“Water Apartheid” Was Really Just a Burst Pipe, But the Media Don’t Care

UPDATE

Following correspondence with HonestReporting, The Independent has refused to acknowledge the central issue surrounding the publication of this story, and has, instead, amended the sub-header under the main headline to give the Israeli side more prominence.

The sub-header now reads: “Israeli government insists there is ‘no truth’ in claims and says shortages down to faulty water lines.”

 

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We do not think that this is an acceptable response to such a serious issue. Please continue to send your complaints to The Independent by filling out its complaints form at this link.

 

* * *

Mark Twain supposedly said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,” and that is exactly what happened today.

The Independent, International Business Times, Radio New Zealand and the Times of London have all picked up a blatantly incorrect Al Jazeera story.

In an outrageous example closer to fiction writing than journalism, The Independent incorrectly portrays Israel as intentionally denying water to Palestinians in the West Bank.

 

independent headline

 

The article goes on to say:

Israel has cut off the water supply to large areas of the West Bank, Palestinian authorities have claimed.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians have reportedly been left without access to safe drinking water during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a period of fasting, at a time when temperatures can exceed 35C.

Meanwhile the International Business Times (IBT) twice described Israeli actions with the phrase “water apartheid,” attributing the inflammatory quote only to vague and unnamed “critics of Israel” but implying that it is a commonly accepted term.

 

IBT water story

 

Yet it turns out the “water shutoff” was nothing more than a burst pipe, that Israeli workers were already working diligently to fix. COGAT, the Israeli agency that coordinates activities in the Palestinian territories posted this video of the burst pipe.

 

 

These stories came originally from an Al Jazeera article that initially included no response from Israel. After being contacted by HonestReporting, however, Al Jazeera reached out to Israeli sources and updated its content.

Al Jazeera now points out that there has been a broad reduction in water to supply to the West Bank, but also notes that Israel says this is due to the amount of available water having decreased, and goes on to quote Israel’s national water company as saying:

All the facilities are working and the capability to supply is less than the rate of consumption. The water authority recently approved a master plan for the water sector and accordingly we will build the systems that will meet the West Bank’s required consumption.

In 2015 Al Jazeera accused Israel of intentionally flooding Gaza by opening dams. As it turned out, the dams in question did not even exist, and the flooding was due to rain. After this was exposed, Al Jazeera published a retraction.

As a 2013 study pointed out, water management in the West Bank is a contentious and complex issue, with many problems resulting from Palestinian government mismanagement  and refusal to meet with Israel to coordinate water management activities.

Despite the challenges, Israel goes above and beyond its treaty obligations to provide Palestinians in the West Bank with fresh water. In fact, Palestinians in the West Bank now enjoy better access to water than many of their Arab neighbors.

Furthermore, since Israel came to control the West Bank in 1967, the number of Palestinian homes connected to the water supply has risen from 10% to 95% but the Palestinian Authority poorly manages its infrastructure, leading to many problems like the one referenced in this article. All of this is critical context, omitted by all the publications on this topic.

HonestReporting has provided source materials explaining the variety of popular myths and actual facts about water in the Palestinian territories.

Both The Independent and the IBT dedicate several emotionally suggestive paragraphs to discussing a Palestinian perspective on the water situation in general, but without any technical detail on the exact nature of the supposed water stoppage or its causes.

Finally, near the end of its article The Independent eventually gets around to reporting some actual facts about the supposed water stoppage:

A spokesperson for the Israeli government told The Independent there is “no truth” in the claims, and said the shortages were down to faulty water lines.

 

They said: “Several hours ago, COGAT’s Civil Administration team have repaired a burst pipe line, which disrupted the water supply to the villages of Marda, Biddya, Jamma’in, Salfit and Tapuach. The water flow has been regulated and is currently up and running.

What was the source for the apparent claim that Israel had cut off water intentionally? One vague, and unverifiable reference to a claim by unnamed “Palestinian authorities.”

Late last night HonestReporting reached out via Twitter to the journalist at The Independent responsible for this story, but we have received no response so far.

 

 

In short, The Independent knew the truth but nonetheless chose to write an emotionally suggestive piece of essentially libelous fiction and then published it as if it were journalism. The IBT, it seems, didn’t even bother to learn the truth at all.

We have already contacted The Independent and IBT to demand corrections, but you can help too.

Please share your considered comments with the IBT at info@ibtimes.co.uk and with The Independent by filling out its complaints form at this link.

 

Featured image: includes elements from Vectors by Vecteezy!;

 

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