Page One


Friday May 18, 2001

West Bank, Gaza settlements illegal 


I was raised as a Zionist, and still consider myself to be one. But such drivel as sprouted from Carol Shivel (Forum, 16 May 2001) I have never heard or read in any of the basic sources of Zionist history. The basic legal document governing the existence of the State of Israel is not, as Ms. Shivel states the League of Nations Mandate of 1921, nor does that document give the Jewish Agency and its successors the power or right to govern. First, the legal documents that are pertinent are the United Nations resolution of 29 Nov. 1947 which divided the British Mandate in Palestine into a Jewish State and an Arab State, and the Israeli Declaration of independence of 14 May 1948. 

The League of Nations Mandate was a ratification of the Sykes-Picot agreement between Great Britain and France on the disposition of the Ottoman Empire dissolved by the Allied in World War Two. It gave Great Britain control of what we know today as Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Jordan and Iraq. The French got Lebanon and Syria. As to that mandate giving the Jewish Agency any say, is ludicrous. (In 1922, Britain split the greater part of the mandate and created the hashimaite Kingdom of Trans-Jordan.) The remaining territory was ruled by a High Commissioner appointed by the home Office Office in London and all legislation was legislated in London, not in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, or anywhere else in the territory of the Mandate. 

As to what the Mandate actually said: it ratified the language of the Balfour Declaration at the end of the First World War recognizing a right for a Jewish Homeland in Palestine; it does not speak of a Jewish state, nor does it a priori allow for Jewish settlement in all of Palestine. At the time of the creation of the Mandate, the Jewish Agency did not yet exist. 

Yes, the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza are illegal and if successive American administrations have said so; they just haven't felt compelled to insist on Israel's dismantling of said settlements, or used the power of the American purse (aid to Israel) to force a cessation to such settlements. They are illegal because they entail the transfer of Israel's citizens onto land which was seized in war and have the internationally recognized status of militarily “occupied territories.” This, like much of what we have been so clearly seeing in the past seven months, is a violation of the Geneva Conventions covering the conduct of war and the treatment of civilians in war. 

Israel and Israelis have no right to the land on which Palestinians live and depend upon for their existence. No abuse of history, no mis-reading of the documents will justify the unjustifiable. 

So, Ms. Shivel, let's stop trying to justify what the vast majority of Israelis know is unjustifiable except by the power of superior arms. I am an Israeli, and never in the last 31 years of Israel's occupation of these territories and its people have i felt so disgusted with what purports to be my government. 

E. Arnon 


Cement industry role in energy crisis 


Do We Want the Cement Mafia Making Our Energy Decisions? Meet the Cement Mafia: 7 out of ten of the biggest electricity users in California are cement manufacturers. Like other large industrial customers, they have always paid a lot less than residential customers pay for electricity – and they made sure Governor Davis and the Public Utilities Commission kept it that way. 

Before the rate hike, residential ratepayers paid more than 14 cents per kilowatt hour, while big industrial users paid about 8 cents. Now, residential customers will pay 22 cents per kilowatt hour while large industries will pay only 12 cents! Agriculture will pay 14 cents, commercial 15 cents and small business nearly 17 cents. 

Davis said rate hikes should be equal - but that really means keeping rates totally unequal, so the cement companies, giant construction companies and other big industries continue to get a reward for using a lot of electricity. 

The big industrial users brought us deregulation in the first place. They had cheap rates already, but they wanted cheaper rates. Before deregulation, California utilities charged 50 percent more than utilities in the rest of the country, so these companies wanted to buy electricity from somebody else. They were sure that deregulated companies would offer cheaper power, so they pushed for deregulation. Boy were they wrong! 

Why were power costs so high back then? Because the nuclear power plants cost so much to build. Guess who made the money building them? Cement and construction companies! Cement companies made a fortune pouring eight-foot thick cement walls to “contain” deadly radiation. 

Nukes cost even more in California because Bechtel made so many mistakes building Diablo Canyon. Then the Public Utilities Commission made ratepayers pay the cost of California nukes, instead of making utility shareholders eat the overruns. 

Of course the Cement Mafia thought nuclear reactors would be great because the nuclear industry claimed they would produce power “too cheap to meter.” Wrong! The industry claims nuclear power is cheap today, but it appears that way because deregulation forced us to pay $20 billion to bail the utilities out of debt! 

Governor Davis just put six construction companies, headed by Bechtel, in charge of “expediting” power plant construction in California. Isn’t it interesting that the construction companies and President Bush and Davis are all screaming that we have to build big new power plants and new transmission lines all over California and the U.S.? Wrong again! We don’t need this obsolete, expensive technology. We need energy efficiency, solar panels on our rooftops, windmills and fuel cells located near the homes and businesses they serve. And we need honesty and fairness in our electricity rates. Innovative, inexpensive, locally based public power will give us all those things. 

Let’s give road builders a summer vacation. And give us time to think: do we really want the Cement Mafia making energy decisions for us any more?  

Barbara George 

Women’s Energy Matters 


Keep safety officers 

(To the school board): 

Board President Terry Doran said he believed the budget you passed is “cautious and prudent.” While I sympathize with the difficulties of preparing a budget based on inadequate state funding, it is neither cautious nor prudent to cut school safety officers at Longfellow and Willard. The Healthy Start coordinator from Willard spoke to this point during the public comment session. Two parents from Longfellow would have spoken to this point, if their cards had been called. Given the serious public safety problems that have occurred at Berkeley middle schools this year, this is obviously an important point, yet none of the board members justified these cuts. 

When the shooting occurred on Ward Street as Longfellow students were coming to school earlier this year, it was one of our school safety officers who got the students to drop to the ground and led them into the building. There are only two school safety officers at Longfellow. If we have only one, what happens if that one is on the wrong side of the campus the next time an emergency occurs? 

In the two years I have been involved in analyzing the School Site Council family and student surveys at Longfellow, inadequate supervision of yards and hallways has been one of the few things about the Longfellow learning environment that has drawn a lot of criticism. Our principal, vice principal, and school safety officers work very hard, but as it is there are not enough of them. What is going to happen if there is only one school safety officer?  

Everyone I have spoken to at Longfellow has been horrified when they heard that one of our school safety officer positions has been cut. While all the budgets cuts under consideration are difficult, when you are cutting positions that provide direct service it is important that the people who will feel the brunt of this be informed, and that board members listen to what they have to say about it. I hope you reconsider this point. If we are being cautious and prudent, the risk of reducing the contingency fund by this $80,500 line item is less than the risk of leaving middle school students without adequate supervision in emergencies. 

Susan Dickey 

7th grade parent, Longfellow