Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Palestinians Hear the Water

JERUSALEM, Feb 21, 2012 (IPS) - After a recent Israeli Supreme Court decision allowed Israeli companies to maintain quarrying and mining activities in the occupied West Bank, local human rights groups and activists say the decision has opened the door dangerously to Israel’s pillaging of other Palestinian resources.

"On its face, the new rule allows the occupier (in a long-term occupation) to make endless use of the variety of objects found in the occupied territory," Israeli human rights group Yesh Din stated. "To pump its water sources, to transfer its archeological artifacts to elsewhere outside the territory, to use areas within it for garbage disposal, to sell public real estate, and more."

In late December of last year, the Israeli Supreme Court dismissed a petition put forth by Yesh Din, challenging the legality of Israeli mining and quarrying operations taking place in the occupied West Bank.

The court argued that the laws of occupation change when the occupation is long-term; in other words, the powers of an occupying power can expand, while the prohibitions against it become increasingly flexible, in a long-standing occupation.

The court also inferred that the Palestinian Authority (PA) had consented to the quarries’ operation, since the Israeli-Palestinian interim agreement, which was meant to expire in 1999, left the quarries under complete Israeli control in Area C of the West Bank. Shutting down Israeli quarrying activities would harm the local Palestinian population, the court added, since the industry employs Palestinian workers.

On the ground, however, the ruling has left Palestinians concerned that Israel’s illegal exploitation of other resources in the West Bank, including water, will now be viewed as legitimate.

"This law is dangerous. We are talking about one of the main humanitarian needs: water. I don’t think that anybody, any law, any state, has the right to steal one of the main necessary needs for people," said Fathy Khdirat, a Palestinian resident of Jordan Valley and coordinator of the Jordan Valley Solidarity campaign. More