The Apartheid Oil series, which was originally published here on the Media Co-op, has created waves of discussion throughout the activist community and beyond. As a follow up to the five pieces that were part of the Apartheid Oil project, the Media Co-op did a follow-up interview with author Macdonald Stainsby.
Media Co-op: Is there a religious element to arguments in favour of developing these oil shale deposits?
Macdonald Stainsby: Better said would be that there is an ideological argument being invoked, and both the small community group in the Elah Valley opposing the project as well as the major players involved are using religion to try and achieve their aims in part. But the real question is that this is a major Zionist plan to try and secure Israel's energy needs-- and one need not be religious-- or even Jewish-- to be an ardent Zionist. Have a glance over who is involved and what they are saying, many of these names are well known as the biggest advocates of Zionism on the planet, some very religious (like Harold Vinegar, head researcher for IEI), others not so much (such as famous media magnate Rupert Murdoch).
MC: Who are the powerbrokers in these companies? What are their politics like?
MS: Their politics are Israel first. No movement out of the West Bank. For some, because "God gave them the land," for others Israel first is a strategic question positioning US economic and military interests in the region, such as Dick Cheney. Howard Jonas, major Israeli (and American) capital investor in telecommunications, had this to say about another persons' involvement in Israeli oil shale (who has since passed, the late Fred Carl):
"He was the former head of experiments of Shell's field operations; a real gnarled Marine, a very devout Catholic guy, in his 60s, who gave up everything, including his position at Shell, to move to Israel and help the Jewish people get this oil out. [....] he just wanted to have a part of this great undertaking that was going to free the world of Arab oil. To me, he died in the service of Israel."
So here you can see the confluence of Zionism in terms of politics and religious calling.
But then there are others, such as scandal-embroiled media magnate Rupert Murdoch, who see it in terms of advancing geopolitics:
"Covering and distributing news has been my life's work. If Genie's effort to develop shale oil is successful, as I believe it will be, then the news we'll report in the coming decades will reflect a more prosperous, more democratic, and more secure world." He then followed that up, adding: "I believe Genie Energy's technologies and vast shale oil licenses have real potential to spur a global, geo-political paradigm shift by moving a major portion of new oil production to America, Israel and other western-oriented democracies."
But of course the most direct play is local energy for Israel-- "security" is the most popular Zionist buzzword of all time-- and that, of course, is military, as Israel "Relik" Shafir states:"As a person who used up a lot of fuel during his military career, I am very sensitive to the threat of embargoes. This innovation will allow Israel to overcome one of its worst strategic deficits--having no energy supply of its own."
For the non Middle Eastern reader, Shafir is the CEO of Israel Energy Initiatives and was former pilot of the Israeli Air Forces who retired as a brigadier general. Militarily, he is perhaps best known as being one of the 8 pilots sent by the IAF to bomb the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981. Currently he is CEO and spokesperson for the oil shale project, and also speaks publicly on military matters, usually concerning the air forces. So there is a serious confluence between ideological Zionism, religious fervor, and the "practical" needs of the Zionist state.
MC: Where could BDS go from here, given the info that you've shared?
Perhaps another way to put the effect on BDS would be to imagine if the Apartheid government in South Africa had Saudi Arabian sized oil reserves in 1992, would the West have been so quick to stop supporting them with military, political and economic assistance-- and would individual boycotts have had anywhere near the same effect? Saving the climate and advancing BDS, it seems to me, have a perfect intersection in preventing the destruction carried out by this form of oil shale development. This is not fracking-- it is much, much worse (as hard as that may be to believe), especially in terms of the climate.
MC: You were just in South Africa for COP 17 -- is there a connection between what happened there and what you wrote about in the Apartheid Oil series?
MS: The two conferences the week before COP (November 21-27)-- Groundwork's Dirty Energy Week and Everyone's Downstream 5-- both explored the massive new destructive projects very similar to the three described in this series.
In Africa: Nigeria, Madagascar and Congo-Brazzaville are all on their way towards tar sands development, and all are seeing ahead of the game resistance. In parts of South Africa, fracking, new coal plants and much more are proposed. Every single one of these countries is acting on the behest of foreign interests. A speaker from Brazil detailed the role of Petrobras in devastating other countries at the Dirty Energy Week. Jordan and Morocco, thanks to oil shale developments, could also soon be on that list. Keep in mind, this list is far from comprehensive.
Macdonald Stainsby is a writer, hitchhiker and activist who maintains the Oil Sands Truth website. Own your media! Become a member of the Media Co-op today, and help support independent journalism across Canada.