When he learned from Massachusetts residents with West Bank ties that Governor Deval Patrick was leading a large trade delegation to Israel last month with water as a key focus, 15-year-old Ahmad had a message for the Governor.
“I don’t know what kind of work you are doing with Israel over water but I’ll tell you that you are supporting the occupation and violating human rights. Do you know that Israel steals most of the water and leaves almost nothing for us? Do you know that we don’t have enough water to take showers in the summer, to clean the house, to clean our clothes, and sometimes we don’t have enough water or clean water to drink because Israel doesn’t care about us.
“We are not asking you to help us with water but at least don’t be a partner with Israel in killing us. Maybe you should come to visit us while you are in Israel to see for yourself.”
Ahmad, whose full name is being withheld from this post for fear of retaliation by the Israeli army, is one of several Palestinian refugee children who have written to Governor Deval Patrick describing the struggles of their families to get sufficient water to meet their basic needs.
Those letters are being delivered to the Governor by members of the Boston Alliance for Water Justice, a group formed by individuals from various Greater Boston organizations who came together last year to express their concern about the ‘Massachusetts-Israel Innovation Partnership Water and Clean Energy Track’ that was formed after Governor Patrick’s 2011 trade mission to Israel.
The letters from the West Bank children underscore why Israel is being charged with “water apartheid.”
Sarah of Bait Jibreen refugee camp in Bethlehem City writes that the camp is “facing a huge problem with water due to Israeli racist policy against us here in Palestine. Water didn’t come to our house for over 20 days now, and we are close to finishing the water in the tanks on our rooftop. The camp has hundreds of water tanks on the top of houses….The water is not clean, and there is not much of it for everyone in the camp. Children are getting sick because the tanks are not clean.”
She continues: “All what we need is some equality in distributing the water that Israel controls. Instead of stealing our water and giving it to Jewish settlements and leaving almost nothing for us in the summer, Israeli settlements should be removed and we should control our own water. I know that Israel with a full support from the US will keep stealing our water and land, but that doesn’t mean we should keep quiet and you should support these violations of human rights by coming here to collaborate with Israel on water technology.”
Sundus, a 14-year-old refugee from Aida Camp in Bethlehem, writes to Governor Patrick that in the summer they only get water “once every 10 days, once every month, and sometimes once every two months…when the water comes, we use a pump to push it up to the third floor to fill the tanks. The tanks and water pipes are rusty because water does not run in them every week. Lately we found out that bacteria grow inside these tanks and pipes causing sickness among young people.”
Hala, a 16-year-old refugee from Bait Jibreen camp, informs Governor Patrick that “right now, water didn’t come to our house in the camp for over 25 days. Me and my brothers and sisters bring water with bottles from a small water resource near the camp waiting for Israel to give the Palestinian Authority water so that the PA can pump the water to us. However, water comes for a short time because Israel gives us a little bit of water each time. But this is our water that they steal from us.”
Her letter goes on:
“It is summer now and we really struggle with water. We advise you to rethink your work with Israel because you are supporting a state that is killing us in so many ways. When I see a settler in Gilo Settlement near us enjoying the swimming pool, green areas and a shower everyday and in the refugee camp we don’t get enough water to drink because this settler is using my water, I got angry. I even got angry when I hear that people from outside are coming to help them steal our water making our lives even harder.”
Alaa’ from the Aida Refugee camp directed a message not to the Governor but to “all Americans”:
“We know that you support Israel and you’ll never support us,” Alaa’ writes, “except a few of you who believe in our rights as humans. All what we ask you to do is to educate yourselves a little bit about what Israel is doing to us in terms of killing, stealing our lands, demolishing our homes, and of course stealing our water. They do all of that and more with a huge help and support from you. We don’t care if you support them, but don’t kill us because we have done nothing to harm you.
“As you people say, have a good day.”