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Israeli official in LA denounces National Geographic water exhibit

May 8, 2010 2:15 P.M. (Updated: May 8, 2010 2:18 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Israeli Consul General in Los Angeles Jacob Dayan reportedly sent a letter of complaint to the venue hosting a National Geographic photo exhibition highlighting Israel's unequal water policy, Israeli media reported on Friday.

The Annenberg Space for Photography exhibit, coinciding with the magazine's special issue Water: Our Thirsty World, features the works of award-winning photographers looking at the water from environmental, social, political and cultural perspectives.

The Consul General voiced complaint over photo captions which include "Israelis relax by the Sea of Galilee, a lake near the Golan Heights that is fed by the Jordan River and that supplies a third of Israel’s fresh water. Since 1967, Israel has blocked Syria’s access to the shoreline," the Israeli news site Yedioth Aharonot reported.

According to the news site Dayan's letter said the venue is being used as a political tool to spread lies about Israel's part in the global effort to provide clean and fresh drinking water, and the exhibit falsely depicts Israel as a country that steals water while its neighbors suffer from a drought. The opposite is true, wrote the consul general.

The original feature published in April 2010 by the National Geographic writes that since occupying the West Bank in 1967, settlements have been supplied water by Mekorot, Israel's national water authority, "which has drilled 42 deep wells in the West Bank, mainly to supply Israeli cities."

The article further said according to a 2009 World Bank report, "Israelis use four times as much water per capita as Palestinians, much of it for agriculture. Israel disputes this, arguing that its citizens use only twice as much water and are better at conserving it."

In contrast, Don Belt writes, West Bank Palestinians "have been largely prevented from digging deep wells of their own, limiting their water access to shallow wells, natural springs, and rainfall that evaporates quickly in the dry desert air."

When these sources run dry in the summer, experts told Belt, Auja's Palestinians "have no choice but to purchase water from Israel for about a dollar a cubic yard—in effect buying back the water that's been taken out from under them by Mekorot's pumps, which also lower the water table and affect Palestinian springs and wells."

The three Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian experts interviewed by Belt were further featured in an a recent IRIN article, in which the environmentalists paint a grim picture of the state of the Jordan River, and urge swift action.

"If immediate action is not taken the River Jordan will run dry by 2011," Baha Afaneh, Jordanian coordinator for the Jordan River Project of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FOEME), said at a conference in Amman on 3-4 May.

According to a FOEME report, the once mighty river is now barely a trickle, fed by saline water and sewage from Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

"Israel has diverted saline water from springs into the river. Today some 20,000 million cubic metres [of saline water] flow into the river annually,'' said Gideon Bromberg, the Israeli director of FOEME.

Some three million cubic meters of untreated sewage per year pours into the river from Beit Shea'an Municipality in Israel, despite the fact that Israel is considered a leading country in the region in terms of sewage treatment, Bromberg said.

In March, four days after an Israeli minister threatened to restrict the West Bank's water supply, Israeli authorities closed off the main water source used for agriculture in a Jordan Valley village committee members and lawyers said.

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