Hidden History: Israel’s Persecution of Jordan Valley Bedouins

The Last Shepherds of the Jordan Valley

Al Jazeera (2012)

Film Review

This documentary depicts the systematic persecution of Bedouin shepherds in the Jordan Valley by the Israeli government. Although their ancestors have farmed the occupied West Bank for thousands of years, Israel is determined to drive these Palestinians from their homeland because the Jordan River is the main source of much of Israel’s water. Since 1997, the Israel Defense Force has routinely demolished their homes, shot their sheep and/or arrested them without charge.

The majority of Palestinians fled the Jordan Valley during the 1967 war. Israel prohibits those who left from returning. Ten thousand remained. Although many of their descendants have been driven out, at present the Jordan Valley is home to 60,000 Palestinians.

The Israeli government has illegally confiscated most of the shepherds’ lands for a military firing range. They have also allowed Israeli settlers to build illegal settlements.

Local families are forbidden to draw water from their own well, which is now deemed the property of the Israeli military.

Instead they must travel 27 km and pay $7 per cubic meter to buy water from Israel.

Since the documentary was first released in 2012, Israel has arrested one of the women for participating in its filming.

Are Women Better at Getting Out of Poverty?

Solar Mamas: Why Poverty? (2012)

Directed by Mona Eldaief and Nehane Nonjaim

Film Review

Solar Mamas is about the Barefoot College in Rajastan India and the struggles of a Jordanian woman to overcome the sexist attitudes of her husband and other men in her Bedouin village.

The Barefoot College is a non-governmental organization which has training rural women from the developing world to become solar engineers since 1997. The program serves the dual purpose of electrifying poor rural villages and helping these villages out of poverty. After completing a six month training program, the women return to their home countries to train other women in solar installation.

The documentary concerns the first two women selected by the Jordanian Minister of the Environment to attend the Barefoot College. The women come from a village of 300 where all the adults are “unemployed” and the women do all the work (collecting firewood, doing laundry, cooking, cleaning and looking after children). Women with young children receive welfare benefits, which is why the Jordanian government is keen to subsidize their attendance at the Barefoot College.

As the Jordanian women speak no English, their training is based on hands-on assembly experience, aided by a book of color-coded circuit diagrams. Both women are illiterate, as it’s considered shame for Bedouin girls to remain in school past age ten.

Are Women Better at Getting Out of Poverty?

The film focuses on the younger of the two women, who’s forced to discontinue her training after her husband threatens to divorce her and take her children away. Rafea’s mother is caring for her four children during her absence. The husband threatens to take them to another village to be raised by his first wife (he has two).

Rafea returns, tearfully. A month later, despite her mother’s opposition and continuing threats from her husband, she overcomes her fear of her husband and returns to India to complete her solar training.

Towards the end of the film, the Minister of the Environment explains why the Jordanian government only selects women for solar training: they can’t count on men (who often have other wives) to remain in their home village.

If Rafea’s village is anything to go by, I suspect the real reason is that the women develop a stronger worth ethic in looking after their children. The men, in contrast, are bone idle and lay around on mattresses all day.

Below is a presentation by Bunker Roy, founder of the Barefoot College, about its history:

Israel’s New Ethnic Purity Laws

 

sudan refugees

 

60,000 African Refugees and 70,000 Bedouin Affected

Israel‘s obsession with Jewish ethnic purity has led to the enactment of open ethnic cleansing by the current Netanyahu government.

Aside from Israel’s genocidal policies towards Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, new legislation affects 60,000 African refugees and 70,000 Bedouin living within Israel proper. The latter are, by law, Israeli citizens and many have served in the Israeli Defense Force.

Officials in the Netanyahu government justify their racial purity laws as essential to prevent “demographic” problems.

Ensuring that Israel remains both a Jewish state and a democracy requires that non-Jewish populations must be strictly controlled. Allowing non-Jewish Israelites, either singly or jointly, to acquire a sizable voting block would pose a major threat to maintaining Judaism as the official state religion.

In 1948, this resulted in nearly a million Palestinians being driven from their homes and farms by force, to take up residence in refugee camps in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. Following the 1967 war, Israel seized the areas of Gaza (in Egypt) and the West Bank (in Jordan) that housed the Palestinian refugee camps.

Since then, they have made no secret of their intention to drive the Palestinians from these areas, as well, and repopulate them with Jewish settlers.

Africans Called Cancer on Jewish State

Receiving less attention are Netanyahu’s brutal policies towards 60,000 African refugees, who fled ethnic cleansing in Eritrea and Sudan to resettle in Israel. As journalist David Sheen describes in Journalists Blistering Indictment, leaders in Netanyahu’s government describe them as a “cancer” on the Jewish state.

It has become official government policy to deny them work permits and health care, and a state sponsored rabbi group has called on landlords not to rent to Africans. In 2012, the Netanyahu government amended the 1954 Prevention of Infiltration Law. The original law was intended to bar Palestinians from returning to family property Israel confiscated in 1948. The new amendment allowed the Israeli government to criminalize and detain African refugees for up to three years prior to deporting them.

Knesset Circumvents Israeli Supreme Court

Last year, Israel’s supreme court unanimously struck down the amendment. Under international law, it’s illegal for any country’ to deport asylum seekers back to countries where they will experience persecution. The Knesset responded by passing a new law ordering the indefinite imprisonment and the detainment of any foreign person caught trying to cross into Israel.

Under the new legislation, hundreds of African refugees are required to live in the “open” Holot detention center in the Negev Desert. Refugees are permitted to leave the detention center briefly during daytime hours. However they must return three times a day for roll call and must sleep there at night. Human rights groups have also appealed the new law to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, as shown in the video below, the government is organizing state sponsored protests in which Israel’s Jewish citizens are encouraged to trash African refugees’ homes and assault them. If Israel can’t legally deport them, they hope they will leave voluntarily if the government makes their lives as miserable as possible.

Ethnically Cleansing 70,000 Bedouin

Israel’s ethnic purity policies aren’t limited to Palestinians and Africans. Israel is also determined to displace 70,000 Bedouins through the Begin-Prawer law enacted in 2013.

If fully implemented, the Prawer-Begin Plan will result in the destruction of 35 “unrecognized” Arab Bedouin villages, the forced displacement of up to 70,000 Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel, and the dispossession of their historical lands in the Naqab.

Palestine Applies to join International Criminal Court

Genocide and ethnic cleansing are crimes against humanity under international law. Serbian and African leaders suspected of ethnic cleansing have faced prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands.

At the beginning of April, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN announced that the Palestinian Authority had sought membership in the ICC and 12 other UN conventions, due to continuing Israeli obstruction in current peace talks. When the UN General Assembly recognized a state of Palestine in October 2012, Palestinians gained the right to seek membership in UN institutions and treaty bodies and possibly take their complaints over Israeli settlement-building on occupied land (also illegal under international law) to the ICC.

On April 12, the UN announced that the state of Palestine had been admitted to the 13 conventions as of July 2, including membership in the ICC and the convention against genocide.

Photo credit: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection via photopin cc

Originally published in Veterans Today

Why Are We Sending Vets to Costa Rica (and Canada and Mexico)?

 drug addict

End the US Ban on Ibogaine

The psychedelic drug ibogaine is used to treat drug addiction and alcoholism in more than 190 countries, including Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Russia, China and Ukraine. Sixty years of research has demonstrated ibogaine’s effectiveness in opiate, cocaine, amphetamine, nicotine and alcohol dependency, as well as treatment resistant post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Yet owing to the ludicrous and ineffectual “War on Drugs,” ibogaine remains illegal in the US.

It’s an issue of special relevance to veterans, who suffer a high rate of combat-related post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and addiction disorders. Twenty percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans develop PTSD or depression, with 22 a day, on average, committing suicide. Veterans wounded in Middle East conflicts have a 25-35% chance of becoming addicted to prescription opiates.

Conventional treatment for these disorders is associated with a high failure rate, translating into long term disability and suffering for many vets. International peer reviewed research shows that addicts treated with ibogaine have lower relapse rates than those receiving conventional treatment. Yet thanks to the federal government’s absolute ban on so-called “hallucinogenic” drugs, veterans wanting help for treatment resistant addiction disorders and PTSD must seek out private igobaine clinics in Mexico, Canada and Costa Rica.

Ibogaine Discovered in 1962

Researcher Thomas Kingsley Brown summarizes ibogaine’s history in “Ibogaine in the Treatment of Substance Dependence” in 2013, 6, 2-16 Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 2013, 6, 2-16

Extracted for the West African iboga plant, ibogaine’s benefit in opiate addiction was first discovered in 1962 by a heroin addict named Howard Lotsof. Lotsoft was amazed that it totally blocked any symptoms of heroin withdrawal. Like other addicts who have taken it, he experienced no hallucinations. He has described the effect, which lasted approximately 36 hours, as a “waking dream.”

As Brown elaborates in his paper, it’s common for addicts who take ibogaine to experience a mind expanding panoramic review of their life. They describe being flooded with past memories of traumatic or highly emotional experiences, important personal relationships and bad decisions and choices. In Lotsoff’s case, he gained the understanding that his addiction was fear and anxiety-driven and that he could free himself of these feelings.

Lotsof’s Campaign to Legalize Ibogaine

Ibogaine and other psychedelic drugs were still legal in the US in 1962. In the late sixties, it became illegal, along with LSD, mescaline, psilocybin and other hallucinogens. Determined to share his discovery with other addicts, Lotsoff spent years lobbying researchers, public officials, and pharmaceutical companies to study ibogaine’s potential as an addiction interrupter. He got nowhere. Big Pharma has more or less total control over new drug research, and a “natural” substance administered as a single dose has limited profit potential.

In 1986, Lotsof himself patented ibogaine himself for heroin, cocaine, amphetamine, alcohol, nicotine, and polysubstance abuse. After forming the private company NDA International, he began working with scientists overseas in setting up both animal and human studies. In the early nineties the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) developed Phase I and II clinical trial protocols for ibogaine. They cancelled the project in 1995 because the Clinton administration felt it was too controversial.

How Ibogaine Works

Studies in rodents reveal that repeated drug and alcohol administration causes changes in gene expression in the ventral tegmental area of the brain. Ibogaine reverses this by increasing Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (GDNF) activity.

As Brown and other researchers point out, the drug isn’t a “cure” for addiction. However by eliminating or substantially decreasing withdrawal symptoms, it creates a clear “window of opportunity,” allowing the addict to cognitively choose to take back control of their life.

Ibogaine doesn’t address the behavioral component of addiction. As in mainstream recovery programs, an addict is less likely to relapse if they’re prepared to substitute new positive behaviors for the addictive behaviors. Most need support from aftercare programs, family and friends to achieve this.

Medical Supervision Required

Thomas’s review stresses that ibogaine should only be used under close medical supervision, owing to potentially serious (in some cases lethal) side effects. He also reminds us that these health risks must be weighed against the very real health consequences of chronic addiction (e.g. liver disease, cardiovascular disease, traumatic injury, overdose, malnutrition). The death rate associated with methadone and buprenorphine, the current treatments of choice for heroin addiction, is even higher. In 2005/2006, the annual death rate from methadone poisoning was double that from heroin-related poisoning. In New Zealand, the growing fatality rate from methadone poisoning was part of the rationale for legalizing ibogaine in 2009.

Avoiding Medical Complications with Ibogaine

After decades of international use, the potential medical complications of taking ibogaine are well known, as are the contraindications against taking it. The most common exclusion criteria are pre-existing heart disease, pre-existing bleeding problems or chronic blood clots. No patient should take ibogaine without an electrocardiogram (EKG) to rule out heart problems. Moreover a doctor or nurse (preferably specialized in emergency medicine or cardiology) needs to be present to monitor the patient during the session.

All patients entering an ibogaine treatment center need to undergo a complete medical and psychological screening. If they’re taking drugs that interact adversely with ibogaine, staff at the treatment center need to assist them in safely tapering and discontinuing. Likewise alcoholics need to undergo medical detox prior to taking igobaine.

Our Public Obligation to Veterans

Despite the abundance of excellent US referral sites (www.iceers.org and http://www.myeboga.org/providers.html are the best), it seems terribly wrong to expect veterans with combat related PTSD and addiction disorders to go to Canada or Mexico for help. Even with the 25% discount Ibogalife in Costa Rica offers vets with PTSD, all these conditions have dire financial consequences. Private treatment simple isn’t an option for the vast majority of vets and non-vets struggling with them.

Surely the American public has both a moral and legal obligation to offer effective treatment to veterans with combat related conditions. Yet according to the Department of Veterans Affairs website, not a single VA program or hospital is undertaking ibogaine research. The only free ibogaine studies I could find were in New Zealand (for addiction disorders) and the  Bahamas (for US vets with diagnosed PTSD).

Besides being immoral and illegal, it also makes no sense to make taxpayers fund ineffective methadone and buprenorphine maintenance programs – involving years of daily administration of an equally addictive drug – when other countries are having proven success with a safer, less expensive and more effective treatment option. At the very minimum, the VA should be funding ibogaine research through VA hospitals.

This is an absolute disgrace. Obama and Congress need to hear from vets and their families and veterans advocacy groups, as well as taxpayers. In other words, all of us.

The following 2006 video describes the experience of a lieutenant general and Green Beret who underwent treatment with ibogaine. He had become addicted to prescription opiates following a combat-related injury.

photo credit: ceslava.com via photopin cc

Originally published in Veterans Today