The UK’s Occupy protesters have occupied the vacant building of Bank of Ireland in Belfast city centre, Northern Ireland, media reports said.
Police said that a number of youths broke into the disused former headquarters of the Bank of Ireland on the city’s main thoroughfare, Royal Avenue, the daily The Guardian reported.
They said that about a dozen protesters, some of whom were masked, remained inside the building at the corner of North Street and Royal Avenue.
Some of the demonstrators had occupied the top floor and draped anti-capitalist banners over the exterior, the report said.
A police helicopter hovered over the former bank but did not initially attempt to make any arrests.
Bank of Ireland is one of the Irish banks rescued from collapse by billions of euros from the Republic’s taxpayers.
The Royal Avenue branch near to the Belfast Telegraph newspaper has been closed for several years.
“Occupy Belfast have taken control of the Bank of Ireland on Royal Avenue in opposition to soaring homelessness, lack of affordable social housing and home repossessions”, said a statement from the anti-capitalist demonstrators.
Stating that they hoped for the “building of a housing campaign”, the protesters added: “Banks take our houses so we take their buildings. This is a repossession for the community!”
Occupy protests have been held across the world, with the most high-profile demonstrations taking place outside Wall Street in New York and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
In Belfast a small band of Occupy activists have been camped out for the last few months on Writer’s Square facing onto St Anne’s Cathedral in Donegall Street.
London – A member of the UK’s National Union of Students Executive Council has denounced several youth and student officers from the opposition Labour Party for taking part in an all-expenses-paid tour of Israel and its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. The Labour students delegation met with Captain Barak Raz, an Israeli army spokesperson and other Israeli officials.
The Union of Jewish Students (UJS), a pro-Israel group, paid for the entire junket. The 4-9 January tour was led by Dan Sheldon, UJS campaigns officer. It included meetings with Tony Blair, the former UK prime minister who now works as a representative of the Middle East “Quartet” (the US, European Union, UN and Russia), and Mark Regev, chief spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Delegation member Joe Vinson told The Electronic Intifada that the group had “visited the [Israeli] settlements” in the West Bank as well as “various religious landmarks” on a “fact-finding mission to explore the conflict.” Of the settlements, Vinson said it was “not ideal that Israel is building on Palestinian territory.” All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law, a position upheld by successive UK governments. Vinson is president of Cornwall College Students’ Union.
Vinson defended the tour, claiming it had given the Palestinian perspective as well as the Israeli. “We didn’t control the agenda,” it was set by the UJS, Vinson said. “Not for one minute do I think that the UJS tried to use it as a Zionist propaganda trip, they were very conscious to give the two sides of the argument throughout the whole trip.”
Vinson said that Captain Raz “didn’t give us much opinion, it was very much an unbiased point of view that he gave us. It was mostly information about what they do to ensure that peace is consistent in the West Bank.” He added, “it was interesting, but didn’t really give us much to go on.” During the trip, Vinson wrote on his Twitter account that he had been “Really glad to meet” Captain Raz.
Asked if he thought it was problematic to visit settlements as part of an Israeli delegation, Vinson said, “I certainly see the issues that surround that and the international law” but that it was crucial “to get opinions from all sides of the argument.”
When pressed, Vinson said OneVoice Palestine was the only Palestinian group his delegation had met. OneVoice is an Israeli-Palestinian group founded by Israeli businessman Daniel Lubetzky. It has often been criticized by Palestinians for encouraging normalization between Israelis and Palestinians in violation of the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel.
A “Palestinian perspective” given by Israelis
Vinson admitted that “we didn’t meet with as many Palestinians as we did Israelis” but said that the guide for the tour “was always trying to put the Palestinian perspective across, we were always asking him questions about things from a Palestinian perspective.” According to other members of the delegation writing on Twitter, this guide who supposedly gave “the Palestinian perspective” was Jeremy Leigh of tour group Jewish Journeys. “Born in the UK and a graduate of the Reform Zionist youth movement, RSY-Netzer, [Leigh] has been living in Israel since 1992,” says the group’s website.
The Electronic Intifada asked Vinson what he thought qualified Leigh to give a “Palestinian perspective.” He replied: “the fact that he’s lived there for 20 plus years and I guess he acknowledges both sides of the argument.”
Also on the delegation were: Emma Meehan, the secretary of Scottish Young Labour and a vice-president of Edinburgh University’s Students’ Union; Ruth Brewer, of Liverpool Labour Students; Jess Leigh, the vice-chairperson of Labour Students; Sam Woodcock, co-chairperson of Manchester Labour Students; and Nick Pringle, northern coordinating officer of Labour Students. Labour is now Britain’s main opposition party, having been in government from 1997 to 2010.
Student activists denounce tour
James Haywood of the National Union of Students (NUS) Executive Council denounced the tour. Haywood said, “for elected officers to accept all-expenses-paid trips to Israel is scandalous, all the more so that it was arranged by an openly pro-Israel organization. I’m not surprised that these officers didn’t meet Palestinian refugees, students and activists — because they would have seen the truth of the racism and oppression they suffer from daily.”
Haywood, a Palestine solidarity activist and an elected student officer, is on the same NUS Society and Citizenship committee as Vinson.
Majdi Hafi, president of the Student Council for Birzeit University in the West Bank told Edinburgh student newspaper The Journal he was “very disappointed and shocked” to learn of the trip.
“As students at Birzeit University we were looking forward to working towards forming closer relations” with the Edinburgh Students’ Union, he wrote. But he said the trip’s “sole aim is to whitewash Israel’s crimes and the suffering of the Palestinians.”
He said the delegates had shown “a blatant disregard for the history of student activism for human rights at Edinburgh University,” and called upon “the other sabbatical officers, and the wider student body [to] distance themselves from this shameful trip and condemn Ms. Meehan for taking part.”
Liam O’Hare, president of Edinburgh Students for Justice in Palestine, told The Journal he was “horrified” that Meehan had chosen to join the trip, which he said was “designed to whitewash the continued ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people.” The trip “has brought the union into disrepute,” he said, promising to protest against it in all relevant forums.
Vinson said the tour was a fact-finding mission to encourage debate and improve understanding. If that was really its aim, it seems to have been pretty unsuccessful judging from what delegates have publicly discussed about their trip.
In one now-deleted Tweet, Ruth Brewer commented on the looks of Israelis: “I don’t understand why people boycott Israeli goods, the lads here are fine to dine.”
The Electronic Intifada asked Vinson how the trip facilitated discussion when they had met with only one Palestinian group, and he had mentioned not discussing the conflict with Captain Raz. He confusingly replied they they had asked Raz “why some Palestinian settlements were being pulled down in Israeli areas and vice versa.” When asked if he meant Israeli settlements, Vinson said “sorry, other way around.”
Brewer tweeted that they had spent the day in East Jerusalem and the Gush Etzion settlement, then “took a short cut through the West Bank” to Tel Aviv where she was “enjoying cocktails.” She later deleted this tweet and several others. – Full article
Almost two thousand people have taken to the streets in Japan’s southeastern city of Yokohama to demand an end to nuclear energy in the Asian country following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster last year.
The demonstrators marched in the port city, which is the capital of Kanagawa Prefecture and located about 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of the country’s capital Tokyo, on Saturday, chanting in chorus: “We don’t need nuclear power. Give back our hometown. Protect our children.”
The protest was organized by several anti-nuclear and environmental groups. Residents evacuated from areas around the Fukushima Daiichi plant also took part in the rally.
Last week the Japanese government announced plans to introduce legislation that will require nuclear reactors to be shut down after 40 years of use, in an attempt to improve safety.
However, media observers say the bill may include loopholes to allow some old nuclear reactors to continue their operation, provided that tests confirm their safety.
The plan comes as most of the 54 nuclear reactors in Japan will be older than 40 years in the near future.
Japan has already decided to scrap six reactors at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The government has said it will take 40 years to fully decommission the plant.
The Fukushima Daiichi plant has leaked radiation into air, soil and the Pacific Ocean ever since it was hit by a 9-magnitude earthquake and a devastating tsunami on March 11, 2011.
The massive tremor triggered a nuclear crisis by knocking out power to the cooling systems and causing the reactor meltdowns at the nuclear power plant on Japan’s northeast coast.
The Wall Street Journal recently carried a speculative article by Ian Tally suggesting a link between the International Monetary Fund’s bailout loans to the European Union’s worst hit economies and sanctions against Iran. In essence, the article said that the Obama administration would likely support bailout loans to Greece, Italy and Spain in exchange for the EU agreeing to an embargo on Iran’s oil.
The source of the WSJ article was Jacob Kirkegaard of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. Kirkegaard speculated that the timing of the European Union’s “newly-proposed ban on Iranian oil imports” was too fortuitous to be purely coincidental. Greece, Spain and Italy are all heavily dependent on Iranian oil and therefore most resistant to an embargo. According to the WSJ, they are no longer resisting a ban. Italy says that it would support the measure “in principle” while Greece and Spain have indicated that they would not veto the idea.
What has changed? First of all, both Italy and Greece have new prime ministers, installed as part of an understanding with external rescuers, notably Germany and the IMF. The new prime ministers are not politicians, but technocrats, who took office within a week of each other in November 2011. Mario Monti of Italy, a former EU commissioner, became the prime minister, as well as the minister for economy and finance, replacing the colorful and highly controversial Silvio Berlusconi. The new prime minister of Greece, Lucas Papademos, was formerly the vice president of the European Central Bank.
These events were the most obvious evidence of an extraordinary shift in power from elected politicians to supranational institutions. There was also a change of government in Spain last November, when the center-right Popular Party came to power, defeating the governing Socialist Party. These changes were a political earthquake in the midst of an economic crisis. It struck in defiance of the popular mood on the streets.
The disconnect between the rulers, backed by wealthy corporate interests, and the subjects has consequences for domestic as well as foreign policies of the countries concerned. The mood in the main street everywhere is anti-war. But such sentiment cannot control governments’ propensity to fight foreign wars while corporations are given freedom to operate in an environment with minimal regulation. While the state withdraws from policy making and essential service provision, private corporations are allowed practices which determine employment, wages, and consequently money circulation. The accumulation of wealth by one percent greatly reduces the purchasing power of the 99 percent. High unemployment and a depressed economy result in lower interest rates. If banks are threatened with failure, the tax payer is there as the rescuer of last resort.
What does it have to do with sanctions and the current talk of military action against Iran in Western capitals? The economic crisis has made all but the wealthiest countries susceptible to supranational powers. It enables the IMF, and the United States, to exercise control over countries in need, in both domestic and foreign policies.
The Wall Street Journal referred to one issue, that of an embargo on Iranian oil sales. There are other examples where pressure tactics have been used against foreign governments to tow the American line. The increasingly aggressive U.S. campaign against Iran ranges from the European Union to countries in Asia, including India, China, Japan and South Korea to name a few.
The veto powers of China and Russia rule out further sanctions on Iran with the UN Security Council’s approval. So the Obama administration and Congress have adopted the tactic of forcing other countries to obey American law and go along with sanctions imposed by Washington. The temptation to look and act tough from Obama to Republican presidential aspirants, Congressmen and Senators is irresistible as the November 2012 elections approach. American policy of making the world obey U.S. domestic law is blatant and bizarre.
It makes a mockery of other nation-states’ independence and sovereignty and their right to formulate and pursue their own policies. The United Nations is rendered irrelevant while the United States goes Rambo on the international stage. That such behavior is causing widespread alienation among other countries, and ultimately threatens America’s own interests, is a message lost in Washington.
Russia’s Phobos-Grunt space probe, with 22 pounds of radioactive Cobalt-57 on board, fell to Earth Sunday. The probe was launched in November to go to Phobos, a moon of Mars, but its rocket system failed to fire it onward from low Earth orbit.
There is some confusion as to where pieces of the 14.9-ton probe fell. The Associated Press reported Sunday that “pieces…landed in water 1,250 kilometers west of Wellington Island in Chile’s south, the Russian military Air and Space Defense Forces said in a statement.” The AP dispatch, datelined Moscow, quoted a spokesman, Colonel Alexei Zolotukhin, as saying that this “deserted ocean area is where Russia guides its discarded space cargo ships serving the International Space Station.”
But, the article went on: “RIA Novosti news agency, however, cited Russian ballistic experts who said the fragments fell over a broader patch of Earth’s surface, spreading from the Atlantic and including the territory of Brazil. It said the midpoint of the crash zone was located in the Brazilian state of Goias.”
“The $170 million craft was one of the heaviest and most toxic pieces of space junk ever to crash to Earth, but space officials and experts said the risks posed by its crash were minimal because the toxic rocket fuel on board and most of the craft’s structure would burn up in the atmosphere high above the Earth anyway,” said the article by Vladimir Isachenkov.
What happened demonstrates what could have occurred to the plutonium-fueled rover which NASA calls Curiosity which it launched on November 26 on a voyage to Mars. Curiosity’s launch went without incident. It is now on its way to Mars. But it could have ended up like Phobos-Grunt—falling back to Earth from orbit, its 10.6 pounds of plutonium released as deadly radioactive dust.
Moreover, the United States and Russia are both planning to launch other space devices with nuclear materials on board. Accidents involving discharge of nuclear materials is inevitable—they’ve already occurred in both the U.S. and Russian/Soviet space programs.
NASA is not only planning more space missions using plutonium but it is developing nuclear-powered rockets. Some of the rocket designs go back to the 1950s and 60s and the projects had come to an end out of concern of such a rocket blowing up on launch or falling back to Earth. Further, NASA is planning nuclear-powered colonies on the Moon and Mars. These nuclear power systems would be launched from Earth—and there could be release of radioactive material in an accident on launch or a subsequent crash back to Earth.
Involved is a lethal game of space-borne nuclear Russian roulette.
The Phobos-Grunt space probe “got stranded in Earth’s orbit after its Nov. 9 launch,” said the AP, “and efforts by Russian and European Space Agency exports to bring it back to life failed.” Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, then estimated that Phobos-Grunt would fall to Earth in January and it would come down along a swatch that included southern Europe, the Atlantic, South America and the Pacific.
Roscosmos “predicted that only between 20 and 40 fragments” of the probe “with a total weight of up to 200 kilograms—440 pounds—would survive the re-entry and plummet to Earth,” the AP said.
The Cobalt-57 was contained in “one of the craft’s instruments,” said AP. Roscomos, it said, claimed the Cobalt-57 posed “no threat of radioactive contamination.”
Indeed, Cobalt-57 is not plutonium, considered the most deadly radioactive substance. Nevertheless, it still can be harmful.
As the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory says in a “Human Health Fact Sheet,” available at http://www.evs.anl.gov/pub/doc/Cobalt.pdf, Cobalt-57 has a half-life of 270 days, “long enough to warrant concern.” (The hazardous lifetime of a radioactive material is 10 to 20 times its half-life.) The “Human Health Fact Sheets” notes that Cobalt-57 can cause cancer. It “can be taken into the body by eating food, drinking water, or breathing.”
The AP article Sunday said the $170 million Phobos-Grunt involved “Russia’s most expensive and most ambitious space mission since Soviet times.” The last Soviet interplanetary mission occurred in 1996: a probe to go to Mars “built by the same Moscow-based NPO Lavochkin company” which constructed Phobos-Grunt, said AP. The Mars 96 space probe had plutonium on board.
It also “experienced an engine failure and crashed shortly after its launch,” said AP. The Mars 96 space probe “crash drew strong international fears because of around 200 grams of plutonium on board. The craft eventually showered its fragments over the Chile-Bolivia border in the Andes Mountains, and the pieces were never recovered.”
The AP article said the “worst ever radiation spill from a derelict space vehicle,” the crash back to Earth in 1978 of the Cosmos 954 satellite that contained a working nuclear reactor. Radioactive debris fell over northwestern Canada.
The worst U.S. accident involving a space device with nuclear materials was the fall from orbit in 1964 of a satellite powered by 2.1 pounds of plutonium. The fiery re-entry resulted in a wide dusting of fine particles of plutonium from its SNAP 9-A nuclear system over the Earth, according to subsequent research. 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. A millionth of a gram of plutonium is a fatal dose.
This mishap was cited in the Final Environmental Impact Statement that NASA prepared for the Curiosity mission as being among the three accidents which have occurred among the 26 U.S. space missions that have used plutonium. In the wake of the SNAP 9-A accident, NASA switched to solar energy on satellites. Now all satellites and the International Space Station are solar powered.
Still, there has continued to be a push through the years for using nuclear power in space with that drive accelerating in recent times. Major U.S. space nuclear power work is now underway at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.
“NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center here is expanding the scope of its nuclear technology work,” wrote Frank Morring, Jr. in Aviation Week on November 15. Marshall has been working “with the Department of Energy on nuclear power technology that might one day power a lunar outpost,” said the article. “That work continues, but it has expanded to encompass another technology goal under the new Obama policy: advanced in-space propulsion.”
The Obama administration is also seeking construction of a facility at Idaho National Laboratory to produce the isotope of plutonium that is used in space nuclear systems, Plutonium-238. It is an “ill-conceived plan” that risks the public’s safety, says James Powell, executive director of Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free. The organization has been fighting the opening of the facility.
Because Florida is where the Kennedy Space Center is located, is on the front line for launches in the U.S. space nuclear program. Pax Christi of Tampa Bay and other Florida groups were active in protesting the Curiosity launch. They took to the streets with signs declaring: “No Nukes In Space” and “Danger: Launching of NASA Mars Probe With 10 Lbs. Plutonium. Don’t Do Disney.” That referred to Disney theme parks in Orlando.
NASA’s Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Curiosity mission said a launch accident releasing plutonium had a 1-in-420 chance of happening and could “release material into the regional area defined…to be within…62 miles of the launch pad,” That would take in Orlando.
“Overall” on the Curiosity mission, NASA said the odds were 1-in-220 of plutonium being released. This included in a fall back to Earth, as the Phobos-Grunt space probe suffered.
John Stewart of Pax Christi of Tampa Bay maintained before the Curiosity launch: “NASA is planning a mission that could endanger not only its future but the state of Florida and beyond. The absurd—and maddening—aspect of this risk is that it is unnecessary. The locomotion for NASA’s Sojourner Mars rover, launched in 1996, and the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers, both launched in 2003, was solar powered, with the latter two rovers performing well beyond what their engineers expected. Curiosity’s locomotion could also be solar-powered. NASA admits this in its EIS, but decided to put us all at risk because plutonium-powered batteries last longer and they want to have the ‘flexibility to select the most scientifically interesting location on the surface’ of Mars.”
Beyond the potential price in lives, space nuclear power has a high cost financially. The potential clean-up costs for dispersal of the 10.6 pounds of plutonium on Curiosity would be, said the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the mission, $267 million for each square mile of farmland contaminated, $478 million for each square mile of forests and $1.5 billion for each square mile of “mixed-use urban areas.” The Curiosity mission itself costs $2.5 billion.
Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, contends: “The taxpayers are being asked once again to pay for nuclear missions that could endanger the lives 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.”
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).
What a spectacle, the “first black president” of the United States celebrating Martin Luther King Jr Day. How far we’ve come, or so it would seem.
And while King was primarily a civil rights activist seeking equality amongst men based on their humanity, not the countenance of their skin, and the fact that a black man can become president is indeed progress, King was also a champion for humanity in general. He was a peace activist as much as a civil rights activist.
In a speech given on April 4, 1967 in New York City titled, “Beyond Vietnam – A Time to Break Silence,” King gives what is perhaps the widest encapsulation of his philosophy and worldview, one that would undoubtedly criticize and clash with the disingenuous US president celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year. And the beauty of the equality King helped usher in is, the fact that Obama is black should not shield him from the criticism of the very man that helped pave the way for his accession to office.
One section of King’s enlightening speech criticizing the Vietnam War states:
“It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin…we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.
A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.
This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and, through their misguided passions, urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not engage in a negative anticommunism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity, and injustice, which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.”
It is safe to say that America has not mended its ways and only traveled further down the dark path King warned us of back in 1967. The man “leading” us, or at least the front-man for the corporate-financier interests that drive America’s destiny, may honor King with carefully contrived words and well orchestrated ceremony, but in deeds and actions Obama and the corporate-financier elite that hold his leash, defame and dishonor King in every way imaginable.
If you want to honor King and his life’s work, honor it by implementing the words he uttered while alive, not by playing along with a system that resisted him until his death, and has since dishonored him with disingenuous praise while maliciously carrying out an agenda contra to everything King ever stood for.
You can read and listen to the whole April 4, 1967 speech, “Beyond Vietnam – A Time to Break Silence” on AmericanRhetoric.com.
On 12 January 2012 at 5:20pm, Israeli soldiers forcibly entered the Zaru family home near the Qitoun checkpoint in al-Khalil (Hebron), assaulting the mother and two sons. The invasion was a result of an earlier encounter between the soldiers and Anas, the older of the sons, age 18 and developmentally disabled. That morning, Anas was coming home through the Qitoun checkpoint after refilling the cooking gas tank for the household. When he tried to enter the door of the checkpoint corridor, the soldiers closed it. He knocked repeatedly on the door until the soldiers shouted at him, “Why are you knocking?”
“Because you will not open the door to let me through,” he responded. When the door opened and he passed through, the soldiers knocked the gas tank away, shoved him to the ground, and began beating him. When Anas tried to get up, he stumbled into one of the soldiers, who then claimed Anas had attacked him. They took him into a side alley to continue the beating out of public sight.
A witness had called Anas’ father, who arrived and took Anas home. The soldiers did nothing during the day, though Palestinians saw Israeli soldiers lingering outside the Zaru home throughout the afternoon. Only a few minutes after observers from TIPH had passed by on an evening patrol, the soldiers stopped Anas in front of his house. They said they had come for Noor, Anas’ 16 year-old brother, and would destroy the house if Anas did not bring Noor. Anas called Noor, who appeared at the front door up the stairs. Before he could come down, the soldiers ran up the stairs and grabbed him, dragging him down the stairs. They handcuffed and blindfolded both boys outside. As they beat Anas, they pointed a gun to his head and threatened to kill him if he opened his mouth about what was happening.
The mother demanded to know why her boys were being taken, but the soldiers shoved her and told her to “go home.” They forced Noor against the wall outside the house and began beating him with the butt of their rifles. He suffered frequent blows to the head. They then arrested Noor and Anas, escorting them to the military base. During the escort, Noor began vomiting and then fainted from a concussion. Once at the military base, he fainted again.
The soldiers released Anas within the hour and transferred Noor to the police station, evidently in an attempt to press charges. Due to the immediate actions of locals and international observer teams, the Red Cross, the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, Israeli Civil Administration, law offices, and other organizations soon got involved. Noor went home that night with a fractured skull, and additional injuries to the head, eye, hands, back, ribs, shoulders, and stomach. He was unable to sit when he arrived home because the pain was too overwhelming.
The soldiers have suffered no repercussions.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered a decrease in fuel prices in a bid to end a nationwide strike heading into a second week.
President Jonathan said that the government decided to reduce petrol prices by 30 percent to 97 naira (about 60 US cents) per liter “after due consideration and consultations with state governors and the leadership of the National Assembly.”
“[The] government will continue to pursue full deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector,” he said in a televised address on Monday.
Jonathan made the remarks after the latest round of talks between the government and trade unions ended with no sign of a compromise over the removal of fuel subsidies.
On January 1, the government hiked petrol prices to more than double from 65 naira (40 cents) per liter to about 150 naira (92 cents).
The decision sparked nationwide strikes and protests that paralyzed the oil-rich country since January 9. The strikes also cost the economy billions of dollars in lost revenue.
The unions on Sunday vowed in a statement to continue the strikes and protests if the government did not reverse its decision on the subsidies.
The unions had demanded the government to restore an estimated USD 8 billion a year in fuel subsidies, but the government only promised to slightly lower the prices.
Nigeria produces over 2 million barrels of crude per day and is a key supplier to the US, Europe, and Asia.
The developments come as concerns over Nigerian oil supplies have pushed up global oil prices.
Surprising enough for many, the strike over the removal of fuel subsidy is entering its second week today despite the announcement made early this morning by president Goodluck Jonathan through national newspapers that the official price of fuel is now 97 naira, down from 141 naira.
It seems that labor unions and civil society activists are holding their ground for now and respecting one of the main mottos of the Occupy Nigeria movement: “down to 65 or no deal!”. At the same time, the various scattered episodes of street violence across the country has made the unions call off street protests while still continuing with the strike.
The FG , in an attempt to prevent more street protests in Lagos today, has sent military troops and created various checkpoints across the important meeting points of protesters throughout the past week, such as the Ojota area and Ikorodu road. However, protesters are now meeting at the famous Afrika Shrine in Ikeja to continue with their protest in a peaceful manner.
The president is expected to adress the nation today, and rumours of the strike coming to an end soon are in the air.