Billionaire Khaled Mashal, a prominent Hamas figure, lives in luxury in Qatar and eats at some of the best restaurants in the Middle East. (Image New York Post)
Ed. The author’s sources regarding the natural reserves he mentions in his piece are from his family members and associates who were/are Petro investors. The family were all in on Libyan oil before Gaddafi nationalized it and even to a limited extent after the nationalization. The author also told us that “Aramco, BP, and two London Private Equity firms all undertook assessments of Palestinian gas and oil reserves and projected income. This was BEFORE some information leaked about the Gaza gas reserves. The Israelis downplayed or blocked the results being open source for obvious reasons, as the optics were their Palestinian land grabs were petro plays.”
This is a companion piece to a forthcoming excerpt from my novel on the Saudi elite.
Since being in Israel, when I mention I am from Gaza, people seem intrigued, not repelled. I still have three marks on my face from the attack, but no beard or keffiyeh. I dress discretely, yet always the same question comes up.
‘So Hamas, what are they really like?’
Hamas are not one entity. Most of the leaders feud with each other. There are the Gazans — Yayha Sinwar, founder of Majd, a secretive internal security unit, and then the separate al-Din al-Qassam commander, Mohammed Deif is such a shadowy figure he is known as “The Mastermind” or “The Cat with Nine Lives”. Even more elusive is Marwan Issa — “The Invisible Man”. Issa was a key planner of the 7th October attacks, yet to my knowledge, only one unreliable picture has ever been taken of him in the last twelve years.
‘But Hamas, what are they like?’
‘Well, they are rather like ghosts,’ I say.
‘They are never seen, but at night they move the furniture around.’
Over the years, I have repeatedly criticized Hamas, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Any religious political party surely makes for only a regressive and irrational polity. It is always prudent that state and religion are separated. Those who read my story “My Life as Streetfighter” will know; by contrast, I come from a secular, progressive, revolutionary family.
Yet when an Egyptian founder of the Muslim Brotherhood toured the US Mid West in the late 1950s, he was so dismayed by the backhanders and everyday corruption and immorality he witnessed, he returned determined that all Arabs should live by the Qur’an and Hadith. This remains the core ideology of the Brotherhood.
So this Muslim Brotherhood ideal of living by the scriptures seems, at first sight, to damn the Hamas leadership. As far as I recall, the scriptures do not encourage luxuriance — marble mansions, jets, yachts, and mammoth crystal chandeliers — while your people suffer in degrading poverty. Whatever you may think of Gazans, they are brave fighters. Just look on Telegram and see how single young men saunter up to a Merkava and take it out, or firefight against overwhelming armour, often to knock it out by sheer cunning. So to think these kids are dancing with death every hour, while their leaders enjoy billionaire lifestyles sticks in my gullet.
But is this picture so simple? Gaza has gas reserves, which are estimated at 700- 900 billion USD. If one includes the fuel reserves of all Palestinian territory, then 70–100 billion USD net revenue per year, or even wilder sums, are projected. When you back a horse like Hamas, you are expecting no small kickback. Yes, there are ideological motives for support for Hamas from Iran, Qatar, China, Turkey, and other more discrete Hamas sponsors. But this is basically a speculative, not an ideological play. As is sometimes commented, and I noted this was quoted recently: “Resistance business is good business.” This is not simply because billions in aid money flow to Hamas every time there is a war, but due to these much grander petro political stakes.
So how do the Hamas elite actually live, day to day? Actually, they are largely guests in gilded cages. They eat well, they have personal trainers, they take luxury holidays, they have large security details, they enjoy their jets, but they still all say their five prayers and otherwise follow the Qur’an and Hadith.
Now, suddenly, the Palestinian problem appears topsy-turvy — in a new and unfamiliar light. If Netanyahu and the Settlers have so long been determined to rid Palestine of its indigenous people, this has little to do with religious juju about God granting the land to the Israelites, but everything to do with the vast Palestinian fuel reserves. If the US doggedly backs a Zionist cabinet it openly despises, there can be only one rational motive for this apparent geo-political folly. If regional actors — Iran, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Qatar — pile in their support for Hamas, it is because they are waiting for payback when Hamas assumes control of the fuel reserves.
Hamas’s funding is highly secretive, but much of their funds are kept in cryptocurrencies and offshore blind trusts. The entire fortune is so large it can not be reliably estimated, but they own the wealthiest non-state sovereign fund in the world. The source of such wealth is also mysterious, but much is thought derived from shorting markets immediately prior to attacks and to the lucrative tunnel smuggling and Captagon drug trade. Much of Syria’s shift into the narco-state model was thought funded and enabled by Hamas.
I do not intend to reprise all the arguments about Netanyahu enabling Hamas in order to split the Palestinian polity, as they are well-documented. In hindsight, this policy must have been one of the greatest self-inflicted wounds in recent history. Notwithstanding, I hope this article allows some readers to see the stakes in this conflict for what they are. If the Palestinians were not sitting on such treasure, their support would be of a different hue. The same logic applies to those European states short on fuel, the UK, Germany, France, and the Netherlands, who covertly enable the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Once Palestine was wholly under Zionist control, these Euro states would also anticipate a payback in the cheap fuel their economies so desperately needed — now more than ever since Russian gas is off the menu.
And what of the Palestinians themselves in all this unscrupulous manoeuvring? My hunch is that the Gaza slaughter has traumatized the world to such a degree that Hamas and Israel will both emerge fatally weakened. As never before, the world’s youth have wised up to what Israel actually represents, how it came into being, and how shaky its legitimacy as a state is. The ancestral land of the Israelites, eh? That is not what genetic data and accurate, rigorous history tell us.
The Jews — Mizrahi, Iranian, Sabra, Mountain — genetically are certainly descended from the Israelites, but as the chart below shows, their divergence from the original Israelite data of Megiddo is far greater than that of their neighbours. My prior story on the DNA trail, “The Jewish Identity Crisis”, uses a more accurate metric than this chart, but the point is still emphatically made below.
However, the ever-talented and resourceful Jews have much to contribute to whatever the future petro-state of Israel/Palestine comes to resemble. Educated Israelis are emigrating in record numbers, cheap Palestinian labour no longer lubricates the economy, and the isolation of sanctions looms. My bet is a surprisingly positive one, that more pragmatic Israelis than the current disastrous leaders will want to share the petro-spoils with Palestine on a political basis. That can mean only one outcome, the one-state solution, with Hamas sidelined by a mainstream moderate secular Fatah power, maybe led by Marwan Barghouti — a post-Apartheid South African model, where cousins long parted by history’s vagaries are reunited in a common and perhaps even wonderful new state.