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

“Because the blockade of Gaza itself violates international law, Israel committed an illegal act of war attacking the convoy, regardless of who attacked whom first.” Alternet

So why are Israel and her U.S. apologists so desperate to keep control of Gaza that they will lie, kill, and maul 21-year-old girls to do it?  One word… Mammon.

(It’s not about “security”… it’s not about “rockets”… it’s not about what “god” promised… it’s about money. Lots and lots of money. Natural Gas and oil reserves off the coast of Gaza, owned by Palestine, stolen by the Israelis… all in the name of “terrorism”.That’s why the Israelis drove the fishermen off the Gaza marine 1 and 2 locations a decade ago. That’s why they won’t allow a vessel to pass through Gaza’s waters… they might get a look at one of these…)

From Peter Eyre The Palestine Telegraph Tue, 08 Sep 2009 14:29 EDT

Let me tell you something that we Israelis have against Moses. He took us 40 years through the desert in order to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil!’  Golda Meir

Are the Israelis trying to hide something” from Veterans Today

Noble Energy – Slant Drilling with Israel’s Mari-B – a Houston Company’s How-to-Steal-thy-neighbor’s-oil platform…

Noble Energy, Houston Tx. Slant drilling in Israeli waters for Palestinian Oil

by Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, Jan. 2009 

The 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.

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.

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 proposedIsraeli-Turkish pipeline with the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

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)

(willyloman.wordpress.com / 05.01.2012)

News from Syria 05.01.2012 II

Aleppo A campaign of deafening noise is taking place all over the Farqan area.

Idlib | Defectors attack and kill a number of Assad soldiers

Idlib | More defectors join Free Syria Army

#Idlib: The security forces are raiding some parts of the town and shooting live ammunition randomly

#Syria #Homs: Al-Khalidiyah neighborhood mass sit-in is still ongoing, and the numbers are in thousands

Ugarit News|| #Syria || #Latakia: pro-regime militias are using spotlights in Slaybeh, in an attempt to determine the source of noise, as the “noisy hour” has just started in the area, with people Pounding on kitchen pans and pots

#Syria #Homs: A big explosion was heard a few minutes ago in Al-Qusoor area

Lattakia: Noise sounds are all over the city. Security forces use spotlights to detect the noise sources.

Daraa: Al-Naima: The noise campaign is ongoing in the town and the security forces are firing intermittently to terrorize the participants

Zabdany shabiha thugs kidnapped a girl, leading to clashes between them and the FSA all over the city. The girl was eventually rescued

21 young men set out from Katiba village to a protest in Dael. On their way home they were ambushed by Assad forces and 20 were killed

A LOT of defections are now happening in Homs. The problem is that soldiers need to pass through checkpoints and go to Baba Amr to defect

Homs | First lieutenant Qasim Al-Khateeb announces his defection – FSA

Idlib | More defectors join Free Syria Army #Syria

Israelis set ablaze Palestinians’ cars

A car torched by extremist Israeli settlers at a Palestinian car wash in East al-Quds (Jerusalem), January 4, 2012
Israeli extremists have set fire to two vehicles at a Palestinian carwash in the occupied East al-Quds (Jerusalem).

The Israeli settlers torched the cars in the village of Sharafat on Wednesday.

The extremists had sprayed the word “revenge” on the side of one of the cars. The word “price tag” was also spray-painted on a nearby electrical closet.

Over the past few months, there has been an increase in attacks by the extremist settlers in East al-Quds and the occupied West Bank against Palestinian properties, including farms, homes, cars as well as mosques. On many occasions, the attacks have led to clashes with Palestinians.

In mid-December 2011, the settlers set fire to a Palestinian mosque in the West Bank village of Burqa.

Israeli extremists say the “price tag” attacks are carried out against any Israeli policy “to reduce the presence of Jewish settlers and settlements on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East al-Quds.”

The extremists are rarely brought to justice for the attacks and when a court proceeding is carried out, light sentences are often issued against them.

(www.presstv.ir / 05.01.2012)

Analysis: The gap between resistance and governance

Fighters from the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees are seen during a training session in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip.

Once again, the media have begun to focus their attention on Palestinian reconciliation talks, which seem at last to be headed in a positive direction.

These talks will include the particularly difficult process of social reconciliation for the period between 2004 and 2007 when inter-communal violence led to the terrorizing, wounding, and killing of scores of people as well as the widespread destruction of property.

The process of social reconciliation is expected to secure reparation and redress, but should also allow the courts to establish criminal responsibility for the acts under investigation.

Both Gaza and the West Bank have experienced a slight easing in political tensions and this has helped reestablish the confidence necessary for the restoration of freedoms lost at the height of the conflict.

Victims of the unrest will have their interests legally represented and should expect fair compensation for any losses incurred.

One segment of Palestinian society victimized by the political violence, negligence, or legal violations that occurred during this time will nevertheless find themselves excluded from the process of recompense: these are the victims of the separate Palestinian governments or resistance groups under their supervision.

Palestinian resistance — regardless of the methods used — was born out of the resistance of the Palestinian Nakba. Resistance would never have seen sumud (steadfastness) displayed, and its many large and small victories, had the Palestinian people not shouldered its burden.

Over the decades, Palestinians refined and protected their methods of resistance and, above all, their inalienable right to resist occupation and injustice.

At the same time, resistance groups repeatedly declared that protecting the people and national aspirations, but also protecting Palestinian citizens, were their top priorities.

In 1994, Palestinian government, or what was supposed to be Palestinian government, was established for the first time, and provided at least a limited sense of personal security and welfare.

Self-government — only to a certain extent, of course — has achieved many things and Palestinians were expected to act responsibly and support and protect their government. This was the idealistic picture: people nurturing resistance to occupation and all its ills while in turn, the government respected and protected the people. Unfortunately, this is not quite the case.

Facts on the ground indicate clear examples where Palestinian citizens in Gaza and the West Bank find themselves clashing with the government and/or resistance. These cases are many; beyond what most of us think.

One can only wonder in such cases: who will protect citizens from the mighty resistance and the powerful government when one, or both, of them harm them?

Sadly, example after example has shown that the very notion of citizen protection simply disappears in such cases, and people fall into a situation of helplessness and misery. Resistance protects, but only from outsiders, “the enemy.”

Government can protect us from private persons and gangs. Sadly, however, both the resistance and our government fail to protect us from our own-selves; from one another.

It is safe to assume that neither the government nor the resistance is willing to step in to protect people who dare to criticize them.

Every day we see detention and summoning of citizens by the dozens; not for unlawful acts they committed, but mostly for who they are and what they think, or for their mere political affiliation.

We witnessed, with much agony, the outrageous attack upon free expression and peaceful assembly since March 2011. There are reports of hundreds of cases of torture and abuse. Several people died in detention and under torture in Gaza and the West Bank.

No one was punished for these acts, and we know too little about whether their families were compensated according to a process of law.

On the contrary, we only see overwhelming efforts exerted to protect the violators of people’s rights; be those torturers, teachers who abuse children, or doctors who act with utmost negligence.

The government stands by them firmly and no one can get the reports, evidence, or public records that prove their innocence or wrongdoing. Nor do we hear of serious investigations seeking the truth.

Many citizens also fell victim of the continuous negligence of the resistance groups who show little or no care for people’s life and well being, or, worse, fail to take responsibility for shocking acts by their members.

Numerous people were injured from live fire coming from resistance groups training sites; including children and at least one man who lost his eye.

Those are victims of the irresponsible behavior that seems to continue despite the frequent injuries. There is a training site in the town of Beit Lahiya that threatens people every day, including a girl who was injured inside her school when an explosion occurred in this site on Sep. 20 2011.

Explosions also occur frequently in densely-populated areas around Gaza and have their victims; many of whom are children. Shootings occur by mistake inside homes from weapons owned by the resistance. Military training sites function and are located in places very close to neighborhoods and/or schools, from where acts of resistance; including firing rockets, also occur.

The population of these locations are inevitably vulnerable to Israeli attacks. Hundreds of people have been injured and killed and dozens of homes have been damaged from Israeli missile attacks. But little has been done to ease the pain of the loss of life or residence suffered by these people.

On Dec. 9 2011, an Israeli attack on a training site killed a man and his 11-year-old son in al-Nasser neighborhood in Gaza city. His wife and four children were injured; one of the children is at an Israeli hospital suffering critical wounds.

This man, whose house is near the training site, had complained to the resistance members many times. He explained the family’s fear for their life and house. But he was told the family could move out of the area, even if they had no resources to move. He died the way he feared most: tragically.

The state of carelessness from the part of resistance is also causing continued victims of the misfiring of home-made rockets that fall on houses inside Gaza. Many of the victims are children and all of them are civilians who happen to be in their homes.

There are more victims of shootings from, or explosions in, training sites. Many children are killed or maimed when explosive devices left in the streets or farms explode in their hands. And there is the young man who was shot in the legs for daring to publicly criticize a local resistance leader.

Worse than all this is the victimization of people in the tunnels area in Rafah, where the mechanisms of trade, interests and profit work in cynically sad ways.

Hundreds of people have been detained in inhumane conditions, and outside any legal process. Thousands found their interests or rights removed by the ‘Tunnels Committee’ which arbitrates in disputes among tunnel-owners, traders and workers in the tunnels area in Rafah.

The committee comprises tunnel-owners and traders, and is a personification of an unholy alliance between the owners, traders and the law enforcement establishment.

Well, one can say mistakes happen: it’s the nature of life. And I cannot agree more. Nevertheless, the real test does not lie in whether the resistance or the government makes mistakes. It in fact lies in what they do when mistakes occur.

Do they conduct reviews and learn lessons to prevent similar mistakes? Do they punish those who commit mistakes due to negligence? And do they help the victims of these mistakes? Unfortunately, the answer to these questions is simply a big ‘no’, which explains the occurrence of more incidents and leaves training sites in neighborhoods.

This conclusion represents the core of the dilemma: who will protect the people from the wrongful acts of the resistance and the government?

It is clear the government is not willing to take the smallest act. It does not open investigations or even hold talks with the resistance groups to ensure that steps are taken to protect the vulnerable people. It is equally clear that the resistance continues to show the same carelessness towards violations committed by the government against the people.

Welcome to the naked truth: the relationship between the government, the resistance, and the people is moving in one way: the people support, nourish and protect their resistance and government. But the resistance and the government are not in the least bit interested to do the same for the people. This is an untenable situation and a dangerous reality.

It is not the intention of the author to dismiss entirely either Palestinian resistance groups or the governments; or to attempt in any way to undermine their best qualities. Neither is an example of pure evil.

People act and commit mistakes which can be forgiven; however, in order to forgive the mistakes of any kind of power or authority, there must be some indication that the power or authority wishes to make amends, to take responsibility for its past failings.

Power and authority with a poor moral foundation are doomed to fail. They will destroy themselves and lead their people to corruption and injustice.

The people of any nation have a responsibility to criticize those who lead them. We must look in the mirror before we can see ourselves clearly.

This is a call for both the Palestinian resistance groups and the government to make sincere efforts to repair their relationship with the people they claim to represent and hope to help.

Relationships go two ways. If the people do not enjoy respect and rule of law from the resistance groups and the government — two political bodies that claim to stand for their rights — they will all go down together. We will go down.

Mahmoud Abu Rahma is a human rights worker and has been a human and civil rights activist in Gaza for 15 years.

(www.maannews.net / 05.01.2012)

Israeli forces ‘shot, injured’ man at Bethlehem checkpoint

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces shot and injured a man at a checkpoint near Bethlehem on Wednesday, local radio reported.
Munqeth Moussa Rumi, from al-Eizariya in East Jerusalem, was injured in his hand and leg but refused assistance from the Palestinian Red Crescent, the ambulance service’s director told Radio Bethlehem 2000.

Abdul Halim al-Jaafra said medics were informed a man was injured and sent ambulances to the area.

Rumi refused to be treated by the Red Crescent and insisted on being taken to an Israeli hospital because Israeli forces were responsible for his injuries, al-Jaafra said.

The container checkpoint was briefly closed after the incident.

An Israeli military spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

(www.maannews.net / 05.01.2012)

The U.N. Should Accept Palestine as a Full Member State

With Jan. 10’s Slate/Intelligence Squared debate approaching, former Palestinian presidential candidate Mustafa Barghouti explains why Israel and the United States are on the wrong side of history.

Mustafa Barghouti

Mustafa Barghouti will argue for Palestinian statehood in the Jan. 10 Slate//Intelligence Squared debate

Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi is gentle and soft-spoken, as befits a Palestinian leader known for his commitment to nonviolence. Currently Barghouthi, a medical doctor, serves as the general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, a political party based in the West Bank that seeks to provide moderate Palestinians with an alternative to what many consider Fatah’s corruption and Hamas’ extremism. “Politics can drive you to wrong decisions and wrong feelings, sometimes,” he told me during our phone conversation last week. Still, he cheered the ongoing efforts toward a unified Palestinian government, which in December produced a shaky reconciliationbetween Hamas and the PLO. He suggests that the Arab Spring helped his cause of nonviolence by demonstrating to Islamic radicals the efficacy of peaceful protest.

Quick to invoke Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King, Jr., Barghouthi locates the Palestinian struggle for statehood in a broader historical arc from oppression to liberty. He defends the power of moral ideas and even expressed sympathy for the Israeli people, whom he believes suffer in their untenable role as occupiers. Barghouthi will argue for Palestine’s admission as a member state to the United Nations in theSlate/Intelligence Squared Debate on Jan. 10, where his challenge may well be to convince his opponents that the moral framework of India or South Africa applies to the Arab-Israeli conflict—and that having the ethical high ground is enough to force a peace agreement on such an inflamed region.

Here are excerpts of our conversation.

Slate: Why is this appeal to the U.N. happening now? As opposed to, say, 1993 or five years from now?

Mustafa Barghouthi: It didn’t happen 20 years ago for a very simple reason. After the signing of the Oslo Agreements, the Palestinians were told that this would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state by 1999. To their great surprise, so many years later, there was no progress on final status issues. And why now? Because we’ve reached a very critical turning point where if Israel continues the settlement policies the whole idea of a two-state solution will be lost. Any more waiting will simply mean the end of that solution.

Slate: Why would the two-state solution be lost?

Barghouthi: Because of the physical changes that are happening on the ground due to settlement building. With the settlements, the road segregation, and the building of that terrible wall—we call it the Apartheid Wall—there will be no contiguity of the territory that should become the Palestinian state. Palestinian communities will become nothing but clusters of Bantustans separated from each other. And this would mean the creation of an apartheid system where two different laws exist for two people living on the same land and where Palestinians are deprived of all their major human rights.

Slate: But why can’t you negotiate about the settlements with Israel directly?

Barghouthi: Because they’ve insisted on continuing the settlements. And talking to Israel while they continue the settlements is like two sides negotiating over a piece of cheese. One side, the Palestinian side, is stuck behind bars; the other side, the Israeli side, is negotiating and eating the piece of cheese at the same time. By the end there will be nothing left to negotiate about. That’s one reason. The second is that we’ve tried negotiations for 20 years. Nobody considered that Palestinians did not make every effort they could to negotiate. And we did and the outcome was that Israel has used the negotiations only as a cover for their expansionist policy, which continues to create new facts on the ground unilaterally. And eventually it will destroy the possibility of a real Palestinian state.

Slate: So is the bid for U.N. membership something the Palestinians should have pursued earlier?

Barghouthi: In my personal opinion, yes. I think maybe we should have done it five years ago. But nevertheless, it’s better late than never; This U.N. activity is helping to bring the reality on the ground here to the attention of the world. More importantly, it reestablishes the international legitimacy of Palestinian rights. International law is on our side—the International Court of Justice ruled that every Israeli settlement in the occupied territories is illegal and should be removed, that the wall itself is illegal, and that the changes made by Israel by force in East Jerusalem are illegal. The U.N. majority is on our side. It’s a very strange situation: While the majority of the peoples of the world are on the Palestinian side, Israel has held a position of total impunity to international law and opinion due to support from the United States.

Slate: The other debating team warns that U.N. recognition is merely symbolic—that it won’t change the “facts on the ground.”

Barghouthi: Well, if it is only symbolic, why are they so much against it? In my opinion they are afraid it is exposing Israel, exposing the wrong policy, and exposing the hypocrisy of countries that claim to support democracy and human rights and self-determination everywhere but grow silent or practically complicit with Israeli actions when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Slate: How would that exposure help everyday Palestinians?

Barghouthi: It will not, maybe, change the daily life, but it will definitely provide Palestinians with hope. It will provide a context where the illegal measures on the ground, enforced by the military power of Israel which we cannot stop, remain illegal, so it’s moral power against military power. When we joined UNESCO [the cultural arm of the United Nations] we were practically creating the power of culture against the culture of power.

That’s how countries in the world liberated themselves. That’s how a person like Gandhi who had no military power managed to unify India and get independence. That’s how Martin Luther King liberated the United States from the segregation system. It’s the power of the idea, the power of culture, and the power of dignity. And that is something that maybe some military governments don’t understand, but that I hope politicians would understand.

Slate: Opponents also say the move is incredibly risky, perhaps exposing the Palestinian people to retaliation from the IDF and empowering fundamentalists. There’s a lot of concern, for instance, about Israel trying to deter President Abbas by withholding tax revenue from the Palestinian Authority.

Barghouthi: These acts are illegal. Israel has no right to withhold the taxes we pay ourselves, especially when it already takes a certain percentage for collecting these taxes. We’re not afraid of the punishment acts and we will not be blackmailed anymore, because if Israel continues and United States continues [to cut off its aid to the Palestinians], the Palestinian Authority will collapse. And the biggest loser of this will be Israel.

What we need are better arrangements, where the grievances of the people will be met, where there will be no motivation for any violation of anyone’s security. Of course, an arrangement where Palestinians receive their rights. If this injustice continues to consolidate an apartheid system which is worse than what prevailed in South Africa in the 20th century, there will be a Palestinian reaction. People will not take it. I’ve always said that the best security for everybody, including for Israel, is peace and democracy, where the two people are satisfied.

Slate: Last Tuesday the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution affirming the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. What happens next?

Barghouthi: We will continue the struggle. We will continue our popular nonviolent resistance. I am personally proud of the fact that we have been advocating nonviolence for 10 years. Now all the Palestinian groups adopt our approach, including Hamas. That is a great moral success for us. And we will keep struggling in the U.N.; we will go to every agency, one after the other, and get our membership from the grassroots. They don’t want to grant it to us in the Security Council? We will get it in every U.N. agency. We will go to international courts. We will continue our nonviolent resistance until we get our freedom.

Slate: I want to return for a moment to what you said about Hamas, that they’ve renounced violence. Can you explain that a little more?

Barghouthi: On Dec. 21 they declared their commitment to nonviolence. And they gave me this promise clearly and they declared it publicly. That was the basis of our agreement in Cairo.

Slate: Did they modify their 1988 charter? Do they think Israel has a right to exist?

Barghouthi: They’re adopting the two-state solution; they’re accepting the ’67 borders for the solution, and they are accepting nonviolence and sticking to nonviolence. And that is a big change.

Slate: How did you come to found the Palestinian National Initiative?

Barghouthi: For years we’d been struggling to find our way. There was an unhealthy polarization between Fatah and Hamas and a strong silent majority in the middle that wanted an alternative. And that’s how we created the Initiative back in 2002. We called it the Initiative because we believed that the Palestinians should not be reactive but proactive. And the idea was that we need a movement that struggles not only for Palestinian freedom from occupation, but for an internal strong democratic system, and social justice. These are the three main dimensions of our movement.

When we ran in presidential elections in 2005, we were astonished by the amount of support we got—just under 20 percent of the votes! We were a newly established party, but that encouraged us to continue. Today, the Initiative is a third party in Palestine but it is growing constantly. And as you have seen, it is very influential in terms of its political ideas and strategies, and in terms of being a powerful independent force that can help create the right ideas for our struggle but at the same time push for Palestinian unity.

Slate: A lot of people think the United States wouldn’t support Palestine at the U.N. unless it promised not to sue Israel in the International Criminal Court. What’s your reaction to that?

Barghouthi: I hope [President Mahmoud Abbas] does not accept those terms. We should pursue that line [going to the ICC] as long as Israel continues the violation. It is our right. If we don’t struggle for our rights, we will not be serving anybody.

So I think we should be more determined, more daring and frank with the world. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi and Nelson Mandela were frank. Some people might not like what we do but eventually they will. And we know very well that the American Congress will be the last to change. This is not a new thing. This was the case in the South African situation.

I remember a time when I was speaking on CNN and they asked me about United States policy regarding Israel. This was perhaps three and a half years ago and I said, “Look at Nelson Mandela! He is the most respected politician in the world. Every American president wants to have a photo opportunity with him.” Yet when I was speaking he was still on the American Congress’ list of terrorists. And after that—I don’t know why but maybe that interview helped—the name was removed. But it took a recommendation from Condoleezza Rice.

The fact that the Congress is holding a very strange policy of being totally supportive of Israel regardless of the fact that Israel is violating international law is simply a reflection of the weakness of the American political system. But it should not stop us from struggling for our rights because one day even the American Congress will recognize that it was wrong.

I tell you frankly: The Israelis themselves will not be free as long as we are not free. As much as we are oppressed by this apartheid occupation system, they are also hostage to it. When we struggle for our rights as Palestinians we practically struggle for their freedom as well.

Slate: Can you say more about how you’re struggling for Israeli freedom?

Barghouthi: You see, they are oppressing us, but they are hostages to the same oppressive system. Look at how fearful they are on issues of security. Why? Because they know they are doing wrong. They know they are motivating and precipitating hatred because of their acts. When they continue to occupy us, they create a strong demographic problem for themselves. It is a totally contradictory policy: From one side they are taking away our land, making us angrier, and depriving us of very basic rights—but at the same time, by grasping our land and stealing it they’re creating a demographic problem, because we are not leaving! We are staying here. And gradually we are coming to equal them in numbers. By destroying the two-state solution they will create only one alternative, a one-state solution, which they don’t want.

So if we force them to free us—if we can manage to force them to accept a two-state solution—I hope that then they will be free themselves. I mean, they won’t notice but that’s what will happen. They will liberate themselves from the conflict. If they don’t do so, eventually we will have to liberate them in another way, which is having democratic rights in one state.

I think history is full of examples that enslaving others does not make you free. Although it might sound a bit strange, I say and I feel in my heart that we are struggling for the future of the children of both Palestinians and Israelis. Because an oppressive system creates only anger and cannot last. Violence creates only violence. There’s only one alternative to that and it’s the alternative we are proposing.

Slate: How does the Palestinian push for statehood fit into the Arab Spring?

Barghouthi: The Arab Spring is great because it is finally bringing democracy to the Arab World. The Arabs have been starving for democracy, starving from corruption and oppressive systems, and they’ve been deprived of the right of strong solidarity with Palestinians because of despotic regimes. The more freedom there is in the Arab World, the more solidarity there will be with Palestinians.

And there is another important factor, which is that the success of democracy in the Arab world will contribute to the success of democracy in Palestine. For me, this is one of the biggest issues because we don’t just want a state—we want a good state, a democratic one with equal rights, women’s rights, and social justice.

Finally, the Arab Spring has been very helpful for us because it presented parties like Hamas with the power of nonviolence, which we have been advocating. I remember meeting the leaders of these movements after the success of the revolutions in Tunisiaand Egypt. They said, “You see, your theory is working.” Of course, it’s not my personal theory; but the fact that we were advocating nonviolence definitely left an impact on them. When they saw the revolutions succeeding in Tunisia and Egypt in this peaceful way, they realized what they now understand, which is the power of the people and the power of nonviolence.

Slate: Did you carry anything over into politics from your experience as a doctor?

Barghouthi: Absolutely. If you are a good doctor you have to be a good human being. And understanding the human perspective is always an advantage in my political life. I think having that aspect is very, very helpful. Because you know politics can drive you to wrong decisions and wrong feelings, sometimes. It’s a tough thing. I think my background helps me remember that the human aspect is more important.

At the same time it provides, also, a certain perspective in terms of diagnosing the problems and trying to find solutions.

Slate: It helps you discriminate between causes and symptoms?

Barghouthi: In a way, if you don’t overdo it, of course. Sometimes situations are coexistent.

(www.slate.com / 05.01.2012)

News from Syria 05.01.2012

Hama | Amazing night protests in support of Homs and besieged cities

alWa’ar | Homs | Freedom protests continue across the country

Zabadani | Damascus | Night protests in alJiser Square

Idlib | More defectors join Free Syria Army

Amazing images of the tents set up in Khaldiya. Live from Al Jazeera Mubasher. Looks like Assad cannot control Homs.

A gang of Assad’s thugs was arrested in Homs

Khaldiya | Homs | Large freedom protests, Amazing!

Very very cold , heavy fog , cloudy , bulletly , hopefully , sit-in-ly night in #Homs drinking 3*1 thinking with some old-new dreams #Syria

alWa’ar | Homs | Freedom protests continue across the country

Zabadani | Damascus | Night protests in alJiser Square

Hamouriya | Damascus | Demonstration Calls for Freedom, Right Before Assad Forces Shoot

Bab AlSeba #Homs: Shabeeha shoot at homes and residents from Al-Qala’a barrier to terrorize them

Army vehicles in Dariya #Damascus, and residents being searched

The spread of fully-equipped Army units in Dariya #Damascus

Deir Ez-Zor: A huge explosion shakes the city