The continued oppression of Palestinians by Israel is leading to a crisis

With much of the attention focused on the US presidential elections and the vote by the UK to leave the EU, not much attention has been paid to what has been going on in Israel where there has been yet another crackdown by the Israeli government on the Palestinians that show their willingness to use their power over the Occupied Territories in the West Bank and Gaza to make life miserable for the people living there.

From reader RM, I heard about how Israel has cut off the water supply to people in the West Bank during the month of Ramadan.

Israel has cut off the water supply to large areas of the West Bank, Palestinian authorities have claimed.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have reportedly been left without access to safe drinking water during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a period of fasting, at a time when temperatures can exceed 35C.

The northern city of Jenin, which has a population of more than 40,000, said its water supplies had been cut in half by Mekorot, Israel’s national water company. Jenin is home to a refugee camp, established in 1953, which contains 16,000 registered refugees.

Ayman Rabi, the executive director of the Palestinian Hydrology Group, told Al Jazeera that in some areas people had not received water for more than 40 days.

The discriminatory way that Palestinians are treated that has led to charges that their plight is similar to what the people in the Bantustan regions experienced in apartheid–era South Africa.

Almost 200,000 Palestinians in the West Bank have no access to running water and must obtain permission before collecting it, despite access to clean water being a human right.

“Israelis, including settlers, consume five times more water than Palestinians in the West Bank, 350 litres per person per day in Israel compared with 60 litres per Palestinian per day in the West Bank,” according to Al Jazeera.

The imbalance in water distribution dates back to at least the Oslo accords. In fact, the BBC has said water will be one of the major obstacles to solving the Israel-Palestinian issue.

“Israel allocates to its citizens, including those living in settlements in the West Bank deemed illegal under international law, between three and five times more water than the Palestinians,” Martin Asser wrote. “This, Palestinians say, is crippling to their agricultural economy.”

That’s not all. Jason Ditz reports that in response to two Israelis being killed, Israel has placed the entire city of Hebron, that has about 700,000 people, under a military blockade and has threatened to confiscate Palestinian tax money.

Israel in obliged by international agreement to collect some taxes on behalf of the Palestinians, and has often used tensions in the West Bank as a pretext to seize some, or at times all, of the collected taxes. Such moves have been criticized as particularly risky, tending to weaken the Palestinian Authority’s ability to maintain security and increasing unrest.

Philip Weiss writes that Palestinian resistance to this treatment is causing a crisis within the Israeli establishment.

Just because Palestinians are absent from US and Israeli coverage doesn’t mean they are absent from the Israeli political scene. In fact, the big split that is taking place inside the Israeli establishment would not have happened without Palestinians playing a part: in violent resistance.

Let’s review the events that precipitated the political shift (as chronicled by Yakov Hirsch): on March 24, the murder of an incapacitated Palestinian by an Israeli medic in occupied Hebron that was captured on camera and that shocked the world; the determination by military leaders to try the medic for manslaughter; the overwhelming support for the medic from Israeli Jews and the Netanyahu cabinet, to the point that Netanyahu called the murderer one of “our children” and telephoned his family; the April speech by the army’s deputy chief of staff, Yair Golan, saying that Israel was reminiscent of Nazi Germany in its intolerance toward non-Jews; the resignation of the Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, after Netanyahu summoned him to repudiate Golan and he refused; Ya’alon’s replacement by a racist ideologue, in Avigdor Lieberman; a speech by Ya’alon that Israeli leadership contains the “seeds of fascism”; a speech by former PM Ehud Barak saying that Netanyahu has been taken hostage by the right and has no intention of securing the country’s future by establishing a Palestinian state; and many reports that Netanyahu will be taken on politically by one Israeli general or another.

These have been momentous events in Zionist history. And however they are resolved in the next year or so, in an even more rightwing government or a government that makes a genuine effort toward creating a Palestinian state (likely a bantustan), it is wrong to give the credit for these changes to Israeli Jews. The Israeli security establishment has swallowed a lot from Netanyahu before, and it has signed off on massacres and persecution and apartheid against Palestinians for decades.

What crossed the line here? The total demonization of the Palestinian people by Netanyahu (and his propagandists) as subhumans who just hate Jews in their blood. That degree of ethnocentric incitement makes it impossible for the security establishment to police the occupation, it turns the conflict into a religious and racial battle that can only escalate into more extreme forms of violence.

As is often the case, the Israeli authorities use those moments when international attention, particularly in the US, is focused elsewhere to institute ruthless measures against the Palestinians. Recall that Operation Cast Lead that devastated Gaza in ways that were arguably war crimes was carried out just after Christmas in December 2008, in the period between Barack Obama’s election and his inauguration.


  1. Jenora Feuer says

    In fact, the BBC has said water will be one of the major obstacles to solving the Israel-Palestinian issue.

    Will be? Competing plans for diverting water from the Jordan River and the Sea of Gallilee were one of the significant causes of the tension leading up to the Six Day War in 1967. Complaints about Jordan River water being monopolized by Israel and damaging Palestinian agriculture have been around for quite some time, and the Dead Sea has been shrinking due to how little water makes it there. Water has been one of the primary obstacles to solving the issues there for decades already.

  2. anat says

    Water should be less of an issue for Israel nowadays, with increased use of desalination. Israel is cutting Palestinians’ water because it can and because it wants to, not because of impending shortage in its supply. (In contrast with the water wars of the 1960s.)

  3. lorn says

    Unless and until the Palestinian people and their representatives formally accept Israel’s and the Jewish people’s right to exist, and back it with real action (the time for lip service is long gone) I don’t have an opinion on the conflict. The loss of life and the suffering, on all sides, is lamentable, but as long as the right of any party to exist is is denied by another there can be no effective negotiations of limits in war or status in peace.

  4. Blood Knight in Sour Armor says

    It’s all well and good to talk about accepting Israel’s right to exist, but this isn’t Iran here; the sides are not equal. When you’ve got one side that has attack helicopters and control over the water supply vs. the occasional suicide bomber or rocket attack there is no moral equivalence. The Israelis need to dismantle the apartheid state before anyone is getting anywhere.

    What is interesting here is that now you’ve got IDF guys calling out the theocrats…

  5. says

    I get people who say I’m exaggerating or being anti-semetic when I compare Gaza and the West Bank to the Lodz Ghetto in Poland. But when you look objectively at Israel’s tactics, the comparison is valid (cutting off basic needs for survival like food, water and medicine; compressing people into ever smaller spaces; submitting civilians to unprovoked military violence with no legal recourse or justice; etc.).

  6. says

    This reeks of the retaliation policy in Denmark and other occupied countries where there was resistance: “kill ten civilians for every German soldier killed”.

    That’s not all. Jason Ditz reports that in response to two Israelis being killed, Israel has placed the entire city of Hebron, that has about 700,000 people, under a military blockade and has threatened to confiscate Palestinian tax money.

  7. Holms says

    Unless and until the Israeli people and their representatives formally accept Palestine’s and the Arab people’s right to exist, and back it with real action (the time for lip service is long gone) …

    lorn, you might want to ask which of the parties is in the driver’s seat here.

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