October 31, 2009

The Jerusalem Post Slams Amnesty International - Again

If you only got your news from the Jerusalem Post, you’d think that Amnesty International was the vilest, most hate-filled organization on the planet. You’d probably think it was a branch of Hamas. You’d probably have no idea that it’s actually a well-respected human rights organization with a long history of speaking out for, well, for human rights.

In a recent editorial, the Post, which has a history of slandering Amnesty, claimed:

Israel is under fire yet again for supposed human rights contraventions. Hot on the heels of the Goldstone Report, which at the behest of the UN Human Rights Council charged Israel with war crimes against Gazan civilians in Operation Cast Lead, Amnesty International this week accuses Israel of depriving the Palestinians of the most basic and vital of all commodities—water.

In question is an Amnesty International report that accuses [pdf] Israel of severely restricting the Palestinians’ access to fresh water. The report points out that there are just two main fresh water resources in the West Bank—the Jordan River and the Mountain Aquifer. As is well known, Israel denies the Palestinians access to the Jordan River, forcing them to rely solely on the Mountain Aquifer. But it turns out that Israel only allows Palestinians to use around 20% of this water. Consequently, “Palestinian consumption in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territory] is about 70 litres a day per person—well below the 100 litres per capita daily recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO)—whereas Israeli daily per capita consumption, at about 300 litres, is about four times as much.”

The Post never disputes any of the above facts. What it does instead is claim that Israel “might possess legal rights [to the Mountain Aquifer] by virtue of the fact that it was first to discover, develop and pump from it.” Now this line of reasoning seems obviously flawed. Do any of us really believe that someone is the rightful owner of something simply because he found and developed it? So, for example, if I’m in your backyard, shooting for some food, and up from the ground comes a bubbling crude, do any of us really believe that, even though the bubbling crude is in your backyard, I’ve suddenly become the rightful owner of it?

The Mountain Aquifer, let’s remember, lies underneath both Israeli and Palestinian territory, primarily Palestinian territory. Which, according to commonly accepted notions of justice, would seem to mean that Palestinians should at least have equal access to the aquifer’s water and not a mere 20%. Similarly, since the Jordan River runs along both Israeli and Palestinian borders, it would seem that both people are entitled to that water. But, again, Israel prohibits Palestinians from using any water from the Jordan.

The Post goes on to note:

Water availability to Israelis has fallen sharply in recent decades. In 1967 it stood at 500 cu.m. [cubic meters]—so today's figure represents a 70% drop. Until the Six Day War, Palestinians could count on a mere 86 cu.m. yearly. Their situation has improved by 22%.

In other words: We’re not screwing over the Palestinians nearly as badly as the Jordanians did—so yay for us!

The Post continues:

Had it been given the opportunity, the Water Authority would also have highlighted that Israel supplies water to the PA [Palestinian Authority] well in excess of its 1995 Oslo Accords undertakings.

In other words: We’re not screwing over the Palestinians nearly as badly as we could be—so another yay for us!

And the Post isn’t done yet:

Systematically overlooked by Amnesty, meanwhile, are Palestinian breaches of these accords—including pirate drilling, water theft and routine damage to pipelines, failures to purify waste water (despite massive contributions by donor nations), irrigating crops with fresh rather than reclaimed water, dumping untreated sewage into streams, severely contaminating Israel's Coastal Aquifer and forcing Israel to deal with PA sewage.

Now, first of all, it’s simply untrue to say that the Amnesty report overlooks Palestinian wrongdoing. In fact, it contains an entire section entitled “PA/PWA [Palestinian Water Authority] Failures and Mismanagement.” Of course, Amnesty also notes that Israel’s permit regime has largely prevented the Palestinians from improving their situation. “Projects for which the PWA and local municipalities have secured funding from international donors have been delayed, in some cases for several years, of the Israeli authorities’ refusal to grant permits or because they have imposed unreasonable conditions relating to the type of treatment and reuse of the wastewater.”

Moving on, the Post’s charges of “pirate drilling” and “water theft” only make sense if we assume that Israel owns the West Bank. But this clearly isn’t the case. According to international law, all of the West Bank, including all of its natural resources, belongs to the Palestinians.

As far as the charge of polluting water goes, Amnesty reminds us that “the pollution of both the Mountain Aquifer and the Jordan River predates the establishment of the PWA in 1996 and occurred on a large scale during the preceding 30 years when Israel had full responsibility for civil affairs throughout the entire OPT. It is also continuing in the 60 per cent of the West Bank in which Israel retains full control of civil affairs and where the PA has no jurisdiction.”

Moreover, Israel has long used Palestinian territory as a “dumping ground for its waste, establishing dumpsites throughout the OPT without lining them, leaving dangerous substances, including hazardous industrial waste, to permeate through the soil and pollute the aquifer.” Amnesty further notes that much of the West Bank’s water is being polluted by Israeli settlers. According to figures provided by the Israeli government, an astonishing one-third of Israel’s 121 settlements do not use wastewater treatment facilities.

Of course, the court intellectuals at the Jerusalem Post never bother to mention any of this. After all, they have such important propaganda to write.

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