MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : ECOLOGICAL CENSORSHIP – Israel oil spill disaster: Investigation details placed under censor
The decision to censor the details was described by Israeli media as “irregular.” – By TZVI JOFFRE JERUSALEM POST FEBRUARY 22, 2021 14:27
Details of the investigation into the oil spill which led to an unprecedented ecological disaster along Israel’s Mediterranean Coast in recent days were placed under censor by the Haifa Magistrates Court on Monday, after a request was filed to do so by the Environmental Protection Ministry.
Any details which could identify the suspects – including the names of people or vessels, destination or exit ports, navigation routes or cargo – are forbidden for publication under the censor.
The decision to censor the details was described by Israeli media as “irregular.”
“When the entities operating at sea and producing a risk of pollution are rich oil companies and shipping companies that have much influence on the regulator, Zalul demands a transparent investigation and that the [censor] order be lifted immediately,” said Maya Jacobs, director-general of the Zalul Environmental Association.
In response to the censor order, Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense) warned that “hiding all issues related to the investigation of the tar disaster is a fatal blow to public confidence in the government and regulators who are supposed to ensure the safety of the public and the environment. On environmental issues, certainly when it comes to disasters of this magnitude, transparency and disclosure of information to the public is critical and enshrined in the law and rulings.”
Adam Teva V’Din is examining options to appeal the censor order.
“The Environmental Protection Ministry did not take measures to monitor and prevent the ecological disaster and thus allowed it to occur,” said Dr. Revital Goldschmid from the Environmental Research Center in Haifa. “The ministry delayed and did not warn the public in time about the severity and dangers – and now the ministry operates in the absence of transparency towards the country’s citizens who volunteered to help clean the beaches.”
Goldschmid stated that this wasn’t the first time deficiencies in the Ministry’s conduct, professionalism and interests have been recorded, with the State Comptroller’s report from 2019 claiming that the ministry prioritizes foreign interests over the public. She demanded transparency concerning the failures of the handling of the situation, as the issue could harm the general public by impacting desalination facilities, power stations, leisure and nature scattered along the coast.
THE MINISTRY told Maariv, The Jerusalem Post‘s sister publication, that the request for the censorship order was done due to “the investigation conducted by the National Marine Environment Protection Division and the Green Police, which has complex international aspects.”
On Sunday, Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel had stated that the ministry was “focused on locating the ship responsible for the significant pollution and is assisted by all international bodies.”
Gamliel announced on Sunday that the ministry would request that the government approve immediate budgets for beach rehabilitation, manpower and national preparedness for ocean and beach oil pollution, among other measures.
“At the same time, we are making sure that the rehabilitation actions carried out by the local authorities and other responsible parties will minimize the damage and environmental and ecological impacts, and restore the situation to its former state, according to world accepted standards,” she said.
On Monday, MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) called on the State Comptroller to investigate the government’s conduct in dealing with the tar spill.
“Behind the grim images of pollution on the beaches are many failures that require in-depth examination; it is a man-made [tragedy] that could have been prevented,” she said. “A quick and thorough procedure of investigating the events is a necessity. Without decisive action by your office, the next ecological disaster is only a matter of time.”
Zandberg added that media reports indicated that the Environmental Protection Ministry received a warning about the pollution as early as February 11, but hid the information and did not carry out any preventative measures.
The coastal local authorities that are part of the Sharon-Carmel Union of Cities announced on Monday that they would halt cleanup efforts along the beach after the Finance Ministry refused to approve the plan and budget presented by the Environmental Protection Ministry. The authorities stressed that they were not prepared to fund the cleanup off the backs of the residents and authorities. An emergency meeting on the matter will take place on Monday evening at 7 p.m.
PICTURES OF sea creatures, turtles, birds and coasts coated by the masses of oil that washed up on Israel’s shores have caused an uproar in Israel, with many demanding that the government find whoever is responsible.
The exact cause of the oil spill is still unknown, but one possibility being investigated is that a foreign ship carrying a large amount of oil spilled the oil during the winter storm that recently hit the area.
Thousands of volunteers, including IDF soldiers, have been working in recent days to help clean up the beaches and sea.
President Reuven Rivlin visited clean-up efforts at the beach in Herzliya on Monday and thanked volunteers for their work in cleaning up the beaches and saving animals.
“What we see here is an eyesore and heartache,” said Rivlin. “These sights are a wake-up call. We must work on a national environmental protection plan to ensure that events like this do not surprise us. It is a national duty that we must not neglect. This is the only way we can protect our children’s and grandchildren’s futures, so that they live in a safe, clean and unpolluted environment.
“When we protect the environment, we are not only taking care of the flora, the fauna, the sea and the beaches: We are looking after our home,” he said.