Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Water Carriers

Only one article in the "right" leaning Israeli paper Yediot Aharonot (YNet) reports on a group of what is (unsurprisingly) described as a group of "leftist" activists who delivered drinking water to Palestinians living in the South Hebron Hills.

The activists, come from well known peace groups like Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc) which are, on the Israeli spectrum, considered to be to the left of groups like Peace Now and have been criticized for radicalism.

In this case, the group crossed a checkpoint on foot where the IDF had blocked the passage of the buses and taker truck they were riding in. The IDF had, for some reason not explained in the YNet article, declared the area a closed military zone. Evidently, the tanker somehow managed to get into the area anyway and water was distributed to people who were, apparently, living on 15 liters of water a day.

The Administration of the area said that they do provide water to the Palestinian residents of the area, but it is argued by the activists that this water comes from too far and is over 10 times more expensive than the water available in Israel.

Gush Shalom has posted a press release where they argue that Israel has a "Policy of Thirst" and that they hope to starve out people they cannot legally deport. Other groups have in the past reported similar denials of services to the Palestinians of this region. Without further information though, it seems that there's a major piece missing from this story. If the area was a closed military zone, it's remarkable to believe that the IDF would allow a bulldozer to travel with the activists and remove any roadblocks along the way to let the water tanker through. It provides the impression that the walk across the military line and the emotive language used in the Gush Shalom release is for PR purposes.

This being said, this is one more case where water, the universal need for water and the recognition of that need by good, concerned people, leads to the creation of connections and contacts that can change perceptions about the "other." The Gush Shalom activists, be they right, left or centre, whether they were pulling a PR stunt or whether they truly took the only course of action they felt was available to them, may have achieved a great deal in convincing Palestinians that Israelis are not all soldiers and that stupid, unfair policies that deny fair access to resources like water to Palestinians are recognized as stupid and unfair by ordinary Israelis who want to do the right thing.

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