Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Exposing anti-Israel myth making/Sinai security

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Update from AIJAC

July 12, 2013
Number 07/13 #04

Today’s Update offers some valuable insights into the propaganda war waged against Israel by pro-Palestinian NGOs and the Palestinian Authority (PA), as well as a new piece on the situation in the Sinai from Ehud Yaari.
 
First, David Weinberg from the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies comprehensively demolishes the wholly fictional accusation that Israel is denying adequate water supply to Palestinian cities and towns. Weinberg writes that Israel supplies 25 per cent more water to the West Bank than it is legally required to under the Oslo Accords, while the PA remains largely indifferent to preventing water leakage from pipes, implementing water conservation programs, and improving water management (including treating sewage to use in agriculture). To read this article, CLICK HERE.

Next, Seth Frantzman exposes a myth popularised by NGOs and in lazy media coverage that most Arabs on the West Bank dwell in Bible-like towns, caves or hovels, and are lacking in basic amenities and modern services. In truth, he writes, “the average Palestinian lives in a large modern home, usually adorned with handsome stone crenellations and other decorative elements, and drives a car. The ancient hearts of the old Palestinian villages can often be seen, nestled and abandoned beneath the burgeoning new construction.” To read more, CLICK HERE.

Finally, Ehud Yaari reveals the rapid deterioration in security in the Sinai where a “climate of chaos and rebellion now reigns in the northeastern populated area…adjoining the Gaza Strip and Israel, and incidents have also occurred in the barren central Sinai and close to the Suez Canal.” The Egyptian military is taking action against Bedouin groups, Salafi jihadists, and ramping up its presence along its shared border with Gaza, to stamp out the potential for anyone wanting to  exploit a perceived security vacuum since Mohammed Morsi’s ouster on July 3. To read this analysis, CLICK HERE.

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Palestinian lies like water

By DAVID M. WEINBERG

Jerusalem Post, July 11 2013
 
The PA considers water and waste as weapons against Israel, not as areas of cooperation.
 
It comes back again and again: The canard that Israel is denying West Bank Palestinians water rights negotiated under the Oslo Accords.

Haaretz returns to the issue every once in a while with stories about water supply disruptions in the Palestinian Authority, Israeli confiscation of Palestinian water tanks in the Jordan Valley, or Palestinian Water Authority reports about “disproportionate” water allocations to settlements.

You have to read the fine print to discover that illegal Palestinian tapping into Israel’s water lines and massive Palestinian water wastage are the causes of the problem. You have to study the issue in depth to discover that it is not Israeli “occupation policy” but Palestinian political resistance against joint water management and cooperation that is responsible for the slow development of the Palestinian water sector. The PA considers water and waste as weapons against Israel, not as areas of cooperation with Israel.

For too long, Israel has failed to respond in detail to Palestinian accusations of Israeli “water apartheid” which are ubiquitous in the UN and NGO world. Only recently has the civil administration and the Israel Water Authority, along with one of Israel’s top hydrologists, Prof. Haim Gvirtzman, begun to fight back with properly documented counterclaims.

The newly released studies show clearly that that Israel has fulfilled all of its obligations according to the agreements it signed in 1995 with the Palestinian Authority (and in fact has exceeded them), while the Palestinians are wasting tremendous amounts of water while refusing to utilize modern water conservation or sewage treatment methods.

In an exceptional study (http://besacenter.org/mideast-security- and-policy-studies/the-israelipalestinian- water-conflict-an-israeliperspective- 3-2/>) published by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Gvirtzman shows that large differences in per capita consumption of natural water between Jews and Arabs that existed in 1967, when the administration of Judea and Samaria was handed over from Jordan to Israel, have been reduced over the last 40 years and are now negligible.

He thoroughly refutes Palestinian accusations of inequitable and discriminatory Israeli water policies.

The Palestinian Authority consumes 200 million cubic meters of water every year, with Israel providing more than 50 m.c.m. of this – which, under the Accords, is more than Israel it supposed to provide a full-fledged Palestinian state under a final-status arrangement.

Nevertheless, the Palestinian Authority claims that it suffers from water shortages in its towns and villages due to the Israeli occupation and it cites international law in support of its claims. These claims grandiosely amount to more than 700 m.c.m. of water per year, including rights over the groundwater reservoir of the Mountain Aquifer, the Gaza Strip Coastal Aquifer and the Jordan River. These inflated demands amount to more than 50 percent of the total natural water available between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

But Gvirtzman, of the Institute of Earth Sciences at the Hebrew University (who has for years been part of the Israeli team for water coordination with the PA), demonstrates that the current division of natural fresh water resources between Israel and the Palestinians is fair. Israel’s population stands at 7.2 million, five times the actual West Bank Palestinian population of 1.4 million. Proportionately, Israel controls 1,200 m.c.m. of the available natural fresh water, and the PA 220 m.c.m. In per capita terms, this works out to about 160 metric cubes of water per person per annum in both Israel and the PA.

As for settler water use, well, Israel sends into the West Bank for Palestinian usage far more water than settler communities use.

Statistics released by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and the Palestinian Water Authority for World Water Day this past March, according to Gvirtzman, are fabricated.

Straight-out lies. In complete contradiction of the PA’s concocted data, Gvirtzman shows that every Israeli citizen pays more for his or her water – in order to subsidize Israel’s sale of water to the Palestinians at discount prices. In fact, residents of Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim (not to mention Tel Aviv and Haifa) pay twice as much for their water as residents of Nablus and Ramallah pay for their water – if the latter bother to pay anything at all.

But most of all, Gvirtzman’s BESA Center report accuses the PA of doing almost nothing to preventing massive leaking in its domestic pipelines; almost nothing to implement modern water conservation techniques; and nothing to recycle sewage water for irrigation.

In fact, many Palestinian farmers routinely overwater their crops through old-fashioned, wasteful flooding methods. Generally, they don’t pay their own water bills, so they don’t care to conserve. (The PA uses international donor money to pay for this waste.) Moreover, at least one-third of the water being pumped out of the ground by the Palestinians is wasted through leakage and mismanagement – by the Palestinian Water Authority’s own estimates.

The PA euphemistically calls this “unaccounted for water.”

Worse still, no recycling of water takes place in the Palestinian Authority and no treated water is used for agriculture. By contrast, in Israel about half of all agriculture is sustained by treated waste water. In fact, Israel’s use of treated waste water, its desalination activities, and its measures to reduce water losses in the water system add 800 m.c.m. per year to its water supply, amounting to one-third of Israel’s total water usage.

At the same time, 95 percent of the 56 m.c.m. per year of sewage produced by the Palestinians is not treated at all. Palestinian sewage flows untreated into the streams and valleys of the West Bank, and infiltrates into the Mountain Aquifer, polluting it for Jews and Arabs alike. Some 17 m.c.m. per year of raw Palestinian sewage flows into (pre-67) Israel too.

Only one sewage plant has been built in the West Bank in the past 15 years, despite there being a $500 million international donor fund available to the Palestinians for this purpose, and despite the fact that Israel has practically begged the PA to build these sewage plants. Only very recently did the PA agree to accept World Bank funding for wastewater treatment plants in Hebron and Nablus.

Even when Israel builds a sewage pipeline, like the Wadi Kana trunk line to collect waste water from several communities in the Kalkilya district and treat the sewage in Israel, the PA declines to cooperate. It has not connected the 11 Palestinian towns in the area to this new sewage line.

“The Palestinians generally refuse to build sewage treatment plants,” Gvirtzman says. “The ugly truth behind all the anti-Israel propaganda is that PA is neither judicious nor neighborly in its water usage and sewage management.”
Unfortunately, the international community has allowed the PA to get away with this hostile behavior; to continue its strategy of noncooperation with Israel; to flout all logical standards of professional conduct.

With Israel’s mega-water desalinization plants coming online, Israel will soon have more than enough water for its own needs as well as sufficient water for sale to the PA. “But first, the PA needs to become a responsible actor,” says Gvirtzman. “It must prevent water wastage, collect real fees from its citizens for water usage, and deal professionally with its sewage. It must also stop stealing from Israel’s wells and pipelines, while running around the world falsely accusing Israel of stealing Palestinian resources.”

Indeed, the PA has violated its water agreements with Israel by drilling over 250 unauthorized wells, which draw about 15 m.c.m. a year of water, and by connecting these pirate wells to its electricity grid.

Moreover, the PA has illegally and surreptitiously connected itself in many places to the water lines of Israel’s Mekorot national water company – stealing Israel’s water. (That’s why the civil administration recently confiscated some PA water tanks in the Jordan Valley.)

The civil administration points out that the PA has barely begun to tap into the Eastern Aquifer in the West Bank (which was allocated to PA use by accord with Israel), from which it could produce another 60 m.c.m. per year. The Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee has approved the drilling of 70 water wells by the PA for this purpose, yet more than half of the approved wells have not yet been drilled. This would put a grand total of 260 m.c.m. of water per year at the disposal of the PA.

The Palestinians also have rejected on political grounds a proposal which would have created a water desalination plant in Gaza specifically to meet Palestinian needs. The US had set aside $250m. for the project, which again could have yielded a huge increase in the amount of available water for the Palestinians.

But hey – it’s much easier to steal water from Israel and simultaneously complain that Israel is drying out West Bank Palestinians.

Which leaves us with the following question for John Kerry and the international community that is so earnestly trying to impress upon Israel the necessity of establishing a Palestinian state: Can you guarantee us that your much-touted Palestinian state will be any more responsible than the Palestinian Authority has been in cooperating with Israel in so many vital civilian areas, such as water and waste management? Or, might Israel have reason for concern that a Palestinian state will be even more nasty and belligerent?

The writer is director of public affairs at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and blogs at www.davidmweinberg.com

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Terra Incognita: The racist romance of the Arab village

By Seth J. Frantzman

Jerusalem Post, July 9 2013
        
This romance of the “primeval” landscape, juxtaposed with Israeli activists and European NGOs who tell their story and save the villagers, is a classic motif.
 
‘This week we went down to Jinba,” wrote pro-Palestinian Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy and Alex Levac on July 5. According to them, the Palestinian community south of Hebron had “the tiniest [school] I’ve ever seen,” which serves 25 students. “Of course they’ve never heard of an air conditioner or a fan.”
 
Nevertheless, it is a “tiny and beautiful village... it looks like something out of the Bible... cut off from the 21st century.”
 
There are “ancient stone fences, the donkeys braying... the dark caves where villagers live, and the white tent of the clinic set up about two weeks ago, thanks to contributions from an Italian charity and the Italian foreign ministry.”
 
This romance of the “primeval” landscape, juxtaposed with Israeli activists and European NGOs who tell their story and save the villagers, is a classic motif.
 
A June 2008 book review in The Economist contained a similar observation of the West Bank: “a land whose timeless beauty has survived basically unchanged since biblical times is being transformed by a people who base their claim to it on biblical history... Arab villages that once blended organically into the landscape are little more than besieged ghettos.”
 
Anyone who visits the West Bank on a regular basis knows this is nonsense. There are indeed beautiful rolling hills and stone terraces. But the average Palestinian lives in a large modern home, usually adorned with handsome stone crenellations and other decorative elements, and drives a car. The ancient hearts of the old Palestinian villages can often be seen, nestled and abandoned beneath the burgeoning new construction.
 
So why do we mainly hear stories about places like Jinba, and why do we not ask relevant questions about it? Do the residents of Jinba really live in caves? The cave-dwelling motif appears often in descriptions of how Palestinians live – a recent report on plans to build a park south of Jerusalem near Walaja claimed that there were families “now living there, in caves.”
 
There are homeless people in London and unfortunates who live in abandoned subway tunnels in New York and even several folk in Medellin who turned an old sewer into a home, but no one pretends it is a normal lifestyle the way the Palestinian “cave-dwelling” motif does.
 
The truth leads to more questions. Levy and Levac tell us that actually, “Some residents live in Yatta [a large town] too, during the dry season.”
 
In fact Jinba is more of a seasonal settlement for people who move there to pasture animals. But if it is a seasonal settlement, why does it need a clinic funded by the Italian foreign ministry, and a school? Do most tiny places with several dozen residents have a medical clinic and school? In the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland the men still take the cattle out to pasture in the summer, and there are even semiabandoned villages and huts in the hills.
 
But not every hut has a hospital and a school, not even every tiny community has so much.
 
The notion that Palestinians, when there are only a few dozen of them, always require an army of NGOs and Israeli activists with jeeps and hospitals and schools in order to survive plays on two stereotypes: First, an Orientalist view of Arabs as incapable objects in the landscape of the Bible, and second that only outsiders can save them and speak for them.
 
Arabs living in Israel also receive this Orientalist treatment. In a June 25 article, author David Grossman wrote about “Beit Safafa, a Palestinian village in Jerusalem.”
 
He was protesting a highway planned 20 years ago that is to pass between two parts of the village, which has grown greatly in the last years.
 
He noted that it would divide the “small village... the moment it is completed, the fabric of the village will be torn to pieces. Families will be cut off from each other, and their lives will become a nightmare... the village itself, as a social unit... will dissolve.”
 
Sounds pretty bad – until one learns a little more.
 
In 1880 the British Palestine Exploration Fund also referred to Beit Safafa as “a small village in flat open ground, with a well to the north.” Beit Safafa had 1,400 residents in 1945. It has more than 10,000 today and has been part of the Municipality of Jerusalem since the 1950s. This is no “small village.”
 
A Jewish community with a similar population, for example Yeruham (population 9,500), is called a “town.” And if it were a Jewish neighborhood even further from Jerusalem, such as Pisgat Ze’ev, it would still be a “neighborhood,” not a “village.”
 
The perpetual myth that Palestinians always live in “villages” – even if there are 10,000 or 100,000 of them – is part of the racist romance that imprisons them in the 19th century.
 
Grossman writes that the highway will cut families from each other. Yes, in the 19th century, a highway might have made it difficult for people without a car to commute, but in the 21st century families are not “cut off” because of a new road.
 
When they build a new extension of the highway through the suburbs north of Haifa no one pretends the Jewish residents of Kiryat Motzkin and Kiryat Yam will be “cut off” and that families will no longer be able to visit each other.
 
IN A recent scandal Israel’s largest newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, published a feature story in its weekend magazine about Fatma Vardi, a Beduin comedian from an unrecognized village in northern Israel who has 17 children and lives with her husband’s three other wives, and who had to get permission from her village mukhtar, or chief, to perform.
 
Only as it turns out, “Fatma” was really the stage persona of one Gila Zimmerman. The newspaper had been duped.
 
Oren Meyers of the University of Haifa claimed the scandal highlights bad journalistic practices. However, the reality is that the story of Fatma was bought into by a public that actually thinks most Arabs have 17 children; they bought into a caricature because the media has perpetuated this exotic stereotype.
 
For example, Neta Ziv, a law professor at Tel Aviv University, wrote of villagers in the south Hebron hills that “they plant and harvest in the area by the sweat of their brow.” Doesn’t that language sound a little too pat to be true, like the story of Fatma? The reason the stories of Arabs can only be told by outsiders is that Arabs are viewed almost as pieces of the landscape, rather than as actual people. Therefore almost every article about the “plight” of Beit Safafa, the villages in the south Hebron hills, Wadi Ara or Beduin villages in the Negev is penned by Israelis or other visitors, who “inform” the public and speak for the Arabs.
 
Usually this takes the form of activists going on a “tour” of the area and then “reporting” about what they saw. For instance, the last half-dozen op-eds in Haaretz supporting Israel’s Negev Beduin have been written by men and women with names like Yariv, Moriel, Amnon, Israel and Moshe.
 
The notion is that “we” know the Beduin better than they know themselves.
 
Is this because by colonizing their narrative and perpetuating these myths, NGOs can raise more money? Levy and Levac claim they went to Jinba with “Ezra Nawi, an activist in Ta’ayush, an Israeli-Palestinian political nonprofit organization. Without him, and without the other devoted activists – along with long-time volunteer attorney Shlomo Lecker, members of the Rabbis for Human Rights and Breaking the Silence organizations who work in the vicinity day and night – the ethnic cleansing would long since have been completed here.”
 
Outsiders taking credit for “saving” Arabs is simply a modern-day variation on the “white man’s burden”; only intervention by the West can save the East.
 
In some cases when Arabs don’t fit the narrative, their identities are even changed. A Palestinian woman from Azariya near Jerusalem whose Negev Beduin husband murdered her children was turned into an “abused Beduin mother” from the Negev by one Israeli NGO leader. Her identity was changed from modern urban woman to rural Beduin to fit a narrative.
 
The twin perception of the Arabs as parts of the landscape, rather than real, contemporary people, and the desire to communicate their views through third parties represent a racist assault on their humanity; a holdover from the 19th century.
 
Some people think they help Arabs by describing them as a “noble savages” in need of saving, but just as the original “noble savage” was deeply harmed by such notions of what was best for them and by not being viewed and treated as equals, sharing all the virtues and foibles of all people, so Palestinians are being harmed. They don’t need to live in caves and work fictional farmland by the sweat of their brow in order to be victims of state neglect, or of discrimination.

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Deterioration in the Sinai

By Ehud Yaari

Washington Institute for Near East Policy
July 11, 2013
 
The uptick in Sinai attacks since Morsi's ouster has raised political and security concerns that may force Egypt's military to assert itself in the peninsula.
 
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The security situation in the Sinai Peninsula has rapidly deteriorated since President Muhammad Morsi's fall, with armed Bedouins mounting repeated attacks against Egyptian military personnel and the Interior Ministry's Central Security Forces. Bedouin groups -- mainly from the Sawarka, Tarabin, and Breikat tribes, and led by Salafi jihadist militias -- have also announced the formation of a "War Council" aimed at responding with force to any countermeasures taken by the Egyptian authorities.
 
Although many of these attacks have gone unreported by the media, a climate of chaos and rebellion now reigns in the northeastern populated area of the Sinai adjoining the Gaza Strip and Israel, and incidents have also occurred in the barren central Sinai and close to the Suez Canal. For example, Egyptian security roadblocks, patrols, and convoys have been subject to sniper attacks over the past few days, while other militants have attempted to kidnap government security personnel and storm military compounds in al-Arish (the capital of northern Sinai), Sheik Zuwaid, al-Gorah, and Rafah. Just yesterday, Bedouins in Sheikh Zuwaid attacked Second Army chief Ahmed Wasfi's car with heavy fire.
 
Mainland protests against Morsi's removal have given the Bedouins an excuse to challenge Egyptian forces. Although Morsi won a majority of votes in the Sinai during last year's presidential election, the Bedouins have never been adherents of the Muslim Brotherhood. Rather, they sense weakness in the Egyptian military during the transition and see an opening to push their traditional demands for release of Bedouin prisoners, clemency to the many tribesmen still on wanted lists, and a different system of administration in the peninsula.
 
The latest violence has left Cairo particularly concerned about the Suez Canal. Egypt's Second Army (responsible for the northern sector) and Third Army (responsible for the south) are taking extraordinary measures to prevent attacks against ships sailing through the international waterway. Since Morsi's fall, militants have made at least one attempt to fire Grad missiles toward oil installations in the city of Suez, located at the canal's southern entrance. They have also assaulted customs offices in the Port Said free trade zone at the northern entrance. In fact, it would be quite easy for even a lone jihadist in the Sinai to fire a third-generation antitank missile or rocket-propelled grenade at a ship moving slowly through the Suez.
 
As head of the Second Army, General Wasfi is in charge of Egypt's military response to the Bedouin challenge and recently reinforced his troops with a mechanized brigade, commandos, a few tanks, and -- perhaps most important -- Apache attack helicopters deployed to al-Arish airbase. This effort began under Morsi but accelerated after his ouster. Israel consented to the deployments, which were arranged through the Agreed Activities Mechanism and facilitated by the Multinational Force of Observers; such mechanisms permit the parties to temporarily introduce military forces to areas where they are prohibited under the 1979 peace treaty.
 
Even after these deployments, however, the Egyptian army maintained its traditional stance of avoiding proactive measures against Bedouin militia strongholds. The military's official policy is that its troops are in the Sinai to "assist" the Interior Ministry's forces. In practice, this means taking a backseat despite being fully aware that police are incapable of confronting the well-armed Bedouin militias, which are gaining confidence and seem to hold government forces in low regard. The army rarely conducts operations after dusk; most troops stick to their roadblocks and camps, and no attempt has been made to threaten the Salafi jihadists in their well-known safe havens (e.g., Wadi Amr and Jabal Halal).
 
The one sector in which the military has displayed initiative is Sinai's fourteen-kilometer border with Hamas-controlled Gaza. There, Egyptian troops have blocked many -- though not all -- of the illegal tunnels between the strip and the peninsula. Some were flooded with sewage water, but in most cases Egyptian General Intelligence (now under Defense Minister Abdul Fattah al-Sisi's old confidant Gen. Muhammad Farid al-Tohami) has simply warned tunnel contractors to stop doing business with the Palestinians. General Sisi is worried that Hamas may send weapons and trained fighters to help the Brotherhood, especially if Morsi's supporters decide to pursue a terror campaign in mainland Egypt in response to his removal. Indeed, a dozen armed Palestinians were recently captured while crossing into the Sinai.
 
At the same time, the military remains attentive to the situation in Gaza itself. For instance, it still allows fuel deliveries to the Palestinians through some tunnels in order to prevent an outcry in the strip. Meanwhile, the blocking of other tunnels has almost completely halted arms shipments through the Sinai to Hamas. As a result, the group can no longer rely on the arrival of long-range Iranian missiles, so it has resorted to experiments aimed at upgrading the weapons already in its possession.
 
On the political front, the Sinai situation is becoming a major topic in Egypt's public discourse, frequently covered by the media and mentioned at official press conferences. Many commentators tend to blame Hamas -- at least partly -- for the peninsula's destabilization. Such rhetoric is putting pressure on the military to take action it prefers to avoid, while seemingly deterring Hamas from taking advantage of the latest upheaval.
 
Going forward, Sinai's security climate is bound to affect the post-Morsi transition and the army's standing in the country. General Sisi may therefore feel the need to order more-daring military action in the peninsula, at least in part to show the Bedouins and outside parties that he is not going to lose control of any part of the country.
 
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Ehud Yaari is a Lafer International fellow with The Washington Institute and a Middle East commentator for Israel's Channel Two television.

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