Jordan Valley: Who steals (water) from whom?

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Daphne Banai

On July 1, 2020, Israel was going to annex the Palestinian Jordan Valley. So far this has not happened. But even it does, essentially the dire state of its Palestinian population will not have changed. For the 53 years of its occupation, Israel has taken upon itself all authority – both military and civil – and has not provided the Palestinian inhabitants even a crumb of a chance to survive. For example, only the Israeli authorities control construction permits in the Jordan Valley. Thus, the Jewish settler-colonies sprout and develop, and expand more than anything else. Foreigners to these parts, citizens of the occupying state come and take over every fertile ounce of ground, whereas the Palestinians have been denied any permission to construct for over 50 years now. The ruling hand which enables and finances construction in the settler-colonies, is ready at any moment to demolish anything put up by a Palestinian – the indigenous- be it a roof for his goat pen, or a shack for a son who just married. Thus, too, with water: right after the 1967 war, Israel took charge of all the water in the Palestinian Jordan Valley. It allotted 90% of the water to the Israeli citizens who forcibly settled in the area (and who make up only about 12% of the inhabitants there at present), and 10% of the water to the Palestinians who had been living there for ages. Just for the sake of comparison: a resident of settler-colony Roi receives 431 liters a day. A resident of the neighboring Palestinian community of Al Hadidiya? Nothing at all. Zero! He must get water from the area under civil Palestinian control, in a tanker. He uses 20 liters a day.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because this week, A. – a charming young man – was arrested, accused of stealing water. I don’t believe A. stole water. I have known him for years, and can swear he is as straight as an arrow. But let’s assume, just assume, that he did. What insane reality forces the father of 4 young children (one of them with a heart condition) to survive in 40 degrees centigrade without a drop of water? To look with yearning at the luscious lawns and swimming pools of his Jewish neighbors, who had recently arrived, taken over the are and steal his own water? For it is Palestinian water that flows under the ground of Palestine, and until Israel forcibly took over the area and stole it from them, the water was theirs.

The impunity of calling water in the Palestinian Jordan Valley “ours” – meaning belonging to Israel – and stealing nearly all of it from the indigenous population that has always lived there, to deny it with such unbearable cruelty, the hypocrisy of accusing a thirsty inhabitants who wished, perhaps, to quench his children’s thirst – to call such a fellow “thief”, is simply incredible!

He has been in Israeli custody for 5 days now. And who knows until when?