This Friday is World Water Day and an opportune time to highlight the gross misallocation of water resources between Israel and the Palestinians. Water is one of the five permanent status issues in the Oslo Peace Accords, twenty years old this year. Accordingly, its accesss and consumption is relegated to political negotiations and beyond the purview of international law on water. As a result, the Palestinian Authority has had little basis upon which to challenge Israel’s confiscation of water for the past twenty years.
Sixty percent of one of Israel’s most significant water sources, the Western Aquifer, is located in the occupied West Bank. Israel derives eighty percent of the Acquifer’s annual yield and Palestinians receive the rest. Prime Ministers Menachim Begin, Ariel Sharon, and Ehud Barak consider control and use of Palestinian water use as a precondition to any Palestinian state. Were it subject to international law, at most Israel would receive only fifty percent of shared water resources.
Failure to abide by these terms of reference has devastated the Palestinian economy. Consider that a little more than one-third of the irrigable land in OPT is actually irrigated, which costs the economy 110,000 jobs per year and ten percent of its annual GDP.
While the security sector remains robust, the agricultural sector has shrunk from 28.5% of the economy in 1993 to 5.8% today.
In contrast, the Jordan Valley has become the site of Israel’s multi-million dollar settler agricultural industry. Its 9,400-settler population receives several times more water than does each Palestinian- the figures are more severe in the Jordan Valley itself. While Palestinian farmers have lost their lands and livelihoods in the Jordan Valley, Israeli settlers have been able to flourish due to this inequitable and inhumane distribution of water. European markets continue to absorb these settler commodities. Each settlement peach consumed by British citizens, for example, contains 140 liters of virtual water appropriated from Palestinians. Compare this to the meager twenty liters some Palestinians in the Jordan Valley have access to daily.
Water policy has led to the forced population transfer of Palestinians. Due to the restriction on access to water in the Jordan Valley, or thirty percent of the West Bank, the Palestinian population there, mostly Bedouin, has been diminished from 400,000 in 1967 to 56, 000 today.
On Friday, hundreds of Palestinians will march for water justice in the Jordan Valley, where the most shocking discrepancies in water access can be verified (settlers consuming about 700 liters per person a day living meters away from Palestinians with water quantities comparable to Sub- Saharan African levels). The march will directly challenge Israel’s exclusive control of Area C, 62% of the occupied West Bank. Rather than prepare Area C for Palestinian control, Israel has made it the site of intense colonial-settlement expansion and forced population transfer.
Meanwhile, the Israeli government has launched a public relations campaign to distort these realities. The Israeli Coordination of Government Activities in the Terri (COGAT) recently issued a factsheet entitled "Water in the West Bank". The document is laden with grave inaccuracies on the state of water supply to Palestinians who in fact access well below the minimum quantities set by the World Health Organization.
This info graphic is created by Visualizing Palestine and EWASH, an international coalition of thirty humanitarian organizations including Oxfam and Save the Children. It depicts the abundance of available water in the occupied West Bank, its appropriation, and ethno-national based distribution between Palestinians and Jewish-Israeli settlers. EWASH will be using this image to highlight the inequitable access to water among other humanitarian organizations during President Obama’s visit to the region.
Download full-sized version here.
[This infographic originally posted on Visualizing Palestine.]