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Thursday, July 09, 2009

The BBC tells half the water story

The BBC, reliably, writes another story about how poor Palestinian Arabs have no water and greedy Jews take it all:

Mohammed Abbas is sick, with chronic diarrhoea. Not for the first time.

He and his family live in a Palestinian village with no running water, no sewage system, and no prospect of getting either any time soon.

Watching her son, eyes closed, clutching his stomach on a mattress on the floor, his mother, Sunna, told me she is desperate.

Sunna's story is becoming increasingly common in the West Bank. The name of her village, Faqua, means spring water bubbles in Arabic, but access to water here disappeared long ago.

The village council says most of the underground springs were appropriated by Israel in 1948 when the state was founded.

An Israeli-Palestinian Water Committee was set up in the mid-1990s as part of the Oslo peace accords.

But Palestinians say Israel makes it virtually impossible for them to dig new wells or to join Israel's water grid.

Much later in the article, after the emotional parts are over, the Beeb does its fake even-handed paragraph:
But Israel says it is not to blame here - Palestinian planning is.

Israel claims Faqua village never applied to join the water grid - although the local mayor disputes this.

Israel says the Palestinian Water Authority should be more effective across the West Bank.

And then, after quoting the anonymous "Israel," the BBC goes back to quoting B'Tselem members with real names.

The bias in the article itself is easy to see if you know where to look. The BBC wanted to illustrate a story about Arab-only water shortages and chooses an Arab town that is not hooked up to the grid. Are there any small Israeli villages that rely on water coming from trucks? Who knows? The BBC didn't look for any.

However, the august journalists certainly couldn't be bothered to look for scenes like this one taken at a swimming pool Hebron and and juxtaposing the smiling West Bank swimmers with poor Mohammed.

More importantly, there was another story about water in the area that would seem to be a wee bit relevant.

You see, Israel, Jordan and the PA had been working with the World Bank to plan a canal from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea.

The World Bank has approved a pilot plan for a canal linking the Red Sea to the rapidly shrinking Dead Sea, Israeli Development Minister Sylvan Shalom announced on Saturday.

Israeli public radio said the bank will provide 1.25 billion dollars in finance for the project.

The initial proposal is for a 180 kilometre (110 miles) channel to transport 200 cubic metres of water, of which half would gush into the Dead Sea and half would feed a giant desalination plant jointly run by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, Shalom's ministry said.

The next stage would see the construction of a canal to supply two billion m3 of water a year to maintain and increase water levels in the Dead Sea, which is on course to dry out completely by 2050 if nothing is done.

This desalination plant would actually be the largest one in the world. It would go a long way towards addressing the scarcity of water in the region.

And the PA is trying to stop the project by linking it to settlements:

The Palestinian Authority said on Wednesday it would ask the World Bank to stop funding studies for a Dead Sea-Red Sea water project if Israel did not withdraw plans to confiscate West Bank land.

Israel last month disclosed a plan to expropriate large tracts of land between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, some of it areas exposed by the lake's receding water level over the past 30 years. Publication of formal notices in the Palestinian press triggered an angry reaction from the Palestinian Authority, which denounced it as a grab for 35,000 acres of their land -- equivalent to 2 percent of the occupied West Bank.

If it goes ahead, the confiscation will separate the northern West Bank from the south, Palestinians say, ultimately denying them a viable state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as endorsed by major world powers.

"If Israel does not halt this plan, the Palestinian National Authority will ask the World Bank to stop the two-seas project, linking the Red Sea with the Dead Sea," said a cabinet statement issued by Western-backed Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's office.
Is Israel really confiscating so much land for this project? Is it really bisecting the territories? It sounds unlikely.

But notice that the PA has made a decision that its own water resources are less important than politics. The PA could protest any alleged land grabs in many ways, including appealing to a sympathetic US, but it is choosing a way that would jeopardize its own future water supply.

Poor Sunna from Faqua is going to watch her son die because the PA decided that a political statement was more important than clean water for her village.

Not only is the PA trying to penalize Israel's water supply, and its own water supply, but Jordan's as well!

Would the BBC ever spin a story in that way?