A South African conference on water has been canceled following protests against the planned participation of an Israeli diplomat.
Arthur Lenk, Israel’s ambassador to South Africa, was scheduled to take part in a “water summit” on 26 February.
Lenk’s involvement prompted one of the main speakers, Lorenzo Fioramonti from the University of Pretoria, to withdraw.
The conference was being organized by the Mail and Guardian newspaper, in cooperation with the South African government. It has now been called off.
Fioramonti, a political economist, said he believed it was “necessary” to support Palestinian and Israeli activists “seeking just and sustainable peace.” Backing Palestinian calls for an academic boycott of Israel, he issued a statement announcing his withdrawal from the conference.
As part of its “public relations” work, Israel has been promoting itself as a global leader in water technology. That has been exemplified by recent comments from the Israeli embassy in South Africa.
Despite the cancelation of the summit, Michael Freeman, the deputy ambassador, said Israel was “willing to share expertise to help South Africa with its drought problems.”
Notorious for stealing
In reality, Israel’s water policies are characterized by racism.
A 2013 report commissioned by the United Nations Human Rights Council found that Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank face “chronic shortages” of water, while nearby Israeli settlements enjoy a constant supply.
About 80 percent of all water drilled in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley is consumed by Israel and its settlements, all of which are illegal under international law. Many Palestinian wells and springs have dried up due to deep water drillings by Israel’s national water company Mekorot and agri-food companies.
Fioramonti argued that the discriminatory nature of Israeli water policies must not be concealed. “Hiding this through a pseudo-technical debate about water technology would be unacceptable,” he told The Daily Vox website.
Patrick Bond, a professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, also said that Israeli diplomats should not have been invited to the “summit.”
In an interview with the Radio Islam channel, Bond argued that Israel was “notorious for stealing Palestinians’ water and also despoiling the water system.”