Water Words: Discourses of Development in Israel and the Palestinian Territories
Rafferty, Mark P.
- Israel and the Palestinian Territories sit at a troubled intersection of political unrest and environmental insecurity. In both Israel and Palestine, water flows through a complex network of physical and social structures, meaning that contestation of this water is multifaceted and complex. Today, struggles over water in the region revolve around efforts to determine how water resources should be ... read moredistributed and managed. However, given the complexity of water networks and their lack of objective boundaries, even having conversations about what water is to be managed can be a contentious process. Planners and policymakers must determine which aspects of water networks need their attention, and they must make decisions as to the scale and level at which these problems should be approached. This thesis examines the development of the field of water studies in the Israeli-Palestinian context, and it shows how competing actors and institutions seek to influence development policies by presenting and legitimizing different frameworks for understanding the region's water. Some actors in the field argue that water in the region should be viewed as a material resource to be distributed in a way that provides the maximum utility to the maximum number of users. For others, water is a resource endowed with cultural and social meaning that should be distributed according to normative understandings of rights and ownership. For other actors, there are yet other standards to determine how water should be perceived and dealt with. Actors within the water field frequently communicate with each other to contest paradigms of Israeli and Palestinian water problems and to promote new frameworks to inform political and physical development of water networks in the basin. These conversationsand their philosophical and sociopolitical underpinningsare the focus of this thesis. The thesis examines discourses propagated by Israeli, Palestinian, and international actors. While breaking down problematic assumptions usually attached to these actors and their positions, this thesis looks closely at the strategies that these actors use to position themselves vis--vis other actors and discourses within the field. Ultimately, it aims to shed light on the state of the interdisciplinary water management field in Israel and the Palestinian Territories and to lay the groundwork for discussions about how the field's component disciplines might communicate more effectively to form a more coherent, more effective whole.read less