RAMALLAH, Monday, March 22, 2021 (WAFA) - Israel's Discriminatory Policies in Palestine Constitute a Systemic Attack on the Palestinian People's Right to Water and Sanitation at a Time of Unprecedented Global Pandemic, said the Ramallah-based Palestinian human rights organization, Al-Haq, in a press release.
Marking World Water Day, al-Haq said that since the initial observation of the United Nations World Water Day on 22 March 1993, Israel, as the Occupying Power in the occupied Palestinian Territory (oPT), has continued to consolidate and expand its domination of the Palestinian people through its discriminatory and unlawful policies and practices around the control and distribution of water.
The human right to water encompasses a number of elements, including availability, quality, and accessibility, and includes the ability to both physical access water and the principle of non-discrimination in the distribution of water.
The oPT's natural water supply comes from three main sources: the Jordan Valley, the Mountain Aquifer, which stretches from the West Bank across the Green Line, and the Coastal Aquifer, located around the Gaza Strip. Each of these sources are under Israeli military control, and have been the subject of extensive restrictions introduced either by the Israeli occupying forces or Mekorot, the Israeli national water company, into which the Palestinian water system has been integrated, said al-Haq.
“Palestinian direct access to water in the occupied West Bank is denied in favour of providing access to illegal Israeli settlements.”
Approximately 50,000 Palestinians residing in Area C of the West Bank are denied access to clean, safe, and affordable water, while as of 2016, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank consumed on average only 73 litres of water per day, well below the World Health Organisation's (WHO) recommended 100 litres.
Conversely, Israeli settlers consumed approximately 369 litres per day, over three times the recommended average. It is estimated that Israeli settlers, illegally residing in the occupied Palestinian Territory (oPT), consume three to eight times more water than the entire Palestinian population of the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem.
Israel's denial to Palestinians of the human right of access to water has been aggravated by COVID-19, with the pandemic presenting a disproportionate and substantial threat to a Palestinian society deliberately denied for decades the right to develop a functioning healthcare system, as a result of apartheid policies and practices imposed by Israel's occupation, it.
Al-Haq said that Israel, as Occupying Power, has failed and is continuing to disregard its obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic is borne out not only by the absence of any effort at adopting and applying 'the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics,' but by Israel's discriminatory policies and practices, which actively deny Palestinians access to adequate water and sanitation.
The ongoing pillage by Israel, and with the complicity of corporate actors, of Palestinian water resources in the occupied West Bank is having a disproportionate affect on Bedouin and herder communities and Palestinian farmers. These communities depend fully or partially on water for their survival and livelihoods, and are particularly severely affected by Israeli and corporate pillage of their natural resources including water.
Bedouin communities are most affected by Israeli policies of fragmentation, discriminatory planning and zoning, resulting in demolitions and land confiscations, promotion of 'relocation' plans, forced evictions, denial and restrictions on access to essential services and natural resources, including to farming and grazing land and water; restrictions on freedom of movement; lack of enforcement of settler violence and exposure to military trainings and activity in closed military areas and firing zones, and related temporary displacement, as well as the risk posed by unexploded munitions.
Israeli 'Water-Apartheid' constitutes a systemic attack on the Palestinian people's right to water and sanitation as well as a concerted assault on the broader right of Palestinians to the highest attainable standard of health, at a time of unprecedented global crisis, it said.
Al-Haq called upon third States, the international community, and private entities to recognize Israeli policies and practices with regards to access to water in the OPT as a gross and systematic denial of the right to health and to water and sanitation.
Al-Haq also called upon third States, the international community to recognize the contributing factor of the construction, and maintenance, of Israel's institutionalized regime of systematic racial domination and oppression, amounting to the crime of apartheid, over the Palestinian people as a whole.
“In line with their obligations erga omnes under international law, we urge all States to take positive measures, address the root causes of the apartheid and occupation and to bring this unlawful situation to an end,” it said.