When fear changed sides – Quand la peur change de camp

Thoughts on the Arab revolutions – Réflexions sur les révolutions arabes…

The organization abbreviated as ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) is not new in the region, nor is it a newfound expression of the crises afflicting Arab societies at a moment of profound transformations, initiated by 2011 revolutions.

To the contrary, ISIS is the offspring of more than one father, and the product of more than one longstanding and widespread sickness. The organization’s explosive growth today is in fact the result of previously existing, worsening conflicts that were caused by the different fathers.

ISIS is first the child of despotism in the most heinous form that has plagued the region. Therefore, it is no coincidence that we see its base, its source of strength concentrated in Iraq and Syria, where Saddam Hussein and Hafez and Bashar Al-Assad reigned for decades, killing hundreds of thousands of people, destroying political life, and deepening sectarianism by transforming it into a mechanism of exclusion and polarization, to the point that injustices and crimes against humanity became commonplace.

ISIS is second the progeny of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, both the way in which it was initially conducted and the catastrophic mismanagement that followed. Specifically, it was the exclusion of a wide swath of Iraqis from post invasion political processes and the formation of a new authority that discriminated against them and held them collectively at fault for the guilt of Saddam and his party, which together enabled groups (such as those first established by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi) whose activities have been resumed by ISIS to get in touch with some parts of Iraqi society and to establish itself among them.

ISIS is third the son of Iranian aggressive regional policies that have worsened in recent years — taking Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria as its backyard, feeding (directly or indirectly) confessional divisions and making these divides the backbone of ideological mobilization and a policy of revenge and retaliation that has constructed a destructive feedback loop.

ISIS is fourth the child of some of the Salafist networks in the Gulf (in Saudi Arabia and other states), which emerged and developed throughout the 1980s, following the oil boom and the “Afghan jihad”. These networks have continued to operate and expand throughout the last two decades under various names, all in the interest of extremism and obscurantism.

ISIS is fifth the offspring of a profound crisis, deeply rooted in the thinking of some Islamist groups seeking to escape from their terrible failure to confront the challenges of the present toward a delusional model ostensibly taken from the seventh century, believing that they have found within its imaginary folds the answer to all contemporary or future questions.

ISIS is sixth the progeny of violence, or of an environment that has been subjected to striking brutality, which has allowed the growth of this disease and facilitated the emergence of what could be called “ISISism”. Like Iraq previously, Syria today has been abandoned beneath explosive barrels to become a laboratory, a testing ground for violence, daily massacres and their outcomes.

ISIS, an abominable, savage creature, is thus the product of at least these six fathers. Its persistency depends on the continuation of these aforementioned elements, particularly the element of violence embodied by the Assad regime in Syria. Those who think that they should be impartial toward or even support tyrants like Assad in the fight against ISISism fail to realize that his regime is in fact at the root of the problem.

Until this fact is recognized — that despotism is the disease and not the cure — we can only expect more deadly repercussions, from the Middle East to the distant corners of the globe… More

 

 

Gaza reminds us of Zionism’s original sin

The morning after Lailat al-Qadr, the death toll in Gaza was approaching its first thousand.

Palestinians recover belongings from the
Khuzaa neighborhood of Khan Younis

Al-Qadr — the night before the last Friday in the holy month of Ramadan — is believed to be the night when the Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad. I spent this special night with friends in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah after participating in the “48K March” for Gaza.

The march began in Ramallah and went to Qalandiya checkpoint. What began as a peaceful event with families bringing their children and even babies in strollers, ended with young Palestinians with gunshot wounds being rushed in ambulances to the local hospital.

Qalandiya crossing was fortified and air-tight, and the Israeli soldiers stationed on top were shooting live ammunition at the crowd.

As the ambulances were speeding through the crowd, I couldn’t help but wonder why there is no hospital between Qalandiya and Ramallah, a good distance which includes the municipalities of Jerusalem, al-Bireh and Ramallah.

The following night I was scheduled to leave Palestine to return to the United States. But Israeli forces sealed all the roads from Ramallah to Jerusalem for the night, and they were likely to be sealed the following day as well.

At the crack of dawn, when things had quietened down, my friend Samer drove me to a checkpoint that he suspected would be open. It was open, albeit for Israelis only, and from there I made my way back to Jerusalem.

That evening, as I was preparing to leave for Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, people around me were trying to calm me down. “Don’t aggravate them, cooperate and they will be nice,” they said. “Why go through all this unnecessary inconvenience?”

They were talking about the “Smiling Gestapo,” Israeli security officers at Tel Aviv airport that go by the squeaky clean name of the Airport Security Division.

Non-cooperation and resistance

Listening to this, I was reminded of Jewish communities under the Nazi regime who believed that if they cooperated and showed they were good citizens then all would be well. But the road from cooperation to the concentration camps and then the gas chambers was a direct one.

The policies of racist discrimination and humiliation at Ben Gurion airport, and the policies of ethnic cleansing and murder of Palestinians in Gaza, emanate from the same Zionist ideology.

As we have seen over the past seven decades, cooperation and laying low do not make things ok.

Cooperation with the Israeli authorities might lead to short-term relief but it also validates Israel’s “right” to terrorize and humiliate Palestinians with our consent, “we” being all people of conscience. Whether we are Palestinian or not, the call of the hour is non-cooperation and resistance against injustice.

Today, Israel and its supporters lay the blame for the violence in Gaza on Hamas. But Israel did not start its assaults on the Gaza Strip when Hamas was established in the late 1980s. Israel began attacking Gaza when the Strip was populated with the first generation refugees in the early 1950s.

Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, are not faced with an option to resist and be killed or live in peace. They are presented with the options of being killed standing up and fighting or being killed sleeping in their beds.

“Sea of hatred”

Gaza is being punished because Gaza is a constant reminder to Israel and the world of the original sin of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the creation of a so-called Jewish state. Even though Palestinian resistance has never presented a military threat to Israel, it has always been portrayed as an existential threat to the state.

Moshe Dayan, the famed Israeli general with the eyepatch, described this in a speech in April 1956. He spoke in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, an Israeli settlement on the boundary of the Gaza Strip where Israeli tanks park each time there is a ground invasion of Gaza.

“Beyond the furrow of this border, there surges a sea of hatred and revenge,” Dayansaid then. Ironically, when six months later Israel had occupied Gaza and my father was appointed its military governor, he said that he saw “no hatred or desire for vengeance but a people eager to live and work together for a better future.”

Still, today, Israeli commanders and politicians say pretty much the same: Israel is destined to live by the sword and must strike Gaza whenever possible. Never mind the fact that Palestinians have never posed a military challenge, much less a threat to Israel.

After all, Palestinians have never possessed as much as a tank, a warship or a fighter jet, not to say a regular army.

So why the fear? Why the constant, six-decade-long campaign against Gaza? Because Palestinians in Gaza, more so than anywhere else, pose a threat to Israel’s legitimacy.

Israel is an illegitimate creation brought about by a union between racism and colonialism. The refugees who make up the majority of the population in the Gaza Strip are a constant reminder of this.

They are a reminder of the crime of ethnic cleansing upon which Israel was established. The poverty, lack of resources and lack of freedom stand in stark contrast to the abundance, freedom and power that exist in Israel and that rightfully belongs to Palestinians.

Generous offer

Back at Ben Gurion airport that night, I was told that if I cooperate and plead with the shift supervisor it would make the security screening go faster. When I declined this generous offer, I was told they “did not like my attitude.”

They proceeded to paste a sticker with the same bar code on my luggage and give me the same treatment Palestinians receive.

As I write these words, the number of Palestinians murdered by Israel in Gaza has exceeded two thousand. Ending the insufferable, brutal and racist regime that was created by the Zionists in Palestine is the call of our time.

Criticizing Palestinian resistance is unconscionable. Israel must be subjected toboycott, divestment and sanctions. Israeli diplomats must be sent home in shame. Israeli leaders, and Israeli commanders traveling abroad, must fear prosecution.

And these measures are to be combined with disobedience, non-cooperation and uncompromising resistance. This and only this will show mothers, fathers and children in Gaza that the world cares and that “never again” is more than an empty promise. More

 

How Israel’s lies are used to justify mass slaughter of civilians in Gaza

Israel's lies make it clear to the Palestinians that it will continue to wage a campaign of state terror and will never admit its atrocities or its intentions.


ALL GOVERNMENTS lie, including Israel and Hamas. But Israel engages in the kinds of jaw-dropping lies that characterize despotic and totalitarian regimes.


It does not deform the truth; it inverts it. It routinely paints a picture for the outside world that is diametrically opposed to reality. And all of us reporters who have covered the occupied territories have run into Israel's Alice-in-Wonderland narratives, which we dutifully insert into our stories — required under the rules of American journalism — although we know they are untrue.


I saw small boys baited and killed by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza refugee camp of Khan Younis. The soldiers swore at the boys in Arabic over the loudspeakers of their armored jeep. The boys, about 10 years old, then threw stones at an Israeli vehicle and the soldiers opened fire, killing some, wounding others. I was present more than once as Israeli troops drew out and shot Palestinian children in this way.


Such incidents, in the Israeli lexicon, become children caught in crossfire.


I was in Gaza when F-16 attack jets dropped 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs on overcrowded hovels in Gaza City. I saw the corpses of the victims, including children. This became a surgical strike on a bomb-making factory.


I have watched Israel demolish homes and entire apartment blocks to create wide buffer zones between the Palestinians and the Israeli troops that ring Gaza. I have interviewed the destitute and homeless families, some camped out in crude shelters erected in the rubble. The destruction becomes the demolition of the homes of terrorists.


I have stood in the remains of schools — Israel struck two United Nations schools in the last six days, causing at least 10 fatalities at one in Rafah on Sunday and at least 19 at one in the Jebaliya refugee camp Wednesday — as well as medical clinics and mosques. I have heard Israel claim that errant rockets or mortar fire from the Palestinians caused these and other deaths, or that the attacked spots were being used as arms depots or launching sites.


I, along with every other reporter I know who has worked in Gaza, have never seen any evidence that Hamas uses civilians as “human shields.”


There is a perverted logic to Israel's repeated use of the Big Lie — the lie favored by tyrants from Josef Stalin to Saddam Hussein. The Big Lie feeds the two reactions Israel seeks to elicit — racism among its supporters and terror among its victims.


By painting a picture of an army that never attacks civilians, that indeed goes out of its way to protect them, the Big Lie says Israelis are civilized and humane, and their Palestinian opponents are inhuman monsters.


The Big Lie serves the idea that the slaughter in Gaza is a clash of civilizations, a war between democracy, decency and honor on one side and Islamic barbarism on the other. And in the uncommon cases when news of atrocities penetrates to the wider public, Israel blames the destruction and casualties on Hamas.


George Orwell in his novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” called this form of propaganda doublethink. Doublethink uses “logic against logic” and “repudiate[s] morality while laying claim to it.”


The Big Lie does not allow for the nuances and contradictions that can plague conscience. It is a state-orchestrated response to the dilemma of cognitive dissonance. The Big Lie permits no gray zones. The world is black and white, good and evil, righteous and unrighteous.


The Big Lie allows believers to take comfort — a comfort they are desperately seeking — in their own moral superiority at the very moment they have abrogated all morality.


The Big Lie, as the father of American public relations, Edward Bernays, wrote, is limited only by the propagandist's capacity to fathom and harness the undercurrents of individual and mass psychology. And since most supporters of Israel do not have a desire to know the truth, a truth that would force them to examine their own racism and self-delusions about Zionist and Western moral superiority, like packs of famished dogs they lap up the lies fed to them by the Israeli government.


But the Big Lie is also consciously designed to send a chilling message to Gaza's Palestinians, who have lost large numbers of their dwellings, clinics, mosques, and power, water and sewage facilities, along with schools and hospitals, who have suffered some 1,850 deaths since this assault began — most of the victims women and children — and who have seen 400,000 people displaced from their homes.


The Big Lie makes it clear to the Palestinians that Israel will continue to wage a campaign of state terror and will never admit its atrocities or its intentions. The vast disparity between what Israel says and what Israel does tells the Palestinians that there is no hope. Israel will do and say whatever it wants. International law, like the truth, will always be irrelevant. There will never, the Palestinians understand from the Big Lie, be an acknowledgement of reality by the Israeli leadership.


The Israel Defense Forces website is replete with this black propaganda. “Hamas exploits the IDF's sensitivity towards protecting civilian structures, particularly holy sites, by hiding command centers, weapons caches and tunnel entrances in mosques,” the IDF site reads. “In Hamas' world, hospitals are command centers, ambulances are transport vehicles, and medics are human shields,” the site insists.


“… [Israeli] officers are tasked with an enormous responsibility: to protect Palestinian civilians on the ground, no matter how difficult that may be,” the site assures its viewers. And the IDF site provides this quote from a drone operator identified as Lt. Or. “I have personally seen rockets fired at Israel from hospitals and schools, but we couldn't strike back because of civilians nearby. In one instance, we acquired a target but we saw that there were children in the area. We waited around, and when they didn't leave we were forced to abort a strike on an important target.”


Israel's ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, in a Big Lie of his own, said last month at a conference of Christians United for Israel that the Israeli army should be given the “Nobel Peace Prize … a Nobel Peace Prize for fighting with unimaginable restraint.”


The Big Lie destroys any possibility of history and therefore any hope for a dialogue between antagonistic parties that can be grounded in truth and reality.


And when facts no longer matter, when there is no shared history grounded in the truth, when people foolishly believe their own lies, there can be no useful exchange of information.


The Big Lie, used like a bludgeon by Israel, as perhaps it is designed to be, ultimately reduces all problems in the world to the brutish language of violence. And when oppressed people are addressed only through violence they will answer only through violence. More

 

 

War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza’s Offshore Gas Fields

More than five years ago, Israel invaded Gaza under “Operation Cast Lead”.

The following article was first published by Global Research in January 2009 at the height of the Israeli bombing and invasion under Operation Cast Lead.

In the wake of the invasion, Palestinian gas fields were de facto confiscated by Israel in derogation of international law

A year following “Operation Cast Lead”, Tel Aviv announced the discovery of the Leviathan natural gas field in the Eastern Mediterranean “off the coast of Israel.”

At the time the gas field was: “ … the most prominent field ever found in the sub-explored area of the Levantine Basin, which covers about 83,000 square kilometres of the eastern Mediterranean region.” (i)

Coupled with Tamar field, in the same location, discovered in 2009, the prospects are for an energy bonanza for Israel, for Houston, Texas based Noble Energy and partners Delek Drilling, Avner Oil Exploration and Ratio Oil Exploration. (See Felicity Arbuthnot, Israel: Gas, Oil and Trouble in the Levant, Global Research, December 30, 2013

The Gazan gas fields are part of the broader Levant assessment area.

What is now unfolding is the integration of these adjoining gas fields including those belonging to Palestine into the orbit of Israel. (see map below).

It should be noted that the entire Eastern Mediterranean coastline extending from Egypt’s Sinai to Syria constitutes an area encompassing large gas as well as oil reserves.

War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza's Offshore Gas Fields

More than five years ago, Israel invaded Gaza under “Operation Cast Lead”.

The following article was first published by Global Research in January 2009 at the height of the Israeli bombing and invasion under Operation Cast Lead.

In the wake of the invasion, Palestinian gas fields were de facto confiscated by Israel in derogation of international law

A year following “Operation Cast Lead”, Tel Aviv announced the discovery of the Leviathan natural gas field in the Eastern Mediterranean “off the coast of Israel.”

At the time the gas field was: “ … the most prominent field ever found in the sub-explored area of the Levantine Basin, which covers about 83,000 square kilometres of the eastern Mediterranean region.” (i)

Coupled with Tamar field, in the same location, discovered in 2009, the prospects are for an energy bonanza for Israel, for Houston, Texas based Noble Energy and partners Delek Drilling, Avner Oil Exploration and Ratio Oil Exploration. (See Felicity Arbuthnot, Israel: Gas, Oil and Trouble in the Levant, Global Research, December 30, 2013

The Gazan gas fields are part of the broader Levant assessment area.

What is now unfolding is the integration of these adjoining gas fields including those belonging to Palestine into the orbit of Israel. (see map below).

It should be noted that the entire Eastern Mediterranean coastline extending from Egypt’s Sinai to Syria constitutes an area encompassing large gas as well as oil reserves.

levant gas map1 felicity

Michel Chossudovsky, January 3, 2014

War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza’s Offshore Gas Fields

by Michel Chossudovsky

January 8, 2009

The December 2008 military invasion of the Gaza Strip by Israeli Forces bears a direct relation to the control and ownership of strategic offshore gas reserves.

This is a war of conquest. Discovered in 2000, there are extensive gas reserves off the Gaza coastline.

British Gas (BG Group) and its partner, the Athens based Consolidated Contractors International Company(CCC) owned by Lebanon’s Sabbagh and Koury families, were granted oil and gas exploration rights in a 25 year agreement signed in November 1999 with the Palestinian Authority.

The rights to the offshore gas field are respectively British Gas (60 percent); Consolidated Contractors (CCC) (30 percent); and the Investment Fund of the Palestinian Authority (10 percent). (Haaretz, October 21, 2007).

The PA-BG-CCC agreement includes field development and the construction of a gas pipeline.(Middle East Economic Digest, Jan 5, 2001).

The BG licence covers the entire Gazan offshore marine area, which is contiguous to several Israeli offshore gas facilities. (See Map below). It should be noted that 60 percent of the gas reserves along the Gaza-Israel coastline belong to Palestine.

Map 1

The BG Group drilled two wells in 2000: Gaza Marine-1 and Gaza Marine-2. Reserves are estimated by British Gas to be of the order of 1.4 trillion cubic feet, valued at approximately 4 billion dollars. These are the figures made public by British Gas. The size of Palestine’s gas reserves could be much larger.

Who Owns the Gas Fields

The issue of sovereignty over Gaza’s gas fields is crucial. From a legal standpoint, the gas reserves belong to Palestine.

The death of Yasser Arafat, the election of the Hamas government and the ruin of the Palestinian Authority have enabled Israel to establish de facto control over Gaza’s offshore gas reserves.

British Gas (BG Group) has been dealing with the Tel Aviv government. In turn, the Hamas government has been bypassed in regards to exploration and development rights over the gas fields.

Map 2

The election of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 was a major turning point. Palestine’s sovereignty over the offshore gas fields was challenged in the Israeli Supreme Court. Sharon stated unequivocally that “Israel would never buy gas from Palestine” intimating that Gaza’s offshore gas reserves belong to Israel.

In 2003, Ariel Sharon, vetoed an initial deal, which would allow British Gas to supply Israel with natural gas from Gaza’s offshore wells. (The Independent, August 19, 2003)

The election victory of Hamas in 2006 was conducive to the demise of the Palestinian Authority, which became confined to the West Bank, under the proxy regime of Mahmoud Abbas.

In 2006, British Gas “was close to signing a deal to pump the gas to Egypt.” (Times, May, 23, 2007). According to reports, British Prime Minister Tony Blair intervened on behalf of Israel with a view to shunting the agreement with Egypt.

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 the Palestinians.

Tel Aviv, however, had no intention on sharing the revenues with Palestine. An Israeli team of negotiators was set up by the Israeli Cabinet to thrash out a deal with the BG Group, bypassing both the Hamas government and the Palestinian Authority:

Israeli defence authorities want the Palestinians to be paid in goods and services and insist that no money go to the Hamas-controlled Government.” (Ibid, emphasis added)

The objective was essentially to nullify the contract signed in 1999 between the BG Group and the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat.

Under the proposed 2007 agreement with BG, Palestinian gas from Gaza’s offshore wells was to be channeled by an undersea pipeline to the Israeli seaport of Ashkelon, thereby transferring control over the sale of the natural gas to Israel.

The deal fell through. The negotiations were suspended:

”Mossad Chief Meir Dagan opposed the transaction on security grounds, that the proceeds would fund terror”. (Member of Knesset Gilad Erdan, Address to the Knesset on “The Intention of Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Purchase Gas from the Palestinians When Payment Will Serve Hamas,” March 1, 2006, quoted in Lt. Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon, Does the Prospective Purchase of British Gas from Gaza’s Coastal Waters Threaten Israel’s National Security? Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, October 2007)

Israel’s intent was to foreclose the possibility that royalties be paid to the Palestinians. In December 2007, The BG Group withdrew from the negotiations with Israel and in January 2008 they closed their office in Israel.(BG website).

Invasion Plan on The Drawing Board

The invasion plan of the Gaza Strip under “Operation Cast Lead” was set in motion in June 2008, according to Israeli military sources:

“Sources in the defense establishment said 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.”(Barak Ravid, Operation “Cast Lead”: Israeli Air Force strike followed months of planning, Haaretz, December 27, 2008)

That very same month, the Israeli authorities contacted British Gas, with a view to resuming crucial negotiations pertaining to the purchase of Gaza’s natural gas:

“Both 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.

The sources added that BG has not yet officially responded to Israel’s request, but that company executives would probably come to Israel in a few weeks to hold talks with government officials.” (Globes online- Israel’s Business Arena, June 23, 2008)

The decision to speed up negotiations with British Gas (BG Group) coincided, chronologically, with the planning of the invasion of Gaza initiated in June. It would appear that Israel was anxious to reach an agreement with the BG Group prior to the invasion, which was already in an advanced planning stage.

Moreover, these negotiations with British Gas were conducted by the Ehud Olmert government with the knowledge that a military invasion was on the drawing board. In all likelihood, a new “post war” political-territorial arrangement for the Gaza strip was also being contemplated by the Israeli government.

In fact, negotiations between British Gas and Israeli officials were ongoing in October 2008, 2-3 months prior to the commencement of the bombings on December 27th.

In November 2008, the Israeli Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of National Infrastructures instructed Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) to enter into negotiations with British Gas, on the purchase of natural gas from the BG’s offshore concession in Gaza. (Globes, November 13, 2008)

“Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav and Ministry of National Infrastructures director general Hezi Kugler wrote to IEC CEO Amos Lasker recently, informing him of the government’s decision to allow negotiations to go forward, in line with the framework proposal it approved earlier this year.

The IEC board, headed by chairman Moti Friedman, approved the principles of the framework proposal a few weeks ago. The talks with BG Group will begin once the board approves the exemption from a tender.” (Globes Nov. 13, 2008)

Gaza and Energy Geopolitics

The military occupation of Gaza is intent upon transferring the sovereignty of the gas fields to Israel in violation of international law.

What can we expect in the wake of the invasion?

What is the intent of Israel with regard to Palestine’s Natural Gas reserves?

A new territorial arrangement, with the stationing of Israeli and/or “peacekeeping” troops?

The militarization of the entire Gaza coastline, which is strategic for Israel?

The outright confiscation of Palestinian gas fields and the unilateral declaration of Israeli sovereignty over Gaza’s maritime areas?

If this were to occur, the Gaza gas fields would be integrated into Israel’s offshore installations, which are contiguous to those of the Gaza Strip. (See Map 1 above).

These various offshore installations are also linked up to Israel’s energy transport corridor, extending from the port of Eilat, which is an oil pipeline terminal, on the Red Sea to the seaport – pipeline terminal at Ashkelon, and northwards to Haifa, and eventually linking up through a proposed Israeli-Turkish pipeline with the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

Map 3

Ceyhan is the terminal of the Baku, Tblisi Ceyhan Trans Caspian pipeline. “What is envisaged is to link the BTC pipeline to the Trans-Israel Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline, also known as Israel’s Tipline.” (See Michel Chossudovsky, The War on Lebanon and the Battle for Oil, Global Research, July 23, 2006)

More

 

Gaza: Widespread Impact of Power Plant Attack

(Jerusalem, Palestine) – The apparent Israeli shellfire that knocked out the Gaza Strip’s only electrical power plant on July 29, 2014, has worsened the humanitarian crisis for the territory’s 1.7 million people. Damaging or destroying a power plant, even if it also served a military purpose, would be an unlawful disproportionate attack under the laws of war, causing far greater civilian harm than military gain.

The shutdown of the Gaza Power Plant has had an impact on the population far beyond power outages. It has drastically curtailed the pumping of water to households and the treatment of sewage, both of which require electric power. It also caused hospitals, already straining to handle the surge of war casualties, to increase their reliance on precarious generators. And it has affected the food supply because the lack of power has shut off refrigerators and forced bakeries to reduce their bread production.

“If there were one attack that could be predicted to endanger the health and well-being of the greatest number of people in Gaza, hitting the territory’s sole electricity plant would be it,” said , deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “Deliberately attacking the power plant would be a war crime.”

The spokesperson for the Energy Distribution Authority, Jamal Dardasawi, was quoted in the media as saying that Israeli tank shells hit one of Gaza Power Plant’s fuel storage tanks. The attack caused a massive explosion and a fire that damaged other parts of the facility and took much of the day to extinguish.

The plant’s shutdown cut off all power for much of the territory. For years, Gazans have been living with electricity service for only part of each day, and those who can afford fuel run private generators to provide back-up power. A week after the strike, some service was restored to most neighborhoods, but less than the limited pre-conflict levels.

Shortly after the attack was reported, Israel denied targeting the plant but said its forces might have hit it accidentally. Human Rights Watch was unable to determine whether Palestinian fighters were deployed in the area when the plant was hit. However, Fathi al-Sheikh Khalil, deputy chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Authority in Gaza, said that the al-Nusseirat area, where the plant is located, was being heavily bombed at the time of the strike. Khalil said that Gaza firefighters phoned him to say they could not approach the plant because of the ongoing attacks in the vicinity. As a result, the fire spread from the small storage tank that was initially hit to a larger one, he said.

The strike came at about 3 a.m. on a day of bombardment that was widely described as the heaviest in the first three weeks of fighting. Israeli airstrikes that day destroyed a central mosque and the home of the Hamas political leader, Ismail Haniya, and damaged government buildings and a building that housed the offices of Hamas-controlled television and radio stations. Israeli military operations that day killed about 100 Palestinians.

Israeli military operations have caused massive damage to Gaza’s infrastructure, including housing, factories, hospitals, mosques, and schools.

Under the laws of war, power plants, like airports, are considered dual-use objects – civilian objects that also benefit an armed force. As such they can be military objectives, subject to attack. However, any attack on a dual-use object must be proportionate. Attacks that can be expected to cause more harm to civilians and civilian structures than the anticipated military gain of the attack are prohibited. Expected civilian harm encompasses casualties over time as well as immediate civilian losses. Thus any attack on the Gaza Power Plant that would cause a significant shutdown would invariably be disproportionate, violating international humanitarian law.

Israel has denied attacking the power plant. Brig. Gen. Yaron Rosen, the commander of the Israeli Air Support and Helicopter Air Division, said on July 29 that Israel “has no interest” in attacking the plant. “We transfer to them the electricity, we transfer in the gas, we transfer in the food in order to prevent a humanitarian disaster,” he said. “So we attacked the power plant?” Rosen said it was possible Israel hit the power plant accidentally and that an internal investigation was under way. An August 4 CNN story on the electricity crisis stated that an Israeli Defense Ministry spokesperson had told CNN that Israeli forces were not involved in the attack.

Ribhi al-Sheikh, deputy head of the Palestine Water Authority, said the lack of electricity had idled wells – except where generators were able to provide some back-up power – as well as water treatment and desalination plants. Idling wells endangers crops that require water at the hottest time of year.

Most urban households in Gaza need electricity to pump water to rooftop tanks. Ghada Snunu, a worker for a nongovernmental organization, said on August 4 that her home in Gaza City had been without electricity since the attack on the power plant, forcing her family to buy water in jerry cans and to conserve the used household water to empty the toilets. The collapse of electricity service meant that many Gazans lacked access to the 30 liters of water that is the estimated amount needed per capita daily for drinking, cooking, hygiene and laundering, said Mahmoud Daher, head of the Gaza office of the UN World Health Organization.

Daher said that hospitals have been given priority for scarce electricity, with Shifa, the territory’s largest hospital, getting the most, at 16 hours a day. If the fuel required to run generators were to run out, or a generator to fail, a hospital could lose power.

An official at al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City told Human Rights Watch on August 7 that because of electricity interruptions:

We use a large generator for six to eight hours per day, then have to rely on three smaller ones, because the large one cannot be run full-time. If the large one goes, we don’t know how we would repair it, because of the lack of spare parts. It powers the oxygen station, the hospital’s two elevators, and the air conditioners – this amounts to 80 percent of the hospital’s total electricity consumption. When we use the smaller generators, they can only power one elevator, and none of the air conditioners, which makes it difficult for staff to work long hours in the August heat, and dangerous for patients.

Israeli forces had reportedly struck the power plant both earlier in the current fighting and in previous conflicts, Human Rights Watch said. The plant had been hit on five occasions since early July, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. It closed briefly after shelling by Israeli forces on July 22 and 23, said Gisha, an Israeli nongovernmental organization. One of the strikes knocked out one of the plant’s generator sets, said Khalil of the Energy Authority.

He said repairing it and the storage tanks will take more than a year, but the plant can make temporary repairs that will enable it to produce 50 megawatts sooner, though at a higher cost. The power plant, in central Gaza, produced about 60 megawatts of power before the current fighting began, the deputy minister of the Palestine Energy Authority in Ramallah, Abdelkarim Abdeen, told Human Rights Watch.

Khalil said that about two days before the July 29 strike, Israeli authorities had passed a message to him via the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) that the power plant was not a target and that its workers could move safely within the compound. No workers were hurt in the strike, he said.

In addition to the output from the plant, Gaza normally gets 120 megawatts of power from Israel via 10 transmission lines and 28 from Egypt via 3 lines. However, the recent fighting damaged 8 of the Israeli lines and 2 of the Egyptian lines, reducing the supply coming from Israel to 24 megawatts and from Egypt to 18 megawatts as of August 4, Abdeen said.

Damage to the Israeli and Egyptian power lines and then the attack on the power plant cut Gaza’s electricity supply to about 20 percent of the 200 megawatts it had before the conflict began. Gaza’s electricity needs are estimated at 350 megawatts, so power rationing and rolling blackouts were the norm even before war damage slashed the amount of power available.

Since the August 5 ceasefire, electricity power supplies have increased as repair crews have restored eight of the Israeli and all three of the Egyptian lines. Before the ceasefire, conflict conditions had made it hazardous for technicians to perform the necessary repairs, the International Committee of the Red Cross said. As of August 7, households were reportedly getting between three and seven hours of electricity, depending on their location in the Gaza Strip.

Eight years ago, on June 28, 2006, Israeli missiles hit the plant eight times, knocking out its transformers, three days after Hamas fighters in Gaza captured the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Israel then delayed or blocked the delivery of material needed to fully repair the Gaza power plant. Then, in 2008, Israel cut its deliveries of electricity and fuel to Gaza for the declared purpose of pressuring armed groups to end their rocket attacks against civilians in Israel, a form of collective punishment in violation of the laws of war.

Israel has attacked power plants in hostilities outside of Gaza. During its armed conflict with Hezbollah, Israel deliberately bombed electricity plants in southern Lebanon, including on June 24, 1999, February 8, 2000, and May 5, 2000. The day after the 1999 attack, Israeli Brig. Gen. Dan Halutz said at a news conference that the Lebanese infrastructure targets “had been selected a long time ago,” and that the Israeli “government decided to carry out an attack on Lebanese infrastructure and not only on Hezbollah objectives…to stress that all power brokers in Lebanon who support Hezbollah’s murderous activity are liable to attack.” The attacks on electricity plants violated the laws of war prohibition against disproportionate attacks because their expected harm to the civilian population was greater than the military gain achieved.

The laws of war obligate countries responsible for violations to make full reparations for the loss or injury caused. This would involve at a minimum providing materials and assistance to permit the prompt restoration of the power plant to its pre-war capacity. Even while fighting continues, Israel should ensure humanitarian agencies have access to restore destroyed power lines, given their crucial humanitarian impact on the civilian population More