The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition of Palestinian civil society, applauds Vitens, the largest supplier of drinking water in the Netherlands, for the decision to end its cooperation agreement with Israel’s national water company Mekorot because of Vitens’ commitment to international law.
The BNC also commends the Dutch foreign ministry, who had advised Vitens about the cooperation and in general discourages financial transactions with illegal Israeli settlements. The BNC thanks Lilianne Ploumen, the minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, who heeded a call by Palestinian organisations to cancel a meeting with Mekorot during a recent trade delegation to Israel due to its active involvement in Israel’s settlement enterprise.
Mekorot violates international law and is responsible for war crimes, including pillage of water resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), supply of this pillaged water to illegal Israeli settlements, and systematic discrimination and denial of water to the occupied Palestinian population.
The BNC calls upon governments, municipalities and private business worldwide to follow the example set by the Dutch government and Vitens, and discourage business with the illegal Israeli settlement enterprise by avoiding/terminating all cooperation with complicit Israeli companies such as Mekorot.
In light of the current Israeli pressure on Vitens to reverse its decision based on the argument that the Palestinian Authority has ongoing ties with Mekorot, it is important to clarify that Palestinians do not control the vast aquifers underneath the occupied West Bank. This control is monopolized by Israel, through Mekorot and the Israeli army working closely together as instruments of Israel’s occupation, which is a regime of colonialism and apartheid.
The de facto annexation of the acquifers by Israel has denied Palestinians the ability to use their own water resources for the development of their country. In total, Israel – through Mekorot – pumps close to 90 per cent of the yearly West Bank mountain aquifer yield to the illegal settlements and towns located inside Israel, leaving the occupied Palestinian population with a trickle that is well below World Health Organization standards. Mekorot also profits from its monopoly over the stolen water: Palestinians are forced to buy whatever little water offered by Mekorot, and to succumb to routine threats of price hikes. Mekorot in addition has a lead role in the exploitation of sewage from Palestinian cities, charging Palestinians millions for treatment but then supplying the treated water to Israeli farmers (for free) instead of returning it to Palestinians for reuse.
Mekorot’s unrestricted and subsidized water supplies to the illegal Israeli settlements in the OPT and communities in Israel contribute essentially to the productivity of Israeli agriculture in both areas. Israeli agricultural produce from both, settlements in the OPT and farms in Israel, benefit from Mekorot’s theft of Palestinian water and is regularly exported to foreign, mainly European, markets.
These practices of Mekorot have decimated the Palestinian economy in the OPT, especially the agricultural sector. They have pushed thousands of Palestinian families into poverty, while the deliberate denial of water has also contributed to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from some areas.
The “cooperation” between the Palestinian Authority and Mekorot alluded to by Israeli propagandists is, thus, a relationship of duress that serves Israeli domination and colonization of the OPT, and causes Palestinian dependency. International business cooperation with Mekorot helps maintain this illegal situation and amounts to complicity in the Israeli war crimes of pillage of Palestinian water resources and forced population transfer through the illegal settlement policy in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Internationally, Mekorot promotes itself as an expert in water conservation and use, and helps perpetuate the myth of Israel, the pioneer that can “make the desert bloom”. In reality, however, Israeli and Palestinian population centers are located in areas rich in natural water resources. Israel exploits misperceptions of the Middle East and hides the fact that it rains more every year in Tel Aviv, or even in the occupied Palestinian city of Ramallah, then it does in “rainy” London. Second, Israel’s image as a conserver of water is exposed as a myth by, for example, its excessive water use, several times above European levels; its unsustainable agricultural practices; and, its destruction of the hydro-heritage of historical Palestine, from the drainage of the Hula Valley to the human-induced shrinking of the Dead Sea. Most of the contracts that Mekorot is currently seeking abroad exploit this myth as a selling preposition, hiding the company’s crimes against the Palestinian people and the environment.
The BNC salutes Vitens for taking the principled decision of severing ties with Mekorot and the Dutch government for providing the appropriate legal advice. The BNC calls on public bodies and businesses worldwide, including among others the Portuguese national water utility company EPAL, the City of Akron (Ohio), the State of Utar Pradesh in India and governments in South America particularly Brazil and Argentina, to follow suit and abstain from and terminate business cooperation with Mekorot.
The BNC appeals in particular to governments to follow the example of the Dutch government and actively discourage business ties with the Israeli settlement enterprise in the OPT as a step toward ending Israeli occupation, colonization and apartheid against the Palestinian people.