There is an ongoing, but hidden, Israeli war against the Palestinians that is seldom highlighted or even known. It is a water war that has been brewing for decades.
On July 26 and 27, two separate but intrinsically linked events took place in the Ein Al-Hilweh area, in the occupied Jordan Valley, and near the town of Beita, south of Nablus.
In the first incident, Jewish settlers from the illegal Maskiyot settlement began construction of the Ein Al-Hilweh spring, which has been a source of fresh water for villages and hundreds of Palestinian families in this area. The seizure of the source has been developing for months, all under the watchful eye of the Israeli occupation army.
Now, the source of Ein Al-Hilweh, like most of the land and water resources of the Jordan Valley, is annexed by Israel.
Less than 24 hours later, Shadi Omar Salim, a Palestinian municipal worker, was killed by Israeli soldiers in the town of Beita. The IDF quickly issued a statement which, as one might expect, blamed the Palestinian for his own death.
The Palestinian victim approached the soldiers in a “threatening manner,” while holding “what appeared to be an iron bar,” before being shot, the IDF said.
If the “iron bar” claim was true, it could be related to the fact that Salim was a water technician. Indeed, the Palestinian worker was about to open the pipes that supply Beita and other adjacent areas.
Beita, who has witnessed much violence in recent weeks, faces an existential threat. An illegal Jewish settlement, called Givat Eviatar, is being built on top of Palestinian mountain Sabih, in Arabic, Jabal Sabih. As usual, every time a Jewish settlement is built, the lives and livelihoods of Palestinians are threatened. Thus, the ongoing Palestinian protests in the region.
Beita’s struggle is a representation of the Palestinian struggle at large: unarmed civilians struggling against a colonial state that ultimately wishes to replace a Palestinian village or town with a Jewish settlement.
There is another side of what can be considered a typical story, where the IDF and Jewish settlers work together to ethnically cleanse Palestinians: Mekorot. The latter is an Israeli state-owned water company that literally steals Palestinian water and sells it back to Palestinians at an exorbitant price.
READ: Residents of Beita will use all means to keep their land free, ”says Palestinian activist
Unsurprisingly, Mekorot also operates near Beita. The Palestinian worker, Salim, was killed because his job of providing water to the residents of Beita was a direct threat to Israeli colonial designs in that area.
Let’s put this in a larger context. Israel not only occupies Palestinian land, it also systematically usurps all of its resources, including water, in flagrant violation of international law which guarantees the basic rights of an occupied nation.
The occupied West Bank gets most of its water from the mountain aquifer, which is divided into three smaller aquifers: the western aquifer, the eastern aquifer, and the northeast aquifer. In theory, Palestinians have plenty of water, at least enough to meet the minimum required water allowance of 102 to 120 liters per day, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). In practice, however, this is hardly the case. Unfortunately, most of the water in these aquifers is directly appropriated by Israel. Some call it “water capture”; The Palestinians call it, more precisely, “theft”.
While in Israel per capita daily water consumption is estimated at 300 liters, illegal Jewish settlers in the West Bank consume more than 800 liters per day. The latter figure becomes even more scandalous when compared to the meager amount a Palestinian enjoys, that of 70 liters per day.
This problem is accentuated in the so-called “Area C” in the West Bank, for a reason. “Area C” represents almost 60% of the total land area of the West Bank and, unlike “Areas A” and “B”, it is the least populated. It is mostly fertile land and includes the Jordan Valley, known as the “breadbasket of Palestine”.
Despite the fact that the Israeli government decided in 2020 to postpone its formal annexation of this area, a de facto annexation has been in effect for years. The illegal appropriation of the Ein Al-Hilweh spring by illegal Jewish settlers is part of a larger ploy that seeks to appropriate the Jordan Valley, one dunum, one spring and one mountain at a time.
Of the more than 150,000 Palestinians living in “Area C”, nearly 40% – more than 200 communities – suffer from a “severe shortage of drinking water”. This shortage can be filled if Palestinians are allowed to drill new wells, expand existing wells, or use modern technologies to allocate other sources of fresh water. Not only does the Israeli army forbid them to do so, but even rainwater is forbidden to Palestinians.
Israel even controls rainwater harvesting in most of the West Bank, and rainwater harvesting cisterns belonging to Palestinian communities are often destroyed by the IDF.
an Amnesty International report, published in 2017, concluded.
The situation has worsened since then, especially as the idea of formally annexing a third of the West Bank has gained broad support within the Knesset and Israeli society. Now, every movement of the IDF and Jewish settlers in the West Bank is directed towards this end, by controlling the land and its resources, denying Palestinians access to their means of survival and, ultimately, keeping them. ethnically cleanser completely.
The Beita protests continue, despite the heavy price paid. Last June, a 15-year-old boy, Ahmad Bani Shamsa, was killed when an Israeli army bullet hit him in the head. At the time, Defense for Children International-Palestine issued a statement claiming that Bani-Shamsa posed no threat to the IDF.
The truth is that it is Beita who is under constant threat from Israel, along with the Jordan Valley, “Area C”, the West Bank and all of Palestine. The demonstration in Beita is a demonstration for land rights, water rights and basic human rights. Bani Shamsa and, later, Salim, were killed in cold blood simply because their protests were mere irritants to the grand design of colonial Israel.
The irony of it all is that Israel seems to love everything about Palestine: the land, the resources, the food, and even the fascinating history, but not the indigenous Palestinians themselves.
The opinions expressed in this article are the property of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.