Israel poisoning West Bank with nuclear and toxic waste, say Palestinians

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Our Own Correspondent

Jumada' al-Akhirah 21, 1420 1999-10-01

Occupied Arab World

by Our Own Correspondent (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 28, No. 15, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1420)

Dr Yusuf Abu-Safiat, the Palestinian Authority’s ‘minister for the environment’, has accused Israel of turning the Palestinian Authority-ruled area of the West Bank into a vast dumping-ground for its domestic industrial, chemical and nuclear waste, thereby creating a potentially catastrophic environmental nightmare. The highly toxic material is not only from Israel’s factories and defence-establishments, but also from Jewish settlements, whose European and American inhabitants pursue lifestyles that generate huge amounts of refuse. In press interviews earlier this month, Dr Safiat explained that the Israelis save money by hiring Palestinians to bury the material for a pittance, instead of treating it in their own facilities at very high cost.

The secret dumping was first discovered after the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), and although some dumping-grounds have been discovered, the minister said that there may still more to be found. He claimed that the PNA had the equipment to monitor dumping.

Dr Safiat cited discovery of 29 barrels of toxic waste in the Khan Yunis region. An analysis of their contents showed that they are toxic waste from Jewish settlements. The settlers bribe Palestinians to smuggle the waste into PNA areas and dump it. The destruction of a barrel of toxic waste at Israel’s national environmental facility costs $2,000; smuggling a barrel into Palestinian areas costs only $25 - paid to the Palestinian hired hand, who of course is unaware of the health risks he is running.

The PNA has also discovered hundreds of barrels in the north of the West Bank over the last two years, and are presently talking to Israeli authorities about 223 barrels of toxic waste in the Janin area which the Israelis refuse to collect. “I met with the Israeli minister for the environment and asked her to apply the Basil treaty, which is the relevant international instrument on the movement of toxic material, but she replied that international treaties do not apply to Palestinians because they have no state,” Abu-Safiat said.

The Israelis turned down the request to remove the waste out of hand. “They told us that they could not receive the barrels because Israeli law bans the movement of toxic material inside Israel except on the approval of top officials,” Dr Safiat explained.

The toxic waste dumped in the West Bank ranges from the by-products of the Israeli military industry, some of which are radioactive, to chemical substances which are highly damaging to the environment. Some are so toxic that they are capable of causing cancer on a massive scale. Thirty carcogenic (cancer causing) chemicals have so far been identified, Abu-Safiat said.

This lethal poisoning of the Palestinian environment comes on top of the fall-out from experiments and tests at Israel’s Dimona nuclear station. Israel, which officially denies having nuclear weapons, has been known to carry out tests with US finance and expertise. Palestinians believe that the sporadic earth-tremors experienced in their areas are caused by the explosion of nuclear devices at Dimona nuclear station, and in the desert. In other countries, such tests are carried out in remote and uninhabited areas, but occupied Palestine is too small for that to be possible. Clearly, however, the Israelis place far less value on the lives of Palestinians than of Jews.

The minister also revealed that the ageing reactors at Dimona are the source of pollutants that are extremely damaging to the environment. Not only are the reactors 30 years old, but there are also satellite pictures which show that “the protective walls of the reactors have been eaten into,” he said. “And if nuclear substances escape into the atmosphere as a result of these defects, the Palestinian areas would be the most vulnerable because we have no protective capabilities,” he added.

Perhaps even more remarkable than these revelations is the lack of response among international organizations, Muslim governments and environmental agencies. In the London-based Arab-language daily Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat, for example, the story did not even make the front page, being buried on page 5 instead. This issue is so serious, and the Israeli covert scheme so criminal, that the matter should have been of concern to all.

Instead, it was not even among the 46 items on the agenda of last month’s Arab League foreign ministers’ meeting in Cairo. Nor was it on the agenda of the recent African summit in Sirte, Libya, although a number of Arab League heads of state were present, including ‘president’ Yassir Arafat.

One of the reasons for the suppression of any discussion of the issue is that the US, Egypt, Israel and Arafat have agreed that vital questions of the Middle East ‘peace-process’ should be discussed secretly in order to avoid embarrassing Ehud Barak.

These revelations about Israeli policies on the West Bank should surprise no-one. The west’s record on poisonous and inhumane weaponry is horrendous, ranging from the chemical and other weapons tested during the war on Iraq in 1991 to the widespread use of anti-personnel landmines. Egypt, for example, has also been the victim of mines planted in its western regions during the ‘second world war’ 50 years ago. Cairo is still appealing to the British, Germans and Americans for financial help to remove the 17.5 million mines they left behind. Less than two months ago, Cairo formally requested the payment of US$250 million towards mine-clearing. An Egyptian foreign ministry official was quoted as saying: “The British were there in Egypt, they and the Germans had a great role in burying those millions of explosives into our land. We need $250 million to clear those mines and the figure does not even include damages! They left us a devils’ garden.”

The seeds the Zionists are sowing in Palestine threaten to become a garden far deadlier than anything left by the second world war.

Muslimedia: October 1-15, 1999

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