Today we worked on constructing a large tent for a Bedouin community in the Jordan Valley area of Ain Sultan.
Prior to that we toured the Jordan Valley with one of ICAHD’s political tour guides, Chaska. The hot and harsh yet beautiful landscape hides extremely ugly human rights abuses in plain sight. The Jordan Valley covers nearly a third of the entire occupied West Bank. With fertile lands, minerals and large water resources it was full of potential, and it was dreamed tobecome the bread-basket of the future Palestinian state.
We saw checkpoints which limit the movement of Palestinians and their produce, and we saw long stretches of high earth mounds and one of the agricultural gates which prevent Palestinian farmers from taking their tractors to use in their fields. Then we went to meet the people who have had to bear the brunt of Israel’s ethnic cleansing policies, yet continue their steadfast existence (also known in Arabic as ‘Sumud’) under the occupier’s oppression.
Israel’s occupation policies and water allocation have dried up a large part of the valley and has led to the ethnic cleansing of the area. Israel has allocated 50% of the Jordan Valley as state lands, and 45% of it as closed military zones. This means 95% of the valley is now off limits to Palestinians.
Before 1967, between 250,000 – 300,000 Palestinians lived in the area, but today their number has reduced to 56,000 – 58,000.
Israel has built 39 settlements in the valley contrary to International law, and has allocated most of the region’s water to these 11,000 settlers. The settlements contain large plantations and fisheries (that’s right; large pools for growing fish). These 11,000 settlers use the same amount of water as does one third of the 2.6 million Palestinians in the whole of the West Bank. These settlers use 487 cubic litres of water per person per day, while some Palestinian communities in the valley only get 10-30 cubic litres per person per day (which is less than one third of World Health Organisation recommendations).
– (With thanks to participant Miika from Finland for his analysis).