Thursday, August 31, 2006
Unfolding the Zionist Dream
posted by: Frubious Bandersnatch at 11:03 AM

"Neither side shall take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip…" Article XXXI, Oslo II, 1995.

The following photos depict the construction of Har Homa settlement on the outskirts of Bethlehem. Abu Gneim moutain, where the illegal settlement was eventually completed, possesed one of the few remaining tracks of forest left in Palestine.

Construction of Har Homa began back in 1997.

An example of shameful and unnecessary environmental destruction.

An industrial complex which makes no attempt to blend with the environment.

Settlements like Har Homa are not there to live in… they are there to dominate and control.

Har Homa scars and dominates the Bethlehem landscape. From virtually every corner of the city, Har Homa looms.

Israeli citizens recruited in a brutal and illegal occupation…innocently guilty.

The ugly face of the machine.

Is this the Zionist dream?
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Hamas Figure Slams Gaza 'Anarchy'
posted by: Frubious Bandersnatch at 11:01 AM


The Gaza Strip is in the grip of anarchy and Palestinians must stop blaming Israel for all their problems, a senior Hamas figure has said.

Ghazi Hamad, chief spokesman for the Hamas government, said the hope that followed Israel's pull-out last year had been replaced with "a nightmare". Gaza is at the mercy of thugs, he said, and pleaded for an end to deadly clan rivalries. "Let Gaza breathe," he said.

Such frank self-criticism is rare among Palestinian leaders, analysts say.
Mr Hamad's comments came in an article, which was published in Palestinian newspapers on Monday.

He said they were his own views and did not represent the position of his government.
"I am not interested in discussing the ugliness and brutality of the occupation because it is not a secret. Instead, I prefer self-criticism and self evaluation," Mr Hamad wrote.

Overwhelming problems

He said life in Gaza City now involved "unimaginable chaos, careless policemen, young men carrying guns and strutting with pride, and families receiving condolences for their dead in the middle of the street."

And he was also critical of militants who fire crudely-made rockets into Israel, saying ordinary Palestinians paid a high price when Israel responded militarily to such attacks.

Mr Hamad said Gazans should stop laying the blame for their mistakes at the door of the Israeli occupation. "Our extreme joy at their departure made us forget the most important question: What is our next step?" he went on.

Hamas swept to power in elections in January and promised to bring law and order to the Gaza Strip. Mr Hamad's remarks would seem to be an admission that it has completely failed to do so, the BBC's Alan Johnston in the West Bank says. But he adds that the best government in the world would have struggled to cope with Gaza's overwhelming social and economic problems.

Hamas has also been paralysed by the crushing Western and Israeli economic boycott imposed because it has refused to renounce violence and accept Israel's right to exist.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Bethlehem Checkpoint the Clinical Touch
posted by: Frubious Bandersnatch at 3:43 PM
By Odog

When comparing checkpoints throughout Palestine one will immediately notice their differences in the design. Bethlehem checkpoint is an example of how the Israeli occupation utilizes clinical methods in which to restrict the movement of Palestinians while simultaneously presenting to foreign visitors the impression of legitimacy, by making them look like international borders.

Checkpoints in more remote corners of Palestine consist mainly of metal barriers and caged turnstiles. The whole structure covered by an iron roof bearing resemblance to a kind of sophisticated cattle run. Bethlehem checkpoint is the direct opposite. It is enclosed within an entire building, well lit, clean and painted with pastel colors.

Soldiers who control the checkpoint come into no contact with the people who are forced to use them and speak to them behind glass and through loud speakers. A metal runway stretches above you which soldiers patrol in an idle and uninterested manor.

Bethlehem obviously receives a lot of international visitors and pilgrims which has compelled Israel to save face and construct this monstrosity. However, the checkpoint's high tech equipment and camera system also allows occupation forces to efficiently monitor and control undesirables i.e. anyone with a West Bank identity card.

On the Israeli side of the wall, in the checkpoint car park, stands a massive colorful sign with 'Peace', written in English, Arabic and Hebrew. A clearly cynical and offensive message when one considers the true motives behind the wall. Tourists and Pilgrims who are not booked on Israeli tours and bundled into buses, get a rare opportunity to walk out of the checkpoint and see a different perspective. The Palestinian side the wall is plastered with slogans, challenges and messages of support. No wonder Israel doesn't want people to see that.

Monday, August 28, 2006
International Funk Party Rocks Beit Sahour
posted by: Frubious Bandersnatch at 1:19 PM

The international funk party rocked until 1 am in Beit Sahour Saturday night attracting a mixed crowd of internationals and Palestinians. The event was held as a charity gig in order to raise money for the people of Lebanon after the devestating war with Israel.

The Funk gig, featuring DJ Jimmifondu (supported by DJ Frubias Bandersnatch) was a phenominal success. Tracks ranged from traditional funk, world music and Arabic tunes.
The Beit Sahour YMCA generously donated a number of "Free Palestine" t-shirts and these helped raise funds; people donating whatever they liked for one.

All in all, the gig managed to raise 936 shekels and all profits will be donated to the Save Beruit campaign.

Bethlehem ghetto hopes to see more events like this in the future: people from different backgrounds united in their desire for a better world and getting funky on the dance floor.


Killing continues in Gaza
posted by: Frubious Bandersnatch at 10:00 AM
first published in Haaretz, 27/08/2006

UN: 202 Palestinians killed since operation 'Summer Rain'
By Itim

A new United Nations report claims that Israel Defense Forces soldiers have killed 202 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since the start of the Operation "Summer Rain," launched in the wake of the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in June. The report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the territories also says that 44 children are among the dead.The authors of the report claim that the military operation, which has lasted about two months, is still taking a severe toll on 1.4 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

According to the report, thousands of Palestinians have been forced to flee their homes following continuing IDF incursions into the Strip and heavy shelling. The report states that since the operation began, the Israel Air Force has conducted 247 aerial assaults in Gaza. During the same period, one IDF soldier was killed and 26 Israelis were wounded.Refering to the humanitarian situation in Gaza, the report states that because of the complete closure on the Karni crossing, the sole commercial crossing between Israel and Gaza, only limited amounts of provisions have entered the Strip in the last ten days.

According to the report, Israel has destroyed 120 structures, including homes and shops, and damaged 160 additional structures. The UN Development Program reports that the electricity grid and the bridges in the Gaza Strip have suffered the most damage. The program estimates that the damage Israel has caused to the electricity network stands at about $1.8 million. Consequently, more than a million people have been left with no regular supply of water and electricity.

Since August 15, no humanitarian aid has passed the Karni crossing, closed by Israel for security reasons. On August 23, the Sufa crossing was opened as an alternative route for the provision of aid and food supplies.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Hafle hafle!!
posted by: Frubious Bandersnatch at 11:17 AM
Sorry for the short notice folks, but for any of you in the area, fi hafle kbir il yom. Ask in Beit Sahour for directions to the double four bar (aka Ibrahim's) and there shall be dancing and merriment. Donations to to aid Lebanese civilians. Hope to see you there, with love from

Thursday, August 24, 2006
Restarting the 34 Day War
posted by: Frubious Bandersnatch at 10:03 AM
By Mike Whitney “I prefer the most unfair peace to the most righteous war” - Cicero

"Information Clearing House " - --Israel is in a state of post-war trauma. Its 34 day pounding of Lebanon achieved none of the stated goals and has left the public furious at the incompetence of the Olmert government. 118 soldiers were killed in the conflict and Israel’s celebrated "power of deterrents" has been smashed to smithereens. Nothing was gained. In the north, industry was brought to a complete standstill while the local people were shunted off to fallout shelters for weeks on end. What for? Hezbollah hasn’t been “disarmed” and the 2 captured Israeli soldiers haven’t been returned. The whole travesty was a dead loss. The war ended as abruptly as it started. It was suddenly called off when Olmert couldn't bear the rising death-toll, a fact that was not lost on Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah. Nasrallah said from the very beginning that the only way to beat Israel was by “killing soldiers and destroying weapons”. Olmert’s retreat just proves that that Nasrallah was right.

Kenneth Besig summarized the feelings of many Israelis in his comments in the Jerusalem Post: “Fewer than 5,000 poorly-armed Hezbollah terrorists stood off the mighty IDF for over a month. An Islamic terrorist gang with no tanks, no artillery, no fighter jets, no attack helicopters, and just a few RPG’s and rifles held to a standstill nearly 30,000 crack IDF troops with the finest tanks, the best artillery, the fastest and most advanced fighter-jets and attack helicopters in the world. And they can still empty our northern communities with their rockets whenever they want. If that is not a victory, then the word has no meaning.” Besig may be wrong when he calls Hezbollah “terrorists”, but many Israelis agree with his overall analysis. Israel may have decimated Lebanon, but no one believes they won the war.

Since the ceasefire began, the recriminations and finger-pointing have only gotten worse. The daily gnashing-of-teeth in the media has reached a crescendo with every major newspaper calling for the resignations of Olmert, Defense Minister Peretz and “George Armstrong” Halutz. Disgruntled reservists are flocking to the streets in public protests calling for “heads-to-role” while hundreds of IDF regulars have signed petitions demanding an independent inquiry into the botched war plans. “I’m telling Ehud Olmert and Emir Peretz to look me in the eye and tell me they are fit to hold their posts,” said Sgt. Major Lior Vilnes one of the many protestors.

So what does this firestorm of public outrage auger for Lebanon and the prospects for peace in the region? The probability of peace “breaking out” has never looked more dismal. Public opinion is thrusting Olmert towards another war. Already, government officials have begun talking about a “second round” of hostilities, a euphemism that is being reiterated with worrisome regularity in the press. The mood in Israel is ugly and many believe that it foreshadows greater violence ahead. Olmert is surrounded by “hawks” from the Sharon era who brush aside any plan that doesn’t involve force. That makes military action all the more likely even though the objectives are as ambiguous as they were before. Eli Yishai, Vice Prime Minister, sums up the current thinking in the Olmert administration: “No army in the world is more moral than the IDF….We cannot be bleeding hearts while our citizens are being hurt. If Lebanese citizens pay the price, they will rise up against Hezbollah. I have proposed that we damage infrastructure and flatten villages because Hezbollah personnel must know they are not immune. We should make it clear to them that all residents in villages from which firepower is launched at IDF soldiers will be warned and required to leave their homes in 48 hours. And later these villages will be bombed from the air. That policy would have assured that Lebanese citizens would not permit Hezbollah to live next to them.” (Haaretz)

Isn’t this the same flawed-logic that led to “shock and awe”? What gives people like Yishai and Olmert such confidence in violence when it hasn’t worked in 40 years of occupation? The penchant among the Israeli high-command for resolving political issues with brute force doesn't bode well for Lebanon. Israel wants to settle accounts with Nasrallah and reestablish its dominance in the region, but that can only be accomplished by dealing a knockout blow to Hezbollah. Olmert has no chance of defeating Hezbollah. Guerilla groups disappear in one place and pop up in another; crushing them is nearly impossible. The clueless Prime Minister is probably more interested in salvaging his own carreer than in protecting Israel’s national security. In truth, Olmert’s bruised vanity won’t allow him to be remembered as the “man who lost the war to Hezbollah”. This will lead to a steady escalation of incitements (like yesterday’s commando raid on Balbak) which will eventually trigger an all-out war.Restarting the conflict will only create greater threats to Israel’s security. It will strengthen the Lebanese resistance, weaken the already-feeble Siniora government, rouse more hatred for the United States, destabilize friendly Arab regimes, and further erode the perception of Israeli invincibility.

Israel has little to gain and everything to lose. Never the less, Olmert seems to be disregarding the consequences and blundering ahead in the futile hope of silencing his critics while indulging his right-wing allies. Anything less than a full-blown assault on his Lebanese arch-rival would be tantamount to political seppuku. Former Shin Bet chief and current Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, made a reasonable proposal that could mitigate the tensions and extract Olmert from his current predicament. Dichter said, “We must not sit and wait for the next war. A peace agreement in exchange for giving back the Golan Heights would disconnect Syria from Iran and disarm Hezbollah.”

Bingo. Dichter's advice is dead-on. If Israel conceded the Golan to Syria, then Syria would cut-off supplies and weaponry to Hezbollah setting the stage for a comprehensive peace treaty between the 3 nations. It’s a long-shot, but it could work and it reduces the liklihood of more fighting. Unfortunately, Olmert quickly dismissed Dichter’s plan saying, “We are not going into any adventure when terror is on their side. When Syria stops support for terror, then we will be happy to negotiate with them.” Blah, blah, blah; terror, terror, terror; the same worn mantra we’ve heard from Bush for the last 5 years while the entire Middle East is doused in gasoline and ready to explode like a stick of dynamite. Olmert has erected another road-block to peace and set the stage for a “second round” of destruction and bloodshed. His choice is bound to create more enemies for Israel while condemning thousands of Lebanese civilians to death. That’s a strategy for failure, not success.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
The Lowest Points in Israel
posted by: Frubious Bandersnatch at 11:46 AM

"The lowest points in Israel are to be found, of all places on the mountain peaks and hill tops. It is no mere chance that the settlements built by Israel in the territories it has occupied have positioned themselves on these lofty heights. The settlements are almost always up there, scarring the landscape, dominating the plateau, challenging, provoking, picking a fight. Down in the flatlands live the 'natives'- the Palestinians, who built their houses in order to live in them, not in order to taunt and defy and provoke hatred. The settlers up above, the Palestinians down below- this is the essence of the story. In the spring of 2002 you cannot drive along the roads of the West Bank for more than a few minutes without catching sight of them towering above you. In the spring of 2002 you can hardly find a window in a Palestinian house that does not open on to the red-tiled roofs or orange-tinted security lighting of the neighboring settlement. Neighboring? You can find everything over there- everything but neighbors. One beside the other, two communities living in hatred and fear of each other. One on top, armed with tanks, roadblocks and helicopters, the other below, armed only with their steadfast hold on the land. Which is stronger? And which will survive...

...From the window of a burnt clothing store in re-occupied Bethlehem, from a bathroom window in Kafr Beth-Dajan, from a living room window in the village of Sinjel, from the mouth of a cave belonging to the cave dwellers in southern Mount Hebron, from an office in Nablus, from a store in Ramallah- from everywhere you can spot the settlement on the hilltop, looming, threatening, dreadfully colonial. Ganim and Kasdim over Jenin, Psagot over Ramallah, Ariel over Salfit, Elon Moreh over Askar refugee Camp, Ma'ale Edummin over Azariyah, Beitar Ilit over Nahalin, Bracha over Borin, Yizhar over Hawara: alienated, threatening, conquering houses, lusting for more. The breaching of the international law that explicitly prohibits the transfer of civilian population into occupied territory- an act that is considered a war crime by the Fourth Geneva Convention- is overlooked by Israel. International law? The Geneva Convention? Not for the Israelis, who willfully ignore the legal aspects of the settlements. America and Russia, China and Japan, France and Germany, Egypt and Morocco, Chad and Sri Lanka- what other issues summon such complete agreement? Nevertheless, Israel holds its own."

Sample from: Gedeon Levy (2002) The Lowest Points in Israel in Segal R. & Weizman E. (eds) 'A Civilian Occupation: the Politics of Israeli Architecture' Cromwell Press: 2002; London

Suggested reading from Odog
Monday, August 21, 2006
Israeli Apartheid: Segregation, Control and the Creation of Bantustans in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
posted by: Frubious Bandersnatch at 10:24 AM
By Odog

The question of Israel as an apartheid state has received increasing attention over the last years as Israel has continued colonial expansion in the West Bank while simultaneously attempting to diverge itself from the Palestinians. The purpose of this post is to highlight the growing systemization of apartheid in the OPT with particular reference to Israel's policy of unilateral disengagement. The need for this debate is highlighted by the effective outcomes of disengagement which has already resulted in the segregation of Palestinian communities and delineation of exclusive Jewish space by means of the segregation barrier. Furthermore the creation of Palestinian enclaves or ghettos in the OPT bears a striking resemblance to the South African policies during the apartheid era which sought the establishment Bantustans as a means to facilitate segregation and to secure privileges for an ethnic minority.

The term "Bantustan" refers to an apartheid regime policy which set about the creation of "independent" homelands for black South Africans. These homelands possessed no genuine sovereignty and consisted of fragmented pieces of land in which the white authorities attempted to force people to live. Boundaries of the Bantustans were typically drawn to exclude valuable resources and arable land. The Bantustan policy was policy designed to facilitate the control of natural resources, exploitation of black South Africans and the delineation of excusive "white" space.

South African Bantustans, Palestinian Enclaves and the Segregation Wall

(Sources: Wikipedia, 2006; ARIJ, 2006)

Expression of the term "apartheid" has been used to describe Israel's policies by a variety of prominent individuals including anti-apartheid campaigner Desmond Tutu, Israeli academics, left wing members of Israel's parliament and Palestinian human rights campaigners. Comparing the above figure shows the similarity of Zionist agenda to the racist ambitions of the South African apartheid regime. Enclaves in the West Bank are defined by the segregation wall, Jewish colonies, by pass roads, Israeli military orders and land restrictions. The Palestinian ghettos like the Bantustans are designed specifically to separate the native population for their land and resources and to enable the growth of Israeli settlements. In addition to this, the creation of enclaves surrounded by Israeli territory enables enhanced monitoring while acting as captive markets for Israeli goods and services.

Origins of Israeli apartheid date back to the occupation of West Bank and Gaza. Colonization of these areas immediately raised the question of what to do with the native inhabitants who would be act as an obstacle to colonial expansion while presenting a demographic threat to Israel's Jewish character. Up until the fist Intifada, the Zionist elite did not attempt to comprehensively address the Arab question. For instance, mass forced transfer of Palestinians was discussed but ultimately not adopted. Instead Israel preferred to ignore the presence of Arabs and continue building settlements and appropriating resources; attempting to create "positive" conditions in the OPT for the continued out migration of Palestinians particularly in East Jerusalem and along Israel's border regions. In this sense apartheid has not been an official policy of the state of Israel. Instead it has gradually manifested in the OPT as the logical conclusion to Zionist colonial ambitions which wants the land without the people.

Israel's unilateral disengagement is the final phase of the systemization of Israeli apartheid and adaptation to the social and political realities of occupation. The first Intifada sent a message to the Zionist elite that Palestinians would no longer tolerate occupation and the denial of their rights. More importantly it highlighted that in Palestinian areas would be difficult to control thus necessitating some form of disengagement.

Prior to the fist Intifada Israel was opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state considering all of Palestine to be rightful property of the Jewish people. However, with the emergence of resistance the two-state solution has been assimilated within Zionist colonial ambitions as a means of finally addressing the "Arab question". The creation of Palestinian Bantustans has enabled Israel to appear to be appeasing Palestinians by ending the occupation and giving them an independent "homeland". However, its ultimate purpose is to facilitate the preservation of Jewish space while increasing Israel's territory and control over resources for the benefit of its Jewish citizens.

(Source: ARIJ, 2006)

Despite the apparent "closure" of unilateral disengagement, by observing population and social trends, this policy will ultimately fail in addressing Israel's security and demographic concerns. Palestinian populations in both Israel and the OPT are rapidity increasing and will continue to challenge the validity of a Jewish state where a sizable proportion of the population will be non-Jewish. Furthermore, as Israel continues colonization there is no guarantee that Palestinians will stop fighting for their rights and accept the "state" that Israel hands them. In twenty years time we might be seeing the Palestinian struggle less in terms of a national liberation movement but something similar to the black South African struggle against apartheid within a single state.

Falah GW. (2004) War, Peace and Land Seizure in Palestine's Border Area Third World Quarterly 25 955-975

Falah GW. (2005) The Geopolitics of 'Enclavisation' and the Demise of a Two State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Third World Quarterly 26 1341-1372

Issac J., Qumsieh V., Owewi M., Hrimat N., Sabbah W., Sha'lan B., Hosh L., Bassous R., Al Hodali D., Al Dajani N., Abu Amrieh M., Al Junaidi F., Neiroukh F., Sleibi O., Al Halaykah A., Quttosh N., Al A'raj I., Zboun I. (1997) The Status of Environment in the West Bank Bethlehem: ARIJ, 1997

Lappin S. (2004) "Israel/Palestine: Is there a Case for Bi-Nationalism?" Dissent Magazine Winter, 2004

Morag N. (2001) Water, Geopolitics and State Building: A Case for Israel Middle Eastern Studies 8 179-198

Moughrabi F. (2005) Waiting for the Barbarians: When Palestine Becomes Finland The Arab World Geographer 8 130-132

Reuveny, R. (2005) The Binational State and the Colonial Imperative The Arab World Geographer 8 109-117

Schnell I. (2005) A Route Leading to Separation and Peace The Arab World Geographer 8 147-152

Tillely V. (2005) From "Jewish State and Arab State" to "Israel and Palestine"? International Norms, Ethnocracy, and the Two-State Solution The Arab World Geographer 8 140-146

Yiftachel O. (2005) Neither Two States or One: The Disengagement and "Creeping Apartheid" in Israel/Palestine The Arab World Geographer 8 125-129
Friday, August 18, 2006
Lebanon Oil Spill spells Environmental Catastrophe
By Frubious Bandersnatch

As if the murder of 1,300 civilians and the wide scale destruction of homes and property were not enough, Lebanon's population will suffer for years to come from the effects of the massive oil spill caused by an Israeli attack on the Jiyyeh power station on July 14th. Due to the unrelenting violence over the last month, it has so far been impossible for remedial action to be taken.

The fuel oil contains a toxic cocktail of chemicals including benzene, a Class 1 carcinogen. Volatile, carcinogenic chemicals have dispersed into the air, in a 'toxic spray' that has drifted over Beirut, putting the health of its 2 million inhabitants at grave risk.

The oil slick is drifting north to Syria and there is concern that it may reach the coasts of Turkey and Cyprus, where it will also pose health risks to the civilian populations. The uncontained oil spill has also poisoned the marine environment, killing fish and birds and further adding to Lebanon's troubles by ruining the livelihoods of the fishermen.

Following the ceasefire that went into effect on Monday, crisis talks are taking place in the international community to start a clean up operation (see BBC news report below).

The clean-up operation will cost millions of dollars, which can be added to the $1.6 billion dollar Israeli war costs and the as yet unquantified reconstruction costs in Lebanon.

The cost in human lives from the toxic poisoning and cancer caused by the oil spill can be added to the 1,300 dead Lebanese civilians, uncounted dead Hezbollah fighters and the 154 dead Israelis (117 of them soldiers).

The consequences, if the ceasefire does not hold will not just be catastrophic politically, the "collateral damage" will not be limited to the direct effect of the missiles and bombs. It will also have catastrophic consequences for the east Mediterranean marine and coastal environment, the livelihoods of the people dependent upon it, and the health of the millions of people affected by the toxic chemicals released into the air, water and foodchain.

When it is explained to us once again by chuntering politicians why it was necessary to wreak so much destruction and kill so many people for the sake of releasing two captive soldiers who would sooner have been released through negotiation, who ultimately will still be released by negotiation we should recall the Jiyyeh power station and the oil spill.

Because it was not destroyed by mistake. The politicians will say again and again that they 'had no choice' but to go to war, that Hezbollah are terrorists who must be destroyed, that they are cowards who shelter behind civilians, that they are an intolerable security risk to the State of Israel. Even if all of these things were true, it would not justify the destruction of the eastern Mediterranean environment and the indiscriminate poisoning of the civilian populations of Lebanon and Syria.

War does not stop when the soldiers go home. Death does not stop when the bullets stop flying. The pain and suffering of millions does not end when the journalists move on.

The Israeli-Hizbollah war has been a tragedy from start to finish, punctuated by slaughter, war crimes and crass disregard for human life and the environment.

See images of the oil spill at

Crisis talks on Lebanon oil spill
Wednesday 16th August 2006, BBC News

Officials have warned of an increased risk to public health. An action plan to tackle the massive oil spill off Lebanon's coastline caused by the conflict is due to be discussed in Greece on Thursday.

Officials from the UN, the EU and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) are meeting to agree a way to halt the spread in the Mediterranean. Oil spilled into the sea following Israel's bombing of a power station.

The slick now covers 170km (105 miles) of Lebanon's coastline and is spreading out to sea.
Environmentalists and health officials have warned that the spill poses a direct threat to marine life and could increase the risk of cancer among people living in the affected areas.
It could take up to 10 years for the affected coastline to recover, they say.

The UN Environment Programme (Unep) and the IMO are jointly hosting Thursday's meeting in the Greek port town of Piraeus.

The objective is "to co-ordinate a common strategy to confront the pollution and to devise actions to prevent the possible expansion of the oil spill," they said in a statement.

Once agreed, the plan will be swiftly put into action, Luisa Colasimone of Unep's Mediterranean Action Plan said.

"A team of volunteers led by experts will clean up the coastline bit by bit. We now have the problem of it spreading out to sea, which will require technical expertise," she said.

Opec's humanitarian arm said on Wednesday it was providing $200,000 to help towards the clean-up effort.

Up to 15,000 tonnes of oil spilled into the sea after Israeli planes bombed the Jiyyeh power plant in mid-July.

Thursday, August 17, 2006
Stories from An-Najah: Violations to the Right to Education
posted by: Frubious Bandersnatch at 1:04 PM

By Odog
Bethlehem Ghetto has extensively focused on the Israeli occupation’s violations to human rights in the Palestinian territories. However, less attention has been given to the fundamental right to education which is denied to many. The Israeli Occupation is not only is responsible for the physical dismemberment and destruction Palestine’s assets, it is also socially destructive. Denying Palestinians their right to education prevents the development of young people’s minds as well as the creation of a body of professionals and leaders necessary for Palestine’s future. Environmental degradation (discussed previously) and social disintegration are two fundamental and interlinking components which are precluding the development of a viable Palestinian state. The following accounts have been collected by the Zajel Youth Exchange Program of An-Najah National University in Nablus. These are but a small selection of the daily harassment and abuse students and education workers receive at the hands of the Israeli occupation.

The Israeli occupation’s ongoing siege against the Palestinians impacts education in a variety of ways. Checkpoints often prevent teaches and students getting to classes while closures prevent them from returning to their families. Military incursions interrupt classes in addition to causing wide scale damaged to school property. In numerous cases schools and educational institutions have been transformed into military bases during incursions. Israeli authorities which control Palestine’s borders have on numerous occasions prevented students from undertaking scholarships abroad (this happened to a personal friend of mine because of “security” reasons). The segregation barrier has cut communities in half and forced many teachers and students to pass through gates which are only open at particular times, thus forcing many students to leave classes early. Compared to Bethlehem the movement restrictions in Nablus are extremely severe. However, stories like those you are about to read are happening all over the occupied territories.

Faculty Member Detained in his House
12th, July 2006
Armoured vehicles invaded the city this morning, and went to the Majeen neighborhood where teacher Mustapha Shunnar was detained by the Israeli soldiers. Mr. Shunnar is 45 years old, married with children and teaches in the Social Science Department. Witnesses said that six Israeli jeeps surrounded the No 3 building of the university housing estate, where many of the university employees live. The masked Israeli soldiers who were accompanied by dogs were seen ringing on the door and then entering and detaining Mr Shunnar. His home was searched in detail, and then he was taken away to an unknown destination.

Another Tradgedy
Asef Issa, a 19 years old student, was leaving Monday the April 24th 2006 from An-Najah National University to his home. Israeli soldiers prohibited him from passing through Beit Iba checkpoint which he usually used in his way back to his residence in Kofor Tholoth village in the region of Qalqilia City.

Under the heavy rain Asef was forced to head back to the village in the company of another person through the rough roads next to the checkpoint. Due to the heavy rain of that day a flood pulled Asef into a tunnel at the time they were passing close to the Saloous stone quarries. This happened as they were trying to take an alternative route through difficult roads in order to avoid being stopped by Israeli soldiers, who have tightened the siege around the city particularly during the past three weeks.

The fire brigades of Nablus’ Municipality managed to rescue the person who accompanied Asef, while he was found dead; water pulled him all the way to Al-Madina Club, on the side of Tulkarim City road. His identity could not be retrieved as a result of the water’s destructive force. Sources of the Fire Brigades explained that Asef had got some bruises after slipping into the water, having also suffered from a number of tough impacts, several medical crews of Nablus showed in the area of the accident and Asef was about to be taken by the Red Crescent ambulance when an Israeli force appeared and decided to take the body by force claiming that the absence of an identification means that he might be a wanted Palestinian resistant, seems that even in death Asef couldn’t rest. The Palestinian crew of the Red Crescent didn’t agree to this obvious stealing operation but decided to follow the Israeli army vehicle to Kadomeem settlement where the Israelis gave the crew a paper confirming they have the body and promised to return the corps once it could be identified. Few hours later the body was moved to Abu Kbeer Morgue near Tel Aviv, and the Palestinian medical crews to come pick the corpse.

Education Student Killed at Road Block
Kamleh Muhammad Shuli, a 20 year old student in the Faculty of Education, An-Najah National University, was killed this morning when Israeli soldiers opened fire on the taxi she was in. At the time, she was in the process of going to Ramallah so that the younger of her two children could receive medical treatment. She was with several other passengers at the Imatin road block, near the Kadomim settlement. Kamleh was shot twice in the chest, and died on the scene. Afterwards, her body was briefly taken by Israeli soldiers. None of the passengers in her taxi were armed or wanted, and there was no reason for the use of lethal force. Kamleh is survived by her husband and two young children.

Palestinian Academic Denied Freedom to Practice Religion
The Israeli Supreme Court ruled against instructor Adnan Idrees who had requested to leave the country to visit the Holy Land of Saudi Arabia. He has been denied permission to leave the country several times since 1997, when he first attempted to visit Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage (Haj). The Israeli Court did not give the reasons for its decision. An-Najah National University appeals to human rights organizations and all NGO's working for justice and freedom to put pressure on the Israelis to stop their abuse of Palestinian citizens’ rights.

Respected Academic Abused and Humiliated at Checkpoint
(3/19/2005) Dr. Muhammad Sharaqa, 45 Years, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law/ An-Najah National University

Dr. Sharaqa lives in Asira Alshamaleya village. From here, the journey should take seven minutes. However, with the occupation and impending siege around Nablus and its surrounding villages the journey becomes a three hour long farce. Dr. Sharaqa has to endure four roadblocks on the short journey including one right in front of his apartment. Dr. Sharaqa states 'I became familiar to the Israeli soldiers and my face is well known to them as far as I am passing through the roadblocks twice a day in order to go to my work at the university and to send my children to school. However, they still search me and search whatever I carry with me.

One day, at around eight in the evening whilst returning home from visiting family an Israeli jeep stopped me and the soldier and his captain ordered me from my car. There had been no incidents recently and I was the solitary figure in the area. I was harassed and interrogated, in the pouring rain I was forced at gunpoint to lay face down in the mud whilst they proceeded to trample on me. They broke my mobile and took my ID.

They asked what I taught at the university and I confirmed I was a professor of Law and Human Rights in the Faculty of Law. They accused me of lecturing in how to become at terrorist to which I replied that I was an advocate of tolerance and peace and that is how I teach my students. I went on to explain how I was the UNESCO director for human rights for seven years and had never previously had problems with the Israeli soldiers. They increased their insalivations to me for a further forty minutes. After this, despite being but meters from my home the soldiers ordered me back down the road I had come down, I pleaded to them to let me past but I was rejected and forbidden to take my car with me

Ever since I must get up early at six o'clock in order to get through the checkpoints, rush my children to school and then arrive at the university on time. It is incredibly ironic that I then teach the principles of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention. It frustrates and depresses me that a 'democratic' state can behave in such a way, allowing its soldiers to dehumanize the Palestinian civilians and insult them day and night. Life is so precious and a sacred right to everybody. Israeli's should not cross the red line of human dignity; the freedom of movement is also a nonnegotiable right to all humans. I have been in many workshops with Israeli activists to defend the rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories. I believe that my own experiences spur me onwards to continue to demand the implementation of the global community's laws and demand Israel to respect international agreements in regards to human rights and the Geneva Convention in particular.

Peace Delegate Jailed by Israeli Occupation Forces
(6/5/2004) Moein Masod, Journalism Department
I attended several conferences about peace and stability in the Middle East in the United States, invited by the A.B.L.E. International “Association for Better Living and Education” and ”Association for Peace and Understanding in the Middle East." These conferences, meetings, and sessions were attended by Muslims, Christians, and Jews from all over the world, and focused on building peace, stability and understanding between nations, with particular focus placed upon the conflict between Palestine and Israel.
During my return trip from the States, I was arrested by the Israelis on the 3rd of April 2003 at the Allenby Bridge. Without any investigation, I was placed in administrative detention for a period of 6 months, and was given no chance to defend myself. My time in detention was an awful experience. I was first kept at the Huwwara Detention Camp where I spent 75 days surrounded by hostile guards, being beaten, and deprived of food. After this, I was moved to the Kitseot Detention Camp in the Negev desert to serve out the rest of my detention time. I was in a bad state of health when I arrived there, which only continued to deteriorate during the rest of my imprisonment. Consequently, I am still receiving medical treatment to deal with the health problems caused by my detention.

Student Loses an Eye
Sunday the 9th of April 2006 began just like any other day for Shireen and Ruba, 20- and 21-year-old students at the Information Technology Faculty. How could they know this day was going to carry an incident that would change their lives forever...

That day, the two girls left the university towards the city center to buy some things before heading to their homes, the villages of Nisf Jbeel and Beit Mreen near the city of Tulkarim. Before even starting their shopping, news of Israeli occupation force, IOF, having invaded Faysal Street, east of the city was spread. This made the girls hurry up in order to leave the city before the situation would get critical. On their way to the western garage where they were supposed to pick up their bus, they passed through Falasteen Street -known for being a crowded, commercial street-, where the presence of over 8 army vehicles got them by surprise. Unexpectedly they found themselves amidst the Israeli forces, which started to shoot randomly as a few kids threw stones at them. Without realizing what was happening, these bullets made the two girls new victims of the IOF’s brutal non-stop violations on Palestinian civilians. Shireen tells the story with her own words: "Suddenly I felt something hitting my hand. I don't know what happened to me after that, it wasn't a faint, it was just a deep pain in my hand. We were all close to a Sport's Shop. They took me inside and then the shop owner drove me in his car to Rafidia hospital. I didn't know that Ruba had got injured too, I just heard about her in the car, when the son of the shop-keeper told us that the girl who was wearing the gown got a bullet into her eye. There I realized that this girl was my friend Ruba".

Nevertheless, Shireen didn’t realize what exactly had happened to Ruba until she started to wake up from the shock. She received treatment for her injured hand and started to feel better but her mind was with Ruba, since deep inside she knew that Ruba's injury was much more serious than hers: "I cared about her more than anybody else, even more than for myself. I was allowed to see her later at the hospital, she was taken to the emergencies section". Ruba’s family was called, although telling them the whole truth was not easy. At the beginning the family was only informed that the injury was located close to her right eye, while her papers were ready to be transferred to Saint John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem.

The same day in the evening Shireen called her friend’s family to check on her condition, but till that time they didn’t know their daughter had lost her right eye forever. Ruba left the hospital a couple of days afterwards. As Shireen sadly comments, "I can't believe that this ambitious girl has lost her eye, but I believe that Ruba has strong moral values and will accept destiny and God's will".

This is only one example of the aggressions An-Najah National University students daily encounter on their way to and from university... at checkpoints, on rough roads, or even inside the campus. Over the past five years dozens of students have been insulted, harassed, detained and injured just because they were trying to pursue their basic right of going to university. Due to economical difficulties and restrictions over mobility, as well as constant siege and incursions, education in Palestine is becoming a privilege, not a right. 52 students of An-Najah have lost their lives while struggling for their right to education.

University Professor Suffering Health Conditions under Israeli Dentention
On the night of Thursday March the 2nd 2006, an Israeli force broke into the residence of Prof. Esam Al-Ashqar, of An-Najah National University Physics Department and arrested him with no clear justification. Israeli soldiers brutally searched the house accompanied by dogs causing damage and chaos in the house belongings, then dragged Prof. Al-Ashqar bare-footed and without giving him the time to wear proper clothes; his wife says:” I couldn’t bear this violent scene, my two children were crying and he was treated in the most inhuman way, I don’t know where I got the courage from, I started shouting at them…Don’t treat him this way, he’s a respectful university professor with serious health problems”. Without giving that much attention to the grieving wife he was taken to an unknown destination.

Apparently Prof. Al-Ashqar suffered that night from a severe elevation in the blood pressure, two weeks later after the arrest the family found out that he was kept all that time in Belenson Military Hospital before moving him to Ofer detention camp, a formal accusation wasn’t yet presented against him, he was kept without any charges and experienced hard arrest circumstances. No communication between him and the family was allowed except the two short phone calls he managed to make from the jail administration office.

The wife says that during all this period Prof. Al-Ashqar was not investigated or accused with any charges, the only explanation given was that he is a “threat to Israeli security”. He was later given a trial without his presence and was charged for six months of administrative detention, the violation lies not only in the illegality of such a trial but in the fact that such trials usually give the Israeli military courts the right to keep extending such detaining periods every six months without giving any clear accusations and without giving the detained the right to get an appropriate investigation or pleading. Fares Abu Al Hassan, the lawyer of Prof Al-Ashqar, mentions that an appealing session will be taking place in the coming few days, and that he will ask for the release of Al-Ashqar as no charges are presented and especially that keeping him in the detention facility is becoming a threat to his life.

The wife complains that until now the family wasn’t allowed to visit Prof. Al-Ashqar, they applied for permissions of visit through the Red Cross Office in Nablus, and while her permission was refused, the mum was asked to prove her relation with her son to get the permission, “what an irony” the wife says, “ his mum was asked to prove that she’s actually his mum, my permission was refused, and we got no response for the sister’s and children’s permissions”. She also mentions that she contacted several local and international human rights organizations asking for help to release the husband or at least make sure he gets the needed medical care as he takes more than ten different kinds of medication; and lawyer informed her that he started to gain new symptoms as a result of constant high blood pressure; like change in the color of the skin plus exhaustion, nobody was able to help yet.

Prof. Esam Al-Ashqar who is an associate professor at the Physics Department of the Science Faculty, obtained in 1990 his Ph.D. condensed matter physics major from Ohio University, USA, he obtained his Bachelor and masters degrees from Jordanian Universities and was supervising a number of master thesis before his arrest.

(International Volunteers at the University)

Photos from this post are courtesy of Zajel.

For more testimonies and information on the Zajel program see

Saturday, August 12, 2006
Checkpoint Humiliation and Bullets at Peaceful Demonstrations
posted by: [jimiffondu] at 8:27 PM
Jenny Digi is an activist, street medic and advocate who is currently travelling her way around the West Bank. She's been up in Nablus a little while, which, as you might know, is a little hairy. Bethlehem's a great place to chill out, and we've been friends a long time, so she came to visit us for a few days. This is her report of her trip down here.

Bear witness and spread the word.


Checkpoint Humiliation and Bullets at Peaceful Demonstrations

Jenny Digi

On Thursday I left Nablus to travel to Bethlehem, Bil’in and Hebron, never an easy journey. The checkpoint just outside Nablus, Huwarra, was in a bad state when we arrived. 100s of Palestinians; men and women, children and the old, doctors, ambulances, Red Cross vehicles, trucks loaded with fruit and vegetables, students, everyone was being held in the burning hot afternoon sun. As my friend and I debated what to do, either to try and use our passports to get through the queue quicker (which always feels wrong), to leave the Palestinians behind, or to stand in solidarity with them, the decision was taken from us. Suddenly, at the front of one of the waiting groups, shouting broke out and we could see soldiers surrounding one of the men. We pushed our way to the front to try and intervene, both of us on the phone; myself to international human rights workers in the city who could come out to help with the situation, and my friend to an Israeli law group who are able to work on the Israeli commanders to stop them behaving so badly.

As the man who was being beaten was dragged away, the penned in crowd were shouting out to the soldiers to stop, to calm down and to let him go and the rest of them through the checkpoint. We questioned the soldiers about why they wouldn’t let people through, one young soldier, not even in his twenties, replied that the commander had given an order that no-one was to be let through, not even women giving birth. When asked what the justification was, he could give none, adding that just because he was serving in the army didn’t mean he didn’t have a conscience.

There was a family with three young children, the eldest, a girl of about seven, was cradled in the arms of her father - obviously quite unwell, and they were pleading with the soldiers to let them pass. Repeatedly, they were physically forced back by the soldiers pushing them away. I spoke to the soldiers, pointing out the obvious to them, that the child was ill, that she was just a child, and asking them to be let through, eventually after about 15 minutes they were. One of the soldiers kept on pushing towards the crowd, shouting angrily that they had to go back, others fingered the triggers on the guns and pushed them against those of us at the front, sometimes not even seeming to notice when they hit us in the face with them.

Another woman came up holding the hand of her son, a young boy of about 3 or 4 who had just been discharged from hospital, on his other hand was a bandage covering where his IV had been. The mother was unable to afford to pay for a taxi or ambulance to get him home so she was stuck at the checkpoint, having to ask permission from soldiers (who have no right to be there) to get her child somewhere safe. She asked me to help, passing me the letter from the hospital explaining that he had been treated for severe asthma and was only being allowed home under strict instructions, which included avoiding too much heat, dust and smoke. None of the soldiers would let her through, one claimed she was using her son, another kept telling her to go and wait in the immobile line. All the while we were trying to get the soldiers to open the checkpoint, and to at least let the women and children through the waiting crowd, who were getting understandably more agitated. One man who had been shouting at the soldiers was dragged off, his crying wife following behind him. As the woman got increasingly distraught, the crowd pushed forwards a little, then, with no warning the soldier I had spoken to earlier, grabbed hold of her child and as he stepped back towards the military vehicles behind him, the woman and I grabbed the bewildered child and had to pull him from the soldiers arms.

Behind us a young girl with a clown mask pushed up into her hair had her face screwed up in fear as she pushed torn plastic into her mouth to try and stifle her screams. Shortly after that, in an apparent acceptance that touching the boy had been very wrong, we were able to get them to let the woman and child through and we accompanied them to the other side. Soon after, other people started following us through in dribs and drabs, though it would have taken hours for them all to get passed, having to go through the ritual humiliation of ID checks and searches.

Today there was a demonstration in the small village of Bil’in, near to Ramallah. There has been a weekly protest there for months now, against the construction of the Apartheid Wall, and an illegal Settlement, which is stealing yet more land, and more water, from the Palestinians. 10 Palestinians, internationals and Israeli peace activists gathered, at the front of the march, where there were about 10 of us carrying mock bodies of children, signifying those who have died in Palestine and Lebanon, to lay near the gate in the barrier. Before we got near to the site, a line of Israeli soldiers were waiting in a line across the road, in some of their hands were orange sound grenades, others had wooden batons and all had their guns. Our group walked peacefully towards them until we were within a few feet, then, with little warning, a soldier pulled the pin on a sound grenade and rolled it straight at us. The people behind us rushed backwards as we moved quickly to the side, our fingers pushed in to our ears to soften the deafening explosion that soon followed. As we took cover behind a pile of bricks, rubber bullets, more sound grenades and tear gas canisters were flying over us and landing around us.

A group of soldiers went by where we now stood, some people had their legs hit with the wooden batons and more sound grenades were thrown all over. None of us reacted in a violent manner; the Israeli activists tried to reason with the soldiers, some internationals and Palestinians just sat in the way of the soldiers - trying to calm the situation down. Still the soldiers fired at people, one passing by me, pushing his gun against me as he reached for more plastic bullets, most people had returned towards the village, not wanting people to be seriously injured. A young Swedish woman was screaming, holding her ears after a sound bomb had been thrown just in front of her whilst she sat in the road, the woman next to her was bleeding from her arm, hit by flying plastic from the same grenade. The young soldiers seemed both out of control and unsure of what they should be doing; some would start hitting out with the batons only after their colleagues did it, or load their bullets when reminded and when they ran towards the demonstrators it was with little coherence.

As I headed back to the village, between the two lines of soldiers, I saw a small group of people, soldiers and demonstrators, crouched by the side of the road with an obviously injured lad in the middle. Pulling my gloves on (first aid training coming to the fore), I ran up to them, I could see a heavily bloodied bandage lying next to his head, crouching down to get a better look I saw his skull was fractured and there appeared to be white matter showing through. Again, the soldiers didn’t know what they were doing, whilst treating him - doing the little we could under the circumstances - some of them were still firing from nearby, even through their colleagues asked them not to. When we were finally able to move him onto a stretcher the soldiers wouldn’t let us take him to the waiting vehicle at first, as some of the young Palestinians were throwing stones, holding the life of the shot lad hostage. The injured lad, one of the Israeli peace activists, was evacuated to hospital where he has just undergone emergency surgery to remove the plastic bullet lodged in his head.

Plastic bullets are supposed to be a “gentle” way to subdue protests. The unlawful, inhumane and immoral actions of the soldiers today at a peaceful protest are abhorrent. Using tear-gas, bullets, batons and sound grenades against peaceful protestors is another example of how out of control the military are in this country. This lad was shot twice, in the head and in the neck, his only crime was to try and demonstrate for a more peaceful and just world, he stood up against his country and spoke out about the crimes being committed in his name and now he is lying in hospital and may not live.

For subsequent reports and photos, see the International Solidarity Movement website
By Frubious Bandersnatch

"Positive Conditions" - The Water Crisis in Gaza

The political rhetoric and frequent violence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict often serve to mask underlying environmental issues which, if not resolved, may pose an even greater threat to the well-being of the Palestinian population than the guns and bombs of the military occupation. Environmental degradation threatens to undermine the viability of any future Palestinian state and create conditions that will make life in many parts of the Palestinian Territories impossible. Many environmental problems are accelerated and exacerbated by Occupation practices, which prevent effective environmental management. This problem is particularly acute in Gaza in relation to the water resources and the ongoing military conflict.

The roots of Gaza's water problem lie in the over-population of the area due to a high influx of refugees in 1948, when approximately 200 000 people fled to Gaza from the Jaffa and Beersheva areas of what is now Israel following Israel's War of Independence. The original population of the Gaza Strip at that time was 80 000 people, thus this represented an increase of some 250 %. Today, over three quarters of the estimated Gazan population of 1.4 million are registered refugees (UNRWA, 2006).

The Gaza Strip is a very small area of land with a total area of only 360 km2. It is underlain by a shallow aquifer, which is contiguous with the Israeli Coastal Aquifer to the north. Gaza is the 'downstream user' of the Coastal Aquifer system, and hence water abstraction in Gaza does not affect Israeli water supplies. The Gaza Aquifer has a natural recharge rate of approximately 65 million cubic metres (MCM) of water per year from rainfall and lateral inflow of water from Israel and Egypt (CAMP, 2000).

This aquifer is essentially the only source of fresh water in the Gaza Strip. By 1967, when Israel occupied Gaza, the sustainable yield of the aquifer was being fully utilized (Nasser, 2003). Since then, as the population has grown, so too has the demand for fresh water. No serious attempt was made at exercising any water management strategy in the Gaza Strip during the Israeli administration, with the number of registered wells increasing from 1200 in 1967 to 2100 in 1993 (Nasser, 2003). Abstraction from the aquifer was approximately 110 MCM per year by 1993, resulting in falling water levels and degrading water quality due to seawater infiltration, caused by the over-pumping that had been taking place. Likewise, there was little investment in maintaining or improving the deteriorating water infrastructures of Palestinian municipalities during this period, despite taxes being payed by Palestinians to the Israeli government (World Bank, 1993).

In 1994, the Gaza-Jericho agreement placed water resources in the Gaza Strip under the control of the newly formed Palestinian Authority and in 1995 the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) was formed and given the mandate for managing water in the Palestinian Territories. At this time it was widely recognized that there was a serious environmental problem with the Gaza Aquifer, with experts predicting that if nothing was done, the entire aquifer would become unusable by the year 2000 (Bleier, 1994). In addition, the water infrastructure was in a very poor state, with 50 % of water being lost through leaking pipes (PWA, 2003). Therefore the PWA, with the help of international donors (principally the United States Agency for International Development - USAID), set out to develop a management strategy for the Gaza Aquifer and engaged the engineering firm Metcalf & Eddy to carry out an environmental survey and draw up a management plan. The Integrated Coastal Aquifer Management Plan (CAMP) was drawn up in 2000, with an implementation period of 20 years.

The main components of the CAMP included reducing the amount of water pumped from the aquifer for agricultural irrigation whilst simultaneously improving supply of drinking water to the population by providing additional water from sources other than the Aquifer. These included import of water from Israel, construction of seawater desalination plants and improving wastewater treatment to allow it to be used for irrigation and managed aquifer recharge. It was envisaged that, in the longer term, following a political settlement with Israel and resolution of the Palestinians' water rights in the West Bank, a pipeline could be constructed between the West Bank and Gaza to ensure adequate supplies for the growing population.

Map of the water resources of Israel/Palestine, and water utilization along the Jordan River. From the Palestinian Academic Society for the study of International Affairs (PASSIA) 2002 (

If implemented on schedule, it was expected that the CAMP would bring the Gaza Aquifer back into a positive water balance by 2007, whereas "failure to implement the CAMP in accordance with the schedule will result in continuing decline in the quantity and quality of the aquifer water " (CAMP, 2000).

Unfortunately, completion of the CAMP (May, 2000) narrowly preceded the outbreak of the Al Aqsa Intifada in September 2000. Despite initial attempts to implement the plan, and small progress in some areas, little has been achieved since then. The number of agricultural wells, many of them unregistered, has increased to approximately 4000 (PCBS, 2004); the supply of water from Israel has declined by approximately half from 1998 to 2004 in breach of the Oslo Accords (WaSH MP, 2005); construction of the planned regional desalination plant halted in 2003 when one of the workers was killed; and Gaza's wastewater treatment facilities are still vastly inadequate with 80 % of sewage being discharged untreated into the environment (UNEP, 2003).

In addition, missile strikes and ground incursions have repeatedly damaged and destroyed pipelines, and maintenance personnel have been arrested, shot at or even killed whilst trying to carry out repairs (E-WaSH 2002). Inadequate sewage treatment infrastructure and damage to wastewater and drinking water pipelines has allowed sewage water to contaminate drinking water supplies, leading to sharp increases in water borne diseases in many areas. Failure to control over-pumping has led to sea-water intrusion into the aquifer to the extent that, in 2003, only 10 % of the wells produced water of World Health Organization (WHO) drinking water standards (UNEP, 2003). Most recently, this years' Israeli invasion of Gaza (Operation Summer Rain, June 2006) has caused untold damage to water infrastructure, with destruction of the Gaza Electric Station affecting the operation of the majority of wells, pumping stations and sewage treatment facilities (CMWU, 2006).

In short, Gaza teeters on the brink of a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe and urgent action is required to prevent widespread suffering. To compound matters, USAID have recently pulled out of the Palestinian water sector, abandoning ongoing projects and closing their contactors' offices, in an international aid embargo aimed at undermining the Hamas government. As has proved to be the case with so many international sanctions and embargoes (like Iraq for example), the result of this move is the communal punishment of every man, woman and child in the country targeted. It is a clumsy, inept and immoral means of pressuring the government to fall into line; and primarily hurts the most vulnerable members of the society.

The options for improving the water situation in Gaza remain effectively unchanged since 2000. Namely, additional supplies must be made available: through desalination, wastewater treatment and reuse, import from Israel, or import from the West Bank. Currently, the unstable conditions in the Gaza Strip make large scale engineering projects impossible to implement. The less technically difficult options of water import from Israel or the West Bank are loaded with political implications and complexities. Both require the cooperation of Israel to ensure their implementation as additional pipelines would need to be constructed, and in the first case, the Israeli water company, Mekorot, would have to supply the water; whereas in the second, a pipeline would have to be constructed across Israeli territory and furthermore, an agreement would have to be reached on Palestinian water rights in the West Bank.

The water situation in the West Bank is almost the exact inverse of Gaza, in that there are relatively abundant water resources in the Mountain Aquifer system and Jordan River, but there is very little access to or sovereignty over them. This is due to the fact that Palestinians have been denied any access to the Jordan River waters since 1967, and 80 % of the Mountain Aquifer water is utilized by Israel, which is downstream of the West Bank in terms of water usage. Thus control over water resources was very tight during the Israeli administration (1967 – 1995), with only 23 licenses being granted for new wells, and the number of working wells in fact decreasing from 413 in 1967 to 300 by 1983 (Nasser, 2003). Many communities in the West Bank currently suffer from severe water shortages, and 13 % of the West Bank population are not connected to any form of water network (WaSH MP, 2005). The Oslo Agreements of the 1990s deferred definition of Palestinian water rights in the West Bank to final status negotiations, which have not yet taken place.

Thus resolution of Palestine's water problems is utterly dependent on cooperation from Israel; and inaction will lead to a serious environmental disaster in Gaza and to continued suffering for many water starved communities in the West Bank. Water shortage also undermines the agricultural sector and prevents it from developing, with consequences for the food security and economic well-being of the Palestinian population. In short, access to adequate water supplies underpins the viability of life in the Palestinian Territories.

When considering the likelihood of cooperation being forthcoming from Israel, it is worth reviewing several statements that have been made by Israel's leaders in recent years. Yitzak Rabin, the architect of the Oslo Peace Process stated in 1974, during his tenure as Israeli Minister of Defense stated that:

"Israel will create in the course of the next 10 or 20 years conditions which would attract natural and voluntary migration of the refugees from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to Jordan." (Yitzak Rabin, former Labor Party Prime Minister)

It may be that he had changed his mind by the time he made the historic move of shaking hands with Yasser Arafat and legitimizing the Palestinian Authority. It is possible, although various features of the Oslo Accords, such as the minimal transfer of sovereignty over environmental resources would suggest otherwise. It is possible. No-one can tell what Israel and Palestine would have looked like today if Rabin had not been assassinated by a far right Jewish extremist. However, if Rabin no longer believed in transfer of the West Bank and Gazan populations, Ariel Sharon, architect of the Gaza Disengagement Plan certainly did:

"It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonization or Jewish state without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands." (Ariel Sharon, former Likud Party Prime Minister, Agence France Press, November 15, 1998).

"You don’t simply bundle people onto trucks and drive them away. I prefer to advocate a positive policy, to create, in effect, a condition that in a positive way will induce people to leave." (Ariel Sharon, August 24, 1988)

Olmert, Sharon's heir, has also recently avowed his commitment to the ideal of 'Eretz Israel':

"Only a person in whose soul Eretz Yisrael burns knows the pain of letting go of our ancestral heritage" (Ehud Olmert, May 4th 2006, speech to the Knesset whilst presenting the Unilateral Disengagement Plan)

"I believed, and to this day still believe, in our people’s eternal and historic right to this entire land." (Ehud Olmert, Israeli Prime Minister, to the US House of Representatives, June 2006)

What can be perceived here is that many of Israel's leaders, whilst appearing to make concessions to the Palestinians, have in fact retained an ideological commitment to 'Eretz Israel from the river to the sea', and have concentrated their policy towards creating 'facts on the ground' that will make life for the Palestinians impossible, hence creating the 'positive conditions' required to induce people to leave. A close examination of the Gazan water crisis illustrates this point very well. If nothing is done, there will be no usable water resources in Gaza and it will become impossible to live there. Nothing can be done without Israeli cooperation. Thus whilst Israel may not have intentionally set out to create the Gaza water crisis, it fits in rather well with Zionist expansionist aspirations to perpetuate the situation and prevent meaningful action being taken to resolve it.

If one examines the process that is taking place in the West Bank, whereby a series of Bantustans are being created through land confiscation, settlement expansion and the building of the 'Separation Barrier', with the population becoming ever more urbanized and access to resources such as water and land becoming ever more restricted, it is possible to see that what in effect is happening is the creation of a number of 'mini Gazas'. To illustrate this point: the building of the Wall in the north of the West Bank led to the destruction of 25 wells and the isolation of 50 more (WaSH MP 2004), isolating many localities from their only source of water and destroying the irrigated farming industry. One estimate anticipates that when completed, the Wall will isolate Palestinians from 65 % of their water resources (CAABU, 2003), although so much uncertainty surrounds its final route that no solid predictions can be made. Thus a number of highly urbanized communities will be created, with poor economic and social conditions and inadequate resources to sustain themselves. This is the manifestation of Sharon's "positive policy", which essentially amounts to ethnic cleansing by other means, causing widespread suffering, illness and death.

Palestinian water resources, the Separation Barrier and the Eastern Segregation Zone (ARIJ GIS, 2005)

It is clear that the viability of the Palestinian state and the livelihoods of the Palestinian people are being systematically undermined. The situation is not yet so far gone that it is irreversible. However, given the advantages to Israel of allowing the current state of affairs to persist, and the urgency of immediate action to avert catastrophe in Gaza, it is clear that international intervention is required to protect the human rights of the Palestinian people and prevent humanitarian and environmental disaster. The current violent conflict in the region should not blind us to the pressing need to address underlying environmental issues, which have the potential to cause as much, indeed possibly much greater suffering, than direct military actions.

UNRWA (2006) The Gaza Refugees - United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees.

CAMP (2000) Integrated Aquifer Management Plan, Coastal Aquifer Management Program. Metcalf & Eddy in cooperation with the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA). United States Agency for International Development, May 2000.

Nasser Y (2003) Palestinian Water Needs and Rights in the Context of Past and Future Development. In Water in Palestine: Problems – Politics – Prospects. Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA), Jerusalem.

PCBS (2004) – Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics

World Bank (1993) Developing the Occupied Territories – An Investment in Peace. Washington, USA, 1993.

Bleier R (1994) Israel's Appropriation of Arab Waters: an Obstacle to Peace. Middle East Labor Bulletin, 1994.

PWA (2003) Quantities of Water Supply in the West Bank Governorates. Directorate General of Resources and Planning, Palestinian Water Authority.

E-WaSH (2002) 'Nablus Water Situation', 'Ramallah Water Situation', Tulkarm Water Situation'; Internal Reports; 14th April 2002. Emergency Water, Sanitation and Health Committee.

WaSH MP (2004) Water for Life: Israeli Assault on Palestinian Water, Sanitation and Hygiene during the Intifada. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Monitoring Project (WaSH MP), Palestinian Hydrology Group (PHG).

WaSH MP (2005) Water for Life: Continued Israeli Assault on Palestinian Water, Sanitation and Hygiene during the Intifada. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Monitoring Project (WaSH MP), Palestinian Hydrology Group (PHG).

UNEP (2003) Desk Study on the Environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. United Nations Environment Programme, 2003.

CAABU (2003) Fact Sheet: 'Israel's Security Wall: It's Impact on Palestinian Communities.' Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding, October, 2003.

CMWU (2006) Latest Situation Report about Water and Wastewater Due to Prevailing Security Conditions. Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, July 4th 2006, Gaza, Palestine.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Bethlehemghetto supports Investigation into possible Israeli use of illegal WMD's
posted by: Frubious Bandersnatch at 4:08 PM
New and unkown deadly weapons used by Israeli forces
'direct energy' weapons, chemical and/or biological agents, in a macabre experiment of future warfare

by Professor Paola Manduca
August 7, 2006

By now there are countless reports, from hospitals, witnesses, armament experts and journalists that strongly suggest that in the present offensive of Israeli forces against Lebanon and Gaza 'new weapons' are being used.

New and strange symptoms are reported amongst the wounded and the dead.

Bodies with dead tissues and no apparent wounds; 'shrunken' corpses; civilians with heavy damage to lower limbs that require amputation, which is nevertheless followed by unstoppable necrosis and death; descriptions of extensive internal wounds with no trace of shrapnel, corpses blackened but not burnt, and others heavily wounded that did not bleed.

Many of these descriptions suggest the possibility that the new weapons used include 'direct energy' weapons, and chemical and/or biological agents, in a sort of macabre experiment of future warfare, where there is no respect for anything: International rules (from the Geneva Convention to the treaties on biological and chemical weapons), refugees, hospitals and the Red Cross, not to mention the people, their future, their children, the environment, which is poisoned through dissemination of Depleted Uranium and toxic substances released after oil and chemical depots are bombed.

Right now, the Lebanese and Palestinian people have many urgent and impellent problems, yet many people believe that these episodes cannot and must not pass ignored. In fact several appeals have been launched to scientists and experts with a view to investigating the issue.

With the intent of responding to such appeals, we have set up a team to investigate the testimonies, the images, and possibly the material evidence that delegations and NGOs will be able to bring from the affected areas. We want to offer support to the health institutions of Lebanon and Palestine, which ask constantly for help and external verification and monitoring, and we are examining all available materials in order to formulate hypotheses which can be verified or disproved.

We ask for the active participation of our (Italian) scientific institutions, and, following the request from medical personnel in the conflict area, we are requesting that the UN set up an international independent verification and investigation committee, with a view to facilitating entry into the conflict zone, as well as collecting material and testimonies directly in the field, and undertaking inquries and verifications concerning the various claims regarding these new kinds of weapons of mass destruction being used by Israeli forces in Lebanon. We request that such investigating teams be set up immediately, and that procedures be defined and implemented with a view to supporting future investigations. Of particular concern is the issue of how to collect and store samples from the different theatres, with a view to preserving important information regarding the various impacts of these weapons.

We ask that the international committee have access to all sources of information, that it be fully operational, while abiding by relevant investigative procedures, including cross-checking of information between different laboratories. The international committee is to report to the competent authorities, including the Human Rights tribunals and international courts, if appropriate..

As people and as scientists, we are offering our time and expertise in order to reach an understanding of the underlying facts, in the belief that a perspective of justice, equity and peace among people can be reached only with the respect of the rules defined up to now within the international community of nations. The issue pertains to the behavior of the parties in an armed conflict.

We ask that the respect of these rules be verified in the context of the present conflict.

We invite scientists to contribute to this effort by offering their specific competences. In particular we seek collaboration of toxicology experts, pharmacologists, anatomy pathologists, doctors with an expertise in trauma and burns, chemists.

They can reach the working group at the E-mail address: Paola Manduca, Professor of.Genetics, University of Genova, Italy


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

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To The readers of 'The Independent'
posted by: Frubious Bandersnatch at 4:01 PM
This morning we were pleased to discover that an article in 'The Independent' drew attention to the work we do here at the BethlehemGhetto. Welcome to all Independent readers!

The BethlehemGhetto publishes posts from both locals and international expatriates living in the Bethlehem area. The Blog was founded to give a voice to people living in the Bethlehem ghetto in order to enable them to communicate the surreal day to day life here to the outside world. If you are interested in receiving regular updates on what life is like in one of the largest man made prisons on earth, from a variety of different people on the ground, please add the Bethlehemghetto to your favorites list and circulate the web address to your contacts.

In spite of the feeling we sometimes get here behind the wall, we realize that our 4km wide ghetto does not exist in isolation, and is in fact merely an island in the sea of growing chaos that is the current Middle East. For this reason we also publish various comment articles as well as republishing interesting posts from other websites across the region which we think apply to our situation.

At the moment most of our energy is dedicated to trying to draw attension to the war crimes being committed against civilians in the Lebanon and Gaza Strip. Living in Bethlehem we know what it is like to feel helpless in the face of one of the largest military machines in the world.

Thank you for visiting the Bethelehem Ghetto.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006
The siege of Gaza continues.....
posted by: Frubious Bandersnatch at 11:21 AM
Israel Tightens The Siege Of Gaza
By Rick Kelly

07 August 2006 World Socialist Web

While the world’s media has focused attention on Israel’s four-week offensive in Lebanon, a no less ferocious assault is also underway in Gaza. The Palestinian territory’s 1.4 million residents have been subjected to an unrelenting Israeli military offensive, as well as an air, land, and sea blockade which threatens a humanitarian catastrophe.
Seizing upon the pretext of the capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit by Palestinian militants on June 25, the Israeli military has mounted a six-week campaign aimed at annihilating the West Bank and Gaza’s entire social, economic, and political infrastructure.

According to figures published in last Saturday’s Haaretz, Israeli ground forces have fired 12,000 artillery shells into Gaza in the past five weeks. This is an average of more than 300 shells a day. In addition, at least 220 aerial strikes take place each day. Israeli ground forces, including infantry, tanks, and bulldozers have launched regular incursions into the area. This firepower is concentrated on one of the world’s most densely populated areas, which is seven times smaller than Rhode Island, the smallest US state.

In the latest bombardment, Israeli forces have launched a sustained operation in Rafah in south Gaza over the past five days. Tanks and soldiers have taken over the area, conducting house-to-house searches, and destroying greenhouses and farmlands. Eight Palestinians were killed Saturday. At least three of these were civilians—including an eight-year-old boy—who were bombed as they fled Israeli gunfire.

Raids and assassinations have also taken place in the West Bank. In the latest provocation, two Hamas legislators, on of them Abdel Aziz Duaik, the speaker of the parliament, were kidnapped on the weekend. Israel has now imprisoned 33 parliamentarians, including eight Hamas cabinet members.

The Israeli military actions in Gaza and the West Bank demonstrate that its offensive has nothing to do with recovering the captured soldier, or with preventing “terrorism”. The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has rejected repeated Hamas offers of a ceasefire, and has refused to accept proposals by Palestinian militants for a prisoner exchange. Every Palestinian offer is met with renewed Israeli bombardment.

Countless war crimes have been committed in Gaza. An investigation by the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem found that half of all those killed in the territory last month—178 people—were civilians. Hundreds of others have suffered terrible injuries. At one Gaza hospital, surgeons told the BBC that of 100 operations, one-third were amputations caused by Israeli attacks.

“There are many more mutilations requiring amputations as well as severe burns now than there were before,” William Dufourcq from the aid organisation Médecins du Monde reported. “This means the hospitals stay full for longer and there is a greater need for skilled specialists as well as more drugs, which were already in short supply. These people will be handicapped for life.”

July was the bloodiest month in the Occupied Territories since April 2002. In an indication of the one-sided nature of the “war”, just one Israeli soldier has been killed in the past five weeks, and that was in a “friendly-fire” incident.

B’Tselem also catalogued a series of incidents in which Palestinian civilians, including children and the elderly, had been deliberately bombed by Israeli fighter planes and helicopters. Just as in Lebanon, Israel’s offensive is calculated to terrorise the entire population and suppress all resistance to the Israeli occupation.

In a new tactic, the Israeli army now telephones Palestinian residents and warns them to flee their home just moments before it is bombed. While the military claims that this practice is designed to reduce civilian casualties, it is in fact intended to instil fear into the thousands of families who receive such calls.

“Some families, convinced by such calls, have left their homes at two o’clock in the morning only to see them bombed directly by Israeli F-16 fighters,” Al-Ahram Weekly reported. “Others have abandoned their homes and seen them stand untouched. So fearful are they that they refuse to return in case bombings are merely delayed.”

The IDF has also dropped leaflets in many areas of Gaza demanding that people flee their homes. With every border sealed off, however, there is nowhere for people to go. That there is not an exodus from the Palestinian territory equivalent to that in Lebanon is due to the fact that Gazan residents are hemmed in on all sides by Israel.

The Israeli blockade has greatly exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Territories. Nine UN humanitarian organisations working in Gaza last week issued a joint statement expressing their “deep alarm” at the impact of the ongoing violence. “We are concerned that with international attention focusing on Lebanon, the tragedy in Gaza is being forgotten,” the statement read.

One aid organisation reported that Israel was permitting just 150 food and aid trucks into Gaza each day—just enough to keep the population from starving. More than 400 daily truckloads are estimated to be required to meet people’s nutritional needs and provide some measure of food security.

Gaza is also suffering from worsening power and fuel shortages. Israel destroyed the territory’s only electricity station on June 28. Some Palestinian homes receive 6 to 8 hours of electricity each day, while others face constant blackouts. Several hospitals rely on generators to operate minimal services but are running out of fuel. Many medical services and operations have been cancelled, while hospitals’ food supplies, medicines, blood banks, and vaccines have been destroyed, as refrigerators no longer work.

Israeli attacks on Gaza’s infrastructure have also caused water shortages and damaged sewerage systems. Humanitarian organisations have warned of epidemics as a result of the increasingly unsanitary conditions in the territory.

Gaza’s economy has been crippled by Israeli border closures, and destruction of infrastructure, factories, and farmlands. Poverty and unemployment have skyrocketted, following the imposition of the Israeli and international financial embargo of the Palestinian Authority following Hamas’s victory in the January elections. Many of the PA’s 140,000 employees have not received their wages in months.

The UN’s World Food Program has increased the number of people it feeds by 38 percent since the beginning of the year. Shortages have led to price rises, making basic foodstuffs unaffordable and threatening mass malnutrition. The cost of wheat flour, for example, has increased by 15 percent since January. Other foods have entirely disappeared from markets. Fish is no longer available due to an Israeli ban on Palestinian fishing, which has also eliminated the income of about 35,000 people.

As in Lebanon, Israel’s war crimes in the Occupied Territories have received the full backing of the US. Washington has failed to even issue the once customary calls for “restraint” on both sides. The Bush administration makes no secret of the fact that it considers the destruction of all Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation an essential part of its drive to forge a “new Middle East” under US domination. This is why Israel feels free to continue its onslaught on Gaza.