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Sun Dec 9, 2012, 12:08 PM

Polish NGO Safeguards Palestinian Water Rights

By Amira Has

Source: Haaretz

Saturday, December 08, 2012


Israel's ambassador to Poland was summoned to the Polish deputy foreign minister's office in the wake of an article published in the mass-circulation, liberal paper Gazeta Wyborcza. The ambassador was not summoned because of planned construction in E1, but because of a demolition. This happened last February, but the newspaper continues to take an interest in the reason behind the diplomatic event: the demolition of a Palestinian community's old water cistern, which had been restored with Polish government funding through the Polish Humanitarian Action NGO.

Judging by comments on the Internet, and discussions held in Polish media outlets and social networks, the fact that Israel was destroying sources of water belonging to the population for whose welfare it is responsible was a shock to quite a few Poles.

On February 13, a week after the publication of the interview with Kaszubska, Pacewicz received a text message from her: "Israel demolished our cistern." She was referring to a small rainwater reservoir in a small Palestinian village, Rahwa, in the southwest part of the West Bank. On the same day, Civil Administration personnel demolished six residential shelters, seven livestock sheds, four storage areas and four mobile latrines donated by another NGO. All this was documented by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

"On the day the article was published [February 14], I got a call from the Israeli embassy," says Pacewicz, who returned to Israel and the Occupied West Bank two weeks ago to follow up on the "Polish" water-collection structures in the West Bank. In a written statement, the embassy asserted that the cistern was demolished because it is illegal to dig such structures without a permit. Then the Israeli ambassador, Zvi Rav-Ner, was summoned to a meeting with Poland's deputy foreign minister, Jerzy Pomianowski. Rav-Ner was asked to explain why the cistern had been destroyed. Thereafter, the paper received a second statement from the embassy, recommending that requests to authorize such projects be submitted to the relevant authorities, and that signs of the Polish humanitarian organization should be placed next to the restored cisterns.

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