Yet another program on “What Do White, Jewish Think-Tankers in D.C. Think the U.S. Should Do About Iran?”
During Bloggingheads‘ latest installment of “What Do White, Jewish Think-Tankers in Washington D.C. Think the U.S. Should Do About Iran?” , former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block, now a fellow at the bizarrely-named Progressive Policy Institute (given its penchant for espousing hawkish foreign policy views, especially on Iran), gave a veritable tutorial on how to cram every long-debunked fear-mongering talking point about the Islamic Republic into a mere 50-minute conversation. […]
In the course of his discussion with Joel Rubin, Director of Policy and Government Affairs at the Ploughshares Fund, Block repeated (among other things) the false claim that Obama “exposed” a secret Iranian nuclear enrichment at Fordow in September 2009, insisted that Iran seeks hegemony over the Middle East and is violently involved in Iraq, advocated forcefully for regime change (though he called it “democratic change”, and was oh so sincere about it), was adamant about Iran’s headlong pursuit of nuclear weapons (any other perspective, like one based evidence, was “nonsense”), said that the IAEA itself has said Iran has a nuclear weapons program, and even added a new mathematical assessment of Iran’s nuclear progress. He said that Iran’s mere capacity to enrich uranium up to 20% is “90%, if not more, of the ability to get to the fuel you need for a nuclear weapon.”
Despite Rubin’s efforts to infuse certain facts into the discussion (filtered, of course, through a significant amount of silliness of his own), Block remained a blowhard, a blabbermouth, and a liar. The best part, perhaps, was when Block, furrowed his brow, and said:
I’d like to see no war. I’d like to see peace! But I think the best chance to get there, the best chance to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, which, by the way, it’s not just a question of them dropping a bomb on Israel. I mean, they went into the streets in 2009 and were brutal to their own people. They walk around saying Bahrain belongs to them. How will they act when they have a nuclear weapon? What kind of activity will we see then? Who will be able to stop them? How will they treat their people then?
Block advocated “more pressure” to “destabilize” the Iranian government in order to ensure his preferred outcome. He also refused to admit that Israeli and U.S. predictions about when Iran would obtain a nuclear weapon have been wrong for three decades. Rather, he credited sanctions for “working” over that time and then completely misrepresented the TRR nuclear deal between Iran, Brazil, and Turkey. […]
Block closed, predictably, by advocating a military attack on Iran by pretending to ask a rhetorical question.
What’s the Difference?
Every four years we elect a president and the dramatic run-up to this spectacle has already begun. We can expect to be treated to near-daily tidbits of information from here on in. This is owing to the fact that, for the Democratic and Republican Parties, election day is everyday and an exploitable public is, as always, assuming the prone position.
These parties have two main tasks. The first is convincing the public that voting in the presidential election is the highest form of citizenship, and is therefore illustrative of patriotic spirit. The second task, hidden from the public, is to ensure their continued role as co-exploiter, and is therefore illustrative of the daily struggle for political power.
Whichever way the winds blow for these parties, the winner will claim to represent the will of the people, something we should be extremely leery of as a political concept.
How would we test the idea that the election of this or that party actually represented the will of the people? Taking a simple example, Gore argued that Bush’s proposed tax cuts would disproportionally benefit the wealthiest 1% of Americans, and the election was not 99-1, but a statistical tie. Obama argues that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest must go, but they’re not going anywhere. Given the dire straits our economy is presently in, and given the outlandish wealth and income disparities that exist in it, why would this issue even be close if the will of the American people had anything to do with it?
The political parties serve their own interests, just as regular people do. And just as regular people are selfish, so are the parties. They represent the will of the people to the extent that it can be useful to them. Where it is harmful, that is, when the will of the people comes into conflict with the will of the elites that the parties serve, the public loses and is subjected to a propaganda campaign to soothe its unrealized will.
Should it be needed, a remedy from elite sectors would be felt with immediacy and intensity.
There is no public remedy, save for the inevitable reassurance that it will come in the next election. Public remedy is of paramount importance in the history of our country. Our founding document, The Declaration of Independence, is a stunning example of a peoples’ unequivocal and radical remedy to a government unwilling to accede to the demands of its people. Now it is assumed, by virtue of little else besides the quadrennial march to the ballot box, that our government always embodies the will of its people.
Both parties want the country all aquiver about next year’s election. This is what they have, and so long as people show up and vote to validate the system, the system will be in good hands. Theirs!
I think the theme for 2012 should be, What’s the Difference?, because for the things that truly matter to the common man or woman, there is none between Bush and Obama, or between Obama and Palin/Bachmann. Even though no president moves beyond the party, liberals agonize over the calamity of a Palin or Bachmann presidency. Perhaps they like the idea of giving our “smarter” president a little more rope to hang themselves with.
For those wondering what degree of overstatement is intended with the “no difference” remark, here’s a little rundown:
Bush orders attacks on countries, Obama bombs relentlessly. Bush authorizes torture, Obama winks at it. Bush condones assassination, so does Obama. Bush takes the path to our becoming a national security state, Obama accelerates it. Bush targets whistle-blowers, Obama raises it to a first principle. Bush is secretive, Obama more so. Bush prefers to look forward, ignoring history. Obama prefers to look forward, ignoring justice.
Things are going to happen that are beyond the control of the common man or woman. Least of all will they be able to affect them at the ballot box. That’s a losing game. Great change will come in a way it has always come, through popular mass movements of people making demands. At a critical stage the government will recognize that it cannot afford not to be aligned with the movement.
The International Criminal Court has a case against Muammar Gaddafi for crimes against his people while putting down an uprising. It may be painful for an American to think about this, but consider what the reaction of a Bush or an Obama or any American president would be to a massive group of people, even non-violently, calling for a throwing off of the government. Do you picture the government sitting on its hands, or lying in wait? And would we embrace the same standard that we apply to Gaddafi?
No advocacy here. The comparison is presented solely to illuminate the lengths that any concentration of political power will go to when challenged, as when the Kingdom of Great Britain responded to events of July 4, 1776.
James Rothenberg can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prisoners earning 23 cents an hour in U.S. federal prisons are manufacturing high-tech electronic components for Patriot Advanced Capability 3 missiles, launchers for TOW (Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided) anti-tank missiles, and other guided missile systems. A March article by journalist and financial researcher Justin Rohrlich of World in Review is worth a closer look at the full implications of this ominous development. (minyanville.com)
The expanding use of prison industries, which pay slave wages, as a way to increase profits for giant military corporations is a frontal attack on the rights of all workers.
Prison labor — with no union protection, overtime pay, vacation days, pensions, benefits, health and safety protection, or Social Security withholding — also makes complex components for McDonnell Douglas/Boeing’s F-15 fighter aircraft, the General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F-16, and Bell/Textron’s Cobra helicopter. Prison labor produces night-vision goggles, body armor, camouflage uniforms, radio and communication devices, and lighting systems and components for 30-mm to 300-mm battleship anti-aircraft guns, along with land mine sweepers and electro-optical equipment for the BAE Systems Bradley Fighting Vehicle’s laser rangefinder. Prisoners recycle toxic electronic equipment and overhaul military vehicles.
Labor in federal prisons is contracted out by UNICOR, previously known as Federal Prison Industries, a quasi-public, for-profit corporation run by the Bureau of Prisons. In 14 prison factories, more than 3,000 prisoners manufacture electronic equipment for land, sea and airborne communication. UNICOR is now the U.S. government’s 39th largest contractor, with 110 factories at 79 federal penitentiaries.
The majority of UNICOR’s products and services are on contract to orders from the Department of Defense. Giant multinational corporations purchase parts assembled at some of the lowest labor rates in the world, then resell the finished weapons components at the highest rates of profit. For example, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Corporation subcontract components, then assemble and sell advanced weapons systems to the Pentagon.
Increased profits, unhealthy workplaces
However, the Pentagon is not the only buyer. U.S. corporations are the world’s largest arms dealers, while weapons and aircraft are the largest U.S. export. The U.S. State Department, Department of Defense and diplomats pressure NATO members and dependent countries around the world into multibillion-dollar weapons purchases that generate further corporate profits, often leaving many countries mired in enormous debt.
But the fact that the capitalist state has found yet another way to drastically undercut union workers’ wages and ensure still higher profits to military corporations — whose weapons wreak such havoc around the world — is an ominous development.
According to CNN Money, the U.S. highly skilled and well-paid “aerospace workforce has shrunk by 40 percent in the past 20 years. Like many other industries, the defense sector has been quietly outsourcing production (and jobs) to cheaper labor markets overseas.” (Feb. 24) It seems that with prison labor, these jobs are also being outsourced domestically.
Meanwhile, dividends and options to a handful of top stockholders and CEO compensation packages at top military corporations exceed the total payment of wages to the more than 23,000 imprisoned workers who produce UNICOR parts.
The prison work is often dangerous, toxic and unprotected. At FCC Victorville, a federal prison located at an old U.S. airbase, prisoners clean, overhaul and reassemble tanks and military vehicles returned from combat and coated in toxic spent ammunition, depleted uranium dust and chemicals.
A federal lawsuit by prisoners, food service workers and family members at FCI Marianna, a minimum security women’s prison in Florida, cited that toxic dust containing lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic poisoned those who worked at UNICOR’s computer and electronic recycling factory.
Prisoners there worked covered in dust, without safety equipment, protective gear, air filtration or masks. The suit explained that the toxic dust caused severe damage to nervous and reproductive systems, lung damage, bone disease, kidney failure, blood clots, cancers, anxiety, headaches, fatigue, memory lapses, skin lesions, and circulatory and respiratory problems. This is one of eight federal prison recycling facilities — employing 1,200 prisoners — run by UNICOR.
After years of complaints the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Occupational Health Service concurred in October 2008 that UNICOR has jeopardized the lives and safety of untold numbers of prisoners and staff. (Prison Legal News, Feb. 17, 2009)
Racism & U.S. prisons
The U.S. imprisons more people per capita than any country in the world. With less than 5 percent of the world population, the U.S. imprisons more than 25 percent of all people imprisoned in the world.
There are more than 2.3 million prisoners in federal, state and local prisons in the U.S. Twice as many people are under probation and parole. Many tens of thousands of other prisoners include undocumented immigrants facing deportation, prisoners awaiting sentencing and youthful offenders in categories considered reform or detention.
The racism that pervades every aspect of life in capitalist society — from jobs, income and housing to education and opportunity — is most brutally reflected by who is caught up in the U.S. prison system.
More than 60 percent of U.S. prisoners are people of color. Seventy percent of those being sentenced under the three strikes law in California — which requires mandatory sentences of 25 years to life after three felony convictions — are people of color. Nationally, 39 percent of African-American men in their 20s are in prison, on probation or on parole. The U.S. imprisons more people than South Africa did under apartheid. (Linn Washington, “Incarceration Nation”)
The U.S. prison population is not only the largest in the world — it is relentlessly growing. The U.S. prison population is more than five times what it was 30 years ago.
In 1980, when Ronald Reagan became president, there were 400,000 prisoners in the U.S. Today the number exceeds 2.3 million. In California the prison population soared from 23,264 in 1980 to 170,000 in 2010. The Pennsylvania prison population climbed from 8,243 to 51,487 in those same years. There are now more African-American men in prison, on probation or on parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began, according to Law Professor Michelle Alexander in the book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”
Today a staggering 1-in-100 adults in the U.S. are living behind bars. But this crime, which breaks families and destroys lives, is not evenly distributed. In major urban areas one-half of Black men have criminal records. This means life-long, legalized discrimination in student loans, financial assistance, access to public housing, mortgages, the right to vote and, of course, the possibility of being hired for a job.
What is NASA’s future now that Atlantis has landed and the shuttle program is over? If NASA persists in using nuclear power in space, the agency’s future is threatened.
Between November 25 and December 15 NASA plans to launch for use on Mars a rover fueled with 10.6 pounds of plutonium, more plutonium than ever used on a rover.
The mission has a huge cost: $2.5 billion.
But if there is an accident before the rover is well on its way to Mars, and plutonium is released on Earth, its cost stands to be yet more gargantuan.
NASA’s Final Environmental Impact Statement for what it calls its Mars Science Laboratory Mission says that if plutonium is released on Earth, the cost could be as high as $1.5 billion to decontaminate each square mile of “mixed-use urban areas” impacted.
What‘s the probability of an accident releasing plutonium? The NASA document says “the probability of an accident with a release of plutonium” is 1-in-220 “overall.”
If you knew your chance of not surviving an airplane flight—or just a drive in a car—was 1 in 220, would you take that trip?
And is this enormous risk necessary?
In two weeks, there will be a NASA mission demonstrating a clear alternative to atomic energy in space: solar power.
On August 5, NASA plans to launch a solar-powered space probe it’s named Juno to Jupiter. There’s no atomic energy involved, although NASA for decades has insisted that nuclear power is necessary for space devices beyond the orbit of Mars. With Juno, NASA will be showing it had that wrong.
“Juno will provide answers to critical science questions about Jupiter, as well as key information that will dramatically enhance present theories about the early formation of our own solar system,” says NASA on its website. “In 2016, the spinning, solar-powered Juno spacecraft will reach Jupiter.” It will be equipped with “instruments that can sense the hidden world beneath Jupiter’s colorful clouds” and make 33 passes of Jupiter.
As notes Aviation Week and Space Technology: “The unique spacecraft will set a record by running on solar power rather than nuclear radioisotope thermoelectric generators previously used to operate spacecraft that far from the Sun.”
The Mars rover to be launched, named Curiosity by NASA, will be equipped with these radioisotope thermoelectric generators using plutonium, the deadliest radioactive substance.
Juno, a large craft—66-feet wide—will be powered by solar panels built by a Boeing subsidiary, Spectrolab. The panels can convert 28 percent of the sunlight that them to electricity. They’ll also produce heat to keep Juno’s instruments warm. This mission’s cost is $1.1 billion.
In fact, Juno is not a wholly unique spacecraft. In 2004, the European Space Agency launched a space probe called Rosetta that is also solar-powered. Its mission is to orbit and land on a comet—beyond the orbit of Jupiter.
Moreover, there have been major developments in “solar sails” to propel spacecraft. Last year, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched its Ikaros spacecraft with solar sails taking it to Venus. In January, NASA itself launched its NanoSail-D spacecraft. The Planetary Society has been developing several spacecraft that will take advantage of photons emitted by the Sun to travel through the vacuum of space.
At no point will Juno (or the other solar spacecrafts) be a threat to life on Earth. This includes Juno posing no danger when in 2013 it makes a flyby of Earth. Such flybys making use of Earth’s gravity to increase a spacecraft’s velocity have constituted dangerous maneuvers when in recent years they’ve involved plutonium-powered space probes such as NASA’s Galileo and Cassini probes.
Curiosity is a return to nuclear danger.
NASA’s Final Environmental Impact statement admits that a large swath of Earth could be impacted by plutonium in an accident involving it. The document’s section on “Impacts of Radiological Releases” says “the affected environment” could include “the regional area near the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the global area.”
“Launch area accidents would initially release material into the regional area, defined…to be within …62 miles of the launch pad,” says the document. This is an area from Cape Canaveral west to Orlando.
But “since some of the accidents result in the release of very fine particles less than a micron in diameter, a portion of such releases could be transported beyond…62 miles,” it goes on. These particles could become “well-mixed in the troposphere”—the atmosphere five to nine miles high—“and have been assumed to potentially affect persons living within a latitude band from approximately 23-degrees north to 30-degrees north.” That’s a swath through the Caribbean, across North Africa and the Mideast, then India and China Hawaii and other Pacific islands, and Mexico and southern Texas.
Then, as the rocket carrying Curiosity up gains altitude, the impacts of an accident in which plutonium is released would be even broader. The plutonium could affect people “anywhere between 28-degrees north and 28-degrees south latitude,” says the NASA document. That’s a band around the mid-section of the Earth including much of South America, Africa and Australia.
Dr. Helen Caldicott, president emeritus of Physicians for Social Responsibility, has long emphasized that a pound of plutonium if uniformly distributed could hypothetically give a fatal dose of lung cancer to every person on Earth. A pound, even 10.6 pounds, could never be that uniformly distributed, of course. But an accident in which plutonium is released by a space device as tiny particles falling to Earth maximizes its lethality. A millionth of a gram of plutonium can be a fatal dose. The pathway of greatest concern is the breathing in plutonium particle..
As the NASA Environmental Impact Statement puts it: “Particles smaller than about 5 microns would be transported to and remain in the trachea, bronchi, or deep lung regions.” The plutonium particles “would continuously irradiate lung tissue.”
“A small fraction would be transported over time directly to the blood or to lymph nodes and then to the blood,” it continues. Once plutonium “has entered the blood via ingestion or inhalation, it would circulate and be deposited primarily in the liver and skeletal system.” Also, says the document, some of the plutonium would migrate to the testes or ovaries.
The cost of decontamination of areas affected by the plutonium could be, according to the NASA statement, $267 million for each square mile of farmland, $478 million for each square mile of forests and $1.5 billion for each square mile of “mixed-use urban areas.”
The NASA document lists “secondary social costs associated with the decontamination and mitigation activities” as: “Temporary or longer term relocation of residents; temporary or longer term loss of employment; destruction or quarantine of agricultural products including citrus crops; land use restrictions which could affect real estate values, tourism and recreational activities; restriction or bands on commercial fishing; and public health effects and medical care.”
As to why the use of a plutonium-powered rover on Mars—considering that NASA has successfully used solar-powered rovers on Mars—the NASA Environmental Impact Statement says that a “solar-powered rover…would not be capable of operating over the full range of scientifically desirable landing site latitudes” on this mission.
There’s more to it. For many decades there has been a marriage of nuclear power and space at NASA. The use of nuclear power on space missions has been heavily promoted by the U.S. Department of Energy and its predecessor agency, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, and the many DOE (previously AEC) national laboratories including Los Alamos and Oak Ridge. This provides work for these government entities. Also, the manufacturers of nuclear-powered space devices—General Electric was a pioneers in this—have pushed their products. Further, NAS has sought to coordinate its activities with the U.S. military. The military for decades has planned for the deployment of nuclear-powered weapons in space.
Personifying the NASA-military connection now is NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a former NASA astronaut and Marine Corps major general. Appointed by President Barack Obama, he is a booster of radioisotope thermoelectric generators as well as rockets using nuclear power for propulsion. The U.S. has spent billions of dollars through the years on such rockets but none have ever taken off and the programs have all ended up cancelled largely out of concern about a nuclear-powered rocket blowing up on launch or falling back to Earth.
Accidents have happened in the U.S. space nuclear program. Of the 26 space missions that have used plutonium which are listed in the NASA Environmental Impact Statement for the Mars Science Laboratory Mission, three underwent accident causing, admits the document.
The worst occurred in 1964 and involved, it notes, the SNAP-9A plutonium system aboard a satellite that failed to achieve orbit and dropped to Earth, disintegrating as it fell. The 2.1 pounds of plutonium fuel dispersed widely over the Earth and Dr. John Gofman, professor of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley, long linked this accident to an increase in global lung cancer. With the SNAP-9A accident, NASA switched to solar energy on satellites. Now all satellites—and the International Space Station—are solar-powered.
There was a near-miss involving a nuclear disaster and a space shuttle. The ill-fated Challenger’s next mission in 1986 was to loft a plutonium-powered space probe.
The NASA Environmental Impact Statement includes comments from people and organizations some highly critical of a plutonium-powered Mars Science Laboratory Mission.
Leah Karpen of Asheville, North Carolina says: “Every expansion of plutonium research, development and transportation of this deadly material increases the risk of nuclear accident or theft. In addition, plutonium production is expensive and diverts resources from the more important social needs of our society today, and in the future.” She urges NASA “to reconsider the use of nuclear” and go with solar instead.
Jeremy Maxand, executive director of the Idaho-based Snake River Alliance, calls on NASA and the Department of Energy to “take this opportunity to move space exploration in a sustainable direction with regard to power. Using solar rather than nuclear to power the Mars Science Laboratory Mission would keep the U.S. safe, advance energy technologies that are cleaner and more secure, be more fiscally responsible, and set a responsible example to other countries as they make decisions about their energy future.”
Ace Hoffman of Carlsbad, California speaks of “today’s nuclear NASA” and a “closed society of dangerous, closed-minded ‘scientists’ who are hoodwinking the American public and who are guilty of premeditated random murder.” He adds: “The media has a duty to learn the truth rather than parrot NASA’s blanketly-false assertions.”
NASA, in response to the criticisms, repeatedly states in the document: “NASA and the DOE take very seriously the possibility that an action they take could potentially result in harm to humans or the environment. Therefore, both agencies maintain vigorous processes to reduce the potential for such events.”
Involved in challenging the mission is the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space (www.space4peace.org). Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Maine-based organization, says that “NASA sadly appears committed to maintaining their dangerous alliance with the nuclear industry. Both entities view space as a new market for the deadly plutonium fuel.” Says Gagnon: “The taxpayers are being asked once again to pay for nuclear missions that could endanger the life of all the people on the planet…Have we not learned anything from Chernobyl and Fukushima? We don’t need to be launching nukes into space. It’s not a gamble we can afford to take.”
With the return of Atlantis and end of the shuttle program, there are concerns about this being the “end” of the U.S. space program.
An accident if NASA continues to insist on mixing nuclear power and atomic energy—a nuclear disaster overhead—that, indeed, could end the space program.
Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet(Common Courage Press) and wrote and presented the TV program Nukes In Space: The Nuclearization and Weaponization of the Heavens (www.envirovideo.com).
Four Kenyans have been allowed to sue the British government over the atrocities committed by the UK army against the anti-colonial Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s.
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) had insisted that the British government would not answer for the abuses committed by the former British colony and that legal responsibility referred to the present Kenyan government.
The recent decision means that the UK government will face charges of torture, murder and sexual assault among other alleged crimes.
Around 17,000 documents were found in the British Foreign Office’s archives, seen by the ministers in 1950s and 60s, which revealed the details of the UK army’s harsh measures.
Four elderly Kenyans Ndiku Mutwiwa Mutua, Paulo Muoka Nzili, Wambugu Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara stressed that the documents from a paper trail showed that the UK ministers had approved abuse in their detention camps.
Earlier this year, Mutua and Nzili told the British High Court that they had been castrated, Nyingi had been hit unconscious, and Mara had fallen the victim of sexual abuse.
High Court Justice McCombe said that the claimants have arguable cases, which were fit for trial.
“I emphasize that I have not found that there was systematic torture in the Kenyan camps nor that, if there was, the UK government is liable to detainees, such as the claimants, for what happened,” he said.
The Kenyans’ lawyer said the ruling that the UK government could be held responsible for the anti-human rights actions in the colonies was a “historic judgment,” adding in the past 50 years his clients suffered the worst torture at the hands of the British Colonial regime.
“Castration, abuse, severe beatings, were just some of what they had to endure as the British tried to prevent the advance of the Kenyan Independence movement…Our government has seemed hell-bent on preventing that happening,” the lawyer said.
Recalling his clients’ sufferings, the attorney called for “some sort of justice, an apology, some sort of money that would give them peace in their final years.”
Human rights lawyer Paul Muite said what British soldiers did in Kenya, a British colony at the time, was “shameless and immoral.”
“These were terrible atrocities committed by British soldiers, not by the government of Kenya,” he said, adding that, “These people were fighting for justice, liberty and their land.”
BETHLEHEM — Palestinian firefighters have been battling blazes across the West Bank as Israeli settlers set fire to land in multiple locations on Thursday night.
Reports earlier on Friday said that settlers had torched agricultural fields near the village of Burin in the West Bank city of Nablus.
“Some settlers from the Yizhar settlement adjacent to the village set fire to the area south of the village and fled the scene,” Head of Burin village council Ali Ead told Ma’an.
Hundreds of residents in the village arrived at the scene and helped extinguish the fire.
Reports also emerged that fires had been started by settlers in the districts of Nablus, Salfit, Tulkarem and north of Jerusalem.
After nine hours, firefighters finally managed to extinguish a blaze started by settlers in Al-Badhan village, north of Nablus, which destroyed 150 dunams of land and olive trees, the Palestinian Civil Defense said Friday.
Fires in other West Bank districts also reportedly destroyed hundreds of dunams of Palestinian land.
Residents in the village of Burin near Nablus had helped extinguish a fire set by settlers on Friday as 5,000 trees and 150 olive trees were destroyed.
Firefighters also rushed to a blaze in the village of Beit Iksa, north of Jerusalem after receiving information that Israeli soldiers had uprooted olive trees.
Fires were also put out in Salfit, after breaking out on 150 dunams of grass and destroying 90 olive trees.
In the Tulkarem district, fires destroyed at least 100 olive trees in an area between the villages of Izbat Shofa and Bala.
The latest attacks by settlers come amid a string of violent incidents in the occupied West Bank.
On Monday, settlers attacked a group of international observers near Hebron, the fifth such case of settler violence against internationals in the area over the last 30 days.
Also on Monday, settlers attacked three Palestinian shepherds near Jerusalem, causing serious injuries.
On Friday July 15, Israeli settlers from the illegal settlement of Yizhar set fire to Palestinian land near the village of Burin, south of Nablus.
Two days earlier, a Palestinian teenager sustained bruises after Israeli settlers pelted his car with stones near the site of the former Israeli settlement of Homesh, which was evacuated in 2005.
According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Regulations, the International Court of Justice, and several United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements and outposts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal.
A report by the Palestinian Authority found that settler violence increased “dramatically” in June 2011, documenting 139 attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank and the destruction of over 3,600 olive trees and vineyards.
An Israeli army general recently warned that unchecked settler “terror” against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank threatens to plunge the territory into conflict, reports said.
The Israeli ambassador to Spain, Raphael Schutz, has just finished his term in Madrid. In an op-ed in Haaretz’s Hebrew edition he summarized what he termed as a very dismal stay and seemed genuinely relieved to leave.
This kind of complaint now seems to be the standard farewell letter of all Israeli ambassadors in Western Europe. Schutz was preceded by the Israeli ambassador to London, Ron Prosor, on his way to his new posting at the United Nations in New York, complaining very much in the same tone about his inability to speak in campuses in the United Kingdom and whining about the overall hostile atmosphere. Before him the ambassador in Dublin expressed similar relief when he ended his term in office in Ireland.
All three grumblers were pathetic but the last one from Spain topped them all. Like his colleagues in Dublin and in London he blamed his dismal time on local and ancient anti-Semitism. His two friends in the other capitals were very vague about the source of the new anti-Semitism as both in British and Irish history it is difficult to single out, after medieval times, a particular period of anti-Semitism.
But the ambassador in Madrid without any hesitation laid the blame for his trials and tribulations on the fifteenth century Spanish Inquisition. Thus the people of Spain (his article was entitled “Why the Spanish hate us”) are anti-Israeli because they are either unable to accept their responsibility for the Inquisition or they still endorse it by other means in our times.
This idea that young Spaniards should be moved by atrocities committed more than 500 years ago and not by criminal policies that take place today, or the notion that one could single out the Spanish Inquisition as sole explanation for the wide public support for the Palestinian cause in Spain, can only be articulated by desperate Israeli diplomats who have long ago lost the moral battle in Europe.
But this new complaint — and I am confident that there are more to come — exposes something far more important. The civil society struggle in support of Palestinian rights in key European countries has been successful. With few resources, sometimes dependent on the work of very small groups of committed individuals, and aided lately by its biggest asset — the present government of Israel – this campaign has indeed made life quite hellish for every Israeli diplomat in that part of the world.
So when we come and assess what is ahead of us, we who have been active in the West are entitled to a short moment of satisfaction at a job well done.
The three grumpy ambassadors are also right in sensing that not only has Israeli policy in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip come under attack, but also the very racist nature of the Jewish state has galvanized decent and conscientious citizens — many of them Jewish — around the campaign for peace and justice in Palestine.
Outside the realm of occupation and the daily reality of oppression all over Israel and Palestine, one can see more clearly that history’s greatest lesson will eventually reveal itself in Palestine as well: evil regimes do not survive forever and democracy, equality and peace will reach the Holy Land, as it will the rest of the Arab world.
But before this happens we have to extricate ourselves from the politicians’ grip on our lives. In particular we should not be misled by the power game of politicians. The move to declare Palestine, within 22 percent of its original being, as an independent state at the UN is a charade whether it succeeds or not.
A voluntary Palestinian appeal to the international community to recognize Palestine as a West Bank enclave and with a fraction of the Palestinian people in it, may intimidate a Likud-led Israeli government, but it does not constitute a defining moment in the struggle for the liberation of Palestine. It would either be a non-event or merely provide the Israelis a pretext for further annexation and dispossession.
This is another gambit in the power game politicians play which has led us nowhere. When Palestinians solve the issue of representation and the international community exposes Israel for what it is — namely the only racist country in the Middle East — then politics and reality can fuse again.
Slowly and surely we will be able to put back the pieces and create the jigsaw of reconciliation and truth. This must be based on the twofold recognition that a solution has to include all the Palestinians (in the occupied territories, in exile and inside Israel) and has to be based on the construction of a new regime for the whole land of historical Palestine, offering equality and prosperity for all the people who live there now or were expelled from it by force in the last 63 years of Israel’s existence.
The obvious discomfort the three diplomats felt and expressed is not due to any cold shoulder shown to them in local foreign ministries or governments. And therefore while many Europeans can make their lives miserable, their respective governments can still look the other way.
Whether it is financial desperation and external Israeli and American pressure that bought Greece’s collaboration against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla or it is the power of intimidation that silences even progressive newspapers like the Guardian in the West, Israel’s immunity is still granted despite its diplomats’ misery.
This is why we should ensure that not only Israeli ambassadors feel uncomfortable in European capitals, but also all those who support them or are too afraid to confront Israel and hold it to account.
Ilan Pappe is Professor of History and Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter. His most recent book is Out of the Frame: The Struggle for Academic Freedom in Israel (Pluto Press, 2010).