On 21 November, the Zionist Federation of Australia awarded the Jerusalem Prize to the Prime Minister for his friendship and support of Israel. Scott Morrison used the occasion to praise the Israeli government and repeat his attacks on the deliberations of the United Nations.
Israel is expert in stealing water from the Palestinians.
In the first week of November, just after she had sacked Jock Laurie, the NSW Drought Coordinator, Melinda Pavey the NSW Minister for Water, Property and Housing flew to Israel to meet the Israeli Minister for Energy Yuval Steinitz. They signed an MoU to enhance collaboration and cooperation in water resource management aimed at helping secure water for NSW’s future.
Mrs Pavey said that innovation in all aspects of Israel’s water management could help inform future water policy and infrastructure plans for NSW.
In January 2019, on ABC Radio’s Saturday Extra, Geraldine Doogue interviewed two Israeli ‘water experts’ who had been sponsored by the Israeli Embassy, David Gonski and the Jewish National Fund. Doogue reported on a supposed ‘major initiative between the Australian Government, the NSW and Queensland state governments and the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish National Fund.’
The Jewish National Fund has been active in dispossessing Palestinians of their lands since 1948.
These events suggest potential for far more than Israeli influence in water management. Once accepted as a partner, Israeli government and corporations will have a chance to give advice and promote other sales, concerning information technology, irrigation systems, surveillance equipment and even the manufacture of arms.
Secrecy is crucial to these developments. Premier Berejiklian apparently did not know of Mrs Pavey’s hasty visit to Israel. No-one seems to know whether her travel was Israel sponsored, the duration of this MoU, how much it will cost or whether ‘future water policy in NSW’ will extend beyond state boundaries.
Australia’s interest in encouraging Israeli expertise in water preservation and the supply of safe drinking water ignores a major human rights issue.
Israel is expert at stealing water from Palestinians. In Australian politicians’ references to cooperation with Israel, let alone in the Prime Minister’s responses to the award of Jerusalem Prize, no mention is made of the mismatch between Israeli claims and Palestinians’ experiences.
A JWire Newsdesk report on Minister Pavey’s visit refers to ‘smart technologies, energy-efficient and chemical-free de-salinization plants which enable Israel to continually supply safe drinking water to its people.’ These ‘people’ do not include Palestinians.
In the occupied West Bank, Palestinians cannot access their own water resources, they are unable to dig new wells, forbidden from utilizing water from the Jordan River and are forced to purchase nearly a quarter of their water from the Israeli water company Mekorot.
Controlling access to water is a means of humiliation, subordination and punishment. Palestinians in the West Bank use about 72 litres of water per person per day compared to 200-300 litres for Israelis.
Amnesty International reports that ‘Swimming pools, well-watered lawns and large irrigated farms in Israeli settlements stand in stark contrast to Palestinian villages whose inhabitants struggle to even meet their essential domestic water needs.
In parts of the West Bank, Israeli settlers use up to 20 times more water than neighboring Palestinians who must manage on the minimum amount recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Access to clean water on the West Bank is severely limited but in Gaza it has been polluted or denied completely. The cruelty is endless.
A WHO Report of March 2019 says that denial of clean water to Gaza will soon make that densely populated strip of land uninhabitable. The WHO also insists that 97 per cent of water pumped from Gaza’s aquifer which is depleting at a rapid rate, fails to meet minimum standards of quality.
OXFAM concludes that less than four per cent of fresh water in Gaza is drinkable. The US based RAND Corporation says that one fourth of diseases in the besieged Gaza strip are water borne and that ‘water is frequently unavailable at Al Shifa, the largest hospital in Gaza.’
This NSW water management agreement with the Israeli government may be presented as a logical response to Australia’s drought, but it also looks like an invitation for Israel to be accepted as a partner in Australian governance.
The process in which Minister Pavey is a willing promoter could almost certainly include arrangements for security which would mean military-like surveillance plus protection of corporate interests which are state owned or closely allied to the Israeli government.
Like a drip feed irrigation system, controls could be introduced in NSW as though they are desirable, inevitable and likely to be taken for granted.
Given Australia’s record of welcoming dependency on influential patrons, the Israelization of NSW via this water agreement could be just a start.
Authoritarianism nurtured by outside influence can be insidious. That is how democracy erodes and inhumane governance works.
Stuart Rees OAM is Professor Emeritus, University of Sydney & inaugural recipient of the Jerusalem (Al Quds ) Peace Prize.