Gas, Gaza, and Western imperialism

Originally published: Mondoweiss on December 20, 2023 by Tara Alami (more by Mondoweiss)  | (Posted Dec 22, 2023)

The current assault on Gaza cannot be seen as separate from the theft of resources like fuel and the systemic destruction of life-sustaining infrastructure throughout Palestine. Only ten days after the beginning of the most recent assault on Gaza, the World Health Organization announced that fewer than “24 hours of water, electricity and fuel left” in Gaza. By October 24th and amid brutal bombing, Gaza’s Ministry of Health warned of an impending fuel shortage that would shut down several hospitals within 48 hours, including the Beit Lahia Indonesian Hospital. On November 20, news broke that the U.S. was exploring plans to exploit the gas fields off the coast of Gaza as part of an “economic revitalization plan.” While some took this to mean that these gas fields were an ulterior motive for the years of Zionist and U.S.-backed attacks on Gaza, the current assault should be understood as an escalation of an ongoing attempt to ethnically cleanse Gaza that is part and parcel of the Zionist settler-colonial and imperial project.

The Gaza Marine natural gas field

Besides its long-term goal of building a settler-colonial ethnostate, the Zionist project sustains itself as an imperialist proxy for the Western empire in the region. One important way it plays this role is through its involvement in exporting stolen gas to the European Union (EU) and by striking gas deals with local normalizing neighboring states, like Jordan, Egypt, and the UAE.

Twenty-five years ago, British Gas Group (BGG) discovered natural gas off the coast of Gaza between the Zionist-occupied Leviathan gas field and the Egyptian Zohr gas field. These fields have become known at Gaza Marine 1 and Gaza Marine 2, and are a tremendous point of interest for the Zionist state and its American sponsor, who seek to profit off of Palestinian natural resources in the Mediterranean Sea.

Most of Gaza’s energy and water is controlled by the Israeli occupation, and plans to introduce and maintain independent energy-producing infrastructure inside the Strip have continuously been thwarted by both the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Zionist state. Instead, the Occupation, and to a lesser extent the PA, both benefit from stolen gas and desalinated water from Gaza’s shores while Palestinians in Gaza endure increasingly catastrophic energy crises.

Only a few months before October 7, Netanyahu announced approval for the development of this gas field in collaboration with the PA and Egypt. Right now, after more than 20,000 Palestinians had been killed by airstrikes or execution-style, 8,000 reportedly stuck underneath the rubble, hundreds kidnapped and tortured, tens of thousands injured, and a deliberate energy crisis in Gaza designed by the Zionist state to deplete life-saving infrastructure, energy giant Chevron resumed gas extraction from the Tamar and Leviathan fields to supply Egypt and Israeli settlers.

Regional domination

To understand the Zionist state’s interest in extracting gas from fields off the coast of Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt, it’s essential to situate it within the Israeli occupation’s imperial aims, solidified in the 1990s by the Oslo Accords and, within them, the Paris Protocol.

Beyond promoting settlement expansion, the militarization by the state, and the nullification of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s grassroots legitimacy, the Accords effectively placed Palestinians under complete economic subjugation to the Zionist regime. The Accords’ division of the occupied West Bank into arbitrary categories by means of colonial map-making additionally physically restricted Palestinians’ access to life-sustaining natural resources, and, importantly, paved the way for the comprador PA regime being “given” access to the Palestinian gas fields off the shore of Gaza and Egypt while stolen gas is exported abroad.

Thirty years after Oslo, Palestinians remain in a state of deliberate underdevelopment designed to sabotage any potential for economic stability, facilitated by the PA and its lackeys, and exacerbated by consistent incursions, invasions, bombings, and colonial violence by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF).

No place is this more clear than Gaza. Before Hamas was elected by Palestinians in 2007, “peace” negotiations between then-prime minister Ehud Olmert and the PA included the Israeli occupation purchasing $4 billion worth of gas annually, starting in 2009. But Hamas’ win in 2007 effectively nullified potential agreements as a brutal air, land, and sea blockade was placed on Gaza. In the background, the Zionist regime was planning its impending 2008 invasion of Gaza while simultaneously attempting to reach a 15-year deal with BGG.

Once Egypt signed a gas deal with the Zionist state in 2005, followed by the discovery of the Tamar gas field in 2009, the need to extract and export gas from Gaza’s shores became less urgent. But as we’re seeing today, the plans to eventually exploit the Gaza Marine fields while maintaining a medieval siege on Gaza did not halt.

Nor were these plans restricted to Gaza’s shores.

Lebanon has been embroiled in a dispute with the Israeli occupation over maritime borders since 2010. In October 2022, a historic maritime border deal, brokered by the U.S., was finally signed. The deal effectively places the U.S. as a permanent observer, supervisor, and mediator of all extractions from gas fields, in addition to mandating that data of “all currently known, and any later identified” resources be shared with the U.S.. Further, the deal only allows “reputable, international corporations” approved and supervised by the U.S. to extract gas from the fields and restricts Lebanese control over roughly ⅓ of the disputed area. Lebanon’s concessions are likely due to the country’s increasingly dire economic conditions, readily exploited by the deal’s American brokers.

Similarly, in 2016, Jordan’s National Electric Power company signed a controversial 15-year normalization deal with the Zionist state and energy corporations Delek Drilling, Ratio, and Noble Energy. In December 2019, the Zionist state began exporting stolen gas to Jordan from the Leviathan field. In 2022, Jordan’s King Abdullah II met with Isaac Herzog at Egypt’s COP27 summit to sign a memorandum of understanding for a deal exchanging stolen water from the Mediterranean Sea for Jordanian solar-power-generated energy.

Challenging imperialism

The case of the Zionist regime’s interest in gas fields surrounding the borders of Palestine is a textbook example of imperialism as defined by Lenin or Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa: namely, the concentration of production and monopolies (namely by U.S. and British-affiliated energy corporations) and the export of capital.

Though attempting to hide this resource theft from Palestinians behind the smokescreen of “solving” a global energy crisis sparked by NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine and the Nord Stream pipeline explosion, the UK, U.S., EU, and the Zionist state have long been interested in solidifying stolen gas exports from the Leviathan gas field in the European energy market, beyond the confines of deals with Jordan, Egypt, and now Lebanon. This is why Yemeni strategic attacks on shipping routes to and from the Zionist state are a true threat to the viability of this genocidal regime: if the energy cost of this attack on Gaza is too high, megacorporations that supply the IOF with energy and weapons are more likely to halt shipments altogether, threatening the global trade economy.

Accompanying every announcement of further theft from Palestinian and Arab gas fields is an emphasis on the Zionist state’s attempt to maintain “safety” and “security” around its colonial borders. The theft of natural resources and the potential profit for the Zionist regime and its sponsors, including giant energy corporations like Chevron and Total, is indeed the driving force behind its insistence on encroaching Gaza’s shore. But, crucially, it all rests on the larger backdrop of the Zionist settler-colonial project and its function as an imperialist proxy: ethnic cleansing, land theft, dispossession, and the structural economic subjugation of Palestinians. True liberation therefore means the end of the Zionist project in all its forms, from colonial borders, military checkpoints, and blockades, to its parasitic reach beneath our waters.

Tara Alami is a Palestinian writer from occupied Jerusalem and occupied Yafa currently based in Tiohtià:ke (Montreal).

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