There is a wide range of documented evidence which demonstrates that Israel systematically discriminates against Palestinians when it comes to access to housing, water and electricity, not only in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), but also within Israel itself.
Home Demolitions and Displacement
Israel maintains its system of apartheid through routine demolition of Palestinian homes and the displacement of Palestinian families, both within the OPT and Israel. There are currently 150,000 Palestinians at risk of losing their homes. According to the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD), more than 131,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished in the OPT and Israel since 1947.
The Israeli government uses planning and zoning to limit where Palestinians can build their homes and schools, as well as placing innumerable barriers to their ability to engage in agricultural activities. The same restrictions do not apply to illegal Israeli settlements. A report from 2021 tells many stories of families who had to watch as their homes were destroyed. One father living in the Jordan Valley tells his story in that report:
“We received a demolition notice 96 hours prior to the incident. We were able to remove all of our belongings and stuff from the houses. During the demolition my children were at school, except for my three-year-old daughter, Saja, who witnessed it and was crying the whole time. This house was built in the 1980s. I have all the papers proving that I own the land, and I have tried many times to obtain a permit to build, yet I never get the approval.”
The following resources provide useful information on housing issues in Israel-Palestine.
Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions
ICAHD is a human rights organisation dedicated to ending the prolonged Israeli occupation over the Palestinians. They document, research, and resist Israeli home demolitions.
Jewish Currents: Road to Nowhere
A 2020 article by Elisheva Goldberg examining the issue of unrecognized Palestinian villages within Israel.
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCA)
OCHA keeps a running database of home demolitions and displacement in the occupied West Bank.
In the Gaza Strip, access to electricity is unpredictable and often unavailable. So far in 2022, electricity has been available on average for 12 hours a day. In other recent years, it has been available for as little as 7 hours per day. According to a 2020 survey by the International Committee of the Red Cross, 94% of Gaza residents felt that the lack of electricity was impacting their mental health. Families who do not have access to power are also nervous about lighting candles as there have been many cases of structures catching fire, leading to fatalities, many of them children.
Community Energy and Technology in the Middle East (COMET-ME) is an Israeli-Palestinian organization that provides off-grid renewable energy and clean water systems to Palestinian communities in Area C (the areas of the West Bank under Israeli administrative control). They note that the lack of access for these Palestinian communities is “not geographical but political— with electricity and water lines running literally meters above their heads and below their feet to connect nearby illegal Israeli settlements and outposts”. Like other structures in Area C, the Israeli government has on occasion seized the systems COMET-ME has installed.
Electricity in the Gaza Strip
For the past decade, the Gaza Strip has suffered from a chronic electricity deficit, which undermined already fragile living conditions. The situation has further deteriorated since April 2017 in the context of disputes between the de facto authorities in Gaza and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.
Gaza’s Electricity Crisis Claims Another Three Children
Defense for Children International – Palestine
“What did these children do wrong to die in such a horrible way?,” asked 15-year-old Aseel M. following news on September 1 that three young Palestinian children from the same family died when their home caught on fire in the Gaza Strip. The three brothers, aged between two and five years old, were the latest victims of Gaza’s electricity crisis perpetuated by Israel’s 13-year closure of the Gaza Strip.
Water availability and pollution
Palestinians face systemic discrimination when it comes to accessing safe drinking water in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and within Palestinian communities in Israel.
According to Amnesty International, “the average Palestinian consumption of water in the OPT is about 70 litres a day per person, with approximately 420,000 people in the West Bank consuming 50 litres a day, less than a quarter of the average Israeli consumption of about 300 litres per person. For Israeli settlers residing in Israeli settlements, the average daily water consumption is 369 litres, about six times the amount consumed by Palestinians”.
A 2018 study by the RAND Corporation found that water pollution accounts for 26% of illnesses in Gaza and is a leading cause of child mortality. According to Human Rights Watch,
“Gaza also purchases water from the Israeli water utility Mekorot, but Israel controls the supply. Water from Mekorot goes through the same pipeline system as the groundwater and mixes with it, reducing its quality”.
“Gaza desalinates some water, but desalination requires significant electricity, fuel, and funding. These limitations force most Gaza households to rely on purchasing purified water from private companies for drinking when they can afford it”.
In 2017 it was reported that only 5% of children in Gaza have potable piped water. 40% receive transported water twice a week or less. For recreation, they swim in a sea that has 90 million litres of untreated and partially treated sewage dumped into it each day.
Like malnutrition, dehydration damages children’s health and their ability to concentrate. Inadequate access to water inside residential structures and schools undermines hygiene, increasing the spread of illness or disease.
In 2019, Gaza residents used 79 litres per day of water, an increase from 2017 and 2018 levels, but below the WHO minimum recommended level of 100 litres per day.
Water for One People Only
For many years, the Palestinian population of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, has suffered from a shortage of clean, safe water. However, despite alarming predictions of insufficient drinking water supplies by 2040, based on the expected population growth in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Jordan and Israel, water is not and has not been scarce in the region.
In 1967, Israel seized control of all water resources in the newly occupied territories. To this day, it retains exclusive control over all the water resources that lie between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, with the exception of a short section of the coastal aquifer that runs under the Gaza Strip. Israel uses the water as it sees fit, ignoring the needs of Palestinians in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip to such an extent that both areas suffer from a severe water shortage. In each of them, residents are not supplied enough water; in Gaza, even the water that is supplied is substandard and unfit for drinking.