The Jordan Valley marks Palestine’s eastern border with neighbouring Jordan. It is home to approximately 60,000 Palestinians and its lands make up around 30% of the entire West Bank. It has a dry climate although it is home to some of the main natural water sources in all of historic Palestine. Following their displacement during the Nakba, many thousands of Palestinians moved to the area around Jericho in the knowledge that its abundant water supplies ensured the potential for regular work in the agricultural sector, yet today the effects of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank are at their most stark in the Jordan Valley. Amongst these wide reaching effects, Israel’s control of Palestinian water highlights one more level of its colonial enterprise.
According to the the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), 87% percent of the Jordan Valley is officially classified as ‘Area C’ – the area that remains under full Israeli civil and military control. A further 7% is classified as nature reserves which also ensures Palestinian development is impossible. More than 9,000 Israeli settlers live in the Jordan Valley in 37 settlements.
Israel’s economic benefit from its control of the Jordan Valley is huge. The Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) estimates that Israel’s settlement agriculture in the Jordan Valley is worth $850 million annually, whist a further $1 billion is reaped from the Dead Sea minerals and cosmetics industries. All of these industries rely on Israeli control of the areas water.
Save the Children estimate that the (9,000) settlers in the Jordan Valley have a combined daily water consumptions that is 6.6 times more water per day than the (60,000) Palestinians, whilst OCHA states that in the Valley’s herding communities the consumption levels are as low as 20% of the World Health organisation’s minimum standards.
Through regular house demolitions, the establishment of firing zones and nature reserves, laying of mine fields, movement restrictions and the colonisation of between 4-8 km’s of land alongside the Jordanian border along with various other tools, Israel is working to empty the area of its Palestinian residents. According to standard form, Israel classes such practices as ‘security needs’. Palestinians in the area simply want the right to life – fundamental to which is the basic human necessity of water access.
Images by MEMO Photographer Rich Wiles.