The Gas Protest: What It Says About the Occupation

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Thousands of Israeli's protest controversial natural gas deal across Israel. November 28, 2015.
Thousands of Israeli's protest controversial natural gas deal across Israel. November 28, 2015. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

It’s the occupation, stupid, not Israeli policy on its offshore natural gas reserves that is the real issue. If Israel were the Titanic and the binational apartheid state its iceberg that would ultimately spell the demise of Israel as a democratic, Jewish and Zionist state, then the collision with the iceberg has already occurred.

Zionist and democratic Israel has begun sinking into the depths, with its citizens on the deck. The enthusiastic, angry demonstrators against the government’s plan to allow two major firms – Texas-based Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek Group – to control most of the country’s offshore natural gas reserves are akin to a sinking ship’s passengers who find it the appropriate time to roundly protest about the service, excessive prices and their unfair treatment.

The controversy over the natural gas framework is important, of course, but on the scale of national priorities, it is less relevant now.

Have the protesters been blind to the fact that an immeasurably greater injustice is being committed in their land than the gas robbery, and whose implications are far graver and much more lethal?

The protest is touted as a nonpolitical effort – meaning that it is unconnected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And this is most serious danger inherent within it.

Even if the battle to change the terms of the natural gas agreement is successful, Israel is still lost given the current circumstances.

When a hole is gouged into the hull of the ship and water is rushing in, the price the passengers paid for their tickets is unimportant.

And when the left-wing is enlisted to the battle over natural gas together with people who support annexation and the plunder of Palestinian land and rights, its sins are manifold.

First of all, the left is celebrating democracy when it should be mourning it. Second, it is creating the impression that racism and occupation are not the burning issues that should top Israel’s agenda.

Third, it is making common cause and understanding with the right-wing when there should be only schism and a yawning divide. And finally, it is creating the illusion that there is such a thing as an apolitical issue in the public arena.

But there isn’t. When the left and right come together to demonstrate against the natural gas plan, that is clearly a political statement. It conveys recognition on the part of the left that it has no chance of ending the occupation and dismantling the apartheid state, and that it is giving up on its diplomatic agenda and developing instead a new Israeli consensus.

It’s a consensus around a Jewish and apartheid identity that shows sensitivity to social justice issues and a social democratic outlook that applies to citizens of Israel alone, but not to Palestinians living under Israeli control in the West Bank.

This new political movement that is coming into being around the battle over the natural gas agreement and socioeconomic reform in Israel sanctifies the diplomatic status quo, which means nothing other than our continued descent into a binational, bleeding, tribal morass.

It is the left’s moral bankruptcy. There is no left with an occupation. There is no social democracy without everyone having a vote. There is no social justice that includes plunder and exclusion of the Palestinians.

The same also holds true with respect to vegan protesters against animal cruelty. They have chickens and cows in mind, but Palestinians are also living beings. A vegan world in which Palestinians have no basic human rights is not a moral world.

All of these self-righteous revolutionary energies should be redirected to one thing and one thing alone: the end of the occupation and dismantling the apartheid system.

Demonstrating now against only the natural gas plan sends out the message that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is right. The conflict with the Palestinians is not over territory but, rather, over religion, so we can simply move on at this point to demonstrate against gas policy. That’s gas politics.

There are left-wing politicians who dream that the socioeconomic agenda will return them to power. And how will that help us?

Without a diplomatic solution, we will continue to slowly sink into an existence of knifings, hatred and fear. And a left wing that does not propose removal of the settlements is not a real left wing. We can no longer bury our heads in the gas issue.

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