(A slightly edited version of this article was first published in the Algemeiner.)
The Jerusalem Post ran an interesting piece on Friday on Israel’s Greatest Victory. This victory is not any of its military feats, stunning and miraculous as they were, but rather its conquest of nature, defeating drought and the desert and turning Israeli into a water miracle:
Long before the state was founded, the Zionist leadership made water a priority the equal of the far better known concerns around defense and the absorption of immigrants. The diaries and letters of the pre-state leaders were filled with a worry that there be adequate water to grow food for what they accurately foresaw as a rapidly a growing population.
This emphasis on water – and the talk about making the desert bloom – accelerated after independence in May 1948.
While other newly decolonialized countries of that era put their focus elsewhere or sabotaged their future by diverting public money for corrupt purposes, Israel – even while still barely able to pay its bills – embarked on large infrastructure projects such as the National WWater Carrier, to bring water from the Sea of Galilee to the Center and the South. The government also began experimentation in a range of water technologies, ultimately, and most significantly, in desalination.
Israel also had the good fortune of having a now-forgotten hero, Simcha Blass, as head of its water planning for decades.
But when Blass got into a principled dispute with leaders such as David Ben-Gurion, Levi Eshkol and Pinchas Sapir in 1959, he resigned from public life and retired to a two-room apartment in Tel Aviv. A short time later, in remarkable circumstances, Blass began a second career as the inventor of drip irrigation, a water-saving technology that is being speedily adopted in water-scarce nations all over the world.
For many years, Israel has offered its water expertise to less developed countries as well as to the Palestinians in the West Bank and, until recently, the Gaza Strip. Egypt and the Kingdom of Jordan have also benefited from Israeli knowhow and training as have more than 100 countries at one time or another.
Israel has also extended its help to developed nations suffering from drought. California is a salient example. No Camels, (the Israeli-innovation tracking website), reports on Israel’s assistance to the drought-stricken state on growing more rice with less water. Israel’s excellence in water-conservation was even recognized by the White House as Israel was the only non-US country chosen to help provide water solutions for California.
In fact Israel has been water-independent for some years now, as this 2014 Ynet article reports:
“We have all the water we need, even in the year which was the worst year ever regarding precipitation,” said Avraham Tenne, head of the desalination division of Israel’s Water Authority. “This is a huge revolution.”
Tenne said the country has managed to close its water gap through a mixture of conservation efforts, advances that allow nearly 90 percent of wastewater to be recycled for agricultural use and, in recent years, the construction of desalination plants.
These items are particularly relevant at the moment since the annual Watec Conference is about to take place in Venice, from the 21st – 23rd September (organized by the Israeli Kenes Exhibitions). It is no surprise, given Israel’s expertise and experience in water-conservation, desalination, water purification etc., that several Israeli speakers are lined up to speak there.
Could anyone find anything objectionable in this conference? Well, yes, they could. Certain “activists” are demanding that the EU withdraw its support for the Watec Italy conference because of the Israeli connection:
Roughly 40 European trade unions, environmental groups and human rights networks are demanding that the European Commission withdraw its support from an Israeli-run water conference slated to take place in Italy at the end of September.
“We, the undersigned European trade unions, human rights and right to water organizations, are alarmed by the European Commission’s sponsorship of an event that includes the participation of companies involved in and facilitating violations of international law,” said the letter, sent to European Commission President Jean- Claude Juncker and Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella.
“As documented by international organizations, UN agencies and EU institutions themselves, Israel exercises strict control over Palestinian water resources and denies access to the Palestinian population, which has led to ‘stark inequalities’ in access to water between Israelis, including settlers, and Palestinians,” the letter continued, citing a January 2016 European Parliament briefing.
“The European Commission’s patronage of WATEC comes at a time when Israel is cutting off water to Palestinian communities, leaving tens of thousands without access to water during the hottest time of the year,” the letter said.
While Palestinians continually blame Israel for failing to enable sufficient and affordable water, Israelis authorities consistently stress the fact that Israel provides above and beyond the water supplies required by the 1995 Oslo II Accords.
As we well know, all these water libels have been debunked over and over again by Israel. This 2012 report by CoHav, an Israeli advocacy volunteer group, on Israel’s water issues vis-a-vis the Palestinians is as relevant today as it was 4 years ago. Some of its salient points:
Israel is supplying the Palestinians more than double the amount agreed in the 1995 agreement. Agreed 23.6 million cubic metres, including 5 for Gaza, actually supplying 52.
Palestinians are losing 33% of water supplied due to evaporation, leakage and a large part due to theft.
Over 300 illegal wells have been drilled in Judea and Samaria which ultimately can destroy the aquifer and cause an ecological disaster for the Palestinians.
In spite of help offered, the Palestinians do not recycle waste water or have any plans for desalination
And who exactly are these unnamed “activists” who wrote the letter? Why, it’s our old friends, BDS who never miss any occasion to denounce Israel and call for boycotts, no matter how counter-productive to the very people they purport to defend.
The fact that they want the EU to boycott a water conference in which Israel is a participant shows more clearly than any stunt what their ultimate objective is: the total delegitimization of Israel as a normative country amongst the nations,the attempt to turn it into a pariah about whom nothing is legitimate, not even its life-saving technologies, and ultimately to destroy it.
Let them choke on their own dust while Israel solves the world’s water woes.