Thousands of survivors of the world’s worst industrial accident have blocked trains and clashed with police in India’s central Madhya Pradesh state to demand more compensation.
Police attacked the protesters with sticks and tried to clear the railway tracks in Bhopal city on Saturday, the Associated Press reported.
Protestors pelted police with stones and burnt four police jeeps and several motorcycles in the skirmish that followed. Several people, including a police superintendent, were injured in the scuffle.
The protesters shouted slogans like “We want compensation,” and said Indian government accepted far too little in 1985 in a 470-million-dollar settlement.
The Indian government is seeking an additional 1.7 billion dollars for victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy from the Dow Chemical Company.
The protest came on the 27th anniversary of the chemical disaster in Bhopal, where a large volume of toxic gases leaked into environment following an accident in a Union Carbide pesticide plant.
The chemical disaster killed an estimated 15,000 people, and maimed tens of thousands more.
The Dow Chemical Company purchased the Union Carbide Corporation in August 1999.
Meanwhile, Bhopal activists and survivors are calling for Dow Chemicals to be dropped as a sponsor of the 2012 London Olympics.
At least 21 Indian Olympic athletes have urged the organizers of the London Olympic Games to end Dow’s sponsorship.
“The bullets made the water splash up in my face. The soldiers shouted at us to take off our shirts and trousers. We had to jump into the water and swim towards them one by one” says 17-year old Mohammed Bakr, as he recounts how Israeli naval forces detained him from his family’s fishing boat, together with his cousin and uncle.
Mohammed Wisam Lutfi Bakr is the oldest of 9 children. He is from a fisherman’s family living in Gaza City’s Remal neighbourhood. He has been helping out on his father’s fishing boat since he was 7 years old. As he explains what happened to him, his cousin, and their uncle on the early morning of 10 November he relives the fear he felt during the initial attack, arrest and subsequent detention.
Like every morning when the weather allows, Mohammed, his cousin Abdul Kader Wael Bakr (17), and their uncle Arafat Lutfi Bakr (28) went out fishing off the shore of Gaza City, leaving at approximately 03.00. At around 03.30, when they were approximately 2 nautical miles off Gaza City’s shore, they were suddenly approached by a large Israeli gunboat. Without warning soldiers started firing shots in the water around them, very close to the boat. “The bullets made the water splash up in my face. The soldiers shouted at us to take off our shirts and trousers. We had to jump into the water and swim towards them one by one” Mohammed recalls. His uncle Arafat went first. Mohammed watched how his uncle was pulled on board of the gunboat by the soldiers. Then his cousin Abdul Kader followed. “I went last” says Mohammed, “they handcuffed us with plastic straps and blindfolded Arafat. There were at least 5 soldiers. They kicked and beat me on my arms and legs. They did the same to my cousin. I’m almost sure they gave our uncle even worse treatment, but I could not see him because they took him out of our sight”. All three of them were taken to a detention facility in Ashdod and held there blindfolded. “It was very dirty. At some point I said I needed to go to the toilet. Then they put me in an open area where everyone could see me. There was not even a toilet.”
Around 12.00h Mohammed and Abdul Kader were transferred to Erez checkpoint, between Israel and the Gaza Strip. There the two cousins were held and questioned until 22.30h. Then the soldiers at the Erez called Mohammed’s father and grandfather to tell them that they released the two cousins. The two men had been waiting for news about the boys since noon, when a fisherman told them they had been taken by soldiers. The father and grandfather had heard shots being fired while they were in the mosque for morning prayers. Later they realized they had heard the attack on Mohammed, Abdul Kader and Arafat.
Mohammed cannot stop thinking about his uncle, who is still being held in Israeli detention; “Arafat and I would go everywhere together and do all the fishing together. I am very worried about him. The soldiers even said; ‘you always go fishing with Arafat’. I am very afraid for how they are treating him.” Arafat is a member of the Palestinian Naval Police.
On the day of the arrest, the family’s fishing boat, including the motor and net, were confiscated. The boat was passed from Mohammed’s grandfather to his father and has been the livelihood of the extended family for as long as Mohammed can remember: “we have no money for a new boat, motor, and net. Altogether it would cost us around 46,000 NIS.” With the confiscation Mohammed and many of his relatives lost their only source of income.
Mohammed is in his last year of high school and is preparing for the final tawjihi exams; “all my classmates take extra classes for the tawjihi but it costs a lot of money, which my family doesn’t have.” Mohammed would like to take the extra classes too but with the loss of the family income, that has become an impossible challenge.
The Israeli army violence against the fishermen has a major impact on Mohammed and his family: “last year my twenty year old cousin, Mohammed Mansour Bakr, was attacked by the Israeli army while fishing. The soldiers shot him and he died. The army is merciless. We stopped fishing for a little while but eventually we had no choice but to get back to our work. We are attacked a lot by the soldiers. They harass us. During this year’s Ramadan they chased and harassed us seven times. It feels like they want to disturb us more during our holy month. At sea the thoughts of risks are constantly in my head. Everyone can feel the same fear at sea. It feels like watching a frightening movie”. However, there is no other option for Mohammed and his family but to continue fishing; “There is no other work for us. Where can we possibly get other work from in Gaza? Even though our work is very dangerous, there is no other choice but to go back to the see because we need the money. If and when we get another boat, I will go again.”
For the past two decades the fishing waters of the Gaza Strip have gradually shrunk by access restrictions imposed as a result of the Oslo agreement and more recently by illegal unilateral restrictions imposed by Israel. Even within the currently enforced 3 nautical mile limit, the Israeli navy regularly attacks, arrests, and sometimes even kills fishermen. This year at least 32 fishermen were arrested, 17 in the month of November. Another 5 fishermen were injured and at least 20 boats were confiscated. In conjunction with the restriction on fishing waters, the income of Gaza’s fishing community (8,200 fishermen and workers in the fishing sector) has steadily decreased. By 2010 the fishing catch had decreased by 37% compared to 2008 and this amounted to only half of the 1999 fishing catch. The sardine catch, which makes up 70% of Gaza’s total fishing catch, now only reaches 20% of the sardine catch that existed before the restrictions, representing a loss of $10 million. Finally, according to the Fisherman’s Syndicate, around 60% of the small fishing boats and 22% of trawler boats in the Gaza Strip are not used because of the high risks involved and the limited catch.
The divisions have been institutionalized. (Markus Balázs Göransson)
The center of Hebron is surreal and terrifying. It is strange and overwhelming to see this schizophrenic place with my own eyes. As I walk along the streets, my senses are heightened yet I cannot fully process what I see. It feels like I am walking in a dream or on an empty movie set. The legacy of violence is stark and in your face and I am reminded of the ruins and craters that I saw when visiting Srebrenica in Bosnia several years ago. Yet, unlike Srebrenica, there has been no attempt to move past the divisions in Hebron. Instead, the divisions have been frozen and institutionalized and today Hebron is relatively quiet only because people are kept physically apart.
A handful of Jewish settlers – 800, in a city of 170 000 – have moved into the heart of the city and to protect them the Israeli army has created “sterilized zones” where the movement, residence and business of Palestinians are sharply restricted. On parts of some streets Palestinians are allowed to pass but when they do so they walk swiftly with their heads down to escape notice by Israeli settlers and soldiers. Other streets are closed to Palestinians, who cannot work or walk there. Technically, they are allowed to live in some buildings but the front doors of these buildings have been bolted shut and the residents are able to enter and leave them only through back windows or over rooftops.
Some Jewish settlers living nearby harass the Palestinians regularly with impunity. The Israeli army division stationed in Hebron is there to protect Jewish settlers and is not authorized to defend Palestinians against settler violence which is frequent and vicious. Five hundred Israeli soldiers are deployed to protect eight hundred Jewish settlers. And since the Palestinian police are not allowed to enter the sterilized zones there is little or no safeguarding of Palestinian rights. Most Palestinians who could escape the zones have escaped. Only the poorest families – and the criminals seeking a refuge – remain.
In one courtyard, where a thick stench of trash and rotting food hangs in the air fifty Palestinian families used to live. Today only two remain. They live in a building scarred by violence, where the front door is blocked and the windows covered with iron bars and metal nets. They enter and exit through a back window leading to the Arab part of the city. The courtyard in front of their apartment used to be full of life but is now covered in trash. Alleyways leading from the courtyard are blocked with slabs of concrete and giant rolls of barbed wire. An Israeli soldier is standing nearby, eyeing us uneasily as we move around listening to our guide explaining the history and nature of the conflict in Hebron.
My visit to Hebron was arranged by the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence, a veterans organisation which collects and publishes testimonies of Israeli soldiers about the abuses they have committed in the occupied Palestinian territories. The founder of this organization, Yehuda Shaul – a bearded Jewish man who wore a kippa and described himself as Orthodox – guided us around the deserted streets of the now Jewish parts of Hebron, showing us destroyed architecture, boarded-up Palestinian homes and the ubiquitous presence of the Israeli army. He had himself taken part in the occupation, serving as a grenade launcher operator with the IDF in Hebron during the Second Intifada (2000-4).
Explaining the military logic of the occupation, Shaul stressed two messages. First, he insisted that there is no such thing as a “good occupation” and that the Israeli public is simply soothing its conscience with the myth that the Israeli Defense Force is enforcing a moral occupation. On the contrary, he argued, an occupation cannot be effective without involving serious abuses of the rights of the local people. This is irrespective of the virtues and morality of the individual soldier. The logic and pressures of the situation will lead soldiers to treat certain categories as security threats and hence deprived of certain rights. Add to this, he noted, the psychological stress that many soldiers suffer on account of being stationed in hostile territory and the widespread atmosphere of impunity around them and you have a combustible mix.
Shaul went on to say that many of the abuses committed by the Israeli army have a clear military purpose. They are not the result of indiscipline or frustration but part and parcel of the very strategy of the occupation. He gave as an example that Israeli forces systematically disrupt the daily life of local Palestinians in order to keep them on their toes and thereby discourage them from engaging in organized violence. He also recalled from his own military service in Hebron that Israeli soldiers would repeatedly break into Palestinian homes to snatch with them young boys that they would force to walk in front of their vehicles during patrols. This was not an act of cruelty but an effective tactic to prevent other Palestinians from throwing stones at them.
Shaul’s central message was that the occupation, despite the lofty rhetoric surrounding it, carries a dark underside, and it is this underside that Breaking the Silence wants to expose and bring to the attention of the Israeli public. He emphasized that Israelis must take responsibility for the crimes committed in their name. There is a large moral price tag to the occupation, Shaul insisted, and the Israeli people must face up to this.
Unsurprisingly, our tour group was not greeted warmly by many Hebron settlers. Many shouted abuse at us, and at one point a group of children, aged 7-8 years, took a hose and sprayed us with water as we passed a settlement. Two of them ran after us and punched, kicked and jumped on Shaul, calling him names. I was disgusted, not because of their obvious hatred, but because they were so steeped in a sense of self-righteousness and impunity that they felt safe and entitled to attack a group of adult visitors.
It is difficult not to be outraged by the situation in Hebron. The visit brought home some of the injustice and intractability of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the structural logic and powerful interests that sustain it.
- Markus Balázs Göransson is currently studying for a PhD in International Politics at Aberystwyth University. He has previously worked as a conflict researcher and written on conflicts in the Philippines, the Balkans and the Middle East.
Former New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman, who is leading a group to draft a third-party presidential candidate, is encouraging Jon Huntsman to make an independent bid for the White House.
The group is Americans Elect backed by multi-millionaire Peter Ackerman, whom I’ve written about as “The Junk Bond ‘Teflon Guy’ Behind Egypt’s Nonviolent Revolution.”
Ackerman is a veritable pauper, however, by comparison with one of Huntsman’s other backers. As Jeff Zeleny wrote on June 22 in the New York Times:
Jon M. Huntsman Jr. opened his day on Tuesday by formally declaring his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. He closed it by accomplishing an equally important task: collecting $1.2 million for his campaign.
A dinner in Manhattan, hosted by Lynn Forester de Rothschild, was the venue to kickoff Mr. Huntsman’s fund-raising effort. It was the first stop in a weeklong fund-raising sprint, as Mr. Huntsman tries to catch up with the rest of the Republican presidential field that is locked in a cutthroat scramble to sign up high-dollar donors.
Lynn Forester de Rothschild is the chief executive officer of E.L. Rothschild, a holding company she owns with her husband, Sir Evelyn Robert de Rothschild, a member of the Rothschild banking family. The company manages investments in The Economist Group, owner of The Economist magazine, as well as real estate, agricultural and food interests.
In mid July it became known that the CIA had used a fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad in Pakistan in an attempt to get the DNA of Osama Bin Laden’s children who were suspected to be there with him.
I then predicted that these CIA Fake Vaccination Will Kill Children:
[T]his, now public, stunt will jeopardize many legitimate vaccination drives like the ones UNICEF and the WHO are organizing in Afghanistan.
So far the Taliban cooperated with such vaccination campaigns. From now on they will not trust these anymore. The abuse of such medical services for spying operations will be deadly for many children.
Today’s Wall Street Journal reports:
The United Nations says a reportedly fake vaccination campaign conducted to help hunt down Osama bin Laden has caused a backlash against international health workers in some parts of Pakistan and has impeded efforts to wipe out polio in the country.
Some 1,700 families living in Mohabatabad, a poor area of 20,000 people on the outskirts of Mardan, a town in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, have refused vaccinations after local Islamic seminaries launched a countercampaign to discourage vaccinations, health workers say.
Ghulam Rasool, a laborer from Khyber, found out in March that his 18-month-old son had polio after militants had warned off health workers.
Pakistan is one of the last significant polio reservoirs in the world, imperiling global eradication efforts, Unicef warns.
Those kids are just some of those uncounted and innocent casualties of the futile war of terror. How many more will have to die before that war ends?