Tim Franks writes a "Jerusalem Diary" for BBC News. His entry for Monday 11 February is about Rats and Sewage.
.... Mahdi Dardok is a 33-year-old sweetshop owner in Nablus.
I met him at the threshold of his family home. Distaste played at the corner of his lips, as he showed me the narrow brown river that gushed past the back of his house.
"Waste water," he told me. "Completely waste water."
Three weeks ago, Mahdi and his wife were preparing supper. They had put their 11-day-old baby girl, Anwar, in her crib.
Suddenly, Mahdi noticed a huge black rat jump from the crib. He and his wife rushed over. Anwar's face was covered in blood.
Mahdi raced out on to the street, to get a car to take Anwar to hospital. She stayed in hospital for two days. The doctors do not yet know if the rat bites will scar.
"Since then," Mahdi told me inside his neat living room, "the kids in the house don't want to sleep in their beds, they want to sleep with us".
Mahdi showed us the photographs, both of Anwar, and of the times when a filthy, stinking, brown deluge has swept up to the first floor of the house.
He is thoroughly fed up with Nablus municipality for its inaction. The day after his baby was savaged, Mahdi went to see the deputy mayor of Nablus.
Always, though, Mahdi says, "all we get are promises - nothing happens".
The deputy mayor, Hafez Shaheen, is well qualified to talk. He has a doctorate in water and environmental engineering.
It is true, he says: waste water is flowing through Nablus, raw and untreated, both west and east.
The groundwater is polluted, and in the summer, vegetable farmers often use the waste water directly to irrigate their crops.
Dr Shaheen lists the diseases children are suffering, directly as a result of the polluted water, including diphtheria and dysentery.
So why does the West Bank's second largest city, which has had a sewage system since Roman times, not have a treatment plant?
Dr Shaheen puts it down to "technical and political difficulties". There has been a plan on the table, he says, for more than 15 years; there is funding, too, from Germany.
The problem has been receiving approval from the Israeli authorities, he says.
A spokesman for the Israeli Civil Administration said that this was simply "not true".
"They may have plans, they may have funding," he told me. "But they've made no requests of us. If they want us to do something, they have to come to us."
Either way, progress is grindingly slow. To many, it is non-existent.
Tony Blair, the international envoy to the Middle East, came to Nablus on Thursday, and hinted at his impatience to see the occupation there "lifted", as he put it.
For Mahdi Dardok and his fearful family, a fresh approach cannot come soon enough.
Did you catch that? "Either way." To find out what the truth is - why this situation exists - doesn't matter, only the poorpalestinian suffering itself matters. And poorpalestinian suffering only matters to the BBC because it can be exploited to sell newspapers and online advertising.
Municipal elections were held in Nablus in December 2005: Hamas won 13 seats and 73.4% of the votes.
al Reuters November 2007:
The U.S. plans to rush $1 million in aid to the West Bank city of Nablus, home to 200,000 Palestinians, to try to support Mahmoud Abbas ahead of a U.S.-sponsored conference on statehood. Western diplomats cast the quick infusion of U.S. aid as part of a "hearts and minds" campaign to try to bolster Abbas. The U.S.-funded projects will rebuild schools, clinics and court buildings, senior U.S. officials said at a recent closed-door meeting of the Quartet. The projects are meant to give a facelift to the city, according to U.S., Western and Palestinian officials.
A month later, in Paris, eighty-seven countries and international organizations together pledged $7.4 BILLION to the Arabs of Gaza, Judea and Samaria, including $555 million from the United States. Of that, Congress has already appropriated $218 million [according to Salam Fayyad].
If past behavior is any indication of future behavior, these g'zillions of dollars will be used to kill Jews and raw sewage will continue to flow in the streets of Nablus. Babies will continue to be bitten by rats. It's a matter of priorities, and keeping their fellow Arabs in squalor is a high priority of Arab terrorist organizations, a couple of dozen Arab countries and the United Nations.
I'd say that if you really want to see a modern sewage system in Nablus, your best bet would be Israeli Oppression & Occupation:
.... At the inception of the occupation, conditions in the territories were quite dire. Life expectancy was low; malnutrition, infectious diseases, and child mortality were rife; and the level of education was very poor. Prior to the 1967 war, fewer than 60 percent of all male adults had been employed, with unemployment among refugees running as high as 83 percent. Within a brief period after the war, Israeli occupation had led to dramatic improvements in general well-being, placing the population of the territories ahead of most of their Arab neighbors.
In the economic sphere, most of this progress was the result of access to the far larger and more advanced Israeli economy: the number of Palestinians working in Israel rose from zero in 1967 to 66,000 in 1975 and 109,000 by 1986, accounting for 35 percent of the employed population of the West Bank and 45 percent in Gaza. Close to 2,000 industrial plants, employing almost half of the work force, were established in the territories under Israeli rule.
During the 1970's, the West Bank and Gaza constituted the fourth fastest-growing economy in the world -- ahead of such "wonders" as Singapore, Hong Kong, and Korea, and substantially ahead of Israel itself. Although GNP per capita grew somewhat more slowly, the rate was still high by international standards, with per-capita GNP expanding tenfold between 1968 and 1991 from $165 to $1,715 (compared with Jordan's $1,050, Egypt's $600, Turkey's $1,630, and Tunisia's $1,440). By 1999, Palestinian per-capita income was nearly double Syria's, more than four times Yemen's, and 10 percent higher than Jordan's (one of the better off Arab states). Only the oil-rich Gulf states and Lebanon were more affluent.
Under Israeli rule, the Palestinians also made vast progress in social welfare. Perhaps most significantly, mortality rates in the West Bank and Gaza fell by more than two-thirds between 1970 and 1990, while life expectancy rose from 48 years in 1967 to 72 in 2000 (compared with an average of 68 years for all the countries of the Middle East and North Africa). Israeli medical programs reduced the infant-mortality rate of 60 per 1,000 live births in 1968 to 15 per 1,000 in 2000 (in Iraq the rate is 64, in Egypt 40, in Jordan 23, in Syria 22). And under a systematic program of inoculation, childhood diseases like polio, whooping cough, tetanus, and measles were eradicated.
No less remarkable were advances in the Palestinians' standard of living. By 1986, 92.8 percent of the population in the West Bank and Gaza had electricity around the clock, as compared to 20.5 percent in 1967; 85 percent had running water in dwellings, as compared to 16 percent in 1967; 83.5 percent had electric or gas ranges for cooking, as compared to 4 percent in 1967; and so on for refrigerators, televisions, and cars.
Finally, and perhaps most strikingly, during the two decades preceding the intifada of the late 1980's, the number of schoolchildren in the territories grew by 102 percent, and the number of classes by 99 percent, though the population itself had grown by only 28 percent. Even more dramatic was the progress in higher education. At the time of the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, not a single university existed in these territories. By the early 1990's, there were seven such institutions, boasting some 16,500 students. Illiteracy rates dropped to 14 percent of adults over age 15, compared with 69 percent in Morocco, 61 percent in Egypt, 45 percent in Tunisia, and 44 percent in Syria.
At present, however, there are at least two problems with Israeli Occupation -- (1) The Israelis don't want to nanny Nablus anymore and (2) Condi Rice and Abu Mazen have other ideas. Good luck with that.
And I'm sorry about your baby. I really am.