I’ve been reading with some bemusement the reaction by Israel’s far-right MKs to the address given by EU parliamentary speaker, Martin Schulz. In a speech that was largely supportive of Israeli interests and which opposed the BDS movement, the EU leader did make mention of his conversations with Palestinians who told him about their destitution.
Among the issues they raised was the immense disparity in water use between Israelis and Palestinians. In his speech, he said they told him Israelis use an average of 70 liters of water while Palestinians use an average of 17. The howls of outrage were immediate. The entire Bayit Yehudi faction walked out during the speech. They’d have nothing to do with a German Nazi perpetrating more anti-Semitic outrages on the Jewish people in their own people’s legislature:
MK Moti Yogev (Habayit Hayehudi) called to Schulz: “Shame on you, you support someone who is inciting against Jews.” Shortly after, the Habayit Hayehudi MKs stormed out of the room.
Party chairman Naftali Bennett responded heatedly to Schulz’s remarks, saying: “The comments made in the Knesset are very serious. Habayit Hayehudi demands an apology from the president of the European Parliament, who said two lies in his speech, which Palestinians fed him. Silence in the face of lying propaganda grants legitimacy to activities against Israeli citizens.”
Indeed: calumny, protocols of the Nazi elders, dirty lies. Except for one problem…it’s all true.
B’Tselem, Israel’s foremost human rights NGO devotes an entire page of its website to comparative water consumption rates between the two peoples:
The discrimination in utilization of the resources shared by Israel and the Palestinian Authority is clearly reflected in the figures on water consumption by each population. Daily per capita water consumption in the West Bank for domestic, urban, and industrial use is some 73 liters. In areas in the northern West Bank, consumption is much lower. In 2008, per capita daily consumption was 44 liters in the Jenin area and 37 liters in the Tubas area.
There is a huge disparity between Israeli and Palestinian consumption. Per capita water consumption in Israeli towns is 242 liters and in local councils, 211 liters. In other words, per capita use in Israel is three and a half times higher than in the West Bank.
The World Health Organization and the United States Agency for International Development recommend 100 liters of water per capita per day as the minimum quantity for basic consumption.
The discrepancy between the figures quoted by Schulz and B’Tselem may be related to the latter’s figures including all uses (including industrial). It’s possible the Schulz figure only includes residential water usage (in the home). At any rate, the ratios agree in both cases. Both find Israelis use three and a half times more water than Palestinians. In other words: no lies, no anti-Semitism. Just truth. And the truth hurts.
Part of my bemusement at the Israeli reaction to the speech was that I pictured the MKs storming out of the Knesset hall with their fingers plugged firmly in their ears and loudly humming HaTikvah so they wouldn’t have to listen to this anti-Israel drivel from the Nazi Schulz.
Even in the unruly Knesset, it’s considered a violation of protocol to walk out of an address by a foreign leader. I chalk it up to the increasing dysfunction of current Israeli political life. As the world turns increasingly against Israeli Occupation and other injustices, there is nowhere left to turn for succor or support. Even friends are hated and shunned. The fact that as mainstream a European politician as Schulz dared even to address this issue in the Knesset means that Israel’s friends are rousing out of their torpor. They are being emboldened by BDS to raise criticisms they wouldn’t have dared voiced before this. Israel is entering rough waters internationally.
This brouhaha makes clear how absolutely isolated and ignorant Israeli MKs are from reality. They only know how they and their fellow Israeli Jews live. As for anyone else, that’s their problem.
What’s disturbing about the coverage of this story is that the mainstream media which reported it has done no research to determine which side was correct (as I have with a cursory Google search). Why? Don’t they have Google at Haaretz? Or are they afraid to expose the abject ignorance of Israeli rightist MKs?
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.