Dear Mr. President,
Tonight I'm writing a paper on the inequality of water access for Palestinians as compared to illegal Israeli West Bank settlers. Papers like this are difficult to write, because I've seen the inequality I'm writing about, I've seen the suffering that results from it, and the nature of the assignment requires that I write in dispassionate abstract terms. I want to write about the disbelief I felt when I realized that water doesn't always come out when a faucet is turned on during dry summer months. The way we walked through the July heat and the settlements loomed above us from the hilltops. The contrast between their swimming pools and irrigated orchards and the dry land. I can write about the disparity in water consumption and the unfairness of consistent availability and subsidized rates enjoyed by settlers, but it doesn't feel personal enough.
Water is incredibly easy to take for granted, growing up the Pacific Northwest. More than enough of it falls from the sky. Even more flows from the mountains and still more waits just underground. It is always green here, I am always able to take long, hot showers and I have never once had water shut off because there just wasn't enough. In Palestine, I felt like I was waiting for weeks, expecting rain that would never come. While I was away, Seattle had it's own hottest, driest summer weeks, but the green trees, the lush gardens and the car washes never suffered the want of a single drop. On the fourth of July a woman not much older than me spent all afternoon bringing up water from her well and heating it so that I and the other girls I walked with could wash once we arrived at her home that evening.
How do I explain that in an academic paper? How do you explain it? When you ask representatives of these two peoples to come together and talk about peace, do you ever consider that one side lives on 70% of the WHO's estimate for basic water needs, while the other lives on 300%? Do you ever consider that, in 27 years, Israel had granted permits for only 16 new Palestinian wells, a number that doesn't even begin to keep pace with the number rendered useless by drought in that same time, let alone the increasing demand of a growing population?
International affairs are complicated. The nuances of peace negotiations are surely more complicated than some one like me can appreciate. But water is simple. Water is basic, a necessary component of survival, health and economic stability. Access to water is something that no one should be denied because of their race, religion or nation of origin. Palestinians are already kept off of 60% of the West Bank controlled by the IDF because of settlements, settler roads, or military zones, specifically because of their status as non-Jews. That their access to water resources is similarly (and in fact, more dramatically) curtailed makes Israeli apartheid practices even more offensive.
I'm going to try to distance myself enough to write this paper without emotion. But I can't help feeling deeply ashamed of my own lifestyle, as I do so. Americans consume water at a rate unmatched in the rest of the world, and we do so as we support the denial of even basic water access to others. Some days I feel so incredibly hopeless, I just don't know where to even begin working toward making it better.