Ireland is seeking to stop a European Union initiative that would enable Israel to receive sensitive information about European citizens, due to concerns about the use that Israel would make of this information, the Irish minister for justice said over the weekend.
In what may be another blow to Israel’s international status, Dermott Ahern said that since Israel allegedly used forged Irish passports to carry out the hit on Hamas official Mohammed al-Mabhouh in Dubai, Israel should not be allowed access to this data. Israel has not admitted to a role in the assassination.
Under a plan put forward at the beginning of the year, the European organizations for protecting individuals’ privacy agreed that Israeli companies and European companies should be able to exchange information about customers.
For example, this would mean that an Israeli customer of a local cell phone company, say, Pelephone, would be able to use his phone to connect to the Internet, say, in Italy, and the Italian telecom would be able to receive his personal data from Pelephone and charge his account accordingly. The same would be true for people with European cell phones in Israel who wanted to use Israeli networks.
In addition, multinational corporations would be able to entrust Israeli companies to secure their databases, and the data could be stored on servers in Israel. Plus, information about employees could be passed freely between European and Israeli branches of the same company.
In agreeing to grant this access, the EU authorities decided that Israel had proper information protection systems in place.
However, the plan still needs to be ratified by the government of each individual EU member country before it can take force.
Beyond easing companies’ operations, the plan is also intended to make it easier for the authorities to catch cases of money laundering.
Currently, passing data between Israel and Europe is dependent on explicit contracts, which fund many a lawyer’s income. The initiative would do away with one of the last remaining trade barriers with Europe.
Last week, after six months of evasions, obfuscation, denials and retractions, a story which has preoccupied this column on and off since January came to a startling conclusion. It turns out that one of the most widely publicised statements in the 2007 report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – a claim on which tens of billions of dollars could hang – was not based on peer-reviewed science, as repeatedly claimed, but originated solely from anonymous propaganda published on the website of a small Brazilian environmental advocacy group.
The ramifications of this discovery stretch in many directions. First, it seems to show that the IPCC – whose reports governments rely on to justify presenting mankind with the largest bill in history – has been in serious breach of its own rules.
Second, it raises hefty question marks over the credibility of the world’s richest and most powerful environmental pressure group, the WWF, credited by the IPCC as the source of its unsupported claim.
And third, it focuses attention once more on a bizarre scheme, backed by the UN and promoted by the World Bank, whereby the WWF has been hoping to share in profits estimated at $60 billion, paid for by firms all over the developed world.
“Amazongate”, it may be recalled, was one of the rash of scandals which rocked the authority of the IPCC last winter, when it was revealed that many of the more alarmist statements in its 2007 report originated not from peer-reviewed science but from papers written by environmental pressure groups. One which aroused particular controversy was a warning that climate change was putting at risk up to 40 per cent of the Amazon rainforest. Chapter 13 of the IPCC’s Working Group II report on “climate impacts” specifically claimed that “up to 40 per cent of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation”. It went on to say that this would cause such chaos in local climate systems that the forest could rapidly revert to savannah.
The only source cited for this claim was the Global Review of Forest Fires, a paper written for WWF and the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2000, the lead author of which was an environmental activist and freelance journalist. This in turn appeared to cite a paper published in 1999 by a team led by Dr Daniel Nepstad, “senior scientist” with another advocacy group closely linked to the WWF, the Woods Hole Research Center. However, Nepstad’s paper was primarily concerned not with climate change but with the impact of logging and fires.
When this created a storm last January, the WWF quickly issued a “clarification”, stating that its own paper “does not say that 40 per cent of the Amazon forest is at risk from climate change”. But it went on to say that the real source of the claim quoted by the IPCC was a document, Fire in the Amazon, published by the “respected Instituto de Pesquiza Ambiental da Amazonia (IPAM)”. Headed by Nepstad, IPAM is a Brazilian advocacy group, also closely linked with the Woods Hole Research Center.
The document cited by the WWF, which it later described, after a full internal inquiry, as a “report”, proved remarkably difficult to track down. Since then, both the WWF and Dr Nepstad have cited other papers in support of their claim – but none of these provided any support for the specific claim about the impact of climate change made by the IPCC.
Only now, after I was able to confront them with evidence from an internet archive, has the WWF finally admitted the precise origin of the IPCC’s much-quoted claim. Fire in the Amazon, it turns out, was not a “report” or a scientific paper but, as the WWF now acknowledges, a “text published by IPAM… on its website in 1999”. It was merely a brief, anonymous and unreferenced note on the exposure of the forest to fire risks, posted in February 1999 and taken down four years later. Here, at last, is the sole source for the statement later published by the IPCC.
The original read: “Probably 30-40 per cent of the forests of the Brazilian Amazon are sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall.” This was hyped up in the final drafting of the IPCC report, to claim that “up to 40 per cent of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation”. “Brazilian Amazon” – only around half the total rainforest area – was changed to include the entire forest. The word “sensitive” was changed to “react drastically”. And the original IPAM note had made no mention at all of climate change.
To begin with, this would seem to justify a formal complaint to the IPCC that it was acting in breach of its own rules. Annex 2 of its rules of procedure lays down that non-peer-reviewed material should only be cited when it has been subjected to rigorous critical appraisal and that “each chapter team should review the quality and validity of each source before including results from the source into an IPCC report”.
Last week I put it to the IPCC that it should at least acknowledge this blatant breach of its rules and withdraw the passage, as it did last winter when it was revealed that it had no scientific basis for claiming that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035. To date I have had no reply.
Neither WWF nor Woods Hole come well out of this story. In seeking to justify their part in the IPCC’s statement, they have cited other studies which they claim support it – but neither, until now, has been honest enough to admit that it was based on an unsubstantiated website claim.
This curious episode may also point to another reason why WWF and Woods Hole have been so active in recent years to promote concern over the danger of global warming for the Amazon rainforest. As I revealed here on March 20, they have been closely allied in support of a scheme known as REDD (Reduction in Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of Tropical Forests). Its aim is to turn the CO2 in forest trees into “carbon credits”, saleable on the world market to allow firms to continue emitting CO2. Backed by $80 million from the World Bank, WWF, Woods Hole and IPAM are partners in a consortium, supported by the Brazilian government, to protect and manage a vast area of forest in the Tumucumaque region, in return for which they would have the right to sell its carbon credits. In 2007 Dr Nepstad published a formula which would allow the carbon contained in the entire forest to be valued at $60 billion.
Although the REDD scheme was approved in principle at December’s UN Copenhagen conference, two serious snags remain. First, it has yet to be approved in detail (although they still hope to achieve this in Cancun later this year). Second, the US Senate still hasn’t passed its cap and trade bill, which would open up a lucrative new market for anyone involved in carbon trading, such as those with a stake in REDD.
Finally, we may recall, another newspaper recently published a prominent “correction” to its earlier report on Amazongate – accepting that “the IPCC’s Amazon statement is supported by peer-reviewed scientific evidence” and that this was “based on research by the respected IPAM which did relate to the impact of climate change”. Since neither of these statements seems to be true, perhaps we can look forward to a retraction of the retraction?
Equally unhappy may be all those global warming enthusiasts who took this climbdown as licence to crow shamelessly over those of us who, last January, helped to expose Amazongate as a major IPCC system failure. The IPCC, they chorused, had been totally vindicated, the climate change sceptics had been utterly routed. Today, I fear, it is they who have been put to rout and we who have been vindicated.
Hebron: Israeli soldiers issued orders barring residents of four small villages in the southern West Bank from their land, mayor Suleiman Al-Adam said Sunday.
The orders declared the agricultural land a closed military zone, and ordered farmers and others working on the land to evacuate. The soldiers also confiscated farming equipment, a statement by Beit Ula’s mayor said.
The villagers stand to lose more than 5,000 dunums (five square kilometers) of land, on which more than 60 Palestinian families from the villages west of Hebron depend for their livelihood, the mayor said.
The mayor said farmers were given 45 days to submit an appeal to the Israeli military court, adding that Beit Ula municipal council would help residents with this.
A spokesman for the Israeli Civil Administration said he was not familiar with the reports.
The village land lies on the proposed route of the separation wall.
A recent report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs found that once completed, the wall will annex 9.5 percent of Palestinian land.
Only 15 percent of the wall’s projected route is on the Green Line, the 1967 border with Israel, with the remaining 85 percent cutting inside the West Bank.
Six years ago, the International Court of Justice ruled the wall a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, and called on Israel to cease construction, dismantle constructed parts and pay reparations to those already materially damaged by it.
Since the ruling, Israel has added approximately 200 kilometers to the wall, OCHA reported.
A day in the life of a Palestinian
In Hebron, Israel’s continued colonialist expansion on Palestinian land is accompanied by constant verbal, physical and psychological harassment perpetuated by Israeli ‘settlers’ against local Palestinians and human rights activists. Mainstream media has constructed an image of Palestinians as violent and hateful in comparison to Israelis who are almost always portrayed as victims, but the actions of Israeli settlers are rarely reported and provide a different view of the reality on the ground.
In the clip below, an old Palestinian woman shows a documentary crew from the Israeli NGO B’Tselem how she leaves her house each day — by climbing through the rooftops of neighbors’ houses. In 2000 the Israeli army closed the Palestinian populated a-Shahada Street where she lives to Palestinians and sealed the entrances to their homes. Malka Kafisha has likely lived in Hebron all her life but states that “If this continues, we may have to leave this house.”
If Kafisha and her family were to leave their home, the Israelis would get exactly what they want, which is why it requires courage and determination for Palestinians to remain in Hebron with all the obstacles Israeli settlers and the Israeli government put in their way.
According to the Israeli scholar Ilan Pappe, author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, in all dominant definitions of ethnic cleansing there are certain constants, most importantly, the desire of one ethnic group to force another ethnic group to leave an area permanently. Methods vary, all the way from prolonged psychological abuse, to violent, murderous assaults, but the end goal of mass expulsion leading to ethnic homogeneity is the same. Indeed, if intimidation does not force a population to leave, then forced death will.
To get an idea of the kind of intimidation Palestinians are forced to endure, watch the B’Tselem clip below. Note that this is by no means the worst of it.
Documentary: “The Rooftops of Hebron”
Documentary: The Actions of Settlers in Hebron (Tel Rumeida)
Paul Woodward writes:
The settlers, who are quite explicit about their intent to drive their neighbors out, treat them worse than animals — and yet the Palestinians retain their dignity.
The undiluted contempt and arrogance displayed by both settlers and Israeli soldiers reveals their own lack of self-respect. It exudes an utter indifference to how they will be perceived outside their own small tribe. They have, in short, cut themselves off from humanity. They enjoy the comfort of the pariah who has abandoned any hope for human embrace.
On the sixth anniversary of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) demand that the Separation Barrier be re-routed and dismantled where it breaches Palestinian territory, The United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have issued a new report condemning its impact on health and agriculture. New studies have shown movement restrictions are preventing access to East Jerusalem’s six specialist hospitals for staff and patients. The report also highlighted the difficulties for those living and working in the ‘seam zone’, the areas isolated by the Wall.
Current projections indicate the finished Wall, currently 61% completed, will leave almost 10% of the West Bank on the Israeli side. 85% of the barrier is to be built on Palestinian land, with approximately 7,800 people currently trapped in this ‘seam zone’. That figure is set to treble.
While the report noted that some Israeli measures have reduced movement restrictions in the West Bank, with “the removal of dozens of obstacles” around Qalqilya and Nablus, they are tightening in East Jerusalem. This has been most problematic in terms of access to the six hospitals located there, which provide specialist services not available elsewhere in the West Bank and Gaza, including dialysis and oncology, open-heart surgery, neurosurgery and eye surgery.
At present patients are required to pass through three checkpoints on foot, a policy WHO representatives described as “undignified and often unsafe” when applied to severely ill patients. A further problem has been the lack of access for hospital staff, who until 2008 had been given special dispensation to pass East Jerusalem checkpoints. That ‘privilege’ was then suspended before protests led to it being restored for doctors, but not nurses or support staff, who now face lengthy delays and periodic refusals in attempting to access their workplace. WHO officials say Israeli authorities have given “no clear reason” for this damaging policy which severely impacts on the maintenance of hospital services, and that they are continuing to press for full, unrestricted access.
The problem is more severe for patients. In 2009, almost 50% of patient referrals for specialised care were to East Jerusalem hospitals, which treat around 19,000 patients a year. Since 1993, Palestinians without Jerusalem ID cards are forced to apply for permits in order to receive treatment, a time consuming, unreliable process that leads to costly delays in dealing with urgent health problems. Emergencies are not treated as such. In 2009, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported 440 “denials and delays” of ambulances in the Occupied Territories, “two thirds of which occurred at Barrier checkpoints accessing Jerusalem”. The permit applications department from Augusta Victoria Hospital estimates 20% of patients are refused.
Al-Quds University in Abu Dis is the main training centre for medical students, but the 90% of students from the West Bank require permits to attend their courses. In the last month Al Quds medical school announced 11 students were forced to end their training as they were not given permission.
The report’s other main concern was the increasing difficulty for West Bank farmers in the ‘seam zone’ in accessing their land. Farmers must apply for an Israeli permit proving ‘connection to the land’ and satisfy security criteria. This, coupled with a gate system that only allows workers through at certain times of the day and never at night, has led to a steep decline in production and the abandonment of large tracts of land. UN studies show farmers are wary of submitting personal documents to Israeli security services “for fear they will be used against them” and others refuse to apply out of principle. As a consequence, only 207 of 1,000 farmers in Habla, Qalqilya were issued permits last year, 73 of 1,400 in in Zeita, Tulkarm and 70 of 1,750 in Anin, Jenin.
The presence of barrier gates in the seam zone represents a serious health concern. If an injury, common in rural areas, takes place outside the designated opening hours, the victim cannot receive treatment until the next opening.
Along with the report, OCHA and WHO have issued a short list of demands to the Israeli authorities; 24 hour access through gates around the seam zone to facilitate medical treatment, as well as unhindered access for medical personnel, students and patients to East Jerusalem hospitals. OCHA representatives have as yet received no response.
Read a full OCHA report on their website
Jerusalem: Israel’s attorney general has closed the case of a shooting by an Israeli soldier who was visiting the City of David illegal settlement in the Wadi Helwa neighborhood in Silwan, East Jerusalem.
The soldier was carrying an M16 rifle and opened fire at member of the Wadi Helwa committee Ahmad Qara’een, 40, who was shot in the foot and Ameer Froukh, 13, while he was riding his bike in the neighborhood.
The case was closed due to lack of evidence, the attorney general said.
Ahmad Qara’een said that the outcome was inexplicable as he had submitted witnesses, photos, and medical reports to Israeli officials.
“Meanwhile, they accused me of attempting to snatch a soldier’s rifle, and interrogated my two children Wadee and Ali, who are 11 and 10. That same soldier harshly beat my two sons, and Ameer Froukh was shot in the foot while riding his bike,” Qara’een said.
Ramadan Al-Bana of the Wadi Helwa Information Center said “Israeli soldiers always punish the victim and always look at us Palestinians as criminals. This is what we have come to expect from Israeli soldiers, who turn us into suspects and portray themselves as victims.”
Tensions boiled over Saturday when a group of Israeli settlers accosted members of the At-Taweel family, relatives said, claiming that their home was owned by the King David project and ordering them to leave.
Residents of the neighborhood arrived at the scene but the settlers left before any major disturbances.
KHAN YOUNIS: Israeli occupation forces (IOF) escorted two military bulldozers 300 metes into eastern Khan Younis, in southern Gaza Strip, on Sunday amidst indiscriminate shooting.
Local sources told the PIC reporter that three army tanks were firing intermittently as the bulldozers damaged Palestinian lands.
IOF troops on Saturday night opened machinegun fire at Palestinian homes and lands east of Rafah, also south of Gaza.
Eyewitnesses said that IOF warplanes were seen flying over the targeted area, no casualties were reported.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank an elderly Palestinian farmer was seriously injured when a Zionist settler ran him over near Khader village, Bethlehem district. Witnesses said that Mahmoud Subaih was on his way to farm his field when the settler hit him then sped away.
Zionist settlers drive recklessly on West Bank bypass roads which Palestinians have come to dub “death roads” as many civilians are killed or seriously injured in such incidents as a result of high speed and indifference to Palestinian lives.
One PRCS paramedic said Israeli Magen David Adom ambulance staff contacted them after they arrived at the scene, as they were unable to transfer the injured to an Israeli hospital because he had a West Bank ID card.