Israel, Palestinians and Water Libel

Jack L. Schwartzwald is a clinical assistant professor of medicine at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School. He is the author of "Nine Lives of Israel" (2012) and "The Ancient Near East, Greece and Rome: A Brief History" (2014).


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On December 13, 2011, the French National Assembly issued a 320-page report entitled, The Geopolitics of Water, which dedicated 20 pages to an alleged “water war” between Israelis and Palestinians.  Employing the incendiary terms “apartheid” and “water occupation,” the report’s lead author, Jean Glavany, accused Israel of usurping Palestinian water sources and showing favoritism to 450,000 “colonial” settlers who purportedly “use more water than [the West Bank’s] 2.3 million Palestinians.”

The report won immediate praise from Palestinian Water Authority Director Shaddad Attili (who made similar allegations in a 2011 Jerusalem Post op-ed).  Harper’s Magazine likewise reviewed it favorably, as did the ever-reliable Counterpunch, which proposed the delusional hypothesis that Israel’s security barrier “closely follows the line of the Western Aquifer” as part of a sinister plot to divert “Palestinian” water to Israel.  (Just for the record: (i) the Western Aquifer discharges most of its water beneath Israeli territory, where it has been readily accessed since the 1920s; (ii) the “line” Israel’s security barrier most “closely follows” is that separating would-be Palestinian terrorists from their intended Jewish victims; and (iii) Jews living behind this barrier, but beyond the 1949 Green Line, get their water from Israeli — not Palestinian — sources.)

The mendacious French report is hardly the first word on this subject.  In May 2008, National Geographic gave two thumbs down to Israel’s life-sustaining desalination plants, pointing out that fossil fuels are needed to run them (thereby threatening the planet), that they produce water that is “too pure” (thereby threatening the integrity of water pipes) and that they are vulnerable to terrorist attack (not to give anyone any bright ideas).  Far worse was a 2009 Guardian “exposé” entitled, “Who will save Gaza’s children?” wherein Victoria Brittain claimed that Israeli water policy had exposed Gazan newborns to toxic levels of nitrates, thereby causing an “exceptionally high” incidence of “blue baby syndrome.”  In fact, the number of cases of “blue baby syndrome” — the lethal form of the medical condition “methemoglobinemia” — stands at zero.  (Although mild, non-lethal cases of methemoglobinemia have occurred in Gaza, the high nitrate levels that cause them are attributable to flawed Palestinian fertilizing methods, not to Israeli water policy.)

Collectively dubbed the “water libel,” by Jerusalem Post blogger, Petra Marquardt-Bigman, the above reports are unified by their devil-may-care attitude towards established facts. Relying on Palestinian Water Authority and Joint Israeli-Palestinian Water Commission documents, Visser and Shaked have wholly debunked Shaddad Attili’s accusations.  For example, Attili claimed that Israelis consume four times more water per capita than Palestinians.  The reader will reach the same conclusion — provided he uses Attili’s calculus, which (a) overestimates Israeli usage per capita by nearly 100% (280 cubic meters annually versus 150); (b) underestimates Palestinian usage by more than 50% (60 versus 140) and (c) grossly overestimates the Palestinian population by counting 400,000 Palestinians living in Israel (where they use Israel’s water supply), as well as another 400,000 living abroad.

As for the French National Assembly report, it turns out that Monsieur Glavany systematically evaded essential facts with an aplomb not seen in his country since the second Dreyfus trial.  Moreover, he interpolated a number of venomous inaccuracies into the report at the 11th hour without notifying his co-authors, all of whom disavowed his claims on reviewing the final text.

So what precisely are the facts?  A useful starting point would be to mention that under Jordanian rule prior to 1967, only 1 in 10 West Bank households were connected to running water, and that today, owing to Israeli water policy, the figure stands at 96% (and will soon rise to 98.5%.).  Secondly, Palestinians steal Israeli water (not the other way around as alleged by Attili and Glavany), while Israel exports volumes to the West Bank greatly in excess of what is mandated by the Oslo Accords.  (Israel does so primarily to compensate for the Palestinian Water Authority’s repetitive failure to implement approved water projects and its substandard maintenance and security procedures, which result in the loss of an estimated 33% of the Palestinian water allotment annually.)

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  • Bamaguje

    Just another case of the intellectually dishonest pro-Palestinian left distorting data for a preconceived political agenda – demonize Israel…like they do with fictituous anthropogenic climate change.

    "Mainly because it (Palestinian authority) doesn’t waste time on such mundane tasks as developing and maintaining its water resources, the PWA and its director have abundant time to level false charges against Israel." – Jack Schwartzwald

    Why would Palestinians waste their precious time on a non-Jihad kuffar venture like research & invest in water resources, when there are more important tasks to be accomplished…like killing Jews in other to shag prostitutes in Al-Jannah brothel. After all there are dhimmi Jews to provide water.

  • jglueck

    This masquerade has been going on for years, aided by corrupt journalists. The arabs steal water continually by tapping water lines and more… also, many municipalities/villages rejected treatment plants for years poisoning the fragile eco-system. Nobody who investigates such claims can continue lying about the situation.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

    The media and elites working hand in hand to smear Israel?
    I'm shocked, simply shocked. Who would have guessed.

    I am glad the author laid out the facts to support my conclusions before even finishing the title.

  • stern

    Most interesting to me here is not the article, but the lack of comments from the usual slew of Jew haters. Seems they can't handle the truth.

  • Ghostwriter

    John Adams once said "Facts are stubborn things;and whatever be our wishes,or the dictates of our passions,they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

    It's a shame that the anti-semites never learned that or they wouldn't stop their hideous libels against the Jews and Israel.

  • johnnywoods

    Israeli technology ROCKS!

  • H&R_ Barack

    There has never been a civilization or a nation referred to as "Palestine".

    The very notion of a "Palestinian Arab nation" having ancient attachments to the Holy Land going back to time immemorial is one of the biggest hoaxes ever perpetrated upon the world!

  • Schlomotion

    Mr. Schwartzwald vilifies the French National Assembly and even National Geographic. Evil, wicked, antisemitic National Geographic! Horrible, libelous, antisemitic Harper's Magazine! Out to get poor Israel. Leaving that conspiracy for a moment, one can realize that yes, the Israeli water industry is truly breathtaking. The science is magnificent. However, Israel can also veto any Palestinian water projects. Also, Israel drinks 80% of the water out from under Gaza and blinks its eyes and says "Why you no build water facilities? We approve them for you," neglecting the fact that Gazans have to cut automobiles into four and smuggle them through underground tunnels if they want to drive, are only allowed by Israel to fish up to 3 nautical miles off their own coast, Israel blocks exports of everything but produce (ha! make that with no water. Make bricks with no straw, too) and bans importing any dual use technology like metal tubing. Can't build water pipe. Pipe can be used to make rocket tubes and pipe bombs. "Poor Gaza. Why you no build water facilities? It's OK. You buy water from us! We take water from underneath you and sell back to you!" Sounds like a great deal, doesn't it? And what character! Palestinians, so lazy, ungrateful and backward. Israelis so scientific, patient and generous. By Moses' rod!

    • Choi

      Tell us how it feels to KNOW you're going to H#LL.
      You punch that ticket repeatedly with your every post.

      • Schlomotion

        This sounds like Virginia Tech all over again.

        • RonCarnine

          Schlo, you're doing it again. You have just been presented an article full of facts and you choose to ignore them and throw in your own unproven "facts". Israel has offered its technology to her friends and to her enemies a number of times over the years. You still need to be kind when writing your replies. A little politeness goes a long ways. That way, when you are proven wrong people are willing to cut you a little slack. You have a nice day!

          • Schlomotion

            I am surprised, Ron. Here Israel is acting like Pharaoh, like Herod. Selling water. Not bottled water, basic water from earth's aquifer. Dispensing it like thirst brokers. Why don't they sell air too? I thought you believed in God. Man has the right to sell air, water, and the right to fish in the ocean, the right to sell strawberries and to hammer metal? You better hope God cuts you some slack.

          • dave

            Fact is, Israel made an uninhabitable desert and swamp with a population of 150,000 in 1850, into a blossoming country with a current population of 6 million. This is why it is so annoying when Jew haters demonize Israel and claim they took over an established arab country, there was no one there! Like no one lives in the middle of Australia. Israelis have done plenty for the arabs, but they resent it. Israel has no oil and has created a society out of nothing, how embarrassing for the arabs, who have been held back by Islam for so long, they see science as evil and only want to teach and study Islam, well hello? Not one person in the west seems to think it is about time they took responsibility for the mess they are in and continue to blame western foreign policy, it is becoming an increasingly weak argument which many average people can see and are bored with. It is impossible for them to blame islam so they blame everyone else! Moreover, if arabs had worked with the Jews, the middle east would be THE super power.

          • Schlomotion

            Silly, backward Muslims who want to drink water!

          • stern

            Dave, the interesting thing about Schlockmeister's piece of schlock is how he completely ignores the reasons WHY Gazans have to cut cars into pieces and smuggle them in if they want to drive, and why they are restricted in where they can fish and why they live such miserable lives (as they would have us believe, even when the obvious facts contradict their claims of "starvation").

            Gee, the poor Gazans, all they want to do is drink water … and kill Jews … and destroy Israel … and kill Jews … and fire rockets … and kill Jews.

          • Schlomotion

            I posit that if the Jews were farther away, the Gazans would want to kill them less.

          • aspacia

            Schlomotion,

            No, they still would want to murder Jews just like Jack Job has often claimed.

          • Sabra

            moron

          • Sabra

            moron is intended for Schlomotion's last comment re 'If Jews were further away….. etc" … what a totally moronic comment to make. Imbecile.

          • JoJoJams

            Very true, Dave! If "ishmael" would just have accepted "Isaac" and worked WITH the Israelis', between Isreali intellectual "know how" (per capita, the highest amount of Nobel prizes in all areas of science) and Arab oil, they actually WOULD be the world's superpower! Very sad when you think about it!

          • aspacia

            Schlomotion,

            What about all the greenhouses a philanthropist purchased to help the Gazans? They were burned.

            Gazans made their bed and they can sleep in it.

            A Deist

    • aspacia

      Schlomotion,

      Now ask yourself why there is a blockade. How about several thousand rockets shot into Israel since the Gaza evacuation.

      Secondly, what is erroneous about Schwartzwald's claim regarding: French National Assembly, National Geographic, and Harpers? He did not refute one of his claims, hence you lack credibility. Gazans started the violence and now are whining about the consequences, along with enablers like you to help them.

    • ziontruth

      "However, Israel can also veto any [Arab colonist] water projects."

      The fact is, Israel owes the Arab settler-colonist land-thieves squatting on its land (both pre- and post-1967) nothing at all. It was above Israel's obligation, and a serious mistake at that, to leave them residing where they are in 1967.

      "Pipe can be used to make rocket tubes and pipe bombs."

      Can be used? Has been used! So much that it got them drowned in sewage—pipes for rockets means no pipes for sewage. But keeping blaming Israel for the Arab imperialists paying for the consequences of their own imperialist aggression.

      "[Arab colonists], so lazy, ungrateful and backward."

      Maybe, maybe not, but that's not the issue. I don't know about "lazy, ungrateful and backward." I know a lot about "greedy, hateful and aggressive." These are imperialists, and they should be cut no slack! Nor should any useful idiot who sympathizes with them, like you.