Did you get the New York Times today? Hasbara Central took over the front page of the country’s leading newspaper. This article, along with a gigantic photo, fills the top of the front page: “Aided by the Sea, Israel Overcomes an Old Foe: Drought,” by Isabel Kershner. The url says it even better: “water-revolution-in-israel-overcomes-any-threat-of-drought.html.”
Do I even need to spell it out? Here’s the key paragraph:
As California and other western areas of the United States grapple with an extreme drought, a revolution has taken place here. A major national effort to desalinate Mediterranean seawater and to recycle wastewater has provided the country with enough water for all its needs, even during severe droughts. More than 50 percent of the water for Israeli households, agriculture and industry is now artificially produced.
Israel has made the desert bloom.
It’s not till the 23d paragraph that Palestinians are mentioned, and then in a fairyland manner:
Struggles between Israel and its Arab neighbors over water rights in the Jordan River basin contributed to tensions leading to the 1967 Middle East war.
Israel, which shares the mountain aquifer with the West Bank, says it provides the Palestinians with more water than it is obliged to under the existing peace accords. The Palestinians say it is not enough and too expensive. A new era of water generosity could help foster relations with the Palestinians and with Jordan.
The article has comments. I sent in an anodyne comment last night. I wrote:
Palestinians make serious charges that Israel and especially Israeli settlers steal their water. Why does this story only mention this in passing in the 25th paragraph?
And the Times didn’t run it. Not more than 12 hours later.
Other people are making a similar point, about Palestinians’ access to water, but no one’s criticizing the article qua article. You can criticize by saying, Oh, Palestinians say such and such, but to point out the bias in the article itself, that’s another matter. The Times moderators apparently do not want the paper’s reporting and editorial decisions criticized.
And in fact, many of the comments are pro-Israel, pro ecology. Some say, U.S. should follow Israel and do thus and such.
But really, how can you claim to be a newspaper and run an article like this without giving a lot of space to the fact that disputes over water are a central element of the illegal Israeli colonization project? The idea that you can describe Israel as being a leader in the water area and a model for societies everywhere — unbelievable.
This is why I call it hasbara, or propaganda for Israel. One of hasbara’s themes is Israel’s high tech successes, and the idea going back to Ben Gurion that Israeli modernization would be so spectacular that Palestinians would jump on board the Zionist project because they were doing so well. This article is explicitly in that spirit. And just look where the Times played this article!
We will be reporting soon on the actual facts of water usage in Palestine.
But for now, you should know that Palestinians experience water shortages all the time. Israel controls the water resources throughout the occupied territories. That’s more than half the water supply that Kershner mentions in that article. For instance, Israel takes 80 percent of Palestinians’ water from a major West Bank aquifer, says the human rights group B’Tselem. And the distribution of water is grossly discriminatory:
And B’Tselem has reported that 90 percent of the water in the Gaza Strip is undrinkable — and 1.8 million Palestinians live there.
Here you can find reports by Ewash, which is devoted to Palestinian water problems under occupation. Here’s another graphic from Ewash on water distribution.