Harriet Sherwood parrots false charge of ‘Water Apartheid’

Harriet Sherwood published a report in the Guardian on Aug. 8 about a new Palestinian city being built near Ramallah (Rawabi rises: new West Bank city symbolises Palestine’s potential) which will eventually be home to 40,000 residents.  The new city of Rawabi is being built by the Palestinian conglomerate Massar International and the government of Qatar, and will, Sherwood informs us, be a hi-tech center which will boast “shopping malls…landscaped walkways, office blocks, a conference centre, restaurants and cafes”.

However, though we’ve at times praised her modest improvements covering the region, and her tendency to provide a bit more balance to her previously one-side stories, Sherwood still has journalistic tick which continually betrays her sympathies and biases, even in otherwise unproblematic reports. A case in point is the following passage from her Aug. 8 story on Rawabi.

Water has been another huge challenge, both for construction and to service the finished buildings. Israel controls almost all water supplies; 600,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem consume almost six times as much water as 2.7 million Palestinians.

Sherwood includes a link to a report, titled “Discriminatory Access and Water Apartheid in the OPT” by the radical NGO Al-Haq – led by Shawan Jabarin, a suspected “activist” with the PFLP terror group – which included the following passage:

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank consume approximately six times the amount of water used by a Palestinian population of almost 2.6 million

The passage cites Al Haq’s own previous report on the issue, which used language which, though similar, is a bit less definitive:

The result of the overall situation is that, generally, Israeli settlers in the West Bank, which now number nearly 500,000 persons, consume approximately six times the water consumed by Palestinians

This passage cites a report by the NGO Ma’an Development Centre, which includes the following:

Israeli settlers in the West Bank enjoy a continuous flow of water and on average consume approximately six times more water than Palestinians.

This report cites the Palestinian Authority as its source. However, despite checking the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, I was unable to find any such claims.

(The only claim which even touches on the Al Haq/Ma’an charge is a Palestinian Water Authority presentation which alleged that Israelis consume 4 times more water per capita than Palestinians – a far cry from the claim that Israeli “settlers” alone use six times more total water than the Palestinians.)

However, according to a thorough study published by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in January 2012, even the less sensationalist charge suggesting an uneven distribution of water seems untrue.  The study, by Prof. Haim Gvirtzman, provides data demonstrating that “per capita consumption of water between Israelis and Palestinians…have been reduced over the last 40 years and are now negligible.”

Indeed, a report by the Israel Water Authority (published in 2012) supports the study’s conclusion, noting that the annual consumption by more than 2 million Palestinians is 185 MCM (million cubic meters) of water per year, whilst the annual consumption by 7.6 million Israelis (not just “settlers”) is 1040 MCM of water per year.  So, the use of water by all Israelis (who outnumber Palestinians by a factor of roughly 4) is, in itself, less than six times that of Palestinians.  

graphic

Additionally, more relevant to the Guardian/Al-Haq/Ma’an claim, per data published by COGAT (Israeli civil administration in the territories), “settlers” in the West Bank (excluding Israelis who live in eastern Jerusalem) consume 47 MCM of water per year, (or 134 liters per person per day, which is actually bit less than the average rate of water consumption by all Israelis, which is 137 liters per person per day)

So, if 350,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank consume 47 MCM/year and over 2 million Palestinians consume 185 MCM/year, then – while, proportionally, “settlers” use a bit more water per capita than Palestinians – Palestinians consume roughly 4 times more total water than Israelis “settlers” in the West Bank.

Even if the rate of water consumption by the 200,000 or so additional Israelis who live in eastern Jerusalem (which the NGOs count as “settlers”, and for which data doesn’t appear to be available) is astronomically higher than the average Israeli consumption, Sherwood’s claim that “600,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem consume almost six times as much water as 2.7 million Palestinians” couldn’t possibly be true.

Once again the Guardian cited a claim which is consistent with their anti-Israel narrative, but that simply is not backed up by the data.

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