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Palestine, Part I: Water and Land in the Occupied Territories

by KatherineMW

MIDEAST PALESTINIANS ISRAELI have travelled to the Palestinian Territories twice: on a three-week Christian study tour in 2010, and for a one-month internship in the capital, Ramallah, in summer 2012.  Since multiple people on this site have mentioned that most of their knowledge of Palestine comes from the news, I decided to write a piece on my experiences.  This should have been written last year; however, it’s a highly emotional topic for me and I found writing about it difficult.  Here it is, finally.

You enter Israel through Ben-Gurion International Airport, halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  It’s modernist in design and an attractive introduction to the country, filled with fountains and waterfalls.  In a predominantly desert land, this is a statement equivalent to covering the interior in gold leaf.

Water quickly becomes one of the distinguishing factors between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  West Jerusalem, Israeli territory, has green and spacious parks filled with flowers; East Jerusalem – legally Palestinian territory, but annexed by Israel following the Six-Day War of 1967 – has few to none.  Water for both Israel and Palestine comes from three aquifers and from the Jordan Valley.  The Eastern and Northeastern aquifers are located almost entirely with the Palestinian Territories; the Western lies underneath areas of both Israel and the Palestinian Territories but derives some 85% of its water from rainfall in the West Bank.  Despite this geography, the Oslo Accords granted Israel use of the vast majority of the water in the three aquifers, with the Palestinian Territories permitted to use only 20% of the total estimated potential volume; when the actual volume was found to be greater than estimated, only Israel’s portion increased.  Even beyond this, Israel uses well over 50% more water than the Oslo Accords allow it, an unsustainable level of use which is draining the aquifers.    Palestinian per capita water use is approximately 25% that of Israelis, and has been falling since Oslo.  When I was living in Ramallah, the group which organized my internship encouraged me to minimize shower time in order to conserve water.

Surface-WaterThe Jordan Valley within the Palestinian Territories is also entirely controlled by the Israelis, as are the substantial groves of date palms alongside it which Israel and settlers draw profits from.  The same is true of the portions of the Dead Sea shoreline within the Palestinian Territories, and the lucrative salt extraction plants there, which produce globally-sold and highly-valued cosmetics; Ahava is a cosmetic company known to source its products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank.  Under international law concerning permanent sovereignty over natural resources, including rulings by the International Court of Justice, resources in the territory of an occupied population may be used solely with the consent of that population and for their benefit, so this is a clearly illegal activity that has seriously detrimental consequences for the economy of the Palestinian Territories.  The potential value of the Dead Sea shore to the Palestinian economy, both in cosmetics and in resort development, is substantial, and Israel’s occupation both denies this value to the Palestinians and removes value through their own extraction activities and resource-processing in settlements.

Settlements themselves are ubiquitous in the Palestinian Territories; some 345,000 Israeli settlers now live in the West Bank, with another 200,000 in East Jerusalem.  Even between my two visits I could see that major growth had occurred, and that far more of my travel time in the West Bank involved watching settlement after settlement pass by the windows, distinctive from their red, peaked roofs, very different from the typical white, angular construction of buildings in the rest of the region.  West Bank settlement has more than tripled since the signing of the Oslo Accords: in 1993, when they were signed, there were 111,600 settlers in the West Bank.  Netanyahu has been continuously accelerating it even further: to compare, in a presentation I made for my church after returning from my 2010 trip, West Bank settlement numbers were 305,000, and 180,000 in Jerusalem.  Current settlement construction in 2013 is up 70% over last year.

The residents in the settements vary.  Some of them are there for purely economic reasons – the Israeli government subsidizes the settlements heavily, so it’s cheaper to live in a settlement near Jerusalem and commute than it is to live in Israel.  Others are for religious reasons: I’ve visited two on my trips, Ephrat and Gush Etzion.  One of the members of my Christian study tour asked the settler we talked to in Ephrat how settlement and the treatment of the Palestinians related to the Torah’s statements on justice and caring for the oppressed; he responded that these injuctions applied to looking out for oppressed Jews, and didn’t apply to treatment of other people groups.  The group in Gush Etzion had a fairly sophisticated museum and showed us a long propaganda film about the heroic settlers making farmland out of a wilderness and being attacked by the evil Arabs.  (Their settlement was in fact located near Bethlehem, where Palestinians had been cultivating the land for many generations before Zionist settlement.)  When my group brought up the Palestinians, he said the radicals and rock-throwers were dangerous, but some of the Palestinians did repairs and picked cherries on the settlements and were fine people – he even made a cup of coffee for one of them once!  These are the comparatively moderate religions settlers.  The third type of settlers are the ones around Hebron, who throw junk in Palestinians’ yards and doorways so they can’t get into their houses, stand on the roofs and toss garbage down on them in the marketplace (the Palestinians put up a net to catch it, so then the settlers threw bleach), and even threaten and beat Palestinian children on the way to school.  There are Palestinian and international groups that walk the kids to school in order to guard them from settler attacks.  The city of Hebron itself has heavy security, with gates and checkpoints and Israeli soldiers with machine guns, but they do nothing about the settlers’ actions.

There’s considerable determination among the settlers to expand.  One night on my second trip I stayed at the Tent of Nations: a farm, summer camp, and peacebuilding/advocacy organization created by a Palestinian Christian family a little outside of Bethlehem.  A nearby settlement offered them a blank cheque for their land.  They refused; this is their home.  The Israeli government has repeatedly threatened to demolish their house and wells, but so far they have had sufficient international support, and sufficient legal assistance wih the courts, to prevent demolition.  Their challenges are continuous, though.  From their latest newsletter:

In December 2012, the high court rejected our appeal for a building permit for the 13 demolishing orders for our structures. They said that we have to apply again according to the new rules. Before applying the land must be surveyed again. Our Lawyer did the paper work and we started a new process in the Israeli courts to protect our structures. It is a frustrated situation for us but we still believe in justice and one day justice will prevail.?With your prayers and support we are able to keep this hope alive and are able also to overcome our obstacles.

Permits are one of the several ways the Israelis justify their demolition of Palestinian homes, which is common in East Jerusalem as well as the West Bank.  Building permits are rarely granted to Palestinian families, though apartments rise unabated in West Jerusalem and building continues apace in the settlements.  When the families go ahead and build anyway, the Israeli government calls their homes illegal and bulldozes them, charging the family for the demolition costs.  It’s realized the public relations issues with this and now gives less and less notification and does the demolition in the early mornings, when there’s less chance of people seeing it or being there to protest.    On some occasions they’ve demolished houses with the family inside.  I saw some of these demolished houses in East Jerusalem, with newly built settler houses – again identifiable by the peaked red roofs – right beside them.  Settlers have no trouble with permits.

west-bank-wall39774-jpgBut there are a range of other ways to justify land confiscations in the West Bank.  Sometimes it’s for a nature reserve.  Sometimes it’s because the family doesn’t have a written document of land title from the Ottoman period.  Sometimes it’s for “security reasons”, but those security reasons don’t stop the government from being able to build a settlement on the place where Palestinian homes used to be.  All the hilltops in Palestine have been taken by the Israelies for security reason (a Palestinian man involved in setting up Palestine’s telecom network discussed the problems this caused for that endeavour), and many of those now have settlements covering them.  Sometimes it’s because settlements need a certain area around them as a security zone – Palestinian homes can’t be too near a settlment, so even if the Palestinians were there long before the settlement was, that means demolition.  This security zone also means Palestinians can’t farm their fields or olive groves if they’re within that region.  A law from the Jordanian occupation of Palestine says that land can revert to the state if it isn’t cultivated for several years – so after several years, the land within the security zone, which Palestinians aren’t permitted to farm, is claimed by the Israeli government and used to expand the settlement.  The settlement then needs a new security zone, so more fields and orchards go unused and more houses and wells are demolished.  And that’s how a settlement grows.

Settlement has several advantages for Israel.  The simplest one is that it acquires additional land for housing its population (which had its own form of the Occupy movement over domestic socioeconomic issues, including housing), a valuable thing for a small state, particularly when much of that land can serve as commuter suburbs for Jerusalem.  The second is that it renders a functional Palestinian state impossible, and ensures that the remaining Palestinian-populated areas are divided and difficult to travel between.

Creating divisions between the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and between different areas of the West Bank, has a systematic plan and a deliberate policy of the Israeli government ever since 1967 – or rather, a debate between two policies.  The Allon Plan would have Israel take control of the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea shore to separate Palestinian territory from Jordan, use settlements to disconnect the West Bank from East Jerusalem, and divide the remainder of the West Bank in two through large settlements in its central areas – such as Ma’ale Adumim.  The more comprehensive Sharon Plan, developed by Ariel Sharon in 1977, called for large numbers of settlements throughout the West Bank with a population of  2 million, splitting the West Bank into a substantial number of small, disconnected islands in a sea of Israeli-controlled areas.  If you look at a map of West Bank Areas A (Palestinian civil and military control) and B (Palestinian civil control, Israeli military control) surrounded by C (full Israeli military control), you’ll see the resemblance.  Neither of these plans involved anything resembling a viable Palestinian state.

The success of these plans is constantly visible when you travel in the Palestinian Territories.  Due to having to skirt the settlements and the wall, it’s a 90-minute journey from Ramallah (north of Jerusalem) to Bethlehem (south of Jerusalem), cities about 10 miles apart.  Settlements are close to cutting Ramallah off from East Jerusalem, and the major Ma’ale Adumim settlement reaches from Jerusalem to Jericho in the Jordan Valley.  Last year Israel announced an expansion of Ma’ale Adumim that will cut the West Bank in half, combining with Israeli military control of the Jordan Valley to block travel between the north and south.  Foreign Policy has called it “the settlement that broke the two-state solution.”

All this is a major factor in Palestinians’ conviction that Israel never intends – and never intended – to allow a Palestinian state or to cease its occupation of the lands captured in 1967.  If you’re going to give up control of land, why deliberately – and at an ever-increasing rate – transfer large portions of your population into it, people who have zero interest in ever being part of a Palestinian state?  The only reason is annexation, and we’ve seen that as Israeli leaders – such as Netanyahu – continuously talk about needing to draw borders in line with “facts on the ground” (ie: the large Israeli settler population) rather than according to the 1967 border.

If you want to know why the Second Intifada happened, look at settlement, and look at the Oslo Accords.  The Oslo Accords were supposed to be a basis for permanent status agreements; Palestinians believed that it would, at last, end the occupation.  The Accords stated that there would be a “transitional period not exceeding five years”, with the negotiations taking place within that time leading to “the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338”.  Resolution 242 calls for Israel’s withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967.  The Oslo Accords demanded much from the Palestinians (including the unequal agreement about water described above, acceptance of continued occupation in the short term, and no restrictions on settlements during the term of negotiations); the Palestinian people accepted it with the expectation that, in return, they would see an end to the occupation and the creation of their own state.  The expanding pace of settlement made it increasingly clear that the Israelis had no intention of leaving; when the “deadline” for the end of the occupation was reached in 2000 and the occupation still showed no signs of ending, frustrations boiled over.  I don’t defend many of the actions that were taken, but no people will tolerate a permenant state of occupation and mistreatment, nor should they be expected to do so.  To the Palestinians – and frankly, to me – it looks as if they were conned: the Oslo Accords let the international community, and for a time the Palestinians, feel like progress was being made, and so bought Israel time to solidify its hold on the Occupied Territories though settlement expansion.

A poll by the Palestinian Centre for  Policy and Survey Research finds that over 75% of Palestinians now believe that Israel intends to annex the West Bank and either expel its population or deny them political and civil rights.  This echoes what I heard when I was last in the region.  Israel wouldn’t annex the West Bank as a whole – if it did, its population would become roughly 50% Jewish and 50% Palestinian, with a slight Palestinian majority.  The plan outlined to me by people who had been watching the political developments was that Israel would split the significant Palestinian towns and cities off from each other by driving out most of the population of Area C, and then annex Area C.  The Palestinian population of Area C is now less than half the size of the settler population there, and continually shrinking due to house and well demolitions, evictions, phyiscal attacks and destruction of olive groves by settlers, and economic pressures.  Thus, annexing Area C wouldn’t require Israel to absorb (and grant civil rights to) any subtantial number of Palestinians, but would enable it to gain the majority of the land in the West Bank – and the best land, including all the Jordan Valley.  It would also allow Israel to control the divided and surrounded Palestinian areas of Areas A and B, and permanently end the possibility of a Palestinian state, an entity which no Israeli leader – even Rabin, by his own admission – ever wanted in the first place.

As long as settlement continues, negotiations are a stalling tactic by Israel, not an act of good faith.  They don’t need negotiations when they can get what they want – land – and avoid what they don’t want – Palestinian citizens of Israel – without negotiating.  All they need is a little more time, and a little more international complacency.

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127 thoughts on “Palestine, Part I: Water and Land in the Occupied Territories

    • You are absolutely right that this will and should be interpreted as inflammatory because it ignores:

      1. How Arab states treat the Palestinians because they leverage the Palestianians for anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli talking points. The Arab States prefer to have the Palestinians suffer because it allows them to make Israelis a whipping boy.

      2. The continued inability for people for non-Jewish Europeans to come up with a reasonable answer about where the Jews should have gone post-Holocaust. It was clear from the various post-Shoah programs that most European states did not want the surviving Jews to return. Most European states (including the United States and Canada) did all they could to prevent the Jews from achieving refugee status and then could not confront their guilt afterwards nor can they now.

      “Germany will never forgive the Jews for Auchswitz” is not an inaccurate statement.

      I support a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. A two-state solution is the only equitable and realistic answer. I am also not a Likkudnik or supporter of the Settlements. I do not support the awkwardness of Europe and non-Jews of European descent in dealing with their crimes against the Jewish people. Nor do I support them not being able to give good answers about where my people and ancestors were supposed to go after the Holocaust. You wouldn’t have us in the 1930s and you seemingly won’t have us now.

      http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/10/the-auschwitz-all-around-us/280842/

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      • …and I don’t disagree with you one bit on either of your arguments. The winners of WWII didn’t want Europeans Jews on their shores… of that I’m well aware.

        For lack of a better analogy, the Palestinians have become the Jews of the middle east. No one wants them in their back yards, and the Arab states seem to be willing to send the Palestinians money and arms as long as they don’t end up in Arab back yards.

        Katherine is making a point that Israel dithers while it chips away at what is left of the Palestinian state. They seem to be hoping that at some point the Palestinians will either be assimilated or simply go away.

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      • Thunder,

        I will say this and only this post:

        1. I did not defend the worst Israeli policies against the Palestinians but Israel does have a right to self-defense

        2. My claims were to be a counter to those who say Israel should have never existed.

        3. Mike is right that the Palestinian population has increased since 1948 so genocide is not a great word to use.

        4. What does one need to do to prove a claim in a two-state solution is not hollow while also supporting the right of Israel to exist? This is an Internet forum, all I have is my words. Your accusation of hallowness sounds like the accusation that gay rights in Israel is only a matter of “pink-washing”. It imputes a sinister motive to all Israeli action and allows them no charity or decency.

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      • 1. How Arab states treat the Palestinians because they leverage the Palestianians for anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli talking points. The Arab States prefer to have the Palestinians suffer because it allows them to make Israelis a whipping boy.

        When is “other people do bad things too” ever a valid justification for actions?

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      • Do you give money to the whores that come to your house?
        Every dollar you send is another dollar towards discrimination,
        toward genocide, which has not happened yet, but which will.
        Note: i am deliberately leaving open the question which population
        will experience the genocide.

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      • It is also important to note that the various progroms that occured in the Arab countries showed that the Arab states did not want any Jewish citizens either. These anti-Jewish pogroms started in 1945, three years before Israel declared independence.

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    • I’m not convinced it’s at the point of genocide yet, although it could certainly become that in the not-too-far future. The Israelis don’t have an especially strong desire to see all the Palestinians dead – they main thing they want is for them to be out of Palestine. It’s ethnic cleansing (i.e.: the forcible removal of a particular group in a systematic effort to change the ethnic composition of a region; I figure I should be clear about the definition since plenty of people tend to use ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘genocide’ interchangeably), and it has been since the Israelis sent in their military to force Palestinians out of their towns and raze the towns behind them in 1947-48. They wanted the land the Palestinians were on then, and they want East Jerusalem and the West Bank now. They can’t annex them with the population still there – it would give the Palestinians a majority, and annexing it and outright denying them the vote would be too blatant. The endless stream of housing demolitions, theft of land, use of the wall for annexation, and systematic economic strangulation through checkpoints, control of the border, and control of trade go less noticed by the international community, and are easier to get away with.

      But they’ve no real objection to killing Palestinians when they get the chance. Shoot anyone who gets near the Wall, or near the border of Gaza, even farmers working in their fields. Shoot anyone who throws a stone or looks at a soldier funny. Press them down until they break and then shoot them when they resist. One day the Palestinians in the West Bank are going to snap again, and Israel will go in and pound the whole place flat like they did in Gaza in the name of self-defence. Do it enough times and everyone who survives will get out and the land’ll be open for the taking.

      Within the next decade – often I think within a shorter time – there won’t be a Palestine any more, just Israel in control of the whole territory and the Palestinian population as refugees. And then the world can wait another few decades before deciding that it was a terrible historical injustice that we really should have stopped, but is in the past now and can’t be changed.

      Lots of people who advocate for the Palestinians say they’re saving Israel from self-destruction. I don’t believe that. Israel might sacrifice whatever soul it possesses, but nations have done that before and gone on with no problem. Absent some overwhelming groundswell of international pressure, any way this turns out, Israel wins.

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    • Richard there were 1.2 million Arabs in what is now Israel/the Occupited Territories in 1948. There are now 10 million self-identiifed Palestinians. 1.2 million to 10 million in a period of sixty years is not a genocide.

      Furthermore, people who are pro-Palestinain frquently warn that if Israel doesn’t leave the WB and Gaza now than it would become an aprtheid state, which isn’t really conducive to the idea that a genocide is taking place. You can’t have it both ways.

      From 1920 to the present slightly over 100,000 Jews and Arabs, from every Arab nation, died in conflcts in the Israeli-Arab conflcit. Over 100,000 Syrians have been killed in the Syrian Civil War in much less of a time. More Arabs have died at the hands of other Arabs than they have at any Israeli.

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      • I’ll grant that genocide is too strong a word regarding Palestine. That said, I think that whether it is being done deliberately or not, Israel’s actions are resulting in an inexorable erasing of Palestine as a national entity.
        A common mistake among supporters of Israel is the characterization of Palestinians as a homogenous jihadist group who seem bent on destroying the nation of Israel. A large proportion of Palestinians aren’t even muslim but Coptic or Eastern Christians, a fact often ignored in the Western press.
        There is also the issue of imbalance of power in the region. While I don’t dispute Israel’s right to self defence, I feel the response to the often random and frankly incompetent attacks by Hamas and other assorted players (seems you can’t tell ’em without a scorecard…) resembles a drunk trying to kill mosquitos with a hammer. Let’s face it, Israel is a stone’s throw away from being a world power in terms of military strength while the motley crew of Palestinian players are at best the Keystone cops,,, which is probably as their Arab supporters intend. Keep Israel busy swatting at flies and maybe it will pay less attention to its other neighbours.
        On final note. Israel (with all due respect to Blaise P’s comment below) is not a prison, but a fortress… a well armed, well oiled, and well funded one. It’s citizens enjoy a standard of living that is on par with any Western state.
        The eroding patchwork that is Palestinian territory, on the other hand, is for the most part subsisting at third world standards, economically and culturally choked.

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      • To be sure, Israel is a well-oiled fortress. One thing about barbed wire and high walls though, they serve just as well to keep people in — as out.

        Well-oiled without any oil, apparently. And Israel has a fairly high rate of emigration.

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      • , the mistake that the opponents of Israel make is thinking that without Israel, the Middle East would be some sort of utopia of peace and development where everybody gets along. There is absolutely no evidence for this considering recent events in the Middle East and how large parts of the Muslim population are seemingly trying to divest the Middle East of their Christian population or Muslims that they don’t like.

        If anything Israel acts as a stabilizing agent by giving the Muslim world in general and the Arab world in particular a universal target of hate. Without Israel, the divisions that existed in the Middle East would have erupted much earlier.

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      • I have no quarrel with your analysis. I know that without Israel the middle east wouldn’t be a peaceful happy place. But as the dominant power in the region, it seems that it’s playing into the rest of the Arab world’s hands by picking on the smallest kid on the block.

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      • Lee, who thinks that? I know people who think that the Muslim world will suddenly like the U.S. if we stop supporting Israel, but those people are idiots. I don’t know anyone who thinks there is any path to near or midterm Middle Eastern peace and stability, given the regions intra and inter-regional dynamics (political, ethnic, religious, and economic).

        It’s 2013. If you run across someone who thinks a Middle East without Israel is possible, and they’re not a Muslim extremist or Neo-Nazi, dismiss them as idiots and move on to people living on this planet.

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      • , Israel is the most prosperous state in the Middle East but it is not the dominant power in that its ability to influence the neighboring states is low. Most of the neighboring states still do not officially recognize Israel even if they do tacitly. Iran has greater influence over the other states in the region and is the dominating power.

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  1. “All they need is a little more time, and a little more international complacency.” This is a big gamble on the part of Israel. International complacency can become a big problem. There’s complacency about their actions on settlements. There’s also complacency on continuing to fund Israel’s security or aid to the area as a whole.

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  2. Israel and Palestine are a prison, locked from within. Israel is unjust to the Palestinians, the PA is unjust to them as well. Hamas is worse than either Israel or the PA. Everyone hates the Palestinians, nobody more than the other Arabs.

    I have come to hate all the players. I worked with Palestinian refugees at Ein el Hilweh in Lebanon and the PLO oppressed them. The Lebanese treated the Palestinians like dirt, too. The only entity which ever gave a shit about them was Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. He built the Palestinians big Soviet-style apartment blocks along what the Americans called Route Irish, from the airport to downtown Baghdad. No sooner had Saddam been evicted than the Shiite militias drove every last Palestinian out of those apartments and promptly set up sniper emplacements in them to pick off Americans.

    The Arabs evicted the Jews out of their anciently occupied homes in Alexandria and Baghdad and Cairo and every other city where they had lived for centuries, long before the State of Israel took over the West Bank and the Gaza. The litany of hatred is very long. I do hope you’ll get around to the role of those who drove the Jews out of their homes and the subsequent positions Israel felt it had to take in the wake of all those displaced people arriving in the only place left for them.

    I have no more patience for the I/P struggle. It’s like the chronicle of some ghastly gang conflict in some supermax prison. Call it compassion fatigue. Sick of caring about these people. Sick of Hamas’ culture of death. Sick of PA incompetence and graft. Suha Arafat still has all that money her husband Yasser Arafat stole from the UN and everyone else who gave money to help the Palestinians. Mostly I’m sick of Israel’s lies and intransigence. But the gods grant wishes to the stupid: Israel took that land dishonestly and that which is taken by force must be held by force. Israel took that land, let them now attempt to hold it for the foreseeable future. They now face an implacable enemy, four generations of Palestinians who they might have befriended, long ago. Auden.

    All the conventions conspire
    To make this fort assume
    The furniture of home;
    Lest we should see where we are,
    Lost in a haunted wood,
    Children afraid of the night
    Who have never been happy or good.

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  3. That picture disturbs.

    The boy has his mouth right on the faucet. If it’s public and others do the same, they’re spreading disease unnecessarily.

    I would see a two-state solution; I don’t think any other will work.

    But like most Americans, I am woefully uninformed; and need to read things like this, and still don’t really understand the real conversation.

    But I know this: we had a long thread the other day about how men are being hurt now, in the wake of women’s gaining greater equality. If there is any takeaway from that thread, it’s that protecting one group from harm will, inevitably, harm another group. It’s a difficult balance, and requires ongoing diligence, not just blind obedience to groups.

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    • I would see a two-state solution; I don’t think any other will work.

      I am a fan of a three-state solution. Gaza can be Gaza, The West Bank can be The West Bank. Let them make their own allies as they will. Let them make their own enemies.

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    • The two-state solution is dead at this point. The Palestinians would take it, grudgingly, though they’d prefer a single state – there’s hundreds of thousands of refugees who want to return to their homes, who were driven out or whose parents were driven out and have raised them on tales of their homes. The Israelis won’t take it, don’t want it any more, find it a useful shield against international criticism but nothing more. There’s a peace proposal agreed on by pretty much every Arab State plus the Palestinians that outlines the whole two-state solution as people have thought of it for decades. Israel’s shot it down, not even considered it. Why should they accept half a loaf when they’ve got the strength to take the whole?

      Even if the Israeli government underwent an overwhelming change in mindset, they’ve gone too far to come back. The settlements as they currently exist, even if it weren’t for the continuing expansion, have rendered a unified West Bank and East Jerusalem impossible – the whole midsection is taken up by settlers. Cut off the subsidies and some of the folks who are just in the settlements as a convenient suburb would likely come back to Israel, but there’s still a lot of the religious ones left. No chance Israel would use force against that large a group of its own people to get them to leave the Palestinian Territories. But let’s imagine they did. Israel’s military is getting more religious and conservative by the day – more and more like the religious settler movement. If they were ordered to make the religious settlers leave the Palestinian Territories, they’d likely refuse.

      The settlements are there to stay, and there can’t be a Palestine with them, not as a functional state. There can be a collection of bantustans surrounded by settlements, which in the short term looks like what Israel’s going for.

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      • Some of those settlements could be removed, though, Katherine. The big dense blocks are problematic but a lot of the territory gobbled up by them could be rolled back still (and land swaps could move a very big chunk back into Israel without costing the Palestinians territory in net.
        All of the political incentives, alas, currently are pointed in the opposite direction.

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      • Even if Israel withdrew to the lines proposed by anyone, Arabs, Americans, you name it —- even if Israel abided by [insert enumeration of UN resolution integers here] — absolutely none of them would solve the problem of the Palestinians. Even if Israel gave up all the water rights and desalinated the entire Mediterranean, it wouldn’t be enough. The Arabs have no more intention of allowing Israel to exist than they ever did. And they certainly have no intention of tolerating a Hamas-governed state than the Egyptians would have tolerated those Muslim Brotherhood bumpkins and thugs.

        Really, come on folks. Despite their protestations about how awfully Israel’s behaved, which is truly disgusting — if Israel suddenly went down to Riyadh, signed anything, withdrew from the Arab Quarter of Jerusalem, anything anyone wanted of them — it wouldn’t be enough for the Arab States. And not because they hate the Jews, though they do, and would immediately evict them all from the Middle East if they could.

        No, the real reason there will never be a two-state solution is because the Arab states will never, ever tolerate a Hamas-led government.

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      • Blaise; granted Hamas are a bunch of religious nuts so plenty of people have merited reasons to not want them in government. Do you think that the Arab governments’ antipathy is because of Hamas’s Muslim Brotherhood roots and thus a religious angle or is there something else to your assertion?

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      • North,
        to remove the settlements, you must remove the terrorists and murderers.
        Of politicians one may say many things, but personal courage — the ability
        to say, “kill me if you like, it will still happen”, is rare.

        Also notably, the parlimentary system of Israel makes this harder than it
        might be in america.

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      • Hi Kimmie, I’m well aware of the intricacies of the Knesset, I’m no Israeli myself but I follow their politics. I have several internet buddies who live in Tel Aviv.

        Conditioning the settlements on removals of terrorists and murders is idiotic; the settlements do nothing to prevent terrorism or murder and most likely encourage it. There was a time that Israel was in dire threat of land invasion by her neighbors and perhaps the settlements once served as a line of defense in that eventuality but that time is in the past. The settlements serve no serious defensive purpose and Israel is about as in danger of being overrun by her neighbor’s military as the US is in danger of being overrun by the military might of Cuba.

        The Israeli’s need out of the West Bank for their own sake if not for the sake of the Palestinians; Sharon knew that which is why he went for unilateral disengagement when negotiations stalled. If the Israeli’s can get something from the Palestinians in exchange for withdrawing great but if they had any clear sighted leaders worth a damn they’d pull out even without that.

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  4. Good piece, Katherine. It’s always interesting to get the view of someone who’s walked the ground. I had a student a few years back, a Palestinian Christian who, coincidentally, grew up a block down the street I now live on, whose family farm they’d had for generations was enclosed within the border fence, lost to them. Her anger and anguish was moving.

    I suppose these things have happened repeatedly throughout history, across the globe. We like to think in the modern–or maybe postmodern–world we’ve improved humankind, and yet here it is happening once again, andnit necessarily for the last time.

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  5. I don’t know Katherine, I think Israelis (and you) underestimate the demographic danger they’re in by de facto annexing the West Bank. It stems, I think mainly, from a (historically understandably) contempt of the Palestinians and an assumption that they’re capable only of either a resentful compliance or ineffectual violent resistance. If the Palestinians ever develop leadership worth a damn (unlike that wretched crook Arafat) and fostered a large non-violent resistance movement Israel would be utterly fished.

    Israel and her friends* need to be conscious of that demographic danger. All the Palestinians have to do is refuse to leave and figure out how to do mass nonviolent resistance and Israel would be stuck between a rock and a hard place. As long as the Palestinians remain as they are the situation redounds to the benefit of the worst elements of the Israeli polity; but if the Palestinians ever get wise the current state of affairs could spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

    *I consider myself a luke-warm one now, I’m so tired of their cynical despair, especially after the massively excessive length of time they’ve been indulging in it.

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    • “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”-Abba Eban

      I think a lot of people underestimate Arab recalcitrance to the idea of an Israeli state. The Jews/Israelis were willing to accept the UN partrition in 1947. The Arabs did not. The Israelis were willing to negotiate and roll-back after the 6 day war and the Arabs issued the three nos: No Peace with Israel, No Recognition of Israel, No Negotiations with it.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khartoum_Resolution

      I think the Three Nos is still the animating school of thought among Arabs. BlaiseP is largely right here and either people don’t know about the Khartoum Resolution or the simply don’t care or they agree with it.

      For whatever reason Israel has become the whipping post that you need to sign on to show your left credentials in certain circles. I think it functions as a form of anti-Americanism because even though the United States was just as bad in helping Jewish refugees pre-WWII, I think the United States tried harder than others to absolve themselves of their post-WWII guilt with the help of people like Hubert Humphrey and Harry Truman*. Anti-Semitism is probably more universally taboo in the United States than any other country Western country.

      I strongly disagree with the Likudniks. I especially disagree with their treatment of African refugees from Etriea which is appalling. But anti-Zionists veer very close to old anti-Semitic troops in ways that would be denounced if they were talking about any other minority group. Yes a person can be critical of Israel or anti-Zionist without being anti-Semitic but there is never an acknowledgment about the troops used when talking about the “Jewish lobby” and how that can sound very close to the Protocals of the Elders of Zion.

      *Until fairly recently, much of the Republican Party was lukewarm on Israel. James Baker notoriously said “Fuck the Jews, they don’t vote for us anyway” during the First Gulf War.

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      • But anti-Zionists veer very close to old anti-Semitic troops in ways that would be denounced if they were talking about any other minority group.

        What do you mean by “anti-Zionist?” Do you mean opposing Israel’s existence or opposing its expansion through expropriation of Palestinians’ land? I don’t see how the latter is remotely anti-Semitic; particularly for those of us who oppose all forcible expropriation of land.

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      • Heh. Anyone who thinks the West Bank ever “belonged” to the Palestinians rather forgets the little deal Israel struck with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan about the West Bank — and why they agreed to it in 1949 — and why that deal was broken. Let Jordan take it back, if it can. Jordan was supposed to be the Palestinian State and Abdallah was crowned King of Jerusalem.

        Funny thing, though. All those Palestinians in Jordan? Still in refugee camps after all these years. Seven huge camps. Jordanians and Palestinians hate each other, with excellent reasons on both sides in that benighted, corrupted and undemocratic little kingdom.

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      • It should be noted, emphatically, that since Arafat died (good riddance) and Sharon went down (a thousand curses on that damnable blood clot) it has been the Israeli’s who have constantly been missing their opportunities. Close in to 2000 I defended it, the Israeli peace groups have been eviscerated by Arafat and his coddling of the Palestinians worst impulses. But as we’ve stretched out to a decade the despair and ennui of the Israeli center and utter broken prostration of the Israeli left is beginning to look like a permanent state of affairs.

        At some point if the Israeli’s don’t change course the Likud (and worse) platform will become the Israeli agenda by default. Katherine may be a touch over the top in branding the settlements as utterly immovable but she’s not wrong that they’re a huge problem and hurdle. At some point the Palestinians are gonna decide the 2 state solution is actually dead and then either way Israel is fished. They’ll either ethnic cleanse the West Bank and lose their collective souls or they’ll cease to be a Jewish majority state.

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      • I think a lot of people underestimate Arab recalcitrance to the idea of an Israeli state. The Jews/Israelis were willing to accept the UN partrition in 1947. The Arabs did not.

        ND, let’s have a thought experiment. Let’s say the world recognizes that the Tibetans, for example, have been terribly mistreated. Let’s say the world says that, by their choice, the Tibetans are to be given Maine to live in. From now it, it’s no longer part of the United States; it’s now New Tibet. You think everyone in Maine is just going to say, “Sure, okay, sounds good?”

        The Palestinians were offered approximately half of what was already theirs. The Jews were offered the other half by powers who had no right or authority to grant it. Why should we be surprised at which side thought it was a good deal and which side didn’t?

        At present, the Palestinians are at least resigned. They’re willing to have a two-state solution. The Palestinian Authority is absolutely ready; continued settlement construction simply gives them no reason whatsoever to think the Israelis are sincere The Arab states are willing to have a two-state solution – they’ve made a peace proposal, for the last decade, that is basically the two-state solution: in return for Israeli withdrawal from the territories conquered in 1967 and Israeli acceptance of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and GazaStrip, and a solution to the refugee problem in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194, they will enter peace agreements with Israel and establish normal relations with Israel.

        Israel’s response contained, among others, the conditions that:
        – That before anything can happen, and as a condition to any continuance of a peace process “calm will be maintained” and all Palestinian violent organizations will be dismantled by the PA. In other words, for the duration of negotiations Israel may use violence against the Palestinians but the Palestinians cannot use violence against Israel, and the PA is responsible for any violent actions taken.
        – “The character of the provisional Palestinian state will be determined through negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The provisional state will have provisional borders and certain aspects of sovereignty, be fully demilitarized with no military forces… be without the authority to undertake defence alliances or military cooperation, and Israeli control over the entry and exit of all persons and cargo, as well as of its air space and electromagnetic spectrum.”
        – “In connection to both the introductory statements and the final settlement, declared references must be made to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and the waiver of any right of return for Palestinian refugees to the State of Israel.” (In other words, this – a major and central issue – can’t even be negotiated. The Palestinians just have to surrender on this front.)
        – “There will be no involvement with issues pertaining to the final settlement. Among issues not to be discussed: settlement in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (excluding a settlement freeze and illegal outposts), the status of the Palestinian Authority and its institutions in Jerusalem, and all other matters whose substance relates to the final settlement. [Bold mine.] (In other words – they’re not willing to negotiate on ANY of the issues of key importance to the Palestinians.)

        If the Israelis want peace, why do they continually expand settlements and refuse to even discuss them? If the Israelis want peace, why do they refuse to negotiate on any of the major issues? If the Israelis want peace and believe the Arab states to be bluffing on their peace proposal, why not call their bluff by accepting the proposal?

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      • ND, let’s have a thought experiment. Let’s say the world recognizes that the Tibetans, for example, have been terribly mistreated. Let’s say the world says that, by their choice, the Tibetans are to be given Maine to live in. From now it, it’s no longer part of the United States; it’s now New Tibet. You think everyone in Maine is just going to say, “Sure, okay, sounds good?”

        that would be comparable if there were a 10,000 history of Tibetan civilization in Maine. a more accurate analogy would if the Sioux were given North Dakota. The was a Jewish sate in Israel long before there was a Palestinian one. How come people who say that the Jews stole land never say anything about the Soviet Union annexing half of Poland in 1945? what changed in those 2 years?

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      • Yes, let’s have a Thought Experiment. Only we’ll have something to think about this time, and not bargain basement hypotheticals. The Muddle East is ruled, or more properly, misruled by maniacs of various descriptions. Bibi Netanyahu is the Chief among Maniacs. The Gaza is currently run by a death cult. Egypt is now run by the same sorry bunch of moustachioed Army officers it always was. Jordan, by a well-spoken autocrat who keeps his Palestinians in concentration camps. Syria went into Lebanon and mauled the Palestinian camps in the 70s. Lebanon itself won’t even let the Palestinians work in the fields or drive taxis — over 70 job descriptions forbidden to Palestinians.

        Israel is entirely within its right to demand some peace before negotiations. Everyone who’s ever tried to conduct peace talks has said the same thing.

        And quit using the phrase “The Palestinians.” Which are you talking about, Hamas or the PA? Anyone who doesn’t make the distinction betrays just how little they know about the problem. I’m certainly not taking Israel’s side of this fight. Israel faces an existential crisis and they know it. But the Palestinian identity is no less troubled — or troublesome.

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      • And quit using the phrase “The Palestinians.” Which are you talking about, Hamas or the PA?

        When I mean “the Palestinian Authority”, I say “the Palestinian Authority”. When I say “the Palestinians”, I mean the people, not a political party or government.

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      • The Palestinian people, you say. Who speaks for them? You? Speaking for the oppressed. I see myself, years ago, trying to speak for the oppressed — and a fine, earnest young idiot I was, too. This much I can tell you, straight up, keep your eye on what’s possible in any given context and you won’t end up burned out like me. I’m the cautionary tale you won’t listen to, so be it. But this much is for sure, you don’t speak for the Palestinian people — I sure didn’t. Power grows out of the barrel of a gun and from no other ground has it ever been seen to grow. The Palestinians have been horribly abused, mostly by their own leadership, a point you still can’t grasp.

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      • , there are several problems with your thought experiment.

        The first problem is that there were always Jews in Israel/Palestine. Its not like 600,000 Jews suddenly appeared in Israel/Palestine in 1945 without ever being there before. There were 24,000 Jews in Israel/Palestine in 1880, about the time the First Aliyah started. By 1914, there were 85,000 Jews and 500,000 Arabs. This meant that Jews were about 14 to 15% of Israel/Palestine’s population.

        Under your definition, not only do the Jews of Israel/Palestine or elsewhere have no right to self-determination but that the Jewish population had absolutely no say how it was to be governed. If the Christians and Muslims of Palestine decided to exclude Jews from the proto-Palestinian identity than so be it. And make no mistake, the Jews of Israel and Palestine would have been excluded from the nation if the Palestinians one. There is no reason to believe that the Palestinian national movement would be any more inclusive towards the Jews than other national movements in countries where the Jews lived; whether it be in Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.

        This isn’t even about anti-Semitism per say but that national movements tend to deal with minorities awkwardly at best. Its not like the Sri Lankan movement has dealt with the Tamils well or the Indonesians with the Chinese or the Arab Muslims with the Arab Christians or yes, even the Israelis with the Arabs.

        If no country wants their Jewish population, if Jews could live in a place for hundreds or thousands of years and still be seen and treated as strangers than what should we have done? Just keep quiet and hope it gets better.

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    • This is the sort of stuff that makes me despair of Israels critics:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/23/opinion/pinkwashing-and-israels-use-of-gays-as-a-messaging-tool.html?_r=0

      The basic theory is that Israel does not really care about gay rights and is only doing it as a PR Campaign against Palestinians. This is a no-win situation for Israel. Their critics are simply not willing to give credit where credit is due and turn everything into a nefarious counter-motive which again circles back to the idea of the nefarious and under-handed Jew. I am especially disappointed because Sarah Schulman is Jewish and seems willing to play into the hands of anti-Semitic conventions and is picture-perfect version of the self-loathing Jew.

      How friendly would a Palestinian government be to gay people?

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      • Bring back Mehmet the Great ! Author and sponsor of the Renaissance. Collector of wise men and general all-round good guy, tolerant and sophisticated…

        Tough finding his sort today. No sooner does some great man appear in those degrees of longitude than he’s immediately murdered.

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    • Honestly? I think this is the primary problem with what the nonviolence of Gandhi and Martin Luther King achieved. What they did was morally exceptional, and exceptionally praiseworthy. Their success has allowed the world to treat their actions as morally obligatory. We’ve now decided that we only back oppressed groups if they are morally exceptional – if they are, basically, saints.

      The Palestinians face violence every day from the Israelis; they’ve every right to defend themselves. But
      they have engaged in non-violent resistance, especially against the Wall. The Israelis use tear gas, rubber bullets (which still kill people), even live fire against protestors. The news never mentions it. The media never show up. NOBODY CARES. It’s easier to just blame the Palestinians for being oppressed.

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      • The news mentions every fart from that corner of the compass rose. Gandhi failed because he had no Muslim counterpart. Dr. King failed because he had no white counterpart. Where such things have gone better, as in the case of Mandela and Pik Botha, there were two hands reaching out to each other and much good came of it: the end of apartheid.

        The Palestinians’ problems are rather larger than merely Israeli oppression. Their worthless leaders oppress them, too. We might hope for better Palestinian hands for Israel to shake but as with Mandela, most of those are currently in Israeli prisons.

        You’ve taken the Palestinian side of this fight. I did, too, many years ago. Came to a far more horrible conclusion than you can presently envision and it’s only been reinforced every day of every ensuing year. Hamas is now dragging out ordinary people into the street and summarily executing them. Only in my day it was the PLO gangs in the Ein el-Hilweh and Sabra and Chatilla camps, almost as ruthless and almost as violent.

        Time has only matured this evil. We could, with considerable justification, blame the existence of Hamas on the Israelis, back in my day, Israel was not-so-secretly consorting with Hamas to fight the PLO. Those of us who did care, back when this problem was younger, those of us who pounded those typewriters, soliciting visas so a few Palestinians could get out of those camps and get an education — we know nothing will change until Israel reaches out into the prisons and finds the Mandelas within them. But we also know the truth about the Palestinians, that the Arab world will never tolerate their rise to any sort of meaningful autonomy, not while the likes of Hamas remain in control.

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      • Katherine, given the choice between violent resistance which the Palestinians have explored (to its very indefensible darkest depths) to no good effect for their cause and nonviolent resistance which they try occasionally and in small amounts to some useful effect why on earth would anyone choose the former?

        The one thing Palestinians have not tried is mass non violent resistance to the Israeli’s. It seems to me that nonviolence is the form of resistance that the Israeli’s are most vulnerable to. They are a liberal democracy, their allies are liberal democracies, their populations are primed to by sympathetic and Israel is deeply dependant on international trade.

        I will grant that the Palestinians have been performing tolerably in the West Bank for the last near decade (ever since Arafat’s corrupt ass shuffled off this mortal coil) and that this performance has been most inopportunely mirrored by Israel’s descent into right wing idiocy. I’ll also add that nonviolence would probably parse better into demanding a one state solution than a two state one and God(ess?) help the Israeli’s if the Palestinians abandon the 2 state solution and begin nonviolently advocating for legal annexation and citizenship rights.

        Violent resistance, though, plays into the hands of the most awful actors on both sides of the divide; which is why both the Israeli right and the Palestinian fanatic factions push policies so hard that will enflame the other side.

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      • I concur with your viewpoint. Massive non-violence would probably help the Palestinians more than anything else. Israel is still a democratic parliamentary government and it generally looks bad when such governments use brute force. Everyone expects dictatorships to use brute force. Ghandi universtood that the British would eventually just look really horrible with the ham-fisted techniques.

        Palestinians have done the worst forms of violent resistance humanly possible: The suicide bomber. No government is going to react well to that kind of campaign. It is not a showing of sacrifice or courage to be a suicide bomber, it is a showing of pure fanaticism.

        Rachel Corrie had courage for what she did. Hamas does not.

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      • The PA is pretty much corrupt to the point of worthlessness. There are a few people still trying to clean up the PA but its leadership is mostly fossilised, still croaking out the same old line of nonsense they always have.

        It’s really a three-way fight. The PA sides with Israel against Hamas, Hamas and the PA are sorta-aligned against Israel — and Israel divided against itself. No sooner does it look like the PA and Israel might come to some agreement than Hamas will drop a few more mortar rounds down the tube. And, of course, when they do, then the Israeli hard-liners point their bony fingers at the peaceniks and shout “See? See? You can’t trust these bastards!”

        All maniacs, all the time.

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      • BP when Salam Fayyad resigned I felt an agonized pang. He seemed like a competant technocrat. He tamped down on graft and talked moderate policies so his own people were none too fond of him and he made it look like the PA could actually look like a state so the Israeli right hated him so he had all the right enemies.

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      • Fish them all, North. It’s as I said — have you noticed how absolutely nobody responds to what I write about it ? — that it’s a prison locked from the inside?

        Now, hee-hee, bless their hearts, folks are talking about nonviolent solutions. Gandhi and all that. Don’t have a clue what they’re talking about, that Gandhi set in motion the worst refugee crisis in modern times, the Partition of India, millions died, India’s still at war with Pakistan all these years later — yeah, let’s emulate Gandhi. It just pains my heart to see such well-meaning people, really good people, I mean that sincerely, not making fun of ’em or anything — but they haven’t learnt one goddamn thing from history.

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      • As for Salam Fayyad, he had many friends within Israel. His enemies were mostly from the Hamas camp — and, of course, the corrupt PA itself. The Great Moustache praised him to the skies but the reality was, Salam Fayyad figured out what none of the other Palestinians have yet to understand, that a Palestinian state didn’t need to be declared, any more than the Kurds have declared a state for themselves. All the PA had to do was act like a state and Israel wouldn’t have much choice in the matter.

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      • Well I haven’t responded because I have nothing to add or strongly disagree with what you wrote.

        Now can we lay Pakistan at Gandhi’s feet? I mean the man spearheaded the movement that brought an end to the British Raj (for good and ill) but can we truly blame him for Hindu and Muslin divisions and nationalistic sentiments?
        To Ghandi and nonviolence I can only say the Palestinians have tried mass violence to the nth degree to no good effect so why not try mass nonviolence? The Israeli’s and their backers are perfect targets for nonviolent resistance.

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      • Mass nonviolence isn’t as easy as it sounds, North. It goes against every human instinct to stand and let a person attack you and not defend yourself. You’re asking an entire population to do that in a situation where they have zero belief, zero confidence, that the people they’re resisting give a damn about their lives. You can only try to reach out to your oppressors’ conscience if you believe they have a conscience. I’m far from sure that the majority of the Palestinian people believe that.

        Easy to sit here and think that the Israelis are good-hearted underneath it all. When you’ve lived under occupation all your life and seen them slaughter your people indiscriminately in Gaza, not so much.

        I think non-violent resistance is highly meritorious. I also think it’s not a thing any person can tell another person to do, or expect another person to do. Certainly not from the other side of the world, with no experience of what they’re suffering. You’re telling them to willingly cede their most basic human right in order to procure other rights. People can choose to do that – but you can’t tell them to, and you can’t make you support for them conditional on it.

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      • I’ve already said Gandhi failed because he lacked a Muslim counterpart. Dr. King never had a white counterpart. But this much is conformal to BlaiseP’s Rule of Good Intentions: the worst evils arise from the best of intentions

        So yes, I do hold Gandhi responsible for the Partition of India. Not solely responsible, mind you. How often do I have to say it, the gods answer prayers, not as we might wish but with explicit literalness and dreadful promptness.

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      • Nonviolence is a failed philosophy. It presumes the best in mankind, the hallmark of every such failed scheme in history. Mankind is not led by love or any high minded purpose but rather pushed by fear, mostly the fear of consequences of breaking the law. This is especially true of the Palestinians, who are fairly evenly split in their disgust between the violence of Hamas and the corruption of the PA.

        Nations do not have the luxury of nonviolence. They exist in the anarchic void of sovereignty. Within their borders, if they can, nations enforce their writ. Where they cannot do so, they cannot be said to govern.

        Nonviolence is a ghastly joke in the context of Palestine, Israel and their neighbours. If and when the Palestinians ever govern themselves, they will face the problems of every other nation.

        Until they are prepared for it, until the Palestinians can at least enforce their own writ upon the sad fragments still left to them, a problem they might have solved many decades ago — and did not, preferring a brutal warlord like Arafat and now the likes of those fine specimens of Hamas leadership, Ismail Haniya and Khaled Mash’al — to any of the alternatives, let them stew in their own juices.

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      • I agree entirely that mass nonviolence isn’t easy Katherine. I could not agree more in fact. That said I see no other plausible option to offer. Simple violence will not work. Nothing would please the elements in Israel that wish to see the Palestinians stripped out of the West Bank more than further Palestinian violence.

        It doesn’t matter if the Palestinians think all Israeli’s don’t care about them or have no conscience. I’m very much dubious that the people of India thought that the English deeply cared about their welfare. The point of nonviolence is to make the status quos morally intolerable to the perpetrators of the status quos or to make it practically impossible by undermining the sympathies of their backers. Israel is a liberal nation and she is deeply dependant on foreign trade (especially with other liberal nations); it is an entity perfectly positioned to be moved by mass non violent resistance.

        My own sympathy for the Palestinians is obviously impersonal. I have not witnessed their travails first hand nor do I know any of them personally. I acknowledge my bias since I do know some Israeli’s personally (albeit rather liberal ones). That said I categorically refuse to accept your framing of the Palestinians as agencyless victims of circumstance. The conditions of their current plight are the result of a miserable tapestry of history that the Palestinians themselves have had at least an equal partnership in weaving. They have gone from the malevolent indifference of the Ottomans to the calculated cruelty of the colonials powers and then on to being the willing pawns of their post colonial Arab brethren and yes, most assuredly, also the victims of Israeli nationalism but the Palestinians have their own part they played in each of these steps, most especially when they rejected their own state and let the craven shyster Arafat sell their future down the drain (a choice which, it should be noted, killed the peace movement in Israel nearly stone dead and leads directly to their current pathetic crop of negotiating partners on the Israeli side). I will forthrightly admit that the Palestinians have made significant improvements in the last decade or so but I cannot ignore their mistakes. Who on earth can talk about the slaughter of their brethren in Gaza, for instance, without mentioning their endless civilian targeting shots into Israel proper with rockets?*

        I offer my suggestion of mass non violent resistance not because it’s moral (though it is) but because based on a cold assessment of the situation that it is one of the only plausible paths to them attaining the achievable goals they seek. Every other path I look down for the Palestinians I just see death, defeat and misery. Maybe my vision is wrong but I haven’t read anything you’ve said to make me think so.

        Perhaps the Israeli’s will wake up from their suicidal stupor and unilaterally disengage before it’s too late. I’d hate to suggest that such is the only other option, especially when it depends on elected politicians doing politically unpleasant but necessary things (and thus is highly unlikely to happen) but that’s the only alternative I see.

        *And yes, yes the Israelis happily took that as an excuse to flatten the place but in what mad state of idiocy does one try to provoke such a response as Hamas eagerly did?

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      • No one ever said that it was easy. We are saying that it is effective especially against governments that are or like to see themselves as liberal democracies. Ghandi’s campaign took decades. Zionism was around for decades before Israel, MLK’s campaign was also from a long tail of history.

        You are right that if often goes against human instinct but the same instinct is what allows Israel to strike back against every rocket launched or suicide bomber at a cafe.

        The image of people being jeered at and having ketchup poured on them while not striking back changes minds, Ghandi’s march to the sea and boiling salt water changes minds, running from Bull Connor’s attack dogs changes minds.

        If the Palestinians never adopted mass non-violence, there would probably be images of Likkudnik overreacting and that is unfortunate and tragic but that is what will change minds including among liberal supporters of Zionism.

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      • Ah okay BP, I think I see where you’re coming from. I’m not sure I agree but I think I follow. Certainly if we define Gandhi’s program as having the goals of independence and brotherhood for a united India across all the religious sects (and I believe the man himself did define this as a goal) then nonviolence did indeed fail. Likewise Dr. King did not achieve the racial harmony he dreamed of attaining through nonviolence.

        The utilitarian in me protests that while neither man reached their stated goals, their tactics advanced their causes enormously and allowed them to achieve significant gains. So let me dumb down my prescription to say that if the Palestinians wished to either
        A)force the Israeli’s to withdraw from the West Bank, roll back some settlements and divide Jerusalem with a soverignish Palestine or
        B) force the Israeli’s to grant them citizenship, voting rights etc in one multiethnic Israel*
        Then I think mass nonviolence is a tactic that could achieve that for them.

        *Note that I think they’d have much better odds of achieving B than A through mass nonviolent protests though that is a nightmare scenario for people who wish for Israel to retain its Jewish character.

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      • I wish I didn’t have to make such points. I wish good hearted people would be guided by facts, presuming people will only change when convinced it’s in their own best interests to change.

        I, too, am a utilitarian: it is not enough to be good. You must be good for something. That goodness must produce results. The results are in for Gandhi-ji. A big fat zero, by his own scorecard, for failing to be the change he wanted to see in the world. Yes, he drove off the British. Pakistan is Dr. Gandhi-stein’s unloved creation as much as India.

        “The Palestinians” — which Palestinians? Which government are we talking about here? Don’t get carried away and try to say they speak with one voice.

        Israel cannot be forced out of the West Bank. There a law in the PA territory: anyone who sells land to a Jew is to be executed. Anyone who imprudently comes around here to complain about the apartheid-ish Fundamentally Jewish Nature of Israel will be reminded of that fact. The Arabs ethnically cleansed the Jews out of their own nations and continue to do so.

        At any rate, all this Happy Talk about nonviolence is just annoying and puerile. Heard it all before. Tried to take it seriously, long ago. Hamas is firing mortars into Israel and Israel’s bombing Gaza in retaliation. It’s like a bad divorce where the partners can’t get away from each other. It’s a prison locked from within.

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      • , people keep saying that Israel is descending into right-wing lunacy but they have no evidence for this in Israeli domestic politics or even international ones. It was the right-wing lunatic Sharon that made the first steps to disengaging Israel from the Palestinian territories including splintering Likud in the process. Olmert, another alleged right-wing idiot, made a major generous initial offer to Abbas than left-wing PM Barak back in 2000. Netanyahu engages in a lot of saber-ratling but has used violence a lot less than any of his predecessors from Rabin onward. Netanyahu has also engaged in less actual settlement building than any his predecessors. Settlement building has more or less stopped.

        When it comes to issues not relating to the Palestinians, Israel is the only government in the developed world besides the United States that did not resort to austerity measures in response to the Great Recession. The Ultra-Orthodox are being drawn out of their shells and into mainstream life. LBGT rights, etc. is advancing in Israel.

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      • LeeEsq, Sharon was at one time a right winger and I’ll be the first to admit that I underestimated him. The man unilaterally disengaged from Gaza to Israel’s massive reputational and demographic benefit. Never have I been so unhappy about a stroke falling on a person I don’t personally know!
        All that said Kadima was a centrist party, splintered off of and separate from the Likud so the right wing gets to claim absolutely none of Sharon’s of Kadima’s sensible policies since they were done over their adamant opposition.

        Bibi has been running (at least regarding the question of the Territories) a lunatic right wing agenda. I’m not moved by talk of settlement building being slower, the settlements are bigger, more pervasive and better funded now than pretty much any time in their history. It certainly looks to me, from my distance, that settlers are more influential and powerful in Israel’s Likud (and in Likud’s governing partners) than ever before. Let us not overlook that Bibi is the same man that flat out bragged about how he undermined and sabotaged Oslo during his previous stint as PM. Could Netanyahu do more to push the settlements forward; maybe but not without harming his chances of retaining power and it’s patently obvious that Bibi puts his own power before any other policy including settlements. Does this all hurt Israel? I assert yes and when you weigh in the opportunity cost my yes becomes a shout. The Palestinians (at least the west bank ones) have been unprecedented in their security cooperation and productiveness with Israel. It’s not just their whopping big wall that has dropped attacks from the West Bank to near zilch. Netanyahu, meanwhile, is content to simply stonewall them in return damaging the Palestinian moderates. If Barack had been able to negotiate with these Palestinians instead of that miserable old crook Arafat there’d have been some serious progress, meanwhile Netanyahu merrily stonewalls them for his own political benefit content to let this new phase of Palestinian sanity pass. I could go into the exploits of Bibi’s governing partners, the Jewish loyalty oaths, the settler violence etc but there’s no need to delve into that morass.

        Outside of the Palestinian question, Israel is a much more left wing state than the US so of course most of her policies are to the left of the US’s own but on the question of the only issue that has potential to genuinely endanger Israel’s future; the Palestinian question; the Israeli’s have indeed been indulging in right wing kookery.

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    • North, I’ve seen a lot of conflicting demographic information about Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Nobody seems exactly how many Palestinians live in the WB and Gaza or even how many settlers are in the WB. Certainly no party has an interest in clear information on this subject, everybody benefits from ambiguity or at least they think they do.

      There is also evidence, based on current birthrates, that Jews are going to be a majority in Israel/WB/Gaza for a long time.

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      • Well at least you’re not saying everything in Israel would be fine if only those foreign millions of Jews would finally man up and make aliyah. Granted the numbers are ambigous but Palestinians have a lot of kids and Israelis’ (outside of the orthodox) have a lot fewer. Regardless, if the Jews remain a majority but geographically smother the concept of a two state solution then they’ll just be an apartheid state that could possibly integrate without losing their Jewish character and that’s the best case scenario. What sensible leader would choose to take that gamble with such a lousy payoff?

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  6. Excellent post, Katherine. Thank you.

    Just as a note of caution for commenters given past experiences on this issue: regardless of which side of the issue you’re on, please stick to addressing the specific facts and conclusions Katherine makes rather than using this as an excuse to make this into a generalized referendum on “Israelis: Good or Evil; Palestinians: Good or Evil.”

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  7. As an ex water lawyer, I find Israel’s export of fruits and vegetables with high water use to be particularly troubling. Dates, iirc, in Southern California demand about 5 acre/feet of water per acre of palms. Citrus fruits are also very high consumers of water.

    So you have a desert country with very limited water supplies essentially exporting its water — in little containers of fruit. This appears to be unsustainable, even in the short-term.

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    • This post fails to mention that Israel has begun to build massive desalination plants along the shore of the Mediterranean. Tel Aviv’s water supply is mostly from the Sorek plant at Palmachim. Four such plants are coming online. Israel is approaching a water surplus. There’s talk of refilling Lake Kinneret and exporting the water into Jordan.

      The water debate is completely specious. The facts speak to Israel’s growing self-sufficiency in water and energy.

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      • They might be able to refill their own water, though I have substantial doubts. The Jordan River’s been diverted for agriculture – it’s no more than a stream now, I could wade across it. Sea of Galilee has shrunk considerably. Dead Sea has split in half, with the southern part nearly dried up entirely – they’re desperate enough to be thinking of digging a canal to the Red Sea and refilling it from there, ecological consequences be damned.

        And even if desalination works for Israel, they’re not going to be refilling Palestine’s aquifers. It’s permanent, irreparable damage they’re doing to the Palestinian people, and blatantly illegal.

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      • In the US, reverse osmosis desal. water comes in at about $2,000 per acre foot. One acre foot (in Southern California) provides water for about 2 families of four, including some landscaping. Crop use varies enormously — cotton, dates and alfalfa all have very high annual use, like in excess of 5 acre/feet annually per farmed acre. Nuts and vines are much lower.

        One acre foot equals 1,233 cubic meters. According to a press release I found via google (and those are never overly optimistic, are they?) the water cost is US $0.57 per cubic meter, or $700 per acre foot (for the Israeli desal plants.). (Unclear whether the press release is talking only about production cost or is amortizing capital cost as well.) (Note also that this is the price of water at the plant; the water then needs to be moved to the fields.)

        Even with very low labor costs, I suspect that it will be difficult to sell crops into a global marketplace using desal water.

        Now, you can just flat subsidize that water cost by delivering it for “free”, but that’s in reality a straight transfer from the taxpayer to the farmer. The Israelis may want to do that for a while, but the dollars add up pretty fast.

        Saudi Arabia, for example, exports food. But they have some other export that’s pretty important to the world economy to cross-subsidize their ag. production.

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      • Water is a strategic resource problem for Israel. Even if there were equitable distribution of Jordan River water, the fundamental problem lies outside Israel’s borders. The Jordan River watershed goes up into Syria and Lebanon, now mostly deforested. It’s pointless fighting over Jordan River water. The Jordanians are heavily polluting the Zarqa tributary anyway and the Yarmouk is mostly pumped dry before it even reaches the Jordan.

        So Israel has gone to desalination. Makes more sense to be able to control their own water supply and let the Arabs go on despoiling the Jordan. What are the Arabs fighting about anyway, here? They control most of the headwaters of the Jordan. They’re busily wrecking their own environment, goats everywhere, denuding the landscape. Not a competent planner among them all. Well, Syria has an excuse, it’s in the middle of a big fight just now — but Jordan and Lebanon don’t. They’re both so badly run it’s only on a cold day that you’ll find their government officials with their hands in their own pockets.

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      • it will be difficult to sell crops into a global marketplace using desal water..

        Well, sure. Israel has kinda graduated from selling Jaffa oranges. Only about three percent of their economy is agriculture any more.

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      • On the demand side, wiki states that domestic and public water use in 2009 in Israel was 684 million cubic meters, with another 100 m.c.m of industrial use. Wiki further states that existing desal capacity is about 358 million cubic meters, with another 100 m.c.m. coming on line this year, plus authorized expansion of existing facilities of another 120-320 m.c.m.

        So existing plus planned desal can, just, cover Israel’s own existing plus planned increased domestic, public and industrial water use. (This makes sense; only urban users can afford such expensive water.)

        Of course, the situation becomes orders of magnitude more complex when one considers (on the demand side) Israel’s commitments to the Occupied Territories and Jordan and (on the supply side) opportunities for investing in greywater recapture, aquifer recharge and improved ag water delivery systems.

        So, no, the water debate is not specious.

        (You did do some basic research before asserting that the water debate was “completely specious”, didn’t you, BlaiseP? )

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      • Heh. Another wiki genius dares to twit me. Refugees and their problems have vexed me for most of my adult life.

        The Israelis are intent upon being water independent as soon as they can practically manage it. The Jordan River and the aquifers are going dry — the Jordan because the forest headwaters are being turned into man-made deserts and the rain isn’t falling — the aquifers because they’re already horribly polluted. They really don’t have a choice, any of them.

        The problems of the Muddle East will solve themselves with the next cholera outbreak. Pretty bad one in 2007. See, here’s my prediction, Francis, based on my increasingly-verifiable conclusions about humankind. People don’t think very much about the causes of their problems, not until they’ve run into them at high speed and come to a complete stop. Then they blame everyone but themselves.

        That’s mankind’s greatest skill, his ability to delude himself and live in these goddamn fantasy worlds where it doesn’t matter where you take a shit, it won’t end up in the water supply. The problems of the Muddle East will go away when all those ignorant sons of bitches start drinking unsafe water. It’s going to be a pandemic. Probably going to start in Jordan this time, in those goddamn refugee camps full of Syrians. It’s going to be very nasty. Bet on that, Francis. Israel has the good sense to start in solving this problem.

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      • BlaiseP writes: “People don’t think very much about the causes of their problems, not until they’ve run into them at high speed and come to a complete stop. Then they blame everyone but themselves.”

        then writes: “Israel has the good sense to start in solving this problem.”

        ?

        either (a) Israelis aren’t people, or (b) many people (in this country they’re called bureaucrats) do in fact spend their entire professional lives thinking about the causes of peoples’ problems and try to do something about it.

        Defeatism is cheap, easy and popular. But Jimmy Carter’s foundation has wiped out the guinea worm, and a bunch of faceless water engineers have made the Southern California desert bloom. (you should see Imperial County in harvest season.)

        and speculating about cholera outbreaks seems to me to be a very long way indeed from declaring that the water debate is specious.

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      • Israel, it seems, isn’t fighting this battle for water any more.

        That’s the wonderful thing about a democracy, miserable and flawed as Israel is — voices of reason are not entirely silenced. But really, Francis, that’s some wretched argumentation. Until I brought up the desalination plants, we were being treated to a gruesome recitation of such facts as Water for both Israel and Palestine comes from three aquifers and from the Jordan Valley. Not a word about one of the largest potable water projects in the world.

        Welcome to 2013, folks. The Jordan River is an open sewer, full of human and animal feces from upstream. Increasingly, the aquifers are also rife with interesting and amazingly democratic bacteria and rotaviruses — capable of laying low any child, be they Palestinian or Jewish or — even — refugee workers! Now there’s a scary thought for you.

        Israel knows better. It has already hit the wall. It responded by building desalination plants as fast as it can practically manage them.

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      • And I’ll thank you to retract the word speculation about cholera, Francis. The World Health Organisation has this to say:

        “We are anticipating a number of public health risks from water-borne diseases, specifically hepatitis, typhoid, cholera and dysentery. Given the scale of population movement both inside Syria and across borders, together with deteriorating environmental health conditions, outbreaks are inevitable.”

        There have been significant increases of acute watery diarrhoea and hepatitis. Typhoid is also on the rise. Vaccination campaigns against measles have been hit and cutaneous leishmaniasis, a disease transmitted to humans through sand fly bites already endemic in parts of Syria, especially Aleppo, is spreading.

        Measles, tuberculosis and cutaneous leishmaniasis have been reported among displaced Syrians in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. Mahjour said: “Jordan had previously reported zero cases of measles for three years, and was planning to officially declare that it was measles-free. The situation will deteriorate if prevention and control measures are not scaled up soon.”

        Defeatist, my ass. I have already said “Be not merely good. Be good for something.” I keep my eyes and ears open. I’ve seen cholera and typhoid kill children. I’m sure that’s good for a laugh from the likes of Hanley and Heffman. The mothers of those children weren’t laughing. I watched my father dig those children’s graves.

        I previously said “all my adult life” . I was wrong. I’ve seen refugees all my life.

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      • Well, James, I can’t make either you or Heffman act like anything but children. You’re as predictable as Immanuel Kant’s bowel movements: no sooner do I point out some completely disingenuous argument — in this case, the Israel water debate — adding some factual basis for my assertions, there you are, flingin’ shit as if you actually had a point to make.

        And you don’t. You don’t have a single iota of fact at your disposal. Just so much ignorant hee-hawing, the gap-toothed, ignorant, smarmy bullshit I’ve come to expect from you about the time I say “I saw this. I know this.”

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      • wow, BlaiseP, I guess no one can teach you anything.

        A few points for anyone still reading:

        1. The dollar value of Israel’s agricultural exports may be relevant to its ability to pay for the desal infrastructure. What’s probably more relevant is the “virtual water” embedded in the exports. While hard figures are difficult to find, a trip around google gave numbers in the region of 500 million cubic meters annually. (Not surprisingly, Israel imports far more. But if you’re really water-short, exporting anything probably isn’t the brightest idea.) That’s a fair percentage of the total desal capacity. Also, given how water short most Palestinian communities are, exporting any virtual water seems just cruel.

        2. The fact that the Israeli govt is creating a situation in which its cities can look solely to desal for their water supply actually reinforces Katherine’s point — the settlers, the ag. community, Palestinians, Jordanians and Lebanese can all fight over an increasingly overused and overcontaminated water supply, without affecting the quality of life of urban Israelis. People dying of cholera just a few miles away? That’s one of Them; We are doing just fine.

        3. This isn’t to say that desal is a bad idea; diversifying water supply portfolios is usually a good idea. (You do have to watch out for really high fixed costs, though.) But pretending like it’s some panacea that takes water out of the list of unresolved issues is pretty much just wrong.

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      • Look, Francis, did you point out the desalination plants? Of course you didn’t. I did.

        Did you — or anyone else — point out the Jordan is an open sewer?

        Did you — or anyone else — point out that Israel views its water supply as a strategic resource?

        I say this water debate is completely specious. The only water being carried around here is being carried by Katherine, carrying water for the Palestinians, to the complete exclusion of the most significant potable water project in current times. How did she miss something that obvious?

        The facts to support her argument are not in evidence. It’s a total rubbish argument.

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      • Francis,

        Thanks for your input on this thread. The facts you present are informative. I don’t have a settled stance on the I-P conflict as a whole, and I don’t pretend to know diddly about such things as the water issues. So I appreciate someone who brings facts to the table.

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      • Aww, you brought your own little factoid to a minor internet debate! It’s so cute! Your mom must be so proud.

        But to return to the points at issue:

        1. What is the scope of Israel’s responsibility in making Gaza and the West Bank water short?

        2. How much virtual water does Israel export every year, and what impact does that export have on Palestinian ag?

        3. Are the aquifers referenced in the post still declining, or is Katherine factually wrong?

        4. What opportunity costs were incurred by building the desal plants? Could more have been done for less that would have contributed to a cleaner Jordan River / recharged aquifers?

        Since you’re such an expert, I look forward to your responses.

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      • *yawn* Plans are on the books for a genocide, Trail of Tears style.
        These are plans drawn up by a first world nation.

        If the middle east gets thinned out a bit, it’s just getting started
        a bit sooner than the rest of the world.

        We can put our money towards genocide, towards solving problems,
        or towards making new problems.

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      • 1. Israel? Responsibility? For the West Bank? It’s occupied territory. Read the title of this fine post, you’ll see. But since you ask, the Israeli Mekorot water utility is supplying much of the West Bank. Some surprising elements of cooperation do exist, though they could and should be strengthened. Mekorot and the PA disagreed over just how much water is being supplied.

        But there’s a problem: the Palestinians are illegally cutting into the water pipes. That’s been reduced somewhat but it still goes on. That’s Mekorot’s chief complaint: if it’s valid or not, I have no data.

        2. How much virtual water does Israel export every year, and what impact does that export have on Palestinian ag?

        Again, I would say it’s not a question of how much is used but how it’s administered. The Palestinian Water Authority is supposed to be dealing with this situation.

        3. Are the aquifers referenced in the post still declining, or is Katherine factually wrong?

        The aquifers are becoming polluted. That’s the big problem. There’s been a drought in the area but droughts come and go. Once an aquifer has become polluted, potable water becomes exponentially more difficult to generate. All the aquifers are therefore declining: simple well and water treatment technology no longer suffices to generate potable water. That wretched child in the picture makes me wince. That shows how miserably the potable water infrastructure has become. That kid is gonna get a parasite infection.

        As an aside, can you possibly contemplate how angry it makes me, to have worked in four different refugee camps and see a picture of a child with his mouth on a hose in what’s supposedly a reasonably developed area? I don’t care how terrible Israel might be. I don’t care how awful the PA behaves. I don’t take sides. People who do are fishing idiots. Potable water is a human right. That boy is contaminating a water supply. Someone should maybe tell him that. I strongly recommend one of these effing Do Gooders buy a ticket and tell him so, since his parents aren’t and the local constabulary isn’t. We didn’t allow that in any refugee camp I ever worked in.

        I really must point out the Zarqa river is seriously polluted to the point of complete undrinkability and its watershed fills those aquifers.

        The Yarmouk river, which fills other aquifers, is in serious trouble.

        4. What opportunity costs were incurred by building the desal plants? Could more have been done for less that would have contributed to a cleaner Jordan River / recharged aquifers?

        Opportunity costs? Explicit costs, a couple of billion, maybe. I don’t have a price tag on all those plants. Implicit costs? Don’t make me laugh. People go to war over water. This isn’t an opportunity cost problem since there are no other fucking alternatives.

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      • Though it was implied in the comment, the opportunity costs of cleaning up the aquifers would require some Gantt precursor analysis. What you’re really asking for, Francis, is for Israel to invade Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, take over the entire Jordan River watershed and clean up all the Jordan’s tributaries.

        Yeah. And I have a solution to nuclear powered submarines, too. Boil the oceans and they’re gonna pop up to the surface like so many dead mackerel. You may well ask how I propose to boil the oceans. I never worry about such things. They are mere details. Mere details. I, like you, Francis, am an Idea Man.

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  8. I’d also like to point that the map in Karen’s post depicts Israel’s National Water Carrier. Israel built the Natioanl Water Carrier during the 1950s, when the WB was under Jordanian control. During the 1950s, the United States suggested a transnational Jordan Valley Authority, based on the TVA but with more than one nation involved in order to deal with water right in the Jordan Valley. This plan did not come into frution because Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon would not willingly work with Israel.

    It should also be noted that the entire Lake Kinneret, better known as the Sea of Galilee has been Israeli territory since 1948 and that the borders of the West Bank are miles away from it .Israel’s water system is based on bodies of water within the green land, which everybody but the one-staters considers Israel proper. This means that Israel is within its rights to treat Lake Kinneret has it pleases, it is not an international body of water but a national one. If the Palestinians are entitled to the parts of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea and the rest of the land that rest entirely within the WB than Israel has the same rights to the bodies of water within the green line.

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    • Here is information about Israel’s water system from Wikipedia.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Water_Carrier_of_Israel

      Israel started building its water system in 1953 and finished it in 1964, three years before the Six-Day War. The entire infrastructure or at least nearly the entirety of Israel’s water system is within the pre-1967 borders of Israel. The parts that are outside the 1967 borders are in the Golan Heights, Syrian not Palestinian territory. Its also important to note that Israel gives 50 million cubic meters to Jordan because of the 1994 peace treaty. No doubt a peace treaty with the Palestinians would share a similar provision.

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