1 August 2011
AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Mekerot Water Company disrupts flow of water to Palestinian crops again
The Mekerot Water Company continues to disrupt the flow of water to Palestinian farms in the Beqa’a Valley. CPTers received a call on 20 July to document further damage to crops when the water company ripped out plastic irrigation pipes, saying that the Palestinians were stealing water. Seleh Jaber, a sixty-seven-year-old farmer, told CPTers that Mekerot also cut strings that support beans and cut pipes in violation of the Geneva conventions. (1)
Mekerot has destroyed cisterns and wells on the Jaber property, filling them with rocks, and has issued orders for the demolition of all wells in the valley. Jaber said that the interruption of water to crops damages the Palestinian economy. He also said that since farmers in the Beqa’a have many children, the denial of water damages families. Hassan Jaber, a family member whose new house is under construction after the Israeli military demolished his previous home, told CPTers Mekerot personnel beat young men with sticks and clubs when they are in the fields and Mekerot arrives to destroy irrigation equipment. Selah Jaber estimates that over eighty men, women, and children were affected by Mekerot’s pipe cutting venture on 20 July 2011. Shaddad Attili, the head of the Palestinian Water Authority, writing in the Jerusalem Post, June 2011, has listed numerous examples of Israel’s stranglehold on the water supply, such as denying permits for water exploration and destroying cisterns. The Palestinians thus face severe water shortages, despite the fact that the three principle underground aquifers of Palestine are found largely in the West Bank:
- The Yarkon-Tanninim Aquifer supplies Israel with about 340 million cubic meters of water annually, which are used by the Jerusalem-Tel-Aviv area. Palestinians use about 20 million cubic meters a year from this aquifer.
- The Nablus-Gilboa Aquifer supplies Israel with about 115 million cubic meters a year, largely for agricultural irrigation in the kibbutzim (communes) and moshavim (cooperative settlements) in Galilee.
- The Eastern Aquifer supplies about 40 million cubic meters annually to the Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley, and about 60 million cubic meters to the Palestinians.
Israeli planners insist that the Yarkon-Taninim Aquifer is vital to Israeli water needs, and therefore would like to retain control of settlement blocks over that area, adjacent to the so called "center" of Israel, the Gush Dan area. Israel's water supply always came from these aquifers, both during British mandate times and when Jordan ruled the area.
Seleh Jaber told CPTers, “The people of Beqa’a live in constant fear that their crops and way of life will be destroyed.” They are constantly seeking ways, in and out of the legal system, to plant and harvest beans, melons, tomatoes, and peppers as their families have done in Beqa'a for over 400 years.
(1) J. L. El Hindi, The West Bank Aquifer and Conventions Regarding Laws of Belligerent Occupation, Michigan Journal of International Law, Vol. 11, No. 4, Summer 1990.