The three western governments that have, with a little help from two Arab governments, been undertaking very lethal military action against Libya in the past eight days have worked to “justify” those acts of war largely in the name of either ending an existing humanitarian crisis or preventing one that was extremely imminent. In line with the too-common parlance in western countries, this war has thus been described as a “humanitarian intervention”– although war itself is anywhere and always an intrinsically anti-humanitarian undertaking.
In wars, the combatants may try to restrict their killing to members of the opposing army, but there is always a high risk of the “collateral” killing of noncombatants (as 9.5 years and counting of US-led war in Afghanistan depressingly continue to demonstrate.) In wars, too, when the armed forces of one side incapacitate roads, bridges, power lines, ports, airports, telephone systems or any of the other infrastructure of modern life– infrastructure that may or may not have military utility but that is always a necessary underpinning of normal, modern, civilian life– then civilians can very speedily be pushed into a complex humanitarian emergency in which hundreds or thousands of lives are lost.
In Kosovo/Serbia in early March of 1999, the NATO leaders “justified” their bombing of Belgrade and other locations inside Serbia as being necessary in order to halt ongoing ethnic cleansing, mass expulsions, and other linked atrocities that, NATO leaders alleged, the Serbian government forces were committing inside Kosovo at the time. However, that account of what was happening was always deeply flawed. Until a few days before the NATO bombing of Serbia began, there had been an OSCE monitoring team inside Kosovo investigating and reporting on all allegations of atrocities; and they had been reporting that the situation had been easing somewhat over what it had been before… But as the Clinton administration and its allies decided they needed to ratchet up the tensions and prepare for a possible war, they managed to persuade OSCE to pull its monitoring team out.
Then, once the NATO bombing of Serbia started (with Tomahawk missiles and various forms of navy-launched bombardment, much of it coming out of Italy… sound familiar?), one of the immediate responses of Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic and his supporters was to launch in earnest that exact same ethnic cleansing campaign inside Kosovo that the bombardment had allegedly been designed to forestall! Given the tensions that had long simmered between Serbs and Kosovars inside Kosovo, Milosevic’s reaction was entirely predictable. Hundreds of thousands of terrified Kosovars fled their homes and made the difficult trek to Albania. Photos of that ‘trail of tears’ were widely circulated in the west as a way of “justifying” the war.
Given what is happening in Libya today, it is definitely worth going back to study the history of the NATO war for Kosovo. As Wikipedia tells us, in mid-May 1999, around 6 weeks into that 10-week war, Clinton’s “Defense” Secretary William Cohen told CBS that,
- “We’ve now seen about 100,000 military-aged men missing… they may have been murdered.”
The allegation there was that Milosevic’s forces had quite possibly killed those 100,000 Kosovar men. However, Cohen’s alarmism turned out to be a great exaggeration (if it was, indeed, based on any firm evidence at all.) Wikipedia tells us that
- In the 2008 joint study by the Humanitarian Law Center (an NGO from Serbia and Kosovo), The International Commission on Missing Person, and the Missing Person Commission of Serbia made a name-by-name list of 13,472 war and post-war victims in Kosovo killed in the period
from January 1998 to December 2000
- . The list contained the name, date of birth, military or civilian status of victim, type of injury/missing, time and place of death. There are
9,260 Albanians and 2,488 Serbs, as well as 1,254 victims that can not be identified by ethnic origin
First of all, note the long period of time covered by those figures. Then, remember that they are counting deaths of both combatants and noncombatants.
Clearly, Cohen was exaggerating. (In the prosecutions that the ICTY launched after the war, members of the NATO-supported Kosovo Liberation Army were convicted, along with many Serbian leaders. In case anyone’s interested in all that… )
… So what was the situation in Libya in the run-up to NATO’s present war? From early February on there had been civilian street protests in several Libyan cities, some of which were met with force from the army. Then fairly early on, the rebels in Benghazi and I believe other eastern cities managed to bust into armories and pull out and distribute large amounts of weaponry for their own use; and they were also winning defections from numerous members of the government forces. Those armed rebels adopted a pre-revolutionary flag to fight under and started to advance toward Tripoli.
Not surprisingly, during those weeks of mounting civil unrest, many of the foreign migrant workers in the country became increasingly scared until they started to flee the hotspots. There were many reports that black Africans, in particular, were treated very badly by the rebels. But by about March 7 there certainly was a large-scale, existing humanitarian emergency: the flight of the migrant workers who tried to reach and succeeded in reaching the borders with Tunisia and Egypt. Once over the border, their situation remained very dire until those two host governments, with some help from local NGOs and a lot from international aid organizations and foreign governments, were able to provide tents, basic humanitarian supplies, and onward transport to their home countries.
That is what a humanitarian emergency looks like. I have seen no allegations at all that the Libyan government did anything to prevent or block the arrival of the humanitarian supplies that were needed to deal with that flood of refugees.
In addition, however, during the week of March 12, the Libyan government forces started to make rapid advances in the counter-attack they launched against the rebel forces that had been trying to reach Tripoli from the east, and managed to advance quite far toward the east. Libyan tanks and perhaps some planes launched ordnance against rebel-held cities. The rebel leaders and spokespeople expressed understandable concern that if the government forces were able to retake eastern cities like Benghazi or Tobruk, they would undertake mass atrocities against the residents of those cities.
In other words there was a (probably, but not necessarily, well-founded) fear of imminent mass atrocities against the residents of those cities. And it was based on those fears of future atrocities, much more than on any convincing evidence of significantly scaled past atrocities that Presidents Obama and Sarkozy and PM Cameron launched their war.
Indeed, if you go into the web archives of the International Committee for the Red Cross, which is the international (though Swiss-based) organization that is charged both with being the guardian of the whole body of the international laws of war and with taking a lead role in responding to humanitarian crises that arise in times of war, then you will find the following important report dated March 18:
- Geneva/Benghazi (ICRC) – Two days after its temporary relocation to the city of Tobruk in eastern Libya, a four-member team from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
returned to Benghazi today
- to resume its humanitarian work.”The improved security situation made it possible for us to return to Benghazi today,” said Simon Brooks, the ICRC’s head of mission in Libya. “We are eager to carry on supporting hospitals, visiting detainees in Benghazi and elsewhere and working with the Libyan Red Crescent to help civilians. At the same time, we continue to urge both parties to let us access other cities and areas, so we can assist other people affected by the fighting.”
The ICRC is moving more food and essential household items into Libya so that it can help tens of thousands of people if the need arises. The organization shipped 180 tonnes of relief goods to Benghazi last Tuesday and seven trucks carrying 145 tonnes of rice, sugar, oil, lentils and salt are on their way from Egypt to Tobruk.
The ICRC continues to help people at the Egyptian and Tunisian borders contact their families. Together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, it is supporting the work of the Egyptian and Tunisian Red Crescent Societies, which are providing them with essential services.
In other words, as of March 18, the ICRC’s people were reporting that the humanitarian situation inside Benghazi was getting a little better, not worse.
The following day, Obama and his allies launched their war.
Now, I will grant that Muammar Qadhdhafi and his sons had all made some very bellicose and anti-humane threats against the rebels and the residents of Benghazi in the preceding days. But crucially, it seems to me, there was a clear window, after the Security Council’s passage of resolution 1973 on March 17, when its two first crucial, “political” provisions– which called urgently for a ceasefire and internationally supervised negotiations aimed at defusing the conflict– could and should have been energetically pursued.
In them, the Security Council said that it,
- “1. Demands the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians;“2. Stresses the need to intensify efforts to find a solution to the crisis which responds to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people and notes the decisions of the Secretary-General to send his Special Envoy to Libya and of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union to send its ad hoc High-Level Committee to Libya with the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution.”
But Obama and his pals never gave negotiations a chance.
Now, it is extremely unclear what the political upshot of all this will be in Libya. In Kosovo, Washington ended up midwifing a tiny, landlocked little statelet that is a hub of organized crime at the heart of the Balkans, and whose people have a very stunted quality of life.
How will Libya look, 12 years hence? Will it be one state, or two, or three? Will its people still be locked in an unresolved and very damaging civil war or a situation of longterm political conflict? Will the Libyan people finally have the chance to have a well-run, transparent, and accountable government? I don’t think anyone in the Obama administration has any idea what Libya will look like– or, how it might get from its present situation of war-wracked division and NATO-inflicted infrastructural breakdown to anything that might be desirable.
And how on earth do they expect Libyans or anyone else to look at what NATO (and Qatar and the UAE) are doing in Libya today and to take away the lesson, which is so essential to the building of any decently functioning democracy, that when you have political differences with others– even sharp ones– the only acceptable way to solve them is through a commitment to nonviolence and to the nonviolent practices of deliberation, discussion, social solidarity, and voting?
A number of prominent Egyptian civil activists have pledged to deliver ten tons of cement to the besieged Gaza strip through the Rafah border crossing.
A group called ‘Egyptian-International Coalition for lifting the siege and rebuilding Gaza’ says trucks carrying cement from Egypt are parked close to the border, a Press TV correspondent reported on Sunday.
A 15-member delegation is expected to accompany the shipment. The delegation consists of prominent lawyers, engineers, politicians and several civil activists.
The development comes weeks after a historic revolution ousted President Hosni Mubarak from power
Egypt has imposed a blockade on Gaza since the democratically elected Hamas government took control of the territory in 2007. Since then Israel has imposed a crippling blockade on the territory triggering what a humanitarian crisis.
A major Egyptian political party, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), has recently demanded that the country’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces takes action in breaking the siege of Gaza.
In a separate development, an Israeli airstrike has killed at least two Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip. Three other Palestinians were injured in the attack which took place east of Jabaliya.
Reports say the Israeli aircraft fired at least one missile into the region.
Israeli warplanes have repeatedly targeted the coastal strip during the past week. At least 10 Palestinians including a number of children were killed in the air raids.
A set of historical ironies arises from this absurd report. (UNRWA)
Spring has turned red in Gaza with a new Israeli massacre. Late Monday night Israeli combat planes pounded Northern Gaza and murdered two children and three adults whose only crime was playing football in front of their house. At the same day Haaretz published a report complaining that Hamas protests UN plans to teach Gazans about the Holocaust. It was also the very day that the Knesset in Israel approved the Nakaba Law, an absurd legislation that bans Palestinian citizens from commemorating the Nakba.
This is no mere coincidence. Nor is it the first time that Israel’s massacring of Palestinian children is followed by absurd demands to teach Jewish victimhood in Palestinian schools, while working to prevent its Palestinian citizens from commemorating their tragedy at the same time.
The uproar against the UN plan to teach the Holocaust in Gaza schools was spurred in February this year after a UN official told a Jordanian daily that UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, would introduce the Holocaust history to Gaza students as part of its human rights curriculum for the next school year starting in September.
Haaretz also reported a series of statements by UN and Israeli officials accusing Palestinians of not fully understanding the tragedy that happened to the Jews, of divvying up facts, taking things out of context, and being reluctant to acknowledge Jewish suffering fearing it would diminish recognition of their own claims. The Israeli newspaper did not forget to remind Palestinians how the need to find a sanctuary for hundreds of thousands of Holocaust survivors contributed to the creation of Israel and that Palestinian recognition of the Holocaust is a necessary step toward peace.
A set of historical ironies arises from this absurd report. Most notable is that Israel’s billing of the Holocaust as a moral justification for the creation of Israel is historically refuted. Simply because it does not account for the fact that preparations for the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine had begun some half century before the Holocaust. Nor does it really tell us how many Holocaust survivors live in Israel today.
Yet this is not to suggest that we must accept this moral logic had there been a valid historical connection between the two events. For Palestinians are not responsible for the Holocaust and it is absurd to see their refusal to teach it to their children as complicity, especially when they are being ethnically cleansed by Israel’s air forces on a daily basis.
Yet what does remain valid here is that linking the Palestinian Nakba with the Holocaust is still vital to understanding how the latter has been always used to justify the former. The bulk of Gaza residents are themselves refugees whose dispossession was justified by Zionist misappropriation of the Holocaust tragedy.
Israel’s symmetry between the histories of the Holocaust and the Nakba is misleading for a simple reason. That is while the Holocaust is seen by Palestinians as part of European history and has nothing to do with Palestinian consciousness, the Nakba was generated by Israel and must be taught in its schools as part of its own history. Not to mention that for Palestinians the Nakba is an ongoing tragedy; that the refugee question is still unsettled and that Palestinians still live under occupation and ethnic suppression.
The question that persists is has Israel ever acknowledged Palestinian suffering and ongoing tragedy? The fact is that while countless books have been devoted in Israel and the West to denying Palestinian tragedy and distorting their history from Joan Peters’ notorious From Time Immemorial to this present day, there is no comparable Palestinian study on denying the Holocaust or challenging its scope.
I myself spent twelve years in an Arab school inside the so-called modern, democratic and liberal State of Israel and never heard of the word “Nakba.” The name Palestine itself has been banned in Arab schools for decades. We Palestinian students were never taught about the Islamic era in Palestine which lasted about thirteen centuries. Instead we were taught about Israel’s Independence Day, Zionist Peace Doves and Palestinian terrorism.
I vividly recall those moments when we were forced to stand still in memory of Israeli soldiers who had killed our own people. How else could we come to terms with the fact that many Palestinian Arabs in Israel continue to call Israel’s Independence Day the Independence Holiday?
Yes Palestinians are aware of the tragedy that befell the Jews. But they are also aware of the way it has been invested to justify their dispossession and displacement. They are aware of how by a strange change of fortune they became the victims of the victims; how the Zionist movement made the shift from victims to victimizers with terrifying ease; how Jewish suffering has been turned into political industry and discursive device for its colonial project in Palestine; how it has been used by Israel as political instrument and ideological weapon and seen as tantamount to the recognition of Jewish claims to the land.
To be sure, Palestinians do not refuse to teach or learn the Holocaust per se, but the Zionist perspective on the Holocaust. That is the way the tragic history of the Jews is being now turned into a modern version of civilizing mission in Gaza. Is there anything more absurd than besieging a people, ruining their life, slaughtering their children, destroying their schools and hospitals, and returning the next day to offer them lessons in multiculturalism?
Perhaps when Palestinians will have their full rights as a people, when they will live in freedom and justice and feel more secure in their homeland; they would be most happy to learn the history of the Holocaust, teach Jewish literature, and perhaps read Greek poetry.
- Seraj Assi is a PhD Student in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, Washington DC.
Surprise, Surprise, Surprise–Lieberman Suggests No-Fly Zone an Option in Syria if Violence Escalates
Sen. Joe Lieberman suggested Sunday he would support military intervention in Syria if its president resorts to the kind of violent tactics used by Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi.
Dozens reportedly have been killed in protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, raising questions about whether the international community would get involved.
Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, told “Fox News Sunday” that if Assad starts slaughtering his own people, he will risk other countries imposing a no-fly zone “just as we’re doing in Libya.” He urged Assad to, instead, negotiate with the “freedom fighters” in his country.
“There’s a precedent now that the world community has set in Libya, and it’s the right one,” Lieberman said.
The Obama administration, though, pushed back on suggestions that the United States could support another intervention.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday she doesn’t expect that to happen, describing the clashes in Syria as part of a “police action” — as opposed to a military campaign against the Syrian people.
“Each of these situations is unique,” she said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “Certainly we deplore the violence in Syria.”
Japan’s March 11 earthquake/tsunami-caused nuclear disaster affects millions of people regionally and throughout the Northern Hemisphere. But you’d never know it from most major media reports, downplaying an unfolding catastrophe.
In fact, distinguished experts like Helen Caldicott long ago warned of inevitable nuclear disasters, especially in seismically active areas. On May 23, 2004, The Japan Times contributor Leuren Moret headlined, “Japan’s deadly game of nuclear roulette,” saying:
“Of all the places in all the world no one in their right mind would build scores of nuclear power plants, Japan would be pretty near the top of the list.”
“Japan sits on top of four tectonic plates….and is one of the most tectonically active regions of the world. (There) is almost no geologic setting in the world more dangerous for nuclear power than Japan.”
In 2004, Kobe University Seismologist/Professor Katsuhiko Ishibashi called the situation then “very scary. It’s like a kamikaze terrorist wrapped in bombs just waiting to explode.”
American cities like New York have no credible evacuation plans in case of nuclear disasters. Neither does Japan, its Fukushima response a clear example. In fact, however, there’s no adequate plan possible in cases of catastrophic nuclear events. How and to where do you transfer millions of people. Abandoning the technology alone can work, a possibility not considered, at least not so far.
Japanese nuclear engineer Yoichi Kikuchi told Moret about serious longstanding safety problems at Japanese nuclear facilities, including cooling system cracks in pipes from reactor vibrations. Operators are thus “gambling in a dangerous game to increase profits and decrease government oversight,” he said.
Former GE senior field engineer Kei Sugaoka agreed, saying:
“The scariest thing, on top of all the other problems, is that all the nuclear power plants are aging, causing a deterioration of piping and joints which are always exposed to strong radiation and heat.”
As a result, Moret, like Caldicott, said:
“It is not a question of whether or not a nuclear disaster will occur in Japan (or most anywhere); it is a question of when it will occur,” and if catastrophic enough, perhaps nothing can be done to contain it.
Moreover, all radiation, especially large amounts, is harmful, cumulative, permanent and unforgiving. Yet lunatic fringe, self-styled “nuclear experts” like Ann Coulter told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that a “growing body of evidence (shows radiation) is actually good for you and reduces cases of cancer.” Even O’Reilly reacted skeptically to the “hormesis” notion. Wikipedia calls it:
“the term for generally-favorable biological responses to low exposures to toxins and other stressors,” including radiation.
Other toxins aside, no amount of radiation is safe. In her book “Nuclear Madness,” Helen Caldicott explained:
“Lower doses of radiation can cause abnormalities of the immune system and can also cause leukemia five to ten years after exposure; (other) cancer(s), twelve to sixty years later; and genetic diseases and congenital anomalies in future generations.”
“Nuclear radiation is forever,” she added. It doesn’t dissipate or disappear. Jeff Patterson, former Physicians for Social Responsibility president said, “There is no safe level of radionuclide exposure, whether from food, water or other sources. Period.” In 1953, Nobel laureate George Wald agreed saying “no amount of radiation is safe. Every dose is an overdose.”
On March 19, Ralph Nader’s “Nuclear Nightmare” article said:
“Over 40 years ago….the Atomic Energy Commission (now the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) estimated that a full nuclear meltdown could contaminate an area ‘the size of Pennsylvania’ and cause massive casualties.”
In square miles, Pennsylvania is one-third the size of Japan. Nader said that “people in northern Japan may lose their land, homes, relatives, and friends as a result of a dangerous technology designed simply to boil water.”
On March 25, New York Times writers Hiroko Tabuchi, Keith Bradsher and David Jolly headlined, “Japan Encourages a Wider Evacuation from Reactor Area,” saying:
“New signs emerged Friday that parts of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were so damaged and contaminated that it would be even harder to bring the plant under control soon.”
Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) measured seawater showing “the level of iodine-131 at 50 becquerels per cubic centimeter – 1,250 times the legal limit.”
Moreover, several workers were contaminated by water measuring 10,000 times above normal, according to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences. In addition, a senior nuclear executive said “a long vertical crack” running down the side of the reactor vessel (expected to enlarge) was detected “leaking fluids and gases.” The Times said, “There is a definite crack in the vessel – it’s up and down and it’s large. The problem with cracks is they do not get smaller.”
In addition, contamination is spreading, now affecting Tokyo water with elevated radioactive iodine levels, an alert saying don’t let infants drink it. Milk, vegetables, fruits, and likely all crops in northern Japan are affected. Further, on March 25, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said:
“Iodine-131 detected in Tokyo hit 12,000 becquerels, compared with the previous day, a tenfold increase in both radioactive iodine and cesium.” In addition, “Hitachinaka City, Ibaraki Prefecture, saw the highest radioactive values recorded, with 12,000 becquerels of cesium, iodine and 85,000 becquerels.”
On March 25, the Takoma Park, MD-based Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) said:
“Radioactive iodine releases from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi reactors may exceed those of Three Mile Island by over 100,000 times….While Chernobyl had one source of radioactivity, its reactor, there are seven leaking radiation sources at the Japanese site. Together, the three damaged reactors and four spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiicho contain (much) more long-lived radioactivity, notably cesium-137, than the Chernobyl reactor.”
Its half life is about 30 years. According to IEER president Arjun Makhijani, “This accident has long since passed the level of Three Mile Island.” Already, large parts of Honshu, Japan’s main island, have been affected. Even so, Japanese authorities haven’t been forthcoming about actual radiation releases that independent experts believe are extremely high and dangerous.
On March 26, government officials said predictions on when Fukushima could be stabilized aren’t known, spokesman Yukio Edano saying “this is not the stage for predictions.” According to IAEA head Yukiya Amano, “(t)his is a very serious accident by all standards, and it is not yet over.” Ending it “will take quite a long time.”
So far efforts to stabilize the damaged reactors haven’t succeeded. On March 24, Natural News.com writer Mike Adams headlined, “Radioactive fallout from Fukushima approaching same levels as Chernobyl,” saying:
“The radioactive (iodine-131) fallout is now as much as 73 percent of the daily radiation emitted from Chernobyl following its meltdown disaster.” For cesium-137, it’s 60%.
Monitoring in Hawaii, Alaska, California, Montreal and other cities are registering Fukushima fallout. Yellow rain in Japan was reported, much like what happened after Chernobyl. Whether it’s entirely radioactive isn’t known. Contamination, however, is spreading, yet “the nuclear industry says stop worrying….it’s all safe!”
On March 25, Natural News.com writer Ethan Huff headlined, “Ominous smoke plumes, contaminated water and food, but everything is just fine in Japan, suggest authorities,” saying:
“….black smoke….was seen billowing from Reactor 3, (containing) highly dangerous MOX plutonium fuel,” prompting an “evacuation at all four reactors.” No explanation was given.
In addition, Kyodo News said “mysterious neutron beams (were seen) coming from the plant 13 times since” the earthquake/tsunami, suggesting uranium and plutonium releases from damaged reactors and fuel rods.
Interviewed on March 17, nuclear expert Hirose Takashi doubts water sprayed on damaged reactors was effective, saying:
“If you want to cool a reactor down with water, you have to circulate the water inside and carry the heat away, otherwise it has no meaning. So the only solution is to reconnect the electricity. Otherwise, it’s like pouring water on lava.”
Moreover, by using salt water “(y)ou get salt. The salt will get into all these valves and cause them to freeze. They won’t move. This will be happening everywhere. So I can’t believe that it’s just a simple matter of reconnecting the electricity and the water will begin to circulate….I can’t understand it….Now it’s a complete mess inside….I’m speaking of the worst case, but the probability is not low….Only in Japan it is being hidden.”
“I hate to say it, but I am pessimistic….We have to think of all six (reactors) going down, and the possibility of that happening is not low.”
On March 26, Reuters headlined, “Radiation spikes in seawater by stricken Japanese plant,” saying:
“Radioactivity levels are soaring in seawater near (Fukushima), Japan’s nuclear safety agency said on Saturday….” On March 25, tests showed they spiked to 1,250 times normal. NISA official Hidehiko Nishiyama criticized Tokyo Electric (TEPCO) for not following safety procedures inside the turbine building. Throughout the crisis, TEPCO hasn’t given accurate information on the disaster’s severity, downplaying it instead.
As a result, independent experts express grave concerns that conditions are much worse than reported. They also believe it will take months perhaps to contain Fukusima. In the meantime, radiation keeps leaking and spreading, but it will be years before the real toll is known. Downplaying its gravity is scandalous.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
BETHLEHEM — Israeli authorities destroyed ancient water wells and natural reservoirs used by Bedouins southeast of Bethlehem, Palestinian officials said.
A 3,000-cubic-meter well owned by Ali Madghan Rashayida and a 225-cubic meter reservoir belonging to Majid Rashayida were demolished last week, in a move Palestinian Authority officials said was illegal and “an obvious assault by the Israeli occupation.”
International and local human rights groups had been working with PA officials to help the Rashayida Bedouins rehabilitate the area, and use natural caves to collect water for domestic use and for their sheep.
Bringing water tankers to the area had been very costly, and beyond the means of the community.
By demolishing the structures, Israeli authorities deprived the community of the right to file a legal appeal, officials added, noting that the time limit given in the demolition warrants had not yet passed.
Residents of Arab Ar-Rashayida were handed demolition orders for the tents and wells in their enclave of the village during the week of 13 March.
Ali Auda, the head of the family, said if the orders were carried out in full, the family — 50 members in all — would have nowhere else to go.
“It is the farce of the twenty-first century, imagine, an occupying state telling Palestinians they are violating their own land.”
The partial demolition of the community will have an equally devastating effect, officials said, explaining that the Bedouin would not have sufficient water for themselves or their livestock, and would be at high risk during summer months in the desert area.
The UN has noted a sharp increase in Israel’s demolitions of Palestinian structures in the West Bank in 2011.
“Although the Israeli authorities maintain that these demolitions are carried out due to the lack of Israeli-issued permits, the highly restrictive and often discriminatory nature of the planning regime implemented by the same authorities rarely grants Palestinians such permits in Area C, leaving them with no choice but to build ‘illegally,’ or to leave the area,” the agency said February in its monthly report.
“It is difficult to understand the reasoning behind the destruction of basic rain water collection systems, some of them very old, which serve marginalised rural and herder Palestinian communities where water is already scarce and where drought is an ever-present threat,” said Maxwell Gaylard, who heads OCHA in the Palestinian territories.
Gaylard noted that the demolitions were illegal under international law, which prohibits an occupying power from destroying property belonging to individuals or communities except when absolutely required by military operations.
Following Israel’s confiscation of nine water tankers from a community in Khirbet Tana, in Nablus, on March 7, Gaylard said, “if the authorities ultimately responsible for these demolitions could see the devastating impact on vulnerable Palestinian communities, they might reflect upon the inhumanity of their actions.”