Saturday, August 23, 2014

Wind Health Impacts Dismissed in Court?

At the pro–renewable energy industry Energy & Policy Institute, dead-ender Mike Barnard claims that whenever concerns of health impacts from industrial wind turbine noise are raised at law, they are rejected. In the 49 cases from English-speaking countries that he presents, however, only 2 involved an operating wind energy facility. And in both, the facility was found to be in violation of the law. The rest involve only the existing legal framework for approving industrial wind facilities, which involves the weighing of often competing interests — and the evidence shows most clearly that national, state, or provincial interests generally trump local concerns in the matter of energy development.

Almost all of the remaining 47 (or 44, since 2 of them are duplicates and 1 is the transcript of the hearing for one of the listed cases) involve appeals of project approvals, and the issue concerns only the possibility of health impacts despite the government’s judgement and the developer’s reassurances. Oddly, 11 of them do not even consider health effects or they consider them only very narrowly (eg, shadow flicker, autism). And several of them recognize that should health effects occur, they should indeed be taken seriously. One of the rulings (Heritage Wind Farm Development Inc., Decision on Preliminary Question, Decision 2011-239, Alberta, 2012) dismisses the developer’s wish to operate the turbines at night, in violation of the conditions of the project approval. Another ruling (Hulme v. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Anor, 2011) upholds amplitude modulation (“whooshing”) noise conditions that have prevented the developer from proceeding despite project approval.

As stated in Fata v. Director, Ministry of the Environment (Ontario, 2014), “Tribunals are creatures of statute.” The laws guiding the permitting of large wind energy facilities are narrow and virtually arbitrary regarding setbacks and noise limits. Until the facility is actually operating, the developer’s word is golden and the regulations are generous. After construction, the resulting impacts are weighed against the burden on the developer to mitigate them. Nonetheless, as noted above, in both post-construction cases presented by Barnard, the courts ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

Furthermore, Barnard completely ignores the many cases that have been settled out of court, the energy company buying the plaintiff’s property rather than defending the charges of adverse health effects in public. Such settlements also typically impose gag orders on the sellers. But 2 examples are the purchase of several homes in Ontario and the home of Jane and Julian Davis in England.

Then there is the non–English-speaking world. One pertinent example is from Portugal, where the Supreme Court in 2013 ordered the shutting down and removal of 4 turbines near a farm because of sleep disturbance and other health effects. In late 2011, Denmark added limits of indoor low-frequency noise to its regulations, recognizing one of the unique characteristics of wind turbine noise and its health impacts.

Nor is Barnard’s list exhaustive. Just one example is a North Lincolnshire project that was “rejected because of the ‘serious effect’ it would have on eight-year-old autistic twin boys living nearby”, based on the evidence from an existing project behind their home.

In the tables below, only the last columns have been added to the originals.

Australia

Case Project Location Year Type Decision comments
Cherry Tree Farm Pty Ltd. v. Mitchell Shire Council Cherry Tree Victoria 2013 Civil In favor of developer [bad link in original] permit application (allowed, with conditions, including noise limits)
Paltridge and Ors v. District Council of Grant and Anor Allendale East South Australia 2011 Environment Against developer (visual amenity) appeal of planning consent (upheld)
Cherry Tree Farm Pty Ltd v. Mitchell Shire Council Cherry Tree Victoria 2013 Civil In favor of developer [bad link in original; apparently duplicate entry of Cherry Tree Farm Pty Ltd. v. Mitchell Shire Council (2013), above]
Quinn & Ors v. Regional Council of Goyder & Anor Hallett South Australia 2010 Environment In favor of developer appeal of planning consent – ‘[T]he framers of the Development Plan must have known that, even in a sparsely populated rural area such as the locality of the proposed wind farm, there will be residents who will be able to hear the turbines, and a small percentage of those residents are likely to be annoyed.’ (ie, tough)
King & Anor v. Minister for Planning; Parkesbourne-Mummel Landscape Guardians Inc v. Minister for Planning; Gullen Range Wind Farm Pty Limited v. Minister for Planning Gullen Range New South Wales 2010 Environment In favor of developer 3 appeals of project approval, none regarding health
The Sisters Wind Farm Pty Ltd v. Moyne SC Sisters Wind Farm Victoria 2010 Civil Against developer (exceeds updated noise standards) appeal of permit refusal (dismissed) – ‘It is our view that actual adverse health effects aside from the annoyance aspects of noise impact remain unproven. We do however accept that certain individuals have a much higher sensitivity to noise than others, but the impact of noise from the turbines, which is a fluctuating rather than a steady noise, does cause significant distress even at a low noise level.’
Acciona Energy Oceania Pty Ltd v. Corangamite SC Newfield Victoria 2008 Civil In favor of developer appeal of permit refusal (upheld) – ‘There is no evidence of health impacts that persuades us that rejection of the permit application is warranted given the proposal’s compliance with the applicable standards. [emphasis added] If there are significant issues arising then there needs to be some independent assessment and documentation leading, if required, to variations in the standards applied in Victoria.’
Perry v. Hepburn SC Hepburn Wind Victoria 2007 Civil In favor of developer appeal of permit approval (dismissed) – ‘There is no evidence of health impacts that persuades us that rejection of the permit application is warranted given the proposal’s compliance with the applicable standards.’ [emphasis added]
Synergy Wind Pty Ltd v. Wellington SC Yarram Victoria 2007 Civil In favor of developer appeal of permit refusal (dismissed), health concerns raised only in reference to shadow flicker
Thackeray v. Shire of South Gippsland Toora Victoria 2001 Civil In favor of developer appeal of permit approval (dismissed), health concerns not raised
Hislop & Ors v. Glenelg SC Cape Bridgewater Victoria 1998 Civil In favor of developer permit application (approved), health concerns not raised


Canada

Case Project Location Year Type Decision comments
Fata v. Director, Ministry of the Environment Bow Lake Ontario 2014 Environment In favor of developer appeals of project approval (dismissed) – ‘Tribunals are creatures of statute.’
13-124 Kroeplin v. MOE Armow Ontario 2014 Environment In favor of developer [bad link in original] appeals of project approval (dismissed)
13-096 Platinum Produce Company v. MOE South Kent Ontario 2014 Environment In favor of developer appeal of project approval (dismissed)
Drennan v. Director, Ministry of the Environment K2 Wind Huron County Ontario 2014 Environment In favor of developer appeals of project approval (dismissed)
Ostrander Point GP Inc. and another v. Prince Edward County Field Naturalists and another Ostrander Point Ontario 2014 Higher In favor of developer [bad link in original] appeal of revocation of project approval (upheld), appeal of dismissal of appeal regarding harm to birds and alvar (dismissed), and appeal of dismissal of appeal regarding harm to human health (dismissed)
1646658 Alberta Ltd., Bull Creek Wind Project Bull Creek Alberta 2014 Utility In favor of developer [bad link in original] application for project approval (approved)
Wrightman v. Director, Ministry of the Environment Adelaide Ontario 2014 Environment In favor of developer appeals of project approval (dismissed)
Bain v. Director, Ministry of the Environment Ernestown Wind Farm Ontario 2014 Environment In favor of developer [no link in original] appeals of project approval (dismissed)
Bovaird v. Director, Ministry of the Environment Melancthon Extension Ontario 2013 Environment In favor of developer appeal of project approval (dismissed)
Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County v. Director, Ministry of the Environment Ostrander Point Ontario 2013 Environment Against developer due to endangered turtle appeals of project approval (dismissed regarding human health; allowed regarding plant life, animal life or natural environment) – overturned in Ostrander Point GP Inc. and another v. Prince Edward County Field Naturalists and another (2014), above
Monture v. Director, Ministry of the Environment Haldimand Summerhaven project Ontario 2012 Environment In favor of developer appeals of project approval (dismissed)
Monture v. Director, Ministry of the Environment (Monture 2) Haldimand Grand Renewable Wind Ontario 2012 Environment In favor of developer appeals of project approval (dismissed)
Chatham-Kent Wind Action Inc. v. Director, Ministry of the Environment South Kent Ontario 2012 Environment In favor of developer appeal of project approval (dismissed)
Heritage Wind Farm Development Inc., Decision on Preliminary Question, Decision 2011-239 Heritage Wind Farm Alberta 2012 Utility Against developer application for variance of approval condition to shut down turbines at night (dismissed)
Erickson v. Director, Ministry of the Environment Chatham Kent Suncor Ontario 2011 Environment In favor of developer appeals of project approval (dismissed) – ‘While the Appellants were not successful in their appeals, the Tribunal notes that their involvement and that of the Respondents, has served to advance the state of the debate about wind turbines and human health. This case has successfully shown that the debate should not be simplified to one about whether wind turbines can cause harm to humans. The evidence presented to the Tribunal demonstrates that they can, if facilities are placed too close to residents. The debate has now evolved to one of degree. The question that should be asked is: What protections, such as permissible noise levels or setback distances, are appropriate to protect human health? … Just because the Appellants have not succeeded in their appeals, that is no excuse to close the book on further research. On the contrary, further research should help resolve some of the significant questions that the Appellants have raised.’
Hanna v. Ontario (Attorney General) Wind farm enabling legislation Ontario 2011 Higher In favor of industry challenge of provincial setback requirements (dismissed) – ‘[U]nder s. 11 of the EBR, the minister must take every reasonable step to consider all ten principles, a process which involves a policy-laden weighing and balancing of competing principles. … The health concerns for persons living in proximity to wind turbines cannot be denigrated, but they do not trump all other considerations. … It is not the court's function to question the wisdom of the minister's decision, or even whether it was reasonable. If the minister followed the process mandated by s. 11 of the EBR, his decision is unassailable on a judicial review application.’
McKinnon v. RMs Martin and Moosomin, Red Lily Wind Red Lily Saskatchewan 2010 Civil In favor of developer motion for injunction (dismissed)


New Zealand

Case Project Location Year Type Decision comments
New Zealand Wind Farms Limited v. Palmerston North City Council Te Rere Hau Palmerston North 2013 Higher In favor of developer [link same as Palmerston North City Council v. New Zealand Windfarms Limited (2012), below]
Meridian Energy Limited v. Hurunui Bistrict and Canterbury Regional Councils Hurunui North Canterbury 2013 Environment In favor of developer application for project consent (granted)
Palmerston North City Council v. New Zealand Windfarms Limited Te Rere Hau New Zealand 2012 Environment Against developer challenge of noise compliance (granted)
Mainpower NZ Limited v. Hurunui District Council Mt. Cass Canterbury 2011 Environment In favor of developer appeal of consent refusal (upheld) – ‘we accept that there can be no guarantee of absolute protection for the health and wellbeing of their child [with autism]’ (only health concern raised)
Rangitikei Guardians Society Inc v. Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council Project Central Wind Taihape 2010 Environment In favor of developer [no link in original] appeal of project consent (dismissed)


United Kingdom

Case Project Location Year Type Decision comments
South Northamptonshire Council & Anor v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Anor Spring Farm Ridge Northamptonshire 2013 Higher Against developer appeal of upheld appeal of planning refusal (upheld), health concerns not raised
Hulme v. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Anor Den Brook Devon 2011 Higher In favor of developer appeal of conditions of redetermined planning approval (upheld appeal of dismissed appeal of upheld appeal of planning refusal (dismissed) – upheld amplitude modulation noise condition, health concerns not raised
Barnes & Anor v. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Crosslands Farm Cumbria 2010 Higher In favor of developer appeal of upheld appeal of planning refusal (rejected), health concerns not raised
Tegni Cymru Cyf v. The Welsh Ministers & Anor Gorsedd Bran Denbighshire 2010 Higher In favor of developer appeal of rejected appeal of planning refusal (upheld), health concerns not raised
Hulme, R (on the application of) v. Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government Den Brook Devon 2010 Higher In favor of developer [hearing of Hulme v. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Anor (2011), above]
Tegni Cymru Cyf v. The Welsh Ministers & Anor Gorsedd Bran Denbighshire 2010 Higher Against developer appeal of Tegni Cymru Cyf v. The Welsh Ministers & Anor (2010), above, health concerns not raised
The Friends of Hethel Ltd, R (on the application of) v. Ecotricity Lotus Cars Norfolk 2009 Higher In favor of developer appeal of planning permission, health concerns not raised
North Devon District Council, R (on the application of) v. Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform & Anor Fullabrook Down Devon 2008 Higher In favor of developer appeal and application for judicial review of planning permission (appeal dismissed, permission to apply for judicial review granted), health concerns not raised
CRE Energy Ltd Re: A Decision Of The Scottish Ministers [2006] ScotCS CSOH_131 (29 August 2006) Borrowston Scotland 2006 Higher Against developer appeal of pleanning refusal, health concerns not raised


United States

Case Project Location Year Type Decision comments
Town of Falmouth v. Town of Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals & others Falmouth Massachusetts 2013 Higher Against developer motion for injunction (allowed) – turbines off 7pm-7am Mon-Sat, Sun, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's
Lawrence J. Frigault et al., Respondents-Appellants, v. Town of Richfield Planning Board et al., Apellants-Respondents, et al., Respondent. Monticello Winds New York 2013 Higher In favor of developer appeal of upheld appeal of permit approval (upheld), health concerns not raised
The Blue Mountain Alliance; Norm Kralman; Richard Jolly; Dave Price; Robin Severe; and Cindy Severe, Petitioners, v. Energy Facility Siting Council; and Site Certificate Holder Helix Windpower Facility, LLC. Respondents. Helix Wind Power Facility Oregon 2013 Higher In favor of developer appeal of certificate approval ignoring country setback ordinance, health concerns not specifically raised
Friends of Maine Mountains v. Board of Environmental Protection Saddleback Ridge Maine 2012 Higher Against developer appeal of permit approval (upheld) – ‘Because the Board is responsible for regulating sound levels in order to minimize health impacts—and because when doing so it determined that the appropriate nighttime sound level limit to minimize health impacts is 42 dBA—the Board abused its discretion by approving Saddleback's permit applications.’
Concerned Citizens to Save Roxbury et al. v. Board of Environmental Protection et al. Record Hill Maine 2011 Higher In favor of developer appeal of permit approval (dismissed)
Application of Buckeye Wind, LLC., for a Certificate to Construct Wind–Powered Electric Generation Facilities in Champaign County, Ohio; Union Neighbors United et al., Appellants; Power Siting Board et al., Appellees Champaign County Ohio 2010 Higher In favor of developer appeal of project approval (dismissed), health concerns not raised – ‘the board acted in accordance with all pertinent statutes and regulations’
Arthur and Elke Plaxton, Appellants v. Lycoming County Zoning Hearing Board and Laurel Hill Wind Energy, LLC. Laurel Ridge Pennsylvania 2009 Higher In favor of developer challenge of county zoning amendments (dismissed), health concerns not specifically raised
Aroberts v. Manitowoc County Board of Adjustment Twin Creeks Wind Park Wisconsin 2006 Higher In favor of developer appeal of permit approval (dismissed), health concerns not specifically raised

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Coins of Palestine

Why was Palestine divided? Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived there together for centuries. The only time it was bad for Jews was when Christian crusaders made it bad for Muslims too. Here are some photos of coins from the post-Ottoman (post–World War I) era, before it was divided.

One people …

A sign has been often seen at recent rallies in defense of Israel’s attacks on non-Jewish Palestinians, as seen in this example from a counter-demonstration to a protest in Tel Aviv, August 9, 2014, photographed by Oren Ziv and posted at activestills.org:


The Hebrew is: OM AChD - MDYNH AChTh - MNHYG AChd

In English: One people. One state. One leader.

Which might sound familiar as one of Nazi Germany’s rallying cries: Ein Volk. Ein Reich. Ein Führer.


This is kinda scary.

Update: Ultra-Zionists protest Muslim-Jewish wedding saying miscegenation is ‘gravest threat to the Jewish people’

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Thursday, August 07, 2014

Noam Chomsky on the Israeli assault on Gaza

AMY GOODMAN [Democracy Now]: Your comments on what has just taken place?

NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s a hideous atrocity, sadistic, vicious, murderous, totally without any credible pretext. It’s another one of the periodic Israeli exercises in what they delicately call "mowing the lawn." That means shooting fish in the pond, to make sure that the animals stay quiet in the cage that you’ve constructed for them, after which you go to a period of what’s called "ceasefire," which means that Hamas observes the ceasefire, as Israel concedes, while Israel continues to violate it. Then it’s broken by an Israeli escalation, Hamas reaction. Then you have a period of "mowing the lawn." This one is, in many ways, more sadistic and vicious even than the earlier ones.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what of the pretext that Israel used to launch these attacks? Could you talk about that and to what degree you feel it had any validity?

NOAM CHOMSKY: As high Israeli officials concede, Hamas had observed the previous ceasefire for 19 months. The previous episode of "mowing the lawn" was in November 2012. There was a ceasefire. The ceasefire terms were that Hamas would not fire rockets — what they call rockets — and Israel would move to end the blockade and stop attacking what they call militants in Gaza. Hamas lived up to it. Israel concedes that.

In April of this year, an event took place which horrified the Israeli government: A unity agreement was formed between Gaza and the West Bank, between Hamas and Fatah. Israel has been desperately trying to prevent that for a long time. … Israel was furious. They got even more upset when the U.S. more or less endorsed it, which is a big blow to them. They launched a rampage in the West Bank.

What was used as a pretext was the brutal murder of three settler teenagers. There was a pretense that they were alive, though they knew they were dead. [A]nd, of course, they blamed it right away on Hamas. They have yet to produce a particle of evidence, and in fact their own highest leading authorities pointed out right away that the killers were probably from a kind of a rogue clan in Hebron, the Qawasmeh clan, which turns out apparently to be true. They’ve been a thorn in the sides of Hamas for years. They don’t follow their orders.

But anyway, that gave the opportunity for a rampage in the West Bank, arresting hundreds of people, re-arresting many who had been released, mostly targeted on Hamas. Killings increased. Finally, there was a Hamas response: the so-called rocket attacks. And that gave the opportunity for "mowing the lawn" again.

AMY GOODMAN: You said that Israel does this periodically, Noam Chomsky. Why do they do this periodically?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Because they want to maintain a certain situation. There’s a background. For over 20 years, Israel has been dedicated, with U.S. support, to separating Gaza from the West Bank. That’s in direct violation of the terms of the Oslo Accord 20 years ago, which declared that the West Bank and Gaza are a single territorial entity whose integrity must be preserved. But for rogue states, solemn agreements are just an invitation to do whatever you want. So Israel, with U.S. backing, has been committed to keeping them separate.

And there’s a good reason for that. Just look at the map. If Gaza is the only outlet to the outside world for any eventual Palestinian entity, whatever it might be, the West Bank, if separated from Gaza, the West Bank is essentially imprisoned: Israel on one side, the Jordanian dictatorship on the other. Furthermore, Israel is systematically driving Palestinians out of the Jordan Valley, sinking wells, building settlements. They first call them military zones, then put in settlements — the usual story. That would mean that whatever cantons are left for Palestinians in the West Bank, after Israel takes what it wants and integrates it into Israel, they would be completely imprisoned. Gaza would be an outlet to the outside world, so therefore keeping them separate from one another is a high goal of policy, U.S. and Israeli policy.

And the unity agreement threatened that. Threatened something else Israel has been claiming for years. One of its arguments for kind of evading negotiations is: How can they negotiate with the Palestinians when they’re divided? Well, OK, so if they’re not divided, you lose that argument. …

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Noam, what do you make of the … continued refusal of one administration after another here in the United States, which officially is opposed to the settlement expansion, to refuse to call Israel to the table on this attempt to create its own reality on the ground?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, your phrase "officially opposed" is quite correct. But we can look at — you know, you have to distinguish the rhetoric of a government from its actions, and the rhetoric of political leaders from their actions. That should be obvious. So we can see how committed the U.S. is to this policy, easily. For example, in February 2011, the U.N. Security Council considered a resolution which called for — which called on — Israel to terminate its expansion of settlements. Notice that the expansion of settlements is not really the issue. It’s the settlements. The settlements, the infrastructure development, all of this is in gross violation of international law. That’s been determined by the Security Council, the International Court of Justice. Practically every country in the world, outside of Israel, recognizes this. But this was a resolution calling for an end to expansion of settlements — official U.S. policy. What happened? Obama vetoed the resolution. That tells you something.

Furthermore, the official statement to Israel about the settlement expansion is accompanied by what in diplomatic language is called a wink — a quiet indication that we don’t really mean it. So, for example, Obama’s latest condemnation of the recent, as he puts it, violence on all sides was accompanied by sending more military aid to Israel. Well, they can understand that. …

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spoke to foreign journalists yesterday.
PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Israel accepted and Hamas rejected the Egyptian ceasefire proposal of July 15th. And I want you to know that at that time the conflict had claimed some 185 lives. Only on Monday night did Hamas finally agree to that very same proposal, which went into effect yesterday morning. That means that 90 percent, a full 90 percent, of the fatalities in this conflict could have been avoided had Hamas not rejected then the ceasefire that it accepts now. Hamas must be held accountable for the tragic loss of life.
NOAM CHOMSKY: … The narrow response is that, of course, as Netanyahu knows, that ceasefire proposal was arranged between the Egyptian military dictatorship and Israel, both of them very hostile to Hamas. It was not even communicated to Hamas. They learned about it through social media, and they were angered by that, naturally. They said they won’t accept it on those terms. Now, that’s the narrow response.

The broad response is that 100 percent of the casualties and the destruction and the devastation and so on could have been avoided if Israel had lived up to the ceasefire agreement … from November 2012, instead of violating it constantly and then escalating the violation in the manner that I described, in order to block the unity government and to persist in … the policies of taking over what they want in the West Bank and … separating it from Gaza, and keeping Gaza on what they’ve called a "diet," Dov Weissglas’s famous comment. The man who negotiated the so-called withdrawal in 2005 pointed out that the purpose of the withdrawal is to end the discussion of any political settlement and to block any possibility of a Palestinian state, and meanwhile the Gazans will be kept on a diet, meaning just enough calories allowed so they don’t all die — because that wouldn’t look good for Israel’s fading reputation — but nothing more than that. … Fishermen can’t go out to fish. The naval vessels drive them back to shore. A large part, probably over a third and maybe more, of Gaza’s arable land is barred from entry to Palestinians. …

When you pursue a policy of repression and expansion over security, there are things that are going to happen. There will be moral degeneration within the country. There will be increasing opposition and anger and hostility among populations outside the country. You may continue to get support from dictatorships and from, you know, the U.S. administration, but you’re going to lose the populations. And that has a consequence. You could predict — in fact, I and others did predict back in the ’70s — that, just to quote myself, "those who call themselves supporters of Israel are actually supporters of its moral degeneration, international isolation, and very possibly ultimate destruction." That's what’s — that’s the course that’s happening. …

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Talking about separating rhetoric from actions, Israel has always claimed that it no longer occupies Gaza. Democracy Now! recently spoke to Joshua Hantman, who’s a senior adviser to the Israeli ambassador to the United States and a former spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Ministry. And Hantman said, quote, "Israel actually left the Gaza Strip in 2005. We removed all of our settlements. We removed the IDF forces. We took out 10,000 Jews from their houses as a step for peace, because Israel wants peace and it extended its hand for peace." Your response?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, several points. First of all, the United Nations, every country in the world, even the United States, regards Israel as the occupying power in Gaza — for a very simple reason: They control everything there. They control the borders, the land, sea, air. They determine what goes into Gaza, what comes out. They determine how many calories Gazan children need to stay alive, but not to flourish. That’s occupation, under international law, and no one questions it, outside of Israel. Even the U.S. agrees, their usual backer. …

As for wanting peace, look back at that so-called withdrawal. Notice that it left Israel as the occupying power. By 2005, Israeli hawks, led by Ariel Sharon, pragmatic hawk, recognized that it just makes no sense for Israel to keep a few thousand settlers in devastated Gaza and devote a large part of the IDF, the Israeli military, to protecting them, and many expenses breaking up Gaza into separate parts and so on. It made no sense to do that. It made a lot more sense to take those settlers from their subsidized settlements in Gaza, where they were illegally residing, and send them off to subsidized settlements in the West Bank, in areas that Israel intends to keep — illegally, of course. That just made pragmatic sense.

And there was a very easy way to do it. They could have simply informed the settlers in Gaza that on August 1st the IDF is going to withdrawal, and at that point they would have climbed into the lorries that are provided to them and gone off to their illegal settlements in the West Bank and, incidentally, the Golan Heights. But it was decided to construct what’s sometimes called a "national trauma." So a trauma was constructed, a theater. It was just ridiculed by leading specialists in Israel, like the leading sociologist — Baruch Kimmerling just made fun of it. And trauma was created so you could have little boys, pictures of them pleading with the Israeli soldiers, "Don’t destroy my home!" and then background calls of "Never again." That means "Never again make us leave anything," referring to the West Bank primarily. And a staged national trauma. What made it particularly farcical was that it was a repetition of what even the Israeli press called "National Trauma ’82," when they staged a trauma when they had to withdraw from Yamit, the city they illegally built in the Sinai. But they kept the occupation. They moved on.

And I’ll repeat what Weissglas said. Recall, he was the negotiator with the United States, Sharon’s confidant. He said the purpose of the withdrawal is to end negotiations on a Palestinian state and Palestinian rights. This will end it. This will freeze it, with U.S. support. And then comes imposition of the diet on Gaza to keep them barely alive, but not flourishing, and the siege. Within weeks after the so-called withdrawal, Israel escalated the attacks on Gaza and imposed very harsh sanctions, backed by the United States. The reason was that a free election took place in Palestine, and it came out the wrong way. Well, Israel and the United States, of course, love democracy, but only if it comes out the way they want. So, the U.S. and Israel instantly imposed harsh sanctions. Israeli attacks, which really never ended, escalated. Europe, to its shame, went along. Then Israel and the United States immediately began planning for a military coup to overthrow the government. When Hamas pre-empted that coup, there was fury in both countries. The sanctions and military attacks increased. And then we’re on to what we discussed before: periodic episodes of "mowing the lawn."

AMY GOODMAN: … What needs to happen right now? The ceasefire will end in a matter of hours, if it isn’t extended. What kind of truce needs to be accomplished here?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, for Israel, with U.S. backing, the current situation is a kind of a win-win situation. If Hamas agrees to extend the ceasefire, Israel can continue with its regular policies, which I described before: taking over what they want in the West Bank, separating it from Gaza, keeping the diet, and so on. If Hamas doesn’t accept the ceasefire, Netanyahu can make another speech like the one you — the cynical speech you quoted earlier. The only thing that can break this is if the U.S. changes its policies, as has happened in other cases. I mentioned two: South Africa, Timor. There’s others. And that’s decisive. If there’s going to be a change, it will crucially depend on a change in U.S. policy here. …

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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Elie Wiesel’s blood libel

“Jews rejected child sacrifice 3,500 years ago. Now it’s Hamas’ turn.”

Elie Wiesel long ago lost the moral compass that led him to write and speak about the destruction of European Jews by Nazi Germany (and the acquiescence of the world), but this ad, dutifully printed in major American newspapers, is more than pathetic and solipsistic. It is repellent.

It revives the blood libel that was wielded for centuries against Jews in Europe (whereas Jews had lived fairly peacefully in Muslim lands for those same centuries), now to cover for a pogrom of non-Jewish Palestinians — by Jews in the name of Judaism.

As if that will stop hatred of and violence against Jews?!

Israel is a threat not only to the people whose land the country has taken and continues to take more of, but also to Jews around the world.

In the past month, it has been the insistently “Jewish” state of Israel killing children. By the hundreds. Along with their mothers and the rest of their families. Along with destroying their homes, their playgrounds, schools, hospitals, and farmland.

What are people to make of this?

Israel must be stopped. It seems to be deliberately fomenting antisemitism to justify its own aggressive land grab and ethnic cleansing: Act violently and nationalistically in the name of Judaism, which inspires violence against Jews, which proves the necessity of an ethnically pure Jewish state for refuge. This is not only self-rationalizing circular reasoning, it embraces a ridiculous cycle of violence. It can not end well, neither for Israel nor for Jews around the world.

Nor, of course, for the people whose land Israel claims for itself.

“Never again” does not mean that anything is excused in the name of defending Jews. “Never again” means for all.

It can no longer be denied that Israel has become what it most invokes to justify its founding as a Jewish state: a perpetrator of ethnic cleansing, the destroyer of a people.

One state: Palestine, with equal rights for all, not just for racists.

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

My Struggle, Book Three: Fire

What was it about fire?

It was so alien here, it was so profoundly archaic that nothing about it could be associated with its surroundings: what was fire doing side by side with Gustavsen’s trailer? What was fire doing side by side with Anne Lene’s toy shovel? What was fire doing side by side with Kanestrøm’s sodden and faded garden furniture?

In all its various hues of yellow and red it stretched up to the sky, consuming crackling spruce twigs, melting hissing plastic, switching this way and that, in totally unpredictable patterns, as beautiful as they were unbelievable, but what were they doing here among us ordinary Norwegians on ordinary evening in the 1970s?

Another world was revealed with the fire, and departed with it again. This was the world of air and water, earth and rock, sun and stars, the world of clouds and sky, all the old things that were always there and always had been, and which, for that reason, you didn't think about. But the fire came, you saw it. And once you had seen it you couldn’t help seeing it everywhere, in all the fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, in all the factories and workshops, and in all the cars driving round the roads and in garages or outside houses in the evening, for fire burned there, too. Also cars were profoundly archaic. This immense antiquity actually resided in everything, from houses – made of brick or wood – to the water flowing through the pipes into and out of them, but since everything happens for the first time in every generation, and since this generation had broken with the previous one, this lay right at the back of our consciousness, if it was there at all, for in our heads we were not only modern 1970s people, our surroundings were also modern 1970s surroundings. And our feelings, those that swept through each and every one of us living there on these spring evenings, were modern feelings, with no other history than our own. And for those of us who were children, that meant no history. Everything was happening for the first time. We never considered the possibility that feelings were also old, perhaps not as old as water or the earth, but as old as humanity. Oh no, why would we? The feelings running through our breasts, which made us shout and scream, laugh and cry, were just part of who we were, more or less like fridges with a light that came on when the door was opened or houses with a doorbell that rang if it was pressed.


—Karl Ove Knausgård, My Struggle, Book Three (Min kamp Tredje bok [2009], translated by Don Bartlett)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Oxen at the Intersection: Review

A Collision (or, Bill and Lou Must Die: A Real-Life Murder Mystery from the Green Mountains of Vermont), by pattrice jones (2014, Lantern Books)


This book is a page-turner. Jones is an excellent writer. She provides not only a history of the whole fiasco of the plan to kill rather than retire the oxen Bill and Lou, and the efforts to save them, but also a concise overview of the mythologies, intersections of power relationships and prejudice, and psychologies that came into play. It is both a valuable case study for social activists and a good introduction to the holistic anti-oppression perspective of eco-feminism.

Regarding the case itself, Jones seems to betray some personal rancor over what can well be seen as "hijacking" of the issue by others not directly involved (Jones' sanctuary had been approached by concerned alumni). Critiques of some of those are warranted, but they probably wouldn't have mattered if there was more direct "face-to-face" interaction, which Jones notes as perhaps the biggest shortcoming. However, she doesn't acknowledge the difficulty of direct action in this case: Poultney is rather far from everywhere as well as unfamiliar to almost all of the activists involved. And rights activists in Vermont simply do not go against the farming industry. Even the abuses revealed in late 2009 by HSUS at Bushway Packing, an "Animal Welfare Approved" slaughterhouse where organic dairy farms sent their male calves to be turned into veal, made barely a ripple. In another case in the late 2000's, a jogger in Greensboro noticed a pile of dead and dying animals on a farm, alerted authorities, and – nothing happened. As in these cases, the media, when they paid attention at all, only helped to support the "right-to-farm" viewpoint and discourage questioning of what farmers actually do to their animals.

One interesting and damning aspect of the Green Mountain College farm program is revealed in the book regarding their treatment of animals. Jones describes Princess, a cow who was given to them from someone who had bought her from an "agricultural college". It was clear that Princess had been abused (beyond the "normal" routines of animal ag), and Jones had written about her just before the Bill and Lou affair began, not knowing what college she had come from. When the campaign to save Bill and Lou began, people at the college recognized Princess and accused Jones of a concerted campaign against them. Jones also describes the visit of a couple of her colleagues during an open house at the college, where they saw a calf with so many burrs around his penis that he couldn't easily urinate. That calf was later sold, no questions asked, on Craig's List, with the stipulation that the buyer never reveal where they got it – which appears to have been a condition for saving Princess as well. As Jones points out, the head of the college farm program is a mathematician. It is an extension of his own hobby farm, with the added inexperience (and callousness) of college students. The animals seem to be neglected and abused and then disposed of, without acknowledgement, when they become too much trouble. As Jones also notes from the visit, the college garden was smaller than the one at their sanctuary. And as satellite pictures show, the college's acres of meadow are far from enough to sustain more than a very few animals (for meat, that is; used for produce, they could in fact feed quite a few humans). In other words, the farm is a sham, but worse, the animals are treated like toys for these very unserious dabblers.


Princess

Back to the problem of direct communication, as Jones makes clear, the bottom line was that the college was not at all open to discussion, even within their own walls. They were determined to prove a point, their authority, their "mastery". Closed off as they were, then, it was clearly the chaotic clamor of the social media–fired campaign to save Bill and Lou that at least saved Bill (whose actual fate, however, remains a mystery; for that matter, the actual fate of Lou also remains a mystery). And as Jones notes, it was the uncontrolled barrage of telephone calls to nearby slaughterhouses that stopped the original scheduled plan to turn both of them into hamburgers.

Jones also mentions her doubts about the effectiveness of gory photos and videos of animal abuse and suffering in the fight for animal rights. I agree. People are already desensitized and, as the "conscious carnivore" pushback shows, actually relish the fact that a life is sacrificed for their passing enjoyment. As the chef in Peter Greenaway's film "The Cook, the Thief, his Wife, and her Lover" observes, people like to feel that they are eating death. Shocking pictures only serve to reinforce the very viewpoint we are attempting to change. As with the picture of the Green Mountain College student grinning maniacally in a hand-scrawled "Death to Chickens" T-shirt holding a dead rooster up by its legs, or the students screaming at protesters that even though they're "vegetarian" they were "excited" to eat Bill and Lou, the people who need to be persuaded away from harming animals are more likely to embrace the imagery, to fling it back defiantly. Disturbing pictures can be effective – if they are used effectively for specific messages and/or to specific audiences, not for indiscriminate shock value.

Anyhow, this book is a stimulating and inspiring read, an insightful analysis of the mostly failed effort to save these two lives. It is also very nicely typeset.


Last known photograph of Lou and Bill, Nov. 10, 2012.
Lou was reportedly killed before dawn of the next day.

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