'Pillaging' blow to
Palestinians By Jillian
JERUSALEM - After a
recent Israeli Supreme Court decision allowed
Israeli companies to maintain quarrying and mining
activities in the occupied West Bank, local human
rights groups and activists say the decision has
opened the door dangerously to Israel's pillaging
of other Palestinian resources.
face, the new rule allows the occupier [in a
long-term occupation] to make endless use of the
variety of objects found in the occupied
territory," Israeli human rights group Yesh Din
stated. "To pump its water
sources, to transfer its archeological artifacts
to elsewhere outside the territory, to use areas
within it for garbage disposal, to sell public
real estate, and more."
In late December,
the Israeli Supreme Court dismissed a petition put
forth by Yesh Din, challenging the legality of
Israeli mining and quarrying operations taking
place in the occupied West Bank.
argued that the laws of occupation change when the
occupation is long-term; in other words, the
powers of an occupying power can expand, while the
prohibitions against it become increasingly
flexible, in a long-standing occupation.
The court also inferred that the
Palestinian Authority (PA) had consented to the
quarries' operation, since the Israeli-Palestinian
interim agreement, which was meant to expire in
1999, left the quarries under complete Israeli
control in Area C of the West Bank. Shutting down
Israeli quarrying activities would harm the local
Palestinian population, the court added, since the
industry employs Palestinian workers.
the ground, however, the ruling has left
Palestinians concerned that Israel's illegal
exploitation of other resources in the West Bank,
including water, will now be viewed as legitimate.
"This law is dangerous. We are talking
about one of the main humanitarian needs: water. I
don't think that anybody, any law, any state, has
the right to steal one of the main necessary needs
for people," said Fathy Khdirat, a Palestinian
resident of Jordan Valley and coordinator of the
Jordan Valley Solidarity campaign.
they say that the occupation is long term, that
means that Israel is planning to continue its
occupation of our land, to continue to make this
kind of open-air prison for the Palestinians who
managed to stay in their land," he added.
In Jordan Valley, Israel has taken control
of most of the area's water sources for the
near-exclusive use of the 9,400 Israeli settlers
living there. These settlers consume approximately
6.6 times more water per capita annually than the
56,000 Palestinian residents of the Jordan Valley.
While some Bedouin communities in the area
have water consumption levels comparable to
humanitarian-disaster areas, it is estimated that
Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley use
almost one-third the quantity of water - for
household and agricultural use - that is
accessible to the 2.5 million Palestinians living
in the entire West Bank.
"Now there are
just a few [Palestinian] communities, maybe 13
communities, that have the right to buy a limited
amount of water from the Israeli [water] company,
Mekorot. More than this, Israel confiscated water
tanks which are pulled by the farmers' tractors
and bring water from outside the Jordan Valley,"
Khdirat told Inter Press Service (IPS).
"Palestinians can hear the water running
in the pipes but they are not allowed to drink
According to Yesh Din, the
Supreme Court's ruling not only violates
international law, but dangerously "creates a
license for pillage" in the occupied Palestinian
territories. The organization applied to the High
Court in January for a new hearing on the issue in
front of a broader panel of judges.
"Manipulation of the rule prohibiting the
harming of property in occupied territory creates
a legal basis for irreparable economic
exploitation of occupied territory by the
occupying power, despite the fact that the
prohibition on such exploitation is one of the
overriding principles of the laws of occupation,"
Yesh Din stated.
Israeli quarry operations
in the West Bank began in the mid-1970s. It is
estimated that there are 10 Israeli-owned quarries
in the West Bank, of which eight are operational.
These facilities produce approximately 12 million
tonnes of mined material annually, and the vast
majority of these materials - up to 94% in some
quarries - are transferred for use in the Israeli
A September 2011
report released by the Palestinian Ministry of
National Economy and the Applied Research
Institute in Jerusalem found that the total costs
imposed on the Palestinian economy as a result of
the Israeli occupation amounted to US$6.9 billion
in 2010, or approximately 85% of the total
Palestinian gross domestic product.
majority of these costs do not have any
relationship with security concerns but, rather,
come from the heavy restrictions imposed on the
Palestinians in the access to their own natural
resources, many of which are exploited by Israel
itself, including water, minerals, salts, stones
and land," it stated.
The inability of
Palestinians to access their own natural resources
- which, by extension, causes them to lose
revenues and pay higher costs for raw materials -
amounts to $4.5 billion annually, 56% of the
Palestinian GDP, the report found.
According to Fathy Khdirat, this strain on
the Palestinian economy has a clear purpose: to
get Palestinians to leave their lands.
"Destroying their economy and making
people poor means that they are pushing them to
leave," Khdirat said. "But in spite of this kind
of law, in spite of all this kind of pressure, we
are still there. The Palestinians are still there.
Very simply, there is nowhere to go. We don't have
choices. Our choice is to exist."