Ismail Ziada, a Dutch Palestinian who lost six family members when Israel bombarded his home in Gaza, is taking Benny Gantz, the leader of Israel’s Blue and White Party, to court for killing his family. Professor Hilla Dayan, who observed the proceedings, discusses the case and its impact on Israeli politics.
Dr. Hilla Dayan is an Israeli sociologist and activist, a lecturer at Amsterdam University College, and co-founder of gate48 (Amsterdam) and the members’ organization Academia for Equality. Her article, Neozionism: a Portrait of a Contemporary Hegemony, was recently published in Settler-Colonial Studies.
A group of Palestinians shout slogans and hold placards as they gather for a demonstration in support of Palestinian prisoner Samer al-‘Arbid, who was arrested by the Israeli army during a raid in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah last week, in front of the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem on 1 October, 2019
By Ramona Wadi
Before the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle became fragmented by concessions to Israel and the international community, Palestinian prisoners were considered an integral component of the struggle for liberation. After the Oslo Accords, Israel retained the upper hand in detaining and imprisoning Palestinians, aided by the Palestinian Authority’s security coordination with the occupation authorities.
The moment that the PA discarded resistance, it also abandoned the Palestinian prisoners, isolating them politically as well as physically. Given the collusion between Israel and the PA when it comes to ensuring a perpetual supply of Palestinians upon whom human rights violations can be practiced, this comes as no surprise. After all, the PA itself tortures Palestinian prisoners, so why should it object when Israel does the same? Furthermore, why would the PA divert attention away from its illusions of state-building and contradict the aims of the Oslo Accords, which marginalised Palestinian prisoners to the point that their link to resistance and the Palestinian people is almost severed?
Apart from a brief statement requesting the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to allow a medical team to visit tortured Palestinian prisoner Samer Arabeed, the PA has largely kept quiet about the unfolding scandal of his situation, despite protests by Palestinian citizens.
According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, 73 Palestinian prisoners have died as a result of torture in Israeli jails since 1967. While Israel has obtained legal justification for torture from its own courts, the PA has alternated between weak statements, oblivion and the exploitation of Palestinian prisoners. Have those prisoners in Israeli jails become a commodity for the PA to exploit depending on its political agenda?
In 2016, Addameer published a report which discussed the economic exploitation of Palestinian prisoners. It described the exploitation thus: “Just as the Oslo Accords have made Palestinian society responsible for guaranteeing the security of [the] occupier, so has the integration of the PA into the Israeli prison system made Palestinian society responsible for facilitating the imprisonment of those who resist the occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land.”
Samer Arabeed’s case managed to make headlines due to the fact that he was tortured, yet it is not enough to call attention to yet another example of Israel’s abuse of human rights. Palestinian prisoners who are tortured, some of whom have died as a result, are proof of the worst ramifications inflicted upon a segment of Palestinian society that is always shunned politically.
The PA’s commitment to paying stipends for Palestinian prisoners and their families is one form of political exclusion that has become convenient in terms of establishing what constitutes its duty. However, when the prisoners were in the vanguard of the struggle, Palestinian society united behind the same political aims. What the PA has achieved is the dissolution of unity in the Palestinian struggle as well as the glorification of Palestinian prisoners, but only as far as the latter suits its own agenda, of course. In terms of political support, the PA gives nothing, while being careful to differentiate its criticism between prisoners in Israeli jails and those in PA jails when it comes to highlighting human rights violations.
Israel is making a political statement through its imprisonment and torture of Palestinian prisoners. The PA, on the other hand, acquiesces to Israel’s statement by neutralising the importance of Palestinian prisoners to the wider liberation struggle.
The Foreign Minister for the Palestinian Authority, Riyad Malki, has called upon United Nations special rapporteurs to expose Israeli crimes committed against Palestinians, especially in the wake of the severe torture of prisoner Samer al-Arbeed, who has been taken to a hospital in a critical condition.
In letters sent to the Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on Justice, and the Special Rapporteur on the State of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, on Thursday, Malki briefed them on the suffering of the 44-year-old father of three, who is between life and death at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, al-Quds.
The top Palestinian diplomat then urged the special rapporteurs to expose the Israeli crimes, and to find mechanisms to hold accountable the Israeli officials responsible for Arbeed’s torture, which was done in coordination with and through the endorsement of the Tel Aviv regime and Israeli courts.
Malki stressed, according to the PNN, that the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates has been contacting international human rights organization and UN bodies, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to demand their intervention and protection of Arbeed.
During the reporting period, PCHR documented 129 violations of the international human rights law and international humanitarian law (IHL) by Israeli forces and settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Under the Israeli violations of the right to life and bodily integrity, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian civilian and wounded 88others, including 27 children and 9 paramedics, including 4 female paramedics in the Gaza Strip at the 76th Great March of Return. On 29 September 2019, Palestinian prisoner Samer al-‘Arabid, was transferred to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem due to the serious deterioration of his health condition while being interrogated by the Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) in the Moscovia Prison in occupied Jerusalem.
As part of the Israeli incursions and house raids, Israel carried out 76 incursions into the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, and raided civilian houses, attacking and enticing fear among residents in addition to shooting in many incidents. As a result, 55 Palestinians were arrested, including a child and 2 women.
In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli forces carried out 6 naval attacks against Palestinian fishermen at sea within the allowed fishing area; also, 1 shooting incident was documented in an agricultural land east of Khan Younis.
the settlement expansion activities in the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, continued this week as PCHR fieldworkers documented the storming of al-Aqsa Mosque grounds by large settler groups.
In terms of the Israeli closure policy, the Gaza Strip still suffers the worst closure in the History of the Israeli occupation in the oPt as it has entered the 14th consecutive year, without any improvement to the movement of persons and goods and ongoing isolation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and the rest of the world. Meanwhile, the West Bank is divided into separate cantons with key roads blocked by the Israeli occupation since the Second Intifada and with temporary and permanent checkpoints, where civilians’ movement is restricted and others are arrested.
During the reporting period, Israeli forces imposed a full-scale closure on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for the Jewish New Year. The closure lasted from 00:00 on Sunday 29 September 2019 until early Wednesday 02 October 2019. On Monday 30 September 2019 and Tuesday 01 October 2019, Israeli forces shut Erez (Beit Hanoun) Crossing completely.
Violation of the right to life and to bodily integrity
Excessive Use of Force against the Great March of Return in the Gaza Strip
The 76th Great March of Return took off in eastern Gaza Strip on Friday, 27 September 2019, titled “al-Aqsa Intifada and Palestinian Prisoners.” The Israeli attacks resulted in the killing of 1 civilian and the injury of 88 civilians, including 27 children, 9 paramedic including 4 females.
The incidents were as follows:
Northern Gaza Strip: At approximately 16:00 on Friday, 27 September 2019, hundreds of civilians marched towards the central tent of the Great March of Return (GMR) in Abu Safiyah area, northeast of Jabalia, north of the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces stationed behind sand berms and in military vehicles along the border fence, fired live and rubber bullets as well as teargas canisters at a number of protesters, who threw stones at them. As a result, 22 civilians injured, including 10 children and 2 paramedics: 8, including 2 children, were shot with live bullets and their shrapnel; 7, including 2 children, were shot with rubber bullets; and 7 were hit with tear gas canisters, including 6 children. The wounded civilians were transferred via ambulances belonging to the Ministry of Health and Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC) to the Indonesian and al-Awda Hospitals and their injuries were classified between minor and moderate. The injured paramedics were identified as ‘Atef Mohammed ‘Ali al-‘Arbid (48), a Civil Defense paramedic who was shot with a rubber bullet to the face, causing a fracture to the upper jaw; and Mohammed Husni ‘Abdulatif al-Haw (23), a Military Medical Services paramedic, who was shot with a rubber bullet to the left hand and treated in the medical point. Meanwhile, the injured persons with disabilities were identified as Saber‘Ali ‘Abdel Qader al-Ashqar (37), a double amputee who was shot with a rubber bullet in the left arm; and Mohammed Nabil ‘Abdullah al-Zaharnah (24), a deaf man who was shot with a live bullet to the abdomen.
Gaza City: at approximately 17:00 on Friday, hundreds of civilians marched in eastern Malakah area, east of Gaza City. Speeches, theatrical performances and other segments were performed at the protest central encampment. Dozens of protestors approached the fence and threw stones with slingshots at Israeli soldiers. The activities continued until 18:30 on the same day. Despite the peaceful nature of the demonstrations, Israeli forces directly stationed along the border fence fired live and rubber bullets and tear gas canisters at the participants. As a result, 12 civilians injured, including 4 children: 6 wereshot with live bullets, 4 were shot with rubber bullets and 2 were directly hit with tear gas canisters.
Central Gaza Strip: at approximately 15:00, hundreds of civilians, including women, children and families, took part in the eastern Bureij refugee camp protests; tens of them gathered adjacent to the border fence at a range varying between 3 – 70 meters. A number of protestors approached the fence, raised the Palestinian flags, set tires on fire and threw stones with slingshots at Israeli soldiers. The Israeli soldiers, reinforced with several military SUVs, fired live and rubber bullets in addition to teargas canisters at them. As a result, 16 civilians were wounded, including 2 children: 11 were shot with live bullets and their shrapnel, 5 was shot with rubber bullets and tear gas canisters. The wounded civilians were transferred to al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah and their wounds were classified between minor and moderate.
Khan Younis: The gathering witnessed lively speeches, performances, and national songs organized in the area while dozens of protestors approached the border fence and threw stones, fireworks and Molotov Cocktails at Israeli military vehicles. Israeli forces fired live and rubber bullets and tear gas canisters at protesters, wounding 21 civilians, including 4 children and 7 paramedics; 3 of them were female paramedics. Seven of those wounded were hit with rubber bullets and 14 were directly hit with tear gas canisters, noting that only 12 injuries were referred to hospitals while others received treatment in field due to their minor injuries. The wounded paramedics were identified as: Saleh Khaled Ahmed al-Haj (21), who was hit with a teargas canister in the left eye; Mohammed Akram Safi (19), who was hit with a teargas canister in the back; Kamal Jawad al-Shahri (24), who was hit with a rubber bullet in the back; Farhmah Walid al-Najjar (35), who was hit with a teargas canister in the hand; Ibtisam Mohammed Abu Louli (22), from Rafah and was hit with a teargas canister in the back; Shorouq Sa’id Abu Reidah (21), who was hit with a teargas canister in the foot; and Naser Hisham Mousa (22), who was hit with a rubber bullet to the right hand
Rafah: Hundreds participated in the eastern Shokah protests, where folklore songs and speeches were held. Dozens approached the border fence and threw stones and Molotov Cocktails at the shielded Israeli soldiers, who responded with live and rubber bullets and teargas canisters. As a result, Saher ‘Awadallah Jaber ‘Othman (20) declared dead in al-Shifa hospital after sustaining serious wounds due to being shot with a bullet in the chest at approximately 17:45. Further, 17 civilians were injured, including 7 children and a female paramedic; 4 of them deemed in a serious condition : 15 were shot with live bullets and their shrapnel; 1 with a rubber bullet and 1 with a tear gas canister. The female paramedic was identified as Sabrin Jaber ‘Abdel Rahim Qeshtah (28), a member of ‘Abdullah Life Pulse Team and was hit with a bullet in the upper extremities and the abdomen. Freelance journalist Ramadan Ibrahim Khalil al-Sharif (30) was shot with a live bullet that settled in his flak jacket. Meanwhile, those seriously wounded were identified as ‘Abdul Halim Sa’id al-‘Abadlah (20), who was hit with a bullet to the lower extremities; Mahmoud Yousif Abu ‘Azoum (14) who was hit with a bullet in the lower extremities and a third one, still unidentified, with a bullet to the neck; and Sami ‘Awni Abu Jazar (18) was shot with a live bullet to the chest.
Excessive use of force in the West Bank:
At approximately 17:00 on Tuesday, 01 October 2019, Israeli forces attacked Palestinian participants, who protested in front of Hadassah Hospital, east of occupied East Jerusalem, in solidarity with prisoner Samer Mina Salim al-‘Arbid, who is in a serious health condition for few days after investigation with him in the Israeli prisons. Eyewitnesses said that Israeli forces chased the participants near Hadassah Hospital and heavily beat them to prevent them from protesting and chanting for favor of prisoner Samer. Eyewitnesses added that Israeli forces confiscated a banner with the Samer’s photos, stopped young men before the end of the protest, checked their ID cards and then arrested Somoud Nasser Abu Khdair (25), heavily beaten her while taking her to a police vehicle. Israeli forces also arrested Nidal ‘Aboud (27), who sustained bruises after they beat him and dragged on the floor.
It should be noted that the participants called for the Israeli authorities to release al-‘Arabid, who was arrested on 26 September 2019, from his work in al-Birah. Al-‘Arabid was tortured during investigation with him by the Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) with the ratification of the Israeli Ministry of Justice. As a result, al-‘Arabid fainted and suffered kidney failure that threatens his life. The participants stressed that al-‘Arabid urgently needs a serious medical treatment and called for bringing all the inspectors who tortured him to trial.
Shooting and other violations of the right to life and bodily integrity
At approximately 05:30 on Thursday, 26 September 2019, Israeli gunboats stationed off al-Sudaniyah shore, west of Jabalia in northern Gaza Strip, heavily opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats sailing within 4 nautical miles and chased them. As a result, the fishermen were forced to flee fearing for their lives; neither casualties nor material damage was reported.
At approximately 17:30 on the same Tuesday, dozens of Palestinian young women and girls organized a protest from Salah Eden Street and headed into Sultan Suleiman Street in occupied East Jerusalem condemning violence against women in the Palestinian society. The protestors chanted slogans against violence and Israeli occupation. They also raised banners demanding to apply laws that guarantee protection for women in addition to photos of Palestinian female prisoners in the Israeli prisons and called for supporting them. When a woman, who was present near Bab al-‘Amoud Gate (Damascus Gate), raised the Palestinian flag, Israeli soldiers attacked her in addition to a number of participants and then forced them to leave the area. Neither casualties nor arrests were reported.
At approximately 03:20 on Friday, 27 September 2019, Israeli forces backed by 12 military SUVs moved into Ramallah and stationed in al-Tirah neighborhood in the southern side of the city. dozens of Palestinian young men gathered in the neighborhood and threw stones and empty bottles at Israeli forces, who responded with tear gas canisters at them and toward houses. As a result, a number of civilians fainted and vomited and were treated on the spot. Israeli soldiers also fired live bullets at a vehicle belonging to Palestine TV, causing material damage in the vehicle; no casualties were reported. Meanwhile, another Israeli force moved into al-Masayef neighborhood. They raided and searched 2 houses after which they arrested Ihsan Sa’ad Eshtiyah (50) and Abdul Razeq Hasan Farraj (62). Farraj served 15 years in the Israeli prison on separate periods.
At the end of Friday prayer on 27 September 2019, dozens of Palestinian organized a peaceful protest in a-Sawahrah eastern village, east of occupied East Jerusalem against settlements outposts established on Palestinian lands in al-Dabbah area, adjacent to al-Montar Mount, east of occupied East Jerusalem. The participants attempted to approach the outpost, but Israeli forces forcibly dispersed them by firing tear gas canisters at them. As a result, tens of participants suffered tear gas inhalation. Younis Ja’far, Head of al-Sawahrah village Council said to PCHR’s fieldworker that dozens of worshipers from al-Sawahrah, al-‘Izariyah and Abu Dese village, performed the Friday prayer at al-Montar lands in East Jerusalem in solidarity with the area residents after the settlement outpost was established upon calls by the Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Committee and Jerusalem Governorates. The protestors raised the Palestinian flags in a tour in Jerusalem City. Few days ago, Israeli forced dismantled the “Right and Dignity” Tent established by the Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall and al-Sawahrah village residents near the settlement outpost on 15 September 2019, and established mobile houses “caravans” and water tanks.
At approximately 06:50 on Saturday, 28 September 2019, Israeli gunboats stationed in northwest of Beit Lahia in northern Gaza Strip, opened fire and chased Palestinian fishing boats sailing within 3 nautical miles. As a result, the fishermen were forced to flee fearing for their lives; no casualties were reported.
At approximately 09:30 on Sunday, 29 September 2019, Israeli gunboats stationed in northwest of Beit Lahia in northern Gaza Strip, opened fire and chased Palestinian fishing boats sailing within 3 nautical miles. As a result, fishermen were forced to flee fearing for their lives; no casualties were reported.
At approximately 07:25 on Monday, 30 September 2019, Israeli gunboats stationed off al-Sudaniyah shore, west of Jabalia in northern Gaza Strip, opened fire at and chased Palestinian fishing boats sailing within 4 nautical miles. As a result, the fishermen were forced to flee fearing for their lives; no casualties were reported.
At approximately 10:50, on Tuesday, 01 October 2019, Israeli gunboats stationed in northwest of Beit Lahia in northern Gaza Strip, heavily opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats sailing within 3 nautical miles and chased them. As a result, fishermen were forced to flee fearing for their lives; neither casualties nor material damage was reported.
At approximately 07:45 on Wednesday, 02 October 2019, Israeli gunboats stationed in northwest of Beit Lahia in northern Gaza Strip, opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats sailing within 3 nautical miles and chased them. As a result, fishermen were forced to flee fearing for their lives; neither casualties nor material damage was reported.
At approximately 17:00 on the same day, Israeli forces stationed along the border fence opened fire at agricultural lands in eastern al-Qararah village, northeast of Khan Younis. The shooting continued for few minutes; no casualties were reported.
Israeli occupation police, on Thursday evening, kidnaped Sheikh Najeh Bukairat, deputy head of the Islamic Awqaf Authority in Jerusalem, from a hotel, during his participation in a cultural event.
According to local sources, police forces stormed Addar Hotel, in occupied Jerusalem, and rounded up Sheikh Bukairat with another individual named Aziz al-Asa, who works for the Employee’s Club in Jerusalem.
Israeli police also detained all the participants in the event for a time, checking IDs and serving some with orders to report to a local police station, for interrogation, next Sunday.
Days of Palestine further reports that police also put up notices on walls, in Arabic and in Hebrew, banning the the event, on allegations that it was staged by Hamas.
Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory does not only exist above ground. Since 1967, Israel has systematically colonized Palestinian natural resources and, in the field of hydrocarbons, has prevented Palestinians from accessing their own oil and gas reserves. Such restrictions have ensured the continued dependence of Palestinians on Israel for their energy needs. The Palestinians’ own efforts to develop their energy sector fail to challenge Israel’s overarching hegemony over Palestinian resources. Rather, they pursue growth and state building within the reality of the occupation, further reinforcing – even if inadvertently – the asymmetric balance between occupied and occupier.1
Al-Shabaka Policy Fellow Tareq Baconi begins by reviewing the context of recent gas deals. He goes on to discuss how efforts to develop the Palestinian energy sector fail to challenge this reality and rely primarily on occupation-circumventing practices that seek to enhance quality of life within the context of the occupation. As Baconi argues, these efforts ultimately reinforce the role of the Palestinian territories as a captive market for Israeli energy exports and lay the groundwork for regional normalization under the rubric of “economic peace.” He underscores that lasting peace and stability will only be produced if the underlying factors that maintain Palestinians as subservient to Israel’s rule are addressed and makes a number of policy recommendations as to how to do so.
The Political Impact of Israel’s Gas Bonanza
Until a few years ago, both Israel and Jordan relied quite heavily on Egyptian gas imports. In 2011-2012, and especially after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, gas exports from Egypt became unreliable. This was due to both domestic issues within Egypt’s energy sector as well as increased instability in the Sinai Peninsula, which housed the main route of the pipeline carrying gas to Israel and Jordan. With the drop of Egyptian imports, Israel and Jordan began seeking alternative sources of supply. In 2009, an Israeli-American consortium of energy firms discovered Tamar, a field roughly 80km off the coast of Haifa, containing 10 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas. With Israel’s energy security in jeopardy, the consortium rapidly moved toward production, and gas began to flow in 2013. A year after Tamar’s discovery, the same consortium identified the much larger Leviathan gas field, estimated to hold around 20tcf of gas.
Within the space of a few years, Israel moved from being a regional gas importer to acquiring the potential to become an exporter. It looked to both the local markets as well as neighboring countries and further afield to identify potential export destinations. Within its immediate vicinity, the implications for advancing economic normalization were evident: As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently declared, producing gas from Leviathan “will provide gas to Israel and promote cooperation with countries in the region.”
Jordan became the first country to commit to buying Israeli gas. Negotiations began between Jordan and Israel soon after Leviathan’s discovery, and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in 2014. That same year, gas sales agreements were also finalized between Tamar’s owners and two Jordanian industrial players, the Jordan Bromine and Arab Potash companies. The MoU signed with Jordan’s government entailed a commitment from Jordan to buy Israeli gas for a period of 15 years. This was met with vigorous protests in Jordan: Many activists rejected dealings with Israel, particularly given its onslaught on the Gaza Strip that year, and Jordanian parliamentarians voted against the deal. In early 2017, gas began to flow from Israel to Jordan Bromine and Arab Potash, although players kept a low profile to avoid reigniting protests.
Anger that Jordan was financing Israel’s gas sector was aggravated by the fact that Jordan had other prospects for the purchase of gas. Following the decline of Egyptian gas, Jordan had constructed a terminal for the import of liquefied natural gas in Aqaba, on the coast of the Red Sea, which started operations in 2015. Furthermore, Egypt’s discovery of the supergiant gas field Zohr in 2016 resuscitated prospects for the resumption of Egypt’s role as a regional gas supplier. Nonetheless, and doubtless influenced by external pressure, Jordan formalized its MoU with Israel in September 2016, overriding parliamentary objections and popular protests.
The Energy Crisis Israel Imposes on Gaza – and Palestine
As Israel became awash with gas, the Gaza Strip’s pitiful reality became starker than ever. The Gaza Strip has been under blockade since 2007. The Gaza Power Generation Company (GPGC), the sole company of its kind in the Palestinian territory, currently runs on liquid fuel that is purchased and transported into the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank. To supplement power from GPGC, Gaza purchases electricity from the Israeli Electricity Company as well as from the Egyptian electric grid. 2 Even so, fuel purchased for power generation in Gaza is insufficient to meet local demand, and the Strip has suffered from chronic electricity shortages since Israel imposed the blockade.
In early 2017, protests swept throughout Gaza as inhabitants of this coastal enclave protested having electricity for only three to four hours daily. Aside from the tremendous restrictions these shortages put on mundane facets of life, electricity outages have a crippling impact on the economic activity of the private sector, healthcare, education, and life-sustaining facilities such as water sanitation plants. Stunted operations in these areas have consequences that are both immediate and lasting, impacting rising generations.
Blame for Gaza’s energy crisis is fired in all directions. Protestors flooding the winter streets blamed Hamas’s government, the PA, and Israel. Anger was directed at Hamas’s government for allegedly diverting funds from the purchase of fuel necessary to run Gaza’s only power plant toward other activities, including the building of tunnels. Frustrated demonstrators accused the PA of supporting the blockade by controlling fuel purchases and transfers into Gaza. The power company itself, a privately owned operation, is repeatedly criticized for supposedly making profit off the backs of ordinary Gazans who suffer from these shortages. To mitigate the particularly painful winter months of late 2016 and early 2017, interventions into Gaza’s energy sector were forthcoming from Turkey and Qatar in the form of fuel supplies that allowed the resumption of power generation from GPGC. These measures are at best short-term palliatives that will carry Gazans through another chapter of a chronic crisis.
In this wave of popular anger and recrimination, the impact of the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip and Israel’s broader colonization and control of Palestinian resources is diluted, if not pushed to the background.
Yet Palestinians discovered gas reserves almost a decade before Israel’s gas bonanza. In 1999, the Gaza Marine field was discovered off the coast of Gaza, and the license for exploration and production was awarded to BG Group, the major British oil and gas company since acquired by Shell. In the early days of the discovery, this national treasure was hailed as a breakthrough that could offer Palestinians a windfall. At a time when the Oslo Accords that had been signed in 1993 still seemed plausible, the resource discovery was viewed as something that could provide Palestinians with a much-needed boost toward self-determination.
With an estimated 1tcf of gas, Gaza Marine is not sufficiently large to act as an exporter. But the gas volumes it holds are sufficient to make the Palestinian energy sector entirely self-sufficient. Not only would Palestinians not have to import Israeli or Egyptian gas or electricity, but the Gaza Strip would not suffer from any electricity shortages. Moreover, the Palestinian economy would enjoy a significant source of revenue.
That move to sovereign rule was not to be. Despite persistent attempts by owners of the field and investors to develop Gaza Marine, Israel placed unyielding restrictions that have prevented any measures from taking place. This is despite the fact that exploration and production from Gaza Marine would be relatively straightforward given the shallow depth of the reserve and its location close to Palestinian shores. 3 According to documents uncovered by Al-Shabaka, Israel initially prevented the development of this field as it sought commercially favorable terms for the gas produced. After Israel discovered its own resources, it began citing “security concerns” that were heightened with Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip. Although Netanyahu allegedly considered allowing Palestinians to develop Gaza Marine in 2012 as part of a broader strategy to stabilize the Gaza Strip, these efforts have yet to materialize. Given the recent acquisition of BG Group by Shell, and the latter’s global asset divestment program, it is likely that Gaza Marine will be sold off.
Until Israel ends its stranglehold on the Palestinian economy, this Palestinian asset is likely to remain stranded. Indeed, the manner in which the Israeli and Palestinian gas discoveries have shaped economic development in Israel and the Palestinian territory elucidates the power disparity between the two parties. Unlike Israel, which rapidly secured energy independence after the discovery of its gas fields, Palestinians are unable to access a resource they discovered close to two decades earlier. Rather than addressing the root cause of the blockade and the occupation regime that has prevented their control of resources such as Gaza Marine, Palestinians are instead forced to seek immediate measures that mitigate the pressing misery they face. Although this is understandable in the context of a brutal occupation, efforts to enhance quality of life under occupation overlook the longer-term strategic goal of securing energy independence within the broader goal of freedom from occupation and realization of Palestinian rights.
Economic Peace and Normalization
Israel’s gas discoveries are often heralded as potential catalysts for a regional transformation. The positioning of the Israeli state as an energy supplier to resource-poor neighbors is considered a sure way to facilitate economic integration between countries such as Jordan and Egypt as well as the Palestinians. The economic benefit that cheap pipeline gas could offer these countries is seen to offset any social and political concerns among their citizens regarding dealings with Israel. This line of thinking assumes that through economic integration, the pursuant stability would diminish prospects of volatility in an explosive region as Israel and its neighbors become integrated in mutual dependency.
The notion of “economic peace” has a long history in the region and has manifested itself in various forms, including recently in Secretary of State John Kerry’s economic development proposal. This view also appears favored by the Trump administration’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. Rather than directly addressing the political impasse caused by Israel’s prolonged occupation and other violations, such proposals address issues related to quality of life, trade, or economic growth, presumably as a stepping stone to peace. With similar thinking, once the Israeli gas discoveries were made, the Obama administration began to explore ways to position Israel as a regional energy hub.
Proponents of this approach of separating national and political rights from economic incentives would argue that there is an obvious commercial advantage for Israeli gas to be used within the Palestinian territory and Jordan. Israel now has an excess of gas, and these regions are still dependent on energy imports. In the case of the Palestinian territory, dependence on Israel already exists, and not only in Gaza: close to 88 percent of Palestinian consumption is supplied by Israel, with the West Bank importing almost the entirety of its electricity from Israel. Advocates for economic peace believe that prospects for instability diminish when such mutual dependency is reinforced.
Rooted in such conviction, the US Department of State facilitated many of the gas negotiations between Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians. The newly created Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs, a post through which the US strengthened its energy diplomacy arm worldwide under the Obama administration, encouraged discussions to enable Israel’s export of gas to Jordan and the Palestinians, with evident success.
Jordan is not the sole prospective recipient of Israeli gas. In 2010, the PA approved plans for the establishment of the Palestine Power Generation Company (PPGC), the first such company in the West Bank and the second in the Palestinian territory after GPGC in Gaza. Located in Jenin, this 200 megawatt power plant is spearheaded by private investors (including PADICO and CCC) who are working to strengthen the Palestinian energy sector by securing electricity generation in the West Bank and reducing the high cost of Israeli electricity imports. PPGC entered into negotiations with Israel to purchase gas from Leviathan for electricity generation. Palestinians protested this decision, calling for efforts to develop Gaza Marine instead of relying on Israeli gas. Talks collapsed in 2015, but it is unclear if these have merely been temporarily suspended.
The Dangers of Truncated Sovereignty
There are several national and regional dangers to the push for closer integration through gas deals in the absence of a concurrent effort on the political front.
The first danger is that Palestinian energy security is pinned to Israel’s goodwill. Israel can and has in the past used its power to effectively turn the taps off for Palestinian consumers. The most evident (and violent) manifestation of Israel’s willingness to withhold power to Palestinians is its decision to destroy without hesitation the sole power generation company in the Gaza Strip during its bombardment of the coastal enclave in 2006 and again in 2014.
Secondly, this approach legitimizes the Israeli occupation, soon entering its fiftieth year. Not only is there no cost to Israel’s prevention of Palestinian state building, there is rather a direct reward in the form of revenue from the sales of gas to territories maintained indefinitely under Israel’s territorial control.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, such energy exchange and trade in the pursuit of economic peace in the absence of any political prospects merely entrenches the power imbalance between the two parties – the occupier and the occupied. Such integration propagates a fiction of normative sovereign relations between an occupying power and a captive economy in the West Bank and Gaza.
One might think back to similar quality of life initiatives that were put forward in the 1980s, with the direct encouragement of the Reagan White House, as a failed alternative to political engagement with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The constant efforts to circumvent Palestinian political demands through such measures has allowed Israel to manage, rather than resolve, the conflict.
The case of gas demonstrates most starkly how Palestinian state building efforts through the development of national resources have been elided in favor of alleviating energy crises within the framework of truncated sovereignty. Instead of addressing Palestinians’ inability to explore their own natural resources, American diplomats are actively working with Israel to facilitate negotiations that enhance Palestinian “quality of life” that ultimately leaves them bound to Israel in perpetuity.
This approach carries regional dangers as well. Jordan is currently dependent on Israel for around 40 percent of its energy imports. Jordan’s willingness to enter into this kind of commitment, despite several geostrategic disadvantages, advances Israel’s normalization in the region even as it maintains its occupation of Palestinian territory. This disposition heralds several threats at a time when the Trump administration is proposing the pursuit of “outside in” diplomatic measures that might entirely circumvent the Palestinians.
Strategies for Pushback
In normal conditions, mutual dependency and economic development are indeed anchors against instability and hold the benefit of advancing the quality of life of the inhabitants of the region. However, they must not be viewed as an end in their own right, and certainly not as a substitute for the realization of Palestinian rights. Such a depoliticized view can only go so far. Focusing solely on economic peace has detrimental consequences precisely because it overlooks the broader historical context that has led to Palestinian, and possibly regional, dependency.
Economic growth will never remove Palestinian calls for sovereignty and rights or the demand for self-determination. That was a lesson that was fully articulated with the eruption of the first intifada close to 30 years ago, after decades of normalized economic relations between Israel and the territories under its military occupation. While “economic peace” could offer short-term relief, it will only pave the way toward greater stability if it is built on a foundation of equality and justice.
Palestinians’ right to their own resources is subject to final status negotiations with the Israelis. The current gas agreements being pursued will create an infrastructure of dependency that will be difficult to untangle in the case of a negotiated settlement. More importantly, given the vanishing hopes of a negotiated two-state solution, these agreements merely concretize the status quo.
Therefore, while economic relations may have to be pursued to avert humanitarian suffering, as the case might be with increasing fuel and electricity supply to Gaza, the PLO and PA as well as Palestinian civil society and the Palestine solidarity movement must continue to use all the tools at their disposal to push for justice and rights for Palestinians.
In the immediate future, if gas deals persist despite popular opposition, Palestinian negotiators involved in prospective gas deals with Israel must at the very least insist on provisions that do not lock out the prospects for future gas from Gaza Marine. This could be done by creating the legal mechanisms that would allow the introduction of third-party access into the supply agreements. Although it would be difficult to negotiate such provisions, this is of vital importance as it leaves room for flexibility around future supply from Gaza Marine and reduced dependency on Israel. The gas supply contracts should also include provisions for revision of agreement terms in the case of major developments on the political front.
Palestinian negotiators should also look to civil society resistance to reinforce their efforts rather than seeking to dismiss or crush them. There are models that can be emulated whereby negotiators are able to harness the power of the popular movements against some of these deals. When it comes to water rights, for example, there is an advocacy task force (EWASH) that coordinates the work of local and international groups. EWASH carried out a campaign that exposed Israeli settlements’ theft of water from Palestinians and raised the issue in the European Parliament. Perhaps such a coalition could be established to mobilize for energy sovereignty.
At the same time, the PLO/PA must use such economic negotiations as a means of securing accountability from Israel rather than as a way of acquiescing to enforced dependency. In particular, the non-observer member state status that Palestine has secured at the UN must be used to lobby at international legal forums such as the International Criminal Court to push Israel to meet its responsibility as an occupying power under international law. This means it is tasked with the responsibility of safeguarding the livelihood of inhabitants under its control, including the provision of electricity and fuel, and it is accountable for decisions it might make to “turn the taps off.”
Certain elements of economic peace may serve the Palestinians in the short term by underpinning economic growth and development. But these cannot come at the expense of an indefinite state of dependency and truncated sovereignty. Palestinians must work on two fronts: They must push to hold Israel’s occupation accountable in international forums. And they must ensure that prospects of forced economic integration and any attempt by Israel to impose a one-state apartheid reality is met by a call for rights and equality. Whichever political vision is pursued for Israel and the Palestinians, the Palestinian leadership must formulate a strategy around these gas deals and contextualize notions of economic development within the wider struggle for Palestinian liberation.
2. These measures for the purchase and transport of fuel are in line with the Protocol on Economic Relations, also referred to as the Paris Protocol, enshrined between Israel and the PLO as part of the Oslo Accords.
3. aza Marine is not the only resource that Palestinians have been unable to explore. The oil fields in the West Bank have also faced issues with access because of Israeli restrictions.
Occupied Palestine (QNN)- A Palestinian NGO, specialized in monitoring violations against Palestinian content on the internet, documented nearly 146 violations on social media last month, in a sharp increase compared to last month.
Sada Social said Facebook violations dramatically increased, reaching 139 violations, including deletion of pages and accounts, blocking, publishing ban, removal of posts, comments ban, restricting the reach to pages, live streaming ban, and removal of old posts.
Meanwhile, only one You Tube violation, two Twitter violations, two Whats App and Instagram violations have been documented. The group also documented preventing hundreds of Palestinian activists and journalists of using Facebook live videos. No reasons were provided to users.
The group stated that it refuses the way how Facebook tried to develop new Algorithms, through which it filtered Palestinian terms, deeming them related to terrorism and preventing using them. The group issued a statement to protest such policy that violates international laws and basic human rights of freedom of speech, belief, and journalism.
Last Wednesday, activists launched a campaign under the title “Facebook blocks Palestine”, trying to pressure Facebook administration to cease violations against the Palestinian content.
Extremist Israeli settlers last night slashe the tired of 13 Palestinian-owned vehicles and spray-painted racist slogans in the village of Qira, to the north of the occupied West Bank city of Salfit, according to local sources.
Aisha Nimr, head of the Qira village council, told WAFA that the settlers sneaked their way into the village at night, slashed the tires of parked vehicles and spray-painted racists graffiti and slogans on vehicles and houses.
Israeli settler violence against Palestinians and their property is commonplace in the West Bank and is rarely prosecuted by Israeli authorities. It includes arsons of property and mosques, stone-throwing, uprooting of crops and olive trees, attacks on vulnerable homes, among others.
Over 600,000 Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements across occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank in violation of international law.