With the on-going crisis in the Middle East, this week’s Earth Report takes a look at how controlling who has access to natural resources is as much a feature of conflict as bullets and bombs.
Greening the desert
For generations, Kayed Jaber’s family has farmed a valley near Hebron. Kayed and his brother Ismael grow fruit and vegetables for market – an activity made possible in the parched desert by the ancient technique of storing rainwater in underground reservoirs.
But there is a serious water shortage and the brothers are building two new reservoirs to catch and store rainwater.
Less than one mile away, Israeli settlers are moving in ever greater numbers onto Palestinian farmland. The hills around Ismael and Kayed’s lands now form a water-greedy Israeli settlement called Kyriat Arbat where the settlers enjoy lush green parkland and swimming in the local pool.
Since the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict, the population of Israel and the West Bank has more than doubled. Both Arab and Israeli statistics show that in another 25 years the population in this part of the country is set to double again. As numbers increase, competition for land and water is causing friction between the communities.
Now, Kayed and Ismael’s water problem has turned into a battle with the Israeli Civil Administration – the military government of the West Bank that decides all aspects of Palestinian life.
The Civil Administration believe that Kayed and Ismael’s reservoirs haven’t been built to catch rainwater but to store water illegally diverted from pipelines destined for Israeli settlements. Even though there is no proof of water-stealing, the reservoirs are destroyed anyway.
Oppressed as oppressors?
Three months later, Earth Report returned to find out what happened after the reservoirs were demolished.
Now the brothers’ situation is much worse. They’ve been warned to stop farming and a demolition notice has been served on Ismael’s house. The Civil Administration is able to do this because the brothers’ farmland lies within Area C of the West Bank – an area which under the Oslo Peace Agreements falls under complete Israeli control. With no-one to help them, they are extremely vulnerable to the demands of the Civil Administration.
With his savings lost on the reservoir and his home at risk, Ismael has written an open letter to Mr Barak, the Israeli Prime Minister, asking him to ‘stop these criminal acts against people who are only trying to live’.
Ismael believes that the Civil Administration, rather than forcibly remove them, are making life so unbearable that they will leave of their own accord.
Progress for the Israeli’s, it seems, comes at a high price for the Palestinians.
Declarations and peace agreements:
Struggle for Peace – CNN website, including a round-up of the main issues, key players, key documents, maps, timelines and breaking news.
Oslo Accords – summary by CNN – the foundation on which current peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are based.
Oslo 2 (the ‘Interim Agreement‘) where Israelis and Palestinians signed another deal allowing for a second stage of autonomy for the Palestinians.
The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, May 14, 1948
Agreements between Israel and Palestine, including; 1947 UN Partition Plan, Palestinian National Charter, the Trilateral Statement on the Middle East Peace Summit at Camp David (2000)…and many others…
Water conflict in the Middle East:
Middle East water conflict: excellent resource with many articles on the role water allocation plays in the conflict, including:
The Arab-Israeli conflict:
OneWorld.net Special Report on the Isreali-Palestinian conflict, including latest news from the region.
Anatomy of the conflict – Out There News untangles over 30 years of conflict.
Analysing the conflict: Global Issues takes a look at the geopolitical background to the conflict.
Why Israel needs a Palestinian State, by once-Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres.
The Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information – the only joint Palestinian-Israeli public policy think-tank in the world. It is devoted to developing practical solutions for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Includes an article on the delicacies of negotiating land settlements.
Peace Quest – an oral history project which presents a mosaic of experiences and perspectives on the Palestine-Israel conflict.
Palestinian online papers:
Israeli online newspapers: