Saturday, April 16, 2011

Life Under Occupation, in Numbers

I'm researching the issue of water access in the Palestinian territories, because the organization I work for is applying for funds from the EU to start up a new project to improve water access in poor Palestinian villages in Area C (Palestinian West Bank areas under total Israeli control, as opposed to areas B and A that are under varying degrees of limited Palestinian Authority control).

Apart from learning some numbers that had ended up in the back of my memory shelves anew--such as: Palestinians who are connected to a (very substandard) central running-water network in the West Bank (that supplies water during a few hours on certain days of the week) use on average 73 liters of water per day; Israelis use 242 liters per day. But then, some 191 238 Palestinians live in 134 villages that are not connected to a running-water network at all and rely on expensive water tanks that deliver water to the hefty price of 7 dollars per cubic meter, and they use much less per day. Simply because they can't afford to use more. (These numbers are from B'Tselem).

At the same time, Israeli settlers have access to unlimited amounts of water through the high-standard running-water network of Mekorot, or the Israeli national water authority, and can irrigate their unnaturally green lawns in the middle of the dry desert, fill their swimming pools, and water their water melon and cucumber fields.

Apart from this, I also learned that Israel routinely demolishes water cisterns built to collect rainwater. Which is very bad news for those who try to collect the little rainwater that is literally heaven-sent at a time when Israel sucks up the water content of the natural underground reservoirs (that the Palestinian farmers aren't allowed to tap into without impossible-to-get Israeli permits) and uses 80 % of it, only to sell back the remaining 20 % to Palestine.

In February alone, six cisterns were destroyed.

It is also bad news for my project planning, because we wanted to build water cisterns to ease the financial burden on households in Area C villages that currently depend on expensive water brought in by water trucks. We need to reconsider.

Anyway, I also came over the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) March report, and thought I would share some other numbers that I am convinced don't exactly make it into your evening news hour, but is a part of our daily reality in the occupied Palestinian territories.

In March 2011, 15 Palestinians were killed at the hands of Israelis. All of them were in Gaza. This is the highest number of Palestinian deaths since "Operation Cast Lead."

Out of these 15 killed Palestinians, 4 were children.

In the same month, 0 Israelis were killed in conflict-related incidents, 0 were children.

A total of 204 Palestinians were physically injured in conflict-related incidents, 196 of whom were civilians, 55 in Gaza, 149 in the West Bank. Out of these, 57 were children. For perspective, 15 Israelis were injured, out of which 5 were civilians, and 0 children.

Two of those children who were injured were Yehia and Mujahed in the village of Qattana. On March 21st and March 22nd they were shot with live ammunition by Israeli Border Police near the Separation Barrier (the Israeli euphemism for the Apartheid Wall, which, by the way, I just learned is twice the height of the Berlin Wall).

These are their testimonies, as given to UN OCHA on the 31st of March:

Yehya, 14 years old:
“On 21 March, I left school with a group of friends at about 1:30pm. The Border Police were parked at the fence, which is very close to the school. We went to throw stones at them. As we got close, before I could throw any stones, I was shot with three bullets—both of my legs were injured (one of them in two different places), as well as my arm and in my side. After I was shot, the Border Police did not try help, but that’s to be expected, after all, they were the ones that shot friends carried me away, and then I was taken to the hospital. One of the bullets remains in my knee; the doctors are worried about possible complications should they try to remove it.”

Mujahed, 17 years old:
“In the afternoon of 22 March, I was playing football with some of my friends just outside of my family’s home when we heard the sound of Israeli Border Police on a loudspeaker coming from the area beyond the fence (the Barrier). We were no more than 150 meters from the fence, and we could hear the sound of tear gas and sound grenades being fired, and smell tear gas. The Border Police were using loudspeakers—taunting us with curses, daring us to go out and meet them. We looked up (the Barrier is on the hill), and although we couldn’t immediately see the Border Police, we knew who it was, and my friends and I climbed up to throw stones at them. They were hidden behind some of the trees in the area, and began shooting at us. I was shot twice with live ammunition, once through the hand, and once in my back. They tried to arrest me, but my four friends carried me away. I’m worried all the time that they will come looking for me, and that I will be arrested...both of my older brothers have been sentenced to three years in prison for throwing stones; one was arrested from our home on his eighteenth birthday.
The Border Police come here very often—maybe every other day, or sometimes even daily. This is the second time I’ve been shot with live ammunition—the first time I was shot was in March 2009. At that time, I had initially left school for a period of one month, but when I tried to go back, I kept having dizzy spells and bouts of nausea. In the end I dropped out of school completely, and haven’t been back since.”
Mujahed was arrested two days after the interview. Because Israel doesn't give a hoot for the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In March, 22 Palestinian died as a direct result of Israeli settler violence, and 55 settler-violence incidents that led to damage of Palestinian property and land were recorded. During the same period, one Israeli settler lost his life as a result of settler-Palestinian clashes, and three incidents led to damage of Israeli settler property/land.

In March, 381 "search campaigns" were conducted by the Israeli army in the West Bank, and 320 Palestinians were detained. 'Awarta, a Palestinian village whose only proven fault is to be located too close to the Israeli settlement of Itamar, the scene of a brutal murder of a settler family of five, including three children, by an unidentified knifeman/woman, was hit especially hard. 'Awarta was placed under two complete curfews, one of which lasted for four consecutive days during which the villagers couldn't leave their homes even to buy food. Homes were searched and damaged during nightly raids, villagers were interrogated (more than 400 of them, to be more exact), arrested and detained (at least 50, including 8 children, are still being held).

In addition to this, Israeli forces also demolished 78 structures around the West Bank, 77 of which were in Area C, and 1 in East Jerusalem. These demolitions led to the displacement of 153 Palestinians; 63 of whom are children. If you think the problem of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons is a thing of the past, I mean.

Ah, and not to forget: the military checkpoints that have provided so much material for my blog posts. In March 2011, there were 62 permanently staffed checkpoints in the West Bank; 26 partially staffed; 428 unstaffed "movement obstacles" and as many as 454 so-called flying checkpoints, or  temporary checkpoints set up at will by Israeli soldiers.

Gaza continues to be completely closed off.

This, my dear readers, is just one month under Israeli occupation. One month of many.

And we can't even build water cisterns for Palestinian farmers in Area C.

Bookmark and Share

No comments: