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Israel’s blood diamonds

By Seán Clinton, The Electronic Intifada, 29 March 2010

Every year, consumers the world over unwittingly spend billions of dollars on diamonds crafted in Israel, thereby helping to fund one of the world’s most protracted and contentious conflicts. Most people are unaware that Israel is one of the world’s leading producers of cut and polished diamonds. As diamonds are normally not hallmarked, consumers cannot distinguish an Israeli diamond from one crafted in India, Belgium, South Africa or elsewhere. The global diamond industry and aligned governments, including the EU, have hoodwinked consumers into believing the diamond trade has been cleansed of diamonds that fund human rights abuses, but the facts are startlingly different.

Israel — which stands accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, genocide, the crime of apartheid, extrajudicial executions within and outside the territory it controls and persistent serious breaches of the Geneva Conventions — is the world’s leading exporter of diamonds. Israeli companies import rough diamonds for cutting and polishing, adding significantly to their value, and export them globally via distribution hubs in Antwerp, London, Hong Kong, New York and Mumbai.

In July 2000, the global diamond industry set up the World Diamond Council (WDC). The WDC was established as a response to public outrage about the use of diamonds to fund bloody conflicts in western African countries and it includes representatives from the World Federation of Diamond Bourses and the International Diamond Manufacturers Association. The council’s ultimate mandate is “the development, implementation and oversight of a tracking system for the export and import of rough diamonds to prevent the exploitation of diamonds for illicit purposes such as war and inhumane acts.” Significantly, the WDC limits its concern about human rights violations to those funded by rough diamonds only.

In 2003, the WDC introduced a system of self-regulation called the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme to stem the flow of “conflict” or “blood diamonds.” In keeping with the limited concerns of the WDC the UN-mandated Kimberly Process adopted a very narrow definition of what constitutes a conflict or blood diamond: “rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments.” As a result of this tight ring-fencing, the much more lucrative trade in cut and polished diamonds avoids the human rights strictures applying to rough diamonds, provided the industry uses only Kimberly Process-compliant rough diamonds. Regardless of the human rights violations and atrocities funded by revenue from the Israeli diamond industry, governments and other vested interests party to the Kimberly Process facilitate the unrestricted access of diamonds crafted in Israel to the multi-billion dollar global diamond market.

The WDC created a web site called to promote the virtues of the industry. It lists 24 facts extolling the benefits of the diamond industry — primarily to India and countries in Africa. Some of the benefits include that an estimated 5 million people have access to appropriate healthcare globally thanks to revenues from diamonds; diamond revenues enable every child in Botswana to receive free education up to the age of 13; the revenue from diamonds is instrumental in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

While these facts are laudable the list makes no mention of other less savory facts, including the fact that revenue from the diamond industry in Israel helps fund atrocities and human rights abuses such as the killing, maiming and terrorizing of thousands of innocent men, women and children in Palestine and Lebanon — the sort of atrocities the Kimberly Process is supposed to prevent being funded by revenue from diamonds.

The list of “Diamond Facts” paints a one-sided, positive image of the industry. It implies that the greatest benefits are being felt in some of the poorest nations of the world. But Israel, one of the wealthiest nations, towers over all other countries in terms of the net benefit derived from the diamond industry. The added value to the Israeli economy from the export of diamonds was nearly $10 billion in 2008.

The WDC website is equally selective when it comes to providing information about which countries are most dependent on diamonds. It explains that Namibia, one of the minor diamond exporting countries in monetary terms, derives 40 percent (<$1 billion) of its annual export earnings from diamonds and that 33 percent ($3 billion) of the GDP of Botswana, another minor player, is derived from diamond exports. The WDC fails to mention that the much more lucrative, high-value end of the diamond industry is the main artery of the Israeli economy, accounting for more than 30 percent of Israel’s total manufacturing exports worth nearly $20 billion in 2008 (“Trade Performance HS: Exports of Israel” accessed 25 March 2010). By comparison, the budget for Israel’s Ministry of Defense was $16 billion in 2008.

Revenue from the diamond industry helps fund Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, its brutal subjugation of the Palestinian people and its international network of saboteurs, spies and assassins. None of this is alluded to in the WDC’s “Diamond Facts.”

Contrary to claims by the diamond industry and jewelers that all diamonds are now conflict free, they are not. Israel’s dominant position in the industry means that diamonds crafted in Israel are interspersed globally with diamonds crafted in other countries. Consumers who purchase diamonds that are not laser-inscribed to identify where they were crafted run a significant risk of purchasing a diamond crafted in Israel, thereby helping to fund gross human rights violations. The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme strictures only apply to rough diamonds, thus allowing diamonds crafted in Israel to freely enter the market regardless of the criminal actions of the Israeli government and armed forces. The Kimberly Process is seriously flawed and is being used by the diamond industry and jewelers to pull the wool over consumers’ eyes by telling them that all diamonds are now “conflict free” without explaining the limitations and exactly what that means.

All this is hardly surprising given Israel’s dominant position in the diamond industry. Israel currently chairs the Kimberly Process. The notion of self-regulation by any industry that is intrinsically linked to the violations it purports to want to eliminate is something that neither governments nor the general public should tolerate. It is impossible for the public to have confidence in the diamond industry’s attempt to self-regulate as long as it facilitates the trade in diamonds crafted in Israel, which, if the Kimberly Process applied the same standards to all diamonds, would rightly be classified as blood diamonds and treated accordingly.

Given the failure of Western governments to hold Israel to account for numerous breaches of international law including international humanitarian law, breaches of the UN Charter, its failure to abide by more than 30 binding UN Security Council Resolutions, breaches of EU Agreements and disregard for the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, they are unlikely to insist that the diamond industry broaden the definition of a conflict diamond to include cut and polished diamonds that fund human rights abuses.

Consumers should have the right to know where a diamond was crafted and consequently the right to choose an Israel-free diamond. These rights are not available to consumers today.

In 2005, Palestinian civil society called for an international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel similar to that which helped bring an end to the apartheid regime in South Africa. The international BDS campaign has to date focused much of its boycott activities on the most easily targeted Israeli products including fruit, vegetable, cosmetics and some plastic products. Targeting these products helps to increase public awareness of Israeli crimes and to some extent satisfies the public’s desire to register disapproval of Israel’s actions. However, these products account for only a small fraction of Israel’s total manufacturing exports. Even if the boycott of these products was totally successful it would not make a significant difference to the Israeli economy or to Israel’s ability to further its expansionist goals.

The diamond industry is a major pillar of the Israeli economy. No other developed country is so heavily dependent on a single luxury commodity and the goodwill of individual consumers globally. Anything that threatens the carefully-nurtured image of diamonds as objects of desire, romance and purity could have serious consequences for the Israel diamond industry and the country’s ability to continue funding its illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, the construction of illegal colonies and other associated criminal activities that render it the pariah of the modern age.

The international BDS campaign needs to focus global attention on the diamond trade that facilitates Israel’s ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people and its neighbors in the region.

Seán Clinton is the chairperson of the Limerick branch of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and a former Boycott Officer on the National Committee of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

March 29, 2010 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | Comments Off on Israel’s blood diamonds

Stuck between a wall and an occupation

Nora Barrows-Friedman writing from Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem, Live from Palestine, 29 March 2010
Bilal Jadou standing atop a home in the Aida refugee camp. His house, on the other side of the wall, can be seen off in the distance.

When Bilal Jadou’s grandmother was sick last year, and in need of immediate medical care, the family called the Jerusalem emergency service and requested an ambulance — only to hear on the other end of the line that no Israeli ambulances would be permitted to reach the house without permission from the Israeli military. “Try the Bethlehem ambulance service,” the emergency dispatcher told Jadou. When he called the Bethlehem ambulance, they told him to have his grandmother meet them at the other side of the main Bethlehem-Jerusalem checkpoint because they weren’t allowed to cross. Jadou’s house is on the other side of the sprawling apartheid wall, separated from his community and the West Bank, and in a permanent state of oppressive bureaucratic and administrative limbo as nearby settlements are intended to spread onto his land.

The Electronic Intifada correspondent Nora Barrows-Friedman interviewed Jadou, 26 years old, about his situation. They spoke inside Aida refugee camp, in Bethlehem.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Tell us about your situation and why this story is so important in the context of what’s happening here in the Bethlehem area, especially in Aida camp, which is right up against the wall, cutting the land of families here in half.

Bilal Jadou: My family is separated from each other. We used to live in the refugee camp here and in our other house that used to be within five minutes walking distance from here. Since the wall was built, we can’t communicate as a family. Some of us live in this house in Aida, and the others live in our other house on the other side of the wall.

I have six brothers and three sisters. Two of the brothers, including me, and one of our sisters, are allowed by Israel to live in the house on the other side of the wall. No one else is allowed to be there. Now it sometimes takes two hours to cross the checkpoint in Bethlehem to see our family in Aida camp. Other times, the Israelis close the checkpoint entirely and we can’t see each other at all.

NBF: How did the Israelis choose who was able to live in the house on the other side of the wall?

BJ: They said it was purely because of “security reasons,” and we still don’t know why some got permission and some didn’t. Also, we can’t add anything to the house; we can’t build onto the house. At any time, they can come and take my permission and say it’s for “security reasons.”

NBF: Do you have a special ID card now? Such as a Jerusalem residency card? How are you identified as someone who lives on the other side of the wall?

BJ: I still have a West Bank Palestinian ID, with a special permission slip for just the Tantur area [where the house is]. If Israeli police catch me anywhere else other than at my house, or if they catch me working inside Jerusalem, they will take my permission away. I can just be inside the house, and nothing more.

The Israeli wall runs along the Aida refugee camp

NBF: So, if you want to buy groceries, or go to the bank, or get gasoline for your car, or get to the hospital, what do you do?

BJ: We can’t do any of these things. I can’t even drive a car inside the area near the house. We’re not allowed. We can’t even take a taxi to the checkpoint. We have to walk. If we want to buy groceries, we can only buy them inside the Palestinian territories. But we are not allowed to bring anything from inside the Palestinian territories to my house. So the only way I can get food and supplies to my house is to have friends inside Jerusalem buy our groceries, or whatever we need, and bring them to us.

We have no services except water and electricity, which come from the Palestinian side of the wall. Israel won’t allow us to have anything else. It’s a way to push us to leave this area and go to the other side of the wall. This is the only reason they’re doing this to us.

My grandmother got sick and we called the Israeli ambulance. They told us to coordinate with the Israeli soldiers, who then refused to allow the ambulance to reach us. The Palestinian ambulance told us that since they couldn’t cross the checkpoint, we had to bring my grandmother to the checkpoint and they would take her to the hospital in Bethlehem. Since we couldn’t use a car to bring her to the checkpoint, we put her on a donkey and walked her over there. But before we reached the checkpoint, my grandmother died.

NBF: On the other side of the wall, there is a lot of land that was cultivated by families in Beit Jala and Aida camp until the wall was completed in 2004. And then you have Gilo and Har Gilo settlements, right next to your house on the other side. Talk more about this policy of taking land, using the wall to separate communities, and forcing Palestinians to stay inside these ghettos in the West Bank.

BJ: There is a lot of land near our house owned by Palestinians. But we’re the last family who are allowed to stay there. Just a few months ago, we tried to expand our house a little bit; we built a shed that was only two meters squared. The Israeli police came and told us that we had to stop building. If we want to fix the house, the police come. If we paint our house, the police ask us to remove the paint. But then you look across the street, and you see Gilo settlement with their cranes and bulldozers and construction teams building all the time, expanding all day long.

NBF: The police come often to check to see if you have put paint on the walls. But what about the treatment you receive by settlers?

BJ: The settlers attacked us once. They built a fence around our house and told us to leave. But we went to the court to prove that this was our house, with deeds and documents since the Ottoman period. The court gave us back our land and the permission to stay on our land. Most of the time, though, we get the most terrible treatment from the Israeli soldiers. They come and attack us. Once, they came and took all of our furniture from inside the house and threw it outside. They told us, “find another place to live!” They sometimes come at 2:00 in the morning, taking us outside of the house, and searching to make sure we haven’t built anything or fixed anything inside the house.

I was once told by a soldier, after he took my ID card one night, to go to the checkpoint to retrieve it. I got to the checkpoint, and the soldier called me on my mobile phone, telling me that he was outside of the house, and I should come back to get it. I went back to the house, and then he called and said that he was at the checkpoint. This went on until 6:00 in the morning. Sometimes they take my ID card to other checkpoints so I’m forced to travel a long distance to retrieve it. They’re trying to put a lot of pressure on us so that we leave the area and they can expand the settlement.

NBF: Tell me about your family’s history. We’re sitting inside your home in the refugee camp. Where was your family from, originally, before they were expelled in 1948?

BJ: Originally, we’re refugees from al-Malha. It’s just one kilometer away, five minutes away by car. Some of my family fled in 1948 and came here. Even part of the refugee camp is on al-Malha land, inside the West Bank borders. When the Israelis invaded and occupied the West Bank in 1967, some of the family decided to go back to the house in al-Malha, inside the so-called Israeli area. So now we’re separated into three parts — my family in Aida camp, my brothers and sisters inside the house on the other side of the wall, and the rest in al-Malha. We haven’t been together as a family — we haven’t all sat down to dinner together — for six years.

Sometimes, if something is happening inside the camp, like a wedding for a friend or neighbor, we have to leave our house at nine in the morning to be sure we’re at the wedding by three in the afternoon. We’re affected a lot by the separation.

NBF: It used to take you five minutes to get to the camp from the house before the wall was built.

BJ: Yes, five minutes, not more. Sometimes, if I walk quickly, it used to take three minutes. Now, it’s half an hour just to walk to the checkpoint. Then I spend sometimes two, three hours inside the checkpoint.

NBF: What do you think about the next generation of Palestinians who are facing similar situations? When you get married and have children, what do you want for them?

BJ: I hope everything changes. The situation is extremely difficult, and I hope that the new generation can live in peace without any conflicts. Actually, when you mentioned marriage, this is a very depressing issue for me. I tried to get married recently. But I can’t, because I’m living in this area. If I marry a girl from Bethlehem, I can’t live with her in Bethlehem because then I’d have to move to the city and lose my land and my house. If I want to marry a girl from Jerusalem, she’d refuse. I don’t have an Israeli ID and I can’t go anywhere inside Jerusalem. This is no way to make a family. So I’m stuck.

I think I’ll never get married, because I need to protect my house. Maybe there’ll be a solution soon, and things will change.

All images by Nora Barrows-Friedman.

Nora Barrows-Friedman is the co-host and Senior Producer of Flashpoints, a daily investigative newsmagazine on Pacifica Radio. She is also a correspondent for Inter Press Service. She regularly reports from Palestine, where she also runs media workshops for youth in the Dheisheh refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.

March 29, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | Comments Off on Stuck between a wall and an occupation

How’s life on the planet of Israeli hasbara, Thomas Friedman?

By Alex Kane on March 29, 2010

Thomas Friedman lives on a different planet, that of Israeli hasbara.

In an Op-Ed piece today for the New York Times about Israeli-American relations and different perceptions on the “peace process,” Friedman repeats standard Israeli talking points. Let’s take a look.

Friedman writes:

The collapse of the Oslo peace process, combined with the unilateral Israeli pullouts from Lebanon and Gaza — which were followed not by peace but by rocket attacks by Hezbollah and Hamas on Israel — decimated Israel’s peace camp and the political parties aligned with it.

At the same time, Israel’s erecting of a wall around the West Bank to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from entering Israel (there have been no successful attacks since 2006), along with the rise of the high-tech industry in Israel — which does a great deal of business digitally and over the Internet and is largely impervious to the day-to-day conflict — has meant that even without peace, Israel can enjoy a very peaceful existence and a rising standard of living.

If I didn’t know better, I would think that the Palestinians caused the collapse of the Oslo “peace process,” that Israel’s “unilateral pullouts” were really about making peace with Israel’s Arab neighbors, that the wall is only innocently “around” the West Bank in order to protect from suicide bombing attacks, and that Israel is an amazing country to live in because of their “high-tech industry.”

On the planet of reality, we can see that Israel had no intention of making peace with the Palestinians during the “peace process,” as they accelerated the building of illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank. We can see that Israel never “pulled out” of Gaza and instead redeployed around the periphery but remains the occupying power and imposes a crippling blockade. We can see that those nefarious rocket attacks have killed a much smaller number of Israelis compared to the high number of innocent Lebanese and Gazans killed by one of the most advanced armies in the world.  During “Operation Cast Lead,” the proportion of Palestinians killed to Israelis killed was a stunning 100:1, and the majority of Palestinians who died were innocent civilians.

Perhaps the most brazen of Israeli hasbara points Friedman repeats is that Israel has erected “a wall around the West Bank.” I wonder if Friedman has ever been to the areas that the separation barrier encompasses. In fact, he doesn’t even have to go there. Friedman should just look at the map that the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has published, which shows clearly that the wall doesn’t just go “around” the West Bank, but that it snakes into occupied Palestinian territory, effectively encompassing large illegal settlement blocs and annexing portions of the West Bank.


March 29, 2010 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | 1 Comment

Turkey opposes Iran sanctions, blasts Israel

Press TV – March 29, 2010

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has once again dismissed sanctions as a proper solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.

Erdogan said at a Monday joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Ankara that he was opposed to new sanctions against Iran. He said diplomacy was still the best possible means of solving the issue.

“We are of the view that sanction is not a healthy path and… that the best route is diplomacy.”

Erdogan then wondered why the international community refused to impose sanctions against the Middle East’s sole nuclear weapons power, in an apparent allusion to Israel.

“We are against nuclear weapons in our region. But is there another country in our region that has nuclear weapons? Yes, there is. And have they been subjected to sanctions? No,” Erdogan said.

The US, which accuses Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, has been lobbying for more UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions against Tehran.

Turkey, a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, is among countries that are opposed to imposing sanctions on Iran. Ankara has made it clear that any coercive measure against Tehran over its nuclear work would be of no avail.

This is while Merkel, whose country is working with the five permanent UNSC members over the Iranian nuclear issue, called on Turkey to support fresh sanctions against Tehran.

“We would be happy if Turkey votes in April on the Iran issue together with the United States and the European Union,” she said.

Iran says any punitive measures against the country are legally baseless as Tehran’s nuclear work is being fully monitored by the UN nuclear watchdog.

March 29, 2010 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, Wars for Israel | 1 Comment

Paying Now for the Next Three Mile Island

By HARVEY WASSERMAN | March 29, 2010

As radiation poured from 3 Mile Island 31 years ago this week, utility executives rested easy.

They knew that no matter how many people their errant nuke killed, and no matter how much property it destroyed, they would not be held liable.

Today this same class of executives demands untold taxpayer billions to build still more TMIs. No matter how many meltdowns they cause, and how much havoc they visit down on the public, they still believe they’re above the law.

Fueled with more than $600 million public relations slush money, they demand a risk-free “renaissance” financed by you and yours.


In 1980 I reported from central Pennsylvania on the dead and dying one year after. Dozens of interviews documented a horrifying range of radiation-related diseases including cancer, leukemia, birth defects, still births, malformations, sterility, heart attacks, strokes, emphysema, skin lesions, hair loss, a metallic taste and much more. As reported by the Baltimore News-American among others, such ailments also ripped through the animal population.

To this day no one knows how much radiation was released at the 1979 TMI accident, where it went or whom it harmed. The official line that “no one was killed” is arguably the biggest lie ever told in US industrial history. It is to public health what the promise of power “too cheap to meter” was to public finance.

It parallels Soviet lies about the 1986 catastrophe at Chernobyl, whose health effects continue to skyrocket. A devastating summary report issued by the New York Academy of Sciences (Yablokov, Nesterenko & Nesterenko: Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People & the Environment) says at least 980,000 people are likely to die from the fallout.

That would be a small fraction of the casualties had 9/11 terrorists dived into the two reactors at New York’s Indian Point instead of hitting the World Trade Center.

In a time of deep financial stress, it also counts that the TMI accident turned a $900 million asset into a $2 billion liability in a matter of minutes. Chernobyl has cost Belarus and Ukraine at least $500 billion and counting. And the price tag on a major meltdown anywhere in the US is virtually beyond calculation.

Thus those who think a flood of new nukes will flow unimpeded into the American pocketbook haven’t been paying attention:

1) Four northeastern nukes—in Vermont, New Jersey and the two at Indian Point— are under intense public pressure to shut within the next two years. Numerous other elderly reactors are likely to go down long before any new nukes could come on line.

2) French President Sarkozy is demanding that world financial institutions buy a bevy of new French-built reactors. But huge delays and cost-overruns at French projects in Finland and France itself have made the investment community wary to say the least, thus prompting his foot-stomping.

3) Documents leaked from inside France’s national utility EDF indicate cost-cutting has made the new French reactor design exceedingly prone to explosion, further unsettling potential investors.

4) The future of new US reactor construction hinges on massive loan guarantees and handouts. The public number is $54 billion, but the Nuclear Information & Resource Service says the real bill could top a trillion.

5) In the polarized, cost-conscious wake of the health care bill, and the apparent demise of cap and trade as a centerpiece of climate legislation, the idea of such huge sums flowing to a deeply polarizing energy source has become increasingly problematic. Without a clear trade-off for fossil/nuclear giveaways, and with stiffening resistance from the rightist National Taxpayers Union, Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation, the nuke bonanza is anything but certain. The technology may now, in fact, be “too expensive to matter.”

6) An attempt by Entergy to shift six reactors into an asset-free corporate shell has been nixed by New York authorities, leaving liability for Vermont Yankee, Indian Point and other northeastern nukes in limbo.

7) As elderly nukes stumble toward oblivion, various funds allegedly set aside for decommissioning may be significantly under-funded, deeply exacerbating the financial battles that now encircle the industry.

8) As a lame duck, George W. Bush signed agreements apparently obligating the feds to assume responsibility for enough radioactive waste to fill two of the cancelled Yucca Mountain waste dumps. The complete lack of even one such facility means the potential taxpayer bill is beyond meaningful calculation.

9) Above all the exemption from liability for a major accident—first perpetrated by a pro-nuke Congress in 1957—remains the largest potential cost to us all. Renewed by Bush in 2005, some believe the statute is clearly unconstitutional.

To this day the families of those harmed by radiation at Three Mile Island have been denied the right to make their case in federal court.

But now the shoe is on the other foot.

Desperate for cash, the nuclear industry wants us all to pay hundreds of billions for the joy of living downwind from still more 3 Mile Islands for which they intend to assume NO liability.

They want our money AND our lives.

From central Pennsylvania after 31 years, the message is clear: Just Say NO!

March 29, 2010 Posted by | Nuclear Power | Comments Off on Paying Now for the Next Three Mile Island

Israel unveils “green” strategy to defeat enemies

Plan to make oil redundant in a decade

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth | 30 March 2010

Uzi Landau, the national infrastructures minister, outlined a vision of a world without oil this week to Israel’s most loyal supporters in Washington as he searched for wealthy American-Jewish investors and White House support for the strategy.

His message was: “The West is addicted to oil, and so is bound by states that support terrorism… Whoever wants to fight radical Islam and terrorist organizations should know that by purchasing gasoline, he’s giving terrorists increased motivation.”

Analysts say the plan’s chief goals are to cripple the large oil-producing Gulf states, particularly Iran, which is seen as Israel’s main rival in the region, and resistance groups that oppose Israel’s long-term occupation of Palestinian land.

“Israel hopes that by repackaging the ‘war on terror’ in this way it can gain sympathy in the West and deflect increasing expectations that it make concessions to solve the conflict with the Palestinians,” said Avner de Shalit, a politics professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Thousands of delegates at last week’s annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most powerful pro-Israel lobby group in the US, heard Mr Landau describe the Israeli strategy as the best way to win the “war on terror”.

The conference was also attended by many senior US politicians, including administration officials such as Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state.

Without Arab money from oil, Mr Landau argued, Iran would fade as a regional power and “terror groups” like Hamas in Gaza and Hizbullah in Lebanon would cease to exist. Instead, Israel could serve as an alternative “powerhouse” in the Middle East for environmentally friendly energy sources.

Both Israel and the US are determined to isolate Iran, which they claim is trying to develop a nuclear warhead to rival Israel’s own large nuclear arsenal. The White House is seeking to impose stiff sanctions, whereas Israel is believed to favour a military strike.

Israel failed to crush Hamas and Hizbullah, two resistance groups that are backed by Iran, during attacks on Gaza last year and on Lebanon in 2006.

In the session – entitled “Breaking the habit: Can US-Israel cooperation reduce our oil dependence?” – Mr Landau appealed to the US to join Israel in eradicating oil dependency as a way to defeat terror.

As he left Israel for the conference, he told local reporters he would try to persuade his audience that “by taking away its primary source of funding, we can defeat terrorism without firing a single bullet”.

Mr Landau is known to be acting on the direct instructions of Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, who announced back in October a “national project” to end the world’s reliance on oil within a decade.

At the same time Mr Netanyahu gave responsibility to the National Economic Council, a think-tank inside his office, to develop “breakthrough” inventions that would eradicate the world’s need for oil and coal-based electricity.

“Dependence on fossil fuels strengthens the dark regimes that encourage instability and fund terror with their petrodollars,” Mr Netanyahu told the cabinet as he unveiled the plan.

Gideon Bromberg, head of the Israeli green group Friends of the Earth, said Israel had a very poor record on environmental issues, but that he welcomed Mr Netanyahu’s belated interest “even if it is for the wrong reasons”.

“He is an opportunist and recognizes that oil brings power,” said Mr Bromberg. “If you can find an alternative to it, you make yourself more powerful and make your enemies weaker.”

Haaretz has reported that Mr Netanyahu also hopes that new green technologies will allow Israel to strengthen its ties with China, which the government believes is the rising global power and less interested in the Palestinians and Israel’s occupation than the US and Europe.

Although Israel has developed new solar energy and water technologies, Mr Netanyahu is reported to want a revolution in fuels used in transport, which accounts for a large proportion of oil use. Israeli companies are already involved in researching battery technologies for cars.

There are strong indications that Israel’s green technologies drive is related to plans developed by US neo-conservative groups in the build-up to the attack on Iraq. Mr Netanyahu is known to have maintained close ties to neo-conservatives in the US.

Some of these groups lobbied the previous administration of George W. Bush to invade Iraq so that its oil fields could be privatized and the international markets flooded with oil.

According to the reasoning of officials at one influential think-tank, the Heritage Foundation in Washington, privatization would drive down oil prices, break up the Saudi-backed OPEC oil cartel, and drain money away from “terror groups” and radical Islamic education.

Some neo-cons regarded this policy as particularly beneficial to Israel, because it would starve Hamas and Hizbullah of funds and take the pressure off Tel Aviv to end the occupation.

In practice, however, the occupation of Iraq did not help Israel. Funding to Hizbullah and Hamas instead appears to be provided by Iran.

The influence of neo-conservative think-tanks on Mr Landau has been indicated in recent weeks by the decision to share the stage with leading neo-conservatives such as James Woolsey, a former head of the Central Intelligence Agency.

At a debate on ending global oil dependency at Israel’s annual “national security” convention in Herzliya in February, attended by most of the Israeli cabinet, Mr Woolsey urged the destruction of OPEC, claiming that Saudi Arabia controlled 90 per cent of Islamic education.

He said that when people filled up their cars “you are helping to finance the people who finance hatred, incitement and terror”.

That view was echoed by other participants.

In December the United Nations criticized Israel for its poor record on using renewable energy sources. It ranked bottom for using solar sources to generate electricity, behind countries such as Senegal, Eritrea and Mexico, as well as Western countries with only a few hours of sunlight.

A government watchdog, Israel’s state comptroller, issued a report the same month arguing that Israel had not taken even basic measures to address climate change.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is

March 29, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | 2 Comments