By Mohannad El-Khairy
As the ongoing massacre in Gaza accomplishes nothing more than a rising toll of over a thousand dead and five thousand injured Palestinians, world leaders scramble like head-less chickens to find ways to achieve a cease-fire, instead of stripping the Apartheid State of Israel (ASI) from its membership at the UN and declaring it an outlaw state.
News media around the world carry daily coverage of the carnage, inviting ‘experts in the field’ from both the Palestinian and Israeli perspectives.
Yet I haven’t seen a single network expose the ASI’s long term motives behind its attacks: Gaza’s natural gas reserves.
The current societal framework is in fact manufactured in a way that seldom enables the people to be empowered with information. Only when the exciting stuff emerges on television does everyone’s attention become so dedicated to the tube. In modern history however, wars are usually preceded by the eerie smells of reticent business deals gone bad. Quiet arrangements made by the Corprotocracy [the corporate-political class] that the masses are usually unaware of.
According to British Gas Group (BG), in 2000 an estimated 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas was discovered off the coast of Gaza, stretching North-West of the Strip. By any way one measures it, these reserves legally belong to Palestine as they are directly located off the shore of the Gaza Strip, an illegally occupied territory by Israeli forces. A 25-year exploration-rights agreement ensued with BG and the Consolidated Contracted International Company (CCC) as partners of the Palestinian Authority in a respective 60-30-10 percentage revenue split. The Middle East Economic Digest reported on January 5th 2001 that this agreement also includes field development and the construction of a gas pipeline. The BG group thus began drilling two wells named Gaza Marine 1 and Gaza Marine 2.
Where does this leave the state of Israel? As per its very existence and usual state-run policies, based on theft and dispossession, the election of Ariel Sharon in 2001 propounded nothing different. At the Israeli Supreme Court he stated that "Israel would never buy gas from Palestine" and in 2003 vetoed a deal that would enable BG to supply Israel with natural gas from the Gaza wells. For the Israelis, the very definition of to whom the natural gas belonged to was still not understood nor accepted.
Hamas’ election victory in January 2006 and Israel’s refusal to buy gas from the Palestinians complicated matters for BG and its partners. Thus, they decided to sell natural gas to the Egyptians. And once again, Israel cried fowl. According to reports, then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair had to even intervene on behalf of Israel in order to cancel the agreement with Egypt.
Global Research states: "The following year, in May 2007, the Israeli Cabinet approved a proposal by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to buy gas from the Palestinian Authority. The proposed contract was for $4 billion, with profits of the order of $2 billion of which one billion was to go to the Palestinians. Tel Aviv, however, had no intention on sharing the revenues with Palestine. An Israeli team of negotiators was set up by the Cabinet to thrash out a deal with the BG Group, bypassing both the Hamas government and the Palestinian Authority".
With Fatah’s power loss to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Israel’s connivance had to be resolved by eventually partnering up with the PA. A few months later, in July 2007, the Jerusalem Post affirmed that "10% of the revenue, estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year, is to be designated for the PA’s Palestinian Investment Fund, under the auspices of the office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas". The Israelis could not accept any form of revenue trickling into the pockets of the elected Hamas government even though Bloomberg reported that Hamas had "no problem cooperating with the British gas company but only after modifying some points of the 1999 contract."
On January 14th 2008, BG pulled out of the deal – and in fact closed its offices in Tel Aviv. The Middle East Economic Survey (MEES) quotes Michael Barron, Corporate Affairs Manager of the Gaza Marine Project at BG, as saying: "As part of ending our business presence here, we are also relinquishing the Ashkelon exploration license. But we will retain the Gaza Marine license". Hold that thought as to why the Gaza Marine license was retained.
After year-long bitter clashes, several regional mediation efforts followed by endless bickering between Hamas and Fatah factions in 2008, we right now find ourselves watching a humanitarian catastrophe taking place in Gaza. Yet whilst this mediation and bickering was taking place amongst Arabs, "Operation Cast Lead" was on Israel’s drawing board.
On the first day of the attacks, Haaretz published an article revealing that the Israeli military was already planning the take-over of Gaza, despite the smoke-screening move of removing Jewish settlers from the Strip. The daily states that "Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago [June or before June], even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas".
In fact, during that very same month, Globes, an Israeli online business portal, mentions that "both [Israel’s] Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav and Ministry of National Infrastructures director general Hezi Kugler agreed to inform BG of Israel’s wish to renew the talks [over Gaza’s Natural Gas]". And by August 2008, talks officially resumed between BG and the Israeli state. British Gas’ willingness to retain the Gaza Marine license is thus revealed, as its partnership with the Apartheid State had been arranged a whole six months prior to the attacks.
The ultimate goal of the Israeli military onslaught is to incorporate Gaza’s offshore natural gas fields into her own, to form a continuous linkage that ultimately settles in the Turkish port city of Ceyhan, and to satisfy the corporate profits of a multinational corporation. This move also bypasses Palestine’s rights to these gas reserves, and continues the traditional Israeli policies of theft, lies, and more appallingly, the killing of thousands of innocent civilians.
How ironic, isn’t it? That whilst Gaza suffered an 18-month blockade, of which natural gas was no longer available amongst many other basic necessities, 1.4 trillion cubic feet of the thing was sitting there right underneath their feet, confiscated by the corprotocracy of British Gas and the Apartheid State of Israel.
I write this, after three weeks of Israeli genocide, as the death toll reaches 1,203. One thousand two hundred and three souls … murdered in three weeks.
Despite this daily dosage of "statistics" which has caused the Streets to roar, the media must do more. It must expose the real reasons behind the Israeli holocaust in Gaza. So that US-UK-ASI rhetoric is put to sleep. And we can all work towards the day their leaders are brought to face final justice.
-Mohannad El-Khairy is a Palestinian who moved to Dubai after living in Canada for 18 years. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.