An unapologetic discussion in Paris of Israel’s ‘colonisation’ of the West Bank
Last Friday, I represented IDMC at a conference on the Jordan Valley entitled “A potential hampered.” It was held at the French Senate in Paris by the Plateforme Palestine, a group that brings together all the NGOs in France working on issues related to Palestine.
Attendees included eminent intellectuals such as Professors Jacques Fontaine, Julien Salingue and Bernard Ravenel, who all added a critical scholarly lens to the debate, despite being slightly peeved that the bibliography for the event was all in English. Well-known Palestinians such as Shawan Jebreen, Sami Khader, and Minister Shaddad Attili also attended to express their helplessness in developing Palestine, and specifically, the Jordan Valley.
The Jordan Valley has been a hot topic in humanitarian circles for some years now, mostly because ever since the Olso Accord the Israelis have made it clear that they were not going to give it away, keeping it all in under Area C, while arguing a need to control the border with Jordan for security reasons.
‘‘I am the Minister of Water… without water!’’
The Jordan Valley represents a non-negligible 30 percent of the Palestinian West Bank. Israel has exclusive control of87 percent of it, and has developed 37 Israeli settlements over time, which the French (who have not sanitised their semantics) call “colonies.”
Palestinians are not only being edged out in terms of land, but they are also struggling to access vital resources, namely water. The water is pumped directly into the Palestinian aquifer by Israel’s National Water Company, Mekorot, and is then sold at a discounted rate to the Israeli settlers, and at a hefty price to the occupied Palestinians. This poses a real problem when you consider that 21% are unemployed.
“I am the Minister of Water, without water, who decides on nothing and only manages a permanent crisis.”
Displacement continues as the Palestinian Authority sits powerless
In response to this situation, the Palestinian Authority (PA) Minister of Water was prompted to admit his own administration’s impotence; “I am the Minister of Water, without water, who decides on nothing and only manages a permanent crisis.” Today, a mere few months after the UN recognised Palestine as a non-member state and after theWorld Bank endorsed the Palestinian Authority in 2011, his statement is a striking reminder that the Palestinian Authority was made financially dependent on Israel since the Oslo Accord, and still is.
The Palestinian Authority has had its hands effectively tied by Israel. While the Oslo Accord, signed 20 years ago, specified that after an interim period of five years Area C would fall under the PA’s jurisdiction, this is yet to happen. Add to this the Palestinian Authority’s subordinate financial position, it’s no surprise that thousands of Palestinians in the Jordan Valley continued to be displaced in 2012 by Israeli authorities; both directly through forced evictions and indirectly by preventing their economic independence through the demolition of infrastructure. Water cisterns, for example, area prime target of demolitions, which can affect the whole community – particularly in one of the most aridplaces in the world.
Yet it is difficult to get a clear picture on the real numbers of people internally displaced as a consequence of these actions. In 2012, for example, sources say 600 Palestinian residences and buildings were destroyed in the West Bank,displacing 880 people – more than half of them children – and affecting the livelihoods of 4,102 others. These numbers are invariably an underestimation, however, because they focus exclusively on evictions and demolitions while failing to recognise Palestinians who have left their homes due to the destruction of their livelihoods and sustained abuses of their human rights.
Perversely, as Israel prevents the Palestinians from becoming independent through economic development, the international community continues to pick up the slack. Instead of tackling the political problem, the international community has, over and over again, poured more money into repairing the Palestinian infrastructure while Israel repeatedly destroys it. In turn, Israeli settlements increase and Palestinians continue to be displaced by the thousands. For example, an airport in Gaza largely funded by the EU at great expense was subsequently destroyed by the Israeli army in 2001.
True – but perhaps the real question here is, whose job exactly is it to hold these donors accountable?
Special thanks to Activestills.org for allowing us to use the above photos.