Recently, an international figure visiting Israel asked the following question: "...I could not check the exact figures ... how can it be that an Israeli is allowed to use 70 liters of water per day, but a Palestinian only 17?"
The question was met with ire by Israel's Economy Minister, who dubbed it a "blatant lie," and stated that he "will not accept a false moralizing narrative against Israel." In the visitor's own country, the official response was that "...it was a mistake. [He] would be well advised to try to repair the situation."
Well, it seems that what requires urgent repair is not the question -- but rather the water pipes. Those, and a system that allows for tens of thousands of people to live for weeks without running water while those in power have no sense of urgency, responsibility, or humanity to fix this outrage.
He who dared to ask that now-famous question is of course Mr. Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament. So was Mr. Shulz's 70-to-17 liter water-consumption ratio a "blatant lie"?
In actuality, for Palestinians in some neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, the situation can be much worse.
Welcome to Ras Hamis, Ras Shahada, Dahyat a-Salam, and the Shuafat Refugee Camp. Together, these neighborhoods of East Jerusalem are home to some 80,000 Palestinians. Some 80,000 human beings who since early March have almost no running water.
Imagine what would happen if your neighborhood was suddenly cut off from the water supply. The municipality would surely do everything it could to fix the situation within hours; if for some reason the fix was delayed, the city would rush in water trucks, and keep updating the residents on its progress.
How long would you take it, with no running water to drink, cook, shower, clean?
In East Jerusalem it took countless interventions to finally get the local water authority to just bother to take a look at the situation in the neighborhoods cut from supply -- after 17 days. Not 17 hours: 17 days before they bothered to show up. And still they have not fixed the situation. Hence an urgent appeal submitted to the High Court of Justice on behalf of the residents of these East Jerusalem neighborhoods by Attorney Keren Tsafrir from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).
Ras Hamis, Ras Shahada, Dahyat a-Salam, and the Shuafat Refugee Camp all happen to be Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, on the east side of the separation wall. After 1967, Israel expanded the municipal boundaries of West Jerusalem and annexed these neighborhoods, as well as many others in the East. But in 2008, when Israel built the separation wall cutting through East Jerusalem, these four neighborhoods were left on its East (Palestinian) side. In principle, Israel's, and the municipality's, responsibility toward these neighborhoods should not have changed. In fact, it did.
No garbage collection, almost no public transportation, a dearth of schools, lack of health services, no sidewalks, no street names, no green public spaces, no street lighting; the list goes on and on.
And now, for almost three weeks already, no running water. In the first few days -- no water at all. Then water came back, in trickles, to some of the residents. The situation now: Some have intermittent water supply; others get low pressure supply; and the rest get no water.
With its treatment of these Palestinian neighborhoods, Israel has given new meaning to the word "in." While being in a state of denial that it could ever act in such a way toward Palestinians, Israel is the state that denies these Palestinians of water. Surely, a State of denial.
After three weeks without water, it is not just time to ask questions. It is time to get answers.