Memo to Michael Oren: There’s a water crisis in the West Bank

You report that Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren says that Palestinians are doing fine with water. This is a complete misrepresentation.

I just dug up this short video done as part of TVE’s Earth Report show, circa 2004. It shows Jeff Halper (of ICAHD) trying to prevent the IDF from destroying a farmer’s water reservoir. Obviously the crisis goes back further than 2004, but this is a good and modest demonstration of it, and is how I first learned of Halper.

Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 51 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. potsherd says:

    Good catch!

    This is the kind of thing that Americans are never allowed to see.

  2. MRW says:

    What cruel ugly people to do this. Dr. Norman Doidge is right about the brain and culture.

    • Citizen says:

      Again, I ask, MRW, who is Dr
      Doidge? I never found him in our last exchange on this subject.

      And can’t Palestinians just drink out of the sewer? Why do they feel the need to curtail Israeli swimming pools? They have no class.

  3. What is the overall water plan for the region?

    It is an ecological problem and social distribution problem. Is it your contention that the water table is declining (I’ve heard that it is down 100 feet from 50 years ago.) When I hiked with Bedouin in the Negev, they told that the water table was lower than their traditional wells, and that in the 70′s we could have drunk at wells along the trail to the Dead Sea from Arad, but there was no longer any water available.

    Are you certain of the reasons for that? Do you think the cause is solely Israeli use?

    And, if so, do you have impressions on the balance of water use that SHOULD be for industrial use, versus power, versus agricultural, versus leisure use, versus hotel fountains, versus personal?

    Phil, Do you?

    You are making that judgement now, not only a suggestion that the issue deserves inquiry.

    • Chaos4700 says:

      Witty the problem is that ISRAELIS ARE STEALING EVERYONE ELSE’S WATER. From the West Bank, from Golan and even in effect from Gaza by demolishing their water treatment facilities. Amnesty International is merely the latest organization to report about that.

      That’s not a “ecological or social distribution” problem any more than the Holocaust was a “demographic” problem.

      • Taxi says:

        They’re also interested in stealing the Lebanese Litany River that suddenly and foxily veers west some 25 kilometers from their border, pouring itself into the Mediterranean Sea instead.

        Not to mention the truth about Israeli water wastage and water pollution – in a land where water is in a crisis of short supply.

        Environmentally speaking, the Israelis are living way beyond their water means without a care for the future.

        What’s the point in going through all the trouble of fighting and dieing for a country when your lifestyle itself is patently self-destructive.

      • Chaos4700 says:

        Is it unpatriotic that I increasingly find myself asking myself the same question as an American citizen, Taxi? I’d like to think that real patriotism is respecting the past and the future of my country simultaneously.

      • Shingo says:

        Indeed, if water was an ecological problem, why are the settlements allowed to build swimming pools and waste water so grautitously?

      • Taxi says:


        I think real patriotism and self-respect are inseparable. If one has a healthy lifestyle, they become part of their country’s progress. For example, I can categorically state that I have solved my part of our country’s ‘health-care crisis’. Long story short: I became very sick five years ago, I went to doctors/specialists and in fact they made my illness worse, practically killing me. Under their care my weight had dropped to a pitiful 78 pounds and I was in severe pain 24 hours a day. One day I decided to stop going to doctors and took it upon myself to learn about biology and nutrition. I studied ‘macrobiotics’ at home and practiced it and it cured me – when I first started practicing it I doubted it would work but I felt I had to try everything under the sun to stop from dying – more than that, it re-constituted and rejuvenated all my vital organs (at 48 I feel better than in my 30′s and as good as 20). Soon as I learned enough and knew how macro worked and why, I canceled my health insurance but kept my accident insurance. Knowing what I know about the human digestive system and what food affects what organ, I will never be sick again because my eating lifestyle is what I call ‘preventative’. This month marks my fifth year without a single moment of illness or body discomfort – no colds, no flu, no upset stomach, no headaches, indigestion, etc. etc. NOTHING!… Yeah I liberated myself from the health-care system and so I am less of a burden on my country – my productivity is reliable and dynamic. I benefit, my family benefits, and so does my country.

        This is one small example of patriotism.

        Thanks for indulging me and apologies, Chaos, if I seem perhaps, overindulgent.

      • Chaos4700 says:

        Not at all, Taxi. That’s a bit heartwarming to hear a story like that.

    • Donald says:

      “You are making that judgement now, not only a suggestion that the issue deserves inquiry.’

      That sentence is classic Witty hypocrisy. There’s absolutely no reason why you couldn’t make a larger point about the water issue without turning it into an attack on Phil. If you were genuinely interested in problems of water usage in the Mideast or the American Southwest, or sub-Saharan Africa or wherever, you could raise that issue without attacking Phil or making it seem like you are trying to change the subject in order to divert attention away from Israel’s selfish behavior.

      • tree says:

        He also constantly puts the lie to his own contention that he is “well-read” on the situation in Israel/Palestine. Here he admits, or perhaps feigns, profound ignorance on the water issue, which is a significant one.

      • Donald says:

        I’ll add that you’d be a more effective propagandist if you were more subtle. Make it seem like you are genuinely interested in the problems of water supply in arid or semi-arid regions with growing populations. Do it without making it seem so obvious that you are attacking Phil and trying to change the subject (Israel’s misbehavior). Given your record, it’s not likely to work, but it has a better shot than doing what you do now.

    • robin says:

      Did you watch the video Richard? The issue there is more than just inequitable water distribution, although that certainly is part of it. (And are you really pretending that the distributional inequalities are not ethnic and discriminatory?) The IDF’s destruction of private rainwater wells is simply indefensible. It is racist persecution, not simply an administrative problem. Or don’t you agree?

    • potsherd says:

      Look at him ignore the video, ignore the evidence, ignore the entire point and try to divert attention to irrelevancies.

      I’m going to come to your house, Witty, and turn off the water main. I’m going to sit on your roof and shoot at you if you try to go out to the store for bottled water, and I’ll have the cops arrest any water delivery trucks. If it rains and you try to catch water in buckets, I’ll shoot holes in them. I’ll piss in them, too, just for fun.

      And if you complain, I’ll tell you this is not harrassment, it’s a social distribution problem. And probably shoot at you, just for fun.

      • syvanen says:

        Good analogy. At a fundamental level he seems quite incapable of feeling empathy for other humans outside of his tribe.

      • Donald says:

        “At a fundamental level he seems quite incapable of feeling empathy for other humans outside of his tribe.”

        To be fair, he’s better in the comment section at “Realistic Dove”, where he argues with hardline racist Zionists. I don’t want to go overboard–his stance there is the same here. He supports being kinder to Palestinians on his terms, like a fair number of other liberals. But as we all know, if you go too far (in his eyes) in criticizing Israel, that takes precedence.

      • RE: “Look at him ignore the video, ignore the evidence, ignore the entire point…” – potsherd

        MY COMMENT, SPOKEN WITH A ‘TEXAS TWANG’: Poor Witty! He was born with a silver spoon in his frontal lobe (like George W Bush).

      • Citizen says:

        Donald, perhaps Witty does as he does on Realistic Dove for the same reason J-ST does what it does in comparison to AIPAC? Think about it. RW’s goal is always the same, that is “Jewish continuity” uber alles, no matter the cost.

    • MRW says:

      Pure, unadulterated casuistry.

    • Colin Murray says:

      What is the overall water plan for the region?

      Obviously part of the Israeli water plan is to hinder and destroy Arab access to it. This is simply a prelude to thievery. Do you think Arab resistance to Israeli destruction of wells and cisterns would not be met with deadly force? The threat of violence underlies all operations against Arab water infrastructure. Do you deny this? These operations are nothing less than state-sponsored armed robbery.

      It is an ecological problem …

      The ecological and sustainability problems are shared by all peoples living in the region, and they are also irrelevant to the severe imbalance in access to water between Jews and Palestinian Muslims and Christians.

      … and social distribution problem.

      Your term ‘social distribution problem’ is a euphemism for Israeli state-sponsored armed robbery. How exactly are Palestinians supposed to respond to this? How are we in America who are involuntarily taxed and unnecessarily endangered to subsidize Israeli armed robbery supposed to react to this?

    • RE: “What is the overall water plan for the region?” – guess who

      MY COMMENT: The Israelis want an ‘overall water plan’ nearly as much as they want a constitution. It’s just best not to put some things in writing! (I wonder who they learned that from. Hint: Wannsee)

      • Citizen says:

        Gee, Dickerson3870, that is an astute comment! “Hint: Wannsee.” My how the Israelis & AIPAC have learned from former tormenters! Why, that’s poetry since Goebbels learned from the Jewish American guy who taught us all to smoke by
        displaying chorus girls smoking. I forget his name–Bernays?

    • James says:

      witty has left the building again… this happens a lot when folks respond to him!

  4. pabelmont says:

    Colin Murray writes:

    “The ecological and sustainability problems are shared by all peoples living in the region, and they are also irrelevant to the severe imbalance in access to water between Jews and Palestinian Muslims and Christians.”

    Of course, I agree. The point of all this is that denial of water is oppressive and unnecessary (and probably illegal).

    On another point entirely, leaving behind the problem of water.

    The formulation was once “Jews and non-Jews” or “Israelis and non-Israelis”, depending. Murray’s formulation “Jews and Palestinian Muslims and Christians” makes it sound as if all Palestinians are Muslims or Christians (as most are, but some may be Druzes, etc.). BUT not all Israeli by-Israel-treated-more-as-Jewish-than-as-Arab persons are Jews; some are Russians who are not Jews but are treated for many purposes as Jews (rather than as “Arabs” to use an Israeli designation aimed, perhaps, at pretending there is no Palestinian people). The Russians were encouraged to come from USSR to Israel to help head off the “demographic threat” and their Jewishness was not very closely examined (at first).

    All of this is part of a distressing language-game played by some Israelis. They speak of a “demographic threat” (meaning the situation, approaching or already achieved, in which the “Jews” are outnumbered by the “Arabs” within The Land, professing to be upset by the possibility of no longer being “democratic” or “Jewish”. This is all play-acting, a language-game. The status quo, an undemocratic and apartheid-style one-state arrangement, is as permanent as Israel can make it, and Israel has not the slightest intention of giving citizenship or the vote to the non-Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel-Palestine is not democratic now, and won’t be later, whatever the “demographics” may be.

    Sorry that this riff is not about water, a very serious problem. There is talk of Israel poisoning the land (if not the water) with industrial and nuclear wastes, to say nothing of sewage. anyone know anything about this?

  5. syvanen says:

    This water problem is directly related to one of the big myths about the ‘miracle’ of Israel. Pro-Israeli propagandists rarely mention is today but beginning in the 50s we heard over and over again how the Jews made the desert bloom. This was a direct result of pumping ground water for irrigation. They started pumping from the coastal aquifer. The native Palestinians had been using that aquifer for thousands of years but they recovered it using human labor and traditional wells. The Israeli came in with western pumping systems that could go much deeper. And after about 10 years of this heavy pumping the native wells dried up, ie the water aquifer had dropped. Today it has dropped so far that water from the Mediterranean is flowing in; i.e. salinization of that aquifer. This source of water is so marginal that Israel can no longer support her population and agriculture from that alone. Gaza’s water supply comes is part of the same aquifer. This subject is not talked about that often, but Israel’s need for water is probably a bigger a reason for holding onto the West Bank than are the settlements.

    • MRW says:

      I heard about this. I also heard that the reason for Israel’s interest in Darfur was originally to gain access to Sudan’s significant water from the Ethiopian highlands Ethiopia supplied 85% of the Nile as it flows north:
      link to

      And this from the NYT in 2007

      THE announcement by researchers at Boston University last week that a vast underground lake the size of Lake Erie had been discovered beneath the barren soil of northern Darfur, a blood-soaked but otherwise parched land racked by war for the past four years, was greeted by rapturous hopes. Could this, at last, bring deliverance from a cataclysmic conflict that has killed at least 200,000 people and pushed more than 2.5 million from their homes? link to

      I think of this everytime I see a commercial put out by some Israeli aid group crying into the screen about the poor people of Darfur. If these dont give a shit about the Palestinians, it’s hard to believe they give a green fig for Darfur without some ulterior motive. And lo and behold . . . .

    • potsherd says:

      They have also reduced the Jordan River to a sewage ditch, saving one pool that they keep around for the Xtian tourists.

      Ariel Sharon greatly favored the agricultural sector, blocking any moves that would have raised agricultural water rates so low that they encouraged waste.

    • Donald says:

      That’s interesting. It does sound like the water problems I’ve read a little about in the American Southwest, where growing populations are depleting supplies of groundwater that can’t be replenished on human timescales, and where different states (and Mexico) fight over who has the right to the water in the Colorado River. It would not surprise me if there were social justice issues involved there too, though not on the scale that we see with Israel/Palestine.

      • MRW says:

        The Colorado River was carved up in 1924. California got approx 4 million acre ft per year (how they measure it), Arizona got approx 2.2 million acre ft/yr, Utah a little less than that if I remember correctly, dont remember if New Mexico got any, but Nevada only got 400,000 acre ft/yr because never in a million years did they think anyone would live there.

        Consequently, guess who are the water conservation experts In Nevada? The casino owners. Specifically Steve Wynn, who led the charge to solve it as soon as he got to town in the 80s. The Mirage and Treasure Island, built years and years ago, were double-plumbed to catch all the grey water (shower, bath, sink) and he built water treatment plants in the basements so that he could use the water to irrigate his golf courses and fill his fountains.

        Then he invented, or had someone invent, an absolutely revolutionary way to water the golf courses and gardens that was unaffected by the high desert heat, which evaporates 60% of the over-the-ground sprinklers. Incidentally, this invention was so revolutionary that the Arabs (UAE) came over to license his patent, and grow their deserts.

        Las Vegas soil is something called coliche (sp? pronounced co-leech-y) and about as hard as tooth enamel, which contributes to lethal flash floods when it rains. It’s like raining on marble. But the soil is really ‘hard’ as a result, meaning super alkaline. You can’t put a metal pipe into the ground without deposits forming, clogging them.

        Wynn wanted to run irrigation grids of PVC piping 20″ down under the surface to draw the roots down, and run his grey water through them to irrigate, but the problem was the tiny attachment connecting each square in the grid pattern. They would clog, and he couldn’t be digging up his golf courses to fix them. I don’t know the ins and outs of his final solution, but the connector was so revolutionary that he got an immediate patent; its coupled with a computer monitoring system tied into the water treatment plant, and is in the vanguard of desert irrigation systems worldwide. That’s why I had to laugh that Dan Senor claimed the Israelis invented some world-renowned computerized water conservation irrigation system. They probably licensed Wynn’s, if anything. Why re-invent the wheel.

        Wynn told the other casino owners to build their casinos his way, and as a result, all the Las Vegas casinos (except the old dives) are so efficient in their water and electrical use, they return 1/3 of their water to the Colorado River every year. They only use 3% of Nevada’s total water even with all their perfectly green golf courses. Residential customers use 60% to 75% of the remainder, and industry the rest.

        So the next time you hear someone go on and on about the wasteful casinos, tell them this story. And these guys started addressing this problem 30 years ago.

      • MRW says:

        Correction: 3% of the Southern Nevada water allotment. Northern Nevada is different.

      • potsherd says:

        The Israeli public should be aware that today whoever controls the areas of Samaria, Judea (which overlie vital ground water supplies) and the Golan (which is a crucial part of the Sea of Galilee’s drainage basin,) also controls of the flow of water to the taps in the nation’s homes and industries.

        In order to contend with Israel’s hydrological deficit, estimated at 300-500 million cubic meters per annum, the government has decided, a decade later than it should have, to embark on an ambitious desalination initiative. The objective of this enterprise is to free the country from the fickle whims of the weather in an arid area of the world located on the fringes of a desert, by the large scale artificial generation of water.

        The first such plant, sited near Ashkelon, recently began operating, more than five years after the government approved its construction. The plant, which is the biggest and one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in the world, produces 100 million cubic meters annually – i.e. between one fifth and one third of the current hydrological deficit.

        This means that even without yielding a single liter of water to any Arab entity, Israel still requires the construction of an additional three to five similar plants – the biggest in the world – to achieve “sustainable management” of the existing hydro-resources i.e. to prevent their over-exploitation and accelerated salting and pollution due to excess extraction.

        This is clearly not the appropriate framework for a detailed professional analysis of Israeli hydrology, so it will suffice to draw attention to two hydrological facts that are not in contention: (a) Whatever the de jure provisions of any future peace treaty may be, evacuation (even a partial one) of Judea, Samaria and the Golan, will transfer the de facto control over about one billion(!) cubic meters of water to Arab hands; (b) Whoever controls these areas can create – whether through purposeful malice or unintended incompetence – a situation whereby these quantities of water will be denied to the Israeli consumer.

        ‘Grave threat to main water supplies’

        In this regard, nearly all the relevant professional bodies have issued warnings regarding the risks and ramifications of evacuation. For example then-Water Commissioner Meir Ben Meir told the Knesset State Control Committee (Jan. 3, 2000) that pollution by the Syrians after transfer of the Golan to their control “would, quite simply, herald the end of the Sea of Galilee as a source of fresh water.”

        Likewise, in a 1996 risk-assessment of the hydrological dangers involved in withdrawal from the Golan, Mekorot experts warned that if Syria began significant use of the water resources on the Golan plateau, this would reduce the inflow into the Sea of Galilee, raise the lake’s level of salinity “so as to render waters of the Sea of Galilee unusable…” and create a situation “which in our assessment … the Israeli water system will not, under any circumstances, be able to withstand… “(p. 20).

        The hydro-strategic importance of Judea and Samaria is reflected in the State Comptroller’s report on the management of Israel’s water system: “The Mountain Aquifer which extends … from the slopes of Carmel to Beer Sheva and from the ridges of Samaria and Judea to the coastal plain, constitutes the principal source of drinking water in the country…”

        Regarding the vulnerability of this “principal source of drinking water”, the Water Commissioner informed the Israeli government that: “The water resources of Judea and Samaria are interlinked with the major water resources of Israel …It is physically possible to increase the extraction in Judea and Samaria to a level that will force closing down production inside Israel”. The Commissioner went on to warn that “another danger to the ground water supplies arises from sewage and other sources of pollution that can result in the contamination of the water supplies (inside Israel)”.

        A report commissioned from the TAHAL Water Engineering Company cautioned that abandoning Judea and Samaria would “constitute a grave threat to the main water supplies of Israel”(p. 105).

        Accordingly, one does not need to be a trained hydrologist to comprehend the significance of all this. All that is required is a rudimentary grasp of basic arithmetic! Withdrawal from Samaria, Judea and the Golan creates a very tangible risk that Israel’s water system will be deprived of quantities of water far greater than those that desalination, even on the ambitious scale planned by the government, can contribute within any realistic timeframe.

        This means that in order to contend with this grim – but not inconceivable – scenario, Israel needs to gear up for the artificial production of water on a scale commensurate with quantities which may be denied it – in other words, one billion cubic meters over and above the 300-500 million cubic meters required to cope with the current pre-withdrawal deficit.

        This is an enterprise of enormous proportions – far beyond anything envisaged to date. Implementation of such an endeavor has far-reaching ramifications for the energy regime in the country, the configuration of its national infrastructures, and the storage capacity for the desalinated water – in times of low (off-peak) demand for delivery at peak-demand. These and other weighty topics are not even on the agenda of the public debate – despite their crucial importance for the future.

        Moreover, even if Israel succeeds in overcoming the huge difficulties involved in the construction of such a giant desalination project, there are still a number of problems that arise from withdrawal from Samaria and the Golan that no desalination plant, whatever its capacity, can deal with.

        These include issues which Water Commission experts warned of prior to the 2005 disengagement such as: (a) The threat of crippling the desalination plants themselves due to sewage flows from Gaza into the sea which will carried by northbound marine currents into Israeli waters; (b) The danger for salination and even “desertification” of extensive areas within the 1967 “Green Line” caused by over-exploitation of the ground water in Samaria and which according to the Water Commission’s assessment will “devastate agriculture and tourism, and destroy the unique communities in these areas.”

        In light of these factors one can state with a large measure of confidence that territorial withdrawal will more than nullify any contribution desalination can make to resolving Israel water crisis, transforming it from a panacea to a chimera. This is not ideology, merely hydrology.

        link to

      • alec says:

        MRW, thank you for this extremely interesting and informative comment.

        It’s the rare comments like yours which make reading a comment section worthwhile.

        Note bene Richard Witty: This is what a real comment looks like.

        I can’t remember Witty ever having written anything with this substance. MRW has contributed more with this single comment to Mondoweiss than Witty does in a year of posting twenty times a day.

      • Citizen says:

        MRW & postherd, thank you so much for sharing such key information!

      • MRW says:

        Thanks, Alec and Citizen.

  6. MRW says:


    PulseMedia has a long but fascinating must-keep-a-copy article entitled:
    Realite EU: Front group for the Washington based Israel Project?

    Spinwatch has uncovered evidence that an apparently London based organisation offering expertise on Iran to journalists and politicians is a covert propaganda operation run by a pro-Israel organisation in the United States.

    The well-documented article is a treasure trove of names to keep your eyes open for. link to

  7. Rehmat says:

    Stealing Arab water sources for the survival and prosperity of European Jewish settlements in Palestine – has been on the World zionist Movement since the early 19th century. The first water-based European Roshbina Jewish settlement was built in spring and water rich Upper Galilee in 1878. In 1903, the Egyptian government turned-down Zionist movement’s request to divert the course of the Nile River to Sinai and Negev in Palestine to build Jewish settlements. In 1937, the British mandate authories conducted a study to divert water from Yarmuk in Transjordan for its future plan for the partition of Palestine. In 1978, Zionist regime occupied southern Lebanon and took control of Al-Wazzani and Al-Hasbani rivers. In 1982, it extended its control over Litani River. In fact the Zionist robbers pumped Lebanese water to its northern settlements for over two decades until its forces were forced to vacate most of southern Lebanon by Hizb’Allah fighters in 2000.

    Israeli theft of Arab water sources
    link to

  8. MRW says:

    OK Citizen, I’ll go and find the Doidge posts and repost them here for you.

    In the meantime, EVERYONE, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy this great column by Larry Derfner in the Jerusalem Post. Dont miss this one! It’s a keeper. link to

  9. MRW says:

    Citizen, here’s the Doidge stuff for you. It was in Mr. Moor’s thread.

    MRW October 30, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    I’ve got a better book for you, Witty, than arrogantly hurling the insult at Mr. Moor that he needs to decolonize his mind by learning the language and politics of his own birthplace. And that book is THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF by Dr. Norman Doidge. He reports the (latest) scientifically proven fact that not only does the brain produce culture, but the culture wires the brain in a particular way, which starts out as practices, then becomes biological differences.

    Can’t tell you how long the book has been on the NYT Bestseller List, but you can find it.

    MRW October 30, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Chaos, another thing that Dr. Doidge says (see post #41 above) is that when emotions are driving us, our brain extrapolates. We start making associations with what we’re experiencing, and assume the truth of them, that veer right off the high diving board into a pool of sand. RW gets emotional about Zionism and Israel. Ditto Nomi and her ilk.

    It’s that whole amygdala thing. You have to be capable of great intellectual discipline to use the frontal lobe with subjects you care deeply about, and I haven’t met, or read, a Zionist yet who’s capable of it. It’s exacerbated here in this country by the fact that shrinks have elevated ‘feelings’ to the level of truth, when they’re not.

  10. MRW says:

    Citizen, there was one more piece.

    MRW October 30, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Essential correction: “With what we’re experiencing and hearing”

    [One of Dr. Doidge's thing is that we dont know how to listen, we only know how to hear. If we knew how to listen we could change our brain. He spent four years writing this book reading and talking to the top scientists in the world about this, and examining their research.]