Sam Bahour: "economic zones" for Palestinian job creation in West Bank cannot solve any problem as long as Palestinian economy is "micromanaged by a foreign military"

American-Palestinian businessman Sam Bahour, living in Ramallah, writes in Haaretz today another version of his recent analysis criticizing “feel-good plans” to solve the Middle East morass by providing jobs (primarily factory assembly-line jobs) to Palestinians in the West Bank to invest them into salaries, pensions (and, ultimately, even mortagages — something previously unheard-of in Palestinian areas) as a way to make impossible, for financial considerations, any further resistance to the continued effects of occupation, and continued denial of human and political rights.

Sam notes that “These mega-employment projects present a serious challenge to those who are striving to build an independent and viable economic foundation for a future Palestinian state. Because the zones will be dependent on Israeli cooperation to function, and because they will exist within an Israeli-designed economic system that ensures Palestinian dependence on Israel, they cannot form the basis of a sovereign economy. Relying on them will perpetuate the status quo of dependency and risks further entrenching Israel’s occupation, albeit possibly under another name, like statehood … Although the sectorial theme of each zone, assuming it has already been decided, has not been made public, if existing zones (such as the maquiladoras in Mexico, or those in Jamaica ) are any indication, the zones in Palestine will host “dirty” businesses – those that are pollution-prone and sweatshop-oriented. Jordan’s Qualified Industrial Zones provide a regional example. Like many others around the world, they are notorious for their exploitative labor practices. According to two consultants to the Israeli government, the West Bank zones, several of which are already under construction, are planned to employ 150,000-200,000 Palestinians, nearly the same number that used to travel daily to Israel for work before the second intifada”.

His analysis in Haaretz can be read in full here.

Israel mobilizes world war against Goldstone's report on Gaza war

The Jerusalem Post reported today (Thursday) that “A day after the release of the scathing Goldstone Commission report that accused Israel of war crimes, Jerusalem on Wednesday revealed its defensive strategy: convince the world’s democracies the report handcuffs them in their fight against terrorism, and keep discussion of the document confined to the Human Rights Council in Geneva …

Continue reading Israel mobilizes world war against Goldstone's report on Gaza war

My neighbors are all outside

The children just rang my doorbell. My neighbors are all outside, because they’ve heard somewhere, somehow, that we should all be taking precautions and not staying indoors after the earthquake that shook Crete several hours ago, and was felt along the Mediterranean coast of Israel (and of course Gaza as well).

I wonder where they got this information?

We are usually never informed about anything here — when the water will be cut, when the electricity will be cut, when the checkpoint will be removed, when the Gate in The Wall might be reopened to ease the congestion for children who must go through the mess at Qalandia checkpoint (“border crossing”) to get to school and back every day.

There are only ever rumors — that is part of what it means to live under occupation.

And now, we have a rumor of an earthquake alert — which will affect both occupiers and occupied.

Baladi vegetables from Wadi Fukhin, a Palestinian village southwest of Bethlehem

This article appeared in Haaretz about the pleasures of baladi [or, authentic home grown from the countryside] vegetables from a Palestinian West Bank village near Bethlehem.

Of note: the vegetables have to be smuggled past checkpoints to get to Jerusalem.

Sometimes, they are confiscated.

Without further comment, here is an excerpt from the Haaretz story:
Since the village was founded at the beginning of the 16th century, its farmlands have been shrinking. This was a natural process through the generations, as in the feudal estates of medieval times, when the laws of inheritance reduced the area received by each family head. In the 20th century the problem was compounded by complex geopolitical developments.

The Israeli army captured the village at the end of the War of Independence in 1948 and it became part of Jordan in the armistice agreements. In 1953, the villagers fled to refugee camps after an Israeli reprisal raid. For 20 years, they would sneak back to their fields to continue working them, until the Israeli government allowed some of them to return to their land – occupied by Israel following the 1967 war.

Since the end of the 1980s, 9,000 of the farmers’ 12,000 dunams (4 dunams = 1 acre) have been appropriated by Israel in order to build the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) city-settlement of Betar Ilit.

The intensive construction of the city’s neighborhoods not only brutally wounded the natural ridgeline; it also hemmed in the vanishing valley from its eastern side and is blocking the natural runoff of rainwater to the village springs, which are, as a result, gradually drying up.

Only by adhering to ancient village traditions has Wadi Fukhin (population: 1,200) been able to preserve the enviable patterns of working the land that the whole world is now trying to emulate. This is small-scale agriculture, using ancient seeds of fruits and vegetables indigenous to the region, chemical-free. The traditional fertilizer was and remains the organic compost of goat droppings – most of the fellahin were in any case too poor to buy any other fertilizer.

The Friends of the Earth organization, which took the village under its wing in genuine admiration of the undeclared and vanishing nature reserve, taught the villagers additional techniques of ecological and organic farming. Those who love the earth are easily persuaded to keep it clean; some of the villagers have become true zealots not only of traditional farming, but also of “modern” organic methods.

The village’s vegetables were long famed in the markets of Hebron and Jerusalem, and fetched very high prices. But the only market currently open to produce from the village is in Bethlehem, where, the farmers complain, prices are lower.

The villagers could make a living from the burgeoning market for organic produce in Israel, but a checkpoint blocks their way…
Continue reading Baladi vegetables from Wadi Fukhin, a Palestinian village southwest of Bethlehem

TONIGHT: Biggest and most beautiful Full Moon of 2009

From, we learn that at sunset tonight, where ever we are on the planet, we will see the biggest and brightest full moon of the year.

“A full moon rises right around sunset, no matter where you are. That’s because of the celestial mechanics that produce a full moon: The moon and the sun are on opposite sides of the Earth, so that sunlight hits the full face of the moon and bounces back to our eyes. At moonrise, the moon will appear even larger than it will later in the night when it’s higher in the sky. This is an illusion that scientists can’t fully explain …

“Saturday night (Jan. 10) the moon will be at perigee, the closest point to us (Earth) on this orbit. It will appear about 14 percent bigger in our sky and 30 percent brighter than some other full moons during 2009, according to NASA. (A similar setup occurred in December, making that month’s full moon the largest of 2008.) Tides will be higher, too …

“So, if skies are clear Saturday, go out at sunset and look for the giant moon rising in the east … If you have other plans for Saturday night, take heart: You can see all this on each night surrounding the full moon, too, because the moon will be nearly full, rising earlier Friday night and later Sunday night”.

For all the details, the full report can be viewed here.

NOW they notice!

Haaretz reported Friday, with some surprise, that Gaza sewage has been pumped straight into the Mediterranean since last January, when the Gaza power plant last had to shut down for lack of fuel, and it was feared that sudden electricity outages could cause catastrophic sewage flooding in Gaza that might even threaten human life (as it did just over a year ago).

Akiva Eldar reported in Haaretz that a UN report says that “Millions of liters of sewage have been released over the past three months into the Mediterranean Sea from the Gaza Strip, according to a new United Nations report. According to the report, an estimated 50-60 million liters of waste have been pumped into the sea. This was done in an effort to prevent an overflow of sewage in residential areas. Normally, the sewage is pumped to prearranged sites for treatment, but the shortage of fuel in the Gaza Strip has caused disruptions in the supply of electricity. These shortages, lack of sufficient quantities of chemicals necessary for treating sewage, and spare parts, has led the Gaza officials to pump the waste into the sea. The report prepared by Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) raises concerns that the untreated sewage is carrying Escherichia coli (e. coli) bacteria into the sea which may affect those swimming in its waters … The authors of the report also wrote that in areas where the sewage is pumped into the sea, the color of the water is dark brown and a strong odor emanates. Fishermen in Gaza bay claim the sewage has killed much of the fish in the area … The treatment plant requires constant electrical supply, and the OCHA report calls on Israel to lift its restrictions on fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip. OCHA says that unless electricity can run continuously it is impossible to make regular use of the sanitation equipment in the Strip. The UN is also calling on Israel to allow the transfer of materials and spare parts that are necessary to upgrade the sewage system, and which would allow the construction of three modern sewage treatment stations in the Strip”. This article can be read in full in Haaretz here .

A separate report in the Jerusalem Post says that “Gaza’s water authority has dumped 60 million liters of partially treated and untreated sewage into the Mediterranean Sea since January 24, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report released on Wednesday. ‘The sewage discharge is contaminating Gaza seawater and posing health risks for bathers and consumers of seafood. The sewage flows northward to Israeli coasts, including near the Ashkelon desalination plant. Urgent studies are needed to examine the extent of the impact’, the report reads. The report’s authors blamed Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip for the Gazans’ inability to treat the sewage … The UN said Gaza’s water authority, the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, required 14 days of uninterrupted electricity to treat the sewage. The utility provides more than 130 million cubic meters of water per year, according to the report, 80 percent of which ends up as sewage. Moreover, because of the restrictions on imports and exports into and out of the Strip, spare parts needed to repair the sewage treatment plants had not been allowed in”…

Then, the JPost article contains defensive and misleading information such as: “a security source familiar with the situation told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the vast majority of Gaza’s electrical needs were being met by Israel and Egypt. ‘Gaza is receiving 141 megawatts a day out of [its normal requirements of] 200 megawatts at this time from Israel and Egypt’, the source said”. This JPost article can be read in full here .

OK. Let’s take this apart a little bit:
(1) If Gaza is receiving 141 MW a day at this time from Israel and Egypt, that means Israel is providing 124 MW of directly supplied electricity daily from Ashdod or Ashkelon — I think Ashkelon, but both have been reported with great assurance and authority in the Israeli media. And that would mean that Israel has rescinded the electricity cuts that the Israeli military authorized to start on 7 February — and it would only have done so if it realized that any electricity cuts could cause a potentially catastrophic humanitarian crisis that the Israeli military promised it will avoid.

(2) Gaza’s requirements are more than 200 MW a day — they were 240 MW in the winter, and may be just slightly less now, but will rise again as the summer heat sets in. Gaza has been experiencing at least 20% electricity shortfalls, which cause constant brown-outs and black-outs. But, let’s just go along with what this Israeli security source says for a moment: If Gaza normally requires 200 MW per day, and Israel and Egpyt are together supplying 141 MW a day, that means that somewhere, somehow, Gaza must be generating at least 59 MW per day on its own. However, it has not been able to do so, because the Israeli military-ordered fuel cuts affecting Gaza’s only power plant, which operates on Israeli-supplied, European-financed industrial diesel fuel, have restricted production to an average of 45-50 MW per day. Lately, it has only been able to generate 40 MW per day, because fuel deliveries have been short, because the Israeli military says there have been attacks from Gaza on the fuel transfer terminal at Nahal Oz. But, as Sari Bashi, executive director of the Israeli human rights organization GISHA — who has led a fight against these fuel and electricity cuts — says, “if the military can supply some fuel, why can’t it supply enough?”

BUT, we’ve been writing about this for months …

Then, this JPost article also says that Hamas should find a solution.

And, it then goes on to argue, in a hallucinatory fantasy, that sewage has been dumped from Gaza into the sea for years, so this is nothing new, and that the Gazans (now living under tightening Israeli sanctions) should cheerfully recycle this sewage waste water for agriculture, as happy Israelis are doing.

Again, let’s take this apart:
(1) sewage flowed into the sea from Gaza for years, yes, before the Oslo Peace Process started in 1993. After that, donors paid for various sanitation installations to treat this sewage. SOme of these installations have been damaged during IDF attacks. Now, those that were in working order have now been put out of service by the Israeli military-ordered fuel cuts, and by the lack of spare parts — again, banned by the IDF under its sanctions program against Hamas in Gaza — to conduct normal mantanence operations.

The JPost article reports that the spokesman for Israel’s Water Authority, Uri Schor, told its reporter that “The State of Israel assists in various ways to the pumping and water distribution and to the continued operation of the sewage treatment plants. That assistance includes approval to transfer most of equipment the Palestinian Authority has requested – the rest is in the process of being verified – and all the diesel fuel necessary to run the plants“. The JPOst adds, faithfully, that “Schor added: ‘These plants had not been affected by any cutbacks to electricity’ [and] Schor suggested the PA follow Israel’s example and use treated sewage water for agriculture in place of potable water. ‘Right now, 70% of Israel’s sewage is treated and recycled, and the plan is to recycle all of it. In the PA, all of the agriculture uses freshwater, and using recycled sewage water would enable the Palestinians to redirect tens of millions of cubic meters of water for household use’, he said. Responsible management by the PA would add a respectable amount of expensive freshwater to their supply, he said”…

Yes, sure, but the PA includes the West Bank, which is not under these Israeli military-controlled sanctions that affect Gaza, and except that the supposed freshwater in Gaza is brackish because of seawater infusions due to overpumping of the water tables — some of the overpumping was/is being done by Israel …

Papua New Guinea to USA: If you're not willing to lead, get out of the way

So, the U.S. got out of the way, and joined a consensus resolution at the Climate Change Conference in Bali that calls for two years of negotiations on something to replace the emissions reductions targets contained in the 1997 Kyodo Protocol to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The consensus resolution, which the U.S. eventually joined after being cajoled and booed by the assembled delegates, also calls for monitored technology transfers to assist developing countries voluntarily curb their pollution emissions that cause global warming.

The extra last day followed an earlier accusation by former Vice-President Al Gore that the U.S. was principally responsible for obstructing progress at the conference, an all-night marathon negotiating session, recriminations from China, and a near-breakdown at the podium by conference chairman Yvo de Boer.

Now, diplomats should try these tactics in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, which has been blocked for more than a decade by disagreements about which disarmament negotiations should be next (the U.S. is still refusing China’s request to address the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space at the same time as a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty that the U.S. wants).

The difference is that at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva the U.S. still has a few European and Latin American allies, while in Bali the European Union made its differences with the U.S. public.

Rosett from snowy New York on Bali climate change meeting

Claudia Rosett writes: “On Bali, the UN climatocrats are off and running with their Dec. 3-14 climate conference, under hardship conditions including the requirement that all catering for side events must be ordered at least 48 hours in advance. Further rigors, according to a report from China’s Xinhua News Agency, include the demand that all motor vehicles entering the beach area surrounding Bali’s Nusa Dua conference complex run on biofuels. That sounds problematic, if the Xinhua report is accurate that only a few gas stations in Indonesia routinely sell biofuels, and they not on Bali, but are clustered around the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, on the island of Java, more than 500 miles from the UN conference. From New York, where it snowed today, it is hard to get instant information on just how the thousands of now-assembling UN conferees on Bali are coping with the local biofuels shortage — whether they are walking to the beach complex, or trucking in biofuels for their motorcades. But one thing you can spot even from the other side of the world is that all this climate conferencing is job-creation paradise for global bureaucrats …” Read the rest of Claudia Rossett’s post here.

UNSG BAN squeezes into the picture

AP Photo by Fernando Bustamante - right to left are UN SGl Ban Ki-moon, IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauiri  and Michel Jarraud of the World Meteorological Organization at a closing press conference in Valencia

The three major news agencies have all covered the just-released “synthesis” report on climate change following the close of the IPCC meeting in Valencia, Spain today. The”synthesis” report will be discussed by some 10,0000 delegates who are expected to participate in the Bali meeting of the UN Conference on Climate Change starting in just over two weeks’ time.

While UNSG BAN has squeezed into the picture for reasons of image and legacy, it’s also certainly true that it would be worse if he ignored the issue. BAN has even embarked on his own eco-tourism to learn at first hand about the issue, which he seized upon just before taking office.

Reuters reported that BAN told delegates from more than 130 nations meeting in Valencia that ” ‘This report will be formally presented to the (U.N. Climate Change) Conference in Bali … Already, it has set the stage for a real breakthrough — an agreement to launch negotiations for a comprehensive climate change deal that all nations can embrace’, he said. Ban singled out the United States and China, the world’s top two emitters of greenhouse gases, which have no binding goals for curbs, as key countries in the process. He welcomed initiatives by both and urged them to do more. ‘I look forward to seeing the U.S. and China playing a more constructive role starting from the Bali conference’, Ban told a news conference afterwards … Ban said he had just been to see ice shelves breaking up in Antarctica and the melting Torres del Paine glaciers in Chile. He also visited the Amazon rainforest, which he said was being ‘suffocated’ by global warming. ‘I come to you humbled after seeing some of the most precious treasures of our planet — treasures that are being threatened by humanity’s own hand’, he said. ‘These scenes are as frightening as a science fiction movie’, Ban said. ‘But they are even more terrifying, because they are real’ …
Continue reading UNSG BAN squeezes into the picture