Water injustices in Gaza: why there is no neutral position

An open letter by a group of colleagues at IHE Delft

Amidst the ongoing atrocities against the people living in Gaza, we received the news that multiple partners who work with us in research projects and educational activities in Palestine have cut their ties with our organisation, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education. We understand the political concerns that have led to this withdrawal and sincerely respect the collective decision of several of our Palestinian, Lebanese, and Jordanian colleagues in taking a principled stance to not accept funding from the Dutch government and discontinue their collaboration with our Institute. Yet, as water scholars and individual staff members who are deeply committed to principles of water justice and the human right to water, we are also saddened by this outcome, and our hearts weigh even heavier considering the dire humanitarian water crisis that is taking place in Gaza.

In the past months, we have entreated our higher management to not remain silent about what is happening in Palestine. We believe that calling for an immediate and permanent cease fire and demanding a political and fair solution to end the conflict that is ongoing for decades is indisputable for an organisation that explicitly champions peace and justice in its mission statement. In a previous post on this blog, water scholars, including our own colleagues, have described in detail the massive devastation of water services and condemned the weaponization of water in Gaza in clear terms. Other sources have also documented the grave water rights violations as a form of collective punishment, and the recent ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ)—which determined that there is a plausible risk of genocidal acts being committed by Israel against the Palestinians in Gaza—further underscores the gross injustices ongoing in Palestine.

Presenting water problems as techno-managerial issues is a convenient and well-rehearsed strategy of water researchers and educators to turn a blind eye to the deep entanglements between water and politics. It conveniently allows them to assume a position of neutrality. The situation in Gaza shows that neutrality, also or perhaps especially when dealing with water, is impossible. Indeed, the withdrawal of our partners is a strong reminder of the importance to continue to engage critically with the geopolitical context of struggles for water justice. Instead of pretending to be neutral, as a prominent organisation working on water research and education, we need to explicitly assume our political responsibility to stand for the human right to water, and uphold international law. Moreover, we cannot silently witness the purposeful destruction of academic institutions in Palestine – including our partners – and the deliberate targeting of academics – including our own alumni – and their families, by the Israeli Defense Forces. We need to speak out publicly and condemn these actions unequivocally.

In the past months, we have experienced how sensitive it is within Dutch academia – including our own organisation – to express criticism on the actions of the Israeli government. Geopolitical relations and financial dependencies for research grants mixed with the deep scars of European history and (for some) deeply religious convictions, make this conflict particularly susceptible to (self)censorship. We are extremely worried about this development, as academic debate is essential for a thriving society. Too often our critique on the actions of the Israeli government or our disagreement with the formal position of the Dutch government on Gaza is misconstrued and seen as a direct vote of support for Hamas, an action against Israeli citizens, or even against Jewish people at large. However, criticism of the Israeli government is NOT antisemitism, and to claim so is a form of censorship that shuts down free speech and leads to epistemic injustices. Let us be abundantly clear; we condemn all violence against innocent civilians, including the violence perpetrated by Hamas, and we do not tolerate any form of intolerance to any groups or individuals. This also means that we recognize in this longstanding conflict the stark injustices that the Palestinians have been confronted with for nearly 75 years, which intensified in recent months with over 25,000 killed and close to two million displaced as result of mass and indiscriminate bombing by the Israeli government. We are not alone in our critique, and we support the calls for actions of our fellow Dutch academic colleagues, the sit-ins of Dutch civil servants,  collectives of critical scholars from Israel and Palestine, Jewish peace activists, scholars and practitioners of international law, conflict and genocide studies, and several UN experts, including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory.  

With this blog post, we sincerely hope that our Rectorate will reconsider its position about the ongoing water injustices in Gaza and to stand behind our partners in Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan by supporting their explicit call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, unhindered humanitarian support for Palestinians, and a longer-term political solution that does justice to the right to full self-determination for both the Palestinians and Israelis.

Signatures (in alphabetical order):

Adam Mubeen, Ain Contractor, Akosua Boakye-Ansah, Amitangshu Acharya, Andres Verzijl, Annelieke Duker, Anne van Dam, Assela Pathirana, Carolina Dominguez Guzman, Cristina Anacabe, Denise Vanzie, Elga Salvadore, Ellen Zwerver, Emanuele Fantini, Fadime Uzun, Fatima Douadi-Elfilali, Francesco Bregoli, Gabriela Cuadrado-Quesada, Gretchen Gettel, Hadeel Hosney, Hans van der Kwast, Jeltsje Kemerink, Joanna van Rooijen, Jonatan Godinez Madrigal, Margreet Zwarteveen, Maria Kennedy, Marloes Mul, Michel Frem, Michelle Kooy, Mishka Stuip, Mita Kusumaningrum, Nadine Sander, Konstantina Velkushanova, Rozemarijn ter Horst, Seleshi Yalew, Sundus Al-Ogaidi, Tavengwa Chitata, Tibor Stigter, Tova Crystal, Zina Al Saffar and several other colleagues who do not feel safe enough to add their names.

Cite this blog post
a group of IHE staff (2024, February 8). Water injustices in Gaza: why there is no neutral position. FLOWs. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/vs4e

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3 Responses

  1. 16/02/2024

    […] of the water supply in Gaza as a weapon. A group of researchers from the Delft institute endorses this statement in an open letter, stands with Palestinian and Lebanese academics and calls on the […]

  2. 16/02/2024

    […] la destrucción del suministro de agua en Gaza. Un grupo de investigadores del instituto de Delft respalda En esta declaración en una carta abierta, apoya a los académicos palestinos y libaneses y pide a […]

  3. 16/02/2024

    […] van de watervoorziening in Gaza inzet als wapen. Een groep onderzoekers van het Delftse instituut onderschrijft deze bewering in een open brief, schaart zich achter de Palestijnse en Libanese academici en roept […]

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