aryeh zelasko: Once insanity become the means of deciding national issues, even the most obvious dangers can be ignored. It is a time honored practice to throw a dead horse or cow into you enemy's water supply. This along with burning his crops and other minor annoyance tend to aid in destroying and reduce the amount of fighting needed to win a war. Think-Israel


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by Martin Sherman


Sewage Disaster In Gaza May Be Harbinger Of Palestinian 'doomsday Weapon'

The following excerpt was taken from a classified report by Israel's Water Commission on the "Impact of the disengagement, summer 2005."

"...if the Palestinians go ahead with their plans to lay a sewage pipe that drains into the sea in the northern Gaza Strip, it will paralyze the largest desalination plant in Ashkelon and pollute the nearby beaches. Crippling the operation of the desalination plant by piping sewage into the sea from northern Gaza is intolerable for the national water system. Any attempt to lay a pipe that drains sewage into the sea and pollutes our coastline must be physically stopped."

The recent tragic incident in which the Bedouin settlement of Umm Naser in the Northern Gaza Strip was flooded by sewage when the wall of a nearby wastewater storage facility collapsed serves to underscore the myopic folly of the "disengagement" concept, and the impossible -- but not impossible to predict -- situations in which it places Israel, and will continue to do so in the future.

Some kind of "sewage debacle" was virtually predestined to occur after Israel's hasty and ill-considered evacuation of Gaza. Immediately after the withdrawal, veteran military commentator Zeev Schiff published an article entitled "From wastewater to war" (the Hebrew version bore the title "Worse than Qassam rockets") where he spelled out the dire hydro-strategic dangers that would confront Israel if the question of Gaza's sewage was not adequately addressed.

In the article, he referred to the Israel Water Commission's Report cited above, and detailed the warnings from official experts regarding the threats to the new desalination plant near Ashkelon -- and to the national water system as a whole -- that are liable to arise as a result of channeling the sewage to the sea from precisely the areas where the recent tragedy took place.

EU support disturbing

In this regard, the Palestinian claim -- or rather accusation -- that Israel is responsible for the disaster because it allegedly prevented the laying of a planned pipeline, financed by Sweden and the EU, to carry the sewage to the sea is both interesting and worrying -- whether it happens to be true or not.

If, on the one hand, the accusation is true, there is room for grave concern, for it indicates that despite the detrimental repercussions that such a pipeline would have for Israel, the Palestinians were still planning to go ahead with its construction -- even though they were well aware of the consequences for Israel, as the Head of the Palestinian Water Authority, Fadel Kawash, acknowledged in the past. Moreover, the fact that the Swedes and the Europeans were willing to fund the project and to ignore its impact on Israel is, to say the least, disturbing -- and edifying.

If, on the other hand, the accusation is false, there is still room for alarm -- in at least two possible contexts. Firstly, if the Palestinians were indeed planning the construction of such a pipeline, and the Israeli government did nothing to prevent it, whether it was unaware of the intention or simply unwilling to thwart it, this would constitute a serious dereliction of duty, which could result in very severe damage to the country, its economy, and its citizenry.

If, however, there were no Palestinian plans to deal with the sewage problem in the area, it means the Palestinian administration is totally unaware and/or unprepared and/or unable to handle this crucially important matter. One does not need exceptional powers of prediction to foresee where such a situation will lead: Deepening social distress, worsening sanitary conditions, frequent epidemics of infection and disease (with the danger of this spreading to Israel).

Mega eco-terror attack

Needless to say, numerous reasons will no doubt be concocted to lay the blame at Israel's doorstep and accuse it of being responsible for causing all this human misery -- and any international credit and goodwill that the proponents of the disengagement hoped to gain by abandoning Gaza will be totally eroded away and lost.

But even more worrying is the fact that this situation will inevitably bring about a spate of improvised and haphazard initiatives from the local inhabitants to contend with the problem -- without any planning, supervision or regard for the hydro-strategic damage these initiatives will cause the hated Zionists. Very soon -- courtesy of the disengagement and its architects -- Israel will find itself impaled on the horns of a nasty dilemma being forced to choose between two very unpalatable choices:

And there is yet one more aspect to consider. In light of the fact that the Palestinian regime, in all forms and shapes, has since its inception following the Oslo Accords consistently shown that it is far more interested in harming Israelis than benefiting Palestinians, the more cynical observers may be excused for raising a disconcerting possibility which cannot be flippantly discarded: Might not the Palestinian leadership exploit the Gaza sewage flows, with purposeful malice, for a mega eco-terror attack against the "Zionist entity?"

The strategic consequences of such an act would be far more damaging and far more difficult to prevent than those of rockets and explosives.

So whether we are talking about malevolent design or malignant neglect, the matter of sewage may turn out to be what one seasoned commentator termed "The Palestinian Doomsday Weapon."

Addenda -- responses to Readers' Comments:

Theft Caused Collapse
Martin Sherman (04.01.07)

Post Script to this article:

According to several sources, including the Gaza city major, the collapse of the sewage dam was caused by the illegal excavation and theft of the material composing the embankment by local residents, who then sold it to building contractors in the area -- allegedly for about US$70.oo a truck load.

11. simple fact
a reader, nyc (04.02.07)

Martin Sherman appears to be very confused. It would indeed be problematic for Israel if the Palestinians were to pump raw sewage into the sea. But the Swedish-financed project he refers to is for the construction of a sewage TREATMENT plant that would clean the water before discharging it, and entirely routine matter.

It is true that the Palestinians at one point contemplated reducing the dangerously high water levels at the Beit Lahiya plant by pumping raw sewage into the sea but this was borne of desperation because Israel had been preventing the construction of the desperately needed new treatment plant for years. When the Palestinians presented Israel with the choice -- let us build the treatment plant we need or we will be forced to pump sewage into the sea to prevent a disaster at Beit Lahiya -- the compromise was that the Palestinians would be allowed to build only one extra pool at Beit Lahiya, hardly enough to prevent the inevitable disaster.

13. On Confusion (#11)
Martin Sherman (04.02.07)

Dear Reader, NYC (#11)

Thank you so much for trying to help clear up my "confusion" as you put it.

Unfortunately however, your attempt seems a little disingenuous for several reasons.

The interesting document you provide is dated almost two years PRIOR to the disengagement -- which presumably means it was based on even earlier studies, when realities were very different. Since then much has happened -- something which you appear to steadfastly ignore.

You ignore that it is emerging that the storage facility did not overflow because of insufficient capacity but that its bank collapsed due to illegal excavation by local inhabitants and who then sold the material to building contractors

You further ignore the fact the area of North Gaza has, since disengagement, become a launching-pad for rocket attacks against Israel and hence Israel has been compelled to return fire, making any civilian construction in the area difficult (or are you suggesting the Palestinian terrorists should be allowed to assault Israel with impunity? 2007/03/28/1174761509357.html

You also ignore the reports that piping intended for civilian construction in Gaza was acquired by terrorists for the manufacture of rockets and that arrests have in fact been made in this regard. JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull

There is undeniable human misery in Gaza, but underlying reason for this seems to be the equally undeniable inability and/or unwillingness of the Palestinians to establish any semblance of a stable productive civil society -- in spite of massive international aid and sympathy. The sooner this is acknowledged the sooner alleviation of this suffering will be facilitated

18. changing the subject (on #13)
a reader, nyc (04.03.07)

The main point of Sherman's article is to warn/speculate about a potential Palestinian 'doomsday weapon' of pumping raw sewage into the sea, thus contaminating Israeli waters. The argument is based on the claim that the Palestinians, with the support of the EU, planned to pump raw sewage into the sea. Sherman does not mention -- nor can he produce evidence to contest -- the fact that the PA/EU project was to build a sewage TREATMENT plant, not to pump untreated water into the sea.

This contradicts the main premise of the article, and demonstrates that it is nothing more than an attempt at scaremongering. It also represents a slander of both the EU and the PA.

Even if one accepts all of Sherman's other claims about supposed Palestinian culpability for the disaster as true, that doesn't change the fact that his article is built on a demonstrable falsehood.

19. #18 Staying on the subject
Martin Sherman (04.03.07)

According to several sources, including the Gaza city major, the collapse of the sewage dam was caused by the illegal excavation and theft of the material composing the embankment by local residents, who then sold it to building contractors in the area -- allegedly for about US$70.00 a truck load.

1. Please note the "claims about supposed Palestinian culpability for the disaster" are not Sherman's (i.e. mine), but those of Gazian officials as reported by the international media.

2. If you were an advisor to the Israeli government, would/could you in good faith recommend that it assume that the pipeline, planned in the pre-disengagement period, would only convey properly treated sewage during the post-disengagement period, especially in light of:

a. The Palestinians proven incompetence in maintaining their infrastructure, which among other things led to the recent disaster (The Malignant Neglect Caveat).

b. The unswerving resolve of the Palestinians to inflict harm on Israel -- even when one would think that enlightened self-interest would dictate a different course of action (Malevolent Design Caveat).

In pondering these points remember that treatment of sea-bound effluents that the maritime currents carry northwards towards Israel is not an activity that has a high priority for the Palestinians. In fact one might even consider it more an Israeli interest than a Palestinian one -- which raises the question why, even in more congenial conditions than the present ones, a Palestinian regime would want to allot resources to treat sewage for which there is no apparent use other than to preserve Israeli ecological interests. (Note that if the sewage was used for agricultural irrigation it would, by definition, not be conveyed to the sea anyway).


23. High Court of Justice Petition
Marc Zell, Jerusalem, Israel (04.07.07)

The author is, as usual, squarely on the mark. He might have mentioned the fact that the last High Court of Justice Petition filed against the Disengagement was filed by the author of this comment in the name of several Israeli academics who sought to have the Government respond whether it took into consideration the ecological threat posed by its hasty and ill-considered withdrawal/destruction plan. Relying on expert opinions by the country's leading oceanographer and water experts, we explained the risk posed by turning over the sewage treatment facilities to the Arabs in Gaza without proper planning. The High Court summarily dismissed the challenge as "untimely." Go figure.

Dr. Martin Sherman is in the Department of Political Science at Tel Aviv University. He has written extensively on water, including "The Politics of Water in the Middle East," London: Macmillan, 1999. He was a senior research fellow at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, and served for seven years in Israel's defense establishment.

This article was published April 1, 2007 as an opinion piece in Ynet News,7340,L-3383665,00.html

A similar piece in Hebrew can be accessed via,7340,L-3382946,00.html


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