Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hydropolitics with Clive: Sewage and Settlements

My last class on Thursdays before I'm officially on weekend is called "Water Resources of the Middle East--Negotiation, Policy and Management," with Dr. Clive Lipchin. Clive is a pretty awesome professor who DEFINITELY knows his stuff. Anyways, we were talking about (the lack of) natural, available water resources for Palestinians in the West Bank. Essentially, Israel has the money, resources, and technology to use and develop her territory's water resources, while the Palestinians do not. The whole situation is pretty complicated (surprised?) as almost every water resource in Israel is transboundary, meaning is shared by at least two territories. How does one share water when one country is at war with another? A little background: At Oslo, for the first time Israel recognized in writing the Palestinian people's rights to water (but conveniently didn't specify how much water, or what kinds of water rights). So post Oslo, the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) was founded so that Palestinians could begin to build their own water management infrastructure and policies instead of depending on Israel. The PWA in theory is very nice, and works in conjunction very well with its Israeli counterparts in the Israel Water Authority in research projects, but when it comes to putting real projects into action, things are still basically impossible.

Clive gave our class a recent personal example. He was at a meeting with Palestinian and Israeli water experts and authorities, and the topic came to the West Bank's growing sewage problem. As mentioned before, the Palestinians in the West Bank do not have the money or technology to handle their issues, and when the sewage in the West Bank is outdated and now overflowing into other water sources, there is nothing the Palestinian Authority can do about it. So the Israelis suggest they build new sewage treatment plants--bigger, better, new technology, that would solve all the problems. The funding would be mostly foreign (probably a combination of Israeli and U.S./European) and the plants would be built either by Russia, Japan maybe--countries that build large scale projects in sewage development. Well, it is in fact a great idea...until the Palestinians bring up the fact that Israeli settlers in the West Bank would also benefit from the new facilities. So what, you ask? The Palestinians are in dire need of this new infrastructure, who cares if Israelis also benefit from it? Well, if you are in the PWA, sitting in a meeting with Israeli counterparts, representing the Palestinian people and government, can you really accept this? No, because it is official Palestinian policy to reject all West Bank settlements. Disregard the extremist, illegal Jewish outposts for a moment, the Palestinian Authority reject any and all Jewish settlement in the West Bank. These new facilities, were Jewish settlements to benefit from them, would de facto support general Jewish settlement in the West Bank, something unacceptable on the Palestinian end.

As a matter of principal, the conversation ended right there, and the Palestinian representatives walked out. Put yourself in the Palestinian position: 'I know that my people is in dire need of these facilities. I want these facilities to be built. But as long as there are Jews living on my land, I simply cannot accept it.'

Thus, you have the Israeli side coming in and saying, 'listen, we can talk about settlements later (because our governments are clearly in disagreement about this topic and how it should be resolved). Right now, there is a sewage problem that is affecting your people and mine. So let's put our politics aside and get rid of the growing humanitarian crisis.' In other words, Israel attempts to depoliticize the issue, but can't. The talks stall, and nothing is accomplished.

This is just one example of the extremely delicate, sticky, and nearly impossible to solve Palestinian-Israeli water issues that we are now starting to delve into in class. Both sides are legitimate--what would you do?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Sunday in Spring

Honestly, it's a beautiful day outside. I'm talking cool breeze, sweet sunshine, couple of cute lil clouds sorta day.

Since Thursday morning (it's now Sunday afternoon), I've been going back and forth from my bed to the toilet. It was like deciding at the beginning of the month at the train station whether you think you'd take that commuter rail every day (meaning you should buy the monthly pass) or to opt for a couple of 10 passes on the assumption that your job is only a couple days a week so it would be pointless to go all out for the monthly. Well for me, the decision was obvious--I got the 'All Inclusive All You Can Use In Any Zone In Five Days' Pass. Without going into details, I can say that it was extremely unpleasant and I literally developed internal bruises on my thighs from my elbows leaning on them for so much time. But last night, for the first time in days, I slept through the night. And then through two classes and a meeting. And I took an almost-normal poop. Hooorah!

And now, I can just sit here, on what is truly a magnificent Spring afternoon, and breathe easy. I have some Vampire Weekend blasting (bringing me back to last year's awesome Spring Break Road Trip--here's a link to that fbook album: Spring Break '08 With Columbia Broskis) and all my worries are on hold for a bit.

Missing two days of class? Fuck it. No girlfriend? No matter. Summer housing? I'll figure it out. Severe lack of money? If I turn a trick, so be it. (Wait, what?) Classes for next semester? What about em? Etc. etc.

My day would probably be complete if I refreshed my tab and saw that John and George were alive. Yeah, that would rule.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

While Trying to Read on a Train

On the train sometime back,
brought my journal. Forgot my pen. Shit. Oh well, here goes from memory:

Danny apologizes to Etty via phone, "Sor-ry, Etty, lousy connection on this train, see..."

A buxom woman, Michal, sits directly in front of me, juggling phone calls from lover(s) on one cell and workmates on the other. Her voice alternates from cooing to bitchy by the minute.

Nissim sits across the isle horizontally, taking up three of four seats in his compartment--two seats on his side, see, with one foot perched diagonally onto the third. Says to his Pops so loud that the whole car can hear him, "Pops, what d'you want from me? Next time you bring the goods to us!" All the while the Hareidi fellow sits cornered by the diagonal foot in the fourth seat of the compartment, none too pleased, just judging by the look on his face.

Michal and Nissim, when not on the phone, seem to be in a never ending duel of who can twiddle their fancy device faster than the other, though odds are they don't know it, as they never make eye contact with each other. A pity, as they probably would have hit it off. Or maybe not--everybody knows both parties in a relationship can't have too big a head, it leads to too much fight for space and podium, see.

All the while Sari's three children, God knows what their names are, have not stopped running down the isles, screaming, ducking, jumping, and crying. But mostly just screaming. It is, after all, Purim, and they are excited.

And the Thai foreign worker continues to shout what seem to be obscenities at someone on the other line, overshadowing the teenage soldier speaking quietly in Spanish to who knows who (a lover? a mother?), in an accent I try for 15 minutes to identify but in the end can only determine is not Colombian.

And although I am initially frustrated by the raucous chatter on this late afternoon Direct from Be'er Sheva to Haifa, I don't hold it against any of my co-passengers. After all, it is Purim, and I am going to Haifa to see my old stomping grounds, to be with old friends, and to be right ole merry.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Tonight Josh, Tali, and I embarked on our first serious caravan decorating expedition.
We took a dope poster I picked up in Jerusalem with a sketch of David Ben Gurion and a quote, photographed it, put it on my computer, hooked it up to a projector, and sketched it on our bare common room-kitchen-chill area of our caravan. Let's be honest, it looks pretty sweet.

Next we need to fill the rest of the walls so we don't have a lonely sketch and nothing else...

Shout Out2

Dirty J and Gingy K:

You are both sorely missed in this country, come back and visit (or stay)!