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From the field

I demand a basic right: drinkable water

Annexation or no annexation – our work continues
Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that the formal annexation of parts of the West Bank would be put on hold. The US and the UAE said annexation was off the cards for good. US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman explained, however, that ‘on hold’ means temporary. And so on and so forth.
Recent months have been full of speculation about formal annexation. We prefer to stick to reality — to facts and their implications. The reality is that Israel de-facto annexed the West Bank long ago: it controls the entire territory and does as it pleases within it. That is what shapes reality on the ground; that is what leads to subjecting millions of Palestinians to countless violations of their human rights; and that is what we are fighting. We do not deal with speculations, theories, declarations or statements. We deal with facts.
The hot domestic debate of 2020 – whether to annex de-jure parts of the West Bank long after the fact or continue oppressing the Palestinians as usual – seems to have died down. What hasn’t stopped, and will not ease up for a second, is the routine, organized violence Israel employs against the Palestinians in order to control, dispossess and oppress them.  
Here’s something else that has not, and will not, stop: B’Tselem’s struggle against this injustice through documentation, analysis and advocacy. You can read a bit about our recent work below.  
With thanks for your support,
Hagai El-Ad
Executive Director
I demand a basic right: drinkable water

I remember the days when we could drink the water coming out of our taps. It was 30 years ago, when I was younger. Back then, you could open the tap and drink fresh water. Those days are long gone. Our tap water is polluted and harmful, and mostly causes us distress and heartache. But I still wait for it all the time and find myself thinking about it 24/7: Is there water in the tap by any chance? Did I turn the pump on? There isn’t one person in Gaza who’s not preoccupied with all the problems created by the lack of water.  
The tap water is salty and polluted, but we use it for cleaning and bathing because we have no choice. It causes lesions on our skin and infections. It’s also difficult to bathe babies in that water, and it’s terrible for fruit trees, but it’s all we have.
The water supply only comes on occasionally, like the power supply, so we have to sit around anxiously waiting for it. Often, the water and power don’t come on at the same time. When the water’s working but the power isn’t on, we can’t pump the water up to the containers on the roof. When that happens, my husband has to run up and down dozens of times carrying the water in buckets. Sometimes, there’s no running water for days. In the summer, because of the scorching heat, we live in constant fear of running out.
We’re forced to buy drinking water from tankers that supply it by order. The water comes from private, unregulated desalination plants that use outdated technology and don’t maintain their equipment – so that water is not clean, either.
The Gaza Strip is suffering from overcrowding and a chronic shortage of water. Our water resources are not enough for the growing population, especially in summertime. Israel left Gaza but continues to control us from outside – our electricity, our water and our daily lives. Now, even before I ask for our release from Israel’s blockade and freedom from the occupation, I want water. Fresh, clean water.
 Olfat al-Kurd, B’Tselem field researcher
This month at B’Tselem:
  • Interested in reading more about the water shortage in Gaza? See our latest blog post and photos. The World Health Organization has set the minimum requirement for daily per capita consumption of water at 100 liters. While the average Israeli consumes more than 200 liters a day, in Gaza the average is a mere 79 liters. That figure is not surprising: the coastal aquifer, Gaza’s only available water source, has been polluted by over-pumping and contaminated by wastewater, and 97% of its water is no longer potable. Worse still, an estimated 68% of the desalinated water that Gazans buy from private vendors for cooking and drinking is polluted, too. 
  • Another new blog post, If You Build It, They Will Come, highlights Israel’s demolition policy in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. This year, through May 2020, Israel demolished 30 homes in the West Bank (without East Jerusalem) – leaving 130 people, 68 of them minors, homeless. In East Jerusalem, Israel demolished 31 homes, leaving 112 people, 53 of them minors, homeless.
  • Palestinians are forced to build without permits, not by choice but because Israel refuses to grant them building permits. This forces them to live in uncertainty, under the constant threat that their homes, sources of livelihood and basic infrastructure will be demolished. 
  • State-backed settler violence against Palestinians — including physical assault and damage to property and land — has long since become a routine part of the occupation. We recently documented many incidents of this kind throughout the West Bank: dozens of settlers went on organized raids and assaults that disrupted Palestinians’ lives; they threatened their victims, assaulted them and damaged their property. In June 2020, we documented 31 cases of settler violence against Palestinians, including nine physical assaults, five attacks on homes and 11 cases of damage to property or agricultural equipment. In three other cases, personal property was also vandalized. That is what state-backed settler violence looks like.  
  • How easy it is for the Israeli military to turn the tables and whitewash violent attacks by soldiers against Palestinians by blaming the victims. In two cases B’Tselem documented in April and May 2020, settlers not only attacked Palestinians, but also alleged that the victims had been the ones to attack them. In the two cases detailed here, the victims were assaulted twice – first by settlers with official backing, and then by the authorities, with encouragement from the settlers. 
  • In another case, soldiers used a similar tactic and accused the victims of an “attempted terror attack”. On Monday morning, 25 May 2020, Israeli media reported that two Palestinians had tried to stab soldiers in the West Bank. B’Tselem’s investigation and an inquiry published by Ha’aretz determined that a settler, accompanied by soldiers, had come to a field near Turmusaya where a Palestinian fam ily were harvesting clover. At first, the soldiers ordered them to kneel; later, they shot two of them and refused to provide them first aid. Collusion between settlers and the Israeli military is not new, as B’Tselem has documented many times. 
  • As for the occupation routine: dozens of soldiers raided two homes in al-Fawar Refugee Camp searching for three members of the Abu Hashhash family, and attacked relatives who were not suspected of anything. In the first home, soldiers assaulted three members and blew up a fuse box. In the second, they set a dog on the occupants and beat one of them. Immediately after the raid, an ISA (Shin Bet) agent called the families and demanded that other relatives, who were not home at the time, turn themselves in. In one case, the agent explicitly threatened the family that soldiers would return and turn their home into a “battleground”. Soldiers raiding Palestinians’ homes at the dead of night and waking entire families, including small children and infants, is by now a fixture of Israel’s violent occupation routine. This is yet another example of the military’s abuse of power, even at the height of a global pandemic, with most of the West Bank under lockdown.
B’Tselem in the Media

'It's Like George Floyd. We Have Our Knee on the Palestinians' Necks', interview with Executive Director Hagai El-Ad in Ha’aretz.
UAE Spacecraft Brings No Hope for the Palestinians, op-ed by Executive Director Hagai El-Ad in Haaretz.
Waiting for Annexation, op-ed by Executive Director Hagai El-Ad in The American Prospect.
How Israel's Annexation Plan Would Make Life Even Harder for Palestinians, by Bianca Ferrari, Vice.
Whatever Israel Decides, A One-State Reality Looms, by Ishaan Tharoor, The Washington Post.