By Tariq Shadid
In Jordan, opposition against the Israeli-Jordanian gas deal is growing. While politicians are working out the details, there appears to be widespread criticism of plans by the Jordanian National Electric Power Company to import gas from the Leviathan fields. The fields are located in the Mediterranean waters controlled by Israel, operated by US company Noble Energy, and co-owned by three Israeli companies.
An overwhelmingly majority in the Jordanian Parliament voted in December 2014 to urge the government to cancel the letter of intent. Campaigners started mobilizing as soon as the news came out of the signing, and held a series of activities and calls to action, and have been preparing for the ‘Day of Refusal‘ on March 6th.
Khaled Al Shakaa is a member of Jordan BDS, and the National Jordanian Coalition against the gas deal. He feels strongly about this issue, and is determined to express his opinion about it. He hopes to mobilize as many people as possible to join in the protests organized by national committee.
“I do this for Jordan and its sovereignty, first of all. Secondly, for Palestine, as part of the boycott movement, as I believe the way forward is non-violent forms of resistance. I am an activist and member of the Jordan BDS movement. We ask the public to help us Jordanians raise awareness about the Jordanian public’s refusal of the gas deal that the government of Jordan and the Zionist state are preparing to sign, without the public’s consent.”
He vividly and passionately describes how this coalition came about, and what its aims are. “We have formed a coalition in Jordan, consisting of professional associations (Naqabat), political parties, institutions, movements, parliamentarians, and activists. Our movement was able to persuade 110 parliamentarians (out of 150) to raise this matter officially in Parliament, and to direct an official interrogation of the government that was carried out for two full sessions of parliament upon the opening of the new term.’’
‘’In Jordan, we have currently formed committees in the governorates such as Karak, Madaba, Zarqa and Irbid, and we are supporting the committees to mobilize their constituents, to send people to the day of the march in Amman (March 6th), and to also hold a stand at their governorates for those who cannot join us.”
Jordan BDS has no hierarchical structure, and it is not affiliated to any political party or organization. “We do not use formal titles in our movement, it’s more of a grassroots and informal movement, and we prefer to keep it that way.’’
Despite this apparently loose organizational structure, the movement appears to be effective, as well as widely supported. “We also published a statement letter, stating our disapproval of the gas deal and calling on Jordanians to action. We asked all the formal parties, professional associations and institutions to sign, and we published it in traditional and social media. A public petition was also created and distributed to the general public to sign as individuals, and it was handed by one of our supporting parliamentarians to the Prime Minister in a Parliamentary session.”
Al Shakaa is happy to explain the details of the deal, and to specify the reasons for the widespread disapproval of it among Jordanians.
“The deal is for 15 billion dollars for 15 years; it ties up most of Jordan’s demand for energy in the form of electricity. The deal will fund the Zionist state 8 billion dollars in tax that will be used to create a sovereign wealth fund that will support the creation of settlements and go into their war budget including infrastructure and enabling occupation and creating settlements, enough money to wage 3 more wars on Gaza.’’
‘’In order to extract the gas and sell it, the Zionist state needs to ensure a customer. We are not only paying for the gas, we will also be paying for the infrastructure that will be used to extract it.’’
‘’This deal is not about feasibility or the cheapest price, the plan is to tie up Jordan with the Zionist state, so that the economy of Jordan becomes dependent on them, and to erase any form of resistance including non-violent forms.’’
‘’After the Wadi Araba agreement, Jordan entered into a phase of normalizing relations with the Zionist including economic and trade ties. But citizens of Jordan were left with a choice of either buying these products, however should the gas deal go through, normalization will be forced upon all Jordanians since our electricity will come from gas purchased from the Zionist state. The result will not only be forced normalization but forced direct financial support to the Israeli war machine.’’
When asked what message he has for concerned people around the world, he answers with the same clarity.
“Share our message! Especially on the day of the event, on March 6th 2015. Perhaps people could have a peaceful activity on that day in solidarity, making their voices be heard. There is also a thunderclap campaign that online folks can share and promote, and the hashtag #AgainstStolenGas for any related articles and posts about the deal. And if you are in Jordan, join us.”
– Tariq Shadid is a surgeon living in the Arab Gulf who has been contributing articles to the Palestine Chronicle for many years. Some of these essays have been bundled in the book ‘Understanding Palestine’, which is available on Amazon.com. He also is the founder of the website ‘Musical Intifada’ featuring his songs about the Palestinian cause, on www.docjazz.com. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.