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Fukushima’s Ice Wall meets the Israeli-Palestinian Apartheid Wall

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This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

It may just be that my kids are visiting for a couple of weeks or that I live a few blocks from the ocean and walk the beach several times a day that the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster continues to resonate with me.  I also can’t help thinking that Fukushima has lessons way beyond our water world.

Yesterday the New York Times covered the continuing leakage of nuclear contaminated water into the ground and the Pacific Ocean.  They reported the latest Japanese government’s solution to the problem – a mile long, 100 feet deep ice wall that ostensibly would freeze the contaminates where they are. They hope. The Times is back again this morning with some other disturbing political assessments: 

Some experts suggested Wednesday that the government’s intervention may be the first step in attempts to win public acceptance for what they say is an increasing inevitability: the dumping into the ocean of some of the less contaminated of the huge amount of water being stored in hulking tanks that are overwhelming the plant. At a news conference last week, Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, seemed to lay the groundwork, saying that eventually “it will be necessary to discharge water,” a possible solution likely to raise concerns not only in Japan but in other Pacific Rim countries.

Whether the government intervention will help remedy the groundwater issue is an open question, Mr. Yamaguchi and others said. The government’s expanded role will probably be led by the Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry, or METI, which has been criticized as having close ties to Tepco and the rest of the nuclear industry which it nurtured since before Japan’s first commercial reactor went online in the 1960s. Other aspects of the Fukushima plant’s decommissioning have also been dominated by other members of Japan’s collusive “nuclear village,” as the close-knit industry is called, including reactor makers and politically connected large construction companies.

The conclusion of the article is ominous:  “But even as Tepco — and now the government — place a bet on the ambitious plans for the wall, experts have begun to raise concerns, including that the wall will need to be consistently cooled using electricity at a plant vulnerable to power failures. The original disaster was brought on by an earthquake and tsunami that knocked out electricity.”

Recount for a moment the salient Fukushima-speak phrases of this article – It will be necessary to discharge water; Japan’s collusive “nuclear village” as the close knit industry is called; the original disaster was brought on by an earthquake and tsunami that knocked out electricity.  Here’s what we are left with: a dump of a tremendous amount of nuclear contaminated water into the ocean, an ice wall that no one knows will work, frozen by continuing amounts of electricity in a place where electrical power is at grave risk, planned and executed and kept from the Japanese public and international eye by a collusive and lucrative cabal whose main interest is keeping their pockets full and the politicians they buy on the take.

Sounds like a (disastrous) plan.

Also sounds like another (failure plagued) village – let’s call it the Israeli-Palestinian peace village.  Like Japan’s failed nuclear village, the Israeli-Palestinian peace village is decades old, recycled, collusive and primarily invested in keeping their (disastrous) plan on display without being honest about its components or aims.  In short, those who work in the Israeli-Palestinian peace village have a high status, well remunerated business concern.  There isn’t a sense that their plan can work – it certainly hasn’t up till now – and yet the same actors – and actors they are – remain on the scene. 

If you take both the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating sides there isn’t one actor who is new to scene.  In fact all of the negotiators are decades old retreads. They know each other so well that they resemble an acting ensemble that knows each other’s lines. They play off one another without missing a beat. 

They even seem to enjoy each other.  After all, they’re only in the spotlight when they’re together negotiating peace. True enough, they have failed time and time again but the only reason they remain in the public eye is their joint failure.  Would have any of us heard of Martin Indyk, Dennis Ross or Saeb Erekat if not for their continuing failures?

In the meantime, everything has been lost; if in fact the aim of the negotiators was ever to succeed.  After all, success would ruin their business investment.  Why tamper with a successful business model built on failure?

And thinking of the proposed Fukushima Ice Wall, it can’t compare in distance with the Apartheid Wall.  Both, though, will have to be permanent, even if the negotiators don’t know how permanence can be guaranteed.

Nonetheless, it’s doubtful that the Apartheid Wall can contain the surging waters of justice any better than the Ice Wall can contain the contaminated water of Fukushima.  Yet another reason for the negotiators to continue on in their self-serving drama.

Where are the NGOs in this scheme?  They have their own NGO village with their Serving Others Wall as Palestinians life continues to devolve into misery and a dependence – coincidentally? – on the NGOs that serve them.

Like the Japanese nuclear industry and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the NGOs are recycled too, with nary a new actor to be found.  They, too, are a veritable industry that supports Israeli-Palestinian activists with their own needs, status and income.  The NGO-Israeli-Palestinian complex?

So it goes.  So many failures.  Set up to fail?

Marc H. Ellis
About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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3 Responses

  1. Denis
    August 8, 2013, 11:02 am

    Seems like a bit of a stretch connecting the Fuku “ice wall” to the Israeli apartheid wall, but as they are related to two of the most depressing, rolling-disasters of our time one can understand the attempt.

    Just like no one outside of I/P really cares about the apartheid wall, no one outside of TEPCO or GoJ is really taking the ice wall idea seriously. A mile-long refrigerated band of ice? Give me a break. They don’t even have the wherewithal to rat-proof their electrical boxes.

    The ice wall is just something positive they can talk about to divert the NYT’s attention from the real issues. It’s like the captain commenting on how nice the violin concerto sounded as the Titanic sank. The leaking radiation is insignificant next to the catastrophe that is going to happen when reactor #3 with its MOX fuel pile finally blows or a 7.5 earthquake topples the spent fuel rods pool in reactor #4.

    There is actually a world outside the NYT. The National Geographic Daily, for instance, is a more helpful/accurate source of info on Fuku. Here’s a helpful summary of the problems from a couple days ago. No ice wall mentioned.

    In my mind, the most significant nexus between Japan and Israel is not the ice wall/apartheid wall, but that both disasters highlight the inability or unwillingness of the world’s leaders [UN] to come together and do whatever it takes – including suspending national sovereignty – to remedy problems that will lead to international catastrophes and millions of deaths if not resolved immediately.

    Israel is a belligerent, bellicose, rogue nuclear state that could easily drag the world into a global, nuclear holocaust with its existential right/ manifest destiny mentality and its undisclosed stockpile of 400 nukes. Japan is, as is now obvious, a nuclear-powered country sitting on tons of nuclear fuel and waste without sufficient aggregate intelligence to prevent or solve complex technical problems that could well destroy millions of lives, not just there but around the globe.

    Ice wall, my a**.

    But I’ll say this: If they were my kids come for a visit, I would hug them every day they’re within reach to try to compensate a little bit for the mess we’re leaving them. Too late now to say “sorry.”

  2. HarryLaw
    August 8, 2013, 2:03 pm

    As for The Palestinian negotiators “They know each other so well that they resemble an acting ensemble that knows each other’s lines. They play off one another without missing a beat. They even seem to enjoy each other”. I think it’s worse than that Qurei actually told Livni that “I’d vote for you” [Palestinian Papers] as for Erekat, Madam Livni verbally lashed him, I think he enjoyed it, he was forever going back for more.

  3. August 9, 2013, 6:02 am

    Why doesn the comparison to the wall between US and Mexico comes to your mind when you hear the news about Japan icewall? Or the wall between Turkish and Greek part on Cypruss? And by the way would you call those walls Apartheid walls too? Just curious to understand how minds work in seeing such strange analogies.

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