Harriet Sherwood report accuses Israel of contaminating Gaza’s beaches

Harriet Sherwood’s report, Gaza’s girl surfer battles pollution and prejudice, Guardian, Aug. 29, says the following about a young Palestinian girl’s desire to surf off the Gaza coast:

Ramshackle lifeguard towers are stationed periodically along the beach, but there are no signs warning swimmers of the greatest hazard – the sewage in the water. Up to 80m litres of sewage is dumped in the sea every day, causing diarrhoea and skin complaints among those who swallow the water.

Gaza’s four sewage treatment plants cannot cope with the growing population, according to Ewash, a consortium of international and local NGOs. Israel’s continued blockade prevents materials needed for maintaining and upgrading the plants from reaching Gaza, it says.

“People should be warned about swimming in areas close to sewage outlets,” says Ghada Snunu of Ewash. “But it’s not easy to tell people to stop swimming. The beach is the only recreation for the majority of Gazans.” [emphasis mine]

Without addressing the absurd claim that the beach is the only recreation Gazans have – a fallacy which Elder of Zion frequently, and often quite comically, points out (see here, here, here and here– the charge that Israel is responsible for the Gaza beach sewage problem is spurious for several reasons.

First, note that the passage states that swimmers in Gaza are in danger from sewage dumped in the sea, but does not note who is doing the dumping. The dumping, of course, is being done by Palestinians. The water flows up the coast (from the Nile) and Palestinian sewage ends up polluting not just Palestinian beaches, but, potentially, Israeli beaches as well. (This UN report refers to the Palestinian dumping , p. 66).

Also, although Palestinians are harming Palestinians by dumping sewage in the water, the Guardian approvingly quotes Ewash placing the blame on Israel. The Guardian never asks the obvious question: even if it is impossible to maintain and upgrade sewage plants due to “Israel’s continuing blockade,” why does that excuse Palestinian dumping sewage on the beaches? Can’t the Palestinians keep untreated sewage in pools? In fact, the Palestinians have done so for many years. The UN report sited above (p. 73) suggests disposing of sewage deep offshore (i.e., not on the beaches).

Moreover, Israel blockades Gaza’s coastline but Gaza has two land borders: one with Israel and one with Egypt. Israel, of course, limits the materials that pass over its land border, though this is not a “blockade” in any conventional understanding of the term. Egypt also limits the materials that pass over its land border with Gaza. Why then is it “Israel’s continuing blockade” that is responsible for the alleged lack of materials?

And, the broader question is just how plausible is it really is that a lack of materials is responsible for poor sewage treatment? Well, the following information regarding Israel’s supply of water and sewage treatment equipment, via The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (or COGAT), is illuminating.

  • Throughout 2010, Israel maintained a supply of 5 billion liters of water to the Gaza Strip.
  • Over the course of the year, 321 truckloads of equipment for water and sewage networks were transferred to the Gaza Strip.
  • 4,136 tons of hypochlorite were transferred to Gaza for the purification of drinking water (128 truckloads).
  • Israel supported the travel of Palestinian Water Authority representatives to conferences, meetings, and tours in order to promote the improvement of the water economy in the Gaza Strip.
  • Overall,28 projects in the fields of water and sewage were approved by Israeli authorities in 2010 and early 2011.

Finally, it’s important to note earlier disputes regarding sewage plants in which Israel refused passage of steel pipes – because they are potentially diverted to military use – but approved passage of plastic pipes, which can be used for the same purposes. The Palestinians nevertheless claimed that the poor condition of the sewage system was Israeli refusal to transfer steel pipes.

And, it has also not been uncommon for Israeli supplied metal pipes to Gaza – meant for the territory’s water sewage system – to be stolen and used instead make Qassam rockets.

Indeed, back in 2007, the Jerusalem Post reported the following. Per Elder of Ziyon:

A Palestinian from the Gaza Strip, who worked as a metal merchant at the Karni Crossing, was arrested by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) earlier this month for allegedly selling pipes, which he would buy in Israel, to terror groups who used them to manufacture Kassam rockets, it was released for publication on Sunday.

On February 9, the Shin Bet arrested Amar Zak, 37, at the Erez Crossing. During his interrogation, Zak confessed to purchasing metal pipes from Israeli companies and then selling them to Hamas and other terror groups for the manufacture of Kassam rockets, fired almost daily at Israel. In 2006, 1,700 rockets were fired at Israel.

The pipes that were sold to Zak were intended for civilian use, and specifically for the construction of a sewage system in the Gaza Strip.

The Shin Bet arrested Zak after it received numerous reports in 2006 according to which hollow pipes made in Israel were being used in Gaza to manufacture Kassam rockets as well as shoulder-launched missiles.

Without question, Gaza’s sewage treatment challenges may indeed be the result of many factors, including but not limited to: the use of parts for sewage treatment materials for rockets and other deadly weaponry; the failure by authorities in Gaza to find alternative places to dispose of sewage in the event that treatment plants don’t adequately meet the demand, and general supply problems related to Gaza’s conflict with Israel.

Yet, Harriet Sherwood is clearly unburdened by  the desire to conduct any serious research on the matter and, characteristically, accepts at face value the words of one NGO which comports to her desired oppressor-oppressed paradigm.

If the competing narrative is between holding the terrorist group in Gaza responsible for their continuing failure to adequately address the basic needs of their citizens vs. a villainous Jewish state which poisons the wells, is there really any doubt that the latter will win out every time?

29 replies »

  1. Considering that Harriet was possibly staying at one of half a dozen recently built deluxe hotels in Gaza while she wrote her article after shopping at one of the new luxury malls and a enjoying a world-class dinner at Roots restaurant, it is incredible to read that

    “Israel’s continued blockade prevents materials needed for maintaining and upgrading the plants from reaching Gaza”

    Total BS.

    Verbal crap like the sewage that the Palestinians allow to flow into the Med. along the beach front. if they cared about sewage they would fix the sewage plants, not build luxury hotels with swimming pools of filtered and chlorinated water for the lucky few.

    • If the “Palestinians” used the money that they get from the EU and USA to build sewage treatment plants, power plants, some sort of industry, and become self reliant to proved that they are worth something – instead of using all of that money to buy Iranian made long range missiles to murder their neighbors…then maybe, just maybe they wouldn’t get sick, people wouldn’t complain of poverty, bad smells, bad housing, etc.
      I saw the water park in Gaza, the shopping centers, and the lazy bums sitting and smoking all day, while their kids learn how to shoot rifles, and how to commit homicide bombings…so puleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeez…soon she’ll say that the Mosad also sent trained seagulls to attack the “Palestinian” fishermen, and eat all the fish, so that there won’t be any fish in Gaza.

  2. “Without addressing the absurd claim that the beach is the only recreation Gazans have – a fallacy which Elder of Zion frequently, and often quite comically, points out (see here, here, here and here) ”

    All of the ‘heres’ quoted are luxury facilities. It is facile to say that some Gazans can afford them; there are rich in any society, however poor the general population. Clearly when most Gazans struggle to feed their children they are not going to be dining out in fancy restaurants or buying handbags in the nearest Gucci outlet. The point about a day on the beach is that in most parts of the world it’s free.

    • It should also be free in Gaza. If there is a poor population in Gaza, then there is a major problem with whoever is running the financial operation of their government.
      Other than the monetary support that Gazans get from the EU and the USA, they get monies from their Arab friends and from Israel. They get water and power from Israel, and before the 1st Intefada started, in 1987, there was no border between Gaza and Israel…no separation. People traveled freely back and forth, for work and pleasure.
      At the moment, the Gazans, instead of using the money that they get to develop the land that they have, to improve their infrastructure, to build homes, schools, hospitals, and to create factories, and industries, they prefer to be begging for humanitarian aide, and use the money for terror attacks.
      I spent a lot of time in Gaza between 1986 and 1990…I’ve seen them abuse Christians and Jews, and I have seen them play victims while smuggling drugs inside bellies of fish, and crying to the world about how poor they are. It’s all by their own doing. I don’t feel sorry for them. If I have nothing to eat, I get up, and go to work, I don’t sit and smoke, and wait for someone to help me.

    • sencar

      what do you think these hotels made of plastic? Maybe environment friendly recycled paper? Not of concrete what should be used to build some sewage plants?

      • Do you think that maybe before they took care to please their leaders’ desires, as they sit and watch the populous suffer, they should have taken care of everything else?
        Sewage plants? Power plants? Water purifying plants? High efficiency clinics? Updated schools? Marked and paved roads (have you seen the streets there)? Fixing people’s houses? Running water? Moving people from tent cities to permanent homes? Vocational schools? Hiring teachers and specialists to work with the population?

        Building a fancy hotel and a shopping mall isn’t the solution, and would not solve the basic hygiene and humanitarian problems in Gaza. Those can only be solved with a change in perception and attitude – that the wellbeing of people comes first.

        • Where are the 60 year old tent cities???

          Where are the starving, emaciated “palestinians”?

          Only in the heads of Socialists and Islamofascists..

        • “Building a fancy hotel and a shopping mall isn’t the solution”

          Of course it isn’t, but that’s capitalism. Do you think it works any differently in Israel? The rich will always have their wants met. It remains the case that there are insufficient resources in Gaza for the people as a whole. Not enough water. Not enough affordable food. Not enough building materials etc, etc. And the agency primarily responsible for all these shortages is Israel.

          The crass illustrations of excessive consumption by the few described by Elder of Zion make about as much sense as the advice from Marie Antoinette to those without bread:”let them eat cake”,

          • Cutting spending on arms would allow for all of the above. Getting people to work and not wait for handouts would allow for all of the above.
            Since when is Israel the food bank or welfare provider of the region? Israel NEVER, EVER, EVER attacked Gaza without provocation – and even then, she has shown restrain that no other country in the world would have shown. So please don’t put it on Israel.

            These guys need to own up and accept responsibility for their own problems. Spend less billions on missiles and more billions on food, medicine, and infrastructure, and you’ll be much happier. AND you (by you, I mean the Gazans) won’t have to worry…Israel won’t attack you…

            • I like doing sums, so I did some rough calculations relevant to the “billions on missiles” you reckon Hamas spends:

              1) 129 Qassam rockets were fired in 2010 (The Jewish Policy Center
              2) The raw materials for each rocket cost approximately $715 (Spiegel Online International,1518,531578,00.html)
              3) Cost of Qassams fired in 2010 = 129*715=$97235
              4) Gaza GDP in 2010 was approximately 12.79 billion dollars (Jewish Virtual Library
              5) Gazan GDP growth in 2010 was 15% (UNCTAD Report on assistance to the Palestinian people
              6) So 2010 GDP was approximately 14.7 billion dollars.
              7) Cost of Qassams fired in 2010 = 14.7 billion/97235 = 0.000006% of Gazan GDP.

              OK they spend on other weapons too, and lots of rockets are stockpiled, but you would still struggle to make Gazan military expenditure significant in terms of GDP.

              Israeli military expenditure in 2009 (sorry no 2010 data) was 6.3% of GDP (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
              Israeli military expenditure as a proportion of GDP is fifth in the world, behind three oil states (who don’t know what to do with their money, perhaps) and poverty-stricken, perpetually at war Eritrea..

              • Trouble with my zeros again. Should read:
                7) Cost of Qassams fired in 2010 = 14.7 billion/97235 = 0.0006% of Gazan GDP.

                • I like doing sums, so I did some rough calculations relevant to the “billions on missiles” you reckon Hamas spends

                  Maybe you like doing sums but you are very bad doing it as every reader can see it.
                  So let’s take the price of a Quassam as 715USD.
                  During the last five years Hamas and Co. launched more then 10.000 of them = 7.15 million USD
                  And taking into account the price of the launchers, the innumerable mortars etc. without being a bean counter in a bulding company you can be sure that the money would be enough to build a sewage treatment plant.

                  Israeli military expenditure in 2009 (sorry no 2010 data) was 6.3% of GDP

                  I’m not aware of poor allergic girls in Israel who are not treated according to the highest medical standards. Your comparison is simply laughably stupid and lacks any context or logic.

                  • “I’m not aware of poor allergic girls in Israel who are not treated according to the highest medical standards ”

                    Perhaps not but there are a lot of Israeli homeless who seem to think military expenditure is excessive.

                    • Perhaps not but there are a lot of Israeli homeless who seem to think military expenditure is excessive.

                      In all of Israel you can find less homeless persons than only one street in London or on a short quai on the Seine in Paris. Apart from this fact these homeless know very well that without this “excessive” military expenditure they would be not homeless but lifeless.

                • “Trouble with my zeros again. Should read:”

                  You should have listened to the warning when you were young about how your eyesight would be affected if you didn’t stop!

  3. “Gaza’s four sewage treatment plants cannot cope with the growing population…”

    Is that the same Gaza that is suffering the “genocide” being carried out by Israel?

    • Actually, I am the last person to side with Gaza, I am Israeli…but if you go there today, you will see the cast system that is implemented there. Yes, they do have their rich and affluent, but they keep the plebeians in “their” place. And these are the ones that they teach that all of their troubles are because of Israel’s evil doings – hence the overwhelming willingness to commit homicide bombings, terror attacks, etc.

      No one is born hating…I wasn’t…but hate is born: either through education and ignorance, or through experience. With me, it was through experience, because there is only so much violence one (or a people) can take; and I’ve had it. So as far as I am concerned, they can all swallow that water, and blame whomever they want, I couldn’t care less – and the fact is, neither do they. The fact is that Muslim Cannibalism (what I call Muslims killing Muslims) had cost the lives of 1,650,000 Muslims since 1948. So frankly, if they don’t care about their own, and they hate me so much, then I really don’t give a rat’s… about them…but if they mess with Israel, they I’m all for total annihilation.

      Okay, now that I think I made my point clear – I am done here. My PTSD is about to take over again. 10-4. Peace everyone.

      • Not surprising that Harriet Sherwood writes about crap,she breathes promotes and writes crap for a crappy Guardian………

        • Harriet Sherwood went out to sea in Gaza in a sea that had Gaza’s crap and Harriet Sherwood floating on it.

          • One day Israeli’s will realize that they are living in the midst of a people who have the mindset of desert dwellers,with their honor killings,homophobia,an intense hatred of Jews,and the myriad of other phobias that they have inherited

            The rest of the world have left them behind.And it will take them eons to catch up.In the mean time we have to suffer them.

            Showing any signs of weakness is pounced upon immediately,even when we try to help them,they take that as a sign of weakness on our part…..They deserve Hamas and the crappy sea of Gaza…..

            • Israel owes Gaza NOTHING.

              Gaza is an enemy entity…..They have made that very very clear,that they are at war with us by shooting 15,000 plus missiles which continue to fall to this very day……….

              Since when do you supply your sworn enemy his needs,only for them to turn around and shoot missiles at you,kill your civilians,cross into your border to kill innocent civilians,kidnap and kill your soldiers.

              Israel should start tightening the screws,this is the only language that these people know and understand……….

  4. There is absolutely no reason to be upset about Harriet Sherwood’s article: it’s well known since the Middle Ages that Jews poison wells and water and what have you. So if the Palestinians have to swim in their own sewage, it’s obviously Israel’s fault!