HEBRON: Reflections on water by Jim Satterwhite

August 5, 1998
HEBRON: Reflections on Water

by Jim Satterwhite

[NOTE: Jim Satterwhite was arrested on the afternoon of Aug. 4 for returning a
coil of irrigation pipe to the Palestinian family from whom it was being
taken. The destruction of the entire irrigation system in a family's fields
represents a recent escalation on the part of the Israeli authorities to
alleged water-use violations. Before they would simply sever the connection
to a water line, now they remove all irrigation pipes. This is analogous to
the policy of demolishing entire homes for the "crime" of building even one
room onto a house without a permit]

After I was arrested I was taken to a police jeep nearby for a
while, then taken into the regional police station at the Kiryat Arba
settlement for questioning. I was eventually charged with interfering with the
military, for picking up and carrying a coil of irrigation hose. They held me
for about 4 hours after the arrest, then let me go on my own personal

It is interesting that the army officer who first detained me (technically
soldiers cannot make a formal arrest - they have to hand you over to the
police for that) said: "I've just been waiting for the chance to arrest one of
you from CPT -- you cause us so many problems!"

While in the field and later by the police jeep waiting to be taken in, I had
the chance to talk with some of the African workers who had been hired to tear
up the pipe. At first they were defensive when we told them that they were
contributing to the destruction of the family's livelihood, but while I was
being detained at the jeep they brought me food and drink and told me that
they felt bad about what they had been hired to do.

The lines "And everyone 'neath their vine and fig tree, shall live in peace
and unafraid," took on special meaning once again
for me. Yesterday it was in Anata while sitting under one of the few trees
left after the others had been deliberately bulldozed (after the house itself
had just been demolished) that these lines came to mind. Today it was while
watching the irrigation pipes being torn up that I again was moved by their
simple message.

I was struck today by some parallels between the demolition of the
Palestinian home in Anata yesterday and the destruction of the irrigation
systems today. That home was destroyed for being an "illegal structure." The
irrigation hoses were ripped up because they were allegedly siphoning off
water intended for the settlements and Hebron. In both cases the issue has to
do with Israeli control over the land and the resources of the West Bank. The
land is for settlements and bypass roads, and "security zones" around them
(which expand like amoebas as the settlements grow).

The Israelis use a disproportionate amount of the available water, drawn from
two main aquifers under the West Bank. When the Palestinians try to build on
land which the Israelis want to control (regardless of who holds title to it),
or use more water than the Israelis want to allocate them, then their houses
or irrigation pipes are destroyed. Many of the families in the Beqa'a valley
whose irrigation systems have been
destroyed also have home demolition orders outstanding (including the Fayez
Jabber family where CPT maintained a presence against bulldozers last week).

The police station resembled police stations everywhere -- a front desk, a lot
of coming and going, etc. The only difference from the basic North-American
pattern was that many police officers also carried submachine guns, and
soldiers sometimes came in with a prisoner. This difference only served to
underscore for me how both the police and the army here are instruments of
control -- these are truly the "occupied territories." It was thus ironic when
-- as I insisted on signing the personal recognizance form only in English --
the interrogating officer said: "You don't have to be so nervous. We are the
police, and Israel is a democracy."