Israeli settlers and occupation forces are colluding to deprive poor Palestinian families of water, while nearby illegal settlements have access to as much fresh water as they want, be it for drinking or filling their swimming pools.
A settlement, unauthorised even by the Israeli state, called Avigayil in the South Hebron Hills, has modern roads, electricity and fresh drinking water fed to it so that its residents can drink freely, swim in paddling pools and tend their crops.
Just opposite is the small patch of land owned by the Hamamdi family. They grow okra, tomato and cucumber, harvest honey from beehives and tend to recently-planted olive trees – which replace the 150 torn out by Israelis two years ago. They also keep ten sheep. And they do all of this without water.
When Israeli-Palestinian NGO Combatants for Peace tried to bring water supplies to the family, they were attacked with stun grenades and beaten. Instead, the Hamamdi family are forced to spend $155 every two months for the water they need to survive.
Meanwhile, any basic improvements to their land – a new vehicle to carry supplies, a shade to protect their animals in the summer heat, a pen for their sheep – are torn down by settlers, who, not content with stealing the neighbouring land from Palestinians, wish to inflict further injustice on the family.
Such a story is common across the Occupied Palestinian Territory, but, as veteran Palestinian-supporting journalist Gideon Levy writes in Israeli’s liberal Haaretz newspaper, “the apartheid here cries out to the heavens more starkly than elsewhere”.
Levy’s harrowing account of this injustice follows the everyday struggle of the lives of three elderly Palestinians, Ahmad Hamamdi, 71, Halimi, his 67-year-old wife, and her sister, Zarifi, a 52-year-old with mental disabilities.
They live in Area C in the West Bank, where Palestinians are not allowed to build anything at all. The land is all – apparently – owned by the state of Israel or used for military target practice.
Levy calls the actions of the Israeli Defence Force against the NGO bringing water “one of the IDF’s ugliest and most repulsive displays in memory”. He notes that the local occupation forces’ commanders live like “kings” – deciding whether impoverished families can eat or drink.
It can only be hoped that rare voices like Levy’s, which help permeate Israeli’s whitewashed view of the occupation being carried out in their name, have some resonance in Israel, and persuade Israelis to support the Palestinian cause, turning against their government’s actions.
Perhaps the very fact that Levy is permitted to have such a voice in Israel’s media is a sign of the fact that the myth of Israel as being a progressive, democratic force in the Middle East is being gradually shattered, even on its home ground.