Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Sun, 29 May 2016 05:36:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Modern Mongols: Sunni Arabs outraged at Iran role in Iraqi Gov’t Fallujah Campaign Sun, 29 May 2016 05:36:58 +0000 By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

BBC Monitoring surveyed the Arabic press on 27 May for the issue of the Iranian role in the Iraq government campaign to take Fallujah from Daesh (ISIS, ISIL). Although Saudi and other newspapers say they want to see Daesh defeated, they are deeply critical of the Shiite militias or Popular Mobilization Forces, alleging that they use indiscriminate fire and create high numbers of civilian casualties when operating in Sunni Arab areas.

Fallujah is a storied Iraqi Sunni stronghold of several hundreds of thousands of residents, the “city of minarets.” It fell to Daesh in January of 2014, and I think it is fair to say that there is much more angst in the Sunni Arab world about its liberation at the hands of Iran-backed Shiites than there has been about Daesh’s brutal occupation of the city.

BBC Monitoring writes,

“In Bahraini pro-government Akhbar al-Khalij, Hamed Ezzat al-Sayyad balmes Tehran for attacks on Sunnis in Fallujah. He describes Iran as “the modern Mongols”, and “a cancerous entity that should be faced through an Arab liberation project”. He cites “the brutal assault on Fallujah which is a stronghold for Sunnis in Iraq”.

It also reports that the pro-government Saudi newspaper al-Riyadh alleged that the Shiite militias had randomly attacked a civilian hospital, and complained that 300 Iraqis had already been killed in the run-up to the main battled.

Jordan’s al-Ghad (private) ran a column by Isa al-Shu`aybi alleging indiscriminate killing “based on sectarian segregation” by the Shiite militias.

Abdullah al-Awady of the UAE’s al-Ittihad (Unity) attacked the Shiite militias for “exterminating” Sunnis and alleged that the Iraqi government was firing Sunnis from all state institutions.

In a May 23 report, BBC Monitoring had quoted some tweets by Sunnis actually rooting for Daesh if that meant that the Shiites would be defeated:

Iraqi activist named in Arabic “Shammariyat al-Iraq” (@moonnor27, 160K followers), whose tweets show her support for jihadism in Iraq, tweeted: “A call to every Muslim to tweet by using the hashtag ‘Support_Fallujah_with_prayer’. The Shia PMF are fiercely shelling [the city]. Genocide of Sunni families is being carried out. Pray for the oppressed, O Muslims.”

Needless to say, the Shiite militias for all their faults are not actually interested in “exterminating” Sunnis– in fact there are photos showing Iraqi Sunnis around Fallujah greeting them as saviors. But in some instances, as at Tikrit, they have allegedly committed reprisal attacks against Sunnis they held responsible for massacring Shiites or actively collaborating with Daesh.

On the other side of the aisle, BBC Monitoring surveyed the Iranian press on this issue on May 24:

Keyhan predicted that the high morale of the Iraqi armed forces, in particular the Popular Mobilization Forces or Shiite militias, a quick victory at Fallujah is possible. It claims that Daesh has moved chemical weapons to residential districts of Mosul, to deter the inevitable assault on their last major stronghold in Iraq, after Fallujah falls. [Mosul metropolitan area probably had 2 million inhabitants before Daesh took it over; it is now probably half that or less].

Khorasan predicted that the liberation of Fallujah will strengthen Iraqi national unity and put more power in the hands of the central government. It also paves the way to an assault on Mosul. It urges the government to resettle people in the city and integrate it into Iraq’s democratic system.

Javan argued that Daesh in Fallujah posed a security problem for Baghdad and for nearby Shiite cities such as Karabala. It also presented a baroque conspiracy theory in which the US is actually behind Daesh and other Sunni extremist groups even while it is orchestrating their demise.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

AP: ” Iraqi Gov’t Forces Battle IS Near Fallujah”

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ISIL Advance Traps 165,000 Syrians at Closed Turkish Border Sun, 29 May 2016 04:50:59 +0000 By Gerry Simpson | ( Human Rights Watch ) | – –

There are two walls on the Turkey-Syria border.

One is manned by Turkish border guards enforcing Turkey’s 15 month-old border closure who, according to witnesses, have at times shot at and assaulted Syrian asylum seekers as they try to reach safety in Turkey – abuses strongly denied by the Turkish government.

The other is a wall of silence by the rest of the world, including the United Nations, which has chosen to turn a blind eye to Turkey’s breach of international law which prohibits forcing people back to places, including by rejecting them at the border, where their lives or freedom would be threatened.

Both walls are trapping 165,000 displaced Syrians now scattered in overcrowded informal settlements and fields just south of Turkey’s Öncupınar/Bab al-Salameh border crossing and in and around the nearby Syrian town of Azaz.

In April, 30,000 of them fled ISIS advances on about 10 informal displacement camps to the east of Azaz, which came under ISIS attack, and one of which has since been hit by an airstrike that killed at least 20 people and injured at least 37 more. Turkish border guards shot at civilians fleeing ISIS and approaching the border.

Now aid agencies operating in the area say that between May 24 and 27, another 45,000 fled a new ISIS assault on the area east of Azaz and are now stuck in and around Azaz too. Aid agencies say there is no question all 165,000 would seek asylum in Turkey if the border were open to them.

While the world speaks about fighting ISIS, their silence is deafening when it comes to the basic rights of those fleeing ISIS. The fact Turkey is generously hosting more than 2.5 million Syrians does not give it a right to shut its border to other endangered Syrians.

And the EU – which has signed a deal with Turkey that aims to contain Syrians and other refugees and asylum seekers in Turkey – should stop turning its back on people fleeing war and persecution, and help them to safely reach protection in the EU.

Via Human Rights Watch

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Aljazeera English: ” More than 100,000 Syrians flee as ISIL advances”

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Solar Surges: Renewable Energy Jobs Topped 8 Million in 2015 Sun, 29 May 2016 04:33:36 +0000 By Andrea Germanos, staff writer | ( ) | – –

In the U.S. alone, solar grew nearly 22% since the previous year

On the heels of clean fuel milestones in Germany and Portugal , a new report finds that the renewable energy industry employed over 8.1 million people worldwide in 2015.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) annual review, that figure marks a 5% increase from the previous year. China led the pack, accounting for 3.5 million jobs. Brazil and U.S. ranked second and third, respectively, for the highest number of renewable energy jobs.

The solar photovoltaic (PV) sector shot up 11% and accounted for biggest number of jobs at 2.8 million globally.

In the U.S. alone, solar grew nearly 22%. That’s “12 times faster than job creation in the US economy­—surpassing jobs in oil and gas,” the report states. The other country seeing growth in solar was Japan, which notched a 28% increase in solar PV employment in 2014.

“There is no high-carbon prosperous future.”

—Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate GroupWind saw “a record year” in employment, the report states. Wind energy employment in the U.S. grew 21%; worldwide it grew 5%. At the same time, oil and gas extraction jobs fell by 18 percent in the U.S.

“This increase is being driven by declining renewable energy technology costs and enabling policy frameworks,” stated IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “We expect this trend to continue as the business case for renewables strengthens and as countries move to achieve their climate targets agreed in Paris,” he added, referring to the UN climate deal sealed at the end of 2015.

Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group, an organization that advocates for reining in carbon emissions, added, “A clean revolution is key to growth, investment, jobs, health, security: there is no high-carbon prosperous future.”

The new review follows a separate brief released (pdf) by IRENA on “the true costs of of fossil fuels,” which found that doubling the global share of renewables by 2030 would save not only $4.2 trillion annually but also as many as 4 million lives.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License



Related video added by Juan Cole

Solar Power World: “U.S. Solar Industry Installs One-Millionth Installation; Is Now #MillionSolarStrong”

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After Obama in Hiroshima: Israel’s Gigantic Nuclear Elephant Sun, 29 May 2016 04:02:34 +0000 TeleSur | – –

The criminalization of truth when it comes to Israel’s nuclear capabilities means that its arsenal has been converted into a gigantic elephant in the room.

The online version of a recent Economist magazine article comes equipped with the tantalizing headline “Israel’s atomic angst: A textile factory with a difference.” The summary reads: “One of the world’s oldest nuclear plants helped build the Jewish state’s secret nuclear arsenal.”

The textile reference is to a spontaneous alibi deployed in 1960 by an Israeli official accompanying then-U.S. Ambassador to Israel Ogden Reid on a flyover of the Negev Desert. An intensive construction operation near the town of Dimona, site of the now-aging nuclear plant, caught the inquisitive ambassador’s eye — and “textile factory” was apparently the first thing that came to the official’s mind.

The magazine offers a photograph of the Dimona reactor and cupola, complete with the caption: “Tough times in the garment trade.”

And you thought The Economist couldn’t do sarcasm.

The article notes that at a conference in April, representatives of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission reported “1,537 small defects and cracks” in the reactor’s aluminum core. While the typical lifespan of such reactors is said to be 40 years, Dimona has kept on ticking for 53.

Despite having ostensibly done its time on earth, however, there doesn’t seem to be a funeral in sight for Dimona. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz explains that, “for political, scientific and economic reasons, Israel has no capability or desire to replace the core, an operation that would mean building a new reactor.”

As for related items that might also be conceived of in terms of ticking, The Economist cites the common estimate that Israel possesses between 80 and 200 nuclear warheads. Of course, self-imposed immunity from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty has not prevented the Jewish state from throwing a permanent hissy fit over Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions.

Meanwhile, the essential criminalization of truth when it comes to discussing Israel’s own nuclear capabilities means that its arsenal has been converted into a gigantic elephant in the room—and a very dangerous one at that.

For what happens to insiders who dare draw attention to the beast, one need look no further than the case of former Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, kidnapped by the Mossad in 1986 and imprisoned for 18 years, 11 of them in solitary confinement.

Blocked from leaving the country (and recently hit with new charges), Vanunu is still seen by the state as a “security threat”—a far greater threat, no doubt, than stockpiles of weapons capable of eliminating vast swathes of humanity, or nuclear reactor cores containing 1,537 flaws.

The United States, for its part, never really bought into the whole “textile” factory scenario, and the American intelligence community suspected almost from the start what the Israelis were up to. But aside from some pressure from John F. Kennedy — who, as Avner Cohen and William Burr detail at the National Security Archive, pushed for international inspections of Israeli nuclear facilities — the U.S. has pretty much been wholeheartedly strung along by ambiguous Israeli explanations of its supposedly peaceful activities at Dimona.

In their book “Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars,” American journalist Dan Raviv and Israeli journalist Yossi Melman document a political convergence in 1969 that proved most auspicious for Israel’s nuclear industry: the respective ascents to power of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, U.S. President Richard Nixon, and Nixon’s National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger.

“The trio,” Raviv and Melman write, “agreed that no more inspections of Dimona would be required …  Moreover, the new White House team had apparently concluded that an unquestionably strong Israel would be good for American interests: pushing the Arab countries to negotiate peace by dispelling their dreams that they could, with Soviet assistance, wipe out the Jewish state.”

The special relationship has proved enduring, with American weapons lending a hand as Israel regularly wipes out portions of area Arab populations. American companies were also among the entities that previously supplied Israel with key materials for nuclear weapons. Never mind that nukes are a pretty good way to increase one’s own chances of self-destruction.

Meanwhile, should The Economist be seeking to augment its arsenal of sarcasm, “Spies Against Armageddon” provides plenty of robust material. Consider the section on how, while shopping for their nuclear program in the 1960s, the Israelis relied on none other than former Nazis in West Germany.

One character, a Luftwaffe officer-turned-businessman who Raviv and Melman note was “still convalescing from his wartime injuries,” paid a personal visit to Israel to make the acquaintance of Israeli defense officials: “The Israelis referred to him as ‘the Nazi pilot,’ and they went out drinking together in Tel Aviv.”

Shipments destined for Dimona were also procured from Degussa, a German company that “had profiteered during the war from gold teeth and other metal items stolen from murdered Jews.”

Half a century later, as the old reactor plugs away into eternity, one can think of at least 1,537 reasons it shouldn’t exist in the first place.

Belén Fernández is the author of “The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work,” published by Verso. She is a contributing editor at Jacobin magazine.

Via TeleSur


Related video added by Juan Cole:

RT: “‘Israel may have one of biggest nuclear stockpiles in the world’ – whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg”

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Kurdish lawmakers Depart Baghdad: “Straighten up or We Won’t Be Back” Sat, 28 May 2016 04:32:04 +0000 By Histyar Qader | Erbil | ( | – –

After protestors invaded Baghdad’s Green Zone, Iraqi Kurdish politicians fled home. Despite the fact that their absence could paralyse Parliament, they say they won’t be back until certain conditions are met.

After the first set of demonstrations during which protestors made it inside Baghdad’s highly protected Green Zone, where the Iraqi Parliament and various embassies are located, Iraq’s Kurdish politicians decided to withdraw from the capital.

The Iraqi Kurdish MPs, who form one of Iraq’s most significant voting blocks in Parliament, said they wouldn’t return until the Green Zone could be guaranteed safe and the various Shiite Muslim political parties and their associated militias had made peace with one another. Most of the protestors who broke into the Green Zone were supporters of the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and many of them were opposed to other Shiite Muslim parties too, those who seem more interested in maintaining the current balance of power than enacting any real reforms. The situation in Baghdad has become a more dangerous place as the political feuding now appears to be spilling onto the capital’s streets.

During the days when protestors were in the Green Zone, several of the Iraqi Kurdish MPs were harassed and attacked and one was trapped in a government building. The Iraqi Kurdish parties issued a statement together that said, “These events have made us reconsider our participation in the political process in Iraq”.

The Shiite Muslims have monopolized power since 2003 and that’s why we have this situation.

Last weekend protestors once again gained entry to the Green Zone – although this time they were quickly driven out by security forces.

Despite the fact that the Iraqi Kurdish politicians from the semi-autonomous northern region and the federal government in Baghdad have had a lot of problems in the past – around oil, money, borders and security mostly – this is the first time that the Iraqi Kurdish politicians have withdrawn like this.

“The Shiite Muslims have monopolized power since 2003 and that’s why we have ended up in this situation,” a critical Tariq Gardi, a senior member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Baghdad – his party is the largest Kurdish bloc in Parliament – told NIQASH.

“The Iraqi government never kept the promises it made to the Kurds two years ago when the government was formed,” says Hoshyar Abdullah, an Iraqi Kurdish MP in Baghdad and senior member of the Change movement. “And the power-sharing political system in Iraq has proven to be useless and it has failed.”

“We don’t want to return to Baghdad until the Shiite Muslims have their house in order,” says Ahmed al-Haj Rashid, a senior Iraqi Kurdish MP in Baghdad representing the Kurdish region’s Islamic parties.

At the beginning of May, several senior Iraqi politicians made the trip up to Iraqi Kurdistan to try and convince the Kurdish MPs to return. The first contingent included the Sunni Muslim Speaker of Parliament, Salim al-Jibouri, who was there representing the Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. And there have been further visits since.

As the US-based think tank, the Institute for the Study of War explained: “The Kurdish parties control a significant proportion of the [Parliament] and have the ability to help determine a quorum as well as advance and dismiss legislation. Their unified walk-out gave the Kurds a new source of leverage … as Iraq’s political process remains paralyzed without their participation”.

On May 16, the Iraqi Kurdish MPs met and formulated a set of demands that would need to be fulfilled before they returned to Baghdad. They say they want to be sure that Baghdad is safe for them. They also want the Iraqi government to maintain the political power sharing system that says that the Kurdish get a certain percentage – 20 percent, in fact – of top jobs.

Iraqi Kurdish allies also got involved in the campaign to persuade the Kurds back to Baghdad. Matthias Mitman, the US Consul General in Erbil, says he called the Kurdish politicians and asked them to return to Parliament.

“The US ambassador in Iraq tried to persuade us too,” Gardi notes. “But I believe the problems here have reached a point where the US can no longer help resolve them. It is just too late.”

With the walk out from Baghdad, there has – once again – been discussion about the Iraqi Kurdish possibly withdrawing from the country. After all if the Iraqi Kurdish are not participating in the government, the argument goes, why are they there? Nobody knows how the Kurdish politicians will figure in a reformed government, if reforms ever go ahead.

Iraqi Kurdish opposition party, the Change movement, has come up with an alternative plan for this that it wants to discuss with the other Kurdish political parties. They have suggested that an Iraqi Kurdish politician simply be given the portfolio for Kurdish affairs, rather than unrelated jobs in other ministries. The plan was widely criticized.

“If the Kurdish people were given the opportunity they would become independent,” suggests Muthana Amin, a senior member of the Kurdistan Islamic Union, who’s also an MP in Baghdad. “They would not opt to stay part of Iraq.”

But the Kurdish certainly cannot declare independence from Iraq without the approval of both regional and international allies. And they cannot turn their backs on the political process in Iraq without resolving at least some of the outstanding problems between themselves and Baghdad.

Ihsan al-Shammari, a politics professor at Baghdad University and head of a local think tank, The Iraqi Centre for Political Thought, told NIQASH that he thinks the Kurdish politicians won’t go back to Parliament without having some of their most important conditions met.

Al-Shammari also points out that two of Iraqi Kurdistan’s major parties, the Political Union of Kurdistan, or PUK, and the Change movement, originally a breakaway of the PUK, have formed a new union – possibly with persuasion from their Iranian allies to whom these two parties are closer. Meanwhile The KDP, the other major party in Iraqi Kurdistan and within the Kurdish alliance in Baghdad, remains on its own.

While some analysts believe this means that half of Iraqi Kurdistan’s representatives will return to Baghdad, al-Shammari thinks that this split within the Kurdish MPs means that they are less likely to return.



Related video added by Juan Cole:

CCTV: “Iraq lifts curfew after protesters leave Green Zone”

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Obama in Hiroshima, Memorial Day and the Iran Deal Sat, 28 May 2016 04:28:07 +0000 By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

President Obama in Hiroshima gave an anti-war speech.

He said,

” But among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them. We may not realize this goal in my lifetime, but persistent effort can roll back the possibility of catastrophe. We can chart a course that leads to the destruction of these stockpiles. We can stop the spread to new nations and secure deadly material from fanatics.”

Although it is true that Obama has been the least successful president in some time in reducing nuclear stockpiles, there is one area where he has had success in reducing world tensions, and that is with regard to Iran. Moreover, the Iran breakthrough has implications for both nonproliferation and for conventional warfare. A war on Iran was one of the central objectives of the Cheney/ Neoconservative faction in the George W. Bush White House, and had their war of aggression on Iraq not gone sour, the would have likely gone on to Tehran.

The standing War Party in Washington has figured out how to pursue conventional wars of aggression in the face of public skittishness: They simply hype a country they want to plunder as an unconventional threat– i.e. as a country that could have nuclear weapons or even chemical and biological weapons.

It was pure propaganda that Bush’s “brain,” Karl Rove, melded these together as “weapons of mass destruction,” so that they could equate some old canisters of mustard gas to an atomic bomb. Unfortunately for the Bush warmongers, the Baath regime in Iraq had actually destroyed its chemical stockpiles, so they were left empty-handed when it became clear that Iraq had no nuclear weapons program at all.

That is, nuclear proliferation is only one danger. The other is that even the appearance of such proliferation has been turned by the unscrupulous into a casus belli where the “wrong” regime undertakes it. The chain of events unleashed by Bush’s Iraq War killed many more people than did the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Obama continued,

“We must change our mindset about war itself to prevent conflict through diplomacy and strive to end conflicts after they’ve begun. To see our growing interdependence as a cause for peaceful cooperation and not violent competition. To define our nations not by our capacity to destroy, but by what we build. And perhaps above all, we must reimagine our connection to one another as members of one human race.”

Obama’s major breakthrough was to convince Iran, which has never given any evidence of wanting a nuclear weapon (as opposed to the ability to enrich uranium for fuel and to use that ability as a deterrent to foreign aggression) to take steps to reassure the US and the world about its intentions. Most urgently, that required Iran to mothball the heavy water reactor it planned at Arak (the Iranians have concreted in its core), to reduce the number of active centrifuges they are running for enrichment, and to reduce their stockpile of low-enriched uranium of the 19.25% enriched variety (ostensibly produced for their medical reactor, which makes isotopes for treating cancer). Iran has done all of these things as required and in a timely way, and is subject to the sort of regular inspections that make effectively deter cheating (the signatures of highly enriched materials are easily detected and linger for months, and can’t be cleaned up).

Critics of Obama can point to other instances where he was not as successful as in Iran, can point to his long war and failed troop escalation in Afghanistan, his backing for the Saudi attack on Yemen, his fascination with drone-assassination, and the many covert actions he pursues. Even Bill Clinton was less of a war president than Obama. But surely it is possible to praise his instance of successful peace-making even when he hasn’t been universally a peace-maker. Historians will see Obama’s Iran diplomacy as one of the greatest achievements of his presidency, and perhaps as a turning point in anti-proliferation through diplomacy.

Future leaders should take a lesson from Obama; when there is a war you don’t want fought, then resolve the outstanding issue and spike the warmongering. The Military-Industrial Complex is so powerful in both parties that sooner or later they will get a candidate into the White House and a pliable Congress, and they they will want to turn some ramshackle third world piggy bank upside down and shake out its billions into their accounts. The MIC made trillions off the Iraq War.

So anti-proliferation diplomacy is necessary both to deter further stockpiles of nuclear weaponry *and* to remove a pretext for war-making from the War Party in Washington.

With regard to Iran, Obama has probably succeeded in forestalling a US attack on that country, though both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have taken an aggressive posture toward it. And, both will be lobbied by the Netanyahu regime in Israel and by Saudi Arabia to heighten tensions with Tehran.

As we consider the poignant moment when the president of the United States hugged a Hiroshima survivor, and as we mourn our war dead (on a day that was founded as an anti-war commemoration) — including 4,425 killed in Iraq for no good reason– we have reason to treasure the achievements of determined diplomacy in resolving the Iran nuclear issue without more bloodshed and terror from the skies.


Related video:

The White House: ” President Obama Participates in a Wreath Laying Ceremony”

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Sanders: “Tough Guy Trump” is afraid to Debate me Sat, 28 May 2016 04:19:20 +0000 TeleSur | – –

Trump initially told reporters he would “love to debate Bernie.”

The Republican nominee flip flopped from his initial openess to debating the democratic socialist senator from Vermont.

Donald Trump announced Friday he will not debate Senator Bernie Sanders because he thinks the Democratic Party will not allow Sanders to win the nomination.

“If you’re in first place, you don’t want to really debate a guy who’s in second place,” said Trump.

Donald Trump had told TV host Jimmy Kimmel he would debate Sanders if the network hosting the event donates the earnings to charity.

“Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher,” said Trump.

Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in a statement that two networks were interested in contributing to charity so that they could host the debate.
“As much as I want to debate Bernie Sanders – and it would be an easy payday – I will wait to debate the first-place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be,” said Trump.

The next primary for the Democratic Party will be held in California on June 7.

Via TeleSur


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Bernie Sanders Reacts To Donald Trump Backing Out Of Debate

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Israel’s demolition orders against West Bank water wells ‘atrocious’: PM Sat, 28 May 2016 04:06:17 +0000 Ma’an News Agency | – –

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah gestures during an interview at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on September 7, 2014 (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)
Ramallah (Ma’an) — Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah issued a statement Thursday condemning Israel’s illegal practice of destroying Palestinian water infrastructure as “atrocious.”

“Israel uses every means possible to chase Palestinians away from their ancestral land,” Hamdallah said. “Water is life, and if you don’t have water you cannot exist.”

His condemnation comes days after Israel handed out demolition notices for four water wells and agricultural structures in the village of Qusra, south of the city Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank.

In a statement from Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) to Ma’an on Friday, a spokesperson said that “enforcement measures were taken against the illegal structures in area C,” due to the fact that the wells were built without the required pre-construction permission from the Israeli Civil Administration.

The water wells, which were built with Dutch financial support, were not the first of internationally-funded wells in the occupied Palestinian territory to be under threat of demolition. Last week, Israel threatened to demolish four water tanks in the town of Beit Ummar, close to Hebron, which had been constructed as part of a UN-funded water development program.

In addition to water wells, Israel regularly destroys Palestinians’ homes and structures, many of which have been funded by donor countries. In 2016 alone, Israel destroyed over 600 structures.

The majority of these demolitions, such as the impending demolitions of the wells in Nablus, have been carried out in Area C — under full jurisdiction of the Israeli military — where nearly all Palestinian applications for building permits are denied by the Israeli authorities, forcing communities to build illegally.

“The destruction of water infrastructure is atrocious; while Palestinians struggle with water shortages, Israeli settlers use scarce water resources to fill up their swimming pools,” said Jamal Dajani, Director of Strategic Communications and Media for the Prime Minister.

Dajani called upon donor countries to take action to protect Palestinian farmers from illegal Israeli incursion, since the legal process of taking their cases to Israeli courts can be too expensive and time consuming for Palestinian residents to afford without aid.

While Palestinians are repeatedly subject to demolitions and land seizures in the West Bank, they are also subject to disproportionately low access to vital resources. Israeli settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory consume approximately six times the amount of water used by Palestinians; this discrepancy is even greater when considering water used for agricultural purposes.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Israel uses 86 percent of the water extracted from the Mountain Aquifer, which is a trans-boundary resource that is supposed to be shared between both sides in an equitable and reasonable manner.

In a UN Security Council briefing on Wednesday, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov slammed the continued demolitions being carried out in the occupied West Bank, noting that the number of structures that have been demolished or confiscated in 2016 already exceeded the total for all of 2015.

“Although many of the structures that have been demolished are not dwellings,” said Mladenov, “the loss of water wells, solar panels, and animal shelters has impacted the livelihoods of over 2,500 people.”

Via Ma’an News Agency


Related video added by Juan Cole:

TeleSur: “Palestinians Protest Poor Living Conditions”

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