How Israel’s water and agricultural technologies don’t even work for Israel
By Dick Callahan, examining the ecological and environmental impacts of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, first Published on If Americans Knew Blog, April 4, 2019
Click here to read his full, 12 part series on this topic.
Israel says it has much to teach humanity about agriculture, desalination, water conservation, and desert forestry. In reality, Israel can’t feed or water itself. The land is contaminated ‘from the river to the sea’ with human-caused salt build-up, sewage, and massive toxic spills. Millions of tons of concrete walls stop migrations both human and animal. Most of the best trees, large wild animal species, and fresh water sources have been destroyed in a few decades.
Baseline in today’s Israel and occupied Palestine is a dying landscape run by people with no accountability who can’t look consequences in the face. Even reporting on state-caused contamination can bring 15 years in prison. Incredibly, these same politicians earn diplomacy points by offering to share (sell) Israeli environmental technology with the world.
At the end of the day, Israel’s value to America is as a cautionary tale. This is the fate of a military/industrial regime that desecrates Mother Earth.
As you read on, bear in mind that this is all taking place in a tiny area. Israel is 1600 square miles smaller than Vermont and more than half of that is desert. The Israeli occupied territory of the West Bank is smaller than St. Lawrence county in New York state. The entire Gaza Strip is about the size of Bakersfield, California.
Claim: Israel is a leader in world-class agriculture/aquaculture innovation.
Reality: Life in the Jewish state depends on ever-increasing bulk food imports from countries thousands of miles away. It takes more than a thousand tons of water to grow a ton of grain. Israel imports more than 5 million tons of grains per year, plus 75,000 tons of red meat, plus other food. When Zionists say their country needs about 2.5 billion cubic meters of water per year, they’re not counting billions of tons of water embedded in their imported food. Include that and water consumption quintuples. Most of Israel’s food comes from just a handful of countries. The day even one of them joins the boycott movement in support of Palestinian rights, Israel will be thrown into food panic.
Israel’s much vaunted drip irrigation probably has a small place in agriculture but the concept of spot watering is hardly new. Drip irrigation is expensive to set up and maintain. It wouldn’t be viable in giant Kansas wheat fields and some American scientists suggest that in the long term it uses more water than traditional irrigation at the same time it starves groundwater replenishment.
Importing cereals and grains allows Israel to use its own agricultural water on more lucrative cash crops like wine and cut flowers so, in financial terms, they look good on a balance sheet.
Most Israeli’s have gotten out of farming. What’s left of agriculture depends on 25,000 Thai ‘guest workers’ many of whom live in terrible conditions; and on destitute Palestinians who, bereft of their own lands, must run a gauntlet of military checkpoints on their way to and from the fields.
Zionists are surprisingly big into fish farming and the claim has been made that Israel can feed the world with farmed fish. The science of fish farming involves putting the most fish into the smallest area to maximize profit. Tilapia are popular because they survive being packed into tanks at concentrations that would kill most fish. In 2009 a previously unknown disease, tilapia lake virus, broke out in Israel. By 2016 mortality reached over 80 percent causing Israel’s tilapia production to drop 85 percent killing both fish farm stocks and wild stocks in the Sea of Galilee. The virus has spread to countries on three continents.
Water Tides Salt
Claim: Israel’s desalination technology can save the day for water stressed California, India, Iran, South Africa and pretty much everywhere with a sea coast.
Reality: Israel’s desalination capacity is about 600 million cubic meters of fresh water per year. That’s not much. An American river with an annual flow of 600 million cubic meters would be considered a small-to-medium waterway that is free and good for the land. Desalination, on the other hand, comes at enormous energy, infrastructure, and environmental expense. Then there’s the salt. Every year the Jewish state dumps about 23.4 million tons of salt back in the sea. Since desalination started, many of Israel’s near shore invertebrate species, including reef building snails that protect to coast, have diminished or disappeared.
Desalination plants make Israel more vulnerable not less. Israel’s off shore currents run south to north. Even knowing that, Zionists deliberately, repeatedly destroy Gaza’s sewage infrastructure and won’t allow them to repair it. As a result every day 11,000 tons of Gaza sewage runs up stream into Israeli waters where it coats beaches and is sucked into desalination plants. The southernmost desalination plant has shut down numerous times because of Gaza sewage. Other closures have been necessary in the north because Israelis have a strange, recurrent habit of deliberately dumping their own sewage further up the coast.
Claim: Israel is a world player in oil transport.
Reality: They’re trying but the effort may well be the end of them. To become a conduit for getting oil from other Mid-East countries to Europe or Asia the Israelis have built massive oil terminals at either side of the country with large bore pipelines in between. Iraqi oil, for example, is transported by huge (million plus barrel) tankers down the Mediterranean from Turkey to Ashkelon, Israel, then across the desert via pipeline to Eilat, Israel on the Gulf of Aqaba where it’s reloaded onto tankers and sent down the Gulf, then through the Red Sea to Asia.
You can see on a map that Ashkelon is at the very southern end of Israel’s west coast. An Exxon Valdez type oil tanker spill there would be carried north and shut down every Israeli desalination plant in the Mediterranean. In addition to tankers, Israel’s tank farm at Ashkelon weighs more than sky scrapers. It’s right on the beach and built on top of a dropping aquifer in a country sitting along an earthquake fault zone. A tank collapse would also take out the desalination plants.
Off shore, lie gas wells that tap the 1.4 trillion cubic meter natural gas deposits Israel has seized from Gaza. Israel has built near shore production platforms and miles of under water pipelines. One big burp could stop Israel’s desalination miracle on a dime.
Taking the region’s water supply
Claim: Israel doesn’t steal water because it meets its water needs with technology.
Reality: Israel’s water budget depends much more on taking Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian, and Jordanian water than it does on desalination. About a third of the Jewish state’s water comes from the occupied West Bank. They’re also drilling 1,500 foot deep wells in the Golan Heights which, under international law, belongs to Syria. Israel has invaded Lebanon five times trying to secure that country’s Litani river which the Zionists tried to have granted to themselves as far back as the British Mandate in 1917.
Israel has taken over Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee), the Jordan River valley, punched wells into Palestinian aquifers all over the West Bank, and punched more wells along the Gaza border on the Israeli side to intercept ground water that used to flow west replenishing the Coastal Aquifer under Gaza. Israel does not permit West Bank Palestinians to upgrade their water wells or dig new ones. Instead the Israeli national water company Mekorot sells Palestinians water, pumped from Palestinian lands, to Palestinians who are among the most water strapped people in the region.
All players, Palestinians and Israelis, are over-drafting all the aquifers with Israel extracting the most per capita. Over-drafting causes salt intrusions into the remaining ground water.
Lake Kinneret is Israel’s only large fresh water body. This lake may be gone as a fresh water source within two decades. Israel blames the Kinneret’s decline on global climate change but the real culprit, according to a new report by Israeli scientists, is bad management both to the north and south of the lake. Seventy years ago the Zionists wanted to pump Kinneret water out of Jordan valley to irrigate crops and towns elsewhere in Israel. The Arabs didn’t want that. Zionists prevailed and now the lake has been pumped down so far for so long it is contaminated by salt intrusions from saline pockets under the lake bed. Israel’s National Water Carrier pumps Kinneret water around the country for irrigation. As the water gets saltier the land becomes a sort of coffee filter, accreting salt until crops can’t grow there. Israel diverted the worst of the salt intrusions around the lake and into the lower Jordan River, sending the problem downstream. The lower Jordan is a regular on lists of the world’s most polluted rivers. More than half of the Jordan river valley’s biodiversity has disappeared since Zionism came to power.
West Bank/Israeli streams and groundwater are over exploited and drying up so completely that centuries old trees in the nature reserves are dying of thirst.
Claim: Israel is a world leader in taking care of its water resources.
Reality: Israel is the Flint, Michigan of the Middle East. With little to no environmental oversight, and criminal penalties of up to 15 years in prison for documenting toxic spills in and around the Ashkelon/Eilat oil pipelines or the Dimona nuclear weapons facility. The Jewish state has a history of spectacular toxic spills and dumped military/industrial carcinogens. Their military/industrial complex contaminated 600 million cubic meters of ground water under Tel Aviv with the rocket propellant perchorate and other poisons, necessitating putting the city on the national water supply instead of ground water until the ground water is pumped out and cleaned up—which is to say, forever. There are hundreds of contaminated wells, hundreds of millions of tons of contaminated ground water, millions of tons of oil stored right on the beach, and massive unregulated hazardous waste sites built above aquifers. In July, 2017 a 200 foot tall earthen dam collapsed releasing a ‘toxic tsunami’ of acidic effluent laced with heavy metals, and who knows what else. The stuff demolished a nature reserve in the desert near Dimona nuclear reactor. Dimona, the world’s oldest nuclear reactor, was built for making weapons not electricity. Israel won’t decommission the site because they can’t build another one by themselves and no other country will do it for them unless Israel signs the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which, unlike every other country in the Middle East, Israel refuses to join. It sits 18 miles from the Syria-African fault line—with 1,537 documented defects in its aluminum core.
Claim: Jews are a flourishing majority in Israel
Reality: Israel is locked in an unwinnable competition with the faster growing Arab population. Even as the Jewish state claims a slight majority of Jews vs. Arabs, over a million Israelis have emigrated to the U.S. and most aren’t expected to move back. Those people are still counted in the Israeli census. In addition, the Arabs are more fertile and a majority of Palestinian women are just entering their peak child bearing years as Israeli women are aging out. Median age of females in Israel is 30.6 years-old. Female median age in the Occupied West Bank is 21.3 years. Female median age in Gaza is 17.5 years. Here’s the thing, if you could snap your fingers and make everybody either Jewish or Palestinian, it wouldn’t matter because there still wouldn’t be enough food, water, or room for everybody.
Claim: Israelis are rehabilitating the land from Palestinian neglect.
Reality: American and British observers in the 1800’s and early 1900’s wrote favorably of Palestinian land stewardship citing narrow terraced agriculture, olive production, fruit groves and successful grain harvests where whole villages turned out across wide plains. Today agricultural land under Zionism has been degraded to the point where half of it is at risk. Erosion is rampant. Pesticide use is highest of any country in the OECD with a staggering 3.5 tons of pesticides per 1,000 cultivated dunhams, (247 acres) reported. The next highest, Japan, uses less than half that and Sweden uses the least pesticides of all OECD countries at just 40 kg for the same size area.
In addition to poisoning its own lands, Israel routinely sprays massive amounts of defoliants on the Gaza side of the border to destroy Palestinian crops and ruin land for agriculture. An estimated 3,500 acres of Gaza cropland and 2,000 acres of pasture and irrigation ponds have been compromised since 2014. Red Cross analysis shows contamination from Israeli spraying is so extensive the stuff has leached into the soil more than 1.3 miles inside the Gaza segregation barrier.
Deliberately running 60 ton tanks and armored bulldozers back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, over Palestinian (and sometimes Israeli) lands compacts and alters soil structure deep into the earth rendering the land unproductive and unable to retain water as it did traditionally.
Claim: Israel is a world leader in re-forestation.
Reality: Before Zionism, ancient olive groves were the pride of Palestine and the people’s source of income, nutrition, and culture. Among the world’s oldest trees, olives resist drought and fire. Attempting to break Palestinian resistance, Zionists have destroyed so many olive trees that, had they been left standing, they would make up the largest forest in Israel.
Through the Jewish National Fund, Israel embarked on a massive forest planting effort. Trying to re-create Europe, they planted forests of mostly Aleppo pines. They planted the trees too close together. Pines don’t resist fire as well as olives and burn like gasoline in summer.
Towards the end of Israel’s annual drought months, any campfire spark, a tossed cigarette, or in 2018, burning kites flown towards Israel by Gaza protesters, can start huge forest fires fanned by high winds. Burned, blackened landscapes absorb heat as asphalt parking lots do. Ground temperatures as high as 150 degrees F. result in increased heat stress, erosion, and damage to soil structure. During those protests the Palestinians burned tires to create smoke so Jewish snipers couldn’t shoot them effectively. Soot settled over the landscape darkening the land even more.
American water engineers and money built Israel’s water carrier
Claim: Israel created the most efficient water system in the Middle East.
Reality: Starting even before Israel was founded American water engineers, hired by the Zionists, produced plans for Israel’s National Water Carrier and developed schemes for diverting water from all over the region to the Jewish state. These Americans were a who’s who of the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Bureau of Reclamation. Back then these two agencies had made America the most prolific dam and aqueduct building country in the world. Pro-Zionist advocacy by such engineers gave Zionist plans legitimacy in Washington, D.C.
Back in those days the British administered Palestine and British water engineers called for more equitable water distribution between Arabs and Jews, and for keeping Jordan River water inside the Jordan Valley.
For decades in the mid-1900’s American and British water engineers countered each other with plan after plan. Zionists constantly stalled British efforts at the same time they went out and laid pipe for their own American backed water plans regardless of international law. In October, 1953 when Israel kept digging a water diversion canal the United Nations had declared illegal, President Eisenhower announced publicly that that the United States would cut off funds to Israel. Israel stopped digging at once.
Today we know the TVA and Bureau built obsessively in America at the expense of indigenous peoples, farmers, communities, and the environment. They had no problem stealing land while exaggerating a dam’s benefit and minimizing the damage and costs. Israelis learned a lot from them. Today those American engineers are mostly dead and by departing, have left present and future generations to figure out how to mitigate and pay for: silted-up dams, salinity, destroyed fish runs and water shortages downstream.
Claim: Israeli technology is what the earth needs.
Reality: Israeli technology is to environment what anabolic steroids are to health. Both say they’re the cutting edge for reaching some epitome of strength and beauty, while on the inside testicles are shrinking and multiple organs are shutting down. The difference between the two is that today’s top body builders have become increasingly open and honest about what they’re doing to themselves and caution others to understand the risks of steroids and growth hormones that have killed a lot of them young from enlarged heart, liver, and lungs.
Today’s Israel is the pee-wee hyper-military/industrial muscle man of the Middle East. Even as it launches attacks against Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and postures at Iran, its aquifers are shrinking and its life sustaining organs: ground water, streams, the Jordan River, Lake Kinneret, agricultural lands, soil, beaches, wetlands and nature reserves are all contaminated and shutting down. Mother Earth is never political but she’s brutal when humans push her too far. She’s maneuvering to send Israel the way of every arrogant desert civilization. Zionists are incapable of response and Congress could wring every last dollar out of the long-suffering American taxpayer without changing the inevitable.
Why would we even pretend Israelis have viable solutions when they can’t feed or water themselves? Or when they’re building massive petroleum infrastructure as the world is trying to get off oil? Or when they’re cutting off water to millions of people as the world is trying to support human rights?
Remember us? America is the country that fed itself, several allied armies, and much of Europe during and after the World Wars. We’ve got the Cooperative Extension Service, 4-H, Future Farmers of America, garden clubs all over the country, doomsday preppers and the Mormons who have an imperative to store a year’s food supply. We’re so good at growing things that marijuana became the number one cash crop when it still had to be grown and distributed in secret at the risk of decades in prison. Even as our government lags far behind, our citizens are working towards alternative energy, water saving innovations, composting toilets, growing crops more efficiently, reducing food waste, changing lifestyles and managing healthy forests.
If we need models outside the United States forget Israel, look to carbon-negative Bhutan which measures its well-being not by money but by ‘The Gross National Happiness’. Look to France that saves millions of tons of food by requiring restaurants and grocery stores to donate it rather than throw it away. Look to the little Netherlands which is #2 in the world for agriculture sales behind the U.S. Look to Costa Rica, New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Maldives, Tuvalu, Vatican City, and the Canadian Province of British Columbia who have all pledged to become carbon neutral. Tangible progress is happening in the world but it’s not coming out of the Middle East.
Too bad about Israel but they’ve done it to themselves. Our people are increasingly inclined to apply our money and young people over here healing land, water, and each other to cultivate the society our founders dreamed of and pass along to future generations a genuinely healthy culture where there are no others and no unsacred places.
Dick Callahan is a writer with degrees in biology and education. He lives in Juneau with his wife and two sons. In April 2016, he won first place in the Alaska Press Club Awards for best outdoors and sports column in the state. Find his work at DickCallahan.net