Saudi-backed Bahraini forces have arrested a prominent freelance photographer as the Manama regime continues its brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters.
The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) said on Wednesday that Mohammad Salman al-Sheikh was arrested the previous day in his apartment in the town of Sanabis.
Al-Sheikh, who heads Bahrain’s Society of Photography, is the winner of more than 13 international awards. His most important prize was a silver medal in international competition titled “Slovenia Exposed” in 2009.
He is also a member of the international organizations of photography.
BYSHR is deeply concerned about the arrest of al-Sheikh and has called on international organizations to act urgently to protect him.
Saudi-backed regime forces have detained more than a thousand opposition activists since the anti-government protests erupted in mid-February.
Bahraini regime forces have also raided dozens of mosques, schools, sacred sites and even graves in persisting efforts to suppress protesters.
Protesters are demanding an end to the rule of the Al Khalifa dynasty.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign has issued this important statement regarding the BBC.
BBC Radio 1xtra has removed the word ‘ Palestine ’ when playing a song by artist, Mic Righteous. In an extraordinary act of censorship, the word was filtered out of a recording as Mic Righteous sang the words ‘Free Palestine’, part of his song ‘Fire in the Booth’.
The censorship took place on the BBC show, Hip Hop M1X with Charlie Sloth, and the BBC has since issued a statement saying: ‘All BBC programmes have a responsibility to be impartial when dealing with controversial subjects…and an edit was made in this instance to ensure that impartiality was not compromised.’
Listen to the recording, with edit, here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00f15g4
There are several questions to be asked here of the BBC:
Is the word ‘ Palestine ’ controversial only when used in songs, or will the BBC be deleting it from all its programming?
Is the word ‘ Israel ’ similarly controversial?
How does the BBC decide what is a controversial subject? Which other news subjects does it deem to be controversial and worthy of BBC edits?
As a news organisation, how can the BBC report on news when it feels it has to censor ‘controversial subjects’ in order to maintain impartiality? All political news, by its nature, is controversial and excites a range of viewpoints – there is no consensus on anything political. Why is the BBC making this decision only over Palestine ? This in itself reveals the partiality of the BBC.
Is the BBC aware that Palestine is a geographical area and therefore can’t be controversial? If Palestinian leaders declare a sovereign Palestinian state in September, how will the BBC report on this if it considers the word ‘ Palestine ’ too controversial to be mentioned?
Is the BBC aware that the word ‘ Palestine ’ is recognised and used freely by MPs, and even by the Prime Minister, David Cameron?
When the band, The Special A.K.A, released its song ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ in 1984, why were the words ‘Nelson Mandela’ not censored by BBC radio? Apartheid in South Africa was a controversial subject, and Mandela was still considered a terrorist by the UK and US governments.
While the BBC may have appeared to make itself look utterly ridiculous with this edit, the action itself reveals its ingrained bias against Palestine and is a serious matter.
It follows the BBC’s refusal to screen the DEC Appeal during Israel’s air, land and sea assault on a besieged Gaza in 2008/9, and its screening of the one-sided Panorama programme Death in the Med last August, which even the BBC’s own complaints panel found breached its guidelines on accuracy and impartiality in several instances.
You can take the following actions:
Write to the BBC via the complaints form on its website, and ask for a reply: https://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/forms/
Leave a message on the BBC’s message board under the Charlie Sloth programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00f15g4
Write a letter for publication to the Radio Times: email@example.com By post: Radio Times, Media Centre, 201 Wood Lane, London W12 7TQ
Get as much publicity for this song as possible – ask your local radio station, community radio station, hospital radio, student campus radio etc to play it
Write to the BBC and demand it plays the song without an edit: firstname.lastname@example.org Write also to your local BBC radio station.
I have another question: How will/would the BBC treat the Desmond Dekker former No. 1 single “Israelites” ? If they applied the same political censorship, there would be nothing left.
I tried to comment on the “song” (the tune is hard to whistle) but the BBC website was mysteriously “undergoing maintenance” and cannot be accessed.
This is a blatant case of pro-Israel bias in the BBC, always apparent, often covert, but in this case, astonishingly all too stark. The licence-payers should be aware of how their money is being spent.
At least as pertinent, is the fact that the BBC should realise its licence payers are adults, well able to make their own judgements on political partiality, and don’t need the BBC to do it for them.
Israeli forces backed by tanks and bulldozers have crossed into the Gaza Strip, destroying Palestinian farmlands in north of the enclave.
Israeli soldiers apparently entered the Palestinian territory from Karni crossing on Wednesday and advanced hundreds of meters toward the east of Gaza City.
According to Press TV’s correspondent in Gaza, Israeli soldiers dug a series of holes in the area and filled them with explosives.
Israeli soldiers then blew up the explosives, causing loud explosions in the area, our correspondent added.
Israeli officials claim that the troops were searching and destroying “possible tunnels” in the area that could be used by Palestinian resistance fighters to enter Israeli posts and capture Israeli soldiers.
But analysts believe the Israeli attack aimed at provoking Palestinian fighters into firing on Israeli troops, which could have escalated the situation.
It was the first Israeli attack on Gaza after the two main Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, signed a unity deal.
Israel has repeatedly voiced anger at the reconciliation accord signed between the two Palestinian groups which aimed at forming a Palestinian unity government.
Italian construction firm Pizzarotti is stupefied, bewildered, stunned.
In an article on today’s Corriere della Sera, Italy’s top newspaper, covering Deutsche Bahn’s withdrawal from the Israeli project for a high-speed train line that cuts through the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Michele Pizzarotti said “We are astonished to find ourselves involved in these protests.”
Pizzarotti, through a joint venture with Israeli Shapir Engineering, has been contracted to build tunnels in section C of the planned A1 train route from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv; section C starts in the Latrun enclave and ends at Cedars Valley, both in the occupied West Bank.
Michele Pizzarotti can’t seem to understand what all the fuss is about. “We are not the project leaders, we entered into the Israeli high-speed rail as mere executors of a project designed by others, which has already been modified by the Israeli Supreme Court. We had no idea there were complications with the peace process.”
Complications indeed. The German Minister of Transport defined the project as “problematic” from a foreign policy perspective and “possibly in violation of International Law,” leading to the withdrawal of Deutsche Bahn.
In addition to the easily rebutted justifications presented by Pizzarotti during a recent meeting with the Italian Coalition Stop That Train, including having no role in planning the route, the limited environmental impact of tunnels and that the firm is only working on the end of the tunnel on the Israeli side of the Green Line, the Corriere della Sera article included two new gems.
“[T]he railroad could connect Ramallah and be used by Palestinians, and in our construction sites we provide work to Arab technicians and workers.”
The idea that the train would some day link Ramallah, a sort of “railroads for peace,” has often been trotted out by Israeli officials looking to defend the extraterritorial railway. However, as Who Profits pointed out on their Facebook page, in an interview with Israel’s Channel 7 (Hebrew) last August, Minister of the Environment Gil’ad Ardan candidly stated that “reports of a new train line between Ramallah and Gaza, via Ben Gurion Airport, were premature… This is not due to become reality anytime soon, it was only a legal requirement that permitted land confiscations across the Green Line for the needs of the Tel Aviv – Jerusalem train.”
The Pizzarotti construction site as a jobs-for-”Arabs” vehicle would be laughable, if it weren’t so sad. In the Bidu enclave, the area hardest hit by the planned rail route, unemployment is 70%, or twice the average for the West Bank, due to access to Jerusalem, their traditional economic center, being cut-off by the Apartheid Wall – built on Palestinian land. In addition, a document on the Philippines Overseas Employment Office web site shows Pizzarotti wasn’t exactly recruiting “Arabs”.
When asked by Corriere della Sera if they would be following in Deutsche Bahn’s footsteps, Michele Pizzarotti replied, “Not only would that be a disaster for us, because we have already invested 70 million in machinery, but it would also be pointless: the work would continue just the same via our Israeli partner.”
If their Israeli partner had the necessary know-how to build Israel’s longest tunnel, Pizzarotti wouldn’t be involved in the first place. The massive tunnel boring machines used by Pizzarotti have, in fact, never been used before in Israel and partnering with experienced foreign contractors was a formal requirement in some contracts. (See the 28-page report on the A1 Train line from Who Profits)
The Italian Coalition Stop That Train, a network of over 80 associations, is working to convince Pizzarotti to pull out of the project. On Monday a campaign was launched to “Declare Your City Pizzarotti-free”, with a sample resolution to be presented in city and provincial councils throughout Italy excluding Pizzarotti from contracts for public works. The same tactic, drawing on a EU directive that allows for exclusion of companies “guilty of grave professional misconduct,” was used in the campaign against French multinational Veolia, who’s involvement in the light rail project in occupied East Jerusalem has cost the company $10 billion in lost contracts.
And change.org has just recently launched a petition calling on Pizzarotti to “end their involvement with this rail line”.
The big mess at the Fukushima Daiichi plant continues as the damaged reactors there are still releasing radioactive substances into the environment. A new leak through a cable shaft and to the cooling water intake of the no 3 reactor to the sea was found only today.
At the no 1 plant the reactor vessel continues to be fed with cooling water but can not be filled up above the level of the exposed nuclear fuel likely because of leaking pipe connections at a certain height. Now the primary containment vessel around the reactor vessel will get filled with water. This creates a “water sarcophagus” to cool the reactor vessel from the outside. So far over 9,900 tons of water have been pumped into it. Eventually water will be filled high enough to submerge the reactor vessel and thereby refill it through the leaking pipe connection.
Yesterday workers could access the inner no 1 reactor building for the very first time and they tried to install some new monitoring systems as the old ones are broken. Before the access door was opened and the workers could enter air was pushed through the building and through filters to reduce the radiation in the building. This was not very successful. Tepco had hoped to reduce radiation there to 1 millisievert per hour, but some areas inside the building that eventually need to be entered still have radiation levels between 600 and 700 millisieverts per hour, much higher than the maximum 250 millisievert lifetime(!) radiation limit that nuclear workers can be exposed to in emergency cases. Those areas will need to get shielded off before work around them can continue.
The spent fuel pool in no 1 continues to get refilled with water which then continues to evaporate through the severely damaged roof. Hydrazine was added to the water as corrosion inhibitor.
The number no 2 reactor vessel and primary containment are still leaking water into the basement of the machine hall of no 2 and 3 and from there through various ways into the environment. Work has started to pump the water out for decontamination and to block all ways from the basement into the environment. Eventually the leak in the containment vessel (likely at the damaged torus outside the primary containment which holds condensation water) will have to be repaired to allow for restoring a permanent cooling loop or to attempt to create a “water sarcophagus” around it. This will be very difficult to achieve as the water coming from the leak is radioactive.
The no 2 spent fuel pool seems for now to be fine as an improvised cooling loop has been established for it.
The no 3 reactor shows increasing reactor vessel temperature. Over the last 10 days the temperature temperature at the feedwater nozzle increased from below 100 degrees centigrade to over 221 degrees now. As the reactor vessel and primary containment is also likely damaged this also increases evaporation and releases into the environment.
The spent fuel pool in no 3 continues to get intermittently refilled with water which then continues to evaporate through the severely damaged roof. A camera view (see May 10 entry) into the water filled pool showed only tons of heavy debris from the collapsed roof.
The heavily damaged no 4 building had no active reactor at the time of the quake but a full spent fuel pool. A few days ago a camera view (see entry at May 8) into the pool showed no visible damage to the fuel elements but some rubble on top of them. Some gas bubbles were coming up from the fuel elements which points to some damaged fuel rods and continued hydrate release.
According to this Russia News report there is some speculation (starting at 3:10) that the building of reactor no 4 began to lean to one side. NISA, the Japanese regulator had ordered Tepco to check the statics of that building some weeks ago. Maybe they had good reason to do so?
In the general surrounding of the plant rubble gets removed with remote operated machines and synthetic resin gets sprayed on all surfaces to prevent radioactive dust from coming up.
Some people where allowed to visit the evacuated areas to remove items from their homes. The government seems to finally adopt the evacuated area to a real assessment of the radiation. It had at first created a 20 kilometers and then a 30 kilometer circular evacuation zone. But the days after the explosions at the plant the wind blew over land towards north-northwest before turning back to the sea and that area has of course higher radiation levels now even beyond the 30 kilometer zone than areas more near to but south of the reactors. (I remember seeing a German radiation prediction chart just a few days after the reactor explosions that showed just that. What took the Japanese government so long to come to this conclusion?) Higher levels of radiation have been found in wastewater facilities beyond the current evacuation area. This will likely be from runoff water that went into the sewage. The sludge that the wastewater facilities create is used to produce cement which will now be slightly radiated.
The prime minister of Japan has ordered another nuclear site with six reactors, Hamaoka, to shut down as it stands above a tectonic fault which is suspected to create a big quake and probably soon. This will increase the electricity deficit this summer, which will lead to blackouts and further economic damage.
Update from Dr. Saji former Secretariat of Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission <— NEW!
AllThingsNuclear Union of Concerned Scientists
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Atomic power review blog
Digital Globe Sat Pictures
NISA Japanese Nuclear Regulator
Japan Atomic Industry Forum (regular updates)
Japanese government press releases in English
Kyodo News Agency
Asahi Shimbun leading Japanese newspaper in English
NHK World TV via Ustream
Status reports for the German Federal Government by the Gesellschaft für Reaktorsicherheit in German language
Truckloads of humanitarian aid and commercial goods bottle-necked at Kerem Shalom crossing along the Gaza-Israel border
Photo: Erica Silverman/IRIN
RAMALLAH – The delivery of humanitarian aid to the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT) has been hampered by severe restrictions on staff movements, hurting the quality, scope and sustainability of operations, say the UN and international NGOs.
“Delays in the movement of staff that are guiding, monitoring and executing programmes mean delays in implementation and rising costs,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator for OPT, Max Gaylard, said. “Services to beneficiaries may be delayed and their quality reduced.”
OPT has some of the largest humanitarian operations in the world. Every day, thousands of aid workers battle with the physical barriers of occupation just like the 4.5 million Palestinians residents. The barriers include nearly 1,000 internal West Bank checkpoints, roadblocks, earth mounds and trenches that are part of Israel’s complex security regime.
Israel says the checkpoints are necessary to ensure the security of Israeli citizens against terror attacks.
About 17,000 UN staff, including about 450 internationals, work for nine UN humanitarian entities in the OPT. About 16,000 work for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and another 1,000 for other UN agencies. More than 100 INGOs, employing a few thousand staff, along with thousands of national NGOs, work in the OPT, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
INGOs estimate the restrictions on OPT staff cost about US$4.5 million annually, excluding additional costs incurred by implementing partners.
In 2010, there was a monthly average of 92 permanently and partially staffed checkpoints, 519 staffed obstacles, and an additional 414 “flying” or random checkpoints in the West Bank, reports OCHA.
The total area of the West Bank, 5,860 sqkm, ranks 171st globally in terms of size, while Gaza is just 365 sqkm.
Over the past six months, the number of fixed internal West Bank checkpoints has decreased, according to OCHA, although the number of “flying” West Bank checkpoints has increased, making planning increasingly difficult.
Aid workers faced an average of 44 incidents of delayed or denied access at West Bank checkpoints per month in 2010, 32 of which occurred at Jerusalem periphery checkpoints.
Checkpoints on the “separation barrier”, particularly those along the Jerusalem periphery, are more problematic for humanitarian staff and for Palestinians to cross, because Israelis view this as the point of entry into the state of Israel.
On average, about 385 UN and 123 INGO vehicles, which also carry staff, cross eight of the 21 fixed checkpoints located along the Jerusalem periphery daily to enter and exit the West Bank. An average 29 staff days were lost per month in 2010 to “checkpoint incidents”, says OCHA.
In 2010, 98 roadblocks were removed throughout the West Bank, leaving 16 operational, most of them normally open, according to the Israeli coordinator of government activities in the (Palestinian) territories (COGAT).
INGOs say the restrictions on their movement reduce the effective delivery of aid to some of the most vulnerable Palestinian communities, mainly those in Gaza and in Area ‘C’ of the West Bank.
“The biggest problem for us is getting permits for national staff to leave Gaza and travel to the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” says Oxfam international policy officer Lara El-Jazairi. “It’s impossible to get permits for West Bank nationals to enter Gaza.”
Oxfam has been forced to hire more international staff and to duplicate positions, increasing costs and spending funds that could otherwise be spent on project implementation, says El-Jazairi.
The UN has been told by Israeli authorities that the Israeli Crossing Points Administration (CPA), a civilian department linked to the Defence Ministry, will eventually operate all checkpoints from 2012.
The CPA requires regular searches of UN vehicles, unless the driver is an international staff member, and national UN staff are subject to body searches and required to walk through the crossings the CPA operates.
“We are working for the OPT, but Israel has full control in the West Bank and Gaza,” says Gaylard, and “Nothing and no-one goes in or out of the West Bank or Gaza for UN purposes without approval from the Israeli government.”
UN humanitarian supplies are basically food and medication. INGOs also face greater difficulties in obtaining necessary visas and work permits from the Israeli Interior Ministry than UN internationals under the jurisdiction of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, says Gaylard.
Wael Qadan, director of planning and development with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society in Ramallah, says the restrictions have hit East Jerusalem’s medical sector hardest. PRCS operates emergency ambulance services in East Jerusalem.
“Two-thirds of PRCS staff in East Jerusalem are from the West Bank, and every three months their permits must be renewed,” says Qadan. “There are frequent delays and some are denied, which means ambulance services in East Jerusalem are understaffed.”
“Only doctors can cross checkpoint in a vehicle; all medical staff must cross on foot, exposed to the elements,” says Jihad Alouni, a physical therapist from Augusta Vitoria Hospital. “The process is gruelling, and there are often delays,” he says.
IRIN | 29 March 2011
8 May 2011
To: The Honorable William J. Clinton
55 West 125th Street
New York, N.Y. 10027
From: The Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron
Dear Mr. Clinton,
In 1997, USAID renovated Shuhada Street in Hebron and the water, sewage and electrical infrastructure of Hebron’s Old City. The U.S. undertook these renovations as part of the Oslo II Hebron Protocol with the stipulation that Shuhada Street, once the main thoroughfare in Hebron, would remain open to both Israeli and Palestinian traffic, and that Old City residents would have the same supply of water and electricity that the Israeli settlers in Hebron did.
Members of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron were witnesses in 1997 to the attacks Israeli settlers made on the Palestinian laborers and USAID engineer David Muirhead. As you probably know, these attacks and Israeli-imposed curfews caused the renovations to end up costing U.S. taxpayers twice as much as projected. Shuhada Street has never fully reopened, and it has been years now since Palestinians have freely walked on it. The alley where our apartment has been since 1995 once teemed with commerce; now only our neighbor, a small shop selling pigeons, and we are left.
More urgently, the USAID water and electricity, which were supposed to serve both the Hebron settlers and the residents of the Old City, are no longer available to the Old City residents. Some of our neighbors recently went ten days without water that you guaranteed them when you supported the Hebron Protocol.
We know you must feel grieved that your attempts to promote peace between Palestinians and Israelis during your presidency have come to naught, and we know you care about Israeli security. But a very small positive action you could take is insisting that the Israeli government live up to its commitment to provide the same supply of electricity and water to Hebron’s Old City that it provides to the Hebron settlers. Doing so will not harm Israeli security and will make an enormous improvement in the lives of the struggling and impoverished Old City residents.
With hopes for peace and human rights,
Christian Peacemaker Teams-Hebron
Haaretz today revealed files showing that Israel cancelled the residency of up to 140,000 Palestinians between 1967 and 1994.
The paper reports that the files, obtained by the Centre for the Defence of the Individual upon filing a request under the Freedom of Information Law, show a clear procedure of removal of residency rights for Palestinians during the period. Haaretz claims the procedure was unknown to Palestinians leaving the country, often for work and study purposes abroad.
Between the occupation of the West Bank in 1967 and the Oslo Accord of 1994 those wishing to travel from the West Bank into Jordan via the Allenby Bridge were required to leave their identity cards at the border and were issued with an exit visa valid for three years. Unbeknownst to Palestinians, the Centre has claimed, those who failed to return within six months of the cards expiration would be declared NLR, or No Longer Resident, without warning, and prevented from returning to their homes.
According to Haaretz, Maj Gen Danny Rothschild, who was coordinator of government activities in the Territories from 1991 to 1995 has said he was unaware of the procedure. “If even I wasn’t told of the procedure, one may infer that neither were residents of the occupied territories,” he said.
A similar process is today in place for Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who lose their residency rights after seven years abroad. The Centre for the Defence of the Individual has vowed to uncover what it believes to be a similar secretive procedure for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinians who emigrated from the West Bank following the establishment of the PA in 1994 retained residency rights irrespective of time spent abroad.
If the figures are correct the population of the West Bank would have been some 14% greater than the 1.05 million residents recorded in 1994. This figure does not include descendants of the individuals who were forcibly exiled.
Top Palestinian Authority official Saeb Erekat has stated that the practice amounted to war crimes by the Israeli state. “Israel’s actions violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that ‘everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country’” he said in a statement to Haaretz.
The news will fuel criticism that Israel has an active policy of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from both Israel and the Occupied Territories, often carried out through bureaucratic legal procedures. Such procedures include the extensive and complex system of permits subjected solely on Palestinian property and movement abroad and across Israeli checkpoints. The system, The Centre for The Defence of The Individual claims, is designed to make life un-liveable for Palestinians in the West Bank and Israel and to encourage their immigration abroad; “The policy turns Palestinians’ human rights into a privilege, dependent on the whim of army commanders and reliant on a complex and non-transparent bureaucratic system that needs to be approached time and again” the Center claims.
Israel has shown an acute sensitivity to increases in its Palestinian population in both Israel and the Occupied Territories since its foundation. The state has consistently denied the right of return for refugees who fled or were forced from their homes from 1948 onwards. Palestinian leaders have demanded that a right of return for Palestinian refugees to their homes in what is now Israel is essential to any lasting stable peace. Israeli commentators claim any such right of return would undermine the demographic status of Israel as a Jewish state.
Greek labor unions have staged a one-day strike in Athens against the government’s austerity measures adopted to tackle the country’s ailing economy.
Hundreds of thousands of civil servants, teachers and hospital staff, later joined by journalists, went on strike on Wednesday.
“We strike to show our anger and our opposition to the policies that are being introduced and new measures that hit workers and labor instead of those with money,” AFP quoted Stathis Anestis, a senior member of the confederation of Greek workers, as saying.
The unions argue that a recovery plan applied by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, aimed to rescue the troubled economy of Greece, has deteriorated the living condition in the country.
“After a year, we find ourselves in a worse situation,” Anestis said. “Unemployment has skyrocketed, salaries are at their lowest point and there is no breakthrough in sight.”
The walk-out came a day after international debt inspectors headed to Athens to assess the country’s financial and economic progress and to determine whether Greece meets the conditions to receive the next bailout.
The European Union and the International Monetary Fund granted a USD 158-billion loan to the troubled state in 2010.
The bailout loan saved Greece from the brink of default. However, Athens was obliged to implement a strict austerity package, including the cutting of public sector salary and pensions, increasing taxes and overhauling the pension system, to survive.