Thirsting for Justice: Stop the demolition of Rain Collecting Cisterns in Area C of the West Bank
1. From 2010 to 2011 there was an over 50% increase in cistern demolitions in Area C of the West Bank. International and local NGO’s have underlined this as concerted political strategy to target essential livelihood structures and force the displacement of Palestinians. From 2009 to 2011, nearly four hundred Palestinians were internally displaced as a direct result of the destruction of water, sanitation, and hygiene infrastructure.
2. Israel simultaneously violates its legal obligations as an occupying power under IHL, clearly stated by Article 54 of Protocol 1 of the Geneva Conventions, by not refraining from demolishing objects indispensible to the survival of the civilian population. Israel also violates its obligations as a signatory to international human rights conventions to respect, protect and fulfill the right to water of Palestinians. Additionally, both Israeli and Palestinian authorities issued a joint declaration in 2001, “for keeping water infrastructure out of the cycle of violence,” essentially but ineffectively protecting cisterns.
3. Rain collecting cisterns are essential water sources in Area C of the West Bank - an area which faces chronic water shortages due to lack of infrastructure developments and inadequate resource distribution. The survival of hundreds of Palestinian communities is dependent on cisterns as the main source of water for livestock, crops and domestic use. Cisterns are structures that collect rain water posing neither a threat a threat to the environment, nor is their destruction required by imperative military necessity which under International Law would be the only legal justification.
4. The policies aimed at cistern demolitions should be viewed in the larger context of occupation and the enforcement of a restrictive planning regime controlled by the Israeli military. To date, all structures are subject to a permit procedure which rarely grants Palestinians building permits. This hinders nearly all development in Area C, and puts many structures at risk of being demolished, including cisterns. Rain collecting cisterns should be excluded from the inefficient planning system and should not be subject to demolitions.
5. Urgent action is need now - 2012 will be a critical year for at-risk communities living in Area C, with the High Court of Justice making unprecedented rulings on cases linked to planning and demolitions, greater pressure coming from settler organizations, and over 3,000 outstanding demolitions orders existing today.
By challenging the legality of water collecting cistern demolitions, we ask that the Justices do all in their power to insure that Israel complies with its legal obligations under IHL as well as to protect the right to water as an internationally recognized human right, and as an intrinsic part of the right to life.
We condemn Israel’s refusal to respect the Palestinian basic right to water and sanitation and denounce the policies that support demolitions of cisterns, facilitate an ineffective permit system, and bar Palestinians access to their own resources.