Israel’s theft of water from Palestinians has been the subject of much ire with regards to humanitarian concerns and collective punishment. It was reported recently that Israel deprived Palestinians in the occupied West Bank of water. As the reporting coincided with the start of the fasting month of Ramadan, surprise surpassed the actual ramifications; Aljazeera reported that some areas have been deprived of water for more than 40 days.
Meanwhile, the EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, has attended the inauguration of the new desalination plant in the Gaza Strip. Construction started in 2014 a few months before Israel’s military offensive against the overwhelmingly civilian population of the enclave. During the ceremony, Hahn gave a speech which regurgitated well-known facts and evoked the false rhetoric of conflict rather than colonial aggression. “Natural water and resources have been greatly damaged after continuous years of conflict in Gaza,” he explained. “As a result, 95 per cent of the water in Gaza is unfit for human use.”
Hahn also reiterated the EU’s “commitment” to improving Gaza’s water sector, without acknowledging the EU’s perpetual support for Israel, the state which is responsible for the destruction and theft in the first place. The latter not only treats with contempt but also obliterates the benefits of EU aid given to Palestinians for construction and the alleviation of humanitarian needs. Given that Israel has limited the amount of water suppled to Palestinians for decades, the EU’s refusal to acknowledge the state’s theft of water resources resonates much more than the grants which aim to address a human rights violation by appeasing the aggressor, rather than emphasising responsibility and accountability. Blaming “conflict” for the depletion of water is a half-truth that serves many interests, including those of the EU, whose main aim is to ensure the permanence of Israel’s colonial presence in Palestine.
Furthermore, the lengthy deprivation of a basic need is intended to help in the slow extermination of Palestinians, which has proceeded unhindered due to intentional negligence by international organisations. Repeating well-known statistics ad nauseam is a non-intrusive, self-satisfying script cherished by actors involved in colonial complicity and requires no other attempt to deter Israel as long as the false narrative of “conflict” is invoked.
The level of complicity in sustaining Israel’s narrative over its theft of land and water should also be considered. In 2014, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa praised Israel as the entity which South America should emulate, because of “making the desert bloom”; that’s a Zionist myth which belies the fact that Palestine was the world’s top exporter of citrus fruit long before Israel was established. Nevertheless, earlier this month, an op-ed published in United Press International discussed the water situation in California and also held-up Israel as an example to follow. Like Correa’s comment, the article completely obliterated the presence of the Palestinians, let alone the theft of water. The opening sentences set out the pro-Israel bias unequivocally: “A post-war refugee exodus to Palestine made Israel in 1948. Then, Israel made water.”
With such fallacies being promoted and accepted as truth, it is imperative that challenges to the narrative are included when addressing the humanitarian deprivation inflicted upon Palestinians by Israel. It is all too convenient to forget that apart from its colonial manifestation, Israel’s narratives have provided the foundations for protection from the slightest shard of criticism. The international community has been very accommodating when it comes to absorbing and disseminating the false narratives and thus ensuring that any criticism is indeed deflected. As such, with its construction of the desalination plant, the EU’s rhetoric — and the absence of any context regarding Ramadan and water as a priority — has not only contributed to the dehumanisation of the Palestinians, but also kept Israel’s inhumane and perpetual violations of basic rights well away from the monster responsible for them.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.