Air strikes by Israeli warplanes at dawn on Thursday caused serious damage to the Gaza Strip’s only power plant, plunging the territory — which already suffers from frequent outages — into darkness.
Media reports said the air strikes hit two sites belonging to Hamas near the Gaza power plant in Moghraqa village, central Gaza.
Engineer Darar Abu Sisi, director of operations for the Gaza plant, told The Electronic Intifada that at 2:47am an Israeli air attack on a Hamas site near the power plant scattered rocks and debris into the air. A rock crashed into the a current transformer and voltage transformer in a substation, causing the unit to shut down.
The damage forced the plant to reduce production from its usual 65 megawatts daily to about 35 megawatts, Abu Sisi said, far short of current needs. Unless the damage is repaired it may lead to even longer outages than the power cuts people in Gaza already live with.
“I believe that the Gaza power company has been able to coordinate with the Israeli side and we hope that this time they will be able to bring the needed spare part through Israeli land crossings, which are closed of course because of the Israeli siege,” Abu Sisi told The Electronic Intifada.
Even before Thursday’s bombing, Gaza residents face prolonged power outages of six to eight hours per day, adding to the severe hardships caused by the prolonged Israeli siege that prevents people and goods from moving freely in and out of Gaza. Abu Sisi estimated that the outages would increase to eight to ten hours per day.
The power shortages cripple daily life and the already devastated economy, and effect everything from students having no light to study, to households having no power for daily needs, and badly affect hospitals, sanitation and water supply systems.
Another effect is severe noise and air pollution from ubiquitous gasoline-powered generators that people use to cope with the shortages. In 2009 alone, 75 persons died in Gaza from hazardous handling of generators.
In 2006, Israel bombed and severely damaged the power plant’s three turbines which supplies about a third of the electricity used by Gaza’s 1.5 million residents. Since the 2006 bombing, Israel has further crippled electricity supplies by severely limiting the transfer of spare parts and fuel into Gaza.
According to the UN-commissioned Goldstone report into Israel’s winter 2008-09 attack on Gaza, approximately half of Gaza’s electricity supply came from Israel, seven percent from Egypt and a third from the Gaza power plant, leaving a deficit of about eight percent. The electricity deficit reached up to 41 percent at times due to Israeli fuel restrictions, according to other UN sources cited by the Goldstone report.
With no end in sight to the Israeli siege, Thursday’s bombing has just made the lives of Gaza’s population, half of them children, even darker as the longest nights of winter approach.
Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.
The Nuclear War Reserve
Although it’s been 20 years since the Cold War ended, the U.S. is still holding on to a grossly oversized nuclear arsenal – most of which are no longer needed by the military. Thanks to Hans Kristensen at the Federation of America Scientists, I’ve learned that 70 percent of the America’s warheads are not being deployed and that more than 40 percent has been discarded by the military. Some 2,500 nuclear warheads are currently deployed, with a comparable number held in the “war reserve,” and 3,500 are awaiting elimination. The “war reserve” is needed as a hedge just in case Russia decides to rekindle the nuclear arms race – a sacrosanct U.S. policy based on the logic that the winner of a nuclear war is the one with the most left over. The current U.S. nuclear arsenal has a destructive power about 400 times greater than the explosives used by all combatants during World War II.
The current backlog of retired nuclear warheads will take 15 years to eliminate. My children might live long enough to see the existing stockpile of discarded weapons disappear. This is because the Obama administration plans to curb nuclear warhead dismantlement spending by 50 percent over the next five years. If the New START treaty is approved, nearly 80% of U.S. nuclear warheads will not be deployed with as many as 5,000 warheads waiting to be eliminated. According to Kristensen and his colleague Robert S. Norris at the Natural Resources Defense Council, the current rate of weapons dismantlement is what it was in the 1950s during the height of the Cold War.
But, if proponents of increased nuclear spending, led by Senator John Kyl (R-AZ), have their way, our great-grandchildren will find America still bristling with nuclear arms. While most of the government stands to see budget cuts, in an effort to garner Kyl’s support for the New START treaty, spending by the Obama administration to maintain the nuclear arsenal and to refurbish the nuclear weapons complex will increase next year by18 percent.
The spending logic of these numbers seems simple. The more nuclear warheads we have sitting around, the more money can be spent on delivery systems, baby-sitting bombs, while trying to make more. Since World War II, America has spent about $5.6 trillion to make and stockpile them – creating a powerful nuclear entitlement culture that commands two thirds of the U.S. Energy department’s budget.
According to Steve Schwartz of the James Martin Center on Non-Proliferation, the U.S. Spent about $54 billion in 2009 on nuclear weapons and their delivery systems (bombers, ground and submarine missile launchers). If you include these expenses, each nuclear warhead costs about $6.3 million per year to keep around.
Wonder why America can’t seem to keep up with nations like Germany and China when it comes to an advanced energy policy? Perhaps it’s because the Energy department spends 10 times more on nuclear weapons than energy conservation.
The National Nuclear Security Agency within DOE estimates it will need about $85 billion over the next ten years and about $168 billion over twenty years to maintain the nuclear arsenal and refurbish the U.S. weapons complex. This does not include the additional $100 billion estimated for the weapons delivery systems in the Defense department. Given that the Obama administration sees no need to further tax the wealthy and that hundreds of billions of dollars will have to be borrowed from China for nuclear weapons, consideration might be given to issuing new “Nuclear Savings Bonds” to help pay for all of this. I’ve created a prototype of what they might look like.
Robert Alvarez, an Institute for Policy Studies senior scholar, served as senior policy adviser to the Energy Department’s secretary from 1993 to 1999. www.ips-dc.org
The story on the surface makes for a script for a new Oliver Stone Hollywood thriller. A 39-year old Australian hacker holds the President of the United States and his State Department hostage to a gigantic cyber “leak,” unless the President leaves Julian Assange and his Wikileaks free to release hundreds of thousands of pages of sensitive US Government memos. A closer look at the details, so far carefully leaked by the most ultra-establishment of international media such as the New York Times, reveals a clear agenda. That agenda coincidentally serves to buttress the agenda of US geopolitics around the world from Iran to Russia to North Korea. The Wikileaks is a big and dangerous US intelligence Con Job which will likely be used to police the Internet.
It is almost too perfectly-scripted to be true. A discontented 22-year old US Army soldier on duty in Baghdad, Bradley Manning, a low-grade US Army intelligence analyst, described as a loner, a gay in the military, a disgruntled “computer geek,” sifts through classified information at Forward Operating Base Hammer. He decides to secretly download US State Department email communications from the entire world over a period of eight months for hours a day, onto his blank CDs while pretending to be listening to Lady Gaga. In addition to diplomatic cables, Manning is believed to have provided WikiLeaks with helicopter gun camera video of an errant US attack in Baghdad on unarmed journalists, and with war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Manning then is supposed to have tracked down a notorious former US computer hacker to get his 250,000 pages of classified US State Department cables out in the Internet for the whole world to see. He allegedly told the US hacker that the documents he had contained “incredible, awful things that belonged in the public domain and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington, DC.” The hacker turned him in to US authorities so the story goes. Manning is now incommunicado since months in US military confinement so we cannot ask him, conveniently. The Pentagon routinely hires the best hackers to design their security systems.
Then the plot thickens. The 250,000 pages end up at the desk of Julian Assange, the 39-year-old Australian founder of a supposedly anti-establishment website with the cute name Wikileaks. Assange decides to selectively choose several of the world’s most ultra-establishment news media to exclusively handle the leaking job for him as he seems to be on the run from Interpol, not for leaking classified information, but for allegedly having consensual sex with two Swedish women who later decided it was rape.
He selects as exclusive newspapers to decide what is to be leaked the New York Times which did such service in promoting faked propaganda against Saddam that led to the Iraqi war, the London Guardian and Der Spiegel. Assange claims he had no time to sift through so many pages so handed them to the trusted editors of the establishment media for them to decide what should be released. Very “anti-establishment” that. The New York Times even assigned one of its top people, David E. Sanger, to control the release of the Wikileaks material. Sanger is no establishment outsider. He sits as a member of the elite Council on Foreign Relations as well as the Aspen Institute Strategy Group together with the likes of Condi Rice, former Defense Secretary William Perry, former CIA head John Deutch, former State Department Deputy Secretary and now World Bank head Robert Zoellick among others.
Indeed a strange choice of media for a person who claims to be anti-establishment. But then Assange also says he believes the US Government version of 9/11 and calls the Bilderberg Group a normal meeting of people, a very establishment view.
Not so secret cables…
The latest sensational Wikileaks documents allegedly from the US State Department embassies around the world to Washington are definitely not as Hillary Clinton claimed “an attack on America’s foreign policy interests that have endangered innocent people.” And they do not amount to what the Italian foreign minister, called the “September 11 of world diplomacy.” The British government calls them a threat to national security and an aide to Canada’s Prime Minister calls on the CIA to assassinate Assange, as does kooky would-be US Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin.
Most important, the 250,000 cables are not “top secret” as we might have thought. Between two and three million US Government employees are cleared to see this level of “secret” document, and some 500,000 people around the world have access to the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRnet) where the cables were stored. Siprnet is not recommended for distribution of top-secret information. Only 6% or 15,000 pages of the documents have been classified as even secret, a level below top-secret. Another 40% were the lowest level, “confidential”, while the rest were unclassified. In brief, it was not all that secret.
Most of the revelations so far have been unspectacular. In Germany the revelations led to the removal of a prominent young FDP politician close to Guido Westerwelle who apparently liked to talk too much to his counterpart at the US Embassy. The revelations about Russian politics, that a US Embassy official refers to Putin and Medvedev as “Batman and Robin,” tells more about the cultural level of current US State Department personnel than it does about internal Russian politics.
But for anyone who has studied the craft of intelligence and of disinformation, a clear pattern emerges in the Wikileaks drama. The focus is put on select US geopolitical targets, appearing as Hillary Clinton put it “to justify US sanctions against Iran.” They claim North Korea, with China’s granting of free passage to Korean ships despite US State Department pleas, sends dangerous missiles to Iran. Saudi Arabia’s ailing King Abdullah reportedly called Iran’s President a Hitler.
Excuse to police the Internet?
What is emerging from all the sound and Wikileaks fury in Washington is that the entire scandal is serving to advance a long-standing Obama and Bush agenda of policing the until-now free Internet. Already the US Government has shut the Wikileaks server in the United States though no identifiable US law has been broken.
The process of policing the Web was well underway before the current leaks scandal. In 2009 Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller and Republican Olympia Snowe introduced the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 (S.773). It would give the President unlimited power to disconnect private-sector computers from the internet. The bill “would allow the president to ‘declare a cyber-security emergency’ relating to ‘non-governmental’ computer networks and do what’s necessary to respond to the threat.” We can expect that now this controversial piece of legislation will get top priority when a new Republican House and the Senate convene in January.
The US Department of Homeland Security, an agency created in the political hysteria following 9/11/2001 that has been compared to the Gestapo, has already begun policing the Internet. They are quietly seizing and shutting down internet websites (web domains) without due process or a proper trial. DHS simply seizes web domains that it wants to and posts an ominous “Department of Justice” logo on the web site. See an example at http://torrent-finder.com. Over 75 websites were seized and shut in a recent week. Right now, their focus is websites that they claim “violate copyrights,” yet the torrent-finder.com website that was seized by DHS contained no copyrighted content whatsoever. It was merely a search engine website that linked to destinations where people could access copyrighted content. Step by careful step freedom of speech can be taken away. Then what?
1. BBCNews, Siprnet: Where the leaked cables came from, 29 November, 2010, accessed in http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11863618
2. Ken Dilanian, Inside job: Stolen diplomatic cables show U.S. challenge of stopping authorized users, Los Angeles Times, November 29, 2010, accessed in http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/wire/sc-dc-1130-hackers-20101129,0,6716809.story
A group of former European leaders have called for tough sanctions against Israel in response to Tel Aviv’s failure to stop settlement expansion on occupied Palestinian land.
Criticizing the European Union’s existing policy toward Israel, in a letter sent to European governments and EU institutions on Monday, former heads of states, ministers and heads of European organizations said Israel must be made to feel “the consequences” and face “a price tag” for breaking international law by expanding its Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
They have also urged European countries to recognize a free and independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with East al-Quds (Jerusalem) as its capital.
“EU will not recognize any changes to the June 1967 boundaries, and clarify that a Palestinian state should be in sovereign control over territory equivalent to 100 percent of the territory occupied in 1967, including its capital in East Jerusalem (al-Quds),” the letter asked EU foreign ministers to declare to Israel.
The ex-leaders, including the former EU foreign affairs chief, Javier Solana and former German President Richard von Weizsacker, have asked EU foreign ministers to give Israel an ultimatum that if it does not end occupation and continues violating international law by April 2011, the EU will seek an end to the US-brokered negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in favor of a United Nation solution.
“Time is fast running out, Israel’s continuation of settlement activity… poses an existential threat to the prospects of establishing a sovereign, contiguous and viable Palestinian state,” the letter warned.
The ex-leaders have also urged the European Union to link its informal freeze on an upgrade in EU-Israel diplomatic relations to a settlement freeze, block imports of products made in the illegal settlements but labeled as made in Israel, and force Tel Aviv to pay for the majority of the aid required by the Palestinians, the EUobserver website reported on Friday.
They have also asked the bloc to send a high-level delegation to East al-Quds to back Palestinian claims and reclassify EU support for Palestine as “nation building” instead of “institution building.”
The signatories also include former Italian prime ministers Romano Prodi and Giuliano Amato, ex-German chancellor Helmut Schmidt, former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, ex- Spanish PM Felipe Gonzalez and Norway’s Thorvald Stoltenberg and 10 former ministers and two former EU commissioners.
Israel occupied the West Bank, including East al-Quds, during the Six Day War in 1967 and has settled around 500,000 Jews in the occupied area. Constructing settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory is illegal under international law.
Palestinians believe that expansion of Jewish settlements on their occupied lands will make the establishment of a Palestinian state impossible.