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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Old Feud Over Lebanese River Takes New Turn

Old Feud Over Lebanese River Takes New Turn

Israel's airstrikes on canals renew enduring suspicions that it covets water from the Litani. The Jewish state denies having any such designs.

By Kim Murphy, Times Staff Writer
August 10, 2006

QASMIYA, Lebanon — Israeli bombing has knocked out irrigation canals supplying Litani River water to more than 10,000 acres of farmland and 23 villages in southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley, prompting accusations here that Israel is using its war against Hezbollah to lay claim to Lebanon's prime watersheds.

Heavy fighting and a series of targeted strikes on open water channels and underground water diversion pipes have suspended much of Lebanon's agricultural use of the Litani River along the coastal plain and in parts of the Bekaa Valley near Qaraoun Dam, said water engineers who have surveyed the south.

The damaged or broken facilities include a pumping station on the Wazzani River, whose inauguration by Lebanon in 2002 prompted Israel to threaten military action because it diverted water a few hundred yards from the Israeli border, in a watershed that feeds the Jordan River, Lebanese officials said. At the time, Hezbollah promised to defend the facility.

The strikes went largely unnoticed by the outside world in the nearly monthlong air assault targeting Hezbollah guerrilla strongholds in southern Lebanon. But Lebanese point to the extensive damage to their irrigation and drinking water system as evidence that border security and water issues remain intertwined in a region short on both.

"Whenever Israel throughout history has thought of its northern border, they don't talk, for example, of the mountains as a border. They always think of the valley of the Litani," said Mohammed Shaya, dean of the college of social sciences at Lebanese University in Beirut.

Israel has said repeatedly that it has no designs on Lebanon's water.

"There's a policy decision at the highest level not to target those water pumping stations," said Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry. "We don't claim an inch of Lebanese sovereign territory. We don't claim a gallon of Lebanese water. We have no hostile intentions whatever towards Lebanon as a country, towards the Lebanese people or towards Lebanese natural resources."

But the enduring suspicion in Lebanon that Israel regards the water of the Litani as its own and the lands to its south as a security perimeter help explain Beirut's reluctance to accept any U.N. cease-fire resolution that does not call for an immediate Israeli withdrawal from the region.

At a minimum, Lebanese officials fear that the repeated attacks on water facilities — as well as bridges, highways, power plants and roads — signal an intention to debilitate Hezbollah-dominated southern Lebanon and enable a long-term Israeli presence there.

"They started [bombing] with the Litani water reservoir, the Litani dam. And we all know that the Litani has a special place in this country," said Fadl Shalaq, president of the Lebanese Council for Reconstruction and Development. "It's a big reservoir of water, and the Israelis don't hide it that there are several parts of the Litani that they would like to take for themselves."

Officials in southern Lebanon said the attacks hit not only bridges, but open water canals, crippling irrigation to thousands of acres here in the Tyre region and in the Bekaa Valley.

During fighting near the Wazzani springs, a guard at the pumping station was killed, the pump was knocked out of service and the underground pipes through which water is transported were heavily damaged, said Hussein Ramal, an engineer for the Litani Water Authority, which operates irrigation systems in the region. "Now every one of these villages is without water."

The Litani flows 102 miles, entirely within Lebanon. It courses south through eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, before turning sharply westward just 2 1/2 miles from the Israeli border, then heading through the coastal plain, past the town of Qasmiya to the Mediterranean, north of Tyre.

Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann, who would become the first president of Israel, in 1919 included the Litani valley among the "minimum requirements essential to the realization of the Jewish National Home." David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, proposed including the Litani again in the 1940s on the eve of the creation of the Jewish state. In the 1950s, historical records show, Moshe Dayan, then chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, and others favored occupying and ultimately annexing southern Lebanon up to the Litani River.

Occupation of the West Bank and Golan Heights, though motivated by security concerns, has provided Israel with an important source of water. Experts note that the small slice of land known as the Shebaa Farms, one of the issues in the current conflict, is graced with abundant groundwater flowing from the slopes of Mt. Hermon.

Israel also sees Shebaa Farms as a strategic asset because of its proximity to the Israeli, Syrian and Lebanese borders.

Israel has always argued that much of the Litani's water flows to the sea, wasted.

A large portion of the river's flow is diverted to a series of hydropower dams, leaving relatively little for irrigation in southern Lebanon. But the Lebanese government had planned to offer a $200-million contract this summer to irrigate major new sections of the region.

Both states would benefit if Israel sold Lebanon power and Lebanon sold Israel water, said Haim Gvirtzman, hydrology professor at Hebrew University.

"Should there be peace between Israel and Lebanon, then it will be possible to use the Litani's water as a trigger for a fruitful cooperation between the two countries," Gvirtzman said.

Old feuds over water ...

The Litani river of Lebanon



Source: Geographical Review, Jul93, Vol. 83 Issue 3, p229, 9p.

ABSTRACT. This article examines the hydropolitics of the Middle East, through a case study of the Litani River of Lebanon. The main thesis is that the desire to obtain additional water sources has been a primary influence on geostrategic interactions of Israel and its Arab neighbors. Israeli efforts to utilize the waters of the Litani help explain the establishment of the security zone in southern Lebanon. The apparent decision by Israel to retain access to the river makes it difficult for Lebanon to regain political stability and economic viability.

More forcefully than ever, politicians and analysts assert that the next casus belli in the Middle East will be control and use of water. Security of water supply is becoming at least as important as territorial security. Thus resolution of water-related issues is essential for the success of the Arab-Israeli peace process. Many Israeli policymakers view the water supply from the Litani River as a promising solution to their country's impending water crisis. However, the Litani River, whose entire basin is in Lebanon (Fig. 1), is crucial for rebuilding and effectively integrating that country in the post-civil-war period. Specifically, the waters of the Litani are essential for agricultural and industrial development of southern Lebanon. This competition for water, a prized resource in a water-scarce region, makes the river a potential source of serious international conflict in the future and complicates the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The conceptual premise of the analysis presented here is that countries suffering from resource scarcities, be they perceived or real, tend to reach beyond their borders. If access to foreign resources is obstructed or denied, countries with superior capabilities seek to establish such access by pressures that may range from peaceful interactions such as trade agreements to coercive actions involving the military (North 1977; Gurr 1985).


The regional context is one of potential conflict between states in the basins of the Jordan, Nile, Euphrates, and other rivers. Riparian states share a substantial percentage of their surface water resources with neighboring states. The diverse and opposing ethno-religious groups, which include' Turks, Arabs, and Israeli Jews, exacerbate the situation. For example, in the late 1970s, a water pipeline from the Nile River to the barren Israeli Negev desert was proposed by Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat. However, that gesture . of peace prompted negative responses in Egypt, Israel, Ethiopia, and Sudan. In Egypt, planners asserted that the waters of the Nile would be insufficient to meet their own country's future needs. Although many Israelis were optimistic about the proposal, some officials objected because they thought it was dangerous to depend on a former enemy and untried friend for such a vital resource (Gerti 1979). Ethiopia reacted by declaring its intent to construct dams on the Blue Nile, the largest tributary of the Nile, which led Sadat to threaten military intervention (Starr 1991). Relations between the two countries were tested again in 1989, when it was rumored that Ethiopia, with Israeli aid, was building dams on the Blue Nile. The recent end of the civil war in Ethiopia and the potential settlement of the conflict in southern Sudan bode ill for Egypt, a downstream state. Political stability and rapid population growth in drought-prone upstream countries will likely result in further efforts to harness the Nile drainage to improve their agricultural and manufacturing sectors.

The Euphrates River rises in Turkey and crosses both Syria and Iraq before emptying into the Persian Gulf. All three countries depend in some measure on the river for economic development, Iraq and Syria perhaps more so than Turkey, simply because the latter has significantly more alternative surface water resources. Turkey recently completed the mammoth Ataturk Dam on the Euphrates, the first in a series of seven dams on that river (Kolars and Mitchell 1991). Relations between the three riparian states deteriorated when Turkey diverted the water from the Euphrates during January 1990 to fill the massive reservoir. Consequences of that action in Syria and Iraq included power shortages, water rationing, and failed crops. In 1975 Iraq mobilized its armed forces against Syria, and war was narrowly averted, when Syria reduced the flow of the Euphrates to fill the al-Thawra Reservoir.

If Turkey and Syria implement all their development plans along the Euphrates, at least fifteen billion cubic meters of water may be extracted for irrigation. In effect, this will deny Syria 40 percent of the water it once received from the river (Jerusalem Post 1990a) and Iraq an amount that ranges between 55 and 90 percent (Jerusalem Post 1990a; Roberts 1991). It is projected that Syria will require one billion cubic meters of water by 2005 and that Iraq will need an additional two billion cubic meters to meet the minimum requirements of their populations and economies. Substantial water deficits could seriously worsen relations between riparian countries and intensify the distrust that was rekindled by the recent Gulf conflict and the ensuing Kurdish rebellion.


The long-disputed Jordan River has headwaters in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel. The river constitutes a main source of fresh water for both Israel and Lebanon. The issue of fresh water is especially acute in rapidly developing Israel, which obtains approximately 35 percent of its water supply from the Jordan River. Israel is consuming virtually all its replenishable annual water potential of 1.9 billion cubic meters, as well as an additional 400 million cubic meters from desalination plants and diminished aquifers. Sixteen senior Israeli hydrologists recently reported that the country is using its water reserves 15 percent faster than they can be replenished each year (Jerusalem Post 1990a). On a per capita basis, Israelis consume seven to ten times more water than do Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, and approximately two to three times more than do their Lebanese and Jordanian neighbors.

In winter 1990, water in the Sea of Galilee dropped to the lowest levels ever recorded, which led the Israeli water authority to consider emergency measures to restrict water discharge to prevent a decrease below the crucial level of 212.5 meters below sea level. For the last five years, Israel has implemented water-rationing schemes that mainly affect the politically powerful farming sector, which consumes more than 70 percent of the country's water supply.

The migration of East European and former Soviet citizens to Israel has resulted in a vast increase of its population. Consequently, it has begun to build one hundred thousand new houses, many of which are on the West Bank, and it is making long-term plans to boost output of electricity. This situation exerts additional strain on the already overextended water supply. A lack of water resources is alleged to be one of the motives for the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the West Bank (al-Bargouthi 1986; Saleh 1988). The water supplies from the West Bank constitute as much as 40 percent of the water consumed in Israel. The primary sources of this water are two aquifers that originate in the West Bank but extend into pre-1967 Israel.

The vision of a Greater Israel, held by some Israeli political factions, encompasses the currently occupied territories with their vital resources. Use of this vision as a governmental policy has been an obstacle to the land-for-peace formula on which the current Arab-Israeli peace talks are based. The outcome of that formula would be a gradual end of Israeli occupation of the West Bank, which some Israelis call Judea and Samaria, in exchange for the peaceful coexistence of Israel and Arab countries. A geographical application of the policy was demonstrated in a full-page advertisement that the Ministry of Agriculture placed in leading Israeli newspapers (Jerusalem Post 1990b). The advertisement argued that a Palestinian state on the West Bank, whether sovereign or autonomous, would draw on the water resources that are vital to the survival of Israel. Relinquishing the land to a potential Palestinian state would likely result in the repatriation of Palestinian refugees, whom the advertisement referred to as poverty-stricken humanity, from surrounding Arab countries. That in-migration "would generate an impossible strain on the already over-extended water supply and inadequate sewerage system, endangering even further Israel's vulnerable and fragile source of life." The commentary concluded with the assertion that "it is difficult to conceive of any political solution consistent with Israel's survival that does not involve complete, continued Israeli control of water and sewerage systems, and of the associated infrastructure, including power supply and road network, essential to their operation, maintenance and accessibility" (Jerusalem Post 1990b).

These statements accent old and new realities. They strongly underscore an Israeli feeling of great dependence on the water resources of the West Bank not only for everyday use by Israel but also for its continued national existence. The advertisement also gives credibility to previous reports arguing that, although territorial physical security was a concern for Israel in 1967, the water resources were at least one, and perhaps the prominent, factor in Israeli strategic calculations. Moreover, this advertisement amounts to an official policy shift that binds territorial and resource security. Relinquishing the water-rich western slopes of the West Bank would be perceived by Israel as surrender of its water sovereignty and a threat to its national existence. This position could seriously complicate the peace process and set resource security as the new context for the Arab-Israeli conflict.


Because of current Israeli utilization of all its renewable water resources and the predicted annual water deficit of 500 to 600 million cubic meters, Israeli occupation of the water-rich area in southern Lebanon raises questions about Israel's hydrological imperative. Israel has had historical interest in the Litani River, whose entire flow is within the borders of Lebanon. The river rises in the northern Biqa'a Valley and runs southward to Beaufort Castle, where it turns westward to the Mediterranean Sea. Diverting the Litani's water southward is an old proposal, first suggested in 1905 by an engineer who concluded that the waters of the Jordan basin would be insufficient for the future needs of Palestine (Saleh 1988). He recommended that waters from the Litani River be diverted into the Hasbani River, a tributary of the Jordan.

Prestatehood Jewish interests in the Litani River were made explicit in letters from Chaim Weizmann, head of the World Zionist Organization (wzo), to various British governmental officials in 1919 and 1920 (Weisgal 1977). In a letter to Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Weizmann argued that Lebanon was "well watered" and that the river was "valueless to the territory north of the proposed frontiers. They can be used beneficially in the country much further south." Weizmann concluded that the WZO considered the Litani valley "for a distance of 25 miles above the bend" of the river essential to the future of the Jewish "national home" (Weisgal 1977, 267). Nevertheless, the British and the French mandate powers retained the Litani basin entirely in Lebanon. David Ben-Gurion, a leading Zionist and the first prime minister of Israel, suggested to a 1941 international commission on the question of Palestine that the Litani be included in the borders of the future Jewish state. The commission recommended that seven-eighths of the river's waters be leased to Israel (Saleh 1988).

Access to the Litani River was a concern during Israel's formative years. The diaries of Moshe Sharett, an Israeli prime minister during the mid-1950s, reveal that Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan, chief of staff and defense minister, were strong advocates of Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon to the Litani River (Rabinovich 1985). In the wake of the 1967 war and in view of Israeli territorial gains from three of its four neighbors, Dayan reiterated his long-standing opinion that Israel had achieved "provisionally satisfying frontiers, with the exception of those with Lebanon" (Hof 1985, 36).

Decision makers who perceive scarcities in their own state will meet demands by using their specialized capabilities to control territory and people farther and farther from its boundaries (Choucri and North 1972, 90). Specialized capabilities, including political influence, economic performance, and military skill and hardware, tend to determine the type of peaceful or coercive pressure that a resource-deficient but capability-rich state can apply to improve its access to foreign resources. Israel's water scarcity is leading to high-risk strategies that it can use with confidence because its military, economic, and political capabilities are superior to those of Lebanon.

The hyrdostrategic significance of southern Lebanon is rarely considered as an explanation of current Israeli occupation of the security zone there. The zone stretches along the northern border of Israel and straddles the westward bend of the Litani River. Israel unilaterally established the zone in 1978, after Israeli troops invaded and remained as a hegemonic occupier. Although there are between one and two thousand Israeli troops in the zone, it is controlled and administered by a Christian Lebanese army general who heads the South Lebanese Army (SLA). Trained, equipped, and paid by the Israeli government, the SLA is nonetheless a quasi-militia, composed of Lebanese. The zone has 850 square kilometers, with 85 villages and a population of approximately 180,000.

Shortly after establishing the zone, the Israeli army prohibited drilling of wells there (al-Bargouthi 1986). Moreover, after the 1982 invasion, Israeli army engineers carried out seismic soundings and surveys near the westward bend of the river, probably to determine the optimum place for a diversion tunnel, and confiscated hydrographical charts and technical documents of the river and its installations from the Litani Water Authority offices in the Biqa'a and Beirut (Cooley 1984, 22). Israel also controlled most or all of the waters from the Hasbani and Wazzani rivers, which rise in Lebanon. Over the years, there have been reports of water siphoning from the Litani into the Jordan River basin, a distance of less than ten kilometers (Cooley 1984; al-Bargouthi 1986; Saleh 1988; Abu Fadil and Harrison 1992; Gemayel 1992).

The average annual flow of the Litani River is estimated at 920 million cubic meters, of which an estimated 480 million cubic meters is measured at the Khardali Bridge near the westward bend of the stream. Before the river empties into the Mediterranean Sea, an estimated 125 million cubic meters of water is consumed in the Kasmieh irrigation project. Permanent occupation of southern Lebanon and continued access to the Litani could augment the annual water supply of Israel by up to 800 million cubic meters, or approximately 40 percent of its current annual water consumption. This volume is attainable only if Israel reoccupies the Karaoun Dam, as it did between 1982 and 1985, and if the zone's subterranean springs, aquifers, and the Wazzani water flow are included (Baalbaki and Mahfouth 1985; Al-Nahar 1986). The Karaoun reservoir has a storage capacity of 220 million cubic meters, which is used for irrigation, domestic and industrial water supply, and hydropower. Furthermore, the largest single withdrawal from the Litani is the diversion of 236 million cubic meters annually through the Markaba tunnel to the Awali River for hydroelectric generation to supply Beirut and other coastal areas. In fact, 35 percent of Lebanon's total production of electricity comes from the Litani waters directly or from the Markaba-Awali diversion.

Another attraction of the Litani River is the high quality of its water. The salinity level is only 20 parts per million, whereas that of the Sea of Galilee is 250 to 350 parts per million. Many aquifers in Israel are stressed, especially along the coast, and the water in them is increasingly brackish. The water of the Litani would lower the saline level of the Sea of Galilee, from which the National Water Carrier channels water to much of the country. "It is this purity that makes the Litani very attractive to the Israelis, who have developed their National Water Carrier System with a view towards potable (as opposed to irrigation quality) water" (Naff and Matson 1984, 65).

Water production by desalination is costly, and cloud seeding to induce precipitation is not always controllable. Turkey proposed a peace pipeline to meet the needs of numerous southern water-deficient countries, including Israel, but importation over hundreds of kilometers of unfriendly territory is seen in Israel as untenable and easily subverted, thus a threat to national security. It is therefore becoming increasingly evident that the only feasible solution, in terms of water quality, volume, and proximity of the resource, to Israel's growing water problem is to tap a nearby source, namely the Litani River.

No one can yet document categorically that the Litani waters are being diverted, because large tracts of land near the crucial westward bend of the river are cordoned off by Israeli troops, which prevents researchers, journalists, and United Nations observers from approaching the area (al-Bar-gouthi 1986; Al-Nahar 1990). Independent water analysts, however, have reported that Israel has been diverting some water from the Litani River into the Jordan River (Collelo 1989, 117) by tapping the massive underground water resources. Hence the measured flow of the Litani is not affected (Cooley 1984, 22-23).

The weak post-civil-war Lebanese government and Israel's continued occupation of the security zone make it difficult to prevent an Israeli role in the use of Litani waters. This could be accomplished either through a unilateral water-diversion scheme, which appears to be the solution now, or through bilateral negotiations, in which the security zone would be used as a bargaining pawn to reach a water-sharing agreement with Lebanon (Amery and Kubursi 1992a).


The Litani River basin is predominantly inhabited by Shia Muslims, the largest sect of the country, who are estimated to number more than 850,000. The largely rural Shia community has historically complained that the Christian-led central government neglects it. This is partially due to the central government's distrust of the Shias, who over the centuries have maintained strong ties with their coreligionists in Iran. Moreover, the political instability in the south, primarily the result of Israeli and Palestinian presences, has given the Lebanese government even less incentive to assert its authority and a justification for the absence of development projects in this largely agricultural area.

The Litani Project, planned in the early 1950s, envisaged the irrigation of 20,000 hectares in the south and 10,000 hectares on the Biqa'a plain. Electrical power for much of Lebanon was to be provided by six hydroelectric stations. The project is decades behind its planned completion date. The northern portion of the project, located in the western Biqa'a administrative unit, is more or less complete, but the government has yet to implement the southern part of the project. Currently, fewer than 50,000 hectares are under irrigation in all of Lebanon, which is a very small area compared with the estimated need of 360,000 hectares (al-Bargouthi 1986). A Ministry of Irrigation study also reported that the south and the Biqa'a provinces require one billion cubic meters of water annually, of which 800 million cubic meters would be used for agriculture, 85 million cubic meters for domestic consumption, and 115 million cubic meters for industry. Harnessing the water of the Litani is essential to the industrial and agricultural development of southern Lebanon. Development of the agricultural sector and investment in agriculturally related schemes may mitigate the Shia community's feelings of alienation and strengthen their sense of national allegiance.

The Lebanese government is under increasing pressure to assert its sovereignty over the entire country, and it may ultimately have to concede to Israeli demands of water in exchange for territory. But that would precipitate a new Lebanese crisis. Diverting the Litani would stunt the economic development of the country, frustrate the postwar nation-building process, and strengthen the hands of groups calling for the cantonization or Islamization of the country.

Without the Litani waters, irrigation would be virtually impossible in the south, and much of the region would become desert (Cooley 1984, 24). Denying the Shia of southern Lebanon water for domestic and agricultural uses would aggravate their frustrations with the central government. For example, rumors in 1974 that the Litani waters were to be diverted to Beirut to meet forecast shortages sparked massive antigovernmental demonstrations.

Any current or future scheme to divert the river from its basin violates the principles of international law. "Water within one catchment area should not be diverted outside that area--regardless of political boundaries--until all needs of those within the catchment area are satisfied" (Cooley 1984, 10). In the province of Biqa'a, immediately north of the springs where the Litani rises, twenty-two villages lack domestic running water, and in the south there are at least thirty-six such villages. If Israel shared or unilaterally diverted the river, the hand of the antigovernment forces would be strengthened, especially the fundamentalist movement. The result would be continued instability in Lebanon (Amery and Kubursi 1992b).


Transboundary water resources in the arid Middle East have long been the source of conflict. The modern quest for industrial and agricultural development rests on greater generation of hydroelectric power and on higher levels of water consumption for irrigation. Occupation of the West Bank and the security zone in southern Lebanon provides Israel with the political and territorial conditions necessary to mitigate the effects of the rapidly approaching water crisis. Israel is interpreted as being motivated largely by environmental prudence in extending its sphere of influence into southern Lebanon. Israeli desire to gain access to the Litant water resources serves its national interest, but to the detriment of Lebanon. If, in an effort to exercise authority throughout the country, the Lebanese central government agrees to any sort of sharing of the Litant waters, Lebanon might face another challenge to stability.

* This article benefited from comments by J. D. Booth, B. Carment, A. A. Kubursi, B. Sallouk, and W. D. Swearingen.

MAP: FIG. 1--Hydrostrategic significance of the Israeli security zone in southern Lebanon.


Abu Fadil, M., and D. Harrison. 1992. Arab-Israeli negotiations: that was not the idea. Middle East (March):21-27.

Amery, It. A., and A. A. Kubursi. 1992a. Le Litant cle de la renaissance economique et de la stabilite politique du Liban.
Ecodecision (September):55-57.

------. 1992b. The Litant River basin: the politics and economics of water. Beirut Review 1(3):95-107.

Baalbaki, A., and F. A. Mahfouth. 1985. The agricultural sector in Lebanon: the significant changes during the civil war [in
Arabic]. Beirut: Dar al-Farabi.

al-Bargouthi, B.S. 1986. Israeli interests in the water of Palestine and nearby Arab states [in Arabic]. Amman: Galile
Publishing Centre.

Choucri, N., and R. North. 1972. Dynamics of international conflict. Theory and policy in international relations, eds.
R. Tanrer and R. Ullman, 80-122. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Collelo, T. 1989. Lebanon: a country study. 3d ed. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress.

Cooley, J. K. 1984. The war over water. Foreign Policy 54:3-26.

Gemayel, A. P. 1992. A peace based on justice not weaponry. Al-Hayat [in Arabic]. 30 October.

Gerti, M. 1979. Project 'Yeor' or the Nile in blue and white. Ha'aretz [in Hebrew]. 21 September.

Gurr, T. R. 1985. On the political consequences of scarcity and economic decline. International Studies Quarterly 29:51-75.

Hof, F. C. 1985. Galilee divided: the Israel-Lebanon frontier, 1916-1984. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.

Jerusalem Post (international edition). 1990a. 9 June.

-----. 1990b. 10 August.

Kolars, J. F., and W. A. Mitchell. 1991. The Euphrates River and the southeast Anatolia development project. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press.

Naff, T., and R. C. Matson. 1984. Water in the Middle East: conflict or cooperation? Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.

Al-Nahar. 1986. 24 March. 1990.

-----. 1990. 3 March.

North, R.C. 1977. Toward a framework for the analysis of scarcity and conflict. International Studies Quarterly 21:469-591.

Rabinovich, I. 1985. The war for Lebanon, 1970-1985. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

Roberts, N. 1991. Geopolitics and the Euphrates' water resources. Geography 76:157-159.

Saleh, H. A. 1988. The water war between the Arabs and Israel [in Arabic]. Arab Affairs 55:55-68.

Starr, J. R. 1991. Water wars. Foreign Policy 61:17-36.

Weisgal, M. W., ed. 1977. The letters and papers of Chaim Weizmann, vol. 9. Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press.

The Litani river of Lebanon

It’s about fresh water, stupid.

It’s about Wazzani Springs, Stupid!
by: gottlieb
Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 10:35:27 AM PDT

One of the sources I read for Middle East information is the Debka File. It’s hard for me to read as Ann Coulter or any other right-wing pundit and if you want a dose of the view from the Israeli right-wing, then I heartily recommend this site. Who knows it may be as reputable as Wayne Madsen; I have heard conflicting reports about the accuracy of information here, but still, if nothing else, as a read it is interesting for the POV.

Anyway, while reading the latest updates on the destruction of Lebanon, I noticed this in the Debka File report.

Perhaps the most important gain from the crisis is Israel’s recovery of control over its main sources of water, the Wazzani springs in the divided Ghajar village.
Huh? I thought. Israel’s main source of fresh water is in Lebanon? How odd.

And then I remembered about 20 years ago I took a college extension course at a local University. The exact name of the course I can’t remember, but the topic of the course was about a world-wide water crisis we would all be facing in our lifetimes. And one of the most dangerous flashpoints for future Water Wars was, duh, the Middle East, specifically in and around Israel.

After signing the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat said his nation will never go to war again, except to protect its water resources.
King Hussein of Jordan identified water as the only reason that might lead him to war with the Jewish state.

Former United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali warned bluntly that the next war in the area will be over water.

So I googled Wazzani Springs.

It’s about fresh water, stupid.

There is more:

Israeli war crimes & German Holocaust guilt complex


GERMANS : Germany 'Trusts' Israel
following our previous coverage of Germany's subsidized sale of Nuclear-Capable Dolphin Submarines to Israel in

the wake of the Israeli War on Lebanon >>>> see here

we stumbled upon this quote (German Government)

"The submarines will not ... be built and equipped for the firing of nuclear weapons, but are designed for the

conduct of conventional war," he said.

Asked if Germany wanted assurances from Israel on that point, Steg said: "We have no mistrust and no suspicion

toward our Israeli partner." --jpost

even the USA is investigating Israel's conduct in south Lebanon... (BBC)

does this guy read the news?
where was he when Israel used Cluster Bombs on Civilians
where was he when Israel used White Phosphorus in Lebanon
where was he when Israel murdered 1200+ Lebanese civilians in 30 days

FLASHBACK : Israel Uses Cluster Bombs on Civilians


A congressional investigation after Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982 found Israel guilty of intentionally dropping cluster bombs in civilian areas.

A six year ban was imposed on further sales of the weapons to Israel.


The UN's Mine Action Coordination Centre says it has found 318 sites in south Lebanon where cluster bombs have been used.

"A lot of them are in civilian areas, on farmland and in people's homes, said spokeswoman Dalya Farran.

"We're finding a lot at the entrances to houses, on balconies and roofs," she said.

"Sometimes windows are broken and they get inside the houses."

"Most of them are from America," Ms Farran said.

According to the UN, eight Lebanese have been killed and at least 30 wounded by exploding ordnance left behind after the 14 August ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah came into force.

source Middle east

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Toys that kill children

The Killing Goes on

(Above: A cluster bomb from the 1960's. Below: A map of the locations where cluster bombs have been found in South Lebanon)

in Afghanistan

Food aid package and cluster bombs

Israel is being investigated by its fellow ally’s State Department for the illegal use of American-made cluster bombs on south Lebanon. Apparently Israel not only violated the Geneva Convention for using cluster bombs on civilian areas but also secret agreements with the United States that restricts when it can employ such weapons. According to the New York Times, the investigation by the department’s Office of Defense Trade Controls began this week, after reports that three types of American cluster munitions, anti-personnel weapons that spray bomblets over a wide area, have been found in many areas of southern Lebanon and were responsible for civilian casualties, even till today.

The agreements that govern Israel’s use of American cluster munitions go back to the 1970’s, when the first sales of the weapons occurred, but the details of them have never been publicly confirmed. The first one was signed in 1976 and later reaffirmed in 1978 after an Israeli incursion into Lebanon. News accounts over the years have said that they require that the munitions be used only against organized Arab armies and clearly defined military targets under conditions similar to the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973.

A Congressional investigation after Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon found that Israel had used the weapons against civilian areas in violation of the agreements. In response, the Reagan administration imposed a six-year ban on further sales of cluster weapons to Israel.

A report released Wednesday by the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Center, which has personnel in Lebanon searching for unexploded ordnance, said it had found unexploded bomblets, including hundreds of American types, in 249 locations south of the Litani River.

The report said American munitions found included 559 M-42’s, an anti-personnel bomblet used in 105-millimeter artillery shells; 663 M-77’s, a submunition found in M-26 rockets; and 5 BLU-63’s, a bomblet found in the CBU-26 cluster bomb. Also found were 608 M-85’s, an Israeli-made submunition.

The unexploded submunitions being found in Lebanon are probably only a fraction of the total number dropped. Cluster munitions can contain dozens or even hundreds of submunitions designed to explode as they scatter around a wide area. They are very effective against rocket-launcher units or ground troops.

In 1982, delivery of cluster-bomb shells to Israel was suspended a month after Israel invaded Lebanon after the Reagan administration determined that Israel “may” have used them against civilian areas. But the decision to impose what amounted to a indefinite moratorium was made under pressure from Congress, which conducted a long investigation of the issue. Israel and the United States reaffirmed restrictions on the use of cluster munitions in 1988, and the Reagan administration lifted the moratorium.

The use of these weapons is hotly opposed by many individuals and groups, such as the Red Cross, the NGO Cluster Munition Coalition and the United Nations, because of the high proportion of civilians that have fallen victim to the weapon. The particular threat this weapon poses to civilians exists for two main reasons. First, because of the weapon's very wide area of effect, accidentally striking both civilian and military objects in the target area is possible. The area affected by a single cluster munition, also known as the footprint, can be as large as two or three football fields. This characteristic of the weapon is particularly problematic for civilians when cluster munitions are used in or near populated areas and has been documented by research reports from groups such as Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action. Secondly, depending on type and their use, between 1% and 40% of the bomblets do not explode on impact. These unexploded ordnance (duds) present a particularly dense and dangerous form of post-conflict contamination and may unintentionally act like anti-personnel land mines (which have been banned in many countries under the Ottawa Treaty) for several years.

See more on cluster bombs here:

cluster bombs

cluster bomb cover

cluster bombs

Toys that kill children


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

You are terrorists, we are virtuous

Monday, August 14, 2006
You are terrorists, we are virtuous
This article has just appeared in the London Review of Books. Israelis should read it well. The rest of us are well aware of Israel's 'national psychosis... deriving from the over-identification with Israeli military thinking.'

So far ceasefire is holding.

You are terrorists, we are virtuous

Yitzhak Laor on the IDF

As soon as the facts of the Bint Jbeil ambush, which ended with relatively high Israeli casualties (eight soldiers died there), became public, the press and television in Israel began marginalising any opinion that was critical of the war. The media also fell back on the kitsch to which Israelis grow accustomed from childhood: the most menacing army in the region is described here as if it is David against an Arab Goliath. Yet the Jewish Goliath has sent Lebanon back 20 years, and Israelis themselves even further: we now appear to be a lynch-mob culture, glued to our televisions, incited by a premier whose ‘leadership’ is being launched and legitimised with rivers of fire and destruction on both sides of the border. Mass psychology works best when you can pinpoint an institution or a phenomenon with which large numbers of people identify. Israelis identify with the IDF, and even after the deaths of many Lebanese children in Qana, they think that stopping the war without scoring a definitive victory would amount to defeat. This logic reveals our national psychosis, and it derives from our over-identification with Israeli military thinking.

In the melodramatic barrage fired off by the press, the army is assigned the dual role of hero and victim. And the enemy? In Hebrew broadcasts the formulations are always the same: on the one hand ‘we’, ‘ours’, ‘us’; on the other, Nasrallah and Hizbullah. There aren’t, it seems, any Lebanese in this war. So who is dying under Israeli fire? Hizbullah. And if we ask about the Lebanese? The answer is always that Israel has no quarrel with Lebanon. It’s yet another illustration of our unilateralism, the thundering Israeli battle-cry for years: no matter what happens around us, we have the power and therefore we can enforce the logic. If only Israelis could see the damage that’s been done by all these years of unilateral thinking. But we cannot, because the army – which has always been the core of the state – determines the shape of our lives and the nature of our memories, and wars like this one erase everything we thought we knew, creating a new version of history with which we can only concur. If the army wins, its success becomes part of ‘our heritage’. Israelis have assimilated the logic and the language of the IDF – and in the process, they have lost their memories. Is there a better way to understand why we have never learned from history? We have never been a match for the army, whose memory – the official Israeli memory – is hammered into place at the centre of our culture by an intelligentsia in the service of the IDF and the state.

The IDF is the most powerful institution in Israeli society, and one which we are discouraged from criticising. Few have studied the dominant role it plays in the Israeli economy. Even while they are still serving, our generals become friendly with the US companies that sell arms to Israel; they then retire, loaded with money, and become corporate executives. The IDF is the biggest customer for everything and anything in Israel. In addition, our high-tech industries are staffed by a mixture of military and ex-military who work closely with the Western military complex. The current war is the first to become a branding opportunity for one of our largest mobile phone companies, which is using it to run a huge promotional campaign. Israel’s second biggest bank, Bank Leumi, used inserts in the three largest newspapers to distribute bumper stickers saying: ‘Israel is powerful.’ The military and the universities are intimately linked too, with joint research projects and an array of army scholarships.

There is no institution in Israel that can approach the army’s ability to disseminate images and news or to shape a national political class and an academic elite or to produce memory, history, value, wealth, desire. This is the way identification becomes entrenched: not through dictatorship or draconian legislation, but by virtue of the fact that the country’s most powerful institution gets its hands on every citizen at the age of 18. The majority of Israelis identify with the army and the army reciprocates by consolidating our identity, especially when it is – or we are – waging war.

The IDF didn’t play any role in either of the Gulf wars and may not play a part in Bush’s pending war in Iran, but it is on permanent alert for the real war that is always just round the corner. Meanwhile, it harasses Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, to very destructive effect. (In July it killed 176 Palestinians, most of them from the same area in Gaza, in a ‘policing’ operation that included the destruction of houses and infrastructure.) They shoot. They abduct. They use F-16s against refugee camps, tanks against shacks and huts. For years they have operated in this way against gangs and groups of armed youths and children, and they call it a war, a ‘just war’, vital for our existence. The power of the army to produce meanings, values, desire is perfectly illustrated by its handling of the Palestinians, but it would not be possible without the support of the left in Israel.

The mainstream left has never seriously tried to oppose the military. The notion that we had no alternative but to attack Lebanon and that we cannot stop until we have finished the job: these are army-sponsored truths, decided by the military and articulated by state intellectuals and commentators. So are most other descriptions of the war, such as the Tel Aviv academic Yossef Gorni’s statement in Haaretz, that ‘this is our second war of independence.’ The same sort of nonsense was written by the same kind of people when the 2000 intifada began. That was also a war about our right to exist, our ‘second 1948’. These descriptions would not have stood a chance if Zionist left intellectuals – solemn purveyors of the ‘morality of war’ – hadn’t endorsed them.

Military thinking has become our only thinking. The wish for superiority has become the need to have the upper hand in every aspect of relations with our neighbours. The Arabs must be crippled, socially and economically, and smashed militarily, and of course they must then appear to us in the degraded state to which we’ve reduced them. Our usual way of looking at them is borrowed from our intelligence corps, who ‘translate’ them and interpret them, but cannot recognise them as human beings. Israelis long ago ceased to be distressed by images of sobbing women in white scarves, searching for the remains of their homes in the rubble left by our soldiers. We think of them much as we think of chickens or cats. We turn away without much trouble and consider the real issue: the enemy. The Katyusha missiles that have been hitting the north of the country are launched without ‘discrimination’, and in this sense Hizbullah is guilty of a war crime, but the recent volleys of Katyushas were a response to the frenzied assault on Lebanon. To the large majority of Israelis, however, all the Katyushas prove is what a good and necessary thing we have done by destroying our neighbours again: the enemy is indeed dangerous, it’s just as well we went to war. The thinking becomes circular and the prophecies self-fulfilling. Israelis are fond of saying: ‘The Middle East is a jungle, where only might speaks.’ See Qana, and Gaza, or Beirut.

Defenders of Israel and its leaders can always argue that the US and Britain behave similarly in Iraq. (It is true that Olmert and his colleagues would not have acted so shamelessly if the US had not been behind them. Had Bush told them to hold their fire, they wouldn’t have dared to move a single tank.) But there is a major difference. The US and Britain went to war in Iraq without public opinion behind them. Israel went to war in Lebanon, after a border incident which it exploited in order to destroy a country, with the overwhelming support of Israelis, including the members of what the European press calls the ‘peace camp’.

Amos Oz, on 20 July, when the destruction of Lebanon was already well underway, wrote in the Evening Standard: ‘This time, Israel is not invading Lebanon. It is defending itself from a daily harassment and bombardment of dozens of our towns and villages by attempting to smash Hizbullah wherever it lurks.’ Nothing here is distinguishable from Israeli state pronouncements. David Grossman wrote in the Guardian, again on 20 July, as if he were unaware of any bombardment in Lebanon: ‘There is no justification for the large-scale violence that Hizbullah unleashed this week, from Lebanese territory, on dozens of peaceful Israeli villages, towns and cities. No country in the world could remain silent and abandon its citizens when its neighbour strikes without any provocation.’ We can bomb, but if they respond they are responsible for both their suffering and ours. And it’s important to remember that ‘our suffering’ is that of poor people in the north who cannot leave their homes easily or quickly. ‘Our suffering’ is not that of the decision-makers or their friends in the media. Oz also wrote that ‘there can be no moral equation between Hizbullah and Israel. Hizbullah is targeting Israeli civilians wherever they are, while Israel is targeting mostly Hizbullah.’ At that time more than 300 Lebanese had been killed and 600 had been injured. Oz went on: ‘The Israeli peace movement should support Israel’s attempt at self-defence, pure and simple, as long as this operation targets mostly Hizbullah and spares, as much as possible, the lives of Lebanese civilians (this is not always an easy task, as Hizbullah missile-launchers often use Lebanese civilians as human sandbags).’

The truth behind this is that Israel must always be allowed to do as it likes even if this involves scorching its supremacy into Arab bodies. This supremacy is beyond discussion and it is simple to the point of madness. We have the right to abduct. You don’t. We have the right to arrest. You don’t. You are terrorists. We are virtuous. We have sovereignty. You don’t. We can ruin you. You cannot ruin us, even when you retaliate, because we are tied to the most powerful nation on earth. We are angels of death.

The Lebanese will not remember everything about this war. How many atrocities can a person keep in mind, how much helplessness can he or she admit, how many massacres can people tell their children about, how many terrorised escapes from burning houses, without becoming a slave to memory? Should a child keep a leaflet written by the IDF in Arabic, in which he is told to leave his home before it’s bombed? I cannot urge my Lebanese friends to remember the crimes my state and its army have committed in Lebanon.

Israelis, however, have no right to forget. Too many people here supported the war. It wasn’t just the nationalist religious settlers. It’s always easy to blame the usual suspects for our misdemeanours: the scapegoating of religious fanatics has allowed us to ignore the role of the army and its advocates within the Zionist left. This time we have seen just how strongly the ‘moderates’ are wedded to immoderation, even though they knew, before it even started, that this would be a war against suburbs and crowded areas of cities, small towns and defenceless villages. The model was our army’s recent actions in Gaza: Israeli moderates found these perfectly acceptable.

It was a mistake for those of us who are unhappy with our country’s policies to breathe a sigh of relief after the army withdrew from Lebanon in 2000. We thought that the names of Sabra and Shatila would do all the memorial work that needed to be done and that they would stand, metonymically, for the crimes committed in Lebanon by Israel. But, with the withdrawal from Gaza, many Israelis who should be opposing this war started to think of Ariel Sharon, the genius of Sabra and Shatila, as a champion of peace. The logic of unilateralism – of which Sharon was the embodiment – had at last prevailed: Israelis are the only people who count in the Middle East; we are the only ones who deserve to live here.

This time we must try harder to remember. We must remember the crimes of Olmert, and of our minister of justice, Haim Ramon, who championed the destruction of Lebanese villages after the ambush at Bint Jbeil, and of the army chief of staff, Dan Halutz. Their names should be submitted to The Hague so they can be held accountable.

Elections are a wholly inadequate form of accountability in Israel: the people we kill and maim and ruin cannot vote here. If we let our memories slacken now, the machine-memory will reassert control and write history for us. It will glide into the vacuum created by our negligence, with the civilised voice of Amos Oz easing its path, and insert its own version. And suddenly we will not be able to explain what we know, even to our own children.

In Israel there is still no proper history of our acts in Lebanon. Israelis in the peace camp used to carry posters with the figure ‘680’ on them – the number of Israelis who died during the 1982 invasion. Six hundred and eighty Israeli soldiers. How many members of that once sizeable peace camp protested about the tens of thousands of Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian casualties? Isn’t the failure of the peace camp a result of its inability to speak about the cheapness of Arab blood? General Udi Adam, one of the architects of the current war, has told Israelis that we shouldn’t count the dead. He meant this very seriously and Israelis should take him seriously. We should make it our business to count the dead in Lebanon and in Israel and, to the best of our abilities, to find out their names, all of them.

3 August

Yitzhak Laor lives in Tel Aviv.
posted by RS at 8:55 PM 91 comments

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Give me liberty or give me death

Eye to Eye - by Gihad Ali

Look into my eyes
and tell me what you see.
You don't see a damn thing,
`cause you can't possibly relate to me.

You're blinded by our differences.
My life makes no sense to you.
I'm the persecuted Palestinian.
You're the American red, white and blue.

Each day you wake in tranquility.
No fears to cross your eyes.
Each day I wake in gratitude.
Thanking God He let me rise.

You worry about your education
and the bills you have to pay.
I worry about my vulnerable life
and if I'll survive another day.

Your biggest fear is getting ticketed
as you cruise your Cadillac.
My fear is that the tank that just left
will turn around and come back.

American, do you realize,
that the taxes that you pay
feed the forces that traumatize
my every living day?

The bulldozers and the tanks,
the gases and the guns,
the bombs that fall outside my door,
all due to American funds.

Yet do you know the truth
of where your money goes?
Do you let your media deceive your mind?
Is this a truth that no one knows?

You blame me for defending myself
against the ways of Zionists.
I'm terrorized in my own land
and I'm the terrorist?

You think you know all about terrorism
but you don't know it the way I do.
So let me define the term for you.
And teach you what you thought you knew.

I've known terrorism for quite some time,
fifty-four years and more.
It's the fruitless garden uprooted in my yard.
It's the bulldozer in front of my door.

Terrorism breathes the air I breathe.
It's the checkpoint on my way to school.
It's the curfew that jails me in my own home,
and the penalties of breaking that curfew rule.

Terrorism is the robbery of my land.
And the torture of my mother.
The imprisonment of my innocent father.
The bullet in my baby brother.

So American, don't tell me you know about
the things I feel and see.
I'm terrorized in my own land
and the blame is put on me.

But I will not rest, I shall never settle
for the injustice my people endure.
Palestine is our land and there we'll remain
until the day our homeland is secure.

And if that time shall never come,
then you will never see a day of peace.
I will not be thrown from my own home,
nor will my fight for justice cease.

And if I am killed, it will be in Falasteen.
It's written on my every breath.
So in your own patriotic words,
Give me liberty or give me death.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Bob's peace plan

Bob's peace plan

Bob's peace plan