Drying Out the Palestinians

Basic moral principles require that Israel cease destroying cisterns that are essential for the existence of dozens of Palestinian communities.

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

Since the beginning of the year, Israel has destroyed 35 rainwater cisterns used by Palestinian communities, 20 of them in the area of Hebron and the southern Hebron Hills. In 2011, Israel destroyed 15 cisterns, and in the preceding 18 months, 29. In many of these cases ancient cisterns were destroyed that had served the forefathers of the inhabitants of these communities. Recently, they have been restored with European assistance. The cisterns show the continuity of Palestinian habitation long before 1948. Usually, the communities whose cisterns were destroyed are a short distance from settlements and unauthorized outposts that enjoy a regular water supply. At the same opportunity the Civil Administration almost always destroys Palestinian tents, animal pens and food storage facilities.

This information is based on data from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Rabbis for Human Rights and the Association of Civil Rights in Israel. The spokesman for the military Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories did not respond to Haaretz's queries about the number of cisterns destroyed over the past two years, or why the restoration of an ancient cistern is considered an offense. The spokesman did explain (Haaretz, December 7 ) that "the digging of cisterns - which constitutes infrastructural change - requires the receipt of a permit from the authorized planning institutions." But from the outset, Israel did not include in its master plans the Palestinian communities that now depend on cisterns, and therefore they cannot expect to receive a legal permit.

Leaving Palestinian communities disconnected from infrastructure, declaring large areas as firing zones and destroying cisterns are part of an intentional policy since the early 1970s. Its goal is to leave as few Palestinians as possible in the majority of the West Bank (today's Area C, under Israeli civil and military control), to expedite Jewish settlement and thus make it easier to annex these areas to Israel.

The European Union opposes Israel's policies in Area C, which the EU believes sabotages the two-state solution. It also bases its position on international law, which prohibits the demolition of structures that would leave a protected population without food and water and result in their forced dislocation. Basic moral principles, as well as avoiding another head-on collision with our friends, requires that Israel cease and desist from destroying cisterns that are essential for the existence of dozens of Palestinian communities.

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