United States complicit in Palestinian water crisis
Water in Palestine is extremely scarce, compounded by the Israeli occupation, the United States’ complicity in Israel’s crimes, and the overall water crisis in the Middle East.
Within the past few years The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has implemented projects to help alleviate the overall shortage and contamination of water in Palestine. While these projects may appear hopeful on paper, the root of the Palestinian water shortage is in Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Additionally, the United States is continuing to finance the occupation of Palestinian land through military and corporate aid to Israel.
According to the USAID, nearly 10 percent of Palestinian households are not connected to a water network. As a result, many Palestinians are forced to rely on water from unregulated tanker trucks that are horribly unsanitary and costly. Additionally, the USAID reports that only 25-35 percent of Palestinian wastewater in the West Bank is collected, and less than three percent of the collected wastewater is treated. Consequently, a majority of the water in Palestine is contaminated and unfit for consumption.
In 2014, the USAID approved two major water projects in the Southern West Bank. The two projects totaled $27 million dollars in aid. The intention was to increase water availability in numerous villages, including Nahaleen, Husan, Battir, Wadi Fukin, Beit Ummar, Al-Arrub Camp, and Halhul. The water projects were supposed to benefit thousands of Palestinians in the Southern West Bank.
According to Amnesty International, “Israel is deliberately withholding water resources from Palestine.” For example, the only available water source for Palestinians in the West Bank is from the Mountain Aquifer. Amnesty reports that Israel limits the amount of water annually available to Palestinians from the Mountain Aquifer to no more than 20 percent. Thus, Israel is deliberately withholding the amount of water Palestinians can extract from their own aquifer. While Israel places water limits on Palestine, it has continued to over extract water for its own use. Moreover, Israel’s over extraction from the aquifer provides a large quantity of water resources to the illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine.
Additionally, Amnesty reports that since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, it has denied Palestinians access to the water of the Jordan River. Israel prevents their access to water by diverting the river flow upstream supplying more water to Israel.
In regards to water contamination, Israel over pumping the Coastal Aquifer in the Gaza strip has resulted in contamination by sewage infiltration. Additionally, Israel diverts the water from the Wadi Gaza stream before it even reaches Gaza. Thus, despite USAID wastewater activities in Palestine, little can be accomplished as Israel continues to obstruct Palestinian water resources.
The Palestinian water crisis is an urgent humanitarian issue. While the United States is sending financial resources to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it chooses to remain complicit in the mistreatment of Palestinians through its unwavering support of Israel. The reality is that the conditions in Palestine will not improve until Israel complies with International law and recognizes that Palestinians have basic human rights.