Gaza in the Dark


Israel is not content with its occupation and total military domination of Palestine. No, Israel has proven that it wants to assure the Palestinians continue to live in the most dire poverty, a poverty created by a near-total lack of affordable energy. That truth was made clear by the Israeli military’s recent bombing of the Gaza City power plant, the only electric power station inside Palestinian territory.

By using warplanes to launch nine missiles at the power plant ­ a facility with no military value — the Israelis have assured that the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have no electric generating capacity of their own. That’s not to say the power plant was huge. It wasn’t. The plant had a rated capacity of just 140 megawatts, far less than what the residents of Gaza need to be self-sufficient. But the plant wasn’t even operating at capacity. In fact, it had been producing just 70 megawatts of power due to poor management by the Palestinian authorities, who hadn’t built enough power lines to take all of the power the plant can generate.

By bombing the plant, the Israelis cut power to 65 percent of the Gaza Strip, a region that is one of the most impoverished in the Middle East. By destroying the plant, the Israelis also decimated one of Palestine’s most valuable companies, the Palestine Electric Company, whose shares are traded on the Palestine Stock Exchange. Further, the Israelis have destroyed any chance for industry in Gaza to grow.

It is axiomatic among the world’s economies: as electricity consumption increase, so does wealth. Gazans are impoverished, in large part, because they don’t have enough electricity. Residents in Gaza consume just 654 kilowatt hours of electricity per year ­ or about one-tenth of what Israelis consume. The average Israeli consumes about 6,183 kilowatt hours of power per year, a rate that places Israel 27th among the world’s countries in terms of power use. By comparison the residents of Gaza rank number 136 among the world’s countries in per capita power use, a status that places them behind residents of Peru. (For comparison, the U.S. per capita electric consumption is about 12,406 kilowatt hours per year.)

Further, each resident of Israel has some 1,600 watts of installed generating capacity. Before the bombing of the power plant, the Palestinians had just 35 watts of electric generating capacity per capita. Now, they have zero.

By destroying the power plant, the Israelis also destroyed any chance that Gaza will have sufficient water supplies any time soon. One of the original objectives of the $100 million power plant project, which was launched in the late 1990’s, thanks to encouragement from the Clinton Administration, was to connect it to a desalination plant. That desalination plant never got off the ground. Nor was the power plant able to begin operation after it was completed. The Al-Aqsa Intifada kept the plant shuttered for about two years after it was completed. The plant finally started operations in March of 2004, due mainly to the determination and financial commitment of the Athens-based construction giant CCC, which was founded several decades ago by Said Khoury, who was born in Safad, in northern Palestine.

When it comes to Gaza’s water supply, the only option is large-scale desalination. And that process requires huge amounts of energy. As Ishai Menuchin, a researcher for Oxfam who works in Jerusalem told me, when it comes to Palestine and Israel, "the issues of water and energy go hand-in-hand."

In addition to providing fresh water, the Gaza power plant was supposed to be fired with natural gas ­ gas that was to come from Gaza Marine-1, a major gas field located a few miles off the Gaza coast that was discovered by BG in 1999. But the Israelis have prevented the Palestinians from building a pipeline that would have allowed them to use their own gas. Instead, the Gaza plant has had to use fuel oil imported from ­ where else? ­ Israel. The gas in the Gaza field remains untapped, making it one of the biggest stranded gas fields in the Middle East.

While Gaza remains stuck, the Israelis have begun operating one of the world’s largest desalination plants in Ashkelon, located on the Israelis coast just a few miles north of Gaza. The plant has a capacity of 100 million cubic meters (26.4 billion gallons) per year. The project, a joint venture between French water giant Vivendi and Israeli interests, includes a gas-fired power plant with 80 megawatts of capacity. The plant uses gas from an offshore field located in Israeli waters.

Last year, during a visit to Ramallah, Omar Kitanneh, the deputy minister of energy and natural resources for the Palestinian National Authority, told me that "Like any country, we want to have energy independence." But the Palestinians will never have energy independence ­ nor will they have their own electric power plants — without the approval of the Israelis. And by bombing the Gaza power plant, the Israelis have made it clear that they intend to keep the Palestinians in the dark and in grinding poverty for as long as they please.

ROBERT BRYCE lives in Austin, Texas and managing editor of Energy Tribune. He is the author of Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, America’s Superstate. He can be reached at: robert@robertbryce.com


December 01, 2015
John Wight
From Iraq to Syria: Repeating a Debacle
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: the Left Takes Charge
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Revenge? The Fight for the Border
Sami Al-Arian
My Ordeal: One of America’s Many Political Trials Since 9/11
Bilal El-Amine
The Hard Truth About Daesh and How to Fight It
Pete Dolack
Solidarity Instead of Hierarchy as “Common Sense”
Dan Glazebrook
Rhodes Must Fall: Decolonizing Education
Colin Todhunter
Big Oil, TTIP and the Scramble for Europe
Eric Draitser
Terror in Mali: An Attack on China and Russia?
Gilbert Mercier
Will Turkey Be Kicked Out of NATO?
Linn Washington Jr.
Torture and Other Abuses Make Turkey as American as Apple Pie
Randy Shaw
Krugman is Wrong on Gentrification
Raouf Halaby
Time to Speak Out Against Censorship
Jesse Jackson
It’s Time for Answers in Laquan McDonald Case
Patrick Walker
Wake Up Zombie, Kick Up a Big Stink!
November 30, 2015
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Embrace of Totalitarianism is America’s Dirty Little Secret
Omur Sahin Keyif
An Assassination in Turkey: the Killing of Tahir Elci
Uri Avnery
There is No Such Thing as International Terrorism
Robert Fisk
70,000 Kalashnikovs: Cameron’s “Moderate” Rebels
Jamie Davidson
Distortion, Revisionism & the Liberal Media
Patrick Cockburn
Nasty Surprises: the Problem With Bombing ISIS
Robert Hunziker
The Looming Transnational Battlefield
Ahmed Gaya
Breaking the Climate Mold: Fighting for the Planet and Justice
Matt Peppe
Alan Gross’s Improbable Tales on 60 Minutes
Norman Pollack
Israel and ISIS: Needed, a Thorough Accounting
Colin Todhunter
India – Procession of the Dead: Shopping Malls and Shit
Roger Annis
Canada’s New Climate-Denying National Government
Binoy Kampmark
Straining the Republic: France’s State of Emergency
Bill Blunden
Glenn Greenwald Stands by the Official Narrative
Jack Rasmus
Japan’s 5th Recession in 7 Years
Karen Lee Wald
Inside the Colombia Peace Deal
Geoff Dutton
War in Our Time
Charles R. Larson
Twofers for Carly Fiorina
John Dear
An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa