To stop Israeli crimes we must cut off its fuel. Here's how

To stop the Israeli war machine we must cut off its fuel. Here's how and why
6 min read

Charlotte Rose

13 May, 2024
To stop the Israeli settler-colonial enterprise, we must divest from and target the energy companies that fuel its crimes in Gaza, writes Charlotte Rose.
We cannot abstract energy resources from Israel’s ability to enact a genocide, fund and continue it with impunity, writes Disrupt Power's Charlotte Rose [photo credit: Getty Images]

This week Israel has seized control of the Rafah border crossing — Gazans only escape route — and rolled military tanks deep into the city, dressed in “obnoxious Israeli flags”. Yet another cycle of mass murder has begun in a city already populated by orphaned children living amongst mass graves.

The violence is unspeakable, sending shock waves across the world. Students are building protest encampments and the UN Human Rights Council have issued fresh calls for an arms embargo. But is this enough?

The movement for Palestinian justice is unrelenting in its pursuit of new strategies to target Israel’s genocidal machine and dismantle its occupation. Last month, a coalition of Palestinian organisations, workers and activists identified a new target: fuel.

Pulling the plug on Israel's war machine

Their call builds on previous demands set by Palestinian trade unions, the BDS campaign and human rights organisations, focusing on four key demands: stop all energy exports to Israel, stop all imports of Israeli energy, divest from Israeli extraction projects and Israeli energy companies, stop all energy exports to Israel’s imperial partners. In sum, a global energy embargo for a free Palestine.

There are compelling reasons why these demands can be impactful. The Houthi decision to impose a partial naval blockade in solidarity with the Palestinian people struck the most important artery of the global oil and gas trade, with undeniable impact. It forced major oil and gas corporations including BP and Shell to suspend all shipments through the Suez Canal and tightened the global market by keeping 35 million oil barrels at sea.

The intervention raised an economic and political cost to support genocide. It proved that well-chosen chokepoints in the global supply chain can have major results — even with relatively “low-tech” disruption.

But what can analogous trade route disruption or an ‘energy embargo’ look like from below? Already trade unionists in Colombia are calling on their government to refuse mining coal for Israel, and port workers are refusing to load goods destined for Israel.

In Turkey, activists are calling for the "shutdown" of Turkish ports transporting 60% of Israel’s crude oil from Azerbaijan to Ashdod. If Brazil — another key crude oil supplier during this genocide, and Israel’s fiercest critic — imposed an oil embargo, Israel’s supplies could reach critical levels.

Similarly, climate activists can intercept energy exports to Israel and effectively kill the Israeli military’s lifeline. The Israeli war machine runs on fuel imports — specifically diesel and jet fuel — powering the Israeli army fighter jets and Apache helicopters that obliterate Gaza.

Historically, the jet fuel was refined and shipped by oil and gas companies, such as ExxonMobil or Valero Energy, to Israel before being pumped into military equipment used in operations across Lebanon, Syria and Palestine — murdering tens of thousands.

We know that in 2020, US defence contracts for fighter jet fuel were granted to the Israeli military with a total cost of $3 billion for one billion litres of JP-8 jet fuel. A recent report by DataDesk uncovered that three US tankers of JP8 jet fuel have been shipped to Israel since October 2023. The supplier is a Valero Energy refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas. As we write this, another shipment called: Overseas Sun Coast is making its way across the Mediterranean to Israel.

Disrupting this jet fuel supply and its transport route is critical to throw sand in the wheels of Israel’s war machine. Mobilising activists to blockade the ports, dockworkers to refuse handling the vessel and trade unions to stop the ship docking will help stop the violent assault on Rafah.

On a structural level, Palestinian calls to divest from Israeli energy projects tackle the centrality of gas extraction to Israel’s expansionist project.

In the last decade, Israel has become an important gas producer and exporter — supplying Egypt, Jordan and now the European Union with gas extracted from stolen Palestinian waters.

These ventures — heavily lobbied for by the US — are used to lock Israel in as a strategic partner for global energy security, strengthen its geopolitical position and create significant export revenues for its economy- most likely directed to its $23.4 billion annual military budget.

The existing gas infrastructure — operated by BDS target Chevron — is directly implicated in the violence of settler-colonial occupation. Before the genocide, Palestinian fishermen were shot with live bullets and detained by Israeli naval vessels — who illegally patrol close to the Gazan coast to “protect” Chevron-owned pipelines and platforms. These shootings can happen even one mile off the Gazan shore, despite the infrastructure being at least 15 miles away.

Raising the stakes

Divestment targets should include the 12 companies awarded gas exploration licences off the Gazan shores in October 2023 — licences considered within Palestinian maritime areas under international law.

As such, corporations — including BP, Eni and Dana Petroleum — have not only funnelled “unprecedented investment” into the settler economy but are directly participating in violations of international law that have cost Palestinians billions of dollars in natural resource revenues.

As such, demands for divestment that reveal this corporate complicity are critical and could have a major impact. Groups like UK Energy Embargo for Palestine (targeting BP) or Chevron Out of Palestine are today actioning this on a grassroots level — raising a political cost to partner with Israel and Israeli energy corporations. As these actions increase they will serve as public education tools that expose the hidden, structural relationship between oil, gas and settler colonial occupation.

The European movement must reproduce similar campaigns against Italy’s state-owned Eni, TotalEnergies and Greek-owned Energean — the latter contracting the notorious Elbit Systems to secure its gas platforms in stolen Palestinian waters.

Even further, activists must target the European Union itself which is purchasing “significant” exports of Israeli gas and has received shipments during this genocide. LNG vessels carrying Israeli gas are consistently docking in Belgium, Wales, Marseille, Tuscany and Revanthusssa — where is the public refusal?

If European activists raise the stakes of accepting Israeli gas and block these LNG vessels they can impose an energy embargo ‘from below’ and create an economic cost to supporting the Israeli war machine. They can build on fresh calls for an arms embargo and demand its extension to the petroleum products and revenues that fuel and power the arms themselves.

What seems clear is that Palestinian calls to disrupt and cut off energy and jet fuel must be taken seriously and massified as the Rafah assault deepens. We cannot abstract energy resources from Israel’s ability to enact a genocide, fund and continue it with impunity. Fuel could be our much-needed doorway to end the genocide and dismantle the settler-colonial occupation of Palestine.

Charlotte Rose is a researcher and activist at Disrupt Power, a Palestinian and pro-Palestinian collective that investigates and disrupts the global energy supply fuelling Israel's genocidal war machine and occupation of Palestine. Disrupt Power is a member organisation of 'The Global Energy Embargo for Palestine' coalition, who are building a global front to impose an energy embargo from below. 

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.