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Affecting and Affected

Eva Bartlett | In Gaza | April 11, 2010

Abu Basel (right) is one of the long-termers, having served over 20 years as a medic in Gaza.

“Who will take care of people if not us? Someone has to do this work. Without medics, who will care for the injured? Everyone has something to contribute,” he replied to the question: why do you do such dangerous work.

Dangerous work.  Being a medic hardly seems dangerous…anywhere else.  But in a place like Palestine, medics have to contend with more than tending to the injured or bringing in the dead.  They have to be aware of Israeli soldiers’ shooting, shelling from Apaches, F-16s, tanks, the sea…

Having spoken with Abu Basel many times during and after the Israeli massacre of Gaza last year, I thought I’d heard most of his horror stories.

He is a calm man, when not driving the ambulance, and relates all his stories in the same laid-back tone, whether joyful or atrocious.

Upon request, he begins to recall some of the many dangers he was exposed to during the last Israeli attacks, not to mention the nearly 2 decades before that.

He recalls being with medics and 4 ambulances, 2 metres from the Al Kurdi house in the Jabaliya region when an F-16 bombed it.

“How in the world are you alive?” I ask.

“It’s in God’s hands,” he replies.

He remembers a night in Beit Lahiya when they rushed to the site of a drone missile bombing.

“It was 1 am. We found the injured and brought the stretcher. A drone dropped another missile. Because it was night and there were not as many noises as during the day, I heard the sssss of the missile and we ran. The missile landed 1 metre from ambulance and 1.5 metres from the injured.

We ran back and grabbed the injured and drove. Two minutes later an F-16 bombed the house where we’d taken the injured from.”

He relates another incident in Sheyjayee where, similarly, a drone attacked his ambulance, dropping a missile metres from his ambulance.

“We’d gone to retrieve 5 injured but were only able to take four before the missile struck. A man nearby who had come to help us load the injured was killed by the missile. The ambulance windows shattered and my colleagues were injured.”

He then recalls 2 incidents when he says his ambulance had coordination via the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to reach an area the Israeli soldiers were occupying or preventing ambulances from accessing.

We went to Attatra with 3 Red Crescent ambulances and an ICRC jeep to bring out injured. When we reached the area, Israeli tanks started firing on us with machine gun fire. An ICRC employee started speaking with the Israelis via phone. ‘You’re firing on us,’ he said and the Israelis denied it. But the tanks kept firing and we had to leave quickly because of the danger.

Another time, in Esserah area, Beit Lahiya, we again went with coordination. We went there along the sea route and when near the area got on the microphone. ‘If there’s anyone injured or anyone needs to leave or has an ill person or needs help, we’re ICRC and RC, we’re here to help,’ we told them.

There was a guy sitting outside his destroyed house. He told us 13 people from his family were inside the house (children, elderly, women). We began helping them, loading them into our ambulances. When the Israeli soldiers saw us helping the people, they began firing on us from their tanks. We hurried, took the 13 people into our ambulance. Two tires were blown out on one ambulance, but there wasn’t time to transfer the people or wait for other ambulances. They’d been in there, the 14 of them, since their house was destroyed a week earlier.  They’d been without food for the week, just had water.”

Iyad has been a medic for 16 years and equally has too many close calls to remember.

He shares some of his near-death escapes.

“I was working in the Red Crescent centre near Al Quds hospital, in the Tel el Howa area of Gaza City. After the Samounis were bombed, I went one afternoon to bring some of the martyrs. A drone and tanks fired missiles on the road we were driving on. Six missiles, the closest was just 8 metres away. We had gone without coordination, because there were many martyrs and the area where we headed was somewhat far from the Israelis, maybe 500 metres away. I saw them and they saw me. We managed to take a marytr and leave.”

Living in central Gaza, Iyad was among the medics completely cut off from his family during the massacre.

“For about a week I didn’t know anything on my family, the phone reception was so bad we couldn’t call each other. I live in Nussierat, and the road was severed by the Israelis, so I couldn’t get to them or communicate with them.”

“There are so many incidents,” Abu Basel says, “but I can’t remember them all, so many.”

He repeats what most medics have said.

“We weren’t afraid, despite the danger. But it was hard. We weren’t sleeping, not eating well –there was no time to eat or sleep. Most didn’t see our families during the war, just a minute or two here or there.”

While you’d think the most difficult time was the Israeli war on Gaza itself, because the medics were kept busy, most didn’t have time to think about the horrors of what they were seeing and experiencing.

“The hardest hardest was after the war,” says Abu Basel. “During the war, I knew there was death. I’d see a body, then a different body. I wouldn’t dwell on what I had seen, would just think about what I had to do next.

But after the war, I began to have terrible dreams, I’d remember everything. For 2 months I dreamed horrible dreams, warplanes, the bodies, everything I saw in the war I re-lived in my dreams.

That was much harder than the war.”

I remember Abu Basel telling me about finding Shahed Abu Halima, the infant girl killed by white phosphorous shelling, her corpse left for days as medics and family were unable to bring it out. Abu Basel was among the medics who uncovered the Abu Halima massacre, the charred remains of those family members killed in the shelling, and the gnawed body of Shahed, partially eaten by dogs.

“For the rest of my life I’ll remember that day. I’ll never get over it,” he said.

Do they feel scarred by their work and experiences?

“After 20 years of this, this kind of stress and work is normal. But still, after this last war, the worst so far, people were extremely nervous and agitated. Some developed diabetes. Many found that after the war they got angry easily and were not sociable, didn’t want to speak to people… but now most are better.

Many medics can’t have babies. I know one who after 7 years still hasn’t had children.

Many take medications to have kids. It’s because they are very stressed, they see a lot of terrible things and begin to have problems with psychology.”

After the massacre, a psychologist came to the Red Crescent to do workshops with the medics, says Abu Basel.

“For a month and a half, two days per week, we had sessions. He spoke with us, showed us exercises for relaxation, took us to the sea…

He gave us the will and spirit to work and live well.

The problem for us isn’t our psychology. We only need a break, to go somewhere else for a vacation and see something different. Go to Europe or somewhere, see a different life and try to forget what we saw.

For Iyad, there is no relaxation.

I sleep. Only. There’s nothing else to do. When I use the internet, there’s news. I watch TV or listen to the radio, and I hear news. I walk on the street, and all I hear is politics. There is no escape from this stress, no way to relax but to sleep.”

Ahmed Abu Foul’s daughter Hola is 6 months old now.  Married just one week before the Israeli massacre of Gaza erupted, Ahmed’s honeymoon was 23 days of hell in his dual positions of medic with the Red Crescent and with the Civil Defense, along with the hell of being separated from family.

Although only 27, Ahmed’s stories are too many to recount.

He re-visits some of them, which I marveled over before:

-The time he went to retrieve a martyr near a cemetery in Beit Lahiya.  Israeli machine gun fire erupts at him and Ahmed is trapped, lying on the road, breaking for it and zig-zagging his way back to the ambulance.

-When they went to the site of a bombing in Sheik Radwan, north of Gaza City.

“There had been a drone strike on a house, they said there were injured.

I was looking to see if anyone [was] injured. I was next to a 5 story house, in the alley, when an F-16 hit the house next to me. It fell in the other direction, but rubble fell on me.

I wasn’t badly injured, somehow, but my hair stood on end and I lost my hearing for 4 or 5 days,” Ahmed tells with a grin.

But his most troubling recent injury is that inflicted as he attempted to evacuate a martyr from a Jabaliya apartment.

“The Israelis had fired numerous missiles on Hamouda tower, a 5 story building in Jabaliya district. When we got there, we were told there was a martyr on 5th floor. I was the first to enter, everyone else was afraid. I found the body and Dr Issa Salah came up to help.

We were carrying the corpse down the stairs when the Israelis fired on us. The bomb blast decapitated Dr. Issa. His head hit me in the back of my head . I thought I’d been hit by shrapnel or something. Now I’ve got shrapnel in my head, but its bone shrapnel, from the dr. Issa. And shrapnel in leg from the bomb blast.

In a society where nearly everyone suffers from the continuous Israeli attacks, invasions, and wars, venting is not easy, and going to a psychologist is not the norm.

“After the war, I became extremely, extremely nervous. I was agitated and got angry easily. Sometimes if someone was making noise or annoying me I’d want to hit them,” he says, still smiling his open smile.

“I was never rested. When I’d wake, I’d still feel like I hadn’t slept.

Until today, I still have nightmares from the war.

I went to a doctor. Every 2 days I saw her. If I hadn’t gone I would have been completely destroyed long ago.

We talked about my feelings. I just talked and talked, no medicine, just talking. By the end she said I was fine.

Some people are afraid to go to a therapist. Others might say they are crazy. But I know I wasn’t crazy, I just needed to talk, needed to fix my psychological state.”

And like the others, Ahmed longs for a reprieve, even for a week.

“If I could just leave Gaza for one week, breathe a different air, all my psychological problems and stress would go. Even if I just went to Cairo.”

April 11, 2010 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | Comments Off on Affecting and Affected

In Germany, 56% lose trust in Church

Press TV – April 11, 2010

In the Pope’s homeland, Germany, revelations of sex abuse by Catholic clergy have triggered an unprecedented lack of trust in the Church.

An opinion poll conducted by the Focus magazine found that 56 percent of the 600 German participants have no confidence in the Church, which has been rocked by an unending stream of sex abuse allegations against priests.

In Addition to the uproar from the disturbing nature of some of the cases, accusations of decades-long cover-ups by the Catholic officials, which allowed some pedophile priests to find new victims, have further tainted the Church’s reputation.

Some 26 percent of the country’s Catholic population is now considering quitting the Church, according to the study which is to be published in the magazine on Monday. The respondents said that this is regardless of the consequences of the move on their income tax.

The figure shows a notable rise compared to a poll conducted by the Stern magazine last month, which indicated that 19 percent of those surveyed were undecided about following the Church.

Germany is among a number of European countries that impose Church tax (8-9%) on followers of any religious congregation, unless a member officially quits their communion.

Munich reportedly lost 472 Catholic worshippers last month alone, nearly four times the number for the past three months. Since the German tax department documents deregistrations at the cost of EUR 30 (USD 40), the figures are precise.

The tax provides 70% of the German Church’s revenues.

Since January, hundreds of cases of sexual abuse connected to the Catholic Church have come to light in Germany, including one of the most high-profile revelations that centered on mishandled abuse complaints in the Pope’s former diocese in Bavaria.

April 11, 2010 Posted by | Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | Comments Off on In Germany, 56% lose trust in Church

Obama imposed ‘peace plan’ would deny basic Palestinian rights

By Alex Kane on April 10, 2010

Reports in the New York Times and Washington Post that the Obama administration is considering presenting its plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have created a lot of buzz and pushback from supporters of Israel.

However, the reports do not address the fundamental question: what would the plan mean for Palestinians and Israelis? In a sentence, it would mean the continuation of a pattern where the Palestinian leadership agrees to major concessions to secure an agreement with Israel, an agreement that would have little basis in international law

The basic outline being talked about is based on the so-called “Clinton Parameters” that were presented after the breakdown of the Camp David talks.

Here’s Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera English’s senior political analyst, on what the “Clinton Parameters” mean:

After US president Bill Clinton failed in 2000 to get Ehud Barak, the Israeli premier and Yasser Arafat, the PLO chairman, to sign a comprehensive agreement at the Camp David summit, he made clear where he stood.

Sharing of Jerusalem; no right of return for the Palestinians; a return to the 1967 borders with mutual adjustments to allow Israel to annex big settlement blocks; and a demilitarised Palestinian state.

That’s how Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security advisor, conveyed them to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius before his meeting with Obama, along with other former national security advisors.

Bishara rightly points out that the terms presented above wouldn’t be “fair or just,” because they would relinquish the “right of return” for Palestinians displaced by the 1948 Nakba, a right “enshrined in international law and international humanitarian law, and isn’t for Obama to deny, nor even for Mahmoud Abbas, the PLO chairman, to give away.”

And a demilitarized Palestinian state? With Israel keeping a presence “in fixed locations in the Jordan Valley under the authority of the International force for another 36 months” and having Israeli “early warning stations” inside the West Bank (as the “Clinton Parameters” state)? That doesn’t sound like an end to the occupation.

Also not considered is the fact that, as Dr. As’ad Ghanem, writing in Haaretz, says, the current Palestinian Authority, with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at the helm, “is seen by the Palestinians as an American puppet. His government is not legitimate, even according to the Palestinian constitution.” A Palestinian government with no legitimacy agreeing to an American-imposed peace plan won’t do any good, especially with a Prime Minister who has been sharply criticized for apparently giving up the right of return to areas within Israel.

April 11, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite | Comments Off on Obama imposed ‘peace plan’ would deny basic Palestinian rights

Swedes embrace nuclear waste land

By John Tagliabue | Scotsman | 11 April 2010

INGER Nordholm quit her job as a hairdresser in the Swedish seaside town of Osthammar 12 years ago, fearing the chemical treatments she had to use were bad for her health. Now, the town is competing for the right to become Sweden’s permanent storage site for radioactive waste and Nordholm works for the company that wants to build it. She guides visitors through a temporary warehouse for nuclear waste, hoping to reassure them that it poses no danger to their health.

Eighty per cent of the town’s 21,000 inhabitants are in favour of the facility and Osthammar is one of two finalists among Swedish communities vying for the right to host the nuclear waste dump.

Sweden would seem an unlikely setting for such a competition as the country turned its back on nuclear power in the 1980s after less than 20 per cent approved of it in a referendum. But it has reversed course recently and is now planning to begin building new nuclear reactors, adding to the ten it already operates.

Legislation requires that before any new plants are built, the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company, SKB, must create permanent storage space for the radioactive waste the reactors produce.

SKB found 18 of 20 possible towns near proposed sites intrigued by their proposition. Then it had to whittle the list down to two, Osthammar and Oskarshamn, both already the sites of nuclear plants.

The company has now said it will ask the Swedish government later this year for permission to build the storage depot in Osthammar. If the government gives the green light, construction could begin some time after 2015.

Nuclear physicist and SKB chief executive Claes Thegerstrom attributed Swedes’ new attitude towards nuclear energy to fears over global warming caused by carbon dioxide emissions. Nuclear power plants do not produce carbon dioxide. […]

The dump’s opponents, Osthammar residents such as Mats Tornqvist, a retired chemist who returned to his native Osthammar from Stockholm, have conceded the fight, if not the argument.

“I’m a chemical engineer, I’ve worked with waste problems since 1985, I’ve read all the papers,” he said. “They can say all they want, they have no solution.”

He agreed with Jansson that the prospect of jobs brought people around. “We have a community here that is very dependent on this industry.” – Full article

April 11, 2010 Posted by | Nuclear Power | Comments Off on Swedes embrace nuclear waste land

Israeli occupation forces round up 14 including foreigners, journalists

Palestine Information Center – 11/04/2010

AL-KHALIL — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) rounded up 14 civilians in Beit Ummar, north of Al-Khalil, on Saturday night including foreign activists and journalists.

Local sources told the PIC that the IOF troops severely beat up participants in a march that headed to farmers’ lands near the village after firing teargas bombs and stun grenades at them.

They added that the soldiers blocked the foreign activists, farmers and anti-settlement campaigners from reaching the lands threatened with confiscation near Beit Ayan settlement and arrested 14 one of them including two journalists and six foreigners.

A similar demonstration was organized by the Irak Burin villagers south of Nablus on Saturday with the participation of foreign activists to protest Israeli confiscation of their land east of the village.

Eyewitnesses said that the massive march headed to the mountain threatened with confiscation, noting that the participants hoisted the photos of two martyrs who were killed by IOF soldiers a few weeks ago during protest demonstrations.

The village of Irak Burin is the target of systematic attacks on the part of settlers in nearby settlements of Yitzhar and Brakha, which were built on village land. The settlers wish to expand their settlements at the expense of the village land.

April 11, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | Comments Off on Israeli occupation forces round up 14 including foreigners, journalists

Israel shuts off water to Jordan Valley farms

Ma’an – April 11, 2010

Bethlehem – Four days after an Israeli minister threatened to restrict the West Bank’s water supply, Israeli authorities closed off the main water source used for agriculture in a Jordan Valley village on Sunday, committee members and lawyers said.

The Bardalah village’s farmers could stand to lose not only profit, but the land’s viability, and have protested the decision.  Fathi Ikdeirat, campaign coordinator for Save the Jordan Valley said “the decision threatens to destroy tens of thousands of agricultural farmlands, greenhouses, citrus and palm trees, particularly as its the season for vegetable harvesting and when fruits bloom.”

The main water source is located in the residential part of the village and supplies the northern Jordan Valley and surrounding illegal Israeli settlements with water, he added.

Ikheirait said the Israeli water company Mokorot built three aquifers since the 1970s, dispensing 5,000 cubic meters of water per hour, largely benefiting the nearby settlements as “Bardalah only gets 65 cubic meters of water per hour before they stopped pumping water. The last aquifer was built two years ago underneath the village.”

“We hear the sound of water passing through the pipes in the middle of the village, but we can’t drink from it or use it. The water pipelines extended by the Israeli water company is separating the village into two sections,” he added.

Dozens of farmers protested against Israeli procedure in the Jordan Valley, and demanded that a swift resolution be found before they sustain considerable loses in their crops and yield, which they depend on for their income and livelihood.

Nader Thawabteh, a lawyer in Bardalah who represents its residents, said the Israeli water company has accused village residents of stealing water “as an excuse to cease pumping water to us. We categorically deny this.” The lawyer added that the amount of water pumped into the village was reduced over five years from 150 cubic meters per hour to the current 65 cubic meter allowance, and “now it is totally shut down.”

The village’s farmers have appealed to the Palestinian Authority and international organizations to re-pump water into their farms.

Bardalah is home to 1,900 residents, the majority of whom rely on agricultural work on 300 dunums of greenhouses for their income. Approximately 3,000 greenhouses and land require irrigation, while 200 sustain crops that do not need watering.

On Wednesday, Israeli Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau threatened to restrict the West Bank water supply if no sewage treatment plants were installed in the area, a UN alert warned. The official reportedly told Israel’s Army Radio that “They get clean water from us, and in return they give us sewage. This destroys nature, and I would also say that this is the way that wicked people behave.”

According to a 2009 B’Tselem report, a joint 2007 study by Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority Environment Unit, Water and Streams Department in the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the environmental-protection staff officer in the Civil Administration, only 81 of 121 settlements in the West Bank were connected to wastewater treatment facilities.

“The result is that 12 mcm of wastewater from settlements is treated, while 5.5 mcm flows as raw wastewater into West Bank streams and valleys,” the report said.

Landau, however, told radio personnel that the amount of sewage treated in areas under PA control totals only five percent, compared to approximately 70 percent in Israeli settlements.

B’Tselem’s study found, however, that “During more than 40 years of occupation, Israel has not built advanced regional wastewater treatment plants in the settlements to match those inside Israel.”

Although the Civil Administration prepared connections in the conduit for collecting Palestinian wastewater, no village has yet been connected to it, due to Palestinian refusal to cooperate in projects that may legitimize settlements.

April 11, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | Comments Off on Israel shuts off water to Jordan Valley farms

Radiation leakage in Delhi panics nuclear establishment

The News | April 11, 2010

NEW DELHI: The discovery of at least nine powerful Cobalt-60 sources of nuclear radiation, which have fatally infected five people in a West Delhi industrial area, has sent shock waves among the local population as well as nuclear establishment in India.

Experts fear that many more people might have been exposed to strong radiation and would be in need of immediate medical attention.

Panic gripped Mayapuri industrial locality after news broke out that exposure to a ‘mysterious shining object’ had resulted in the emergence of strange symptoms in the owner of a scrap shop who was admitted to hospital on 4th April.  India’s scientific community was alerted once the doctors diagnosed the symptoms as a result of exposure to strong doses of nuclear radiation. Nuclear and medical experts from Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and the Narora Atomic Power Plant in Uttar Pradesh were rushed to the site to scan the area and help doctors confirm the diagnosis.

Cobalt-60, a radioactive isotope of Cobalt was confirmed as the source of radiation.

According to the experts, this is not the first incident when radioactive material has found its way to the unauthorised places in India raising the specter of it being used in nuclear terrorism.

Security at Indian nuclear facilities has been breached time and again when nuclear material was stolen from nuclear installations. As late as Nov 2000 Indian Police seized 57 pounds of Uranium and arrested two persons for illicit trafficking of radioactive material. Lack of security at the Indian nuclear plants was underscored recently when on 25 Nov 2009 some rogue elements at the Kaiga Atomic Power Station in Karnataka, laced the drinking water with Tritium , contaminating at least 90 employees.

Death of a nuclear scientist, under mysterious circumstances at Kaiga in Jun 2009 has further raised the issue of security of personnel at the highly sensitive nuclear reactors of India, particularly those chosen to remain outside of the IAEA scrutiny.

The discovery of clandestine radioactive material in Delhi only serves to highlight the poor state of affairs at the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the authority for controlling the security of radioactive material in India , say analysts.

April 11, 2010 Posted by | Nuclear Power | 1 Comment