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Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Gaza - why now?

The fact that a major escalation in Israeli aggression towards the people of Gaza has taken place is obvious, but what is less obvious is...why now? There certainly was no single precipitating event, as there was in 2006 with the capture of Gilad Shalit (which in turn was precipitated by a series of Israeli attacks).

Yesterday on Flashpoints, Mark Turner of the Research Journalism Initiative spoke with Nora Barrows-Friedman (at 10:50 into the show, if you download it or listen online where it is archived) about one possible cause for the escalation which has been largely overlooked although it is no secret - a large natural gas field in Palestinian waters off the coast of Gaza.

Natural gas was discovered off Gaza in 2000, and British Gas (BG) began developing the estimated 1.3 trillion cubic meter field under the authority of the Palestinian Authority. At first, the plan was to pipe the gas to Egypt, but under pressure from Tony Blair, the plan was altered so that some of the gas would be piped to Israel, providing 10% of Israel's annual energy needs at a value of $1 billion to the Palestinian Authority. Needless to say, with the election of Hamas in 2006, Israel refused to allow the deal to proceed (and, needless to say, even though the deal involves Palestine and a British company and Palestinian waters, Israel has total control over what happens, just as they refuse to even allow Palestinian fishermen to fish Gaza's waters).

So what was the precipitating event for this escalation? On January 8, BG announced it would be closing its office in Israel, and that it would redirect negotiations in the direction of the Egyptian pipeline, thereby depriving Israel of an inexpensive (inexpensive because the Palestinians don't have the negotiating clout of, say, Venezuela) and captive source of a significant source of its future energy needs, and thus magnifying Israel's need to precipitate the fall of Hamas and head this potential development off at the pass.

Is this the only or even main cause of the escalation? I couldn't say, but it's certainly one about which I, for one, had no idea.

And, whatever the reason, we need to act to protest Israeli war crimes! "Silence is complicity" in the words of Martin Luther King. ANSWER has announced a series of demonstrations around the country for this Friday and Saturday. The Muslim American Society has announced a rally for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. (possibly in conjunction with ANSWER; the date and location are the same). The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions has announced an emergency aid convoy and is seeking funds. No doubt there are other actions planned; please post any you know of in the comments.

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