, your quote of me: “The article and your comments veil itself in “impartiality” while it’s really a defence of Israel.”

    You stopped just short of “Which is fine. But call it what it is.”

    In stead of addressing what I actually wrote you move on to askme “Are defending Israel and impartiality mutually exclusive?” Say what? Did I ever in any way imply that?

    This type of !”#¤¤%&& is a waste of time.

    To restate and clarify once again: I think it’s fine quoting some Israeli blogger a bit now when someone else based an article on a report critical of Israel.


  • Leila on 15th April 2010:

    Andrei Tuch:

    “Do you have a source for that? The Al Jazeera reports suggests the water is contaminated because it’s a tiny territory with a huge population density and outdated infrastructure. That is exactly the difference between opinion and fact that is preventing a practical solution.”

    That report is about what you said. I did not claim for it to be about it being contaminated by white phosphorous.

    Do you really want me to provide you with a source about white phosphorous? That stuff is lethal. It can keep burning for months. It burns in fields, therefore contaminating soil used for crops. It can fall in water causing it to contaminate it as well. Babies in Gaza come out deformed from mothers inhaling white phosphorous in the Gaza war. Do I need to provide you with source for that too?

    http://realisticbird.wordpress.com/2010/01/15/gaza-75-deformed-babies-caused-by-the-war/

    This stuff contaminates your resources and it burdens you forever.

    And on this subkect Andrei, since you’ve got an answer for everything, please justify the Israeli army’s illegal use of white phosphorous.


  • Andrei Tuch on 15th April 2010:

    Did I ever in any way imply that?

    Yes, you did. In the same line you quoted. You say that “The article and your comments veil itself in “impartiality” while it’s really a defence of Israel.” While-really is a juxtaposition, implying very heavily that a defense of Israel is something opposite of impartiality.


  • Andrei Tuch on 15th April 2010:

    Do you really want me to provide you with a source about white phosphorous?

    Well, yes, I would in fact, something more impartial than that link to a blog with tabs like “Imperial and Colonial Plans & Crimes” in the header. I mean, really, at least do try to keep up the appearance of impartiality?

    By the way, I googled “Conscience Organisation for Human Rights”. It doesn’t seem to have a website, doesn’t come up on Wikipedia, and the only Google hits for it are reposts of that same article.

    “please justify the Israeli army’s illegal use of white phosphorous.”

    Why would I? The use of phosphorous, by anyone, including Israel, is atrocious. I am however astounded that whenever I try to suggest an impartial approach and the very smallest bit of journalistic integrity - classic tradecraft, such as assessing and confirming the trustworthiness of sources - you can no longer see me as anything other than an Israel apologist.

    And for the record, no, I don’t have all the answers. But unlike Leila and Hemant, I can be bothered to at least begin to look for them.


  • Hemant Jain on 16th April 2010:

    Here are some views from the UN, from the US, from around the world. With facts. And opinions of highly regarded people. And no, they are not from the Guardian alone.

    “We recognize that the Israeli government has imposed restrictions on Gaza out of a legitimate and keenly felt fear of continued terrorist action by Hamas and other militant groups. This concern must be addressed without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip.
    http://minnesotaindependent.com/54474/ellison-oberstar-and-mccollum-urge-lifting-of-gaza-blockade

    There have been two versions of the assault on Gaza played out over the past three weeks. One is the moderated account aired in the West; the other is the unexpurgated account of civilian deaths filmed in vivid close-up inside Gaza.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/tv-radio/gaza-war-from-a-distance-1419147.html

    The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories has said Israel’s military offensive on Gaza “would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law”.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/tv-radio/gaza-war-from-a-distance-1419147.html

    From my arrival in Gaza, the deprivations and hardships resulting from the blockade were all too evident. Visiting an UNRWA food distribution center, I could see for myself the despair and suffering etched in the faces of those who queued for the most basic rations of rice, milk powder and sunflower oil. Eighty percent of the population of Gaza now lives below the poverty line and UNRWA is encountering increasing levels of abject poverty where people basically do not have enough food, even with their meager food allocations, to live.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/05/opinion/05iht-edmartin.html
    (Micheál Martin is the foreign minister of Ireland.)

    Here are some links that we may have conveniently missed earlier:

    “In Gaza there is now no uncontaminated water; of the 40,000 or so newborn babies, at least half are at immediate risk of nitrate poisoning – incidence of “blue baby syndrome”, methaemoglobinaemia, is exceptionally high; an unprecedented number of people have been exposed to nitrate poisoning over 10 years; in some places the nitrate content in water is 300 times World Health Organisation standards; the agricultural economy is dying from the contamination and salinated water; the underground aquifer is stressed to the point of collapse; and sewage and waste water flows into public spaces and the aquifer.

    The blockade of Gaza has gone on for nearly four years, and the vital water and sanitation infrastructure went past creaking to virtual collapse during the three-week assault on the territory almost a year ago.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2009/dec/09/gaza-children-palestinian-babies

    Isn’t this outrageous?
    The blockade on Gaza is also taking its environmental toll on Gaza and southern Israel. For almost two years, supplies necessary to rehabilitate and upgrade Gaza’s sewage networks and treatment plants have been banned. Attempts by the international community and the Palestinian Authority to persuade the military authorities to treat the discharge of sewage into the sea from Gaza as an important humanitarian issue have so far failed.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jun/06/gaza-strip-water-supply


    Forget about the terrorists on both sides. Official and unofficial. Don’t we as humans have the common sense to believe that: “Confining people in abject poverty in a tiny slice of territory is a recipe for continued bitterness, fury and radicalism”???
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/22/lift-the-gaza-blocade-nick-clegg

    As for Andrei, I don’t think I want to have a conversation with him as through the thread he has been personal and rude. Someone please tell him that he will only find answers if he takes his head out of his whatever.


  • Hemant Jain on 16th April 2010:

    And yes, let’s not say ‘nobody asked the Israelis’.

    Hedy Epstein is what some might see as a contradiction in terms: a survivor of the Holocaust and also a staunch advocate for the Palestinian people. Born in 1924 in Freiburg, Germany, Epstein was 14 when she escaped from Nazi persecution via the Kinderstransport to England. Since her 1948 arrival in the U.S., Epstein has been an advocate for peace and human rights. 
    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2010/01/israel-gaza-holocaust-survivor-hedy-epstein-explains-why-she-became-palestinian-rights-activist.html

    I am sure we will find hundreds of examples like that.

    So now we have had the UN, Amnesty, Irish foreign minister, all sorts of newspapers, people from all countries. We have had facts and figures. Should we go back to the post and rethink the use of the word ‘truth’?


  • Hemant Jain on 16th April 2010:

    A controversial coalition of prominent Jewish activists and academics has reignited controversy in the British Jewish community after taking out an paid advertisement in The Times this week calling for Israel to lift its economic blockade of the Gaza Strip and accusing the state of breaching international law.

    “Independent Jewish Voices” was formed a year ago and counts Nobel laureate Harold Pinter and actor Stephen Fry among its prominent signatories.
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/950381.html

    Norman Finkelstein is one of the most radical and hard-hitting critics of the official Zionist version of the Arab-Israeli conflict and of the historians who support this version…
    Here is an interview which you want to see.Find both the parts:
    http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/norman-finkelstein-democracy-now-interview-march-2010/

    And more:
    The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories has said Israel’s military offensive on Gaza “would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law”.
    http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2010/4/13/poet_and_author_alice_walker_speaking_in_gaza

    And more:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7834700.stm

    NOTE:
    Please go through all the links I have put up in the last three replies to this thread.


  • Leila on 16th April 2010:

    Andrei Tuch:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0VqKHTbtX0&feature=fvsr

    White phosphorous report

    You are questioning our sources yet you’ve failed to provide us with any. If you have any better ones, post them. Show me where you’re getting all these answers from.


  • Hemant Jain on 17th April 2010:

    We’ve tried war, now let’s try art. Here’s another post on Israel-Palestine conflict:
    http://development.thinkaboutit.eu/think3/post/israel-palestine._weve_tried_war_now_lets_try_art/


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