Please note: Opinions expressed in the following articles do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. Read previous weeks’ Middle East Notes
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The six featured articles and the related links in this issue of the Middle East Notes focus on an UNESCWA report which concluded that the State of Israel has established an apartheid regime; Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson’s response to the report in which he compares it to a Nazi propaganda publication that was strongly anti-Semitic; the U.S. calling on the United Nations to withdraw this report; the resignation of UN Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf following pressure from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to withdraw the report; reflections by Peter Falk on the report and reactions to it; and many links to other articles of interest. Links to recent CMEP Bulletins are also provided.
Commentary: For centuries people held the belief that the sun revolved around the earth, until objective facts proving the opposite were finally accepted. Initially those offering such facts were ignored, ridiculed, and condemned. This issue of the Middle East Notes focuses on the crime of apartheid to which the government of Israel stands accused by an array of objective facts. The messengers of these facts are likewise being ignored, ridiculed, and condemned rather than the facts presented being refuted. Personal beliefs and emotional appeals (“post truth”) continue to be used in an attempt to control public opinion.
- A report by UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) Rima Khalaf concluded that Israel has established an apartheid regime.
- Haaretz notes that this report is the first time a UN body has stated the charge of apartheid against Israel.
- Haaretz also reports that the United States called on the United Nations to withdraw this report.
- Ali Abunimah in Electronic Intifada states that Rima Khalaf resigned, following pressure from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to withdraw the landmark report.
- Ma’an News Agency states that the report, now withdrawn, concluded that Israel is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” of imposing apartheid policies upon Palestinians.
- Richard Falk in The Nation writes reflections on the report made by himself andVirginia Tilley noting the degree to which Israel’s supporters, in response to criticism, have sought to discredit the messengers rather than address the message.
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Palestinian villages ‘get two hours of water a week’
Israeli control over water supplies in the occupied West Bank has left Palestinians desperate.
Ramallah, occupied West Bank – Enas Taha, a resident of the Palestinian village of Kafr al-Deek in the occupied West Bank, has become desperate.
“Since the [water] crisis started in June, the municipality has been able to supply water for only one hour twice a week,” Taha told Al Jazeera. “I am checking the weather forecast every day; they announced rain three weeks ago, but it has not come yet. The only thing I can do is to pray to God.”
Many West Bank communities are facing similar problems, amid an acute water shortage that has lasted for months. In the Salfit, Jenin and Hebron governorates, some villages have gone as long as 40 days in a row without running water.
In mid-July, residents in the Bethlehem area staged a sit-in for days to protest against the shortages, sparking clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces.
“It is a very stressful situation. I have to consider and prioritise every single drop of water I use,” Taha said. “We have barely enough to drink, cook, shower and use the bathroom. Sometimes I don’t do the laundry or clean the house for weeks. It is hot and dusty. This is exhausting.”
|Enas Taha shows her garden, which has turned brown due to the severe water shortages since June [Eloise Bollack/Al Jazeera]|
Some Palestinians have joked that the water bill collector comes to their homes more often than water. As demand rises, the cost of drinking water has skyrocketed, with some families spending up to 30 percent of their meagre incomes to purchase it.
Israel implements a policy of water cuts each summer, but this year, it reached an unprecedented peak. In early June, Israeli water company Mekorot informed the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) of summertime supply cuts totalling more than 50 percent – and the cuts, while not as dramatic, remain in effect today, more than a month after the official end of summer.
“We are in regular contact with [Mekorot] to find a solution, but they constantly give us different excuses, such as the increase in demand, rising temperature, etc,” Deeb Abdelghafour, the PWA’s director of the water resources department, told Al Jazeera.
The notion that the region is suffering from water scarcity is a myth, he added: “We have been facing shortages for decades, and the reason is not natural, but man-made – meaning the Israeli occupation and Israeli control over water resources in the Palestinian territories.”
Israeli officials have stated that water resources are shared equally in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, a unit in the Israeli army, noted that Israel provides 64 million cubic metres of water to the Palestinians annually, even though it is only obliged to provide 30 million under the Oslo accords.
However, disparity is evident in the lush gardens, parks and swimming pools in illegal Israeli settlements. The key difference is that Palestinian villages in the West Bank are not connected to the national water grid, relying instead on local underground supplies.
Palestinians living in remote areas have been hit the hardest by the ongoing water crisis, as access roads are often poor and the additional costs of delivery result in higher prices.
“We need special 4×4 trucks to drive on the unpaved roads, and it can take up to two hours to reach the communities,” said Hafez Hureini, a resident of at-Tuwani village and leader of the South Hebron Hills Popular Committee.
|Taha shows her empty beehives: ‘Last year, we had bees so we could produce our own honey, but all the bees died due to lack of water; there are not enough flowers’ [Eloise Bollack/Al Jazeera]|
Over the summer, Israeli media reported that illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank were also suffering from daily disruptions to water supplies, prompting the Israeli government to establish a new drilling site, Ariel 1, which would provide 250 cubic metres of water per hour.
Abdelrahman Tamimi, director of the Palestinian Hydrology Group for Water and Environmental Resources Development, said that this was not where water was needed the most.
“The wells should be drilled where there is important demand, such as north and south of Jenin, south of Hebron, or northwest of the Jordan valley. Why in Ariel, I wonder, as a hydrologist? There is already a well there; they can simply improve its capacity … [This measure] was definitely not designed to supply Palestinian communities,” Tamimi told Al Jazeera.
In the meantime, Israel has accused Palestinians of tapping into pipes, with the Israeli Water Authority asserting that 5,000 cubic metres of water is stolen every day by Palestinians. “We are aware there is water theft … However, we should ask ourselves why are the people stealing water? Simply because they are thirsty,” Abdelghafour said.
At the same time, increased water demands owing to growing Israeli and Palestinian populations is stretching the limits of existing water infrastructure. Most of the water network was installed in 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank. Today, the diameters of the pipes are inadequate, and the system is reaching the end of its life cycle.
“Even to upgrade infrastructure in Area A and B is a headache,” Abdelghafour said. “They [Israel] impose long and complicated procedures in order to issue permits to import the smallest pieces or equipment.”
Data released by the Israeli Water Authority shows that a large expansion in agriculture in the settlements has led to an estimated rise of 20 to 40 percent in water consumption this year.
“The [Palestinian Authority] has no solution for the water crisis. In my opinion, Israel has used this summer to put more pressure on us to purchase desalinated water, so they can allocate groundwater for the settlements and their future expansion,” Tamimi said.
Since 2005, five desalination plants have been built in Israel, now producing approximately 50 percent of the country’s water supply.
“We don’t want to substitute water from desalination plants for our historical rights to all shared water resources,” Abdelghafour said. “Once we have our basic rights, based on equitable allocation of resources and international law, then we can think of other development options, such as desalination or treatment of waste water.”
Read more at Aljazeera.com
Suspension of controversial Palestine class at UC Berkeley is overturned by administration; Class is Reinstated, rejecting pressure from pro-Israel Groups!
September 20, 2016
“After an abrupt suspension last Tuesday, a college course about the decolonization of Palestine has earned a reprieve from the University of California on Monday. After reviewing the course material, the Berkeley campus officials decided the class promoted open discussion and didn’t push a political agenda.”
Read full story at Mondoweiss.net.
Speaker at U. of U. criticizes America for ‘bigotry,’ ‘Islamophobia’
The Salt Lake Tribune, page B3
April 6 2016 6:09PM
A visiting professor told a group of University of Utah students Wednesday, “America has a bigotry problem.”
Omid Safi, director of the Islamic Studies Center at Duke University, criticized American foreign policy and leaders from both major political parties for creating an environment in which ISIS flourished. He pointed to statements by Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz made while campaigning for the Republican nomination that help fuel “Islamophobia.” Trump has called for a ban on Muslim immigrants. Cruz has suggested putting stronger police patrols in areas with large Muslims populations. While most of the media focus has been on Trump, both plans are equally dangerous for American Muslims, he said.
“Every time they make one of these statements, their donations go up,” Safi, editor of Progressive Muslims on Justice, Gender and Pluralism, said during a forum at the U’s Hinckley Institute of Politics. “The scariest thing about these comments is the fact that people are giving them donations and applauding these statements.”
During the Utah presidential caucus, Republican voters in the state rejected Trump by a wide margin.
Jeremy Pope, the co-director of the Center for Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University, said rhetoric aimed at Islam was one of many factors that caused the state to vote against Trump. There is no doubt, he added, that anti-Muslim rhetoric appeals to some Republican voters throughout the country.
State Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, one of two senators who endorsed Trump, said he still supports the businessman despite his polarizing rhetoric.
“You don’t have to agree with everything a candidate says to support him,” he said.
Congressman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, has recently been trying to reach out to Muslims in the community. He says he’s been building great relationships and opposes the anti-Muslim ideas advocated by Trump and Cruz. Chaffetz said there should not be a religious test for immigrating into the country, adding that terrorism is a real threat and the United States needs to take steps to end it, but shouldn’t discriminate based on religion.
“The Muslims I’ve talked to are part of the solution, not part of the problem,” he said.
Chaffetz says he’s endorsed no candidate since Florida Sen. Marco Rubio dropped out of the race, but previously told The Tribune he would support whoever the Republican nominee is in the general election.
Safi said that anti-Muslim sentiment is on the rise in America, and is even higher now than it was the day after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Safi argued the problem is deeply rooted in racism that has always been a part of American history. He called for people to come together and work toward ending bigotry. He said only active participation in the process and people speaking out about their suffering will change the situation.