By Mohammad Ben Hussein

AMMAN – The Professional Associations’ Anti-Normalisation Committee on Monday criticised the Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) for inviting Israeli officials to take part in a conference in Amman on the Jordan River.

Badi Rafaya, the committee’s president, said the “Bringing the Jordan River Back to Life: Strategies for Rehabilitation Conference”, which opened yesterday (see separate story), serves as “a cover” for boosting ties between Jordan and Israel.

“The Friends of the Earth holds activities on the pretext that it wants to save the Jordan River and the environment in the Jordan Valley, but in truth, these activities are meant to boost ties with Israel,” Rafaya told The Jordan Times.

He warned the public against taking part in such “dubious” activities, noting that the organisation cooperates with Israel in an Eco-Peace initiative titled “Good Water Neighbours”.

“How dare they call Israel a ‘good neighbour’ after they killed thousands of Palestinians in Gaza and occupied Palestine? This is a Zionist gang that needs to be condemned for its actions, not rewarded,” he added.

But FoEME officials hit back at Rafaya, saying they are working to save the environment and provide Jordan with badly needed potable water, not boost ties with Israel.

“This is not a normalisation project. Yes we have a political problem with Israel, but does that mean we turn our back and allow them to siphon off our own water?” asked FoEME Vice President Abdul Rahman Sultan.

Sultan said his organisation is doing its best to save the Jordan River, which is drying up in large part due to Israel diverting water for industrial uses.

“We are a country that suffers from a shortage of water and we need every drop possible. We cannot allow Israel to steal our water just because we do not want to talk to them,” he told The Jordan Times on the sidelines of the conference yesterday, urging the Jordan Engineers Association (JEA) to offer its services to solve the Kingdom’s chronic water problems.

FoEME President Munqeth Mehyar said the Professional Associations’ claims were unjustified.

“I can only say working for the welfare and good of the people by securing a clean, sustainable environment is the highest level of patriotism. For nature does not wait for political solutions,” said Mehyar in a speech at the conference.

“People’s right to water cannot wait and cannot be achieved by condemning, boycotting and screaming from a distance behind desks in air-conditioned offices,” said Mehyar, who is an active member of the JEA.

According to JEA bylaws, members who make contact with Israeli officials are subject to having their memberships revoked, as is true of all professional associations in Jordan.