Has Palestinian negligence caused Israel’s polio outbreak?

Child receiving polio vaccine in Beer Sheva

Local Israeli news have been filled in recent days with reports of the discovery of the polio virus in the sewage in the south. A program for the mass polio vaccination of children in the south was initiated almost immediately. However within the space of a week the virus has been detected in central Israel too, so the immunisation campaign is now being widened to include all of Israel.

Since all Israeli children are vaccinated against polio at the age of a few months old, with booster shots at a year, one could be forgiven for wondering where this wild polio virus suddenly sprang from.

A rather alarming but well-documented article by the blogger “Haifa Diarist” points the finger squarely at the Palestinians:

On 3 June 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported:

“In Israel, wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) was isolated from sewage samples collected on 9 April 2013 in Rahat, southern Israel.  . . .  Genetic sequencing and epidemiological investigations are ongoing to determine its origin. Preliminary analyses indicate the strain is not related to the virus currently affecting the Horn of Africa.”

Medical News Today explains:

“What causes polio? Polio is caused by the poliovirus, a highly contagious virus specific to humans.  The virus usually enters the environment in the feces of someone who is infected.  In areas with poor sanitation, the virus easily spreads through the fecal-oral route, via contaminated water or food.  In addition, direct contact with a person infected with the virus can cause polio.”

On 3 July 2013, Israel’s newspaper Haaretz reported:

“Almost 90 percent of sewage from Palestinian towns in the West Bank flows into the environment untreated, contaminating the groundwater and 162 kilometers of streams,“ according to a report prepared by the Israel Parks and Nature Authority.

“The report, prepared for the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Civil Administration in the West Bank, is based on water samples taken from various locales in 2012.  It found that some 50 million cubic meters of sewage flow into the environment from Palestinian towns every year.  Only 5 million cubic meters go to treatment plants, some of which are substandard.  This affects Israel as well as the West Bank, since the polluted streams flow into Israel.. .

Israel has tried to cope with the problem by building treatment plants near the Green Line separating Israel from the West Bank and treating the contaminated water once it enters Israel.  But the facility built to treat the Hebron Stream − the most polluted of all − can’t handle the volume of waste it receives.  Contaminated water reaches nearby communities, emitting a stench and attracting mosquitoes.”

On 11 July 2013, Arutz Sheva reported:

“Traces of the poliomyelitis (Polio) virus are continuing to appear in sewage treatment facilities in southern and central Israel according to the (Israeli) Health Ministry.”  The central areas where the virus has been detected include the Lev Hasharon (Tulkaran-Tel Aviv) area, Modi’in (Green Line), Ramle (Green Line), Tel Aviv, Ashdod (south of Tel Aviv).  The southern areas are Rahat, Be’er Sheva.

None of this Palestinian contamination of Israel should come as a surprise because in February 2012, the State of Israel Water Authority, in a report (Powerpoint presentation) entitled “The Water Issue Between Israel and the Palestinians,”  stated:

“The Palestinians constantly breach the [Oslo Water] agreement, as shown in the following:

1.    The Palestinians do not treat their sewage which flows freely in the [West Bank] streams and into [pre-1967] Israel, contaminating the [pre-1967 Israel] environment and the [pre-1967 Israel coastal] aquifer en route.

2.    The Palestinians are not developing any new water source, either through sewage treatment, or desalination (also in contradiction of the [Oslo] Water Agreement, M.L.).”

The key topographic/geologic fact is that what is termed the ‘West Bank’ is the mountains of Judea and Samaria. And any Palestinian untreated sewage water introduced into the  aquifers of the Western salient of the mountains of Judea and Samaria gravitationally migrates underground westward into the aquifers of pre-1967 Israel.  Geologically, there is no functional impermeable dividing line between the political pre- and post- 1967 Israel.  Hence, it is impossible to stop Palestinian Authority untreated sewage water from  contaminating pre-1967 Israel.

All the contaminated polio clusters in central Israel are in line with the general westward flow of the contaminated sewage water from the PA.  This makes it very probable that the polio now being discovered in these areas and in southern Israel is from the northern and southern lobes of the area.  And the ceding of Israeli civilian jurisdiction over  Palestinian Authority sewage is a direct result of the Oslo Accords.

Is the Palestinian Authority purposefully and knowingly contaminating Israel’s aquifers with sewage?  Israel has begged the Palestinian Arabs for years to install sewage treatment plants at no cost to them and with funds from abroad.  But the Palestinian Authority has refused to build anything except one small sewage treatment plant.  Given that Palestinian Arab sewage is gravitationally bound to migrate westward into the pre-1967 Israel coastal plain, Palestinians (and Israelis!) could easily have predicted the biological diseases that this untreated sewage water would cause to pre-1967 Israel: Polio, for one.

Israel could define this as a possible instance of what the Geneva Convention terms Genocidal War Crimes. Israel and its civilians are being attacked with a form of biological warfare.

A long-standing trope of anti-Israel activists is that Israel either steals Palestinian water or otherwise poisons it, whether deliberately or as a result of those eeevil settlements carelessly disposing of their sewage. It now appears, from the above report, that the exact opposite is probably true.

Is it too much to hope that Israel’s lawyers are readying their case for suing the Palestinians for criminal negligence at the very least, if not for active bio-warfare?

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17 Responses to Has Palestinian negligence caused Israel’s polio outbreak?

  1. Reality says:

    I presume that Israel will be blamed for the Paletinians poor sewage & water (non) treatment, but considering the vast amounts of money pouring in to their coffers from various agencies; WHO, UNRWA,UN & any other alphabet soup agency you can think of , the question arises, why don’t these agencies build the sewage & or water treatment plannts themselves?Obviously by giving the Palestinians money it goes into their own pockets & then Israel has to pick up the bill & get blamed. Its time we start shouting & yelling to all these agencies to take care of the problem. We always lose thesearguments wo we get blamed & then have to pay millions in order to build the plants & immunise all the population(theirs & ours) Its time the world called on the Palestinians to take responsibility for their own people.

    • anneinpt says:

      You make excellent points and they have been made loud and long and clear by all Israel’s spokesmen. But no one is listening. The Palis obviously don’t give a damn and the alphabet soup either don’t care or don’t know how to change the situation because they’re too deeply involved themselves.

      You’re right that it’s time the Palis took responsibility for themselves but they’ve been infantilised by all the aid they receive that they now don’t know how to help themselves even if they wanted to – which they don’t.

      • Karin Brothers says:

        Hello? It is Israel’s responsiblity under international humanitarian law (yes, Israel is supposed to be governed by the law) to come up with the aid that the UN has been providing to help Palestinians survive. The world community has been paying Israel’s bills for providing (poorly) the necessities of life for those under occupation for which Israel is responsible. This includes keeping Palestinian water treatment plants up to date, ensuring Palestinians have access to adequate food and water and medical care, etc. Remember that 80% of the water Israeli uses actually comes from — one might say, is stolen from — Palestinian and Arab sources. Israeli treatment of Palestinians both in Israel and under occupation (ie those in East Jerusalem who have been deprived of polio shots) is criminal; the treatment of those (again, under occupation) in Gaza is genocidal. The world community is waiting for the day when the wheel of justice comes around…

        • anneinpt says:

          Your comment makes no sense. I quote:

          It is Israel’s responsiblity under international humanitarian law (yes, Israel is supposed to be governed by the law) to come up with the aid that the UN has been providing to help Palestinians survive.

          How is Israel supposed to come up with the aid from the UN? Either it’s from the UN or it’s from Israel. In any event the UN aid goes straight to the Palestinians, and if they choose to waste it on salaries for non-working “government” officials and salaries for terrorists in Israeli prisons, or compensation to suicide bombers’ families, then that is their problem and it is not Israel’s job to make up the shortfall.

          The world community has been paying Israel’s bills for providing (poorly) the necessities of life for those under occupation for which Israel is responsible.

          What utter nonsense. The world community has provided nothing to Israel. You show me any proof you can find of what the “world community” has given Israel besides embargoes and boycotts. Israel receives $3bn yearly from America to be spent in America on their military industry. That is the sum total of what Israel receives, and the strings attached make it almost not worthwhile any more.

          This includes keeping Palestinian water treatment plants up to date, ensuring Palestinians have access to adequate food and water and medical care, etc.

          I bet you’ve never set foot in Israel have you. I can assure you that the Palestinians have free access to the best food and water in the Middle East. The Israelis have also built sewage treatment plants for them, but since the Palestinians won’t cooperate with Israel, encouraged by people like you, these plants don’t work properly if at all. Well done all you boycotters!

          Remember that 80% of the water Israeli uses actually comes from — one might say, is stolen from — Palestinian and Arab sources.

          This is an outright lie and if I knew who you were and where you lived I would slap you with a slander suit so fast your head would spin. You also did not read my article or you would have seen the linked article about the water libel. But that’s OK, I know you don’t want to be confused with facts.

          Israeli treatment of Palestinians both in Israel and under occupation (ie those in East Jerusalem who have been deprived of polio shots) is criminal;

          Please give details, time, places, etc. of the “criminal” treatment of Palestinians. Those in Est Jerusalem are not under occupation. They have Israeli ID cards and are considered Israeli. And where the HELL do you get the idea that Israel is not vaccinating E. J’lem residents against polio?! It would work against Israel’s own interests for one thing. You really are quite insane.

          Again, I know, it’s confusing to be faced with facts.

          the treatment of those (again, under occupation) in Gaza is genocidal.

          Riiight. So on the one hand the Palestinian population is claimed to have grown from a mere 400,000 in 1948 to over 8 million today. And then Israel is committing genocide. Uh-huh. A backward genocide maybe. One where the people grow instead of dying. When you’ve got your facts sorted out come back to me.

          Besides which, in what respect is Israel being genocidal? By bombing terrorists? I’m SO sorry we refuse to roll over and let them kill us. I know you probably love dead Jews but we’re really sorry we can’t oblige you. We just refuse to die and go away. Live with it.

          The world community is waiting for the day when the wheel of justice comes around…

          LOL. Well, I hope the world community has brought plenty of good reading material and some sandwiches becuase they’ve got a long wait.

          On the other hand the Jews and Israel are waiting for the wheel of justice to turn so that we will finally see some justice – when the Palestinian terrorists are properly punished, when the UN is punished and made to redress its sins of bias and bigotry against Israel, when the boycotters stop singling out Israel amongst all the nations in the world, i.e. being antisemites.

          Oh, we’ve got a looong list of justice waiting to be fulfilled. And I bet our sandwiches are tastier.

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  3. Rob Harris says:

    There is an excellent article http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Palestinian-lies-like-water-319582 on how the PA has been extraordinarily negligent in the way it treats the quality of its water resources. The PA demands effectively half of Israel’s water resources, and claims they are being cheated on the Oslo water sharing agreement when in fact Israel exceeds the Oslo quotas.

    The one position of the “Haifa Diarist” that I would disagree with is the claim the PA is doing it to poison Israeli citizens. I wouldn’t put such a thing past them but this is likely to impact their own people just as much as Israeli’s. I would agree that the PA’s remarkable carelessness is intentional but it is more down to a disinterest in improving the welfare of their people for political reasons.

    • anneinpt says:

      Thank you for the JPost link Rob. It’s alluded to in the Front page article I linked to in my post but is extremely eye-opening nonetheless.

      I think the Palis have come to believe their own propaganda, and that might be part of the reason why they don’t make any effort to treat their own sewage: they just regard it as Israel’s fault and Israel’s problem.

      I agree with your position that Haifa Diarist may be piling it on a bit by accusing the PA of deliberately poisoning Israeli citizens. It most probably is a case of criminal negligence rather than deliberate bio-warfare. However in a situation like what has arisen today, with a potential polio outbreak, there is barely a difference between the two.

  4. annediamond1 says:

    The main thing is it has been caught straight away, Israel will need to be more careful, Just thank Hashem it is hoped to be contained, and you have enough medication to go round. The kids will enjoy the sugar lump.

    • anneinpt says:

      That is very true Anne, and thank G-d Israel has the technological know-how to catch the polio virus before it actually contaminated the water supply or infected any citizens. And thank G-d too we have the ability to inoculate the entire population at very short notice.

      However there is still room to lay the blame where it belongs – at the Palestinians’ negligence in treating their own water.

  5. Reality says:

    do we have to innoculate the Pals children or will UNRWRA figure that out for us?

    • anneinpt says:

      I think it’s their problem, whether UNWRA or their own “health ministry” if such a thing exists or functions. Or let them all die of polio. I really couldn’t care less any more.

  6. Reality says:

    I couldn’t care less if they et polio either if its through their own fault, the problem is that it damages our children whom we HAVE innoculated 7 done our utmost to protect. If we don’t give the Pals the polio shots again we’ll be at fault. We can never win

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  8. Dr. Nedal says:

    Always you find the Palestinians guilty to blame them and don’t have the courage to take the responsibility. You are talking with a political point of view not an epidemiological (which I will explain later). As the virus was detected in Israel, that’s mean that the most probable source of infection is in Israel and the virus is continuously shedding into the sewage. This source is most probably entered to Israel through the border with the unprotected migrants. Now you could not be forgiven for wondering where this wild polio virus suddenly sprang from. And that is the responsibility of Israeli Ministry of health to find or catch them in order to protect others (your own population and neighbors). The easiest way is to blame others not to face the fact.
    And why the Palestinians do not treat their sewage or not developing any new water source? This is due to the Israeli policy which prevent the Palestinian for doing anything for their future or they destroy what is being built.
    With the epidemiological point of view:
    • Even as you mentioned that Almost 90 percent of sewage from Palestinian towns in the West Bank flows into the environment untreated, this water is not infected with the WPN according to Israeli Laboratory. As continuously there are a sewage samples that are collected from Palestinians system to be analysed in Israeli hospitals for Wild Polio Virus (WPV) and till now no WPV has been isolated from these samples. In spite of that the virus was widened to include all Israel durig only one week!!!
    • To your information not only poor sanitation is needed for spreading the virus but only under protected population.
    • The immunization coverage in Palestine exceed 99% against the disease called Polio. In Palestine we used both types of vaccine (live attenuated or TOPV which is give herd immunity and not used in Israel and killed or IPV which is not give a herd immunity and used in Israel).
    • Israel is located in an area where the disease is endemic and consider it self as European country and uses the European Immunization schedule for immunization which is could not give a full protection. Israel used only the so called IPV vaccine with killed virus which don’t give a herd immunity caused by TOPV vaccine.
    As till now we don’t have the virus in the occupied Palestinian Territory, if in the recent future the virus will be discovered that’s mean Israel purposefully and knowingly contaminating Palestinian’s aquifers with sewage? So Palestine could define this as a possible instance of what the Geneva Convention terms Genocidal War Crimes and Palestine and its civilians are being attacked with a form of biological warfare. Hence, Palestinian lawyers should be ready for suing the Israeli for criminal negligence at the very least, if not for active bio-warfare?

    • anneinpt says:

      You raise some interesting points Dr. Nedal although the origin of the virus was probably from somewhere in Africa, then to Egypt, and then on to the Bedouin towns and then into the Palestinian areas and Israel.

      You are right that it’s not only poor sanitation that spreads the virus, but also lack of immunisation. However treatment of sewage plays an enormous part in all of this, and it has been stated quite clearly that the Palestinians are not doing their part in treating their sewage or in cooperating with Israel in treating it. I blogged about this also in this blog post about the European boycott causing companies to stop building sewage treatment plants for the Palestinians because they are in the PA territories.

      I think you are exaggerating and being ironic about suing Israel, but I think Israel has at least as good a case against the Palestinians as vice versa.

      However the best thing would be for the two nations to put aside their differences and cooperate fully so as to clean up the sewage and also to eradicate this virus once and for all.

  9. Dr. Nedal says:

    I think the last phrase has the rational solution because we have a serious problem and no way for blaming others. We must face this real problem cooperatively and then we must hand in hand find a real solution for the sewage system as a hole.

    • anneinpt says:

      Thank you for your considered reply Dr. Nedal. Indeed, let us hope that we can all learn to live and work together for the benefit of all the people in this tiny corner of the Middle East. Between us we have enough talented and knowledgeable people to solve most of our problems as long as politics can be kept out of it.

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