Michelin Guides Sue Israeli Satirist
(A SPOOF IS A SPOOF IS A SPOOF)
Michelin Guides have recently
filed suite against Israeli expat satirist Shimon Tzabar, publisher
of a pamphlet titled 'MUCH BETTER THAN THE OFFICIAL Michelin
Guide to Israeli Prisons, Jails, Concentration Camps, and Torture
Below is an excerpt from the
guide, followed by Tzabar's defense submitted to
the British Hight Court on 19th July 2004
Excerpt: The Guide
Before we start our guided tour of Israel's prisons, concentration
camps and torture chambers, it would make sense to ask why we are
doing this. Why should anyone go on such a tour? The answer is simple:
to see history in the making.
Usually, it is through newspapers
that history unfolds before our eyes. In the case of Israel however,
we cannot trust newspapers. They mix everything up and make us confused.
We cannot distinguish any more between anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism,
and anti-Israeli government policy. The only way to know the truth
is to go there in person and see with our own eyes and watch history,
true history, in the making.
Going to Israel is quite simple. Anyone can do it; with or without
a travel agent. The problem, once you are there, is how to see the
prisons. There are two ways to see prisons, one is from the outside
and the other is from the inside. For the sake of watching history
in the making, there is not much one can see from watching from
the outside but, after all, it is better than nothing. Since this
guide serves everyone, we thought we would help people to reach
the prisons and concentration camps and to see them from the outside
as well as from the inside. We therefore, where possible, provide
telephone and fax numbers of the prisons and police stations concerned.
It will be obvious that to see the prisons from the inside, one
has to be arrested. For Palestinians or any other Arab, this is
not a problem. But for people who are not Arabs and may speak Arabic
but don't have the proper accent, it is not so easy to get inside
So, we have to give some guidance as how to be arrested.
Of course, it is easy to commit a crime and be
arrested, but we can't recommend such an ungraceful solution, especially
since being arrested as a criminal may land you in the wrong jail.
So, you have to do something political. You can demonstrate against
the mistreating of Palestinians or try to stop bulldozers demolishing
their homes or even try to save children from being shot. But this
carries with it another danger. Instead of being arrested you may
be shot yourself, or buried alive by the bulldozer.
This is not a hypothetical suggestion because
it has already happened to a few English and American people. We
must admit that there is no 100% safe way to be arrested. Watching
history in the making, especially in Israel, carries some risk with
it, but we will try to help make that risk as small as possible.
The safest way to be arrested, although this also carries a risk
with it, is to look like a Palestinian Arab. This can easily be
achieved by putting on some Arab garb, such as, for example, an
Arab head dress or a kafiyeh, as it is commonly known. Once you
look like a Palestinian you have a good chance of being arrested.
Your chance is actually so good, that you don't have to do anything
in particular. You can be arrested for anything, even for smiling
(in the wrong place or at the wrong person!) Once you have been
arrested, don't talk or answer questions. Don't open your mouth
even if you do understand what is being said. We would especially
stress that whatever happens, never protest because if you do it
in any other language apart from Arabic (in the correct accent),
you might be released at once or worse still, you could be expelled
from the country.
There is also another and much more important
reason not to open your mouth. This is especially important if you
want to observe what Israelis are capable of and are actually inflicting
on the Palestinians. If you don't talk, they will assume that you
know and have something to hide, so they will employ physical and
psychological means to make you talk. They will start by beating
you up. There are different methods of beating. One of them for
example is known as the 'bending method'. After they have handcuffed
your hands with plastic wire behind your back, and seated you on
a small chair without a back support, two people will hit you: one,
sitting in front of you, will push your chest with his left hand
and, at the same time,will slap your chin with the palm of his right
hand, while the other person, just standing behind you, will hold
your head with his left hand, and box your left arm with his right
fist. We go into these details so that you will know what to expect.
Other methods of first stage torture include the
'tripping game'. While your eyes are covered and you can't see,
you will be given the command to go forward. The moment you move,
a soldier will trip you with his boot. These are mere examples but
there are a lot more surprises once you are in the hands of the
Shabak, the Israeli army police. You may rightly ask how we know
all this. Is it from personal experience? The answer is no. We copied
this information from a booklet by the Public Committee Against
Torture in Israel which was published in Jerusalem, in April 2003.
You can order this booklet yourself, by writing to: Public Committee
Against Torture in Israel / PO Box 4634 / Jerusalem 91046 / ISRAEL.
Here is one concrete example of a torture case,
as published on December 12th 2003 by the Organisation Mondiale
Contre la Torture (Case ISR101203.CC):
"According to the information received,
at around 2 pm on April 24th 2003, a 16-year-old Mejad Abdalatif
Fatah Sabach was arrested by Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers
near Kfar Geva/Jenin (see Map 1, pp. 12/13 of the Guide). He was
in a taxi on the way to school. The soldiers handcuffed him, stripped
him of his clothes down to his underpants and hit him all over his
body, including the head. They reportedly subsequently tightened
his handcuffs so much that the marks were still visible, two and
a half months later, when he submitted his complaint.
"While they were transporting him blindfolded
to the prison facility at Araba, the soldiers beat him again. When
they arrived, they threw him into the camp with his hands and feet
tightly handcuffed. [Editors Note: It turns out that Araba is not
a prison as such, but in fact a small Palestinian village south-west
of Jenin which is occupied by a whole brigade of Israeli soldiers,
called Hativat Menashe]. He was left that way until 10 pm, without
receiving any food or drink. He was then transferred to the Salem
detention facility (see Map 9, pp. 28/29 of the Guide). On arrival,
four soldiers, using the butts of their rifles and sticks, beat
him on the head, face, in the stomach and on the legs until he bled.
This lasted until 2 am.
"Mejad was subsequently taken to the Kishon
detention center (see Map 2, pp. 14/15 of the Guide), where he was
questioned for three hours while seated on a small chair, with his
hands and feet handcuffed and his body bent backwards. After this,
he was put in solitary confinement for a week. During this time
he was interrogated twice, once for 6 hours and once for 3 hours.
"He was then taken to Megido Prison (see
Map 9, pp. 28/29 of the Guide). After having been held there for
15 days in a tent with 20 other prisoners, he was sent back to the
Kishon Detention center for another week in solitary confinement.
On the 7th day of detention there, he was taken for interrogation
which lasted from 10 am to 5 pm.
"During this interrogation, Mejad was placed
in a painful position, his back stretched backwards, with his interrogator
kicking him in the legs. The following day, he was again interrogated
for three hours, seated in the same position. The many kicks that
he received made it difficult for for him to stand. After this interrogation,
he was taken back to his cell, where he remained until June 20th
2003, when he was taken to the Hasharon Prison. There could be some
confusion here because there are 2 prisons called Hasharon. One
is situated on Road 553, near Tel-Mond, (see Map 4, pp. 18/19 of
the Guide) which belongs to the Prison Service, and the other belongs
to the Police and is near Petach-Tikwa (see Map 5, pp. 20/21 of
the Guide), where he is still being held".
On top of physical torture one can also expect
psychological torture. Since psychological torture involves vocals,
and is executed in Hebrew or in Arabic, those who don't know these
languages will not understand a word and, therefore, have nothing
to the British Hight Court on 19th July 2004
Letter submitted to the British High Court, Chancery
Division, in London, in response to a suite by famed international
publishing house Michelin, against the 'MUCH BETTER THAN
THE OFFICIAL Michelin Guide to Israeli Prisons, Jails, Concentration
Camps, and Torture Chambers':
Michelin's claim against me is invalid, for the following reasons:
1. The "book" that Michelin is referring to, is
not a book in a commercial sense.
The "book" that the claimants are referring to, is not
a book in a commercial sense. It doesn't have an ISBN number or
a publisher. It has not been sent to the British Library as the
law requires of any book published in this country and has not been
sent to any bookshop to be sold to customers. It is a political
pamphlet given free or in exchange for a small donation that some
people send us voluntarily or at our request, to cover the cost
of printing and postage. A notification of the existence of this
pamphlet and a request for a donation was only sent to a few people
who are on my e-mail address list.
Since it is not a book in the commercial sense, it could not have
caused any loss or financial damage as Michelin claims. As for other,
real or imagined damages, like damage to reputation for example,
I will refer later on. This pamphlet is a political publication.
It attacks the government of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians;
for their imprisonment and torture, for the demolition of their
houses and for the killing of hundreds of innocent people, including
children. To make it impressive, it is written in a literary style
of a satire that I've learned from Jonathan Swift.
2. The cover of the pamphlet is a visual satire, to fit
the style of the text.
I assume that what the claimants are objecting
to, is not the pamphlet itself but the cover of that pamphlet. That
cover, which was printed separately and added to the pamphlet later
on, is in the same spirit of satire as the text is. I chose the
subject of the satire on the front page to be that of the famous
Michelin guide. However, I made it clear that it is not a real Michelin
guide. I made this clear by printing, on the cover, in bold letters,
the title which is: "MUCH BETTER THAN THE OFFICIAL Michelin
guide" if it is better, it cannot be a Michelin guide. This
must be clear to everyone. In addition, I printed on the spine:
"THE TOURIST GUIDE THAT NEVER WAS. These additions are clear
evidence that it is not a genuine Michelin guide but a spoof. The
idea came to me from the Campbell Soup silk-screen print, by the
artist Andy Warhol. He took a commercial logo and made an art object
out of it. Since I am also an artist I thought that I can create
something in the same spirit.
3. The accusation that I have caused damages
to Michelin is not true
I have already explained in paragraph (1), why
my publication could not have caused financial damage to the claimant.
As for damage to reputation, I must say that the way I used the
name of Michelin in the cover of the spoof, could only add to their
reputation, not to damage it. I used their name to make the international
public aware that Israel is trying to eliminate the Palestinians.
I tried to prevent a holocaust. I am sure that Michelin, as a company
that employs many people, supports humanitarian causes but as a
commercial company they cannot express it.
4. Michelin has given me a tacit permission
to distribute it
In spite of all that, I still wanted to make
sure that Michelin did not object to the spoof. Being a French company,
I was sure that they would know what satire is and would have enough
sense of humor to tolerate a spoof based on one of their products,
especially for such an humanitarian cause. To make sure that they
did not object, I made one copy of this cover, enveloped a pamphlet
with it and sent it to Michelin with a note of my address stacked
among the pages. Since I did not receive any response from them
for over three weeks, objecting to what I had done, I was sure that
they did not mind. So, I enveloped all the pamphlets with this cover
and started to distribute them among my friends.
Allow me to end my defense by quoting a short
poem written by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda:
You will ask: where are the lilacs
And the metaphysics petalled with poppies
And the rain repeatedly spattering
its words, filling them with holes and birds?...
You will ask why his poetry does not speak of
dreams and leaves, and the great volcanoes of
Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood in the streets!
We have been able to obtain a copy of the 'Much Better than the
official Michelin Guide' and wish to inform our readers that in
addition to detailed maps and brief descriptions of Israeli prisons,
jails, concentration camps, and torture chambers, this pamphlet
also contains a translation of a memoir published in Israel, but
nowhere else. 'Checkpoint Syndrome' by Liran Ron
Furer, is a personal account of an Israeli soldier's experience
as an occupier, and his being haunted by this memory.
A note found among the pages says: "We asked
for permission to translate Checkpoint Syndrome from Hebrew into
English but it was denied. Since we think the book is of great importance,
we have decided to translate and publish it without permission.
Death in a cemetery
How many of us can imagine
the night of horror that the Salah family endured? To lie on the
floor of the living room for what seemed an eternity, embracing
as one being, trembling with fear as the house was blasted with
bullets and missiles; to watch the sniper's laser ray doing its
dance of death across the apartment, searching out its victims;
to see the missiles slamming into the walls of the house, missile
after missile, as though an earthquake had struck; to get to their
feet in the dark following the order to evacuate the building before
it was demolished; to try to open the front door and discover that
it had been twisted out of shape by the gunfire and couldn't be
opened; to open a window and try to shout to the snipers, in the
dark of the night, that the door was jammed; to see the father of
the family collapse from a bullet fired into his neck by a sniper;
to see the son collapse a few minutes later from a bullet in his
cheek fired by a sniper; to watch, helpless, as your son lies on
the floor, the life ebbing out of him, next to his dead father,
and to cry for help, but to find that the soldiers will not allow
anyone to enter; then to undergo an interrogation and humiliation;
and to discover that the entire contents of the house had been destroyed.
That was the night of horror of the Salah family:
the father, Prof. Khaled Salah, 51 at his death, founder of the
Department of Electrical Engineering at An-Najah University in Nablus;
his wife, Salam, and their three children, Diana, 23, Mohammed,
16, and Ali, 11, all of whom were at home that night. Fortunately
for the firstborn, Amer, he was in Boston, where he is an engineering
student. It was a night of horror on which the father, possessor
of a Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis, and a member
of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Committee at An-Najah, was killed,
along with his son, Mohammed, a boy who loved soccer and dreamed
of becoming a pharmacist, who lay dying on the floor for lack of
medical treatment, which the soldiers denied him.
Maybe you saw them. Two years ago, during the
Mondial (the World Cup of soccer), Channel 2 News correspondent
Itai Engel broadcast a report of his impressions from a house in
Nablus where he had watched the game between Brazil and Turkey as
a guest of the Salah family. Engel was flabbergasted this week when
told what had happened to the family that hosted him. The boy too?
The boy, too. He said he had been charmed by them, by the father
and his son, both of them avid soccer fans. When asked about the
possibility of a game between Israel and Palestine, Khaled consulted
with Mohammed and then replied, "We're better, but it'll be
best if you win, because we'll be in for it if we beat you."
They talked about peace and about soccer.
Salam, the widow and bereaved mother, a survivor
of that night, found it difficult this week to remember the television
piece and her loved ones' remarks about peace. It's important for
her that the Israelis know that Khaled was a man of peace. Between
fits of crying, still in shock, it's important for her to tell the
Israelis in detail what happened in the pre-dawn hours of July 6
in her home on Saka Street, in Nablus.
Salam Salah got home from a wedding in the city
a little before midnight. Only she and Diana had attended the family
wedding. Mohammed stayed home with his father, watching television
and waiting for the candies his mother would bring from the party.
Mohammed was very fond of the white and pink wedding sweets stuffed
with walnuts. No one could have imagined that those would be the
last candies he would ever eat. Diana, who, like her brother Amer,
was born in California - both are American citizens - holds a degree
in business administration from An-Najah. She, too, was getting
ready for her own wedding, a large-scale affair that was set for
They soon went to sleep. Mohammed was an anxiety-ridden
boy. Born into the first intifada in the tough city of Nablus, reaching
adolescence as the second intifada erupted, he was a habitual nail-biter.
He sometimes got nosebleeds, when the tension in Nablus rose. Salam
says it might have been because they overprotected the boy.
At a quarter to two they woke up in a fright to
the sound of a powerful blast. Salam and Khaled leaped out of bed
and looked out the window of their bedroom. They saw nothing. From
the window of Diana's room they spotted dark forms of soldiers surrounding
the building. It was only from the kitchen window that the full
picture became clear. "It's like hell," Khaled whispered
to his wife. The whole area was swarming with snipers, tanks, helicopters
and other army forces that had come to apprehend or liquidate wanted
individuals who were probably hiding in the ground-floor apartment.
Their building is situated high on Saka Street,
wedged on the hillside, with Nablus spread out below. The residences
in the building are spacious. Two neighbors are physicians, and
Sami Aaker, the owner of a sewing factory that produces garments
for Israeli fashion houses is another neighbor. Aaker's home now
lies in ruins, like that of the Salah family.
Khaled herded the children into the living room
and they lay on the floor, folded into one another, five members
of a family like one body. From time to time, another missile or
shell hit the apartment and exploded, casting a lurid light, like
fireworks. Occasionally searchlights or the snipers' red laser rays
lit up the darkened living room. The electricity came and went.
The door of the refrigerator, damaged along with everything else
in the house, opened wide and the yellow light supplied a bit of
illumination. Salam and Khaled called everyone they could think
of on Mohammed's mobile phone, trying to find out what was happening.
The shooting didn't stop for a second, and their home was being
gradually destroyed. They called relatives, asking them to do something,
One relative called the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem,
but even the long arm of all-powerful America, whose nationals were
in the besieged apartment, was of no avail. One missile had already
slashed into the bedroom, another into the kitchen. Khaled's mobile
phone rang in the bedroom, but no one could get to it. They cried,
prayed, shouted, fell silent. And embraced one another. They had
a Koran and they read verses from it in loud voices, so people would
"It was a nightmare. I will never recover
from it. No horror movie I have seen can compare to it," says
Salam, who wears black mourning clothes. Five missiles had already
struck the house. Khaled tried to calm them: "It's only property
damage, no one has been hurt." Salam says he was strong and
knew no fear. They just didn't want him to move and risk being hurt.
They heard the windows shattering, the water streaming
from pipes that had burst and the perfumes flowing out of bottles
that broke one after the other, their scents wafting through the
apartment. From above they heard the sound of a helicopter. The
battle for the house was at its height. "We phoned and phoned
but everyone was helpless. It was war, and my feeling was that none
of us would survive it." It went on that way for an hour and
a quarter, until 3 A.M.
When quiet fell, Salam shouted, "Please,
please, we are a family of peace. My name is Salam, shalom."
The quiet continued for a bit, and then the shooting resumed. Immediately
afterward, the Israeli force ordered everyone to leave the building,
because it was going to be blown up. The order was given through
a loudspeaker, in Arabic. "Anyone who doesn't come out will
have the building blown up with him inside," the soldiers threatened.
Khaled got up first. "We're all right, everyone
is all right," he whispered. He walked toward the corridor
and turned on a light. Salam told the children to wait until he
could see what was happening. But the shooting started again and
Khaled hurried back to the living room. When the shooting died down
he again made his way toward the front door and tried to open it.
However, the door had been bent out of shape by the gunfire and
the key didn't work.
Unable to open the door, and taking seriously
the soldiers' threat to blow up the house with them inside, Khaled
went to the bedroom, opened the window, raised his hands and shouted
to the soldiers, in English, "Sir, sir, we need help. Please
come and open the door. I am a professor, we are people of peace.
We have American passports." There was no response. Khaled
tried again, this time in Arabic: "Help, help, we need help."
A split second later, Salam heard three shots.
Khaled fell silent. She would never hear his voice again. Inside
the room, the terrifying red laser ray pranced across the walls.
Salam crawled over to her husband and found him
lying on the floor, between the bed and the window. At first she
saw no blood, but he was no longer breathing. Then she saw the hole
in his neck. "Diana, Diana," she screamed, "they
have killed your father."
Then she noticed Mohammed lying on the carpet
next to Diana. "What happened, Diana?" she cried. Diana
said nothing. Salam quickly moved her son, revealing his mouth.
Blood was flowing from his mouth and his cheek was split open. She
tried to stanch the blood coming out of his cheek using paper towels.
At first, she says, she thought it was a superficial wound. The
boy groaned. His eyes were wide open and he emitted strange noises.
His eyes pleaded for help, but his mother had only the paper towels.
She opened the screen window in the room and shouted hysterically
to the soldiers, "You killed my husband and my son." She
says she heard a soldier laugh.
"Shut up, woman," the soldier commanded
her, in Arabic. And again a red laser beam skitted around the room.
"I will never understand how Mohammed was
killed. Maybe one day I will know. Khaled raised his hands, so he
was a convenient target for them. Him they killed in cold blood.
They let him finish speaking and then they killed him. But how Mohammed
was killed I don't understand. I shouted like a madwoman: `Help,
my son is alive, we have to save him.' They laughed and told me
to shut up. The soldier who was laughing was standing below, on
the street. I sat on the floor and kept on shouting like a crazy
person. I pounded on the door until my hands were injured. I don't
know how those curses came out of me. I called for help, Diana and
Ali were crying hysterically, and the soldiers threatened to blow
up the building with us inside."
Mohammed was still alive. Diana also shouted to
the soldiers that they had two neighbors who are physicians, let
them at least send over one of them or let an ambulance get through.
Salam says that every time their shouting rose in pitch the soldiers
threatened to shoot them unless they shut up. Finally the soldiers
said they would send someone. They sent a human shield, using the
outlawed "neighbor procedure," in this case the neighbors'
15-year-old son. The lean boy pushed the door from outside, Salam
pulled from inside, and at last the door opened.
"We went out in our pajamas with our hands
raised," said Salam. "The soldiers spoke to us humiliatingly.
I shouted that my son and my husband are killed and they laughed
at us, imitating my shouts. They took us to the neighbors' apartment.
Diana asked where she should sit and a soldier said, sit on your
bottom. When I asked to see the commanding officer, they laughed
at me. When I said I wanted to be with Mohammed they imitated me.
This is the most criminal and most cruel army in the world. It was
murder in the first degree."
At 6:15 A.M., four and a half hours after the
attack began, the soldiers allowed a Palestinian ambulance to drive
up to the building. The father and the son were dead. Salam was
taken for interrogation by "Captain Razel" from the Shin
Bet security service, who questioned her about the wanted men who
had hidden in the apartment below. She had no idea, she says, what
was going on outside.
And that wasn't the end of it. "After all
that they went into the house and shot at everything they found.
Everything. There isn't a dress, there isn't a towel they didn't
shoot at. At the computer, the refrigerator, all our belongings,
they destroyed everything. They didn't leave us so much as a pair
of socks. They destroyed everything. A home of 20 years, all our
memories, all our dreams, our whole history. Imagine to yourself
what's in a home of 20 years. They destroyed it all. My husband's
books. I don't understand why. They just wanted to show us how strong
they are and how cruel."
What do the soldiers who were involved think now?
The sniper who shot a father and his son to death, and those who
denied the dying boy medical assistance? The army issued a statement
the next day: "Dr. Salah and his son Mohammed were apparently
killed by IDF gunfire, but there was no intention to do them harm.
Because of the shooting of the wanted man from the building, the
soldiers were compelled to shoot in different stages at every floor
and at the roof of the building, and it's possible that in one of
the instances the soldiers didn't identify the sources of fire correctly
or were forced to open fire at suspicious movements. Because of
the continuation of the event and the lack of information about
whether there were additional wanted individuals in the building,
it was not possible to send medical teams into the building."
Sirens wail in the main streets of Nablus. Another
funeral procession - Yasser Tantawi, 21. His brother, Khaled, 19,
was killed two months ago. Both are from the city's Balata refugee
camp. A Swedish volunteer, Henryk Larsen, a medical student from
Uppsala University, who joined an ambulance of the Medical Relief
Organization, was an eyewitness to Yasser's killing last Saturday
Youngsters threw stones at Jeeps, the soldiers
opened fire, Yasser was wounded in the leg and fell to the ground.
The event took place in the camp's cemetery. Larsen tried to treat
the wounded man, but came under fire and had to retreat. He saw
Yasser's body jolted back and forth as the soldiers kept shooting
at him. They shot him, he says, after he had already been wounded
in the leg.
Dr. Rasan Hamadan, from the Medical Relief Organization,
says that about 10 bullets were found lodged in Yasser's body and
that the medical team reported that he was unarmed. Larsen, too,
says he saw no weapon.
The response of the IDF Spokesperson's Office:
"During operational activity by an IDF force in Balata refugee
camp the force came under fire and a number of explosive devices
were thrown at it. The soldiers opened fire at a terrorist armed
with a Kalashnikov rifle who was advancing toward them, and killed
him. In the complex reality in which the IDF operates, maximum efforts
are made to avoid injury to the innocent. At the same time, in the
case of armed individuals who are endangering IDF soldiers and those
around them, it is the soldiers' obligation to prevent them from
Two days later, on Monday of this week, soldiers
killed another stone-thrower in the Balata camp cemetery. His name
was Husam Abu Zeitouna. He was 14.
60 year old dies at military gate
A four year old girl, two 16 year olds, a 19 and
a 21 year old boy were among the Palestinian dead of the last ten
Wednesday, July 21, 2004: Two
die at Balata camp's "death entrance"
On Monday Hussam Sameer Abu Zeitoun, 16 years
old, was shot dead as he hurled stones at Israeli jeeps invading
the Balata refugee camp in Nablus.
Hassam was shot in the eye as he threw stones
at Israeli army jeeps invading the Balata Refugee camp through the
southern entrance. Residents of the camp refer to the entrance as
the "death entrance" as
ten young Palestinians have been shot and killed there.
55 Palestinians from the Balata camp have been
killed since the beginning intifada.
On July 17th Yasser Khallil Tantawi, 21 years
old, was executed by Israelis in a similar situation and in precisely
the same place. Yasser was also throwing stones at Israeli jeeps
when he was shot. Jarer
Qanadilo of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society heard the shots
and went to help but was prevented from getting close to Yasser.
The medics spoke with an Israeli commander who assured them they
would be allowed to attend to the injured but upon second attempts
they were again denied access. Jarer who had been close enough to
Yasser to see he was alive then watched as further bullets were
fired at his body lying on the ground. He watched this execution
take place in front of his very eyes, he said.
Prevention of Medical Treatment
On the evening of Tuesday 20, 60 year old Abed
El Latif Emlitat, died in his son's car after waiting an hour and
a half to be allowed to pass through a checkpoint to reach a waiting
According to Majed Abed El Latif, his father died
at a military gate that barricades the entrance to Beit Fourik village.
His father had experienced chest pains in the evening and the family
was directed by
their doctor to take him to hospital in Nablus. Because however
the gate to the village is closed every evening at 7pm the family
were forced to wait for an hour and a half. The ambulance had come
to the gate to collect the elderly man but neither they nor he were
allowed to cross.
On Sunday afternoon in Rafah, 19 year old Jamille
Ismail al-Faramawi was shot as he tried to reach his home, damaged
in previous Israeli raids on the Egyptian border, on the edge of
the Rafah refugee camp. Israeli forces shot him in the abdomen as
he approached and then continued their firing preventing any attempts
to give medical assistance.
The Abu Youssef Najar hospital made every effort
to coordinate their assistance with the Israeli authorities at the
DCO however their ambulance waited for four hours unable to reach
Jamille. The boy was left to bleed to death over 18 hours. His body
not retrieved until the early hours of Monday morning. Witnesses
confirmed that he was civilian, unarmed and simply trying to reach
his house, one of dozens being demolished every day at the border.
Israeli Random shooting kills two Gaza
Also on Sunday, 4 year old Samar Fojo, died in
the European Hospital in Khan Younis, after being shot in the head
by Israeli troops in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on the
7th of the month.
Only last week 16-year-old Hanine Awda Abu Simhdana
was killed as she walked with her brother to the mosque near to
On both occasions the girls were killed by random
firing from the Philidelphi border area between Gaza and Egypt.
For more information contact The Palestine
Standing against the claws of the wall
Along the route of the separation barrier in the
West Bank, a new culture is springing up: on one side, soldiers
and bulldozers; on the other, Israelis and Palestinians embracing
the land and the trees, trying to save them both. Last week, Sharon
decided he was secure enough in the role of man of peace
to start pushing the wall towards the settlements of Ariel and Kedumim,
deep in the West Bank, about 20 kilometres from Israel. And since
then the Israelis and Palestinians have also been there.
The breathtaking scenery of the Ariel district
has been sliced up by the new roads that the rulers have built for
their own exclusive use. Beneath them lie the old roads of the vanquished.
There, on the lower level, is where the other Israel-Palestine treads.
Israeli youths arrive in settlement buses and
then make their way on foot and in Palestinian taxis among the checkpoints.
They trek between the villages in groups or alone. Some sleep in
the villages. Others will travel the same route the next day to
reach the demonstration. Everywhere they go they are greeted with
blessings and beaming faces. "Tfaddalu," the children
in the doorways say, as if they had never heard of stone-throwing.
Like the inhabitants of other Palestinian villages along the route
of the fence, those in the Ariel area have opened
their hearts and their homes to the Israelis who come to support
their non-violent resistance to the barrier that is robbing them
of their land.
The Israelis who go into the villages are not
afraid of Hamas. If they fear anyone, it is the Israeli army, which
can decide at any time, on a commander's whim, to douse the demonstrators
with inordinate quantities of tear-gas or to declare the area a
closed military zone (i.e., closed to Israelis) and arrest any Israeli
who tries to remain in the area.
What brings young Israelis to stand with the Palestinians
in front of the army is the conviction that there is a basic line
of justice that must not be crossed. It was not security considerations
that determined the present route of the fence. If the goal were
to prevent terrorist infiltration, the fence could have been built
differently. The route planned by Col. (res.) Shaul Arieli, head
of the Barak government's "Peace Administration", also
deviated from the 1967 border and enclosed the large settlement
blocs, placing them on the Israeli side. But the 300 square kilometres
of West Bank territory which that route would have devoured is less
than a third of what the present route will grab. Arieli's plan
would have cut off 56,000 Palestinians from contiguous connection
with the West Bank; the current route will strand 400,000 (Eldar,
Sharon and the army have designed the barrier
with a view to taking over as much West Bank land along the border
with Israel as possible, and to gradually empty it of its inhabitants.
Qalqiliyah, which has been isolated from its lands and the rest
of the West Bank, is already a dead city. Many of its inhabitants
have fled to seek subsistence at the edges of other West Bank towns;
those who remain have succumbed to the despair and decline that
characterizes prisoners. This is what lies in store for Biddu, Beit
Sureik and the other villages between the settlement Giv'at Zeev
and the Israeli town Mevasseret Zion. Now it is the turn of Zawiya
and Deir Balout, which lie between the settlement Ariel and the
Israeli Rosh Ha'ayin.
In the army's language, Ariel and Kedumim are
the "claws" of the fence, claws that are now sunk into
the West Bank, grabbing a giant chunk of Palestinian land that will
be transferred to Israel. As part of the process, it will be necessary
to "cleanse" the land of its inhabitants by slow strangulation,
as in Qalqiliyah.
The Israelis who face the army went to the West
Bank because they know there is a law that is higher than the army's
laws of closed military zones: there is international law, which
forbids ethnic cleansing, and there is the law of conscience. But
what brings them back, day after day, is the new covenant
that has been struck between the peoples of this land, a pact of
fraternity and friendship between Israelis and Palestinians who
love life, the land, the evening breeze. They know that it is possible
to live differently on this land.
What is compassion?
Yael Paz-Melamed. Translated from the newspaper: Maariv, June 17
A current show mounted by reserve soldiers documents
what they saw during their service. More accurately, it documents
what they themselves did, without thinking too much, during reserve
duty in Hebron. Only when they returned from that inferno did they
understand how horrible their acts were. The absurd thing is that
fortunately for them they did not think about it while they were
there because, if they had, they might not have returned.
"She doesn't live in Savyon but in Rafah",
Colonel Pinchas (Pinki) Zoaretz, Commander of the Gaza Strip southern
brigade, reproached a Yediot Aharonot reporter who interviewed him
about five-year old Rawan Zayed, who was killed by three shots in
her head during the Israel Defense Force's operation in Rafah. Then
he added, "What is compassion? Yes, I have compassion for my
child who needs to go to school in safety. That is my compassion".
Overall, Pinki Zoaretz is not the type of officer
who has doubts. He scorns the folks at home who ask
questions and the Israeli judicial system that tries to halt operations
in the territories.
Colonel Zoaretz is not inherently immoral. To
the contrary, he is a good man who fell into a bad
situation. In order to live with it in peace, he has developed dangerously
dulled senses regarding the
other side. The terrifying thing is that Zoaretz, like former Commander-in-Chief
of the Israel Air Force
Major General Dan Haloutz, sleeps well at night. We all sleep well
at night, even after we hear that
children were killed during an IDF operation in the territories.
Our sleep is disturbed and our compassion
aroused only when our children are not completely secure. The 37
years of occupation have turned all of
us into immoral people, in many senses of the word, who try to know
as little as possible about the
insufferable lives of the people who live under our occupation.
According to the ideology that we have
adopted, IDF operations in the territories are in response to terrorist
attacks. We very rarely tell
ourselves that terrorism is a response to occupation and that when
the occupation ends, the terrorism will end, or at least most of
it. When my son served in an IDF combat unit for three years, I
did not allow
anyone to discuss politics with him, including ourselves. his parents.
My son, like the sons of many
of my friends who served together, grew up in homes with very left-wing
views that he, too, adopted. For
three years, he and I were forced to support activities that were
completely opposed to our worldview. If he had not been able to
convince himself to completely accept the army's goals, he might
hesitated to act as he should have at a critical moment, God forbid.
Israeli society, to my great sorrow, is an example
of a society that has adopted bad values because of a bad situation.
These are immoral values that have become an inseparable part of
society. They do not disappear when the situation changes. The State
of Israel is paying and will continue to pay a very high price for
the ease with which we accept blotting out homes, killing children
We are all are becoming Colonel Pinki Zoaretz
who has no compassion for a five year old girl. God forbid.
June 11 - "What the army used here yesterday
was not tear gas. We know what tear gas is, what it feels like.
That was something totally different."
We are being briefed by A., a middle-aged villager
speaking Hebrew in a calm and unemotional way, while standing under
the scorching sun in the fields of Zawiya Village, on Friday morning.
we were still a long way off from where the bulldozers were working,
they started shooting things like this one" (holding up a dark
green metal tube with the inscription "Hand and rifle grenade
no.400" - in English).
"Black smoke came out. Anyone who breathed
it lost consciousness immediately, more than a hundred people. They
remained unconscious for nearly 24 hours. One is still unconscious,
at Rapidiya Hospital in Nablus. They had high fever and their muscles
became rigid. Some needed urgent blood transfusion. Now, is this
a way of dispersing a demonstration, or is it chemical warfare?".
"But if they think this
will stop us, they should think again!" burst in a younger
man standing behind - F., one of the organizers of today's march.
"Without our land, what are we? Seven thousand people with
no livelihood. Five kilometres it is from here to the Green Line,
five kilometres all our fields and olive groves. The fence will
come right up the village houses, it will leave us nothing. What
will we eat? Better to die on our land, we will not give up!"
While we were talking, more and more villagers were arriving, from
Zawiya itself and its neighbours Rafat and Dir Balut - the three
of which are bound, once the Fence/Wall is complete, to become an
almost completely enclosed enclave. There were also more Israelis
and internationals arriving,several dozen in all - the anarchists
who had already been here on the previous days, and also members
of Gush Shalom and Ta'ayush and the ISM and the IWPS women (the
latter who are based in nearby Hares had made the rest of us aware).
Some had come all the way in their private cars, dodging the army
road-blocks. Others had used the settler bus line from Tel-Aviv
and then the yellow Palestinian taxis nimbly plying the labyrinth
of blocked West Bank roads.
Close to noon, the march set out. At the head an enormous Palestinian
national flag was carried, and the youths burst out with "Long
live Palestine" and "National Unity - Fatah, Hamas, Popular
Front!". Whatever their party affiliation, they were invariably
kind and welcoming to the Israelis marching at their side. Boys
were going around, offering icicles and firmly refusing payment.
An elderly woman in traditional clothes, a megaphone in one hand
and gas mask in the other, was directing the chanting. Behind her
walked two young Icelanders, who had come from Reykjavik to work
as volunteers for the
Palestinian Medical Relief Committees. Many Palestinians had gas
masks, as did the international
TV crews accompanying the march. Those who did not have them made
do with a kind of shallow carton cups with a string to keep them
over mouth and nose, or with cloth tied over the face. Tension rose
as the march wound though the fields, passing the broken olive trees
destroyed in earlier days, and up to the point where yesterday's
confrontation took place. And then a feeling of relief - the soldiers
and bulldozers had gone away, during the hour before we got to the
spot. There remained only a single jeep,
observing from a distance. Finished for the weekend or avoiding
Right on the spot from which the soldiers shot yesterday, strewn
with empty cartridges, the Palestinian flag went upon the pole.
A young man planted a green Islamic flag beside it, getting some
frowns from members of other factions. Under the pole, speakers
took up the megaphone and made fiery addresses: "Listen, Sharon!
Listen, Bush! Zawiya is steadfast! We hold on to our land, to our
olive trees!" Then the Friday prayers, thousands of villagers
kneeling in unison in the direction of distant Mecca.
The rally and prayer over, the column was about to set out back.
But many of the youngsters were not yet done. They ran ahead, to
the recently-carved track by which soldiers and bulldozers have
come, and started piling rocks along it. Israelis and internationals
joined them in shifting and rolling huge rocks, some needing the
work of twelve people to move. "I know this will not stop the
bulldozers by itself, but we will sure make life difficult for them
every way we can" said a youth.
Israel's use of torture must be exposed
Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, Secretary General Palestinian National
The pictures of American soldiers torturing prisoners
at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq have shocked the world. To the
Palestinian people however, these photographs of hooded or naked
figures come as no
surprise. For the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have served
time in Israeli prisons, the pictures only bring back memories of
their own torture.
In many cases, the treatment of the Iraqis in
Abu Ghraib bear striking similarities to Israeli methods of torture.
Accusations are now circling in the world's press that Israeli security
officers have actually
assisted in training private US security contractors being sent
Regardless of whether there is any truth to these
allegations, the world must recognize that torture is commonplace
in Israel. It is not enough to condemn the actions of these American
soldiers while ignoring the systematic human rights abuses imposed
on the Palestinian people.
Like the United States, Israel lays claim to the
highest moral standards, yet it is apparent that there are elements
within the Israeli armed forces and indeed government for whom torture
is a necessary and
acceptable weapon. The two nations' refusal to accept the terms
of the International Criminal Court can only enhance the worldwide
suspicion that these two countries wish to legitimize the torture
prisoners without ever being held to account by those they abuse.
An Israeli High Court ruling on 6 September 1999
prohibited a number of torture techniques. However, these methods
were not completely outlawed. Instead the Court's ruling still allows
the Knesset to enact laws that would give intelligence officers
the authority to use such methods. The Court deemed the security
difficulties faced by Israel to be grave enough to merit granting
intelligence services the power to torture.
This "ticking bomb" excuse now gives
the Israeli security forces carte blanche to abuse any prisoners
in their care, including children. Human rights groups maintain
that the use of torture in Israeli prisons has
increased and become more systematic since March 2002. Violations
of the Convention Against Torture are now commonplace as the military
grip on the Occupied Territories has been tightened.
The Israeli army and police also receive the unconditional
backing of the country's legal system, perpetuating the culture
of impunity in Israeli prisons. The Public Committee Against Torture
in Israel [PCATI] has found that the Israeli Attorney General has
approved every case of torture as a necessary security measure.
The High Court has rejected every single one of 124 petitions submitted
by PCATI, against prisoners being denied access to legal support.
The thousands of statements given by former Palestinian
prisoners bear witness to the relish with which their Israeli tormentors
went about their task. Just as in Iraq, any humiliation or abuse
is permissible if
it goes under the spurious banner of security. The casual disregard
for human dignity and international law within the Israeli army
and police is as breathtaking as it is despicable.
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, including
the death or maiming of numerous Palestinian prisoners, Israel continues
to deny that torture is used in its prisons. Over 7,000 Palestinian
prisoners currently remain in Israeli prisons, many of them held
without charge or trial. Most will have suffered some degree of
torture before their release. It is shocking to recognize that around
650,000 Palestinians have spent time in Israeli custody since 1967,
most of them adult males. This means that almost every second Palestinian
adult male has been imprisoned.
The torture in Abu Ghraib prison, has shaken the
Bush administration to its very core. Photographic evidence is all
that is lacking to finally expose and condemn Israel's barbaric
treatment of its Palestinian
prisoners. This is the only difference between the two cases, yet
the weight of evidence against Israel, in the testimonies of former
prisoners and investigations by human rights organizations, is overwhelming.
It is not enough to condemn the actions of American soldiers in
Iraqi jails while thousands of Palestinians continue to suffer.
Israel's use of torture must also be exposed.
Harassment of Palestinian students at the Nablus area checkpoints.
Daphna Banai, a MachsomWatcher
[The material for this piece was collected
by MachsomWatch women at military checkpoints in the
Nablus area. Nablus is a large Palestinian town in the WestBank,
with several higher learning
institutions.While this piece focuses on the Nablus area, harassment
of students in the Occupied
Territories is a wide-spread phenomenon. MachsomWatch is an Israeli
women's human rights
organization, opposing the closure policy in the Occupied Territories.
the check-points regularly.Detailed reports can be found at the
website, see below.]
The checkpoints make life of Palestinian civilians miserable in
countless ways. They are a hotbed of
frustration, hatred, and terrorism, resulting from humiliation,
harassment and oppression of millions of
people. There is no justification whatsoever for the checkpoints,
especially the ones separating Arab
villages from Arab towns, and one Arab town from another (the vast
majority of the checkpoints). It is
not enough that every village is blocked with dirt mounds and there
is no way to leave it in a vehicle.
It is not enough that Arabs are discriminated with respect to Jews
on the West Bank roads, and that use of settler roads is prohibited
for Palestinians. The checkpoints prevent any kind of normal life.
Most of Palestinians cannot get to work regularly, and have to subside
on handouts from human rights
organizations. The checkpoints stand in the way of people who need
to visit a dying aunt, to see a
doctor, to fix a car, to pass a vehicle test (and the police is
continuously hunting for "transgressors" of vehicle laws,
in order to fine them). And much more.. Sometimes people die at
checkpoints. On this scale, the relentless harassment of Nablus
students, described below, may appear trivial. But according to
the students, it makes studying very, very difficult.
During the last year, while monitoring the Nablus area checkpoints,
we have witnessed hardships facing
students who attend universities in Nablus, and of Nablus residents
who study elsewhere. All these
students need to pass repeatedly the strangulation ring of the checkpoints,
surrounding the town of
Nablus. We tried to raise the issue with the Military Commander
of Nablus, Harel Knafo, but his answers were unsatisfactory, and
we have not seen any effort by the army to alleviate the following
Only students attending certain institutions are allowed to pass
the checkpoints. The situation depends on the extent of cooperation
of the university heads with the army. For example, the administration
of the A-Najah University met with the army representatives (according
to Commander Knafo). The resulting understanding included prohibition
of ALL POLITICAL ACTIVITY in the university (please note - not terrorist
activity). The administration of the Al-Quds University branch in
Nablus refused to be part of such an understanding, and therefore
their students are denied passage at the checkpoints. We have witnessed
hundreds of cases of denied passage, as a results of this decision.
The students are granted passage through the checkpoints on specific
days only. Entry to Nablus is
allowed only on Saturday, and exit - on Wednesday. This is since
there are no regular classes on Thursday and Friday. This decision
is arbitrary and interferes seriously with academic freedom. Some
of the resulting difficulties which we encountered are described
a) The decision forces Nablus area students who
are not Nablus residents, to live during the weekdays in the town.
The expenses are substantial, especially during these days, when
most of Palestinians are
unemployed. Besides, many parents are likely to object to the possibility
that their 18 year old daughter
will live alone in the town.
b) Every Saturday, students heading to Nablus are
stopped at a flying checkpoint near the Jitt junction,
removed from the buses, detained, and subjected to a "security
checkup". That is, the detainees' IDs are taken, and their
numbers conveyed to some unbelievably slow General Security (Shabbak)
computer, for security clearance. The students are ordered to sit
on the ground, with a soldier pointing a gun at them. They have
to wait for hours for the return of their IDs.
c) We keep meeting students who are prevented from
attending exams taking place during weekends. For example, two weeks
ago many students were prevented by the soldiers from attending
a Thursday exam. Other students, who remained in town for this exam,
could not get home for the weekend. A month ago we encountered students
who arrived on Thursday morning to attend the pharmacists' certification
exam. They were denied entry to Nablus, and turned back with tears
in their eyes.
d) A student who has to return home on a day other
than Wednesday, because of being sick, or because of a family problem
or disaster, cannot leave town (the soldiers do not believe him,
of course). Conversely, if a student cannot return to school on
Saturday (due to sickness, or family needs), he or she has to lose
a week of school and to wait till next Saturday. Some weeks ago
a Wednesday was declared a holiday, and the school ended on Tuesday.
Hundreds of students who arrived to the checkpoints on that Tuesday
were turned back to Nablus and requested to return the next day.
The only justification of this mistreatment of fellow human beings,
could be, possibly, security. But the
claim of the Nablus Commander is that the orders were instituted
for the convenience of Palestinians!
- because if students would pass every day, that would cause pressure
on the checkpoints, and disturbances may ensue. According to this
kind of logic, one might anticipate orders that women will be allowed
to pass the checkpoints only on (say) Monday mornings, the elderly
- only on Thursdays, and the the sick should wait patiently till
next Sunday. Surely that would reduce the the pressure on the checkpoints!
We see the students' plight every day. They are detained at checkpoints
for hours, sometimes for as
many as 12 hours. One night we stayed with detained students till
11PM. On that freezing-cold January
night, the detained were forced to sit in the mud, facing the wall.
After their release there was no
transport, and they had to endanger themselves by sneaking on foot
through the mountains, their
destinations at a distance of up to 30 kilometers.
We should like to express our respect and admiration to the Palestinian
students, and their drive to
acquire education, despite the difficulties and the painful efforts
they have to make. And every day new
difficulties are piled in their way. We enclose below an email received
by one of the MachsomWatchers from a Nablus student, describing
just one early morning of his life.
We hope very much that Israeli and international students and academics
will find ways to help their
colleagues beyond the Green Line, to struggle together for the Palestinian
right for education.
A letter from a Nablus student:
I am with you on NO MORE CHECK-POINTS [MachsomWatch badges], It
is a distressed life with the check-point policies, we hope to find
solution.. I should like to tell you what happened yesterday to
me and others who live with me in the student hostel. Because of
the bad situation, we cannot pass the check-points, and it takes
many hours to reach the university, and we lose lectures. For this
reason all students from outside Nablus live in a hostel, so they
can reach the University without any problems with soldiers.
In the early morning (3:30), we were awakened from sleep by a loudspeaker,
we saw many jeeps around the building, and many soldiers with machine-guns.
Windows were flooded with searchlights, everybody was in bed, we
were afraid, there was no one to protect us, just God.. Then the
captain knocked on the neighbor's door and ordered him to enter
our building and to tell us to go outside. But not all of us in
the hostel, he selected people living on floors 9 and 14. He knew
what he was doing, and where the students live. Everybody knows
what spies can do to us.. I and others who live on other floors
stayed inside. But I tried to see what is going on, I was amazed
to see so many soldiers with so many jeeps coming for us, students
who do not have any guns and did not have any contact with soldiers,
we just came here to study, not more. They arrested three from the
building, one of them is my friend, I am really depressed and I
don't know what do. How can we study under occupation ..?
Anyway I hope to finish this year without problems,
Israel's secret water plans
Fred Pearce, Jerusalem
Israel has drawn up a secret plan for a giant
desalination plant to supply drinking water to the Palestinian territory
on the West Bank. It hopes the project will diminish pressure for
it to grant any future Palestinian state greater access to the region's
scarce supplies of fresh water.
Under an agreement signed a decade ago as part
of the Oslo accord, four-fifths of the West Bank's water is allocated
to Israel, though the aquifers that supply it are largely replenished
by water falling onto Palestinian territory.
The new plans call for seawater to be desalinated
at Caesaria on the Mediterranean coast, and then pumped into the
West Bank, where a network of pipes will deliver it to large towns
and many of the 250 villages that currently rely on local springs
and small wells for their water.
to fresh water
Israel, which wants the US to fund the project,
would guarantee safe passage of the water across its territory
in return for an agreement that Israel can continue to take
the lion's share of the waters of the West Bank. These mainly
comprise underground reserves such as the western aquifer,
the region's largest, cleanest and most reliable water source.
For Israelis, agreement on the future joint management of
this aquifer is a prerequisite for granting Palestine statehood.
The first public hint of the plan emerged
earlier in May in Washington DC. Uri Shamir, director of water
research at the Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology
in Haifa, told the House of Representatives Committee on International
Relations that the desalination project was "the only
viable long-term solution" for supplying drinking water
to the West Bank. [Chair: Henry Hyde, Rank member: Tom Lantos]
Shamir told New Scientist this week that
the project could be complete in five to seven years. "The
plant will be funded by the world for the Palestinians. Israel
will not be willing to carry this burden, and the Palestinians
are not able to."
But other leading hydrologists contacted
by New Scientist point out that desalinating seawater and
pumping it to the West Bank, parts of which lie 1000 metres
above sea level, would cost around $1 per cubic metre.
"The question is whether an average Palestinian
family can afford it," says Arie Issar, a water expert at Ben-Gurion
University of the Negev in Sde Boker, Israel, who helped green the
Israeli desert a generation ago by finding new water sources in
the region. "It would be foolish to desalinate water on the
coast and push it up the mountains when there are underground water
resources up there, which cost only a third as much."
Tony Allan of King's College London, a leading
authority on Middle East water, agrees: "Pumping desalinated
water to the West Bank is not the best technical or economic option."
But the project is being supported by Alvin Newman, head of water
resources at the Tel Aviv office of USAID, the US international
development agency, which would fund the desalination project. "Ultimately
it's the only solution," he said in an interview with New Scientist.
Water supply is one of the few areas where cooperation
between Israel and Palestine has survived the current intifada.
Every day on the West Bank, Palestinian engineers help repair and
maintain Israeli water pipes, and vice versa. [really???]
But Palestinian water negotiators are deeply uneasy
about the plans being drawn up on their behalf, especially if they
involve abandoning claims to the water beneath their feet. "We
cannot do that. We don't have the money or the expertise for desalination,"
Ihab Barghothi, head of water projects for the Palestinian Water
Authority, told New Scientist.
Palestinians badly need more water. Under the
Oslo agreement they have access to 57 cubic metres of water per
person per year from all sources. Israel gets 246 cubic metres per
head per year. And in the nearly 40 years that Israel has controlled
the West Bank, Palestinians have been largely forbidden from drilling
new wells or rehabilitating old ones.
The region's sources of water are the West Bank
aquifers; the river Jordan, which rises in the Golan Heights and
flows into the Sea of Galilee, where it is largely tapped by Israel;
and the coastal aquifer, an increasingly polluted reserve of underground
water that extends south to the Palestinian territory of the Gaza
Over the years, Israel has developed a good reputation
for using water efficiently, and in the 1980s it began recycling
sewage effluent for irrigation. In 2004, Israel signed a deal to
buy water shipped by tanker from Turkey.
Meanwhile, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip depend
almost exclusively on small wells tapping the coastal aquifer. As
the water table falls, the aquifer is becoming increasingly polluted
by salt water from the sea. UN scientists say Gaza will have no
drinkable water within 15 years.
Despite earlier efforts to develop desalination,
the Israel government only decided to invest heavily in the technology
in the past four years. Some, including Israeli liberals and Palestinian
optimists such as Barghothi, believed that once Israel began desalinating
seawater for its own use it would be prepared to relax its grip
on the West Bank aquifers. But now it appears that Israeli water
planners see desalination as a means of retaining control of those
The desalination plant to supply the West Bank
would parallel a similar US-funded reverse osmosis plant to fill
taps on the hard-pressed Gaza Strip. The scheme has already been
approved and funded, but is currently on hold because of continuing
conflict in Gaza. Taken together, the two schemes would leave an
independent Palestine more dependent on desalination than almost
any other nation in the world.