B’Tselem February newsletter
B’Tselem-the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories newsletter–February 28, 2014
When President of the European Union Martin Schulz spoke at the Knesset, he asked about discrimination in water allotments to Israelis versus Palestinians. His question prompted a walkout by several MKs, which in turn brought to the fore a welcome public consideration of water-related issues. We devote much of this month’s newsletter to this vital concern, beginning with the open letter in Israeli daily Haaretz by Nasser Nawaj’ah, B’Tselem’s field researcher in the South Hebron Hills:
“My name is Nasser Nawajah. Although we have never met, I am sure that you have visited very close to my home. My neighbors from the settlement of Susya are very fond of you. In the last election, 270 of the 381 voters from the settlement of Susya voted for you and your party.
I understood from your response to the speech of European Parliament President Martin Schulz that you find dealing with the issue of water — or, more precisely, the water shortage among the Palestinians living in the West Bank — to be something of a nuisance. You may be surprised to hear that unlike you and most Israelis, water is not something I take for granted. Instead, it is a daily existential struggle. It is no theoretical matter; it is my family’s life. The war of statistics has already begun, but I want to tell you about myself and my village…
In contrast to the claims voiced yesterday by Israeli ministers and Members of Knesset, there is undeniable discrimination in water allocation with Israelis receiving much more water than Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The government of Israel is largely responsible for this discrimination due to its water policy. Firstly, minimal amounts of water are supplied to Palestinians and water from shared resources is unequally divided. Secondly, existing infrastructure with high levels of water loss is not upgraded. No infrastructure is developed for communities that are not connected to the water grid and water infrastructure projects in areas located inside the Palestinian Authority are not approved.
Gaza has been suffering a severe water crisis for years, due to contamination of its main water source – the coastal aquifer – by over-pumping and lack of proper sewage treatment. Residents buy drinking water from wastewater treatment plants as over 90% of the aquifer’s water is un-potable, a number expected to reach 100% by 2016. UNEP has called on Israel, the PA, Hamas and Egypt to take immediate action on the matter. Meanwhile, Israel must allow into Gaza materials and equipment needed to restore and develop its sewage treatment infrastructure. View a post on the topic on our Photo Blog
On 30 Jan. 2014 Israeli authorities demolished all the structures of Kh. Um al-Jamal, a small shepherding community in the northern Jordan Valley, citing allegedly unlawful construction. International law allows expelling residents of an occupied territory from their homes only for urgent military needs or for the purpose of protecting the local population. The expulsion must be temporary, and reasonable alternative accommodation must be provided. Israel must allow the residents to rebuild their homes and remain on the land the military wants them to leave.
On 7 Dec. 2013 a soldier outside the settlement of Beit El shot and killed Wajih a-Ramahi, 15. The military claims “the only shots fired were in the air”, but the autopsy found that a-Ramahi was hit by a bullet to the back. B’Tselem’s inquiries indicate that a-Ramahi was one of several youths throwing stones at soldiers from a distance of about 200 meters. Although they were not facing mortal danger, the soldiers responded with live ammunition, not crowd control weapons. The MAG Corps said that a military police investigation has been launched.
On 20 Dec. 2013 soldiers shot and killed ‘Odeh Hamad while he and his brother Radad were collecting scraps at the Beit Hanoun garbage dump. Radad, who reported hearing no warning beforehand, ran for help. While Hamad lay injured, soldiers just across the fence offered him no medical assistance, nor did they help the paramedics locate him. He was found after a half hour-long search and died shortly after reaching hospital. B’Tselem documented similar incidents at the same site, including four in the last 18 months in which civilians were injured.