29 October 09
Utilizing the "halo effect," whereby because of their humanitarian focus, non-governmental organizations are insulated from scrutiny and are regarded as above reproach by the media, Amnesty International has published a report accusing Israel of denying Palestinians access to water supplies.
Media outlets, including AP, AFP, Reuters, BBC, The Independent, Sky News, The Age and the Irish Times, were happy to promote Amnesty's allegations. The Times of London even ran with the provocative headline: Palestinians suffer under Israeli water torture.
While the above media did, at least, include some limited responses from Israeli officials, the CNN report below from Paula Hancocks did not even bother to supply any Israeli reaction whatsoever.
Regarding Amnesty's report itself, Officials at the Israeli Water Authority told theJerusalem Post they were never given an opportunity to present information to Amnesty researchers, nor respond to the Palestinian allegations. They also say the report's figures are deeply flawed.
Moreover, NGO Monitor claims Amnesty's report was timed to boost a campaign to boycott Israel. Indeed, a US speaking tour kicks off next week with Omar Barghouti addressing the Loyola Law School in LA on the topic "Palestine: Thirsting for Justice. Israel’s Control of Water as a Tool of Apartheid and a Means of Ethnic Cleansing."
A Jerusalem Post editorial addresses the issues:
It [Amnesty' report] set out to examine the assumed victimization of the Palestinians. Thereafter, everything proceeded true to pattern. The inevitable bottom line is that the Palestinians are aggrieved. No blame is apportioned to them. The causes of the situation aren't considered. . . .
Additionally, the Israel Water Authority notes that, when all water uses are combined, it emerges that 149 cubic meters are available per capita per annum for Israelis, and 105 cu.m. for Palestinians. The difference, though not negligible, is far from Amnesty's claim of a super-acute shortage, well below the World Health Organization recommended minimum allotment. Water availability to Israelis has fallen sharply in recent decades. In 1967 it stood at 500 cu.m. - so today's figure represents a 70% drop. Until the Six Day War, Palestinians could count on a mere 86 cu.m. yearly. Their situation has improved by 22%.
Had it been given the opportunity, the Water Authority would also have highlighted that Israel supplies water to the PA well in excess of its 1995 Oslo Accords undertakings. Systematically overlooked by Amnesty, meanwhile, are Palestinian breaches of these accords - including pirate drilling, water theft and routine damage to pipelines, failures to purify waste water (despite massive contributions by donor nations), irrigating crops with fresh rather than reclaimed water, dumping untreated sewage into streams, severely contaminating Israel's Coastal Aquifer and forcing Israel to deal with PA sewage.
It is very hard to resist the conclusion that Amnesty's report was commissioned to serve a specific agenda.
See also The Issue of of Water Between and the Palestinians (pdf format), a document published in March by the Israeli Water Authority.