I was surprised on my recent trip to Afghanistan that I learned so much…about the United States. I was in Afghanistan for two weeks in March of this year, meeting with a large number of Afghans working in humanitarian endeavors – the principal of a girls’ school, the director of a school for street children, the Afghan Human Rights Commission, a group working on environmental issues. The one thing that all of these groups that we met with had in common was, they were penniless. They all survived on rather tenuous donations made by philanthropic foundations in Europe.
I had read that the United States had spent $300 billion dollars in Afghanistan since the invasion and occupation of that country ten years ago, so I naturally became curious where this tremendous quantity of money and resources had gone. Many Americans had said to me that we were in Afghanistan “to help Afghan women,” and yet we were told by the director of the Afghan Human Rights Commission, and we read in the recent UN report titled “Silence is Violence,” that the situation for women there was growing more violent and oppressive each year. So I decide to do some research.
95% of the $300 billion that the U.S. has spent on its Afghanistan operation since we invaded the country in 2001 has gone to our military operations there. Several reports indicate that it costs one million dollars to keep one American soldier in that country for one year. We will soon have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, which will cost a neat $100 billion a year.
US soldiers in Afghanistan spend almost all of their time on one of our 300 bases in that country, so there is nothing they can do to help the Afghan people, whose physical infrastructure has been destroyed by the “30-year war” there, and who are themselves mostly jobless in a society in which there is almost no economy and no work.
Some effort is made to see that the remaining 5% of the $300 billion spent to date in Afghanistan does help Afghan society, but there is so much corruption and general lawlessness that the endeavor is largely futile. We were told by a female member of the Afghan parliament of one symbolic incident in which a container of medical equipment that was purchased in the US with US government funds for a clinic in Ghawr province, west of Kabul. It was shipped from the US, but by the time it arrived in Ghawr it was just an empty shell; all the equipment had been pilfered along the way.
Violence against women is increasing in Afghanistan at the present time, not decreasing. The Director of the Afghan Human Rights Commission told us of a recent case in which a ten-year-old girl was picked up by an Afghan Army commander in his military vehicle, taken to the nearby base and raped. He brought her back to her home semiconscious and bleeding, after conveying to her that if she told what had happened he would kill her entire family. The human rights commissioner ended the tale by saying to us the he could tell us “a thousand stories like this.” There has been a rapid rise in the number of self-immolations – women burning themselves to death – in Afghanistan in the past three years, to escape the violence that pervades many women’s lives – under the nine-year US occupation.
Armed conflict and insecurity, along with criminality and lawlessness, are on the rise in Afghanistan. In this respect, the country mirrors experience elsewhere which indicates a near universal co-relation between heightened conflict, insecurity, and violence against women.
Once one understands that the US military presence in Afghanistan is not actually helping the Afghan people, the question of the effectiveness or goodwill of other major US military interventions in recent history arises. In Vietnam, for example, the country had been a colony of France for the 80 years prior to WW II, at which point the Japanese invaded and took over. When the Japanese surrendered, the Vietnamese declared their independence, on September 2, 1945. In their preamble they directly quoted the US Declaration of Independence (“All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness….”).
The United States responded first by supporting the French in their efforts to recapture their lost colony, and when that failed, the US dropped 10 million tons of bombs on Vietnam – more than were dropped in all of World War II – sprayed 29 million gallons of the carcinogenic defoliant Agent Orange on the country, and dropped 400,000 tons of napalm, killing a total 3.4 million people. This is an appreciable level of savagery, and it would be reasonable to ask why the United States responded in this way to the Vietnamese simply declaring their inalienable rights.
There was a sideshow to the Vietnam war, and that is that the United States conducted massive bombing campaigns against Vietnam’s two western neighbors, Laos and Cambodia. From 1964 to 1973, the US dropped more than two million tons of ordnance over Laos in a operation consisting of 580,000 bombing missions – equal to a planeload of bombs every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years. This unprecedented, secret bombing campaign was conducted without authorization from the US Congress and without the knowledge of the American people.
The ten-year bombing exercise killed an estimated 1 million Laotians. Despite questions surrounding the legality of the bombings and the large toll of innocent lives that were taken, the US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs at the time, Alexis Johnson, stated, “The Laos operation is something of which we can be proud as Americans. It has involved virtually no American casualties. What we are getting for our money there . . . is, I think, to use the old phrase, very cost effective.”
One Laotian female refugee recalled the years of bombing in this way: “Our lives became like those of animals desperately trying to escape their hunters . . . Human beings, whose parents brought them into the world and carefully raised them with overflowing love despite so many difficulties, these human beings would die from a single blast as explosions burst, lying still without moving again at all. And who then thinks of the blood, flesh, sweat and strength of their parents, and who will have charity and pity for them? In reality, whatever happens, it is only the innocent who suffer.”
In Cambodia, the United States was concerned that the North Vietnamese might have established a military base in the country. In response, The US dropped three million tons of ordnance in 230,000 sorties on 113,000 sites between 1964 and 1975. 10% of this bombing was indiscriminate, with 3,580 of the sites listed as having “unknown” targets and another 8000 sites having no target listed at all. About a million Cambodians were killed (there was no one counting), and the destruction to society wrought by the indiscriminate, long-term destruction is widely thought to have given rise to the Khmer Rouge, who proceeded, in their hatred for all things Western, to kill another 2 million people.
Four days after Vietnam declared its independence on September 2, 1945, “Southern Korea” also declared independence (on September 6), with a primary goal of reuniting the country – which had been split into north and south by the United States only seven months before. Two days later, on September 8, 1945, the US military arrived with the first of 72,000 troops, dissolved the newly formed South Korean government, and flew in their own chosen leader, Syngman Rhee, who had spent the previous 40 years in Washington D.C. There was considerable opposition to the US control of the country, so much that 250,000 and 500,000 people were killed between 1945 and 1950 resisting the American occupation, before the actual Korean War even started.
The Korean War, like Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, was an asymmetrical war, in which the highly industrialized and mechanized US pulverized the comparatively primitive North Korean nation. One third of the population of North Korea was killed in the war, a total of three million people (along with one million Chinese and 58,000 Americans). Every city, every sizable town, every factory, every bridge, every road in North Korea was destroyed. General Curtis LeMay remarked at one point that the US had “turned every city into rubble,” and now was returning to “turn the rubble into dust.” A British reporter described one of the thousands of obliterated villages as “a low, wide mound of violet ashes.” General William Dean, who was captured after the battle of Taejon in July 1950 and taken to the North, later said that most of the towns and villages he saw were just “rubble or snowy open spaces.”
More napalm was dropped on Korea than on Vietnam, 600,000 tons compared to 400,000 tons in Vietnam. One report notes that, “By late August, 1950, B-29 formations were dropping 800 tons a day on the North. Much of it was pure napalm. Vietnam veteran Brian Wilson asks in this regard, “What it is like to pulverize ancient cultures into small pebbles, and not feel anything?”
In Iraq, Saddam Hussein came to power through a U.S.-CIA engineered coup in 1966 that overthrew the socialist government and installed Saddam’s Baath Party. Later conflict with Saddam let to the first and second Gulf Wars, and to thirteen years of severe U.S.-imposed economic sanctions on Iraq between the two wars, which taken together completely obliterated the Iraqi economy. An estimated one million people were killed in the two Gulf wars, and the United Nations estimates that the economic sanctions, in combination with the destruction of the social and economic infrastructure in the First Gulf War, killed another million Iraqis. Today both the economy and the political structure of Iraq are in ruins.
This trail of blood, tears and death smeared across the pages of recent history is the reason that Martin Luther King said in his famous Vietnam Speech that the United States is “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” Vietnam veteran Mike Hastie expanded the observation when he said in April of this year (2010) that, “The United States Government is a nonstop killing machine. The worst experience I had in Vietnam was experiencing the absolute truth of Martin Luther King’s statement. America is in absolute psychiatric denial of its genocidal maniacal nature.”
A further issue is that “war destroys the earth.” Not only does, as President Dwight D. Eisenhower said in 1960, “Every rocket fired signify a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed,” but every rocket that is fired reduces the life-sustaining capacity of the biosphere. In an ultimate sense it could be argued that those who wage war and those who pay for and support war, in reality bear some hidden hatred for life and some hidden desire to put and end to it.
What are our options? The short answer is, grow up. Grow up into the inherent depth of your own existence. After all, you are a “child of the universe, no less than the trees and stars, you have a right be here.” There is no viable, universally inscribed law that compels you to do as you are told to do by the multitude of dysfunctional and destructive authority figures that would demand your compliance, if you acquiesce.
“If we led our lives according to the ways intended by nature,” wrote French author La Boétie in his book The Politics of Obedience,” we should be intuitively obedient to our parents; later we should adopt reason as our guide and become slaves to nobody.” La Boétie wrote this in the year 1552, but people today remain slaves to external authority. “Our problem,” said historian Howard Zinn, “is not civil disobedience; our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty.”
Do you want to spend your life paying for the death of people (executed by the US military) that you would probably have loved if you have met them? Do you want to spend your life paying for the arsenal of hydrogen bombs that could very well destroy most of the life on the planet? If not, if you want another kind of life, then as author James Howard Kunstler often suggests, ‘You will have to make other arrangements.” You will have to arrange to live according to your own deepest ethical standards, rather than living in fear of the nefarious authority figures that currently demand your obedience and threaten to punish you if you do not obey their demands on your one precious chance at life.
“We must know how the first ruler came by his authority.” ~ John Locke
“How does it become a man to behave toward this American government today? I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
Dana Visalli [send him mail] is an ecologist, botanist and organic farmer living in Twisp, Washington.
Copyright © 2010 Dana Visalli
This morning at 3:10am, Israeli Security Agency (ISA) agents accompanied by Israeli police raided Ameer Makhoul’s family home in Haifa and arrested him. Makhoul is a human rights defender and serves as the general director of Ittijah – The Union of Arab Community-Based Associations and as the Chairman of the Public Committee for the Defense of Political Freedom in the framework of the High Follow-up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel.
The 16 ISA agents and police officers immediately separated Makhoul from his family, including wife Janan and daughters Hind, 17 and Huda, 12, and conducted an extensive search of the home. According to Janan, the police confiscated items including documents, maps, the family’s four mobile phones, Ameer and Janan’s laptops, the hard drives from the girls’ two desktop computers, a camera and a small tape recorder containing un-transcribed oral histories Janan collects as part of her work. At one point during the police search, Janan says, one officer violently restrained her, twisting her arm and pushing her when she attempted to leave the home’s living room to observe the confiscations. The security forces also refused to identify themselves and showed her a warrant authorizing Makhoul’s arrest only after she repeatedly insisted. The order was signed on 23 April 2010 and cited unsubstantiated “security” reasons as the grounds for Makhoul’s arrest.
Meanwhile, approximately 40 minutes after their arrival, a group of the security forces left with Makhoul in custody. At around the same time, the Israeli authorities raided the Ittijah office and confiscated documents and the hard drives from all of the organization’s computers.
A hearing in Makhoul’s case was held at the Petah Tikva interrogation center later that morning, and his detention was extended for six days. Reports also indicate that Makhoul has been banned from meeting with an attorney for at least two days.
This arrest comes shortly after Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai signed an administrative order prohibiting Makhoul from exiting the country for a two month period. In the order, which was signed on 21 April and is based on Article 6 of the 1948 emergency regulations, Yishai states, “I have reached the conviction that the exit of Ameer Makhoul from the country poses a serious threat to the security of the state, and therefore I issue this order to prevent him from leaving the country until the 21st of June, 2010.”
However, Makhoul’s case is only one example amidst a recent escalated campaign by Israeli authorities against Palestinian human rights defense and civil resistance. In addition to arbitrary arrest and detention, Israeli authorities have met Palestinian human rights activism in recent months with a variety of measures, including raids, deportations, travel bans, visa denials and media attacks against nongovernmental organizations. Moreover, Palestinian communities involved in grassroots human rights defense efforts are frequently levied with collective punishment measures in the form of curfews, sieges and destruction of property, threats to individuals and the community as a whole, beatings, the use of lethal and “non-lethal” ammunition, including 40mm high velocity tear gas canisters, denial of permits, tear-gassing, army incursions and intentional injury and killings.
The undersigned organizations view these measures as deliberate violations of fundamental freedoms, particularly freedoms of movement, expression, association and nonviolent assembly, and of the special protections owed under international law to human rights defenders. Furthermore, as Makhoul’s arrest warrant and travel ban order are based on emergency regulations and “secret” information that is never disclosed to the defense, the undersigned consider them to be arbitrary political actions in violation of fundamental due process principles and human rights standards.
The undersigned organizations therefore strongly condemn Makhoul’s arrest and travel ban and call for his immediate release and the ban’s immediate suspension.
The undersigned also call upon the international community to take a strong stand in opposition to the Israeli campaign against human rights defenders, and to intervene with Israel for:
- Ameer Makhoul’s immediate release and the lifting of the travel ban against him;
- An end to the Israeli practice of arbitrary detention and deportation of human rights defenders; and,
- Full adherence to and respect for relevant international standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Declaration and EU guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, as applied to the Palestinian population in the OPT and Israel.
Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights
Ensan Center for Democracy & Human Rights
Defence for Children International – Palestine Section (DCI-Palestine)
Women`s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling
Institute for Policy Studies
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)
Palestine Solidarity Committee – South Africa
|Better Place’s Tel Aviv headquarters.|
Former World Bank president and Middle East Quartet envoy James D. Wolfensohn is an investor in an Israeli company that is developing transport infrastructure for Jewish-only settlements built in the occupied West Bank in violation of international law, an investigation by The Electronic Intifada reveals.
Wolfensohn provided some of the start-up capital for Better Place, a company founded by Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi. The company owns and operates Better Place Israel (BPI), a division which is establishing a system of charging stations for electric vehicles throughout Israel and for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank.
The company has been a poster child for efforts to greenwash Israel — presenting it as a haven for environmental technologies — yet it has close ties to Israel’s military and political establishments and its principal officers express an explicitly anti-Muslim and anti-Arab agenda.
BPI’s chief executive officer is former general Moshe Kaplinsky, who commanded Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank during the second Palestinian intifada, a period of massive, well-documented violations of Palestinian human rights. Kaplinsky was also deputy chief of staff of Israel’s army during its 2006 war on Lebanon when Amnesty International and other human rights groups charged that Israel committed numerous war crimes including widespread use of cluster bombs in residential areas.
Better Place’s goal is to bring fully-electric vehicles and the infrastructure to support them to the mass market — starting with Israel. It also has pilot projects as far afield as Denmark, Canada, California, Australia and Japan.
Specially-built electric cars, due to be available to the public in Israel next year, are manufactured by French-Japanese conglomerate Renault-Nissan under an agreement with Better Place. Better Place had also recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Chinese car manufacturer Chery to jointly develop electric car technology for the Chinese market.
“What we do to make it convenient is we set [a] massive number of charge spots across an entire country or entire region,” Agassi explained to the BBC World Service’s One Planet program in January 2009. “And we set up battery exchange systems so that wherever you drive you don’t need to sit and wait for your battery to charge, you can just swap it and keep on going.”
Building infrastructure in the occupied West Bank
Before BPI sells its first car in Israel it is establishing a network of thousands of charging spots on the country’s entire road system including settler roads and in settlements in the West Bank.
One of the largest investors in BPI is billionaire Idan Ofer, owner of Dor-Alon energy group, Israel’s largest oil refiner. Dor-Alon has signed an agreement to install Better Place charging and battery exchange spots throughout its network of gas stations.
Israel’s Hebrew-language financial publication Globes reported on 3 February that “According to estimates, the deployment [of charging stations] will stress the more extensive and popular refueling locations of Dor-Alon, which enjoys a dominance on primary transportation routes, such as its four stations on the Cross Israel road (Highway 6) and the stations on Highway 443 and the Coastal Highway.”
Highway 443, significantly, is a road used by thousands of Israeli commuters daily. Half of the road’s approximately 30-kilometer length runs through the occupied West Bank. Israel has banned Palestinians whose land and villages the road traverses from accessing it, reserving it effectively for Jews only. Prior to Israel’s seizure of the road, it had been a main artery for Palestinian traffic south of Ramallah (“Route 443 — West Bank road for Israelis only,” B’Tselem).
The Electronic Intifada (EI) independently confirmed BPI’s expansion into the West Bank when it sent an undercover reporter to visit the company’s headquarters situated in a massive renovated fuel storage tank in northern Tel Aviv.
During the tour, the EI reporter, along with other visitors, was shown an IMAX-style video presentation which explained that each customer who buys a BPI electric vehicle will also have a charging spot installed at their home — a short post with an outlet that connects to the car via a nozzle-type input, and wirelessly links to the BPI communications network.
When the EI reporter asked a BPI spokesperson if these charging stations could be installed inside settlements in the West Bank, the spokesperson said that they would be installed “anywhere … that you want to live.” On a map shown during the video presentation, charging stations were shown in areas in the Jordan Valley and along major routes going east from Jerusalem — indicating that BPI has already installed charging stations inside the West Bank, and plans to install many more.
Wolfensohn an early booster of Better Place
James Wolfensohn’s investment firm, Wolfensohn & Co., is listed on BPI’s website along with Australia-based firm Macquarie Capital and US-based investment bank Morgan Stanley, among others as investors. Macquarie invests in and operates transport infrastructure all over the world, including the Chicago Skyway toll bridge, the Indiana Toll Road and the M6 Toll motorway in the UK.
Contacted by EI, Wolfensohn & Co. declined to disclose the size of its stake or provide any other comment for this story. Yet as one of the first investors it may have been influential in helping BPI attract additional capital.
BPI recently secured a $350 million equity investment from international bank HSBC, expanding the company’s estimated worth to $1.25 billion.
“Israel is a perfect test tube” for the electric car, Wolfensohn was quoted as saying in the February 2008 issue of Israel High-Tech & Investment Report. “It needs to be tested, and [BPI founder Shai] Agassi is to be commended for testing it and the Israeli government for trying it out.”
While operating as a private company — with its head office nominally in California — Better Place has been dependent on Israeli government support from the start. Initially, Agassi wrote a concept paper for the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders initiative. Agassi shopped it to various world leaders but found no takers, he told the BBC’s One Planet. “Then President [Shimon] Peres of Israel picked up on it,” Agassi recalled. “But the challenge to me was don’t ask us to do it. If you think it’s such a great business, go do it yourself. And that’s how it became a company instead of a government agency.” More recently Agassi told CNN, “I would not be doing this today were it not for [Peres]” (“Shai Agassi: One man’s mission to turn all cars electric,” CNN, 19 April 2010).
Wolfensohn’s investment in and personal endorsement of an Israeli company that is helping to build and solidify the infrastructure of occupation is surprising. Until 2006, Wolfensohn served as envoy for the Quartet, the ad hoc, self-appointed committee of representatives of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the UN Secretary-General that has monopolized the so-called “peace process.” Wolfensohn was tasked with assisting Palestinian economic development in the Gaza Strip after Israel removed its settlers in 2005 and moved its occupation forces from the interior to the perimeter of the besieged territory that imprisons 1.5 million Palestinians, mostly refugees.
Wolfensohn resigned in frustration after the Quartet decided to boycott, and freeze aid to, the Palestinian Authority after Hamas won the January 2006 election. “It would surprise me if one could win by getting all the kids out of school or starving the Palestinians,” Wolfensohn said in a parting shot aimed at Israeli and Quartet policies (“West ‘has to prevent collapse’ of Palestinian Authority,” Financial Times, 3 May 2006).
Wolfensohn had previously been highly critical of severe movement restrictions on Palestinians between and within the occupied territories — such as those along Highway 443 — that have devastated the Palestinian economy. Wolfensohn was succeeded as Quartet envoy by Tony Blair.
|Former Israeli army general Moshe Kaplinsky in Better Place’s promotional video.|
Islamophobia under the guise of environmentalism
BPI’s promotional video claimed that the funding of “extreme and unstable regimes … that fund organizations not positive for humanity” is one of the major reasons the firm is interested in getting Israelis out of their gas-guzzling cars and into fully-electric vehicles. Both Israeli President Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are shown extolling the virtues of BPI’s mission, with Netanyahu commenting that this is a part of a “changing world order … shaking off our dependence on oil.”
The canard that proceeds from the gasoline that motorists around the world pump into their cars directly funds terrorism has become popular with liberal environmentalists in recent years. While implicitly racist toward Arabs and Muslims, BPI has made such prejudiced and inflammatory claims an explicit part of its business model.
CEO Moshe Kaplinsky told the BBC’s One Planet, “I was a general in the IDF [Israeli army] and I understand where the money from the oil is going and what it cause to our society in the Western side of the globe [sic].”
When asked why he was an early booster of Better Place, Israeli President Peres told Wired magazine, “I thought that the greatest problem of our time was oil. Oil on one hand is polluting the land, and on the other hand it’s financing terror” (“Drive: Shai Agassi’s Audacious Plan to Put Electric Cars on the Road,” 18 August 2008).
Following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US, Israeli companies selling “security” and “anti-terrorist” expertise became an engine of the country’s exports. In the age of US President Barack Obama, and concern about climate change, there has been a concerted effort to soften Israel’s image, especially in the wake of the UN-commissioned Goldstone report into Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip.
Better Place has become a flagship for this strategy — the Reut Institute’s Gidi Grinstein, for example, used images of the Better Place logo in his notorious powerpoint presentation at the Herzliya conference, on efforts to rebrand Israel as Earth-friendly while urging its intelligence agencies to “sabotage” and “attack” the growing global Palestine solidarity movement.
The success of Better Place in raising money from Wolfensohn & Co. and other international firms, as well as the positive publicity the company has received, serve as warnings that Palestinians and the growing global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement must be ever more vigilant against Israel’s efforts to disguise its illegal and brutal colonization and apartheid behind a green mask.
Photos by The Electronic Intifada.
Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.
Ahmed Saadat, the jailed Palestinian leader of the leftist People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said in an interview with Reuters news agency Wednesday that the only way to end the Israel-Palestine conflict is through a one-state solution with equal rights for Jews and Palestinians.
In his answers to written questions submitted by Reuters through the Israeli prison authorities, Saadat said that a new round of negotiations with Israel will only deepen divisions between Palestinians, and will not resolve the problem.
US President Barack Obama has recently proposed a new round of talks, but many Palestinians remain skeptical, given the past ‘peace talks’ that resulted in further losses of their land and liberty.
“Negotiations will be nothing but a cover for the continuation of an Israeli policy built on the continuation of occupation”, wrote Saadat in his statement, adding, “The continuation of negotiations, direct or indirect, will have consequences on the efforts to repair the Palestinian rift and achieve reconciliation.”
The unelected Palestinian government of Mahmoud Abbas of the Fateh party has voiced its support for a new round of negotiations with Israel, and the Arab League also issued a statement of support for a potential four months of talks. But Saadat pointed out that the Israelis have already violated the preconditions for such talks by continuing to construct illegal settlements on Palestinian land despite agreeing to a temporary ban on such construction.
Saadat is in prison in Israel after Israeli forces siezed him in 2006 from the Palestinian Authority prison in Jericho in a brutal and deadly raid. He was originally accused of involvement in the assassination of israeli tourism minister Rehavem Zeevi in 2001, but those charges were dropped due to a lack of evidence. However, Israeli authorities decided to issue Saadat a 30-year sentence, although the actual charges against him are unclear.
In his statement, Saadat said that US President Barack Obama is proposing the talks to make up for his ‘impotence’ at failing to make the significant change and ‘new beginning’ he promised in US relations with the Muslim world.
More and more Palestinian and Israeli leftists are turning to the one state solution as a potential end to the decades-old Israel-Palestine conflict. In the one-state solution, Palestinians and Israelis would have equal rights in a democratic state. Most Israeli Jews oppose the idea because it would make them equal with Palestinians, instead of retaining the privileged position they currently hold in Israel.
What Does Heating Homes in New York City with Biodiesel Have to do with Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon?
Many of us think we’re doing the climate and the environment a big favor when we consider meeting our liquid fuel needs through biodiesel. I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s time to think again.
Agribusiness is seeing dollar signs as cities and states across the country consider using biodiesel to fuel municipal vehicle fleets and heat homes and businesses. In New York City, over a million households depend on petroleum heating oil to stay warm every winter. Legislation currently wending its way through City Council proposes adding biodiesel to future supplies.
But where does this biodiesel come from and at what environmental cost?
Proponents of agrofuels have plugged biodiesel as a renewable and environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum, but the unfortunate reality is that America and Brazil’s industrial-scale soybean farms devour and destroy enormous quantities of non-renewable and irreplaceable resources. Whether in Iowa or the Amazon, powering the machines that plow, plant, harvest, cast fertilizers, spray pesticides, and pump irrigation water is energy intensive and the fossil fuels consumed by on-farm operations release significant quantities of greenhouse gases and toxic air emissions.
Adding to soybean agriculture’s formidable fossil fuel tally, large amounts of natural gas are needed to produce the nitrogen based fertilizers that promote their growth. These fertilizers break down in fields releasing nitrous oxides, a global warming agent hundreds of times more potent than CO2. When these fertilizers leach from farm fields they poison drinking water and ravage marine ecosystems. Run-off from Midwestern farm fields ends up in the Gulf of Mexico where it contributes to a New Jersey-size “dead zone” almost entirely absent of marine life.
A toxic rainbow of pesticides are sprayed on soybeans in an effort to combat weeds and insects. Making matters worse, 91 percent of the US soybean acreage planted in 2007 was genetically engineered to tolerate herbicides, a development that has boosted glyphosate applications several fold. Glyphosate, a powerful weed killer, is the third most common cause of pesticide illness in farm workers; exposure has been linked to rare cancers, miscarriages, and premature births.
And to top of the bad news, every acre of food diverted for fuel requires that another acre be planted to grow the missing food. In the case of Brazil, this virtually guarantees the continued destruction of the Amazon as rainforest gives way to soybean monocultures. A process which not only destroys valuable wildlife habitat, but also releases enormous quantities of greenhouse gases that intact rainforest normally retains and captures.
Using biodiesel would result in serious consequences for our health and the environment and communities are pushing back with a straightforward solution. By simply switching to ultra low sulfur diesel heating oil, a fuel standard already mandated for on-road vehicles, we can dramatically improve the quality of the air we breathe daily while reducing oil consumption through improved furnace efficiency. And we can do it without raising the cost of home heating or depending on unsustainable and environmentally destructive biodiesel!
Bethlehem – A former Yale professor was among the four detained by Israeli forces during protests against the construction of the separation wall in Al-Walaja on Thursday morning.
Witnesses said three others were lightly injured by border police, who used clubs and mace against protesters, in what witnesses said was a violent removal of the protesters from their positions around Israeli military bulldozers.
A border police spokesman confirmed that four were detained at the rally, adding that all were released a few hours after their detention.
At 2pm, sources confirmed to Ma’an that at least one of the three, former Yale professor Dr Mazen Qumsiyeh, remained in custody. Family members confirmed that he was being held at the Russian Compound in Jerusalem, and may be let out on bail later in the afternoon.
The group of protesters marched to the site of construction and sat amidst the bulldozers, refusing to leave when officers demanded they disperse. The spokesman said that 20 “left-wing” Israelis were among the protesters, but did not confirm whether any were among those detained.
Those injured were identified by witnesses as Mahmud Al-Araj, 27, and brothers Ahmad and Mahmud Mustafa Al-Araj, 23 and 25. All three were taken to the Beit Jala Hospital for treatment, where medics described their injuries as mild. The others detained were identified as brothers Diya and Hasan Hamdan.
“Almost every day they attempt to halt construction,” the Israeli border police spokesman said, commenting on the conditions of the Al-Walaha protests. “They come close to the border police,” he said, “and they throw stones.”
Photojournalists and reporters at the scene said they did not witnesses stone throwing, noting protesters gather in the village center, and march toward the construction site. The gathering stops around the bulldozers digging up land in preparation for the wall, witnesses explained, and sit around the machines refusing to let them pass.
“That’s where the detentions took place today,” one organizer said, adding “I’ve been to the protests several times and never witnessed stone throwing.”
A reliable observer was quoted as saying “no stones were thrown whatsoever, not a single one,” regarding Thursday’s protest.
“If protesters act violently we have the right to use the spray,” the border police spokesman said, “the contact is very close.”
He said border police, a separate unit from the Israeli military operating at the anti-wall protests in Bil’in and Ni’lin, “have a few measures of crowd dispersal, one is the sticks, a second is the spray. There are four or five mechanisms at their disposal.”
Explaining the different tactics, the spokesman said, “here there is no fence between the protesters and the soldiers,” referencing the geographical set-up at the anti-wall rallies in Bil’in and Ni’lin, where Israeli military forces use an arsenal of riot dispersal mechanisms, including tear-gas and sound bombs, rubber coated bullets and occasionally skunk water. When pressed, however, the spokesman declined to identify the remaining tactics available to officers, saying only, “they know exactly when to use these measures.”
The Turkish Relief Foundation demanded Israel to unconditionally release its representative in the West Bank, Mohammad Shahin, who was kidnapped on Wednesday April 27.
Head of the Foundation, Bülent Yıldırım, stated during a press conference in Istanbul attending by several civil society institution and the wife of Shahin, called for the unconditional release of Shahin who will appear in court Thursday.
Shahin arrived recently in the West Bank, opened the representative office of the foundation and registered for Hebrew courses at the Hebrew University. He was kidnapped at a roadblock near Bethlehem and was moved to Petah Tikva detention and interrogation facility. The army also broke into his home and searched it before confiscating his personal laptop and several files. His wife said she is concerned for the life of her husband who has been under interrogation since one week, and demanded his release.
Bülent Yıldırım stated that it is likely that Shahin was arrested for the Foundations’ activities in organizing and aiding the popular campaign to break the siege on Gaza, and added that such arrests and violations will not stop the foundation especially its upcoming humanitarian trip to the Gaza Strip in the middle of this month. He added that should Israel keep Shahin behind bars, it would expose all of Israel’s illegal activities in Turkey.
Bülent Yıldırım said that the Foundation attempted to send three lawyers to represent Shahin but the Israeli embassy did not respond.
Israel claims that Shahin endangers its security and that he has connections with “terrorist organizations”.