Statement by the National Centre for Human Rights Regarding the Report of the Amnesty International Organization Entitled " Thirsting for Justice: Palestinian Access to Water Restricted ".

Statement by the National Centre for Human Rights
Regarding the Report of the Amnesty International Organization Entitled
" Thirsting for Justice: Palestinian Access to Water Restricted ".

Following the facts revealed by the Amnesty International Organization in its report of 27 October 2009 entitled " Thirsting for Justice: Palestinian Access to Water Restricted " regarding the Israeli policies and practices aiming to cause the Palestinians to suffer thirst, and the plundering and polluting of the water resources in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the National Centre for Human Rights warns against the tragic situation of the Palestinian human being, and the reflection of this on his enjoyment of the basic rights that are guaranteed by international Human Rights standards. This is particularly so, since these Israeli policies constitute grave violations of the human rights that are assured by the international human rights conventions and declarations which has been ratified by the Israeli government, the most important of which is the right to life, the right to equality and non-discrimination, the right to a suitable standard of living, the right to enjoy the highest level of physical and mental health, the right to sufficient, safe and clean water, the right to sanitary disposal services, and the right to a sound environment.

The NCHR views the report of Amnesty International as a loud cry for help that sounds the alarm to the International Community and its different institutions in order to stop the policy of water plundering that the Israeli government is pursuing in the Palestinian territories, and put an end to the policy of coercion under which the Palestinians live a life of misery of water scarcity that exposes them to serious danger.

The NCHR urges the international legal and humanitarian organizations to expose the Israeli policies that aim to deprive the Palestinians from water as a way of ethnic cleansing, and the issuance of judicial decrees to confiscate water-rich lands, the prevention of the development of any new water sources, the destruction of agricultural crops, the declaration of large areas are as no-go military areas. The NCHR stresses the importance of placing the question of water as a part of the legal approach in the actions of these organizations (of which they were shy in highlighting) or giving it prominence as being a political subject.

The NCHR would like to stress that the deprivation of the Palestinians from water, and the targeting of this vital sector (as being a crucial civilian facility) which Amnesty International has documentation, is considered a grave violation of the international humanitarian law which makes the occupying state responsible for the well-being of the Palestinian population. Joint article (3) of the Geneva Four Conventions dictates the humanitarian treatment of the civilians which includes providing them or allowing them to secure the essentials that keep them alive, including foodstuffs, medical supplies, shelter, acquisition of clean and safe water, sanitary disposal services and personal hygiene. Article (56) of the Geneva fourth Convention makes it incumbent on the occupying state to maintain public health and general healthy conditions in the occupied territory. An important part of which is to provide clean drinking water and the necessary waste disposal facilities. In addition, article (54) of the first protocol annexed to the convention is considered a rule of the rules of the operative international law, irrespective of the accession or not of Israel to the protocol. This article states that it is forbidden to attack or destroy or transfer or delay the materials that assure the survival of the civilian population and its alikes like foodstuffs, and the agricultural areas that produce these, the crops, cattle, drinking water and irrigation networks. This is due to the vital values of these, irrespective of the motives of the prevention, whether to starve the civilians or caues them to leave or any other motive.

The NCHR points out that, the report of Amnesty International has revealed the extent of the discrimination that characterize the policies and the practices of Israel in depriving the Palestinians from their right to access water, contrary to the international human rights law which condemns this as being a denial of justice and human dignity. Israel consumes in excess of 80% of the mountainous water springs which constitute the sole water resource of the Palestinians in the West Bank, whereas the Palestinians get only 20%. The daily pre capita consumption of the Palestinians does not barely reach 70 liters of water, whereas the daily per capita consumption of the Israeli exceeds 300 liters … four times that of the Palestinian person. In some rural communities, the Palestinians maintain their survival by getting 20 liters of water daily for each individual… which is the minimum level for domestic use in cases of emergencies. It is to be noted that according to the specifications of the World Health Organization, the average per capita ration of water is estimated to be around 150 liters daily. In addition, the inhabitants of the Palestinian villages are prevented from harvesting rain water so as to force them to leave.

On the other side, the report concluded that Israeli (colonial) setters in the West Bank-in violation of the international law-own heavily irrigated farms, gardens and swimming pools. The 450,000 (colonial) settlers consume waters that exceed the water used by 2,300,000 Palestinians in the West Bank. As for the Gaza Strip whose water comes from the sole source of the coastal basin, the water is polluted and unfit for human consumption due to the excessive seepage of the sea waters and waste disposal therein.

The severe restrictions imposed by Israel on the entry of the necessary materials and equipments to develop and maintain the infrastructure in Gaza led to more deterioration in the water situation and waste disposal that reached the state of crisis. The report states that the Israeli (colonial) settlements play a major role in polluting the subterranean water basin in the Palestinian territories, since parts of the waste disposal from these settlements seep into the neighbouring valleys and agricultural lands, and through the soil to that basin. This aggravates the environmental and health hazards.

The NCHR would like to point that the attrition of the waters of the River Jordan and the pollution of its flow as a result of the diversion of Israel of the holy river has turned it into a waste disposal for the fisheries and sewage outflow of the (colonial) settlements in the occupied territories. This constitutes an infringement on water rights and a destruction of the environmental matrix in the Jordan valley area.

Within this context, the NCHR calls on the international community and the high contracting parties of the fourth Geneva convention to shoulder their duties towards the civilian population in the occupied Palestinian territories, by forcing Israel to live up to its legal responsibilities and respect the principles of the international humanitarian law and human standards, investigation of the violations that have targeted the civilians and the infrastructure… including the hauling of the Israelis who have committed, or ordered the commitment of these violations, to trial according to the stipulation of the international law.

The Centre demands that the legal international organizations expose the Israeli practices in depleting and polluting the Palestinian waters that made these Unfit for human consumption, and to reveal the extent of the pollution that affected the environment and the negative consequences of these practices on the rights of the Palestinian human being and his basic freedoms. The Centre urges that pressure be mounted on the international community-states and entities-to force Israel to put an end to the policy of violating the basic rights of the Palestinian people…. Especially those legal organizations in the donor states who have a duty to pressure their governments to stop the destruction by the Israeli military forces of the water infrastructure in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The NCHR calls on all the organizations that are concerned with rights and justice to double their efforts towards stopping the violations of the human rights and international human rights law in the occupied Palestinian territories, and the realization of justice and human dignity without delay.