Ein al-Beida is one of only a few Palestinian villages in the Jordan Valley area of the West Bank that are even connected to the water grid.
Photos and text by Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills.org
Some 50 Palestinians from the northern West Bank village of Ein al-Beida staged a protest last week against an Israeli decision to cut off the water supply to their village for over a week. The protest, which ended with no violence or arrests, was held by mostly local farmers.
Mustafa Foqaha, head of the village council, said the amount of water the Israeli water company, Mekorot, allocates to the village has been decreasing over the years, reaching as little as 245 cubic meters per hour prior the full cut-off last week. By the time water was restored on Monday, the supply was even less, a village spokesperson said.
He described it as “not enough” amount for a village of 1,600 inhabitants that is mostly dependent on agriculture. Ein al-Beida is one of only a few villages in the Jordan Valley area of the West Bank that are even connected to the water grid. Other Palestinian villages are forced to truck in water at considerable expense, or drill their own wells or connect unauthorized connections to existing water infrastructure.
Foqaha suggested that the cutoff this past week was a result of Israeli authorities deciding to punish the residents of the area after discovering unauthorized water connections in the nearby village of Bardala. An Israeli military spokesperson told +972 Magazine that the cutoff was indeed part of an operation to remove pirated connections in the area.
Similar Israeli actions took place in the village last April, which were also explained at the time as enforcement actions against pirated water connections.
“Although, no [unauthorized] connections were found in our village, the Israelis want to punish the whole area,” one farmer from Ein al-Beida said. “What they call ‘stealing’ is not a real stealing. It’s an attempt from those who lost their water resources to get more amounts due to the limitations by the Israeli occupation.”
Local farmers said some of their crops could be damaged if no solution would come soon.
Ein al-Beida is the site of one of the main water drilling sites used to supply Israeli settlements in the area by the Israeli water company, Mekorot. In 1982, the Israeli military transferred ownership of the Palestinian water infrastructure to the company. Palestinians do not have access to the water grid today.
According to a report by Palestinian human rights group Al Haq, Israeli settlers in the West Bank consume six times more water than Palestinians living in the same territory. Al Haq described the resulting reality, in which Israel controls all of the water resources in the West Bank and allocates them unequally, “water apartheid.”
The Israeli military government in the West Bank, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), denied that the water supply has been reduced in Ein al-Beida. The cutoff of the water supply over the past week was part of an operation to “regulate” the water supply for Jordan Valley residents, during which, “water theft was enforced and five pirated water connections were found to damage the water supply.”
“In the village of Bardala, water thefts are carried out by pirated connections to the Mekorot lines and due to the thefts, a shortage of water is created for all residents of the northern Jordan Valley,” the Israeli military government spokesperson continued.
“It should be noted that every day the Civil Administration takes intensive enforcement actions against the phenomenon of water theft, which harms all residents of the area and infrastructure,” the military spokesperson added. “The enforcement campaigns attest to a reduction in cases of theft, allowing better water supply to all residents of the area.”