Palestinian Legislative Council member Khalida Jarrar was advised by doctors to undergo urgent brain scans more than two months ago, after tests at a Ramallah hospital revealed concerning results, former European Parliament vice president Luisa Morgantini said.
The former EU official said Jarrar was advised to go to Amman, Jordan immediately as Palestinian hospitals were not equipped to administer the scans required. However for more than six weeks, Israeli security services have prevented Jarrar’s travel due to “security reasons,”
Jarrar’s lawyers obtained an official letter dated 17 August from Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank, which stated there was “no security reason” to prevent the lawmaker’s travel abroad. However, Jarrar said on 30 August she attempted to cross the Allenby Bridge into Jordan and Israeli soldiers prevented her passage, citing “security reasons.”
Jarrar is a lawmaker affiliated with the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and has never been incriminated in, or related to, any violent act, Morgantini added, noting that depriving Jarrar of her right to health showed “only one of many tragic and dark sides of the Israeli military occupation.”
Morgantini appealed to the European Parliament to request that Israel authorities allow Jarrar to access urgently needed medical attention in Jordan, and “to guarantee health and life rights to the Palestinian people.”
The climate change debate positions nuclear power as a partial solution to carbon emissions according to some scientists and politicians. Uranium mining speculation lacks comprehensive health and safety regulations while the ethics of Canadian exported uranium, which can lead to depleted uranium used in zones of war, needs greater scrutiny. Abandoned uranium mines and the subsequent hazards experienced in forgotten communities have been virtually ignored in Canada leading to tragic, unmitigated circumstances.
The long-term negative impacts of uranium mining can be witnessed in the small, rural community of Deline (North West Territories) which has a Dene population of 800 people. They are located right on the shore of Sahtu (Great Bear Lake) about 300 miles north of Yellowknife. Great Bear Lake is considered to be one of the last great fresh water lakes in the world. This area on the north shore of Sahtu was the site of radium mining from 1934 to 1939, and then a uranium mine from 1943 to 1962.
During the mining era the Dene of Deline, mostly men worked as labourers and as coolies carrying gunny sacks of radioactive uranium ore and concentrates on the transportation route. Waste from both radium and uranium mines were dumped directly into the lake and used as landfill. Port Radium was owned and operated by a Canadian crown corporation but uranium ore and concentrates were extracted, milled and sold to the US Government for the Manhattan Project to build an atomic bomb during the Second World War.
The mine initially operated under the emergency regulations of the War Measures Act. The circumstances and time-line mean that retroactive mitigation and compensation are an enormous legal challenge and decades later the Dene continue to pay a high price in environmental and health effects. No warnings were issued at the time about the hazardous and toxic nature of these ores and so people took no precautions regarding their drinking water or their traditional foods.
In 1975 young men from Deline were sent to work in the tunnels on a Government training program without masks for radon gas exposure. In 1997 ten young men were sent with only two hours of training to clean up “hot spots” of radioactive soil in Sawmill Bay without shower or decontamination facilities. Once again the Dene people of Deline were not informed of these hazardous exposures but recent information revelations mean that they now live in constant fear of their contaminated land, water and animals with ongoing concerns about their health and survival.
Deline is known as the ‘village of widows’ because most of the men who worked as labourers in the mines have died of some form of cancer. The widows, who are traditional women, were left to raise their families without husbands and breadwinners. As a result they became dependent on welfare and relied on the young men who remained in the community to help supply them with their traditional foods. The women are struggling and the village is seeing the first generation of young men in the history of the Dene grow up without the guidance and teachings of their grandfathers, fathers and uncles. This unfulfilled tradition threatens the cultural and spiritual survival of the only community on the Great Bear Lake.
In 1998 the Dene First Nation lobbied the federal government for compensation and mitigation. On September 6, 2005, Déline community members were given the disappointing findings of a five-year study to examine the health and environmental impacts of the government-owned radium and uranium mine which had operated for almost thirty years in Deline. Although the community had lost 15 former ore transport workers to cancer the report stated that the numbers of deaths were insufficient to prove unequivocally the link to the mine.
By not acknowledging the full health consequences of uranium mining the government offloads the responsibility to compensate or provide justice to the Dené First Nation. To date consultations with government are still underway with anticipated costs for remediation in the millions of dollars. An agreement about cause and affect has not yet been reached. In a related situation in Port Hope Ontario, NDP MP Nathan Cullen called for an investigation in 2007 into Health Canada’s denials of the health risks of uranium contamination with the accusation that profits are influencing policy. These issues remain unresolved in 2010 even though increased uranium mining is imminent in some Canadian provinces.
Uranium exploration near the world famous Thelon Game Sanctuary in Nunavut alarmed the Dené and Inuit communities who are dependent on the caribou herds that use the area for grazing and calving. The current land use plan for Kivalliq (Keewatin) has been in place since 2000 and prohibits uranium mining in the region until Nunavut’s environmental assessment process has reviewed all the related environmental and health impact issues. In contradiction to the local land use plan Nunavut’s Inuit land claims commission adopted a policy in favour of uranium mining returning the legacy of uncertainty to the area. Their policy framework justifies its position with the rationale that uranium mining and nuclear energy could mitigate some of the climate change impacts in the north.
The policy does not account for the quantifiable fossil fuel usage in uranium exploration nor resolves issues about the impacts of nuclear waste storage. They assert that environmental and health concerns related to uranium mining have been resolved but provide no supporting evidence. Opposition gained momentum from the Inuit in Baker Lake and the Hunters and Trappers Association who strongly requested a moratorium on all mining exploration. The vehement opposition to the uranium mine proposal near the Thelon Game Sanctuary eventually led the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board to recommend rejection of uranium exploration at Screech Lake in 2009.
However a junior mining company from Vancouver, Kaminak recently struck a deal with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc (NTI) to allow uranium exploration in the Kivalliq region, about 200 km inland from Whale Cove. The deal, or memorandum of understanding, is unusual for a few reasons. It’s the first time NTI has given permission for a company to hunt for the radioactive material on Inuit-owned land. The deal would give NTI partial ownership of the spin-off company created by Kaminak to search for uranium and the hope of economic progress.
Uranium development in Saskatchewan dates back to the 1930s when the first discoveries were made in the far north. Since that time controversial uranium exploitation has undergone several waves of investment and although it contributes to the nuclear industry and is opposed by many NGOs there has been virtually no opposition from any political party in Canada. Today uranium is one of Canada’s leading exports with the highest percentage being mined in the province of Saskatchewan on indigenous lands.
The wilderness of the north is a land of glacier lakes and pine forests with low lying areas dominated by peat bogs and black spruce. To the west of the Athabasca Basin is a large, unique area of sand dunes. Clean water and land has sustained a wide variety of fish and animals which was the foundation of social and economic development for aboriginal people in the area for many years.
The land is rich in uranium deposits but this hazardous mining industry poses a considerable threat to the natural ecology and the values of people who live on the land. At the heart of this issue is a system of indigenous beliefs and culture which regards them as inseparable from the land, the waters and the animals. Environmental assessment panels have often listened to the submissions of aboriginal people in the area who have expressed deep concerns for the toxicity of uranium mines. The impact of mining on their ancestral lands where they are the traditional custodians contravenes their spiritual and cultural beliefs.
Conversely emerging job opportunities in a struggling northern economy have out of necessity led to the partial cooperation of some native bands with uranium mining projects. In 1993 the La Ronge Indian Band gave their support to the Kitsaki uranium mining development at Rabbit Lake citing increased economic benefits for their community, with the caveat that environmental impacts were closely monitored. Employment opportunities are short-term and hazardous but highly financed propaganda to promote the benefits of uranium mining to northerners potentially trumps aboriginal self-determined, sustainable, economic alternatives.
The often cited rationale that nuclear power is that the quintessential solution to greenhouse gas emissions negates the harsh reality that much of the ore contributes to US weaponry. Activist and author Jim Harding (Canada’s Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan Uranium and the Global Nuclear System) offers a compelling argument against uranium mining by outlining its potential for military weapons: “About 90 percent of the depleted uranium is left in a pile which the military has access to. And there’s lots of uranium there. They take the depleted uranium into their own reactors, bombard it with neutrons, create plutonium for weapons, use the depleted uranium in the casing of H-bombs, and now, since the ‘90s, use that as the heavy metal in the weaponry – the bullets, the anti-tank bullets.”
Harding also argues that the geopolitical uses and long-term environmental effects are being hidden, and outweigh the short-term economic gain by which communities and governments are sometimes wooed. He cites the Harper government’s eager acceptance of nuclear energy as evidence that Canada is going down a path of misplaced intentions.
The potential for economic growth and the need for employment have resulted in some aboriginal labour initiatives in the mining industry. The Athabasca Basin Development Ltd. Partnership (ABDLP) was established in 2002, and is 90% aboriginal owned. ABDLP provides services to both mining exploration companies and the main operating uranium mines in the region. In total, some 600 northerners work for ABDLP in winter road maintenance, freight and transportation, mine camp setup, janitorial services, security and underground mining services, as well as line-cutting for seismic exploration.
However the environmental, health and social impacts of uranium development extraction on Aboriginal communities in the Canadian North remain an urgent concern to many communities. Mining activity has altered the landscape through the construction of roads, new settlements and the underground mine sites. Ore extraction and processing have released dangerous chemicals into the air and water and in spite of the participation of the ABDLP there is still a predominance of non-native labour which has displaced and marginalized local indigenous people. Primarily it is the large multinationals, not the local people who benefit from the multi-million dollar uranium mining industry in Saskatchewan and elsewhere.
In the United States Canadian uranium mining speculation has increased in spite of indigenous opposition and a long legacy of life-threatening damages on Navajo Reservations. Barrick Gold of Canada which netted a 1.5 billion dollar profit in 2006 is active in uranium exploration in New Mexico but it has not committed sufficient funds to adequately address the contamination that has already destroyed four aquifers in Navajo territory. The uranium industry is attempting to convince the public that it will bring high-paying jobs and tax money to the state by buying advertisements in local papers and other news media while paying industry representatives to testify at hearings.
In 2006 the Indigenous World Uranium Summit held in Navajo territory in the U.S. issued the following powerful declaration: “We, the Peoples gathered at the Indigenous World Uranium Summit, at this critical time of intensifying nuclear threats to Mother Earth and all life, demand a worldwide ban on uranium mining, processing, enrichment, fuel use, and weapons testing and deployment, and nuclear waste dumping on native lands.”
More than 300 participants from 14 countries participated in the event, with a variety of topics including international efforts to halt uranium mining, and the devastating effects on health and culture. Indignation grew as they realized that American Indian uranium miners in both the United States and Canada (Saskatchewan and NWT) had been sent to their deaths to work in the uranium mines long after scientists warned of the health hazards of radon gas and radiation.
Notwithstanding the outcry, uranium production in Canada is likely to increase significantly in the coming years. The Harper regime is poised to align its policies with Obama’s renewed pro-nuclear power stance as a solution to climate change! Several new Canadian mines, now planned or under construction, go into operation sometime after 2011. The two largest projects are Cameco’s Cigar Lake mine and Areva’s Midwest mine, both in northern Saskatchewan.
Canada is the world’s largest producer of uranium with about 60% exported to the United States where depleted uranium is manufactured as weapons. Many abandoned uranium mines have left behind a devastating legacy but the nuclear industry has re-branded itself as a viable solution to global warming. The profitable Canadian uranium mining industry lacks serious scrutiny; meanwhile remote indigenous communities are especially vulnerable to hazardous impacts thinly veiled as economic promise.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) recently released a report highlighting the widespread influence of the food industry over food safety policies. According to the study, at least a quarter of those who work for either the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (UDSA) have admitted that corporate interests regularly force the agencies to change or remove policies that hurt their bottom line, even when those policies protect the public.
The UCS sent 44-question surveys to roughly 8,000 workers from both the FDA and USDA, 60 percent of whom work as field inspectors. Nearly 40 percent of respondents indicated that their agencies’ practices harm public health in order to appease corporate interests, and more than 30 percent indicated that many of the higher-ups at both the FDA and USDA “inappropriately” influence decision making, in addition to having previously worked in the food industry.
“Upper level management does not adequately support field inspectors and the actions they take to protect the food supply,” explained Dean Wyatt, a USDA veterinarian in charge of federal slaughterhouse inspectors, to reporters. “Not only is there lack of support, but there’s outright obstruction, retaliation and abuse of power.”
According to Wyatt, he has been demoted for actually doing his job properly and documenting industry violations. It is highly likely that there are countless others like him who have been reprimanded, muzzled or even punished for doing their jobs.
To make matters worse, more than 30 percent of survey respondents said they believe their agencies are not “moving in the right direction”. And this makes perfect sense, considering that 25 percent indicated their agencies do not even make public health a priority when considering policy decisions.
Sources for this story include:
Israeli soldiers fire at protesters in Beit Ommar. (Mamoun Wazwaz/MaanImages)
Since 2005, residents of the occupied West Bank village of Beit Ommar have launched nonviolent demonstrations in protest against the increasing theft of their land at the hands of the five surrounding Israeli settlements, and to call for an end to the Israeli occupation of all Palestinian lands. Despite the brutal response of the Israeli forces, resulting in the death, injury and detention of scores of teenagers from the town, the people of Beit Ommar remain steadfast in their resistance. Jody McIntyre interviews Beit Ommar Popular Committee secretary Ahmed Abu Hashem for The Electronic Intifada.
Jody McIntyre: Please introduce yourself.
Ahmed Abu Hashem: I am the secretary of the Beit Ommar Popular Committee, but I feel like the smallest person. None of us should see ourselves as more important than anyone else, because we are all supporting each other. Many people from the Palestinian Authority and from outside the village have tried to break us, but it will never work.
JM: How has the Israeli occupation personally affected you?
AH: I was first arrested in 1984, and held in administrative detention without charge for three months. The next time was together with my older brother at the start of the first intifada in 1988; he was imprisoned for 14 months, and myself for three and a half years. I was arrested again in 1992, and again in 1994 for a period of 14 months. In 1998, me and my younger brother were both imprisoned for six months. And in 2002 I was held for another six months, and then again in 2004, me and my younger brother were both imprisoned for six months. The last time I was in prison, my mother was run over by an Israeli military jeep, and my brother’s wife was shot, both on the same day. Three months ago I was arrested again and held for four days, where I was interrogated by Captain Tamir from the Israeli intelligence.
We are who we are, and since the first intifada it has been like this for my family … if it’s not me then it’s my brother, or my children, or my brother’s children, or my wife. Of course, we know why we are singled out in this way; it is because we have always worked as activists against the occupation.
It is clear that they are after me now; if they don’t come and invade my home, then they stop me at a checkpoint. In the last fifty days, they have invaded my house 17 times. This morning, I ran into a flying checkpoint at the settlement Gush Etzion, and they gave me a paper ordering me to report to the Israeli intelligence services on Monday morning. The same captain who interrogated me before actually came down to the checkpoint to hand me the paper.
The last time they came to my house they had given me exactly the same paper … I went to the military base as it said I should, and waited from 8:30am until 5:00pm, when I was simply given another paper saying that they would call me again. So I left, and 15 minutes later they called me and said I had to be at Gush Etzion immediately, but I refused to go back.
JM: Why do you think the Israeli military are pursuing you so relentlessly?
AH: They think that they can coerce me with money to become a collaborator, but it couldn’t be further from my thoughts.
I might be an old guy, but I hope to continue working against the wall and the settlements for all of my life.
JM: What motivates you to keep struggling against the occupation?
AH: My father was a part of the fedayeen [peasant] rebellion in 1948 against the first settler population of Gush Etzion, and he was injured by a land mine during the battle. He told me about those experiences at a young age, which definitely inspired me. As a child at school I studied a lot about the occupation; I read about the 1948 war and what exactly the creation and continued expansion of Israel meant to the Palestinians. I think it was a combination of these factors which gave me a determination to always struggle for our liberation.
JM: Have your sons also suffered, as you have, at the hands of the Israeli occupation?
AH: The first time my son Yousif was arrested, he was 12 years old. He’s currently in prison for the third time, at the age of 17. My oldest son is in jail for the second time. My other son, Emad, was shot by an Israeli soldier, and still has shrapnel in his head from the injury. My brother’s two sons were just released after three years in prison; they’re 19 and 21 years old now, so they were both arrested during their studies. Of course, the army wants to arrest the clever kids because they want them to work with the army as collaborators in the university. As for those who do choose to work as collaborators, I think their hearts have died.
I’m one of the few farmers who has continued to work on the land despite it being situated right next to the fence of the Karmet Sur settlement. The land actually belongs to my cousin, but I look after it as an act of defiance against the occupation. The settlers are keen to keep Palestinians off their land, because they want to expand, so they will do anything to stop us farming there. On many occasions I would see the settlers shooting at me, and I would hear bullets flying over my head. Once, the settlers’ security shot my six-year-old son Qossay in the leg with a live bullet. He stayed in the hospital for three days; the bullet had broken the bone in his leg.
Qossay, now eight years old, has completely changed. He used to be terrified of the soldiers, and he would hide under the bed when they invaded our home. But since he was shot he is at the front of every demonstration! Even if there isn’t a demonstration, he’ll go out and confront the soldiers anyway.
JM: Do you think the demonstrations can change the future here?
AH: We are struggling to stop the growth of the settlements, to stop the arrests and to stop the shootings. I don’t know if it will be in my lifetime, or in a hundred years, but I am sure this occupation will be ended.
Jody McIntyre is a journalist from the United Kingdom. He writes a blog entitled “Life on Wheels” which can be found at jodymcintyre.wordpress.com. He can be reached at jody [dot] mcintyre [at] gmail [dot] com.
BETHLEHEM — The Bush administration said it was prepared to absorb 100,000 Palestinian refugees if a peace deal was reached, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday, Israeli media reported.
Speaking at a Geneva Initiative conference in Tel Aviv, Olmert said during negotiations under his premiership with President Mahmoud Abbas that he had offered a solution that would have been in line with the Arab league Peace plan, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
He also said former US President George W Bush had offered the immediate recognition of 100,000 Palestinian refugees as American citizens as part of a framework of international compensation, the daily reported.
According to UNRWA, the UN agency set up in the wake of Israel’s establishment to assist Palestinian refugees displaced between June 1946 and May 1948, there are 4.7 million Palestine refugees now eligible for UNRWA services.
“One-third of the registered Palestine refugees, nearly 1.4 million, live in 58 recognized refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” UNRWA estimates.
The right of return, sanctioned under international law, has been the focal point of previous negotiations, as Palestinian negotiators seek to ensure refugees’ rights to compensation from Israel and the right to return to their homes now within Israel.