I hate conspiracy theories and fake news. They degrade my profession as a journalist and incite fear, hate and tribulation with the deliberate intention of causing a public backlash. Naturally, there have been all sorts of speculation and rumour around the war in Gaza and the 7 October surprise Hamas attack on the occupation state.
It has been said that the attack was two years in the planning in Gaza, a tiny patch of land riddled with Zionist infiltrators and spies who cajole, bribe and threaten ordinary Palestinians to betray their comrades.
So the question many are asking, with some justification, is why there was such a catastrophic intelligence failure which meant that the attack caught the Israeli military sleeping on the job. In terms of access to eavesdropping technology and defence there is probably no better-equipped military in the world other than in the US, and the Americans maintain secret supply bases in the Zionist state. Israel’s Mossad has earned itself a reputation of being among the finest intelligence gatherers and infiltrators in the world. And yet 7 October saw Hamas fighters breach security fences, invade a music festival and local kibbutzim, and fly in on paragliders without a single challenge. How did this happen?
Some of Israel’s most brutal attacks on innocent Palestinians are made citing “national security” and Israel’s alleged right to defend itself. If it was being attacked by another nation state, fair enough. But an attack by people living under Israel’s brutal military occupation provides no such legal defence. It doesn’t exist.
A good contact and friend of mine who watches the region’s events closely told me simply: “Follow the money.” And that is how, after being nudged and pointed in a variety of directions with annoyingly vague clues, I found myself pouring over a network of paper trails that led to the National Archives, where British secrets lie unseen for at least 30 years and in some cases much, much longer.
By the time they surface, it’s usually far too late to do anything as the guilty have taken their secrets to the grave, but some disclosures do explain the terrible behaviour of governments and rogue politicians. Many of my colleagues are waiting with bated breath for the March 2030 deadline to pass to find out how the Iraq war came about, and if our suspicions about former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s role are as bad as we believe.
This particular paper chase, though, took me to the origins of the Suez Canal, which opened with a grand ceremony on 17 November 1869, 154 years ago this month. Today, 10 per cent of the world’s cargo ships sail through this strategic route between the Eastern Mediterranean and the Red Sea, heading to and from the Indian Ocean and connecting Europe and Asia.
Egypt owns, controls and operates the canal now, but it was once owned by French investors who held half of the canal company’s stock with Egypt’s ruler Sa’id Pasha holding most of the balance. In 1875, a cash crisis forced Sa’id’s successor, Isma’il Pasha, to sell the country’s shares to Britain. The Suez Company operated the canal until Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser tore up the concession in 1956 and transferred the canal’s operation to the state-owned Suez Canal Authority. There then followed the Suez Crisis, also known as the second Arab-Israeli war.
On the same day that the canal was nationalised Nasser also closed the Straits of Tiran to all Israeli ships. The crisis saw the UK, France, and Israel invade Egypt. According to pre-agreed plans prepared by Britain and France, Israel invaded Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on 29 October 1956, forcing the Egyptians to engage its troops. This gave the excuse for the Anglo-French alliance to declare the fighting to be a threat to stability in the Middle East and enter the war, officially to separate the two forces but, in reality, to regain control of the Suez Canal and bring down the Nasser government.
What does it have to do with 7 October 2023? Well, it just so happens that Gaza is slap bang in the middle of the proposed path of a major second canal in the region.
Gaza is currently being bombed to oblivion by the deranged Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu who wants to deliver The Ben Gurion Canal Project. Yes, Tel Aviv already has a name for the canal which was first proposed back in the Sixties. It would connect the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and would even be named after the first prime minister of Israel.
The canal would rival Egypt’s Suez Canal, causing a major financial threat to the country and this major trade artery. Remember the global trade disaster caused the huge container ship Ever Given got stuck in the famous canal in 2021? The Straits of Tiran and Suez Canal remained formally closed to Israeli vessels from the creation of Israel in 1948 and the Nakba until the Suez Crisis in 1956. When all land trade routes were blocked by Arab states, Israel’s ability to trade with East Africa and Asia, mainly to import oil from the Persian Gulf, was severely hampered. There have been other obstructions involving Israel forcing its closure in 1956-7 and 1967-75.
If it goes ahead, this new canal will be almost one-third longer than the 193.3 km Suez Canal, at around 292.9 km and an estimated cost of between $16 and $55 billion. Whoever controls the canal will have enormous influence over the global supply routes for oil, grain and shipping. With Gaza razed to the ground, it would enable the canal planners to literally cut corners and reduce costs by diverting the canal straight through the middle of the territory.
Around 12 per cent of the world’s trade passes through Suez on 18,000 ships a year, so you can imagine that a lot of countries will be lining up for a share of the deal. The Suez Canal is worth a staggering $9.4 billion to Egypt, which has enjoyed record-breaking revenues this year.
The only thing stopping the newly-revised project from being revived and rubber-stamped is the presence of the Palestinians in Gaza. As far as Netanyahu is concerned they are standing in the way of the project; a project which may earn him forgiveness in Tel Aviv for the intelligence and military shortcomings on 7 October. However, his treacherous sleight of hand will never by forgiven or forgotten by the people of Palestine given the horrors which have descended upon Gaza in the past few weeks.
If this is all being done in the name of potential business deals then it compounds the political and diplomatic disgrace of the shameless Western governments who are complicit in the Palestinian genocide.
The biggest shame, though, belongs to Egypt. Already on the verge of bankruptcy due to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s profligacy, the emergence of a new canal would have a devastating impact on the Egyptian economy and its people. Heartless dictator Al-Sisi may come to regret putting his trust in Tel Aviv and Western governments above the interests and welfare of two million Palestinians in Gaza.
None of the Middle East leaders, Netanyahu, Biden and Sunak et al in the West emerge from the carnage in Gaza with any degree of integrity intact. Together, they are guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, or at the very least are complicit in such awful crimes leading to genocide.
This didn’t all begin on 7 October; the bombing of Gaza is simply the latest stage of Israel’s slow genocide of the people of Palestine, which has now got up to speed again with the full backing of the Western sponsors of the apartheid state. If they think that killing innocent children and women will bring peace, they are deluded.
Unbridled neoliberal capitalism has destroyed many countries and killed millions of people, and peace and security have rarely been the result. I hope that the evil people responsible will burn in Hell for what they have done to the children of Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and numerous other countries around the world. The survivors need freedom and justice now.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.