Quick reminder of Real Left’s meeting in Islington, London on the ‘Fallout of Lockdowns on the Global South’ this Friday from 7pm. Full details including how to reserve your place here.
Rusere Shoniwa examines the role Israel’s financial interest in accessing natural resources in Gaza is playing in its current campaign of ethnic cleansing. Originally published on A Plague on Both Houses.
The current bloodshed in Gaza really is different this time. First, there’s the implausible scale and ease of the Hamas incursion, which bears all the hallmarks of a false flag. There is also evidence from eye-witness accounts of survivors of the Hamas attacks of the IDF’s disregard for the lives of its own citizens in its initial response to the attacks, resulting in high numbers of casualties inflicted on Israelis by their own army. This GrayZone report, quoting Haaretz, alleges that in a single incident at Kibbutz Be’eri, 112 residents were killed by Israeli shelling. How many of the approximately 1400 Israeli deaths were caused by ‘friendly fire’?
Then there’s the undisguised intent to ethnically cleanse Gaza, accompanied by a complete sense of impunity for blatant war crimes and crimes against humanity. Political leaders across the West are engaging in equally shameless justifications for ethnic cleansing and deliberate massacres of innocent civilians, including strikes on hospitals and refugee camps.
Labour’s leader, Keir Starmer, wearing a poppy in remembrance of the war dead, explained robotically why we must give war a chance. Taking a leaf straight out of Orwell’s 1984, Starmer said that a permanent ceasefire could risk further violence because “a ceasefire always freezes any conflict in the state where it currently lies”. Instead, he advocated for a humanitarian “pause” in the Gazan slaughter. In other words, toying sadistically with Gazans by supplying them with meagre rations for a few hours before resuming their slaughter. Delivering these perverted contortions of logic to justify war on innocent civilians while wearing a Remembrance Day poppy amounts to spitting on the graves of the war dead.
The complete abandonment by the US empire’s political class of any pretence of morality and the total disregard for international law make Al Capone look like a Buddhist monk in comparison. Everyone from Biden to Netanyahu, Sunak, and Scholz are behaving like the psychopathic inmates of a maximum security detention centre who have been given a free pass by their guards to run amok. And, as ever, they are ably assisted by mainstream media talking heads (sans any grey matter) like Piers Morgan implying that it is Egypt’s duty to accommodate the population of Gaza driven out by Israeli bombing – essentially arguing that Egypt is not pulling its weight by helping Israel with its ethnic cleansing operation.
This is what The System in collapse looks like. Which is not to say that it won’t rise from the ashes like an evil Phoenix, but The System managers do appear to be in a state of panic, and the savagery being unleashed to bring us under control is surreal. It’s axiomatic that when all else fails – and it looks like they are running out of ideas – they drag us to war. A Big One. The hysteria of a global conflict will accelerate the Great Reset agenda by creating a pretext for rule by state of emergency. Once that happens, anything and everything is possible.
The masses, under instruction from their governments, might dutifully chip and pin their newborn babies in the name of fighting Hamas, or Hezbollah, or the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, or Putin’s ‘nazis’, or whatever bogeyman the scriptwriters conjure up from one episode to the next in the grand season finale of 21st Century Techno-fascist Neo-feudalism. And in four short weeks, the Western world has been neatly reshuffled back into its pre-2020 Left/Right camps, which is exactly where they want you to be. It’s a much easier paradigm for the controllers to manipulate than the Freedom versus Slavery paradigm that was emerging.
Accelerating the longest ethnic cleansing process in modern history is definitely in the shopping cart for Israel and its US empire allies. You can add to that dealing a death blow to Iran, Hezbollah and Syria. Saudi Arabia would be fully on board with that. The knock-on effect of that is to weaken Russia and China.
Still, by virtue of both the sheer scale of the horror of this event and the political class’s brazenly criminal reaction to it, there is a lot more going on than meets the eye. The world is run by crime syndicates who care an awful lot about money, because money yields power and control. Amid all the emotion over this round of violence in Israel (and all the ones that have preceded it), it’s easy to forget that the driving animus of Israel’s brutal occupation of the Palestinian territories is the expropriation and control of valuable land, natural resources and water. So let’s follow the money.
Seven years after the Suez crisis in 1956, US and Israeli planners drew up blueprints for an alternative canal running across the Israeli Negev desert connecting the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea. The crucial point in the context of the current Gaza crisis is that Northern Gaza gets in the way of this project. The project stalled, probably owing to a combination of factors including cost, finding cheaper alternative levers of controlling access to the Suez Canal such as bringing Egypt under US control, and the sheer ludicrousness of the methods proposed for building the new canal – detonating 520 nuclear bombs. While such a canal, managed by Israel, seems like a worthwhile economic joint project for the US/EU/Israel coalition, Rachel Donald at Planet: Critical is certain that everybody wants Gaza’s Gas. Let’s analyse that claim before returning to the planned Ben Gurion canal.
According to a 2019 UN report prepared for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), following the discovery in 1999 of a large gas field between 17 and 21 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) signed a 25-year contract for gas exploration with BG Group (BGG). The reserves, designated Gaza Marine 1 and Gaza Marine 2, were estimated at 1 trillion cubic feet and would meet Palestine’s demands while allowing for exports [page 20 of the report]. In July 2000, the necessary approvals were granted to start drilling, including the construction of a pipeline to Gaza.
In the period June 2000 to June 2007, BGG, Israel and the PNA negotiated for the supply to Israel of 0.05 trillion cubic feet of Palestinian gas for $4 billion annually over 10 to 15 years. The Palestinian share of this would have resulted in a payment to the Palestinian authorities of $1 billion annually. The deal might have improved the conditions for peace and the prospects for the Palestinian economy. In the event, Israel stalled the negotiations, ostensibly haggling over the price and the usual not wanting to ‘support terrorism’. Israeli defence authorities also wanted the Palestinians to be paid in goods and services, insisting that no money go to the Hamas-controlled government. Such stipulations over how the Palestinians should reap the economic benefits of their resources tend to support the Israeli view of Palestinians as a slave population. Israel also sought to ensure that the gas was channelled directly to the Israeli port of Ashkelon, giving them further leverage over the sale.
In the wake of the Israeli military operation in Gaza in December 2008, the Palestinian natural gas fields were effectively brought under Israeli control without regard for international law. Since then BGG started dealing directly with the Israeli government, completely cutting out the Gaza authorities. The UN report hints strongly at the planning of the military operation coinciding with Israeli negotiations with BGG to remove Gaza from the equation. One benefit for Israel of the military operation was to institute a new territorial arrangement for Gaza that would serve as the pretext for the confiscation of the Palestinians’ natural gas fields and excluding the Gaza authorities from participating in a supply deal. Such flagrant breaches of international law by Israel are always met with impunity for the simple reason that the judge and jury of international law is currently the US empire and its allies.
With regard to oil and natural gas within the West Bank, the UN report states that:
“Israel has taken control of the Meged oil and natural gas field, located inside the occupied West Bank in Area C. Israel states that the field lies west of the armistice line of 1948, yet most of the reservoir is situated beneath the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967… Its reserves are estimated at about 1.525 billion barrels of oil, as well as some natural gas. The potential of the contested Meged field ranges between 375 and 534 barrels per day.” [page 25 of the report]
In an earlier piece I did, I highlighted speculation over a strategy of the Israeli regime to take steps to destroy Hamas completely after gaining control of Area C, which accounts for more than 60% of the West Bank.
There is some scholarly opinion that leans towards energy resources being a prime motivating factor in Israel’s repeated military offensives against Palestinians in Gaza. Immediately prior to the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza, Russia’s Gazprom was about to do a deal with the Gaza authorities for Gaza Marine extraction. The deal was said to include security guarantees from Russia to protect the Gaza facilities and to cut out Israel altogether. Israel’s 2014 offensive successfully postponed that deal.
With potential disputes between Israel, Syria and Lebanon over the precise location of gas fields in the Levantine Basin, Russia, backed by military muscle and the world’s largest extractor of natural gas, Gazprom, has already begun to exert its influence.
The UN report summarises the estimates of the value of the shared resources in the Levant Basin Province:
“With 122 trillion cubic feet of gas at a net value of about $453 billion and 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil at a net value of about $71 billion, there is a total of about $524 billion to distribute and share among the different parties in the Levant Basin Province”. [page 30 of the report]
According to the report, these resources may be considered shared resources, whereby the oil and natural gas exist in common pools. According to the report:
“Palestinians have a major stake not only in the fields under their land but in all of the common reserves.” [page 18 of the report]
Wind the clock forward to June 2023, and it appears that the parties had resumed negotiations to advance a deal under which both the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza would be allowed to benefit from gas extraction from Gaza Marine 1 and 2. The agreement had the preliminary approval of Israel’s Prime Minister, but, like all its previous iterations, it has been nixed by the latest round of bloodshed. Coincidence? Dangling deals and walking away from them is what Israel has been doing for 56 years. No-one can beat them at it.
How does all of this affect the motivations and decision-making of the actors involved? The benefits to the Palestinian economy should go without saying. Gaza Marine would power the Palestinian territories for 15-20 years. Although this would not represent material compensation for the economic losses and destruction suffered under 56 years of brutal Israeli occupation, it would provide an economic boost that would restore some degree of dignity to the daily lives of Palestinians.
Up until 2009, Israel would have been doggedly employing a strategy to expropriate every ounce of Gazan and West Bank energy resources to make up for its own shortfalls. However, significant Israeli gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean in 2009/10 have made Gazan gas less relevant to the Israeli economy. The prime motivator for Israel is to now simply prevent Palestinians from becoming more economically independent in any way, since this would strengthen their position in relation to Israel. Prosperity promotes peace, and the only ‘peace’ Israel seeks is one in which Palestinians are ejected from the Occupied Territories.
In 2009, significant gas reserves were found in the Tamar field, with proven reserves of at least 11 trillion cubic feet, enough to sustain the Israeli domestic market for decades. In 2010, the Leviathan field further offshore, with perhaps twice as much gas as at Tamar field, was discovered. The EU would be very keen for Israel to replace Russia as a reliable energy source, but neither Gazan Gas per se nor a Ben Gurion Canal is a prerequisite for this to happen given the location of the larger Israeli reserves and the relatively small size of the Gazan reserves. As I have already indicated, there could be disputes about those reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean, but that’s not entirely clear yet.
In short, Gazan gas would be a welcome windfall for Israel from its ethnic cleansing operation but, given the relative size of the resource, I don’t think it’s the prime motivator, unless there’s a lot more in those gas fields than is currently being reported.
So, what of the significance to Israel and the West of replacing the Suez Canal with its own canal – the Ben Gurion Canal that Northern Gaza is getting in the way of. As Yvonne Ridley points out in the Middle East Monitor:
“Whoever controls the [Ben Gurion] canal will have enormous influence over the global supply routes for oil, grain and shipping.”
The Suez Canal is worth $9.4 billion annually to Egypt so it’s easy to see why Egypt does not want to see Gazans expelled to make way for Israel’s competing canal. In 2015, Egypt embarked on a project, the Suez Canal Zone (SCZONE), to develop strategically placed industrial parks and ports to put Egypt at the centre of global trade. Egypt takes the Suez Canal very seriously. A new and more reliable canal hosted by Israel could act as a lever to shift trade relations and reliance in Africa and the Middle East even more decisively to the West. It would also be a welcome boon for ease of movement of US military vessels between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
With the advent of a Ben Gurion Canal, the West could also bypass Iranian controlled waters. This would potentially reduce Iran’s leverage in the region and alter the balance of power in the Middle East. Again, another desired outcome for the West and Israel.
And looking at all of this are Russia and China who stand to lose geopolitically if the West and Israel win. Winning for the psychopaths means ethnically cleansing Gazans or committing genocide. Egypt and Jordan, backed by Russia and China, appear to be resisting this outcome. The question is how far are they willing to go to prevent it? And how much should Gazans be expected to endure to prevent it? The US pays a fair chunk of Egypt’s bills so there will be a price for Egypt to pay if it doesn’t bow to the US and Israel.
Bottom line – Gazan gas is a nice windfall for the psychopaths, but the Ben Gurion Canal is a bigger prize.
There are a number of drivers that have converged to precipitate an ethnic cleansing or genocide in Gaza. Israel has become exhausted with the triennial ‘mowing of the lawn’ in Gaza, and world opinion against the apartheid state has long passed the tipping point. With the exception of a few unreconstructed pro-status quo conservatives, it had become uncontroversial to slap the apartheid label on Israel. From Israel’s perspective, something needed to be done, and quickly. And then of course there’s all the top-down control that the Owners and Controllers of Global Financial Capital crave, and which is spawned by the crisis-is-opportunity paradigm. And then there is pure greed. Tragically, Palestinians are mere pawns in this economic and military power play.