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Op-Ed: Playing Politics with Water

Palestinian Arab boycotting efforts try to trump ecological interests and Arab employment.
Published: Monday, August 26, 2013 4:23 PM


In a world where millions of people face chronic water shortages, you think some people would be grateful that at least one country is a pioneer in the art of water purification. Israel is a world leader in desalinization and irrigation technologies and has improved the lives of millions of people around the world.

Take, for example, Israel’s most-exported environmental technology: the refined drip irrigation system. This allows farmers to produce greater crop yields while using less water. This technology is used in Africa, Australia and the Americas.

In Britain, however, there are a handful of philistines who reject Israel’s water expertise because of their support for the Palestinianist cause. A branch of the Palestinian solidarity movement in England is protesting against the installation of eco-friendly water meters in thousands of homes for the simple reason that the technology comes from Israel.

Three years ago, Israeli company Arad signed a contract with British water provider Southern Water. The latter faces the challenge of providing water to the driest part of the UK while at the same time reducing the cost of water consumption. Around 300,000 homes in north London now boast a state-of-the-art water meter, with a further 200,000 expected by 2015.

But, as usual, the Palestinian issue has got in the way of progress. In July, an anti-Israel activist publicly protested against the installation of an Arad meter in their home. Why? Because Arad supplies equipment to Jews in Judea and Samaria! Arad also employs Arabs in Israel but that’s irrelevant to Israel’s critics, who are willing to decimate the Palestinian Arab job market if its suits their anti-Zionist agenda.

Not surprisingly, the protest was reported in the national newspapers, thus raising the profile of the otherwise unknown Brighton Palestine Campaign. Activists, buoyed by the coverage in the media, are now leafleting homes in the south-east of England in an attempt to deter consumers from accepting Arad-made meters. The cause is being led by Caroline Lucas, who is an MP and the leader of the Green Party. Her concern for “Palestinian human rights” has trumped her green credentials and she continues to pressure Southern Water into rescinding its deal with Arad.

But there is evidence that the malicious boycott of Israeli water technology is a damp squib for the simple reason that people want clean water that doesn’t cost the earth. Luckily, this has always been the case.

Even as early as 1937, a British report observed that the Jewish National Home’s improvement of water supply and sanitation had resulted in a Palestinian Arab population explosion during the 1930s – partly because Arabs were living longer and partly because Arabs wanted to live among Jews.

The campaign against Southern Water and Arad will probably result in a few letters of complaint from the odd anti-Semite and/or politically correct fellow traveler. But on the whole, I doubt that Southern Water is going to be engulfed by letters of complaints from outraged Brits, many of whom are probably sick of being bullied by the Palestinian Arab lobby and are more concerned about how to pay for efficient and environmentally-friendly water and sanitation.

As philosopher Roger Scruton says, “Activist campaigns, which tend to be conducted in the name of the people as a whole, neither consult the people nor show much interest in noticing them.”

Whether you agree with it or not, water is now a commodity like everything else, which is why the UK government and individual companies are defying the boycotters and turning to Israel. For several years, British trade ministers have been forging links with Israeli companies in the areas of innovation, hi-tech and science.

Very recently, UK environment minister Richard Benyon welcomed more than a dozen Israeli water company delegates to a trade meeting, which was also attended by investors from India, Europe and the US. This (and the fact that Israeli exports to Britain were up 55 per cent in the first quarter of 2013) must really irritate boycotters whose anti-Semitic campaign to damage Israel’s economy and reputation is floundering.

Indeed, a number of commercial enterprises in the UK have resisted the boycotters by investing in – or selling – Israeli water technology. Virgin, owned by the immensely successful British entrepreneur Richard Branson, has formed a partnership with Israeli corporation Strauss Group. The collaboration has resulted in a water purifying machine called Virgin Pure, which is now on sale to the British consumer for £300.

Haifa-based Mapal Green Energy has just launched an innovative waste water treatment system in north London. The system, which harnesses the power of bubbles to separate waste particles from water, saves a fortune in energy and has reduced maintenance costs by 80 per cent. Mapal has received over £3 million of investment from a London-based private equity firm and is in talks with various water companies in the hope that the system will be rolled out across the rest of London and the UK. (The company has also been aided by the UK-Israel Tech Hub program, which is sponsored by the British Embassy in Israel.)


EcoStream, an Israeli-owned shop in the English seaside town of Brighton, has reported a 38 per cent increase in trade, despite weekly pickets by anti-Israel activists.
Meanwhile, EcoStream, an Israeli-owned shop in the English seaside town of Brighton, has reported a 38 per cent increase in trade, despite weekly pickets by anti-Israel activists. The company, which sells SodaStream recyclable bottles made in Maaleh Adumim, a city in the northern Judean desert and part of Judea and Samaria, opened for trade last August and has already expanded its range and launched a website. In contrast, the BDS people are behaving appallingly.

Despite the fact that many of these SodaStream bottles are made by Arabs living under Palestinian Authority rule, the boycotters continue to cause trouble for the employees of EcoStream, who are denounced as “Nazis.” In February, one female protestor was arrested and charged with “racially or religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress.”  This is illustrative of the boycott mentality.

It is highly likely that water will continue to play an important role in British commerce and UK trade agreements for the foreseeable future. Boycotters will try to sabotage these efforts, but I suspect they will fail in their objectives. Too many people need clean water and effective sanitation.

And at a time when people are concerned about drought and climate change, the excellence of Israeli water technology is likely to become more attractive. Basically, Britain must choose between eco-friendly water technology and the crude ideology of the Palestinianists, who favor a regressive boycott that echoes the anti-Jewish policies promulgated by the Nazi and Soviet regimes.