A Pipeline of Injustice: Greek consular official admits that natural gas pipeline drives complicity in Gaza siege

Israel/Palestine
on 21 Comments

It has been widely reported and speculated that the reason for Greece’s participation in the suppression of Freedom Flotilla Two may be found in its own economic situation – that the government of Prime Minister George Papandreou, pushing a devastating IMF/EU austerity plan on the Greek people against their will, is so desperate for international financial and economic support that it is willing to serve as the enforcement arm for Israel’s illegal siege on Gaza.

Yesterday, in Vancouver, Canada, a Greek consular official, Georgios Ayfantis, confirmed that this is indeed the case.

In a conversation with a delegation of activists supporting the Tahrir, the Canadian Boat to Gaza, who entered the consulate demanding a meeting about the Freedom Flotilla, Ayfantis asserted that Greece’s economic interests were at stake in stopping the Flotilla, saying that an undersea natural gas pipeline and a natural gas liquidizing plant in Crete were at stake. 

The offer Netanyahu made followed on Papandreou’s visit to Israel in July 2010 - the first visit of a Greek Prime Minister in decades - and is sharply at odds with both the growing movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions from Israel, and Greek public opinion, which even the World Jewish Congress concedes is “clearly pro-Palestinian.” 

Ayfantis further asserted that the Papandreou government’s enforcement of the Israeli siege was about “interests,” that Greece was afraid of Israel, and that the U.S. – and the Canadian government of Stephen Harper – is backing Israel completely.

The Papandreou government, of course, is no stranger to representing the interests of the International Monetary Fund and the United States (and its ally and partner Israel) at the expense of the Greek people. Greek social movements have been directly involved in supporting the flotilla, negotiating with police, and raising the cause of Gaza, the Flotilla, and Palestine at the mass protests in Syntagma Square against the Papandreou government and IMF-imposed austerity. Greek trade unionists and shipbuilders are working now to repair the Tahrir, which was damaged by the Greek Coast Guard when slammed into a concrete pier after being boarded and commandeered and returned to shore earlier today. Earlier, stevedores working to load the flotilla’s boats were the only workers exempt from the general strike called by Greek trade unions in the last week of June. Greek activists are currently sitting dockside to guard the flotilla’s boats from sabotage.

Derrick O’Keefe, one of the Vancouver organizers of the Canadian Boat to Gaza campaign, led a chant at a weekend emergency demonstration, “Solidarity, Not Austerity!” prompting cheers for Greek workers who were participating in support actions for the flotilla in defiance of the Papandreou government.

Indeed, Syntagma Square, which has become the center of the Greek workers’ movement, hosted a mass protest for the Flotilla on July 3. The Square has faced severe police violence and brutality, as well as the massive use of tear gas and chemical gases, mainly purchased from Israel, against protesters. With as little regard as the Greek government has shown for Greek laws and the rights of its people, it is of no great surprise that this same government has seen fit to sell out international law, the right to travel, and the humanity of Palestinians in Gaza for a potential pipeline and natural gas liquidizing plant.

However, wrote Foula Farmakides, “If my experience this week shows me one thing, it is that the authorities are afraid of what has happened in Syntagma Square and in other Greek neighbourhoods over the last 35 days. They do not like the fact that people gather and talk about democracy and the economy, issues that are currently under their control. They don’t want us to share opinions, instead of just accepting the media propaganda. They do not like the fact that in spite of their aggressive efforts, the demonstrators are showing no signs of intimidation….The Greek people will not give up until the government, IMF and ECB leave their country. Less than 12 hours after we were beaten by the police, we reoccupied Syntagma Square.” 

In much the same way, Israel fears the flotilla deeply – because the flotilla is a popular representation of international solidarity with Palestinian steadfastness and resistance. For over sixty-three years, Israel has engaged in ethnic cleansing, apartheid, home demolitions, bombings, all-out wars, raids, siege, blockade, mass imprisonment, harsh brutality, and worse. And yet, despite all of these efforts, Palestinians insist on living, on existing, on struggling and resisting. Palestinian refugees insist upon returning home. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza struggle to tear down walls and break sieges. Palestinians inside Israel fight to end apartheid and dismantle the structures of a state based on the denial of their existence and identity.

The flotilla symbolizes growing international solidarity with that steadfastness and creativity. Indeed, the flotilla is so threatening because it is not, fundamentally, a humanitarian aid flotilla – it is a material statement of solidarity and support for Palestinian sovereignty over Palestine’s borders, coasts and ports. It is not a gesture of charity, but a clear statement that the siege will fall, and will be broken. Joe Catron, writing from Gaza, said, ”Ties between Palestinian organizers and the global network of activists supporting them will emerge stronger than ever before. And the siege – along with the colonial project imposing it – will be pushed one big step closer to their final end.”

Indeed, this is not the first time that Israel’s desperation to prevent any such assertion of the illegitimacy of their occupation of Palestine’s land, seas, and borders from taking place has become visible, nor was last year’s massacre on the Mavi Marmara, in which nine activists, including 8 Turkish activists and one American student, were killed in an armed military commando raid on the civilian boat. In 1988, during the first Intifada, Egyptian, Syrian and other Arab actors and artists had joined together with 131 Palestinian deportees forced from Palestine for their organizing in the Intifada, to sail a “ship of Return,” named “Al-Awda,” to the port of Haifa. The ship was sunk in port in Cyprus on  and three Palestinian leaders, Abu Hassan Qasim, Hamdi Sultan and Marwan al-Kayyali, who had worked on the project were assassinated on the same day, February 16, 1988.

While those who planned to sail on Al-Awda were Arab artists and Palestinian deportees, the name of the ship – “Al-Awda” – and its destination – Haifa – evoked the inalienable, fundamental Palestinian right of return, and the reality that Israel’s foundation as a “Jewish state” was built on the bedrock of a stolen Palestinian land and a displaced Palestinian people. In much the same way, the marches of Return on Nakba Day (May 15) and Naksa Day (June 5) this year, mass marches to the borders of Palestine from Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza, demanding the right of return of Palestinian refugees, were met with harsh and violent repression, with 20 protesters – simply demanding their right to return to their lands and homes – killed by the Israeli military on each day.

The Flotilla is part of the resilience of the Palestinian people – reflected in the global solidarity movement – that despite nakba after nakba, the struggle and the resistance will continue until the siege is broken, the wall falls, refugees return, Palestine is liberated. And thus, like the general strikes and mass protests of Greece’s workers, it strikes fear in the heart of those who would rule through the power of capital and the force of arms – and inspiration in the hearts of those who would see justice and liberation for Greece, Palestine and the world.

Charlotte Kates is a Palestine solidarity activist in Vancouver, Canada, on unceded Coast Salish Territories. She is a member of the Organizing Committee of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (http://www.usacbi.org) and is active with Al-Awda the Palestine Right to Return Coalition – NY (http://www.al-awdany.org) and the National Lawyers Guild (http://www.nlginternational.org).

About Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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21 Responses

  1. bijou
    July 5, 2011, 10:24 am

    This is the real story that should be exposed – a very very important piece. The siege of Gaza is all about a natural gas grab. The 1.5 million Palestinian residents are condemned to an open air prison indefinitely in order for Israel and the US and Europe to retain control of the natural gas off Gaza’s shores. Never mind that even larger gas resources have since been discovered off of Israel’s northern shores – Israel is determined to have it all.

    Even if Hamas were to recognize Israel and lay down all threats and come to the Knesset with flower garlands in hand tomorrow, the siege would not be lifted. That is all pretext.

    Israel is hellbent on preserving Gaza as a “humanitarian problem” because the minute they allow Palestinians any sovereignty over the Gaza Strip, they lose their claim to the natural gas.

    Hence the 3-mile fishing restriction; hence the absurd proposal floated some weeks back to build an “island” off the coast of Gaza; hence the determination to batter the Strip back to the Stone Age during Cast Lead, so they would become and remain forever a humanitarian problem.

    Hence, too, their hysteric reaction over Palestinian unity – this is the worst possible development since it re-justifies a Palestinian claim to sovereignty over Gaza.

    • teta mother me
      July 5, 2011, 5:54 pm

      In a just world — you know, Justice is blind; Equal justice under law and all that — corporations doing business to develop Israeli gas fields would be sanctioned just as businesses doing business to develop Iran’s gas/oil fields were sanctioned (at the behest of AIPAC, according to Keith Weissman, who helped write the legislation that imposed the sanctions, in 1995-96).

      Noble Energy of Austin, TX — Hagee country — has a contract to explore and develop Israel’s gas fields.

      Noble Energy should be constrained from doing so until Israel abides by international law.

      goose meet gander.

  2. lysias
    July 5, 2011, 11:02 am

    If the gas field is as wide as it is reported to be, isn’t a lot of it in the waters of Lebanon, Syria, and Cyprus? Indeed, one wonders if the fields extends as far as the territorial waters of Greece.

    • Les
      July 5, 2011, 4:24 pm

      There is gas in waters offshore of Gaza. That is not Israel’s property.

  3. NickJOCW
    July 5, 2011, 11:13 am

    Thank you for this. I didn’t really go for the ‘US pressure on Greece’ version, it would be too risky in the present climate; the US is more likely to have said something more diplomatic along the lines that they ‘do not look favourably’ on the flotilla and left it at that. This account, on the other hand, has a very Israeli feel to it; short-sighted and ultimately counter-productive.

  4. Citizen
    July 5, 2011, 11:30 am

    Reminds me of why Johnson buried the USS Liberty incident, and desired to bury the ship itself. At the time, for rational example, he was desperate to find a way to stop liberal Jewish American citizens in the media and academia from slamming his Vietnam War, and hence, his career, and also at the time, and for the same reason, he also wanted approval of his governance by the influential via sale of Phantom jets to Israel, thus establishing for the first time US support for Israel’s qualitive military edge over its neighbors. He had his way both times. Johnson, an extreme (and crude) power swinger himself, was nothing if not keyed into where the real power was in his country at any time.

    • Les
      July 5, 2011, 4:30 pm

      When President Johnson, not once but twice, called back the US Navy planes sent to investigate what had happened to the USS Liberty, he bestowed on the Israel Lobby the power that had previously been theoretical. What had been the Lobby’s dream had instantly become a reality.

      • lysias
        July 5, 2011, 4:50 pm

        If, as some claim, Israel was involved in the JFK assassination, the Lobby’s dream had already become a reality in November 1963, for those in the know.

      • teta mother me
        July 5, 2011, 5:56 pm

        iirc LBJ was enjoying a sleepover at the White House with the wife of a prominent Jewish businessman at the time of the Liberty incident.

  5. Formerly T-Bear
    July 5, 2011, 12:02 pm

    Bijou’s observation about Gaza petroleum reserves is spot on.
    The first three items found under ‘Gaza’ and ‘gas deal’ showed the following links:
    link to globalresearch.ca
    link to guardian.co.uk
    link to articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com and a fourth
    link to business.timesonline.co.uk
    show a wide range of reports (among 25 million in 0.19 second) that happened in international news over Gaza’s gas wealth. US news media has complete silence outside a few trade reports not widely or publicly disseminated. Lord Tony Blair is making his multimillion £ fortune for covering the theft of Gaza gas up in his current manifestation of a diplomatic envoy of the EU (as with all politicians, it’s not what you hear from them, it’s follow the money), giving legitimacy to the well known and documented proclivities of the Fatah leadership of the legally recognized Palestine Authority. Take close note also at the estimated volume of gas in the field (1.4 Trillion Cu Ft) as well as its estimated market value ($4.o Billions or £2.0 billions Sterling) when the reports were written. All sold or contracted in advance to Israel.

    It will be in short order that the phrase ‘Follow the money’ will be declared to be another ‘anti-Semitic’ statement; in fact, bank on it.

  6. bijou
    July 5, 2011, 12:32 pm

    It goes way way back much farther than this As we are reminded in a recent article by Mya Guarnieri, the Gaza closure policy started way back before Hamas, in 1991.

    And Israel has just recently requested to start using this gas THIS MONTH:

    Tel Aviv – PNN – The Israeli Ministry of Infrastructure has demanded permission from the gas company Nobel Energy to start working in developing the natural gas field that was found off the Gaza Strip shoreline, under the pretext that Israel fears gas shortages in the coming year.

    Gaza City coast lineIn a press statement on Monday, the Israeli Ministry of Infrastructre said that it officially requested permission from Nobel Energy to submit a work programme to dig and develop gas fields by July.

    The ministry explained that the reason official permission has been sought before digging the oil is because the field is close to the territorial waters of the Gaza Strip.

    Israel gets natural gas from Egypt through an agreement in which Israel pays less than internationally recognised prices to Egypt. After the Egyptian uprising and the toppling of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian people demanded that the channeling of gas to Israel would be stopped until a new agreement could be reached, so that the Egyptian people could benefit first from their natural resources.

    A large concentration of natural gas was found off the Gaza shoreline, and the British Gas group along with Lebanese partners were given the right to dig there and sell the gas during an agreement wthat was signed in November 1999 with the Palestinian Authority.

    The British company had already set up two gas wells called Gaza Marine 1 and Gaza Marine 2. According to the British Gas group, the natural reservoir offf the Gaza shore is estimated at 1.5 trillion cubic meters, at a net worth of around $4 billion US dollars.

    However, Chossudovsky, a Canadian economist, estimated that the amount of gas in Palestine is much more, adding that it could make the future Palestinian state as rich as Kuwait, due to the average population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

    Nobel Energy is a US based company based in New York that digs oil and natural gas internationally.

    Dmitry Dliani, Fatah top official, commented on the Israeli Ministry of Infrastructure decision as a license to steal the Gaza gas, as part of Israeli attacks on Palestinian rights. Dliani demanded international protection for the Palestinian natural gas reservoir off the Gaza shore.

    I don’t have time right now to report on this further, but if someone else can, it would be appreciated.

    Why else would some little civilian boats have the power to throw all the world powers into concerted hysteria?

    • teta mother me
      July 5, 2011, 6:00 pm

      Bibi commented in one of his recent trips in the US that Israel will soon be not only energy independent but rich beyond dreams on gas from Mediterranean fields.

      several thoughts: 1. Israel can walk away from its gas contract with Egypt — which Israel finagled to swindle Egyptians;
      2. eegad — Israel with boodles of money. Drives home the point that everything Israel says about Iran –ie. “If they have oil wealth, they will use it to kill Jews etc.” — Israel really means about itself: If Israel has vast wealth from gas, they will utterly destroy Palestinians, with no recourse.

      BDS Noble energy, BDS Israel-loving companies in US that send money to Israel.

      • lysias
        July 5, 2011, 6:55 pm

        When Israel has boodles of money, what reason will there be for the U.S. to continue to send it money?

  7. Jimmy Johnson
    July 5, 2011, 1:26 pm

    This is way too reductive. Much more important is the break between Turkey and Israel. Turkish-Greek hostility has never abated and so long as the Turkey-Israel alliance was strong, Greece-Israel relations remained tepid. After Cast Lead then the killings on the Mavi Marmara, Turkey and Israel had a strong break in relations and Israel began developing closer relations with Greece, including increased arms sales. This is the context in which the Prime Ministerial visit took place.

    • lysias
      July 5, 2011, 1:54 pm

      But it looks as if relations between Turkey and Israel have now improved again.

      • Jimmy Johnson
        July 6, 2011, 2:01 am

        The relations are nowhere near what they were prior to Cast Lead and the 2010 Flotilla. A key indicator, arms sales, have disappeared almost completely and have not (yet?) recovered even a little.

  8. Formerly T-Bear
    July 5, 2011, 1:57 pm

    @ Bijou 12:32
    From serendipitous readings, the roots of this do go back further in time. The deal was agreed between Israel, BG and Fatah in the early 2000’s after the deposits were discovered and estimated. Best guess is Fatah hierarchy approved (receiving favourable lubrication, as usual) but Arafat disapproved and stood in the way (could explain Arafat’s final years and possible demise) of closure, possibly in reaction to being blindsided at the Clinton Camp David fiasco. Just as agreement with free from Arafat Fatah was to be concluded, Hamas won the democratic election for parliament in Palestine, twisting the knickers of the Israeli’s no end – Israeli tail caught in the bunch. Fatah tried to wrest control of government from Hamas by effecting a coup; successfully in the West Bank, not so in Gaza at which time Israel turned off all economic income into Gaza. By shear force, Israel removed all its occupying settlers from Gaza and the assault upon Gaza began at that time, squeezing, blocking, throttling the Gazan economy until survival became the overriding consideration for the population. Much of the above can be found in the substance of the links mentioned above or implied from the actual history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Following the money will show a very ugly story.

    • bijou
      July 5, 2011, 2:50 pm

      Well unless you are really a conspiracy thinker, in which case you might believe that the US and Israel allowed the elections to go forward knowing that Hamas would win, and this would provide the perfect pretext to sever the West Bank politically from Gaza.

      We do know that they engineered the coup in Gaza. It could have been as you say a failed coup, or perhaps, alternatively — a success — providing the justification for the siege, and for the war that followed.

      This makes perfect sense when you consider Israel’s way of thinking, in which demography trumps all. As Max Blumenthal reported earlier this year:

      ….Another academic with close ties to the Israeli military-intelligence apparatus, Professor Arnon “the Arab Counter” Soffer of Haifa University, urged the army to massacre Palestinian civilians after the withdrawal from the illegal settlement of Gush Katif in Gaza. Soffer, who devised the separation wall policy in order to confine the Palestinians of the West Bank to what he called “three sausages,” reasoned that mass murder was the only way to maintain the security of the Southern Israeli perimeter communities while avoiding political concessions to the Palestinians of Gaza.

      “When 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe,” Soffer argued. “Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.” And that is exactly what Israel did when it followed Soffer’s logic in Operation Cast Lead. (Note the use of the word “animal” in Soffer’s language and in the language of Israelis responding to the murders in Itamar; the word is essentially a signal to kill Palestinians indiscriminately).

      Severing Gaza from the West Bank, and emptying it of its non-Jewish population by whatever means, destroying their institutions and any possible basis for collective communal existence, turning them into totally desperate, hungy, hapless individuals who require “humanitarian” assistance only — that has been the driving goal of US/Israeli/British policy for some time now. And the US is fully complicit. Let’s not delude ourselves into thinking otherwise.

  9. Miura
    July 5, 2011, 4:28 pm

    …Greek public opinion, which even the World Jewish Congress concedes is “clearly pro-Palestinian.”

    Indeed, Sofia Sakorafa, a Greek athlete who once held the world record for Javelin throw acquired a Palestinian passport in 2004 and wanted to enter the Olympics parade as a Palestinian but was not allowed to compete because of regulations declared at the time:

    This was a symbolic gesture to show my support for the Palestinian people … I will continue to support them.

  10. Lydda Four Eight
    July 6, 2011, 1:01 am

    Glad someone picked up on the pipeline story, I mentioned it last week link to mondoweiss.net

    This story requires some wikileaks reading me thinks!

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