Saturday, November 17, 2018

Exploiting Palestine through its resources


By Marc Henry - November 04, 2018
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Three Palestinian human right groups want to put an end to the Israeli exploitation of Palestinian natural resources. 

On October 26, Al-Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) submitted a 500-page file to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). It is far from the first communication submitted by the three human rights groups to the ICC, but this time it was different.
 
“It looks at the issue of natural resources, something that is often missed out when we talk about the occupation,” Maha Abdallah, Legal Researcher and Advocacy Officer at Al-Haq, told Palestine Monitor.
 
“It [the communication] basically provides some information on Israel’s unlawful exploitation of natural resources in Palestine. We are looking at water, mud, minerals, gas, oil and land.”
 
According to Maha Abdallah, the communication sent to the ICC is unique because it does not only look at the role of the occupying power as a state, and the exploitation of natural resources, but also at the role of companies, individuals and private actors and how they have been a part of the illegal exploitation of the resources.
 
Area C
 
With most of the natural resources based in Area C in the West Bank, the opportunities for Palestinians are limited. As Area C is under Israeli civil and military control, Palestinians can’t take advantage of the natural resources or use the land for farming.
 
“This is not by coincidence; it is clearly set out in a systematic way that will ensure Israeli sovereignty over these resources instead of Palestinian sovereignty which it should be under international law,” Abdallah said.
 
Moreover, this is supported by Dr Mo’ayyad Bsharat, Programs and Projects Officer at Union of Agricultural Work Committee (UAWC) in Jericho. According to him, the main issue of exploitation is found near the Dead Sea, with Israelis taking a claim of the entire shore.
 
“Area C is 61 percent of the West Bank and is under Israeli control, despite being the majority of our land,” Bsharat told Palestine Monitor.
 
“The Israelis exploit the natural resources, like water and land; more than 87 percent of the water is under Israeli control. They dig wells and pump more than 100 of millions of water for their own investments.”
 
No water, no income
 
One of the Palestinians who face the Israeli exploitation of natural resources every day is farmer Khaled Mukarker, 48. Although his farm is placed in Area A, just outside Jericho, the Israeli exploitation of water has affected his farming.
 
Since 2011 Israeli exploitation of the Oja Spring means that water is only running through these pipes two months a year. Photo: Marc Henry.
 
As his farming relied on the water from the nearby Oja Spring, located in Area C, the Israeli exploitation has slowly made life more difficult for the farmer.
 
“In 2003 we started to have a problem as we began to have a shortage of water from the spring. In 2011, the water from the spring completely stopped, and now we only receive water from the spring two months a year,” Mukarker said.
 
“The land here is like a dessert now. The village was covered with banana trees and citrus fruits. Because of bad luck, we lost all of our fields.”
 
The Mukarker farm used to have more than 80 dunams (20 acres) of banana trees, but due to the lack of water and high salinity, this has come to an end. Instead, Mukarker is focusing on his livestock.
 
“In the past, I used to have 40 workers; now I only have one. You need to have an income to survive and live, so I had to change. Today I have bees, sheep and goats. You have to adjust to the situation,” he said.
 
Policy
 
However, changing to livestock does not mean Mukarker is no longer feeling the exploitation. According to the farmer, sheep keepers are giving up on their trade as it is just too difficult to make an income of the animals.
 
“Here in this valley, we can’t go into the meadows because the military has taken it. If the military takes us with our sheep, they will take the sheep into quarantine, and you will have to pay for them to get them back,” he said.
 
Furthermore, it has become harder for the farmer to provide food for his animals. Before he could provide 80 per cent of the food from his farm. Today, he has to buy 80 per cent. Once again, it all comes down to the lack of water.
 
“It is different here in Area A, but in Area B and C it is difficult. What we see in the Jordan Valley is policy. They pressure the people and take their water,” Mukarker said.
 
“My problems are the same that my neighbours’ are facing. Many are beginning to sell their land. This is a fact. Many [sell] because of the lack of resources.”
 
A start
 
While Mukarker praises the effort made by Al-Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and PCHR, he doubts the effect.
 
“Maybe Israel will respect the international decision, but I say that Israel does not respect anyone in the world,” he expressed.
 
“The future is dark. I see no future for us. We hope for a peace agreement. I think people can live together if the Palestinian people get their rights. Why not? However, the Israeli’s way of thinking is different from ours.”
 
And at Al-Haq, Maha Abdallah acknowledges that it might take some time before Palestinians will see an effect of the communication.
 
“The main target is urging the office of the prosecutor to open an investigation into the situation in Palestine. We have been calling for the next step to be taken, and opening an investigation will mean looking into the prosecution of high-level officials and also to look at non-state actors,” she said.
 
“People will not stop dying because the office of the prosecutor issued a statement weeks ago saying that the killings in the Gaza Strip were war crimes. That is why the ICC by the end of the day is not the only avenue that Palestinians should be seeking.”
 
Farmer Khaled Mukaker is facing everyday problems with the Israeli exploitation of water: “As Palestinians we can’t dig new wells or harvest water. Even the drinking water we buy from Israel.” Photo: Marc Henry.

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