Towards the end of this month, the Middle East Quartet–comprised of the US, the UN, the EU, and Russia–is expected to release a report that may or may not include some unusually strong criticism of Israeli settlements.
The “may or may not” aspect all depends on the outcome of what is apparently some intensive Israeli lobbying going on at present in an effort to “soften” the tone of the report. So all-out is this effort that Israel reportedly has assigned not just one but two teams of negotiators to the project–a personal representative of Benjamin Netanyahu by the name of Isaac Molho who is holding one-on-one talks with US envoy Frank Lowenstein, and a group of “senior Foreign Ministry officials” that are engaged in talks with the other three members of the Quartet.
Officially the report is designed to address the diplomatic freeze between Israel and the Palestinians. Though it is expected to be relatively brief, Haaretz reports that Israeli officials are expecting “extensive criticism” over illegal settlements as well as the treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank’s Area C, which is under full Israeli control.
Moreover, the poor, put-upon Israelis are harboring fears that the report may be used to bolster President Obama’s “legacy” on the Israeli-Palestinian issue–and special fears revolve around the possibility that it could end up being submitted to the UN Security Council for some sort of action, possibly as the basis for an official resolution.
“The main question is how harsh criticism of the settlements will be,” says a senior Israeli official quoted by Haaretz. “All members of the Quartet can rally around this issue without a problem.”
In other words, though it might be a bit chancy, all members of the Quartet can probably get away with criticizing the settlements without being branded as “anti-Semites.” But just to be on the safe side, they plan to throw in some language about Palestinian “incitement” and criticism of the PA for “not stopping terror attacks against Israel.” Here is a bit from the Haaretz report:
Over the past few weeks, the Quartet report has largely become an American report. UN special envoy Nickolay Mladenov and EU envoy Fernando Gentilini are contributing to the content and recommendations, but Lowenstein is taking the lead in composing the report.
Which is to say that the US envoy, who just happens to be Jewish (certainly no conflict of interest there!), is calling the shots here–although there is mention of a meeting set to occur in Moscow this week in an effort to try and “unify the various drafts.” Mostly it would appear, however, to come down to a question of how susceptible Lowenstein will be to Israeli cajoling and intimidation.
Well, at least the Israelis don’t have Martin Indyk to contend with. They seem to have “lobbied” him completely out of the picture two years ago.
Martin Indyk was Frank Lowenstein’s immediate predecessor in the job of US “Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations,” as it’s officially titled. I never really thought of Indyk as anything even remotely resembling a champion of justice–on the Middle East or any other issue–but a friend recently emailed me an article from the arch-conservative Washington Free Beacon entitled, “Indyk Caught Bashing Israel at Hotel Bar.” The article, based upon the comments of an anonymous source said to have overheard Indyk and a group of his associates as they were tossing back a few drinks, appeared on May 16, 2014–exactly two years ago today.
The conversation allegedly took place in a bar at the luxury Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington, and the report depicts the former US diplomat as speaking of Israel in a “nasty” tone, this while being concurred with and amen-ed by his friends.
Indyk and his staff “openly blamed” conservative Israeli politician Naftali Bennett and others for “sabotaging the [peace] negotiations” by issuing permits for new Israeli housing blocks in Jerusalem.
“In the 30-minute conversation, no one at the table mentioned a single wrong thing the Palestinians had done,” according to the source who overheard the conversation. “There was no self-criticism whatsoever.”
Among those present were some of Indyk’s staff members from the State Department, described in some cases as laughing as their boss launched criticisms–not only of Israel and its settlement policies (the entire group reportedly concurred that talks had broken down because of the settlements), but also of Daily Beast reporter Josh Rogin who had recently published a report quoting John Kerry using the word “apartheid” in reference to Israel. Additionally, the group honed in on Barbi Weinberg, former AIPAC staffer and founding member of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, reportedly described by Indyk as a “right-wing nut job.”
But perhaps the most interesting comments of all came as the conversation shifted from the West Bank into Gaza.
Indyk and his team expressed shock about reports that Palestinian children have had to wade through sewage spills in the Gaza Strip, which is under Hamas rule.
Those at the table went on to blame Israel for the sewage issue, accusing it of diverting clean water to Israeli “settlements” and allowing the sewage to flow into Palestinian areas.
Why did Indyk make the comment he is said to have made regarding sewage in Gaza? And what were those with him referring to when they blamed Israel for the problem? The Free Beacon unfortunately doesn’t provide any detail. But worth noting, however, is that in December of 2013, just a few months before the conversation in the Ritz-Carlton took place, Gaza was waylaid by Alexa, a fierce winter storm that hit the strip and caused massive flooding. And at the time, Palestinian officials accused Israel of further exacerbating the disaster by opening dams or floodgates east of the coastal enclave (see report below) and diverting additional water into the area.
On June 27, 2014, exactly one month and eleven days after the Washington Free Beacon report appeared, Indyk resigned from his position as US special envoy to the Middle East.
And now here we are anticipating a report which may include some language about Israel a tad bit harsher than normal–that is if Israel’s lobbyists don’t succeed in having it removed. As Haaretz puts it, Israel is “working to soften the tone,” and a key consideration seems to hinge upon whether or not the word “illegal” will be used as a defining point of the settlements. Previously US officials have described the settlements as “illegitimate” or as “an obstacle to peace,” but the word “illegal” has never been used before.
It is ironic, I suppose, that Obama, with just eight months left in office, may have finally decided to call the Israeli settlements illegal. It seems the only time US taxpayers get an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay out of their political leaders is when those leaders are concerned about their “legacies.” The rest of the time they are firmly in the grip of AIPAC and other powerful lobbies, it seems.
The Quartet report is expected to be released on May 25. Earlier this year, France called for an international summit of world powers to discuss how to restart the peace talks between Israel and Palestine. That summit is scheduled to take place in Paris on May 30.
The following is an article I initially posted on January 5, 2014. The article discusses the massive flooding caused by winter storm Alexa as well as the allegations that Israel had opened dams and diverted excess flood waters into Gaza.
No Dams in the Negev? Anatomy of a Hasbara Swarm
The Nir Am Reservoir lies near the town of Sderot, in southern Israel. This view of the reservoir shows the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun in the background.
“How can we return the occupied territories? There is no one to return them to.” —Golda Meir
“There are no dams in the Negev.” —A hasbara talking point
By Richard Edmondson
In the week before Christmas, the Zionist-hasbara crowd came out swinging in response to comments by Palestinian officials that Israel had opened dams east of Gaza and thereby further aggravated the flood disaster then engulfing the coastal territory.
In a December 18 article published in Commentary magazine, Jonathan S. Tobin accused Palestinians of “blaming Israel for the weather” and insisted that “there are no dams in the region bordering Gaza.” His article additionally included a link to my own site, richardedmondson.net, as well as to a Press TV video on YouTube, and went on to express the cheerless lament that “purveyors of Jew-hatred” (presumably like myself) have come to “dominate” Palestinian politics with the result of keeping alive “false hope about Israel’s eventual destruction.”
Tobin’s article, headlined “Hamas Asks You to Buy a Dam in the Negev,” called attention to an article in the Times of Israel, also with an evocative headline—“How Hamas Used the Weather to Defame Israel”—and both articles referenced statements by two Palestinian officials in Gaza which the writers deemed as erroneous and defamatory toward Israel.
The two officials named were Yasser Shanti, chairman of Gaza’s Disaster Response Committee, and Muhammad Al-Maidana, a Civil Defense spokesperson. Shanti is said to have told journalists late in the day on December 13 that Israel had opened dams east of Gaza, causing even greater flooding within the coastal territory than what was already then taking place. And in what both Tobin, as well as his colleague at the Times of Israel, viewed as but a slight “variation” on Shanti’s comments, Al-Maidana is reported to have said that “sewage canals” (rather than dams) were opened, and that these also (or instead of) were to be found east of the Gaza Strip.
“There is only problem with these claims (sic),” said Tobin. “While Israelis have made the southern portion of the country bloom via ingenuity and clever irrigation schemes, dams are a scarce commodity in a desert region without rivers or lakes. In fact there are no dams in the region bordering Gaza.”
I first became aware that something stupendous was happening in Gaza when a friend emailed me an article by Gaza journalist Mohammed Omer, headlined Gaza Returns to Donkey Days, which I posted on December 6. This was actually a few days before the arrival of winter storm Alexa, but Omer noted that homes in Gaza were already flooding due to rain, power outages, and backed-up sewage. He also noted that streets were lined with garbage because there was no fuel to run the garbage trucks, and that the job of refuse collection had been relegated to people driving donkey carts. Accompanying the story was a photo of a girl sitting on a donkey cart parked next to a pile of litter:
Then came the winter storm, Alexa. On December 12 I posted a second report from Omer and also I began making periodic visits to In Gaza, a website that had begun posting information on the disaster that it was collecting from a variety of sources. Included in their material were some stunning photos and videos showing streets completely inundated and people paddling in boats. I thought back to the December 6 article by Omer, and it didn’t take much imagination to figure out that the water that those people were paddling around in and wading through was filled with garbage and sewage.
All of this I began reposting at my own site—including an article from Ma’an News Agency in which Shanti’s comments were reported. Here is an excerpt from that article:
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Gaza government’s Disaster Response Committee announced late Friday that Israeli authorities had opened up dams just east of the Gaza Strip, flooding numerous residential areas in nearby villages within the coastal territory.
Committee chairman Yasser Shanti said in a press conference that Israeli authorities had opened up dams just to the east of the border with the Gaza Strip earlier in the day.
He warned that residential areas within the Gaza Valley would be flooding within the coming hours.
Could Israel really have done what Shanti said they did? Does it really have the capability to flood Gaza? And if it did do this, what were its reasons? Were they as outright despicable as one might initially jump to conclude, or were there perhaps mitigating circumstances?
With all this in mind, on December 17 I put up a post entitled Did Israel Deliberately Flood Gaza? I made no accusations in the article. I merely asked the question. But one thing I discovered was that if Israel did open dams or somehow divert water into Gaza, it would not be the first time, or at least it was not the first time it had been accused of such. What I had come across was a 2010 Press TV report in which Palestinians in Gaza had leveled almost identical charges to those they were making last month. The story is told in the video, which I embedded into my article and which you’ll find at the above link. With scenes of flooding as a backdrop, the Press TV reporter narrates:
The Valley of Gaza, once a dry basin, turned into a raging river on Monday night. At approximately 6 p.m. hundreds of families in the central Gaza Strip fled their neighborhoods as water gushed into their homes. Israel had opened one of its dams located to the east of the central Gaza Strip, allowing water to spill into and flood two Palestinian towns.
Just below the video I wrote the following words:
If Israel did this in 2010, does it beg belief they would have done the same thing again this past week? If they did, the question then becomes did they do it out of a) a need to divert flooding from their own communities in Israel, or b) pure malice?
The following day, December 18, Tobin published his article in Commentary:
It should first be noted that the original sources for the claim that Israel opens dams to flood Gaza come from Iran’s Press TV. That font of journalistic integrity floated stories in 2010 and 2012 that spoke of Israeli authorities flooding Gaza by opening dams that supposedly exist to the east of the Gaza strip. But these stories provide no maps showing the site of the dams or documentation about them. Neither that shortcoming nor even a basic knowledge of the geography of the area has stopped Israel bashers from continuing to blog or tweet links to these fallacious reports.
In the passage above, the link coded into the date “2010” is to my own article, “Did Israel Deliberately Flood Gaza?”, while the one almost immediately adjacent to it is to yet another Press TV video—also on dams being opened east of Gaza—this one from two years later. And here I have to give a hat tip to Tobin, for I was unaware of this second Press TV report. But like the first one, the report from 2012 features footage of flooding in Gaza (though different footage from that shown in the 2010 report) along with allegations from local residents and officials that dams were opened. Also, curiously, in both reports the flood-stricken area is more or less the same…the central Gaza valley…suggesting that in both instances the water possibly was released…again if it was released…from the same location.
Also on December 18, we got our hasbara swarm. I would hasten to add, though, that the swarm that descended upon us was not near the size of the one that came down on Ma’an News (more about which in a moment), but at any rate our first comment was posted by “Sarah” at 11:24 a.m. She wrote:
I’m not sure if my favorite part is when they claim that the water reached 5 meters in some places (maybe they don’t know what a meter is?) or when they showed the picture of the Mediterranean Sea claiming that to be flooded water. Or of course, the fun non-fact that Israel opened its non-existent dams. That one had my sides almost splitting.
The water shown in the Press TV report was clearly not from the Mediterranean Sea (unless there was an unreported tsunami that day), but my reply to Sarah was as follows:
Maybe the solution, Sarah, is for Israel to end its blockade of Gaza, as the UNRWA official has called upon them to do. By imposing its blockade Israel bears ultimate responsibility for fuel shortages and other problems that have led to this disaster–and ultimately is going to be blamed, either justly or unjustly, for whatever calamities occur in the course of it. By the way, Israel has at least one dam that I know of, the Degania Dam on the Jordan River.
My comment about the Degania Dam, located on the Jordan River at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, prompted accusations that I was either a lunatic or else clueless about geography and that there was no way water from a dam at that location could have flooded Gaza. I, of course, had not made such a claim; I had merely pointed out to Sarah that her remark about Israel’s “non-existent dams” was not entirely accurate, and that there was at least one.
A System of Reservoirs and the Israeli National Water Carrier
As it turns out, however, there are other dams in Israel, including in the Negev. The desert region also has reservoirs. A click here will take you to a location on Google Maps showing you the town of Sderot in southern Israel. Directly to the west of the town lies the Kibbutz Nir Am, and due west of the kibbutz you will see the Nir Am Reservoir. It sits on a point overlooking Gaza. Move the map to the south and west and you will see four additional reservoirs, all lying along Israel’s border with Gaza. With a capacity of 1.5 million cubic liters of water, the Nir Am is the largest of these five reservoirs, but all are connected.
The image below shows what is known as the National Water Carrier of Israel. It is a system of giant pipes, canals, tunnels, and pumping stations, by means of which water is pumped from the Sea of Galilee in the northern part of the country, down to the coastal areas surrounding Tel Aviv, and finally to the Negev Desert in the south. The system is operated by Mekorot, Israel’s national water company.
You’ll note that the blue lines represent fresh water, while the red line leading down around Gaza and into the Negev contains treated sewage. The water in this line is used for agricultural purposes.
The National Water Carrier began pumping water in 1964. Here is what the system looked like as it was being constructed.
Also perhaps of interest, especially to those who claim there are “no dams in the Negev,” is the system of limans—small, manmade bodies of water throughout the desert that were created for irrigation and also as a means of combatting soil erosion and desertification. Limans catch runoff from wadis when they occasionally flood. Each liman has a small dam. According to the Jewish National Fund, there are approximately 420 limans in the Negev. Below is a photo of one:
But limans, as you can see, are rather small. Likewise, the dams, referred to as “check dams,” are built into them. They’re also scattered out over a wide area, and the chance they may have been a factor in the flooding of Gaza is remote. But also at the Jewish National Fund website is a proud history of the work it has done in developing various parts of Israel, including the Negev, and including apparently dams. In the following passage, the letters “JNF-KKL” are the English and Hebrew acronyms for the organization spliced together. It is how the Jewish National Fund refers to itself in this article. Here is an excerpt:
JNF-KKL spread out to the south, to the edge of the Arava. Some 25 percent of all tree plantings in the 1980s were carried out in the Negev, bringing its forest area to a total of 45,000 acres. Army camps that had been set up in the Negev after the evacuation of the Sinai were planted with JNF-KKL trees to create shelter from the burning sun, shield soldiers and equipment from dust storms, and provide some respite for those soldiers stationed in the harsh desert.
JNF-KKL began to focus a large part of its attention on the burgeoning water crisis during this period. Towards the end of the 1980’s, JNF-KKL carried out a number of large-scale water conservation projects, building dams and reservoirs. These vital projects allowed JNF-KKL to capture rainwater run-off when the infrequent rains did fall, water which would have otherwise been lost to the sea. Reservoirs were built in the Arava Valley, at Reshafim in the Beit She’arim Valley, and at Kedma near Kiryat Gat. An artificial lake was built in Timna Park in southern Negev.
Additional references to dams in the Negev—and particularly adjacent to Gaza—can also be found in a book entitled Water and Peace in the Middle East, edited by J. Isaac and H. Shuval and published in 1994 (hat tip to “Lana”, commenter number 25 ). Here is an excerpt:
Wadi Gaza which flows during the winter season, originating from the Hebron mountains in the east and ends at the seashore south of Gaza, has been blocked by Israel. Several dams were built along the way preventing the water from flowing into the Gaza Strip which otherwise would have provided a valuable source of water to be used for irrigation and for compensation for the lost pumped-out water. There are no known figures of the amount of water this wadi brings, but it would have been a great help to the irrigation in the middle zone of Gaza.
Note, of course, the words “the middle zone of Gaza.” Recall also that both Press TV reports, from 2010 and 2012, described the flooding as occurring in the central area of Gaza. Hearken back also to the announcement by Shanti this past December 13, as reported by Ma’an:
He warned that residential areas within the Gaza Valley would be flooding within the coming hours.
Flooding in central Gaza, and the opening of dams there, is also mentioned in this report, posted on December 15, from the Palestine Information Center:
GAZA, (PIC)– Hundreds of houses in the central Gaza Strip were flooded as the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on Saturday afternoon opened the earth dams east of the town of Wadi Salaqa in Deir al-Balah.
The IOF established many earth dams east of the Gaza Strip to collect rainwater to use it; however in case the levels of water increase they open these dams and water flow to Gaza.
Palestinian sources told Quds Press that the rescue teams and civil defense have evacuated 40 families including 200 people from the town of Wadi Salaqa and brought them to a shelter center.
The sources added that 300 families have been moved to the shelter center of Hussein School run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees “UNRWA” in Jabalya north of the Gaza Strip.
The Municipality of Gaza appealed to the residents living in low-lying areas in the Gaza Strip to evacuate their homes before the evening for fear their houses will be flooded with rainwater.
The town of Deir al-Balah, cited in the lead paragraph above, is mentioned in a lot of other reports on the Gaza flooding as well.
The area seems to have been especially hard hit. If you look at it on Google Maps you will see that it is pretty much smack dab in the middle of Gaza. But just a few miles to the south and west of there lies the town of Khan Yunis, where a 21-year-old girl named Rana lives. Rana wrote the following report…and yes, she too mentions the dams:
My name is Rana. I have lived in the city of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip all 21 years of my life. What is happening in Gaza is not fiction but a bitter reality, which we lack the means to defend ourselves against. In the last few days, an unusually powerful storm has flooded many areas, displacing hundreds of residents from their homes. Children are without shelter from the cold and rain. Entire neighborhoods are sinking.
My family and I spent four days in darkness in below-freezing weather: no electricity, no water and no heat. I was so cold, I couldn‘t leave my bed and the small comfort it and my blankets provided. The cold felt like it penetrated my bones. Yet, I am lucky. I witnessed many people as they became homeless, their children desperate for food and warmth.
Friends called to tell me about the flooding and freezing in their areas. I felt bad, unable to help.
Power lines are down and our streets are filled with raw sewage. Greenhouses have been destroyed, affecting farmers and reducing the already minimal food supply we Gazans are forced to survive on.
Making conditions worse, Israel opened two dams, releasing a torrent of water that inundated many homes. As their houses sank, some of my neighbours nearly drowned. Fortunately, rescue workers came to their aid.
All of this was not enough for Israel. Its soldiers have been shooting at civilians in the village of Khuza’a, to the east of my city. Unarmed residents, women and children, attempting to flee the flooded town, were driven back for fear of being shot.
Israel’s action, assisted by the world’s silence, increases our suffering. Where is the international law we hear so many people talk about but never implement? Where is the community that talks about justice and humanitarian support? If my people are prevented from obtaining the basic requirements of life at least we should speak up and raise our voices.
Another storm is expected to hit my vulnerable homeland next week, bringing with it more suffering and more homelessness. When will the world wake up and treat us like human beings?
Rana Alshami, Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip
If you once again go to Google Maps you will notice that Khan Yunis lies in fairly close proximity to two reservoirs. Of the five reservoirs Israel maintains along the Gaza border, these are the two southernmost. They are small, but if water somehow were diverted from them, the effect upon the people in the nearby Gazan villages would probably be not inconsiderable.
But of course, it isn’t only central Gaza that was inundated in the recent flood. In a story posted at Ma’an News on December 13, reporter Alex Shams reports particularly heavy flooding also in the northern Gaza Strip.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Gaza Strip was pounded by fierce winds and rain again on Friday as flooding reached dangerous levels in many areas, forcing thousands to flee their homes amid widespread power outages as temperatures plunged into the single digits.
The flooding was worst in the northern Gaza Strip, where hundreds fled their homes and water levels reached 40-50 cm in some parts, forcing residents to use boats to navigate their neighborhoods.
In the same article, Shams goes on to quote Chris Gunness, of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, who also notes heavy flooding in the north:
UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness told Ma’an, “In Gaza, there is a significant problem with flooding in the north, specifically in Jabaliya, and UNRWA staff has been working all night,”
“A UNRWA staff member reported that there were three meters of water surrounding his house,” he added, pointing out that water had come up to the first floor in some areas.
Here’s Jabaliya on Google Maps. Move the map southeast by northeast and you will see the other three reservoirs. Note that all three lie in fairly close proximity to Jabaliya.
Let’s turn our attention once more to the northernmost of these—the Nir Am Reservoir.
The Nir Am Reservoir is pictured in the photo at the very top of this post. Look real closely at it. You are standing on the southeastern side of the reservoir, looking out across it, with the skyline of the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun showing in the background.
Below is the reservoir as it is shown on Google Maps, with Sderot to the east, Beit Hanoun to the west, and the reservoir lying in between.
And here is the Google Earth view, though from a slightly different perspective—with the side of the reservoir facing Beit Hanoun shown in the foreground.
You can also go here and see a series of 30 photos shot as the reservoir was under construction in 1996. Click on any image to enlarge the photos, and then enlarge them even further by playing with the zoom controls that show up. The photos are under the copyright of the Jewish National Fund and are in the repository at the Widener Library at Harvard University.
Question: Was a means of diverting water from the Nir Am Reservoir into Gaza built into the system when it was constructed, or, alternately, has one been added since? And if the answer to that is yes, did someone, say perhaps from the nearby town of Sderot, feeling himself divinely chosen by God and aggrieved over the landing of the occasional rocket, slip out during the Alexa downpour to pull the switch, open the floodgate, and release the tide? It is probably impossible for us to know the answer to this, but very much worth keeping in mind is the National Water Carrier and its lines running parallel to Gaza’s border.
Theoretically, the release point, if such exists, would not necessarily have to have been at the Nir Am Reservoir. It could be anywhere along this line. Or, there could be more than one release point. This might explain why especially heavy flooding was recorded in both northern and central Gaza.
Or—as I say—there may be no way of diverting any of this water, not so much as a single drop, into Gaza whatsoever…although my own personal hunch is this is unlikely.
But one thing is for certain. The hasbara crowd, ever convinced of Israel’s virtue and goodness, ever convinced also of the inviolability of their own “Jewish values,” are of the mind that deliberate flooding of Gaza is unthinkable, and moreover seem convinced that only the vilest purveyors of “Jew hatred” could even contemplate such a thing.
“The Damn Dams Don’t Exist”
Most of us have encountered hasbara swarms on the Internet. You get to recognize them after a while. Such a swarm hit Ma’an News following the publication of its initial report on the dams on December 13. A total of 77 comments were posted in response to that article. Given that it has been common knowledge for a while that Israel organizes and recruits teams of people to post comments favorable to the Jewish state on the Internet, it is not unreasonable to assume that at least some of those who descended upon Ma’an were being paid to do so. At any rate, the comments began lickety-split. The very first person to respond to the article, apparently only shortly after it was published, was “Abe.”
How far will Hamas go? Now they blame the weather on ISRAEL!!
Many of the comment posters felt oh-so-acutely aggrieved—not over the fact that Palestinians were literally swimming in sewage, but that a “false” accusation had been made against Israel. The following comments, including grammatical errors and misspellings, are reproduced verbatim et literatim.
Blame you Mr. Editor! The IDF is helping these Palestinians instead of these liars. Complain, complain, complain. Get a life, start to build something up, instead of this looser behavior.
And “Ros D”:
To those asking if this is true – this article is a complete and utter lie. Israel has transferred water pumps and fuel to Gaza to help them. They also transfer tons of aid given every week. As for those maintaining Israel as a terrorist state and the usual BS, all I can say is, there are gaps in their ignorance.
A common theme running through many of the comments was that there are no dams or rivers east of Gaza. Said “Lilith”:
ANYONE HAS BEEN THERE?? I have and there are no rivers. Look on a map. Once again this has nothing to do with Israel in fact Israel took pumps in to get rid of the water. So suck it up twits.
“Sam” (who probably intended to say “west” of the Jordan River):
LOL. There are no dams or rivers east of the Jordan river. What a pathetic lie.
There are no rivers east of Gaza. So who would build dams in the wadi? Even without dams, the rains would have brought flooded wadi for a few hours. It is a fact of life in desertic flood plains. This too happens in Arizona and New Mexico and is it Israel’s fault? Probably not since Hamas does not rule Arizona… Yet.
Dear Editor, there are no rivers in Israel immediately east of Gaze. So, there are no dams. Perhaps you are referring to one or several of the wadis. These run during heavy rains as is happening now all over the Med and middle. east. Is the area getting? flooded is called a “flood plain,” implying “do not build there.” But every once in a while there is a flash flood and when that happens the Gazans blame it on Israel.
“Natan” (apparently an Israeli):
If someone could tell me where these dams are I shall personally make a trip to photograph them and post them on this site. The whole scenario is totally ridiculous – pls. people check your facts.
Other Israelis, elsewhere on the Internet, were also defending their country from the “defamatory” accusations regarding the dams. In an article entitled “Gaza and Their Dam Lies,” published December 19 at JewishPress.com, Paula Stern wrote:
I keep thinking that someone will look at this and get a real laugh. Oh, not for the tragedy of three people dying and 5,000 being evacuated…but about blaming Israel for the worst storm of the century and saying we opened the dams.
We didn’t. We really didn’t. And we didn’t – because the damn dams, damn well don’t exist. That’s right…there are no dams that we dammed up…in fact if I’m not mistaken (sic), there are no dams at all between Israel and Gaza…and, if there are any rivers that flow into Gaza, well, by the time they get anywhere near Gaza, they’re more of a tiny, tiny, tiny stream than anything that anyone would ever call a river.
Stern managed to get through her article without saying anything particularly noxious about the Palestinians, but this was not quite the case with Tobin’s piece in Commentary. The author of that article believes “Hamas blames Israel for suffering in Gaza because that is the only way it can deflect responsibility from itself for the incompetent manner with which it rules the strip,” and he goes on to assert that “Palestinians buy it because it allows them to avoid taking responsibility for their own fate and for making peace.”
Or in other words, the Palestinians are irresponsible, shiftless, no-count, and lazy. It falls into the category of comment one might have heard from plantation owners during the era of slavery in the US, but give Tobin credit for one thing: he does use the word “Palestinians,” suggesting he at least recognizes they exist.
Unlike Tobin, some of the commenters at Ma’an crossed the border into open, sarcastic derision—not only in their denigration of the Palestinians but also in their expressions of delight at the catastrophe then sweeping over Gaza.
bwahahahahah now we in control of the weather as well? they to funny these choppie ignoramaces maybe we can do other things as well wooooooooo
Interesting – except for Iranian and Palestinian “news” agencies, there is not a single reliable agency in the world that has reported this … because it’s a fake?
it’s time to turn Gaza to Venice of the Islamic world
At the same time, some professed to express sympathy for the Palestinian cause, as for instance “Dale”:
There is no dam or river. There is a reservoir and a one-meter wall that can’t be opened or closed. During the storm, it overflowed. I am very disappointed that Maan would print such allegations without checking out the facts first. This destroys their credibility on other issues when they may be telling the truth. It is supposed to represent a “responsible” Palestinian media. what a disappointment. when they hurt their credibility, they don’t help the Palestinian cause
Although a number of Ma’an’s readers posted replies in response, some of which were quite good, the news agency itself seemed to have a policy of simply letting all comments stand on their own as posted (probably due to a lack of staff). At any rate, nothing resembling an “official Ma’an response” can be found in any of the 77 comments.
This was not the case at our own site, where the hasbara swarm that hit on December 18 quickly escalated into a war of words, a war of words fueled at least as much by the direction of events in America as those in Gaza—if not more so.
“Get Your Scummy Lobby Out of My Congress”
Suppose a resolution were to be introduced into the US Senate not only increasing the likelihood of war with Iran but also calling for the decision-making power as to whether America embarks upon such a war to be turned over to the government of Israel. Think about how you would feel if you were an American. It would probably make you pretty angry, would it not? Well, in fact, such a bill was introduced on December 19, and sadly it is not the first time such traitorous legislation has come before Congress. Threatening to derail peace talks between Iran and the Obama administration by imposing even more sanctions, senate bill S.1881—the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013—contains the following provision:
if the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapon program, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with the law of the United States and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence;
The bill was introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and has gained 33 cosponsors (so far). Click here to see a list of Israel’s deputy ministers in the US Senate who have signed onto the legislation.
Shortly after I posted my reply to “Sarah,” wherein, recall, I pointed out the existence of the Degania Dam and suggested that an end to the Gaza blockade might be the solution to the problem and even in Israel’s best interest, a comment was posted by “George Metesky”:
Um…Richard, we would love to end the blockade if it were safe to do so. Only when Gazans declare their desire to live in peace with Israel can we consider this possibility. The Jordan River is nowhere near Gaza. When Hamas and Gazans declare their unequivocal acceptance of a Jewish state as their neighbor and partner for peace, Israel will be overjoyed, and definitely lift any siege, develop economic and cultural ties, and everything else that peace-loving people want.
This was closely followed by a comment from “reefer”:
Richard, please do me a favor and open Google Earth, and then tell me how close the Dagania dam is to the Gaza strip in your own best estimate.
I think that you are clutching at straws to defend your false assertions in your article and flying in the face of common sense and the laws of both physics and liquid dynamics. Water would need to entirely flood every city in Southern Israel before reaching the Gaza Strip from there, including filling up several large desert canyons on the way, creating 100-meter-deep rivers in the process(!!)
Another newsflash: The Dead Sea – which this dam feeds into – is famous for one thing in particular – namely for being the lowest place on Earth, so your response makes no sense at all – unless of course water flows uphill where you live?
The comment’s very last character was a “smiley face.” I, of course, had not made any “false assertions” in my article—something I pointed out in a response directed at both posters:
Dear Impeccably Honest Zionists,
Thank you for the “news flash.” Now please tell me what about my comments “makes no sense at all” to you. The previous commenter made reference to Israel’s “non-existent dams.” I merely pointed out to her that there is at least one dam in Israel, that I know of. Please read my comment again carefully. I did not say the Degania Dam was used to flood Gaza. I do know where the Jordan River is and I do know where Gaza is.
I have the feeling that you folks are getting a little rushed in your hasbara posting efforts. Did you read what I wrote carefully? Please quote back to me what “false assertions” I made. I did not say unequivocally that Israel had flooded Gaza. I merely reported that these are the allegations that were made. Did you take note of the question mark at the end of the title line?
Um…George, all I can tell you is that if you had imposed a blockade on the town in which I live for the past six or seven years as you’ve imposed upon Gaza, I would probably be firing rockets at you too. End the blockade of Gaza. Also, get your scummy Lobby out of my Congress and stop getting us into wars. If you want a war with Iran, go fight it yourselves.
By this time, the war of words had been joined by Ariadna, a regular visitor to our site. Ariadna, who maintains her own site at Boldface News and is also a frequent contributor at deLiberation, is a talented satirist (see her essay Shabbat Goyim Subgroup: The Copulatory Covenant) with a very sharp wit. Zionists would do well to steer clear of her.
“I’m with you,” she proclaimed to “George Metesky,” and then proceeded to propose conditions under which peace could be achieved between Israel and the Palestinians “if both sides compromise fairly”—
1. — Israel must allow a small number of Palestinians to remain in the Jewish State, before shipping the rest out. They get to select which ones. Palestinians must accept that those who stay must be sterilized. There is no other way to deal with the demographic time bomb.
2. — Israel must settle for a non-existent acceptance by the non-existent Palestinians of the Jewish State based on Golda Meir (and a large majority of Israeli jews’) opinion that Palestinians do not exist. Palestinians must refrain from provocatively insisting that they exist.
3. — Israel must designate areas where the remaining Palestinians can live. They will not be called “bantustans,” which is a wrong-headed allusion to apartheid in the only democracy in the ME, but something more gemütlich, like “shtetls.” The Palestinians must accept to keep themselves in the designated areas.
4. — Israel must guarantee that the IDF raids organized regularly on the shtetls for training purposes will not inflict, to the extent possible, lethal harm to the shtetl dwellers. The shtetl dwellers must in turn pledge cooperation with the raid exercises to avoid damaging IDF equipment and wasting ammo.
What do you say? Oh, I forgot the good point you made about cultural exchanges: yes the Palestinians could benefit greatly from so much the Israeli culture has to teach them: falafel, hummus, kuffiehs, you name it!
In a second response Ariadna addressed the issue of whether my article had contained any “false assertions,” concluding that while it did not, it nonetheless failed to “look at things from the other side.”
She then asked: “Dam, shmam, who cares about technicalities?”—whereupon she alluded to Israel’s use of white phosphorous during the Gaza war five years ago, as well as to its more recently adopted practice of spraying Palestinians with a foul-smelling chemical known as “skunk.” (Click here and here to view videos showing tanker trucks spraying the chemical on Palestinian demonstrators as well as on residential homes, and here to see it being sprayed on a funeral.)
“So now the Israelis have released a dam, a shmam, a valve, a clutch, a gizmo, whatever, and flooded them,” she concluded.
Some of the posters also criticized my use of the Press TV video, with one referring to the Iranian news agency as “the mouthpiece of a genocidal Islamofascist (sic) regime,” to which I replied that “compared to the mainstream media in America, Press TV is a model of responsible journalism.” This prompted predictable choruses of scorn—and yet another comment from Ariadna:
Doug, of course, Iran is a theocratic state! Any rabbi in Israel can confirm that. I check PressTV every day just to keep an eye on them. Then I compare their reports to those in Arutz Sheva and J Post, which for me are the standard of objective reporting.
I don’t trust MSM in the US because they all too often portray Israel in a negative light. They fail to emphasize the suffering of the Israeli Jews terrorized under Palestinian occupation and they never place this conflict in its proper historical context: why don’t they ever publish stories about the Holocaust? Is it the Islamic lobby? Or perhaps it is the internet’s influence, as Abe Foxman warned us when he said he found a direct correlation between the rise of antisemitism and the internet.
You can read the whole exchange—all 33 comments—by going here.
260 Million Cubic Meters of Water and the Inability to Self-Reflect
So is there any saving grace in all this from Israel’s point of view? Could it be believed, for instance, that the reservoirs, due to some ten inches of rain, simply broke their banks and overflowed on their own? Could the water that nearly drowned Rana’s neighbors in Khan Yunis—and the three-meter-high wall of water that surrounded the UNRWA staff member’s home in northern Gaza—could all of this have been caused by the storm alone? Certainly, it’s possible, but the system of reservoirs—220 altogether—and the miles upon miles of pipelines that have been built give Israel control over huge volumes of water. This is made clear by the JNF:
For many years, KKL-JNF has been working to bolster Israel’s water economy by developing alternative water sources, saving the economy millions of shekels each year, advancing Israeli agriculture, and saving palatable drinking water.
KKL-JNF collects and treats water from agriculture, sewage, flash floods and urban runoff for recycling, saving precious fresh water sources for drinking. With its 220 water reservoirs throughout the country, KKL-JNF has enriched Israel’s water economy by a total of 260 million cubic meters.
JNF supplies this additional information on the reservoirs:
The reservoirs that collect runoff water and those that store treated sewage water make it possible to redirect other sources of water for Israel’s water system, as the reservoir’s main and primary purpose is to increase the balance of water available for use. The reservoirs produce 260 million cubic meters annually. In 2010, the water in reservoirs built by KKL-JNF provided about half of the water consumed by Israeli agriculture.
By storing effluent (partly purified sewage water) in reservoirs, the effluent is prevented from flowing into the environment, thereby preventing pollution of rivers, soil, underground water sources, and bodies of water into which the waters flow (the Mediterranean Sea, the Sea of Galilee – Lake Kinneret, the Dead Sea and the Red Sea). The Israeli rivers’ restoration projects would have no meaningful significance unless the flow of sewage and effluent into the rivers is stopped by means of controlled storage in reservoirs that are custom-made for the task…
Reservoir technology has improved, becoming incomparably more effective and sophisticated over the years as a result of the accompanying research and development, as well as the lessons learned by KKL-JNF from actual experience in building reservoirs in past decades. This includes using sealing technology using plastic sheets, reservoir engineering (sic), preventing embankments from collapsing, improvements in maintenance and access, extending previously existing reservoirs, and hydraulic control.
The National Water Carrier of Israel is a vast system, one that is still under expansion and development to this day. The direction and flow of water throughout is determined by gravity as well as strategically placed pumping stations. Click here to see what one of these pumping stations looks like. Such a system gives those who operate it a considerable amount of power over what is essentially a force of nature—the flow of water. This is a power that can be used for good, or it can be used destructively.
The claim that the Israelis “made the desert bloom” is one we often here, and when you consider the cyclopean system of limans, reservoirs, pipelines, and pumping stations, the validity to the assertion has to be acknowledged. Yet what also has to be acknowledged is that Negev faces some severe environmental problems as well. This was the subject of a 2007 article by Rebecca Manski, who writes:
The ‘Promised Land’ has in a matter of decades become a ‘Poisoned Land,’ reveals the November 10th weekend edition of the widest-read Israeli daily, Ma’ariv.
According to the article, Israel’s 10 major polluters include industrial polluters, wealthy contractors, waste dumps, and the indigenous Bedouin of the Negev/Naqab Desert.
The charge that the Bedouins are as responsible as industrial polluters for polluting the Negev is one Manski devotes considerable attention to in her article. She notes:
Naqab Arabs share some 2.5 % of the desert with Israel’s nuclear reactors, 22 agro and petrochemical factories, an oil terminal, closed military zones, quarries, a toxic waste incinerator, cell towers, a power plant, several airports, a prison, and 2 rivers of open sewage. Due to constant exposure to toxicity and radiation, the risk of cancer for residents in this entire area is significantly higher than the rest of the country, according to a 2004 preliminary Israeli Ministry of Health study.
Yet despite all this an Israeli academic official—quoted in Manski’s article—insists that the Bedouins are at least as responsible as some of Israel’s worst polluters. The official is Alon Tal, director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. “Tal prominently featured the indigenous Bedouin as spoilers of the beauty and health of the ‘Promised Land’ on ‘equal’ par with the largest regional toxic waste facility, high-rises, a superhighway, a sprawling shopping center, electro-chemical plants in Akko, and a Haifa ammonia tank,” Manski writes. She goes on to note:
Those who cast Bedouins as environmental hazards often fail to note that Negev Arabs were secured as cheap labor to construct toxic regional infrastructure on confiscated Bedouin lands, infrastructure to which they ultimately have little access, and from which they suffer major health impacts.
Tal concluded his interview with Ma’ariv with the declaration: “As someone who deals with ecology and environmentalism I have to speak the truth.”
“The Bedouin harm open areas. They create a situation of over-grazing, which brings about land erosion. There are fifty-thousand illegal structures in the Negev built by Bedouins. They are halting the development of the area since nothing can be done with land they’ve occupied. It’s not fair towards the general public, who’re supposed to enjoy these open spaces, to go on a retreat and even ride a jeep through the open landscape.” As this writer would have, Ma’ariv journalist Sarah Leibovitz-Dar queried, “So you suggest wiping out Bedouin culture so that Yuppies can drive in jeeps?”
Those ecologists that fail to see destitute Bedouins as sharing the same level of responsibility as corporate polluters flush with cash, those advocates who refuse to vilify the population suffering the worst effects of pollution in Israel – are they less honest than Tal?
Manski goes on to quote another Israeli, an unnamed official with the Ministry of the Environment, who seems to have a problem with the Bedouin having babies: “The Bedouin are an environmental hazard. They throw their trash everywhere and they’re having children all over the place. They steal our land.”
Though their styles are different, what Tal and the unnamed official have in common—along with Tobin in his article in Commentary—is a refusal to admit that Israel could have contributed in any way to the misery now being experienced by the indigenous peoples of the area. This may reflect something deeper than simply a PR tactic. It may be a genuine belief. “We didn’t. We really didn’t,” wrote Stern in her article—and one gets the feeling she is quite sincere in her conviction. Israel, despite its record of war crimes against the Palestinians, could not be capable of such evil as opening dams and deliberately flooding a trapped population, as such people seem to feel. Similar sentiments can also be detected in the hasbara comments. One commenter at our site, “Doug,” used the term “Palywood” and seemed to imply we were delusional if we believed anything reported by Press TV:
You had me with “it has been reported”. Look at your sources Press TV? Hamas? Palywood? “These are reports”? And then you proceed to write paragraphs about something that never happened?
After you couldn’t stretch this ‘blame Israel for things it did not do any longer, you utter: “Israel and its supporters have unleashed an avalanche of denials”. So spreading fiction is ok, but when some people call on your nonsense, it’s not OK? Instead of: “I was wrong (and dumb to believe my ‘sources’)”, it’s Israel and its supporters who have unleashed an avalanche of denials. Let’s blame them again because they have no right to simply show how wrong you are like normal people, those people only “unleashed an avalanche of denials” as if there is a debate here.
And yes, Dgania has a dam, but don’t ask Press Tv where it is, use the Evil Empire’s Jewish-controlled Google Maps and see how far it is from Gaza.
It is “unbelievable” because, of course, Jews simply don’t do such things. And by using the term “Palywood” (he presumably meant “Pallywood”), Doug seemed to be implying that the Press TV video was staged, that the people shown in it were hired as actors to pretend they were flooded, and that the waters themselves were perhaps nothing more than special effects—all done by Press TV for the purpose of victimizing Israel. Such logic suggests a fundamental inability to look inside and self-reflect, coupled with a sense of perpetual victimhood. The twin tendencies in fact serve to sustain each other—and thus thousands of years of pogroms and expulsions have come down in the Jewish imagination as nothing more than eternally recurring outbursts of anti-Semitism directed against blameless Jews.
We might pause here and also consider the words of Menachem Begin, whose Irgun terror group carried out the Deir Yassin massacre in 1948, and who later wrote that the village of Deir Yassin was a legitimate military target and that public characterizations of what occurred there as a massacre were nothing more than a lie told by “Jew haters all over the world.” (Roberta Feuerlicht, The Fate of the Jews, Times Books, 1983, p. 244). Begin, of course, was a bona fide, genuine “extremist” if ever there was one, but the same sort of blind spot, the same sort of Jews-can-do-no-wrong attitude, can also be seen in the comments of Tobin, Stern, and the hasbara brigades that routinely patrol the Internet.
What it comes down to is that people of this nature are equally incapable of fathoming why Americans would become angered at watching 33 US senators, at a mere snap of AIPAC’s fingers, rush to sign onto a piece of legislation like S.1881. But the anger is there. Such anger will initially be directed at AIPAC and its puppets in Congress, but in the course of things, as it diffuses through the human subconscious, it will assuredly attach itself to Jews in general.
So did they or didn’t they? Did someone with access to Israel’s National Water Carrier system release “a dam, a shmam, a valve, a clutch, a gizmo,” to cause additional flooding in Gaza? In some respects it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because that Israelis possess the level of malice necessary to induce them to such an act is a thing that most people, or a good many people, at any rate, have no trouble believing. And they have no trouble believing it because the malice has been on display throughout the Jewish state’s existence. Particularly has it been manifest over the past ten years or so—palpably obvious in comments like those of Dov Weisglass, who in 2006 talked about putting the Palestinians “on a diet”; or the release in 2012 of the so-called Red Lines document, showing Israel had indeed set a “minimum number of grams and calories that Gaza residents would be permitted to consume” and that Weisglass hadn’t simply been speaking rhetorically. But of course at no time has the malice been more conspicuous and out in the open than in the brutal, war-crime atrocities of Operation Cast Lead five years ago.
All of which brings me back around to my comment to Sarah on the blockade of Gaza and its inevitable implications:
“By imposing its blockade Israel bears ultimate responsibility for fuel shortages and other problems that have led to this disaster–and ultimately is going to be blamed, either justly or unjustly, for whatever calamities occur in the course of it…”
This of course is true. By imposing a blockade on Gaza, Israel in essence is assuming moral responsibility for what goes on there. If a baby dies in a Gaza hospital tomorrow night, it is Israel’s fault. When you have 1.7 million people locked up in a prison, you are responsible for them. There’s no way around that. The only way for Israel to get out from under this burden of responsibility is to end the blockade. I honestly have no love for the state of Israel, and I’m probably about the last person who would ever wish to share any advice with them of any kind, but it really is in Israel’s best interest at this point to end the blockade.
Ending the blockade at any rate would be the sensible thing to do—but of course, we’re not dealing with sensible people. We are dealing with a people whose national identity has been molded and shaped by the Old Testament and its genocidal ideology, devoid of the pacific, moderating influences of the New Testament, and there’s a good chance that what has been referred to as a “slow-motion genocide” could at any time, and over any pretext, quickly escalate into something even worse. In 2008, roughly ten months before Operation Cast Lead, Matan Vilnai, Israeli deputy defense minister, talked of inflicting a “shoah” (holocaust) upon the people of Gaza, and in 2012 Gilad Sharon, son of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, published a commentary in the Jerusalem Post calling for the Jewish state to “flatten all of Gaza.”
“The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima—the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too,” Sharon wrote.
Then there is The King’s Torah—in which it is argued that killing non-Jewish babies is permissible under certain circumstances—and other similar rabbinical writings and statements. Things of this nature tend to be kept largely under wraps by the Western mainstream media. Nevertheless, they are there. They are bubbling in the background. And cumulatively, over time, such sentiments are propelling Israel closer and closer to a genocide of the Palestinian people. All of which, in turn, brings me—finally—back around to my comment to George Metesky:
“Um…George, all I can tell you is that if you had imposed a blockade on the town in which I live for the past six or seven years as you’ve imposed upon Gaza, I would probably be firing rockets at you too. End the blockade of Gaza…”
The above is something I’ve often actually pondered. I live in a small town in the southern part of the United States. If the Israelis were to impose a blockade on my town, what would I do? And if the blockade had been ongoing for seven years, what would I do? If I were watching people around me, friends and family members, growing undernourished, ill of health, due to shortages, succumbing to treatable diseases or dying in sporadic military attacks such as the one that claimed the life of three-year-old Hala Abu Sbeika on Christmas Eve, what would I do? And if I were forced to watch my streets fill up with garbage and sewage, or endure the agony of seeing my wife or daughter obliged to wade through it, what would I do?
It’s not easy to know the answer to these questions because it’s hard for most of us to conceive of living under such conditions and under such threats as Gaza faces from Israel every day. But these are the choices confronting the people who live there. And they confront them knowing that their lives are considered expendable, that whatever horrors the Jewish state decides to unleash upon them, whether it’s opening a floodgate or dropping a white phosphorous bomb or maybe something even more monstrous yet to materialize—that whatever disaster-plagued future summons them, the world, almost assuredly, will stand by and do nothing.
(Many thanks to MSA for research assistance)
Richard Edmondson is an author, novelist, poet, and journalist whose writings often focus on Middle East issues, the Zionist lobby, and religion. His latest novel is The Memoirs of Saint John: When the Sandstone Crumbles, a story about an archaeological team doing a dig in Syria and set amidst the current conflict in the country.
In 2014 Richard attended an International Conference on Combating Terrorism and Religious Extremism, held in Damascus. The book is part two in the Memoirs of Saint John series.
Two other books by Richard are Rising Up: Class Warfare in America from the Streets to the Airwaves, relating his experiences founding and operating an unlicensed or “pirate” FM radio station in San Francisco in the 1990s, as well as a volume of poetry entitled American Bus Stop: Essay and Poems on Hope and Homelessness.
Richard is cognizant of the words of the early Christian writer Tertullian, who in the second century-basically prognosticating the fall of the Roman Empire-wrote: “We have made merry amid the ludicrous cruelties of the noonday exhibition.”