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The Humanitarian Paradigm Has Failed Palestinians

The UN has long decided that Palestinians should remain part of the futile humanitarian paradigm which considers aid as temporary in a colonial setting that receives far more funding that Palestinians get to survive on basic necessities.

The UN has long decided that Palestinians should remain part of the futile humanitarian paradigm which considers aid as temporary in a colonial setting that receives far more funding that Palestinians get to survive on basic necessities.

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) established how incompetent international institutions are when it comes to holding Israel accountable for its international human rights law and international humanitarian law violations. For an institution that has Agenda Item 7 as a permanent fixture, the focus on human rights in Palestine is slipping through many loopholes.

A report on Israel’s water theft was presented at the UNHRC, in which the stated facts were not news to anyone well versed in Israel’s violations, stated: “The report found that water was unavailable in a sufficient and continuous manner in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, with nearly 660,000 Palestinians having limited access to water.”

In Gaza, 97 percent of the water available is not suitable for drinking. The repercussions of such statistics point towards poverty.

“While the General Assembly has recognised that affordable water costs should not exceed three percent of household income, according to surveys families in Gaza spend up to a third or even half of their income on water,” the report notes. 

In the occupied West Bank, Israel’s diversion of water resources to accommodate its 450,000 settler population has restricted water access to 2.7 million Palestinians. As the occupying power, Israel is required to provide access to water supply to the occupied population, yet Israeli settlements continue to benefit from Israel’s appropriation of resources. 

There is no need for UNHRC meetings to establish such facts. Given that Israel’s violations are so well-documented, the international community should have already acted upon the reports it commissioned. In which case, a new report might turn up different statistics, owing to a change in politics. But change is something the international community is averse to, especially when it comes to guaranteeing human rights. 

The UN has long decided that Palestinians should remain part of the futile humanitarian paradigm which considers aid as temporary in a colonial setting that receives far more funding that Palestinians get to survive on basic necessities.

That is, unless you are a Palestinian living in Gaza and Israel’s illegal blockade exacerbates the already precarious standard of living in the enclave. Possibly the UN has forgotten its estimates that Gaza would become unliveable by 2020?

It is not that the presented report fails to connect Israel’s military occupation with water theft, although colonialism should have taken precedence as the root cause of inequalities which Palestinians face in their daily lives. Rather, the absence of any initiative by the international community to hold Israel accountable is what creates the most dissonance. 

Since it is unlikely that any reminders to Israel about its obligations as the occupying power will yield any reversal of violations inflicted upon the Palestinian people, it stands to reason that one would question what the international community wishes to achieve, or rather, what it stands for in terms of human rights. 

“Access to the rights to water and sanitation must be addressed urgently to reduce the impact on vulnerable Palestinian communities and to prevent irreversible damage to ecosystems and human health,” one of the report’s recommendations partly reads.

One might question what the international community has accomplished between the issuing of one report and another, for Gaza’s untenable situation to become even more precarious, and for the statistics on the enclave’s lack of potable water to remain the same, year after year. 

It is no use to call on Israel to end its blockade on Gaza, and to lift all restrictions on Palestinians. Israel’s colonial enterprise thrives upon human rights violations and in turn, it is reassured that the humanitarian paradigm developed by the international community for the Palestinian people will continue to serve as a permanent alternative.

Water theft aids Israel’s political aims – that of forcing Palestinians into voluntarily displacing themselves due to incessant hardships. Such a tactic necessitates a political response that empowers the Palestinians, as opposed to forcibly recruiting a people living under colonial and military violence to fit into a failed humanitarian agenda. 

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