Rights, citizenship and territory: water politics in the
In recent years, the concept of the right to water has gained currency both as a basis of local mobilisation, and as a buzzword in international policy fora. While this concept garners consensus at a broad theoretical level, it often becomes contentious in debates around its concrete implementation. In the Palestinian case, however, even very abstract notions of the right to water are highly contested. While all parties involved in the local and international debate on water in the Occupied Palestinian Territories recognise the severe lack of access to water for Palestinians, this consensus is broken if the issue is addressed in terms of Palestinian right to water. The strongest reluctance to use this language comes from the Israeli side, however many international co-operation organisations present in the territories also refrain from engaging in a rights discourse, preferring instead to focus on the technicalities of water infrastructure development and water sector management. Where the rights discourse does emerge, most recently in the context of a campaign push by various local and international human rights organisations, it has been in the framework of a human right to water. According to this framework, Palestinian right claims to water stem from their natural rights as human beings rather than from their political status as legitimate members of a polity with its own rights of self-determination over natural resources. The latter position – which is held by some Palestinian voices – is particularly contentious as it is strongly linked to broader Palestinian territorial and citizenship claims.