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Chomsky: Do We Face a Real Confrontation with Israel?

We should be cautious about the idea that Obama will promote a serious regional peace initiative for the Middle East.

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One crucial element of Israel's siege, little reported, is the naval blockade.  Peter Beaumont reports from Gaza that "On its coastal littoral, Gaza's limitations are marked by a different fence where the bars are Israeli gunboats with their huge wakes, scurrying beyond the Palestinian fishing boats and preventing them from going outside a zone imposed by the warships." ( Guardian, 27 May).   According to reports from the scene, the naval siege has been tightened steadily since 2000.  Fishing boats have been driven steadily out of Gaza's territorial waters and towards the shore by Israeli gunboats, often violently without warning and with many casualties.  As a result of these naval actions, Gaza's fishing industry has virtually collapsed; fishing is impossible near shore because of the contamination caused by Israel's regular attacks, including the destruction of power plants and sewage facilities.

These Israeli naval attacks began shortly after the discovery by the British Gas group of what appear to be quite sizeable natural gas fields in Gaza's territorial waters.  Industry journals report that Israel is already appropriating these Gazan resources for its own use, part of its commitment to shift its economy to natural gas.  The standard source, Platt's Commodity News , reports (Feb. 3, 16) that "Israel's finance ministry has given the Israel Electric Corp. approval to purchase larger quantities of natural gas from BG than originally agreed upon, according to Israeli government sources [which] said the state-owned utility would be able to negotiate for as much as 1.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas from the Marine field located off the Mediterranean coast of the Palestinian controlled Gaza Strip.  Last year the Israeli government approved the purchase of 800 million cubic meters of gas from the field by the IEC.... Recently the Israeli government changed its policy and decided the state-owned utility could buy the entire quantity of gas from the Gaza Marine field.  Previously the government had said the IEC could buy half the total amount and the remainder would be bought by private power producers."

The pillage of what could become a major source of income for Palestine is surely known to US authorities.  It is only reasonable to suppose that the intention to steal Palestine's limited resources is the motive for preventing Gaza fishing boats to enter Gaza's territorial waters.  It would also not be a great surprise if we were to discover some day that the same intention was in the background of the criminal US-Israeli attack on Gaza in December 2008.

The restrictions on movement used to destroy Gaza have long been in force in the West Bank as well, with grim effects on life and the economy.  The World Bank has just reported that Israel has established "a complex closure regime that restricts Palestinian access to large areas of the West Bank... The Palestinian economy has remained stagnant, largely because of the sharp downturn in Gaza and Israel's continued restrictions on Palestinian trade and movement in the West Bank." The Bank "cited Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints hindering trade and travel, as well as restrictions on Palestinian building in the West Bank, where the Western-backed government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas holds sway" (AP; Avi Issacharoff, Ha'aretz; May 6).

All of this constitutes what Israeli activist Jeff Halper calls a "matrix of control" to subdue the colonized population, in pursuit of Defense Minister Moshe Dayan's recommendation to his colleagues shortly after the 1967 conquests that we must tell the Palestinians in the territories that "we have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process leads" (Yossi Beilin, Mehiro shel Ihud , 42).

 
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