Majesty and massacre at Maroun al Ras

Majesty and massacre at Maroun al Ras

Franklin Lamb at the Lebanon-Palestine border

Maroun al Ras is a beautiful hillside Lebanese village on the border with
Palestine. 63 years ago today its villagers lifted their lights to welcome
ethnically cleansed Palestinians, who were part of the approximately 129,000
from 531 Zionist pillaged and destroyed villages who sought temporary refuge in Lebanon. A similar number of Palestinian expellees entered Syria a few miles to the West and another half million were forced into Jordan and Gaza.

On Sunday May 15, 2011, in observance of Nakba (Catastrophe) Day, Maroun

al Ras welcomed approximately 27% of all the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, this time coming from the opposite direction heading back toward their homes in Palestine. Palestinians in Lebanon now number approximately
248,000, approximately half of whom live in 12 squalid camps (and as many

so-called, unofficial “gatherings”), although 423,000 remain registered with


The discrepancy in numbers is explained by the fact that Lebanon’s

Palestinian refugees, without any of the most elementary civil rights, in gross
violation of international Law, Lebanon’s Constitution, and bi-lateral and

multilateral agreements, tend to leave Lebanon to seek work, decent housing,
and a better life whenever they are able to secure a visa to Europe or

For a majority of the more than 72,000 (some estimates this morning exceed

100,000 because many refugees and supporters traveled south independently

and did not register or use provided transportation) arriving from all the
camps and corners of Lebanon, in more than 1200 buses & vans, and many
on foot, it was their first sighting of their country.  Lebanon law has long

prevented Palestinians from coming anywhere near the blue line to even look
towards their stolen homes and lands or to cross the Litani River north of
Tyre. This year, for one day only, the Lebanese authorities reluctantly
decided not to interfere with this human rights project.

For the teen-agers on the crowded bus I rode on from Shatila Camp, the

stories and descriptions of Palestine told by their parents and grandparents

was what they talked about.

As we approached Maroun al Ras, some of them were anxious, others silent and reflective, and some, like many teenagers from my generation about to see the Beatles or Elvis were giddy and squealing as the bus rounded a bend in the road south of Aitayoun and we looked to the approaching hills.

“Is that my country Palestine over there?,” Ahmad, a graduate in Engineering
who was born in Shatila camp asked. “Nam Habibi!” (“Yes Dear!”) came the
reply from the microphone of our “bus mother” gripping her clip board and
checking the names to keep track of her flock. This bus seemed to inflate
with delirium as we all smiled and shouted. Some of the passengers had
prepared signs that read: “People want to return to Palestine,” inspired perhaps by the slogan made famous in Egypt and Tunisia, “People want the fall of the regime.”

The esprit was reminiscent of a Mississippi freedom ride James Farmer of
CORE used to tell us about and I thought of Ben Gurion’s boast from 1948
that the old will die and the young will forget Palestine.  The Zionist

leader could not have been more mistaken. The old, many still vital, continue

to teach and inspire the young from their still-remembered stories, guaranteeing that the dream of every Palestinian shall never die.

The organizers from the camps did a tremendous job, but no one could have
anticipated the huge numbers who would participate in this truly historic

and likely region-changing event that was also fueled by Facebook, Tweets

and text messages.

All the Palestinian organizations and factions were united for this project.

Hezbollah kept a low profile so as to keep the focus on the Nakba. However,
when the organizers discovered a shortage of buses last week Hezbollah

arranged for more, even bringing some from Syria, where more than 800 buses were used yesterday to take Palestinians from Syria’s 10 Palestinians camps,

including Yarmouk, to the Syrian Golan border with occupied Palestine.

At certain points along the narrow and winding village roads in South
Lebanon the convoy would pause and Hezbollah members would appear and
distribute bottles of water, fresh croissants and large chocolate-filled
cookies.  They also did traffic control work and provided civil defense and
medical services as needed.  One imagines it was their guys who erected the
nifty new road signs throughout the South that showed the distance to
Palestine with an arrow pointing toward Jerusalem.  Whenever the buses
would pass one of the signs that read in Arabic and English, for example,
“Palestine: 23 km”, our bus would erupt in cheers.

The Mabarat Charity, founded by the late scholar Mohammad Hussein

Fadlallah, who was from the village of Bint Jbeil near Maron al Ras, operates
several gas stations, the proceeds of which are used to support orphans,
discounted gas on Nakba Day for the hundreds of buses & vans.

It is difficult to exaggerate the camaraderie, emotion and sheer power of
the event. The came to renew their commitment and send the world a message that they are determined to return to their land no matter the sacrifices required. For some coming to see Palestine, including some of those who have been forced out of their homes and off their lands, 63 years ago, it appeared to be almost a sacred and religious act.

One man, who appeared to be in his 80’s stood not far from me and gazed
toward his stolen land near Akka, seen in the distance.  Suddenly he slumped
to the ground. Two of us elevated his legs and tried to make him comfortable
on the rocky ground until first aid arrived.

My best friend in Shatila camp, Zeinab Hajj, whose father walked from his
village of Amouka near Safad as a child, stared toward Safad also visible in
the distance.  Tears ran down Zeinabs cheeks as she gazed at her village. It
was a common site among the old and the young.  Even toddlers whose parents wanted them to witness and be part of this historic day appeared to grasp its solemnity and importance.

For the large American contingent and other international guests observing
Nakba Day 2011 at Maroun al Ras , it was a majestic and cherished experience.

However as the World soon learned, 10 Palestinians were killed by Israeli
snipers and more than 120 wounded, some critically. None of the demonstrators
had weapons. Those murdered were all civilians from the camps and were

shot in cold blood as they nonviolently placed Palestinian flags at the fence and

gave the peace and victory sign. After Israeli troops fired on them, some threw
rocks at the soldiers. Fortunately some lives were saved by a field hospital
affiliated with the group, the Martyr Salah Ghandour Hospital, from nearby
Bint Jbeil.

Zionist occupation forces, some peering out from behind trees or barriers,
could be clearly seen by those gathered near the blue line at Maroun Al Ras.
One knowledgeable source informed this observer that unseen Hezbollah
resistance fighters at one time yesterday afternoon had as many as 32 Israelis

in the cross-hairs as they silently watched what was happening but did
not fire which would only have accommodated Israel’s deadly intent.

Meanwhile, Lebanon has filed a complaint against Israel with the UN Security

Council calling on it to pressure Israel to stop its hostile and provocative

policies against Lebanon and hold it accountable for killing civilians. Today
is a day of general strikes in the camps in mourning for the victims who
were killed with funerals being held in the refugee camps of al-Bass,
Burj al-Shemali, Mieh Mieh and Ain al-Hilweh. All UNWRA schools are

Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah commended Lebanon’s

Palestinians this morning as he explained his interpretation of Nakba Day

“You do not accept a homeland other than Palestine, and so let no
one fear naturalization in Lebanon because your firm decision is to
return. Your loud and clear message to the enemy is that you are
determined to liberate the land no matter what the sacrifices are; and
the fate of this entity (enemy) is demise and that no initiatives, treaties

or borders will protect it. Your return to Palestine is [an] inalienable

right, and its realization has become closer than any other time.“
Hassan Nasrallah’s words require that Lebanon’s next Parliament, with the

full, active, direct, and unequivocal support of Hezbollah, immediately
repeal the racist and discriminatory  2001 law that outlaws home ownership
for Palestinians in Lebanon and that Lebanon’s Palestinians be immediately
granted the right to work just as all refugees do globally and all foreigners
in Lebanon enjoy.

There must be no more resistance to Palestinians being granted the
elementary right to work and to own a home.  Yesterday at Maroun al Ras
Lebanon’s Palestinians once again earned the right to live in dignity and

care for their families until The Return. As the Palestinians continue their

struggle for elementary civil rights here in the inhumane camps of Lebanon,

they and the advocates are heartened by Nasrallah’s words of a few
hours ago:

“We are with you, and by your side. We are happy for your happiness
and sad for your sadness, we carry with you the same hopes and
pains, and move on together in the path of resistance so that we
continue our victories and liberate all our land and sanctities.”
Hopefully Lebanon’s Palestinian refugees will after 63 years in Lebanon be
granted internationally mandated civil rights.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Lebanon and is reachable c/o

Ukraine To Receive No IMF Injection Until It Submits to Draconian Austerity Measures

[SEE:  XE Report]

IMF rep says no talks with Ukraine until reforms passed


May 16 (Reuters) – Ukraine must pass vital financial and pension reforms before it can resume talks with the International Monetary Fund to resume a suspended loan programme, the IMF’s country representative said on Monday.

Max Alier said there had been no IMF missions to Kiev since February and none were planned until after the reforms were passed. “As of now, we’re waiting for progress… before we set up dates for the (next) mission,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of Adam Smith Conferences’ Ukrainian Investment Summit.

Ukraine’s $15 billion IMF programme has been effectively frozen by Kiev’s refusal to implement unpopular austerity measures such as raising the retirement age and hiking consumer gas prices by 50 percent.

The IMF refused to release a $1.6 billion loan tranche scheduled in March after the government failed to pass a pension reform bill and watered down gas price increases for households.

“Structural reforms have been lagging, not for the last two years but for a number of years,” Alier told the conference.

He said Ukraine needed to bring down its “outrageous” level of pension expenditure, which at 18 percent of gross domestic product is one of the highest in the world.

“This (reform) is very important for Ukraine’s medium-term sustainability,” Alier said.

Savings from a reduction of pension spending could be better deployed to infrastructure, health and education, he added.

The IMF also wants Kiev to repeal a measure introduced during the financial crisis that required the central bank to buy recapitalisation bonds from banks.

“This is an extraordinary measure that made sense during the crisis and was meant to expire end-2010,” he said.

Alier also warned that Ukraine’s non-performing bank loan levels (NPL) were high.

Though international bad debt measures are not strictly comparable, Ukraine’s NPL level may be about 30 percent of total loans, he said. Ukraine’s hryvnia currency has been under pressure since March when the IMF suspended the loan disbursement.

(Reporting by Sebastian Tong; editing by John Stonestreet)

Will India Continue to Rise Peacefully?

Will India Continue to Rise Peacefully?


The 21st century’s great shift of power from West to East is not limited to China alone. The Asian century also belongs to India. 

Already the world’s fourth-largest economy, India has continued to grow swiftly even after the financial crisis, expanding at 8-9 percent annually. With more than 60 percent of its population younger than 35, it possesses the world’s most potent demographic dividend. Its recent affluence has also increased India’s appetite for military power. India’s annual defense expenditure stands at $30 billion today, or 2 percent of global defense spending, making it the world’s biggest importer of arms. From 2006-2010, India accounted for 9 percent of the global arms trade. After the Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear agreement, India stands as a de facto nuclear weapons state, and almost all Security Council veto holdershave accepted India’s candidacy for a permanent seat on the council.

Compared to that of China, few feel threatened by India’s rise. The China-threat syndrome defines the new geopolitical reality. In fact, the rhetoric of China’s avowedly peaceful rise suggests Beijing is wary of the negative fallout from perceptions of a hostile China. India’s rise, in contrast, has been welcomed as a necessary counterweight to China and as a sign of an egalitarian world in the making. The absence of an official narrative on India’s global trajectory suggests that even New Delhi’s leadership believes that India’s rise will be inherently peaceful.

Why is a rising India not considered a threat when a growing China is?

First, India is a democracy, whereas China is an authoritarian state. India’s democratic credentials engender an extremely positive image around the world, especially among liberal democracies — plainly visible in the recent bonhomie between the U.S. and India. Democracy is India’s most important soft power resource. China’s opaque political system, on the other hand, acts as a threat multiplier.

Second, whereas the Indian government’s legitimacy rests on the free will of its people, China derives its state authority from constant policing of its citizenry and its ability to satisfy their growing material demands. Many fear that Beijing would resort to a belligerent, hypernationalist foreign policy if it lost its domestic credibility, a tendency evident in China’s ubiquitous anti-Japan protests.

Finally, as Stephen Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta argue in their book “Arming Without Aiming,” India practices a policy of strategic restraint on security matters. Even after a complete victory over Pakistan during the liberation of Bangladesh, India did not press for a solution to the Kashmir problem. China, however, is extremely assertive on issues it considers vital to its sovereignty. Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, Diaoyu and the South China Sea are manifestations of China’s acute sovereign anxieties. The threat of the use of force if disputes are not solved amicably has been a constant in China’s narrative. From the time of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, New Delhi has always relegated force to the backdrop.

However, the influence of India’s democratic dividend should not be exaggerated. Two factors can complicate India’s peaceful rise.

First is the role of increasing power capabilities. India is still not powerful enough to be a serious threat to other dominant powers. Whereas China has achieved a degree of relative autonomy in global affairs, India’s growth trajectory is dependent on other states. Because India’s power capabilities are still underdeveloped — at least compared to China’s — few states consider it a serious threat. By the same logic, Indian decision-makers also desist from openly challenging the current world order, even when their worldview is at odds with the West’s, as evident in the impasse on Doha Development Round and India’s criticism of interventions in the Middle East.

India’s current strategy is to bandwagon with other liberal democracies to ensure its ascent. The history of international politics tells us, though, that rising states often turn aggressive. Wilhelmine Germany and contemporary China fit this bill. If India’s rise continues, delusions of power may lead it to be assertive in its neighborhood and around the Indian Ocean. Pakistan’s apprehension toward India’s continuous growth is not without reason, and other smaller South Asian countries are courting China to counterbalance India. In fact, the narrative of rising power is slowly percolating in New Delhi as it pursues a colossal military buildup. Remarks by the chief of the Indian army in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s death, indicating that India has the capability to undertake U.S.-like surgical strikes in Pakistan, are a case in point. As India’s power grows, so will its appetite for power projection — and other states’ anxieties.

Second, when power and nationalism collide, the results are often explosive. India’s democracy does not shield it from deleterious nationalism. India’s nuclear weapons tests are an apt example. Although the 1974 nuclear test aimed primarily to bail out an incompetent and corrupt government by fomenting nuclear nationalism, the 1998 tests were motivated by the Bhartiya Janta Party’s desire to brand itself as the symbol of a muscular — Hindu — India. The “maximalists,” as eminent Indian scholar Kanti Bajpayee calls them, believe in an open-ended nuclear arsenal to deter the U.S., as well as China and Pakistan.

The recent rise of Hindu extremism and nationalism threatens the secular and democratic fabric of the Indian state, as illustrated by the 2001 Godhra riots and killings of minority Muslims in Gujarat state. Pakistan and China have been the primary targets of India’s right-wing nationalists, but the U.S. has also received flak for its terror policies and for cajoling China at India’s expense. If India’s economy stagnates or religious polarization accelerates, the increasing hold of right-wing Hindu fundamentalists on domestic politics may result in an overtly hostile foreign policy.

To sustain its peaceful rise, India needs to shield itself from the ill effects of delusional power and crude nationalism. The time has come for a rising India to think thoroughly about its role in the future global order and the peaceful mechanisms it must employ to achieve its desired ends.

Yogesh Joshi is a graduate student at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and a CSIS-Pacific Forum Young Leader. 

Photo: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao at the BRIC summit, June 2009, Yekaterinburg, Russia (photo by the Web site of the president of the Russian Federation).

Nuclear power park at Jaitapur is a serious mistake

Nuclear power park at Jaitapur is a serious mistake


I am taking the unusual step of sending this direct request because I believe that the announcement by the PMO on the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl, to continue with the proposed French-built nuclear power park at Jaitapur is a serious mistake with long term implications for our people.[1]
Along with several others I participated in the “Tarapur to Jaitapur” Yatra (march) in Maharashtra, to protest against the proposed nuclear plant in Jaitapur.[2] We did not reach Jaitapur because many of us were detained/arrested for participating in this peaceful protest.[3]
It is well known that the Jaitapur nuclear plant is on an earthquake-prone zone [4] and the French EPR reactors have not yet been tested anywhere in the world.[5] Surprisingly the government has rejected the demands to cancel the project, which will result in the loss of land and livelihoods for many. Further, the government has shown disregard for the views of the many scientists, academics, military and other citizens from the rest of the country calling for a review of its earlier decisions on nuclear power plants.
Apart from announcing the creation of an independent regulatory board to ensure safety standards, the government has taken no action on the widespread demand for a complete fresh review of nuclear energy policy in the country. We need to tell Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that he cannot ignore serious concerns raised by the people of this country. You should send a fax to the PM asking him to stop the Jaitapur nuclear plant.
Add your signature to the message and we will fax it to the PM for you. 73,000 petition signatures opposing this plant have already been delivered to the PM.[6] Now a large number of faxes asking him to stop the plant will make it difficult for him ignore the demand.
Safe and clean renewable energy options and energy efficiency can help meet our energy demands, all of which are available and at a much lower cost than nuclear[7]. The government needs to invest in these instead of dangerous nuclear energy. Tell the PM to stop this dangerous plant now!

Thank you for taking action!

Admiral L. Ramdas,
Former Chief of Naval Staff,
Indian Navy.

Japan’s Fukushima crisis drives protests over world’s largest nuclear plant in India

Japan’s Fukushima crisis drives protests over world’s largest nuclear plant in India

Even as Japan has decided to forgo nuclear expansion following the Fukushima crisis, India’s government is insisting it will proceed with the world’s largest nuclear facility despite mounting public opposition.

A woman shouts slogans during an anti-nuclear protest in Mumbai April 26. India will tighten safety systems at a proposed $10 billion nuclear plant, potentially the world’s largest, a minister said on Tuesday, after protests against the plan turned violent in recent weeks following last month’s nuclear disaster in Japan. Clashes between protesters and police in April killed one person and injured at least 20 near the plant site in Jaitapur, western India, where anger over land acquisition has intensified on fears of a similar disaster.

Vivek Prakash/Reuters

By Aarti Betigeri

New DelhiJapan’s nuclear crisis has influenced a protest movement in India that is violently opposing plans to build the world’s largest nuclear plant. As international agencies eye India’s growing energy market, they’ll also be watching how India responds to this case.

India’s break-neck growth has driven an intense need for energy – and nuclear power has been accepted within the country as a suitable and clean way to deliver this. But in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, citizens in and around Jaitapur, the seismic activity-prone region where the Indian government plans to build a 9,900 mega watt power station, are upset.Tensions came to a head in mid-April when one antinuclear demonstrator was killed during a protest, and several others were injured.

“The locals, especially after what’s happened in Fukushima, are not of two minds. They simply don’t want it,” says Greenpeace India activist Vinuta Gopal. “They see nothing to gain from it, and everything to lose,” she says. On top of that, “India certainly doesn’t have [Japan’s] capacity for disaster management preparedness.”

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India has 20 nuclear plants in operation, providing only about 3 percent of the country’s energy. Another 23 are on the way, according to a former government minister, as the country attempts to more than double its reliance on nuclear power by 2030. The Indian government and nuclear reactor builder Areva, a French company, plan to start construction of the $12 billion Jaitapur facility in 2018 or 2019, despite the heated protests.

In an effort to help assuage concerns, the Indian government has promised it will undertake a safety review of all plants and reimburse those displaced through land acquisition.

But, so far, locals say that hasn’t been enough. They can’t seem to keep from bringing up what happened to the fishing and agriculture industry in Fukushima.

“We have been offered compensation for giving up our land, but only around 122 of 2,335 districts have accepted the money,” says Jaitapur-based farmer Pravin Gavankar. “We don’t want a plant, and we don’t want their money.”

Indeed, similar to the towns near the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, Jaitapur is located about 250 miles south of India’s financial capital Mumbai, on a scenic coastal stretch, and it is home to thriving agriculture and fishing industries. If a sophisticated nation like Japan can’t deal with a potential nuclear catastrophe, they reason, just how would India fare?

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TEPCO Admits Cores Damaged at Three Reactors


TOKYO—Substantial damage to the fuel cores at two additional reactors of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex has taken place, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Sunday, further complicating the already daunting task of bringing them to a safe shutdown while avoiding the release of high levels of radioactivity. The revelation followed an acknowledgment on Thursday that a similar meltdown of the core took place at unit No. 1.

Junichi Matsumoto, an official of Tokyo Electric Power Co. listens to questions during a press conference regarding the meltdown of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant at the company headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, May 13, 2011.
European Pressphoto Agency

Workers also found that the No. 1 unit’s reactor building is flooded in the basement, reinforcing the suspicion that the containment vessel is damaged and leaking highly radioactive water.

The revelations are likely to force an overhaul of the six- to nine-month blueprint for bringing the reactors to a safe shutdown stage and end the release of radioactive materials. The original plan, announced in mid-April, was due to be revised May 17.

The operator, known as Tepco, said the No. 1 unit lost its reactor core 16 hours after the plant was struck by a magnitude-9 earthquake and a giant tsunami on the afternoon of March 11.

The pressure vessel a cylindrical steel container that holds nuclear fuel, “is likely to be damaged and leaking water at units Nos. 2 and 3,” said Junichi Matsumoto, Tepco spokesman on nuclear issues, in a news briefing Sunday.

He also said there could be far less cooling water in the pressure vessels of Nos. 2 and 3, indicating there are holes at the bottom of these vessels, with thousands of tons of water pumped into these reactors mostly leaking out.

Tepco found the basement of the unit No. 1 reactor building flooded with 4.2 meters of water. It isn’t clear where the water came from, but leaks are suspected in pipes running in and out of the containment vessel, a beaker-shaped steel structure that holds the pressure vessel.

The water flooding the basement is believed to be highly radioactive. Workers were unable to observe the flooding situation because of strong radiation coming out of the water, Tepco said.

A survey conducted by an unmanned robot Friday found radiation levels of 1,000 to 2,000 millisieverts per hour in some parts of the ground level of unit No. 1, a level that would be highly dangerous for any worker nearby. Japan has placed an annual allowable dosage limit of 250 millisieverts for workers.

The high level of radioactivity means even more challenges for Tepco’s bid to set up a continuous cooling system that won’t threaten radiation leaks into the environment.

Tepco separately released its analysis on the timeline of the meltdown at unit No. 1. According to the analysis, the reactor core, or the nuclear fuel, was exposed to the air within five hours after the plant was struck by the earthquake. The temperature inside the core reached 2,800 degrees Celsius in six hours, causing the fuel pellets to melt away rapidly.

Within 16 hours, the reactor core melted, dropped to the bottom of the pressure vessel and created a hole there. By then, an operation to pump water into the reactor was under way. This prevented the worst-case scenario, in which the overheating fuel would melt its way through the vessels and discharge large volumes of radiation outside.

The nuclear industry lacks a technical definition for a full meltdown, but the term is generally understood to mean that radioactive fuel has breached containment measures, resulting in a massive release of fuel.

“Without the injection of water [by fire trucks], a more disastrous event could have ensued,” said Mr. Matsumoto.

Tepco also released its analysis of a hydrogen explosion that occurred at unit No. 4, despite the fact that the unit was in maintenance and that nuclear fuel stored in the storage pool was largely intact.

According to Tepco, hyrogen produced in the overheating of the reactor core at unit 3 flowed through a gas-treatment line and entered unit No. 4 because of a breakdown of valves. Hydrogen leaked from ducts in the second, third and fourth floors of the reactor building at unit No. 4 and ignited a massive explosion.