Water as a Form of Social Control

Kassem, Julia

Publisher:  Against the Current
Date Written:  01/01/2019
Year Published:  2019  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23466

Whether in Palestine or Detroit, restricting access to water is a tactic used to deprive populations of personal and social agency with dire consequences to health.



Parallels between the weaponization of water in these separate parts of the world are obscured by the relative incomparability of their situations. Nothing in U.S. inner cities can compare to conditions caused by the complete economic blockade against Gaza, massacres on the border during the Great Return Marches, or routine Israeli air strikes that target homes and community facilities in what is described as "the world's largest open-air prison."

Yet weaponizing of water is one aspect of political control in which the two communities can draw similarities, amidst a worldwide campaign by companies like Veolia, Nestle, and PepsiCo to privatize water and take advantage of destruction and loss of sovereignty. Utilizing parallel although very different scales of violence, they are tools for political submission and forced eviction....

In Detroit, the sprawl of glitzy development, increasing gentrification and corporatization, mainly centered around the 7.2 square mile downtown area, cohabits an urban and social environment where Detroiters have witnessed the closing of their public schools, the blighting of their neighborhoods, and, in recent years, shutoffs of their water. A similar dynamic rules Flint.

Attacking infrastructure and targeting institutional foundations of civilian life is a common tactic of war, and a routine practice of the Israeli occupation. But in the absence of overt warfare, under supposedly "democratic" institutions, neoliberal policies attempt to curtail the public’s right and access to water. This parallels the gutting of education, housing and sovereignty in governance.

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