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Archive for October 10th, 2017


Israel’s War for Gaza’s Gas

<!–Wednesday 28 November 2012[, by –>

Exclusive November 2012, by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

“It is clear that without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement.”Moshe Ya’alon, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs

Over the last decade, Israel has experienced a growing energy crisis.

Between 2000 and 2010, Israel’s power consumption has risen by  3.5% annually. With over 40% of Israel’s electricity dependent on natural gas, the country has struggled to keep up with rising demand as a stable source of gas is in short supply.

As of April,  electricity prices rose by 9%, as the state-owned Israeli Electricity Company (IEC) warned that “Israelis may soon face blackouts during this summer’s heat” – which is exactly what happened.

The two major causes of the natural gas shortage were Egypt’s repeated suspension of gas supplies to Israel due to attacks on the Sinai pipeline, and the near-depletion of Israel’s offshore Tethys Sea gas fields.

By late April, a trade deal that would have continued natural gas imports from Egypt into Israel collapsed, sending the Israeli government scrambling to find alternate energy sources to meet peak electricity demands.

Without a significant boost in gas production, Israel faced the prospect of debilitating fuel price hikes which would undermine the economy.

By late June, Israel was tapping into the little known Noa gas reserve in the Mediterranean off the coast of Gaza. Previously, Israel had “refrained from ordering development of the Noa field, fearing that this would lead to diplomatic problems vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority”, according to the Israeli business daily Globes.

The Noa reserve, whose yield is about 1.2 billion cubic metres, “is partly under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority in the economic zone of the Gaza Strip” – but Houston-based operator Noble Energy apparently “convinced” Israel’s Ministry of National Infrastructures that their drilling would “not spill over into other parts of the reserve.”

But the Gaza Marine gas reserves – about 32km from Gaza’s coastline – are unmistakeably  within Gaza’s territorial waters which extend to about 35km off the coast. Israeli negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) over the gas reserves have  stalled for much of the last decade since their discovery in the late 1990s by the British Gas Group (BG Group).

The main reason for the failure of negotiations was  Israel’s demand that the gas should come ashore on its territory, and at below market price.

Estimated at a total of 1.4 trillion cubic feet, the market value of the reserves is about $4 billion.

On 8th November 1999, the late Yasser Arafat signed a 25-year deal on behalf of the PA, granting 60% rights to BG Group, 30 per cent to Consolidated Contractors Company – a Palestinian private entity linked to Arafat’s PA – and finally only 10 per cent to the PA’s Palestine Investment Fund (PIF).

At first, BG Group signed a memorandum with Egypt to sell them Gaza’s gas through an undersea pipeline in 2005. But the ’man of peace’, former Prime Minister Tony Blair – official Middle East envoy of the  Quartet – intervened to pressure BG Group to instead sell the gas to Israel.

One informed British source told journalist Arthur Neslen in Tel Aviv at the time: “The UK and US, who are the major players in this deal, see it as a possible tool to improve relations between the PA and Israel. It is part of the  bargaining baggage.”

The gas would be piped directly onshore to Ashkelon in Israel, but “up to three-quarters of the $4bn of revenue raised might not even end up in Palestinian hands at all.”

The “preferred option” of the US and UK is that the gas revenues would be held in “an international bank account over which Abbas would hold sway” – effectively circumventing Hamas-controlled Gaza.

One of the first things Hamas did after winning elections was to reject the PA’s agreement with BG Group as “an act of theft”, before demanding a renegotiation of the agreed percentages to reflect its inclusion.

Operation Cast Lead launched in December 2008 was directly, though not exclusively, motivated by Israel’s  concerns about the Blair-brokered gas deal.

Upon assessing the prospects for accessing Gaza’s gas, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon – also Minister of Strategic Affairs and a former IDF Chief of Staff – advocated a year before Operation Cast Lead that the gas deal “threaten’s Israel national security” as long as Hamas remains in power.

“With Gaza currently a radical Islamic stronghold, and the West Bank in danger of becoming the next one, Israel’s funneling a billion dollars into local or international bank accounts on behalf of the Palestinian Authority would be tantamount to Israel’s bankrolling terror against itself”, Ya’alon wrote for the  Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

“It is clear that without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement.”

So why Operation Pillar of Defence, and why now?

On 23rd September, Israel and the PA announced the  renewal of negotiations over development of Gaza’s gas fields. But Hamas, still in control of Gaza, stood in the way of these negotiations.

Both the PA and Tony Blair “hope to have control of the marine area and levy its own fees and taxes” in partnership with Israel, reported Offshore-technology.

Exactly a week before Israel’s assassination of Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas’ military wing, Israel’s  ongoing energy crisis was in full swing, with the “cash-strapped Israel Electric Corp” – suffering from a short-fall of 1.5 billion shekels – planning to sell a total of 3 billion shekels of government-backed bonds as early as December.

Then on 12th November, the PA announced that the Palestinians would formally seek admission to the UN General Assembly as  a non-member observer state on the 29th. If granted, the status would add weight to the Palestinian bid for statehood encompassing the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem – pre-1967 territorial lines which would formally impinge on Israel’s ambitions to de facto control and unilaterally exploit Gaza’s largely untapped gas resources.

Simultaneously, Israel faced another complication from Hamas.

Israeli peace negotiator Gershon Bashkin reports that a proposal he drafted for a long-term ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas was on the verge of being accepted by senior Hamas officials, including Ahmed Jabari.

On the morning of the 14th – just two days after the PA’s announcement concerning its UN bid – a revised version was being assessed by Jabari and was due to be sent to Israel.

Hours later, Jabari was assassinated on Netanyahu’s orders.

“Senior officials in Israel knew about [Jabari’s] contacts with Hamas and Egyptian intelligence aimed at formulating the permanent truce, but nevertheless approved the assassination”, Bashkin told Ha’aretz.

With Israel facing a race for independence from the PA, and a permanent truce with Hamas, the prospects of fully exploiting Gaza’s gas resources looked slim – unless Israel could change the political and security facts on the ground through brute force. The strike on Jabari appears to have been designed precisely to provoke a response from Hamas that would justify such military action.

Indeed, Hamas has its uses.

Ya’alon’s fellow Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom once criticised Shimon Peres in a high-level Cabinet meeting back in 2001, for advocating “negotiations” with Arafat. “Between Hamas and Arafat, I prefer Hamas”, said Shalom, explaining that Arafat is a “terrorist in a diplomat’s suit, while Hamas can be hit unmercifully… there won’t be any international protests.” (Ha’aretz, 4/12/2001)

By unleashing Hamas’ rage this November, Israel was able to justify an offensive designed at least in part to begin engineering conditions conducive to its control of Gaza’s offshore gas reserves. But this is just the beginning – many analysts note that Israel is preparing the ground for a  wider military assault against Iran.

The tentative ceasefire announced on the 21st is, therefore, highly tenuous. If the ceasefire is breached, a  military ground operation is still on the cards.

With over 140 dead in Gaza, compared to five in Israel, Operation Pillar of Defence has vindicated those in Palestine who think violence against Israel is the only option left.

But then again, perhaps that’s the idea.

Grieving the people we’ve loved and lost

Oct 4, 2017 

We can stay connected to them by creating our own special rituals, says psychologist and grief expert Kim Bateman.

In 1990, one of my younger brothers died in an avalanche in extreme skiing. He was only 21, and the horrific memory I have from that time is of his body lying at the bottom of a 750-foot cliff, all his bones broken.

When he was little, he used to break his bones a lot because he was a risk taker, and the doctors always commented on how quickly he healed. But this time I knew there would be no healing, for him or for our family.

It seemed like our identities shattered alongside his body on the rocks.

My son, who was four, asked me, “What happens when you die? Where did Chad go?”

Being an academic, I said, “Well, Christians believe he’s in heaven with God, and Buddhists believe he’s going to come back as something or someone else. And there are scientists who believe we’re all made of energy and we just rejoin the natural cycle when we die.” And my son looked at me with wide eyes and said, “Yes, Mommy, but what do we believe?”

When we’re forced to say goodbye to someone in the physical form, we’re also being offered an opportunity to say hello to them in our imaginations.

It was a good question and I started looking to my own discipline, psychology, for answers.

Some grief theorists say we humans invest our love or energy in a person and when she or he dies, we withdraw that energy and reinvest it in other people or projects. While that perspective may help some, it missed the mark for me. Because when we lose a loved one, we still love them. And I wasn’t ready to stop loving.

Then I came across this Japanese proverb, which said, “My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon.” I loved this quote, because it introduced me to the idea that when we’re forced to say goodbye to someone in the physical form, we’re also being offered an opportunity to say hello to them in our imaginations. Although gone in the material world, our loved ones can become more psychologically present to us.

And we can use this presence to create rituals that will bring them back and provide us with a means through which we can still love them.

One example comes from a folktale I’ve heard about a woman named Nyctea, which means “of the night” and evokes the spirit of the owl.

Nyctea’s job is to protect that which is in danger of being lost in this world, so her cave is filled with bones. She has mouse bones and rattlesnake bones and hawk bones and coyote bones, but the most precious bones are those of her namesake, the owl.

She combs the mountains and riverbeds and gathers them one by one, bringing them back to her cave. There, she patiently reconstructs the owl’s skeleton. When the skeleton is complete, she sits by her fire and thinks of what song she will sing. In this quiet moment of love, the great drum of her heart becomes audible.

The rhythm gives rise to a song and she sings into being the owl’s smooth feathers, its broad wings and its round eyes. On her last note, she breathes life into the owl, and when it feels that life in its lungs, its yellow-green eyes open wide and it flies up out of the cave and into the world.

We must gather our loved ones’ bones and piece them together — they will be the lifeline that carries us through our grief.

When we grieve, aren’t we all a little like Nyctea? Aren’t we collecting bones and protecting that which is in danger of being lost?

When my brother died, I remember that every word he had written suddenly seemed important. We wanted to dance to his music and to smell his clothes. The small pin he owned that said “Just visiting this planet” seemed like a premonition. We must gather our loved ones’ bones and piece them together — they will be the lifeline that carries us through our grief.

As a clinical psychologist, I’ve taught about death and dying and facilitated grief workshops for more than 20 years. I’ve seen many people sing over bones, each in their own way.

One woman in my town lost her 18-month-old son in a horrific car accident. Two months after it occurred, when she was living in the most jagged places of mourning, she re-read the sheriff’s report. It said an unsecured car seat may have contributed to the fatality. So she set up car seat checkpoints and people lined up for blocks. She was a tiny person, and she’d get into each car, put her knee in there, and pry and pull and tug until the seat was secure. She said every time she pulled on a seat belt, she felt like she was loving her son.

I worked with a six-year-old girl whose mother died of breast cancer. She also felt responsible for her little brother who was only four, and her father was beside himself with grief.

I said, “Tell me about your mother,” and she told me, “Mama loved tea.” She came up with the idea of holding a tea party for her. On Sundays, she’d set places for her brother, herself and her mother, and she and her brother would tell their mother about what happened to them that week.

After a couple of months, even their father joined in. That girl is now in college, and she says it’s still a meaningful ritual. Whenever she wants to talk to her mother, she just puts an empty teacup across the table from herself.

Another woman lost her husband after 45 years of marriage. Since he was the one who drove, she decided she’d walk or take the bus instead.

Through an interminable, gray, windy winter, she kept noticing one thing. It seemed like everywhere she went, there were single gloves laying on the ground. Something about these gloves spoke to her because they were useless without their mate, so she bent down and picked them up. She started bringing them home and put them in a dresser drawer until it overflowed. Then, she took out her husband’s ladder and carried it to the tree in the backyard that they’d planted together on their wedding day. She climbed the ladder and hung all the gloves — fastened to fishing lines — on the tree’s bare branches. She said when the wind blows, it’s like they are waving goodbye and waving hello.

When my children were little, on the anniversary of my brother’s death I used to take them to the river with a purple rose (my brother loved the Grateful Dead). The children took turns pulling off its petals. With every petal they removed, I’d tell them something about their uncle and then they’d throw it in the water. Together, we would watch those memories and stories float away.

To create your own ritual, ask yourself what brought joy to your loved one. The more specific you can be with your answers, the better.

How can you do this in your own life? As the story of Nyctea suggests, start by listening to the great drum of your heart. Let it be your guide.

Then, there are a number of questions that can direct you in creating a ritual. Ask yourself what brought joy to your loved one; the more specific you can be with your answers, the better. Maybe Nana loved putting up ham pies for Easter, your uncle sang Frank Sinatra in his underwear on the balcony, your cousin wore a shirt under his graduation gown that said “My parents just think I went to college,” or your sister loved the tingly feeling of catching snowflakes on her tongue. Think about your loved one and what they enjoyed.

Also, think about the physicality of the person you lost. Were they small like a bird, tall like a giraffe, or substantial like an ox? What did it feel like to hug them, and who was the first to let go?

What smell do you associate with them? Maybe it’s fresh-cut grass, Trident gum, sesame oil, lilac, peaches or clove cigarettes.

When you were with your loved one, how did they make you feel? Was it like climbing into a comfortable easy chair and you always felt better about yourself?

Or was it more like a rollercoaster ride and they tested you? What values did she or he feel strongly about? Maybe it was a good work ethic, social justice, freedom or fairness — you can try to incorporate that ideal into your own ritual.

When we sing over the bones of the people we care for, we are sitting in the place of the greatest love imaginable. And we’re not only singing up new life for our loved one, but we’re also singing up new life for ourselves.

Poet W.S. Merwin wrote, “Your absence has gone through me/Like thread through a needle./Everything I do is stitched with its color.” May your song be colorful, and may you keep loving.

This piece was adapted from Dr. Bateman’s TEDxYouth@GrassValley Talk: Singing over the bones.

Facing the inner critic

Part of his power comes from the shadows.

Pema Chödrön tells the story of inviting the critic to sit for tea. To welcome him instead of running.

It’s not comfortable, but is there any other way? The sore spot is unprotectable. The critic only disappears when we cease to matter. They go together.

We can dance with him, talk with him, welcome him along for a long, boring car ride. Suddenly, he’s not so dangerous. Sort of banal, actually.

There is no battle to win, because there is no battle. The critic isn’t nearly as powerful as you are, not if you are willing to look him in the eye.




October 2017

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