Saturday, 30 July 2011

Israel’s Need to Secure Water Resources

Mismanagement, occupation and overuse of already scarce water resources in the Middle East are increasingly becoming one of the main contributing factors towards conflict in this region. Most especially, in respect to the conflict between Israel and its neighbouring Arab countries. Usually conflict in this region is associated with religion, terrorism and oil, however, it is becoming gradually more apparent that one of the major driving forces behind heightened conflict in the Middle East is resource scarcity. Fresh water resources, in particular, are becoming a crucial aspect in the tension and any future resolution of the conflict.
Israel’s need for securitising water is not a recent phenomenon and can even be traced back to before the Balfour Declaration. This need to achieve environmental security for its people, by occupying land and restricting Arab access to water is having devastating effects on water resources in the region. It’s not only effecting the environment, the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza strip ‘are receiving well below the recommended 100 litres per capita daily recommended by the World Health Organisation (WTO).’ (Amnesty 2009: 4). This inequality of access to water is created and controlled by Israel, who uses it as a way of achieving security when, in fact, it is only likely to inflame widespread anger towards Israel and its policies. This could in turn increase the hostility towards Israel amongst Arabs and create greater sympathy for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. Israel’s quest for water security is essentially positioning them in further risk of conflict and even war.
Fresh water is the most essential resource on the planet; fundamental to all ecological and societal activities, including food and energy production, industrial development, transportation and sanitation. However, fresh water resources are unevenly and unfairly distributed, and some regions of the world suffer from significant water-shortag
 Water-shortage can have a direct link to conflict, as access to basic resources can trigger violence as human populations increase, standards of living increase and environmental changes affect water-supply and create future uncertainty. Regions where water is scarce can often generate competition and conflict for limited resources; nations view access to water as a matter of national security. ‘Issues of water security have played a role in regional instabilities.’ (Giordiano and Wolf 2002: 293).
 One of the longest ongoing water disputes relating to resource scarcity and resource dependence is the Arab-Israeli conflict, especially in relation to the water resources in the Jordan River. 
  The importance of this issue is under-researched; the continued occupation of the West Bank guarantees the State of Israel control over vital water resources that originate in the West Bank but are consumed in the most part by Israel. This is a non-negotiable prerequisite for the survival of a Jewish national homeland, a fundamental pledge of the Zionist movement. Concerns for economic viability of a Jewish state in arid Palestine drove the World Zionist Organization to be adamant that it was “of vital importance not only to secure all water resources already feeding the country, but also to be able to conserve and control them at their sources.” (Kelly and Homer-Dixon 1995).
This reveals the importance of water control to Israel, it exposes one of the major, if not the main reason as to why Israel will not surrender control over the territory. Israel’s survival is dependent on its occupation of the West Bank. Relinquishing control of the territory could potentially be an act of suicide for the State of Israel.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

'Oh Dear-ism'

As we move into an age of ‘Oh Dear-ism’ otherwise known as the phenomenon of ‘distant suffering’ where we become so overloaded by global issues like war in the Middle East, Earthquake in Japan, piracy in Somalia, HIV epidemic in South Africa, Genocide in Zimbabwe etc, etc, etc….. that we just don't feel anything anymore when such images of hollow-eyed depressed African children covered in flies with swollen bellys' are broadcast across our TV screens; our TVs may be switched on but we have switched off. 

The concept of ‘Oh Dearism’ was pioneered by the ever controversial Adam Curtis he argues that we have become immune to bad news because we are exposed to it daily- It leaves many of us feeling helpless and depressed to which our response eventually becomes a simple: ‘Oh Dear’. 
Although ‘Oh Dear-ism’ has been recently identified and labeled by Curtis, it is not a recent development, it actually began in the late 1960s with the rise of the counter-culture movement. This apathy has since escalated and suffering in media leaves us apathetic and unable to act on problems we are exposed to. Suffering usually provokes a feeling of pity or at least indignation yet the effects have steadily dulled and have lost their intensity.
I have never had an ‘oh dear’ reaction to this form of news or media (although maybe this is because I don’t watch or read enough news). I have always had an intense cocktail of feelings brewing inside me made up of: anger, intense sadness, anxiety and sympathy. Although I have to admit that these feelings are intensified by my feeling of helplessness in many cases but I am a firm believer that “what’s the point of me doing anything, I’m only one person” is the WRONG attitude. The problem behind this clich├ęd mentality is that it easily spreads hand-in-hand with ‘Oh Dear-ism’ and results in nobody doing anything except direct all their focus on developing their own selfish lives built around the consumerism trap: ‘I buy therefore I am’. This only intensifies problems via the environmental costs of the materialist Western lifestyle which usually puts strains on the Global South who are reaping the negative effects first.
Anyway, the thing that I’m doing to make a change (as insignificant as it may be in the bigger picture) is working in a community centre in Palestine offering free lessons to children- many of whom are from a neighbouring refugee camp. I was lucky enough to attend one of the best schools in Europe due to the generous charity of others and I would like to give back in the same respect. Education opens doors for many of these children who have nothing and is the only opportunity presented to them as a way to elevate themselves out of poverty. English is particularly useful as the Palestinian economy is in tatters as a result of strict occupation and it means that they could work for foreign companies and organizations (of which there are many inside West Bank Palestine especially).
I’m not doing this to make myself feel like a better person. Anybody who has known me for the past three years could see that I was quite depressed on the return from my previous trip to Palestine, all the stories of suffering and pain are quite difficult to deal with and I carried this round with me for a long time, feeling like the ghost of Christmas Future. It would be much easier for me to shut my eyes and switch off BBC News at six like so many others do to stay happy but I don’t want to take that route, it’s the long and hard path for me…. tally ho!