An open letter to the UN and international NGOs, of the Israeli-Palestinian activists of “Combatants for Peace”. The situation is most critical in Area C of the Territories, where the cost of water services is eight times higher than in other areas. Palestinians can exploit only 15% of water reserves.
AJerusalem (AsiaNews) – The State of Israel “violates international obligations” and “denies basic human rights” to the Palestinian population, especially the communities living in Area C which “are prevented from accessing water”.
This is what members of “Combatants for Peace”, an Israeli-Palestinian NGO that fights with non-violent methods against Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories, write in an open letter to the highest institutions and international organizations, including the UN. In the letter, sent to AsiaNews by Jeremy Milgrom, Israeli rabbi and member of the NGO Rabbis for Human Rights, the activists announce a six-week protest campaign against Israel’s discriminatory policies “similar to apartheid”.
Addressed to the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), to the EU special representative for the peace process and to the leaders of the “Quartet”, the appeal calls for an “end” to the “immoral and illegal” policy of access to water for Palestinians. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least 100 liters of water per day for personal and domestic use: according to data provided by B’Tselem, the amount reserved to Palestinians in the West Bank is less than 90 and, in Area C, it drops to about 20 liters. In contrast, per capita consumption in Israel is 300 liters.
The West Bank has been divided into three areas according to the Oslo II agreements of September 1995, which complete the peace agreement signed in the Norwegian capital on September 13, 1993. Area C is the largest and includes all Israeli settlements. At the beginning it was about 74% of the West Bank and Oslo II foresees the gradual cession to the Palestinians. According to UN data, now it includes 60% of the West Bank and there are about 325 thousand settlers, divided into 135 settlements and 100 outposts. Palestinians are about 150 thousand, scattered in 542 communities. In zone C there are the majority of natural resources and open spaces, but their use is hindered by barriers and checkpoints.
According to the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, the cities of the West Bank suffer from a deficit in water reserves: until 2018 it amounted to about 58 million cubic meters with very critical realities in Jenin, Tulkarm and Tubas. Over the years, the situation has worsened, with increasing Israeli occupation of the reserves. The water produced by the underground reservoirs is equal to 750 million cubic meters per year. The Palestinian side can exploit only 118 million, just 15% of the total.
Combatants for Peace activists recall that in many areas of the world populations suffer from lack of water due to the climate crisis, while in the West Bank the problem is caused by discriminatory “policies”. “The Israeli government – they continue – has control of all natural resources since 1967” and uses them to tighten its grip on the Palestinian population, encourage settlements and demographic change in the region. Suffering the most are “farmers and shepherds” south of the Hebron hills and in the Jordan valley, excluded from the water network and unable to collect rainwater.
The cost of water in Area C is eight times higher than the average price paid by Palestinians in other areas of the West Bank and often the little that arrives is not drinkable due to the poor sanitary conditions of the tanks used for transport. In many cases “families must choose between their needs and those of animals or fields”. “The problem of water – the document continues – exemplifies the apartheid policy of the State of Israel in the West Bank”. “This racist, illegal and immoral policy must be stopped. The State of Israel should not be allowed to advance its racist and colonialist agenda at the expense of the minimal human existence of the residents of the Palestinian communities in Area C. Access to water is a basic human right, even when the human in question is Palestinian.”