Alerts and Reports 

Convoy to break the water siege

"Here under out feet is an enormous reservoir of water, but we are not allowed to dig wells. For the Israeli government, that would be worse than throwing bombs. Our spring, from which this village drank for many generations, is under Israeli control, and we get less than half what the village needs. In many houses there is no water in the taps since March this year. We want peace – but how can you make peace when Netanyahu decides how much water we are allowed to drink?" said Fuad Arar, Mayor of Karawat Bani Zeid, in a rally held to protest the denial of water to Palestinians at the village's main square, held at 3.00 pm on Friday and attended jointly by Israelis and Palestinians.

The action was initiated by Israeli peace activists from different groups, who had visited Karawat Bani Zeid some weeks ago and heard about the inhabitants' dire situation. They collected donations and organized the water convoy, also launching a public campaign about the unequal division of water between Israelis and Palestinians. At noon on Friday Israeli peace activists gathered at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and set out in convoys of buses and private cars, with four big water tankers at the front. In addition to the water in the tankers, many participants had brought packs of six mineral water bottles. The vehicles were covered with signs and placards reading: "Break the water siege!", "Israel denies water to the Palestinians", "Water is not a luxury but a fundamental right", "Everybody deserves to have water in the tap", "A just division of the water – now!", "Would you have been willing to live with a dry tap". Among the participants for the Jerusalem convoy was Knesset Member Afu Agbariya of Hadash. A parallel Palestinian water convoy set out from central Ramallah at the same time.

The water convoys traveled long through long and winding mountain roads, so as to avoid the IDF roadblocks, and reached the village at about 2.30 pm, where they were very warmly received by a large crow. Members of the Palestinian Police kept order with difficulty as the many cars wound their way through the narrow streets to the central plaza. There, the protest rally started with the participation of villagers, Israeli activists and Palestinian guests from Ramallah and neighboring villages. "As an Israeli, I am ashamed that an Israeli citizen gets every day four times as much water as does a Palestinian inhabitant. This village, Karawt Bani Zeit, suffers especially – but the problem is general, throughout the Occupied Territories. There can be no peace without a just division of the water sources, so as to give Palestinians all they need for domestic consumption, for agriculture and for developing their industry and economy" said Ya'akov Manor of Kfar Sava, representative of the organizers.

While the rally was going on, many villagers who get no water in their homes gathered around the tankers which arrived at the village and filled up buckets and barrels which were taken away in cars, on the backs of a donkey and in wheelbarrows. By the end of the rally, the tankers had all been emptied to the last drop.

"I know that these tankers are no more than a stop-gap measure giving no more than a momentary relief. We, as peace activists, cannot give a solution to the problems of Karawat Bani Zeid and of many other severely suffering villages and towns. We demand of the Government of Israel to fundamentally change its policy and provide an overall solution" said Manor at the end of the rally. And the mayor Fuad Arar responded: "There would still come the day when you Israelis could come here without a need for water tankers, and as our guests to drink the good sweet water of our spring, which will once again flow through the taps."

Partner organizations: Humans Without Borders, Anarchists Against Walls, Young Communist League of Israel, Bat Shalom, Gush Shalom, ICAHD, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Alternative Information Center, Hadash Party, Yesh Gvul, Combatants for Peace, Communist Party of Israel, Meretz Party, Sadaqa-Reut, Coalition of Women for Peace, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, New Profile, Machsom Watch, Rabbis for Human Rights. Taayush-Arab-Jewish Partnership, Tarabut-Hithabrut.

See also Haaretz: "A dry and thirsty land" by Yotam Feldman and Uri Blau, published a week after the convoy