Friday, March 27, 2015

27-Mar-15: What a person can do with water is both less and more than most people think

They know most people will never bother to check the facts behind
the allegations [Image Source: A March 23, 2015 RT article]
We live in a country where water is a key enabler, and limiter, of habitation and success. Israel's approach to storing, treating, transporting, recycling and desalinating water is admired throughout the civilized world. It's a heroic aspect of Israel's unique history, and one of the most significant reasons why resource-poor postage-stamp-sized Israel does so well in so many different ways.

A Reuters syndicated report ["Fighters target vital water plants across Middle East: Red Cross"] published this past Wednesday seemed to be dealing with the way terrorists, who by definition, respect no red lines, are targeting water supply resources. "Militants", it says, using a common euphemism for terrorists, "in Syria, Iraq and Gaza have also used access to water and electricity supplies as "tactical weapons or as bargaining chips," the ICRC said in a report."

Reuters then seizes on an instance to prove the point:
Gaza's only power plant was damaged during the 2014 war between Israel and Palestinian militants. The Gaza Company for Generating Electricity said an Israeli tank shell hit the main fuel tanks, taking out almost all capacity.
Electricity is vital to the effective management of water. So if "an Israeli tank" eliminated the capacity of the regime now ruling Gaza, Israel stands behind Gaza's water crisis. Right? No, not at all right, and understanding the real reasons why Gaza is chronically out of electric power is essential to making sense of allegations like the one we just saw. (We will come back to it here another time.)

Published to coincide with World Water Day 2015 this past Sunday (March 22), a report by NGO Monitor (online here) looks closely at the exploitation of water-centric issues as part of the multidimensional political warfare campaign that target Israel. Entitled "Water Myths and Facts: NGOs and the Destructive Water Campaign Against Israel", the report illustrates a fundamental truth about anti-Israel activism, expressed by its head, Prof Gerald Steinberg:
"Water is a regional issue, and one that, with close cooperation between all parties, can ensure equitable, maximal access to clean and safe water and help create a more peaceful environment... Unfortunately, NGOs would rather politicize this issue and demonize Israel than improve Palestinian access to clean water."
Some examples of how:
  • A coalition of NGOs  and UN organizations called EWASH (the lengthy membership list is here) opposed an EU-funded desalination project in Gaza that would improve water supply to the suffering inhabitants of the teeming, Hamas-dominated region. Why? Because the project would "accommodate the occupation" and "legitimize Israeli actions." Let the Gazans stay thirsty.
  • Constant and widespread repetition of one core claim - that Israel's hostility to Hamas "prevents Gaza's children from having normal drink clean water". In reality, Gaza's water problems stem from poor maintenance of water and sewage facilities by the ruling power, Hamas. As an unabashedly terrorist organization, Hamas' terrorist infrastructure and warfare requirements chronically take precedence over investing in their people. The neglect of vital civilian infrastructures is the inescapable result. But it's actually much worse than that. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1992, the management of Gaza's water sector has been entirely in Palestinian hands, while Israel provides millions of cubic meters of water annually as those signed agreements require. The incessant Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli civilians have (astonishingly) not changed the reality that Israel continues to live up to the obligations agreed in the Oslo Accords. Even while under rocket from the people at the far end of the pipeline, Israeli water authority personnel repair and maintain the water supply to Gaza under the most stressful conditions.
  • Water gets lost in badly run systems no matter where in the world the bad management happens. This is mostly caused by leakage, spoilage, evaporation and inadequate delivery mechanisms (normally underground pipes). In the Gaza, those losses run at more than 40% of available supply. In the towns and villages under PA control, losses are around 33%. In Israel, it's less than a tenth of that.
  • Allegations are made that Mekorot, Israel's national water authority, gains from "Israeli control over a Palestinian captive market under occupation." So the claim is made that "Mekorot applies discriminatory water prices, charging Palestinians higher rates than Israelis”. (Click here to see this truthfulness-challenged assertion on the Who Profits website where it has been doing damage since 2013.) It's back-to-front wrong. The NGO-Monitor report shows how Mekorot sold water to the PA and Gaza in 2013 at a loss by honoring a set price contract to the Arabs. In reality, the price they pay is not more but in fact less than a third of what Israelis pay their own supplier. If Israel's aim is to make unjustified profits, it's an odd way to do it.
  • Another constant refrain: the Palestinian Arabs are prevented from creating a better water system because the Israelis make this hard for them. The reality, which depends on understanding treaties, agreements and opaque Palestinian Arab conduct (which most anti-Israel activists and a large part of their audience don't bother to do), is that water projects that have gotten all the necessary authorizations, including those needed from the Israeli side, and for which funding is available, routinely fail to deliver the goods because of conflict within the Palestinian Arab world, and the heavy lobbying of Palestinian sectoral interests, notably their agricultural sector.
  • And sometimes the attacks on Israel focus not on inadequate supplies of water but on too much of it. We took a close look at the beginning of March at how irresponsible, unprofessional and agenda-driven reporting from some of the world's largest creators of it can produce outrageous lies like the one claiming Israel uses an aggressive open-the-flood-gates strategy to drown the children of Gaza. It's here ["01-Mar-15: Facts, dam facts, and non-factual inventions aimed at the gullible"]
Foreign aid to the Palestinian Arabs is a notorious black hole. Somehow, the fact that they receive more money per capita than any other segment of mankind has in history keeps bumping up against their reality: photos of bedraggled mothers and children dragging gerry-cans among the rubble of bombed homes. Where did all that foreign cash go? Why do they still not have water or sewerage or reliable supplies of electric power?

Sadly, the process of painting Israel as the boogey-man of the Arab world pays dividends for the advocates of boycotts and sticking a finger in Israel's eye. The Dutch water company Vitens, the largest in its home market, canceled an agreement in December 2013 to collaborate with Mekorot. The Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry played an anti-Israel role in the affair. ACEA, an Italian water corporation, signed a co-operation agreement with Mekorot in December 2013 [source] which included provisions where Mekorot would play a role in under-resourced regions of Italy; ACEA came under heavy pressure to break it almost immediately. 

At the same time, cooperation agreements exist among, and deliver benefits to, Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians. as they should. 

But in the hands of single-minded politically-motivated NGOs, water is a weapon of mass destruction. In many respects, those anti-Israel campaigns, involving high-profile non-governmental organizations, parrot the Palestinian Authority's political agenda, and that of Hamas. In addition to EWASH, they include Al Haq, Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), BADIL, Coalition of Women for Peace/Who Profits, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, United Civilians for Peace (an umbrella group comprising Dutch NGOs ICCO, Oxfam Novib, IKV Pax Christi), Cordaid) and others.

The blame game is played in creative ways by the political activists who purport to be standing up for Palestinian Arab water rights. It's effective, as we noted, until people start looking close at the facts. Israel provides significant amounts of its own water, for instance, to supply the Palestinian Arabs and not the reverse as claimed by the hostile activist NGOs. Unfortunately, the facts - as the Reuters report at the top of this post shows - are inadequate to the task of defeating fact-free or fact-light political agitation.

As with so many other aspects of the disdain and demonization that Israel experiences in international relations, what bothers the hostile side has very little to do with Palestinian suffering. What they cannot abide is Israel's success. There's a name for the sort of activism.

UPDATE April 5, 2015: We are pleased that readers in Poland now have access to a Polish version of this post, kindly translated by the noted Polish author Malgorzata Koraszewska (not for the first time - many thanks!) and posted at Dziękuję bardzo za życzliwość!

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