The curious case of the Israeli dam and the flooding in Gaza

This is a cross-post by Steve Hynd

On Friday Ma’an News Agency ran the headline Israel ‘opens dams’ flooding Gaza Strip.

It stated that:

“The Gaza government’s Disaster Response Committee announced late Friday that Israeli authorities had opened up dams just east of the Gaza Strip, flooding numerous residential areas in nearby villages within the coastal territory.”

Variations of this report also appeared in Press TV and the Middle East Monitor. The Socialist Worker held no punches declaring it a ‘Zionist made catastrophe’.

Alarm bells started to ring though when all other news agencies reporting on the story made no mention of the Israeli dam. Al JazeeraThe GuardianChannel 4etc all covered the floods with no mention of the ‘opened dam’.

The Israeli paper Haaretz did report it however. They however offered an alternative explanation to Ma’an news:

“Gaza officials blamed Israel for the flooding, saying it caused Wadi Gaza to overflow and flood residential neighborhoods by opening dams outside the Strip. Palestinian sources said these dams normally keep the water level in Gaza low.

Nehemia Shahaf, the Israeli municipal official responsible for the drainage system in part of the northern Negev, said there was one dam in the area, a one-meter cement structure in the Tze’elim area that directs water to a reservoir in Israeli territory, but that it could not be opened or closed. Shahaf said the water level was so high that the dam couldn’t stop it from reaching Gaza”.

If this explanation is true, it might at least explain the inverted commas in the Ma’an news headline as the term ‘opens dam’ would be, at best, misleading. It would also explain why no major news source chose to pick up on it.

If Israel had opened a dam flooding Gaza then this would have been a big event, if a dam was at capacity during one of the biggest storms the middle-east has ever seen and could not stop water from reaching and flooding Gaza, then this would obviously not be part of the wider story.

Probability suggests this explanation might well be true but I of course don’t know one way or another…nor I might add, do the tens of people I have seen posting this story on social media.

The Israel/Palestine conflict is dogged with misinformation and half-truths which add nothing to resolving it. In such an extreme setting there is no need or justification to exaggerating the facts. In Gaza the fact that 80% of people in Gaza rely on food aid, or that 95% of water pumped in unfit for consumption speaks for itself.

There are also very real issues that we should be focusing on that need to be taken up with Israel in light of this natural disaster. As Chris Gunness, a spokesman for UNRWA, said:

“Any normal community would struggle to recover from this disaster. But a community that has been subjected to one of the longest blockades in human history, whose public health system has been destroyed and where the risk of disease was already rife, must be freed from these man made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such as this.”

HP admin adds: Steve’s post mentions questions which might be taken up with Israel, but other issues to consider include the Egyptian blockade and the impact of Hamas’s decision not to buy electricity in the crisis. But it’s good to see apparent misrepresentations of Israel acknowledged and addressed by Israel’s critics as well as her supporters (not that there is no intersection between those groups of course).