Using water as a weapon in the West Bank
The Civil Administration is protecting a law that its title in contemporary Hebrew is 'keeping most of the West Bank Palestinian-free.'
Events in Area C are a burning issue for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot. More correctly, he is infuriated by what he and the Civil Administration bureaucracy term "Palestinian illegal construction."
What especially sets his blood boiling, at least according to European representatives who have spent time with him, is that some of this very construction - of facilities like cisterns, solar panels and school buildings - is being funded by European countries, who see it as a necessary humanitarian move.
The commander's position is discernible among his subordinates, who go out to the field to carry it out with enthusiastic obedience.
Gideon Levy has already reported on one Avi, an inspection coordinator for the Civil Administration who at the height of a heat wave confiscated water containers in the Jordan Valley that were the only water sources for hundreds of Palestinian and Bedouin families ("Water torture," July 8 ). Why do they need water containers in the first place? Because it's Israel's perfectly lawful policy to deny many Palestinian communities access to the water grid.
In the southern West Bank, it's inspector Alon. Two weeks before the High Court of Justice was to hear a petition against the demolition orders the Civil Administration issued for the shacks in the Palestinian hamlet of Zanuta, Alon went south to also deliver a demolition order against two wells.
Exactly how fond Dangot's bureaucracy is of using thirst as a tool for law enforcement we can learn from an affidavit submitted to the High Court. It was written by Raziel Goldstein, who is responsible for implementation and enforcement in the Civil Administration's inspection unit. The affidavit was attached to the state's notification to the High Court that Defense Minister Ehud Barak had ordered the destruction of eight Palestinian villages so the land could be used for military exercises.
Goldstein writes as follows: "According to information available to the inspection unit and the Central Command, since 2009 it is possible to identify a gradually increasing trend of support and strengthening of the population in Area C by the Palestinian Authority, with the help of international organizations. This support manifests itself in various ways, starting with the supply of resources that enable staying in the field, such as water containers, sheds and water tanks, through legal help.
"Thus we are able to identify a significant increase in the dimensions of incursions into firing zones, both in terms of the number of trespassers and the scope of construction that they have carried out. This phenomenon poses a substantial security risk."
The Shin Bet-type terminology alone reflects the ethical and mental perversion that has inflicted this system. Not that this is new. Five years ago, when the COGAT was Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, the system was full of creative ways to fulfill the government's order to allow only humanitarian traffic through the Gaza crossings. That's why there were periods in Gaza when you couldn't find toilet paper or sanitary napkins. That's how the system decided that Gazans could not eat pasta or hummus with pine nuts, nor could they use shampoo that also contained conditioner. The industrious officer-clerks even drew up a draft setting the minimum calorie intake for every Gazan.
How can such ethical and mental perversion develop, that turn sheds and cisterns into a terror threat that merits the gathering of intelligence? It's a combination of uniforms, lack of transparency, real estate gluttony and biblical fads. It's true - they are only obeying orders. But it's also true that they are the real government that rules over the Palestinians. It's a clique of clerks and officers that by the power of their weapons imposes itself on a population that never elected them. There's no transparency or accountability, only a sure promotion through the ranks until they get to manage some corporation.
Honorable justices, Zanuta is not alone and its "solution" is not to be isolated. From the northern Jordan Valley to the south Hebron Hills, the Civil Administration is protecting a law that its title in contemporary Hebrew is "keeping most of the West Bank Palestinian-free." Your honors, this is the policy you're being asked to ratify, unless you finally gather courage and wave a black flag.