The Jerusalem Post

Minister says Iran behind oil spill, calls it ‘eco-terrorism’

Sources in defense establishm­ent said they were not familiar with claim that spill was result of terrorism


Iran intentiona­lly polluted the Mediterran­ean Sea and Israel’s shores in an act of ecological terrorism, causing the greatest environmen­tal disaster in Israel’s history, Environmen­tal Protection Minister Gila Gamliel said on Wednesday.

Rouhani boasts ‘centrifuge­s are spinning faster,’

Page 5

“This pollution has people who are responsibl­e for it and have to pay the price. Our nature is damaged, our animals are harmed, thanks to merciless environmen­tal criminals,” Gamliel said.

Gamliel explained that, following a two-week investigat­ion, the Environmen­tal Protection Ministry found that

the ship that leaked the crude oil, called the Emerald, was owned by a Libyan company and sailed from Iran to Syria. It departed Iran, turning off its automatic identifica­tion system (AIS) – which transmits its location to other ships in the area. It turned the AIS on as it went through the Suez Canal, and then off again as it approached Israel’s shores.

The ship remained within tens of kilometers of Israel’s

shores, within Israel’s economic waters, for nearly a full day, spilling large amounts of oil on February 1-2, with its AIS off.

Then it continued on to Syria, where it turned on its transmitte­r, and it returned to Iran, turning off its AIS as it passed Israel. It is currently in Iran.

The tar reached


shores on February 17.

“Now we see Iran is not just terrorizin­g [Israel] with [attempts at attaining] nuclear weapons and entrenchin­g itself in our region, but also by harming the environmen­t,” Gamliel said. “They’re not just hurting Israel. Nature and animals don’t just belong to one nation. This is a battle that crosses borders.”

Sources in the defense establishm­ent said they were not familiar with Gamliel’s claim that the oil spill was the result of terrorism.

Gamliel said that Israel will demand compensati­on from the Internatio­nal Oil Pollution Compensati­on Fund and the ship’s insurers.

“We will settle the score with the polluters in the name of all Israelis for the harm to our health, nature, animals and view,” she vowed. “We cannot abandon our sea. Our sea is our natural treasure that we must protect.”

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheri­c Administra­tion and the European Maritime Safety Agency, as well as Israeli maritime research company Windward, helped the Environmen­tal Protection Ministry investigat­e the oil spill. None of the agencies knew about the oil spill before the tar reached Israeli shores, over two weeks after it occurred.

Samples of the tar, which the Environmen­tal Protection Ministry examined, showed that it came from crude oil, which sharply reduced the number of suspected ships from 35 to four. Two were found to have been too far away, and another was examined by local authoritie­s in Spain and by Israeli investigat­ors in Greece. The fourth is the Emerald, currently in Iran.

European satellites caught the underwater stain on February 5, but it was not noticed before the tar reached Israel’s beaches.

The 2020/21 National Basketball Associatio­n season started with James Harden displaying behavior that clouded his on-court greatness.

After the Houston Rockets ignored his offseason trade requests, Harden arrived to training camp late and out of shape. Then he broke the league's health and safety protocols. In between strong performanc­es, Harden then alienated his teammates and coaches during practices and games. So when the Brooklyn Nets (23-13) played the Rockets (11-22) on Wednesday, perhaps the 4,500 fans were eager to boo Harden in what marked his first trip to Houston since he was to Brooklyn in mid-January.

“There will be no tension and no [trash] talking going on the court or about James or my presence or anybody else's presence,” Nets guard Kyrie Irving said. “We're coming to Houston to enjoy the game of basketball and play it at a high level on behalf of James and the rest of the guys because we know it's a special night, regardless. He's going back to where you started it all and where he started making a huge jump in his career. We know what it means for everybody on the outside. But internally, we're just going to play the game that we love.”

Harden expressed optimism that “hopefully those fans appreciate­d everything that I've done on the court and off the court.” Perhaps it might be too early for Rockets fans to cheer Harden for guiding the franchise to two Western Conference finals in eight playoff appearance­s, while collecting three scoring titles and a regular-season MVP award. It seems perfectly appropriat­e, however, to praise Harden for how he has fit in seamlessly with the Nets thus far.

He arrived amid various amounts of skepticism from those around the league and in the media, including myself. After clashing in previous years with Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, could Harden co-exist with Irving and Kevin Durant? After spending most of the time in Houston playing isolation basketball, would Harden become a more willing passer? After showing immature behavior before his departure in Houston, would Harden exhibit similar behavior if things did not go his way in Brooklyn? After shattering scoring records in Houston, could Harden blend his dominant scoring while tapping into his passing and defensive potential?

Don't look now, but Harden has

answered all of those questions in nearly every way since his arrival.

“He literally can do almost everything there is to do out there, and he's been a great leader for us,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “He can control the game. He is a very smart defender. I think he's been outstandin­g as far as keeping his team on track — leading, talking things out, communicat­ing. His passion for the game and willingnes­s and want to win have been fantastic.”

Granted, Harden will be judged more on if he can help the Nets win an NBA championsh­ip and less on how he navigated the honeymoon stage. Although the Nets wish they had more than seven games for Durant, Harden and Irving to play together, the overlappin­g absences to Durant (10 games) and Irving (five) theoretica­lly reduced any potential tension in figuring out the on-court dynamics among three stars. And after finishing with a poor defensive rating through eight games with Houston (117), Harden has only shown marginal improvemen­t through 13 games in Brooklyn (114.9).

Still, Harden has consistent­ly thrived through other circumstan­ces. When the three stars have played together, Harden has averaged 20.4 points while shooting 47.1% from the field and 43.19% from three-point range along with 12.6 assists and 7.7 rebounds. When either Durant or Irving have sat out, Harden has simply increased his scoring workload.

In the seven games that Harden and Irving played without Durant, Harden has averaged 25.5 points while shooting 48.9% from the field and 46.7% from

three-point range along with 8.5 assists and 7.0 rebounds. In the two games Durant and Harden played without Irving, Harden increased his workload in scoring (33 points on 48.8% shooting), assists (13) and rebounds (9.0) while regressing in outside shooting (30%). In the three games Durant and Irving both sat out, Harden averaged 31 points while staying efficient from the field (52.3%) and from three-point range (40%), along with a high volume of assists (9.0) and rebounds (7.3). Whenever Durant returns from the left hamstring injury that will sideline him through at least the All-Star break, expect Harden to seamlessly reduce his scoring output while increasing his playmaking.

“I just try to find ways to impact the game, and not just scoring the basketball. We have a number of guys that can put the ball in the basket,” Harden said. “Getting guys shots and getting guys easy buckets, I feel like it's my job.”

Regardless of who he has played with on the floor, Harden has consistent­ly held himself accountabl­e for his play.

He has helped the Nets go 9-4 in so-called clutch games that were decided by five points or fewer in the final five minutes. He has been a major factor in the Nets shooting 55.3% from the field since his arrival. And with a league-leading assist average (11.1), Harden has already set a Nets record with seven triple-doubles.

“We have to implement the phrase, ‘Get used to it,'” Irving said. “When someone is that special, someone is that gifted and they're able to do all facets of the game at a very high level, they're able to play at a very high level. He's displaying that. It makes it easier for me. I'm sure other guys can echo the sentiment. James is being James, and makes all of our jobs a lot easier.”

And when he makes the job more difficult?

Unlike the final chapter in Houston, Harden has turned the criticism inward. After the Nets lost against Dallas on Saturday in a game without Durant and Irving, Harden consistent­ly faulted himself for his six turnovers. In the Nets' overtime win over San Antonio on Monday, Harden committed zero turnovers while finishing with 30 points, 15 assists and 14 rebounds.

“It has to be that way,” Harden said. “If I'm the point guard and my teammates and coaching staff are giving me the responsibi­lity to handle the basketball, I have to do a really good job with my passes and making them precise, and not just giving away points.”

How Harden fulfills that job descriptio­n will largely determine the Nets' title chances. For now, though, it's a good bet Harden will at least do that against a struggling Rockets team. Thankfully for the Nets, Harden has carried over the qualities that made him a star while addressing the question marks that contribute­d to an ugly exit in Houston.

“I'm excited to go back to Houston where I basically had an unbelievab­le career there,” Harden said. “To get that love and respect, I'm excited to be playing in front of those fans.” (USA Today/TNS)

Donald Trump used his first post-presidency public appearance to try to dial back American democracy to the 19th century with a phony call for “electoral reform” that would keep millions of Americans from exercising their right to vote.

The disgraced former president excoriated even his own Supreme Court nominees and other federal judges he picked for not having the “guts and courage” to steal the 2020 election for him despite his losing it by more than seven million votes. Nothing worse in Trump World than an honest judge, I guess.

In a speech to the Conservati­ve Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday, he aired a bitter and puerile list of grievances, lies and false claims that the election he lost was “rigged.”

He repeated his debunked lies that illegal aliens and dead people voted for his opponent and that voters outnumbere­d residents in cities like Detroit and Philadelph­ia, which have large black population­s.

Refusing to accept the reality of his defeat, he instead proposed a plan of “comprehens­ive election reforms” and declared that Republican­s want to be “the party of honest elections.” That is coming from the embittered four-time loser who cost his party control of the House, the Senate, the presidency and the battle against COVID-19. The same guy who is under investigat­ion by Georgia prosecutor­s for trying to strong-arm Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensper­ger to “find” the votes to steal victory away from Joe Biden.

Trump’s not-so-secret strategy is based on fear, nativism and racism, because nothing scares Republican­s more than free and fair elections that give minorities full voting rights. That’s why most if not all will vote against the For the People Act, which is scheduled to come up in the House this week.

Before looking at the bill that Trump called a “disaster” and a “monster [that] cannot be allowed to pass,” let’s look at his plan.

He wants single-day voting, no more early voting, voter ID cards, citizenshi­p checks, severe restrictio­ns on absentee and mail-in ballots, and other limitation­s.

Meanwhile, Republican legislatur­es and governors around the county are enacting new and tighter restrictio­ns on voting, especially in swing states that went unexpected­ly for Biden. These include Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvan­ia, Florida, Texas, Michigan, Wisconsin and New Hampshire.

One Georgia restrictio­n would eliminate early voting on Sundays, when black churches traditiona­lly hold “Souls to the Polls” get-out-the-vote drives. “This bill is Jim Crow with a suit and tie,” said Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia.

Restrictio­ns primarily pushed by Republican­s around the country involve the times, locations and availabili­ty of polling places before and on Election Day, slashing voter registrati­on opportunit­ies and enabling more aggressive voter roll purges, the Brennan Center for Law and Justice reported.

Trump wants only a single Election Day, “not 45,” on which everyone must vote, with exceptions rare and limited to the “very sick, the military or those out of the country.”

THE BRENNAN CENTER for Justice called the GOP war on voting “a backlash to historic voter turnout in the 2020 general election and grounded in a rash of baseless and racist allegation­s of voter fraud and election irregulari­ties.”

It pointed out that single weekday voting can create problems for those with work, family or other obligation­s, and produce long lines that discourage voting.

“In-person early voting, including on weekends and during evening hours, helps shorten lines and allows people to cast their ballots when it is most convenient,” the center pointed out.

Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting, which many states have found safe and reliable, might have cost him many votes by discouragi­ng his supporters from using it.

The Republican National Committee has announced a “Committee on Election Integrity” to work with state parties to enact even more restrictio­ns.

Republican­s apparently believe the axiom that the larger the turnout, particular­ly in urban areas, the better it is for Democrats.

That helps explain why Trump so bitterly denounced

HR 1, the For the People Act, as a “disaster.” It would expand voting rights, make it easier to cast ballots in federal elections, end congressio­nal gerrymande­ring (the dirty little secret of GOP election success in the House), modernize registrati­on, enact new campaign finance restrictio­ns, restore and strengthen the 1964 Voting Rights Act, increase access to polls and permit former felons to vote.

That last item seems to particular­ly gall Trump, who ranted that the bill would “give ballots to felons and welfare recipients.” What upsets him is not that former felons and accused criminals like his rich white pals Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Mike Flynn, Steve Bannon, Rod Blagojevic­h and Jared Kushner’s father would now vote. He wants to keep felony disenfranc­hisement laws because they disproport­ionately affect poor blacks and other minorities.

“Free and fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy,” said the Brennan Center, but that’s what led to Trump’s downfall. When his attorney-general, Bill Barr, said there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud last November, he found himself out of a job.

Trump’s refusal to accept the truth led him to incite a deadly insurrecti­on that saw mobs of his followers assault the US Capitol and resulted in his second impeachmen­t.

He went to CPAC in Orlando Sunday to perpetuate his lies, to vow revenge on those who voted to impeach and remove him from office, and to call for a new assault on American democracy by imposing harsh restrictio­ns on the free exercise of voting rights.

Congress will have an opportunit­y to “preserve, protect and defend” our most precious constituti­onal right when the For the People Act comes for a vote.

 ?? (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters) ?? A SOLDIER holds a clump of tar removed from the sand in Atlit last month.
(Ronen Zvulun/Reuters) A SOLDIER holds a clump of tar removed from the sand in Atlit last month.
 ?? (Reuters) ?? JAMES HARDEN became the first NBA player to ever post a 30-15-10 line without committing a single turnover as he scored 30 points, dished out 15 assists and grabbed 14 rebounds in the Brooklyn Nets’ 124-113 overtime victory over the San Antonio Spurs this week.
(Reuters) JAMES HARDEN became the first NBA player to ever post a 30-15-10 line without committing a single turnover as he scored 30 points, dished out 15 assists and grabbed 14 rebounds in the Brooklyn Nets’ 124-113 overtime victory over the San Antonio Spurs this week.
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 ?? (Octavio Jones/Reuters) ?? FORMER US President Donald Trump attends the Conservati­ve Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday.
(Octavio Jones/Reuters) FORMER US President Donald Trump attends the Conservati­ve Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday.
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