Until the last drop

Until the last drop

In an occupied land where water is a privilege, two farmers face increasingly different realities.

The West Bank has been home to Palestinian communities like Al Hadidiya for generations. Since occupying it in 1967, Israel has made it increasingly difficult for communities like Al Haddidya to access, maintain and own water systems. Water shortages have critical impacts on agriculture, livestock and households, while an abundance of water allows families and businesses to thrive in illegal settlements.

The West Bank is divided into three areas: A, B and C. Area C is under full Israeli military and civilian control. The land here is desiccated – fertile, but thirsty for irrigation to support agricultural growth. For centuries, Palestinians have sourced water through hundreds of ground and rain water wells. Under Israel’s control, however, there has been a strategic demolition of wells on Palestinian territory and Abu, for example, is prevented from renovating them. These scarce water conditions make life difficult for Abu. Without enough water, crop yields are poor, and he often only harvests enough to feed his animals. Most of all, he worries about his children’s future and their ability to endure such conditions indefinitely.

Living North of Abu and also in Area C, Eli Gilad of the Israeli community of Masua enjoys ample water access. Eli manages a vast date plantation with thousands of trees, each tree requiring a thousand litres of water per day. Israeli policy means that Eli, like other Israeli settlers, can access millions of litres of water a day, helping him produce dates on a commercial scale which are exported internationally.

Despite being physically connected to the same land, the two farmers’ experiences are detached and unequal. However, despite the odds and an uncertain future for his children, Abu is determined to keep farming and keep resisting until the last drop.

About 400,000 Israeli settlers live in illegal settlements across Area C of the West Bank. They are allocated 80% of the available water and consequently Palestinians live unequal and separate lives.

The Jordan Valley is the deepest valley in the world, with land so rich and fertile it once was the Palestinian breadbasket. In 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank, and has actively prevented the construction and maintenance of Palestinian water systems ever since. Area C makes up 61% of the West Bank where Israel has near exclusive control over law enforcement, planning, construction and access to water at the expense of Palestinians, in non-compliance with the Oslo agreement provision on water distribution.

Water is a significant source of conflict and tension in Area C. Farmers like Abu don’t have the means to compete with the industrial farming techniques of the Israeli settlements. Many experience demolitions and confiscation of any structure they have built on their land. Israeli authorities have also systematically denied Palestinians the right to build any permanent structures, roads, or schools. As a result, conditions have become so uninhabitable that many Palestinians have no choice but to leave Area C, further advancing Israel’s land takeover and the expansion of its settlements. Abu believes that the restriction of Palestinians’ access to natural resources and building rights is part of an ongoing strategy to make Palestinians leave the West Bank of their own accord.

Palestinian rights continue to be undermined by ongoing discussions for peace as US President Trump’s plan seeks to harden Israeli territorial and security control over much of the West Bank; becoming a greater obstacle to progress rather than a positive movement for change for Palestinians. Peace between Israel and Palestine will become increasingly difficult so long as Palestinians are refused access to land, resources, and autonomy over construction rights and laws. Water equality therefore remains a distant hope for many Palestinians in the West Bank.

Length

20min 20sec


Location

Occupied Palestinian Territories


Year of Production

2020


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The Characters

Abu Saqer, Palestinian Farmer

Abu Saqer, 70, is a shepherd and farmer, self-proclaimed philosopher and respected leader of the Al Haddidya community and the wider area, which lies to the south of the West Bank.

He was born close to where he lives now – south of Area C. Since the Israeli Civil Administration destroyed his permanent home five years ago, he now lives in a ramshackle collection of tents with his wife, sons and daughters. It overlooks his field of olive trees and a small herd of goats which he grazes in the hills. The olive trees are weak, and in 2019 they made just three gallons of olive oil due to the lack of water and their stunted growth.

Like many Palestinians, Abu does not have reliable access to a water source. His family buys water from the closest Palestinian village in Area A. With the little water he has, Abu manages to farm barley and wheat to sustain his family and animals.

Recently, Israeli authorities destroyed nearly all the homes in the Al Hadidya community. As the community leader, Abu called for a meeting of the Popular Struggles Committee so that he and his fellow farmers could discuss the options they have in the wake of this new round of destruction. Abu’s struggle with the Israeli Military is deep and personal; his farm has been demolished twice and last year Israeli forces detained and released three of his sons while working in the area. However, despite his strife, Abu is determined to use agriculture as a form of resistance. He will keep farming until the last drop.

Eli Gilad, Israeli Farmer

Eli Gilad lives in the Masua Settlement with his wife and children in Area C of the West Bank. His mother had narrowly escaped from Auschwitz during the Second World War after she fell sick and went to the hospital. His mother and father met in Hungary. After giving birth to Eli, they moved to Israel in 1977 to start a new life. Growing up, Eli worked with his parents in the soaring heat to transform the land from an arid, rocky area, to fields of vegetables. In the 1980s, Eli and his family turned to dates, and they began an ambitious project comprising of thousands of date trees which are irrigated by a computerised system and fed from an uphill grey-water reservoir.

His communities’ drinking water is piped from Jerusalem by an Israeli water company. An abundance of water has allowed Eli to produce dates on a commercial scale which has resulted in his prosperity. Eli now employs dozens of Palestinian workers to pick dates, before they are taken to the factory to be processed. The dates are sold to local markets and exported internationally. Eli is a farmer who enjoys a comfortable life with a good income and he often takes holidays abroad with his family. Eli is passionate about animals and keeps exotic snakes and fish in his date factory. At home, he has built a community zoo full of exotic birds.

The Directors

Tim Webster

I am a documentary filmmaker from Brighton in the UK with a passion for directing and producing anthropocentric films that highlight cultural, political and environmental issues.

I won two Gold awards in the Lovies2018 for The real price of water, which received over 27 million views worldwide. I am also a photographer and have recently worked on an undercover investigation to expose the injustices of the fishmeal industry in West Africa.

I saw first-hand how Israel uses water as a weapon to force Palestinians from their own land. As annexation threatens the entire West Bank, Palestine is, unfortunately, once more in the headlines. This makes Until the last drop even more urgent.

Ernesto Cabellos

Ernesto Cabellos is an award-winning Peruvian documentary filmmaker. He has produced and directed the feature documentary films Choropampa, the price of gold (2002), and Tambogrande (2007). His latest film Daughter of the Lake (2015) was available on Netflix worldwide and received more than 40 international awards and distinctions. It tells the story of Nelida, an Andean woman able to communicate with water spirits to prevent a mining corporation from destroying the lakes of her community.

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