I can’t remember watching a documentary that, using a single case study, so effectively strips away the political theatre we see in the mainstream media to reveal the horrifying exploits of the gangsters who run our energy corporations and political systems.
In Egypt’s Lost Power, Al-Jazeera have produced an absorbing 45-min film that, on one level, shows how a couple of corrupt businessmen – one Egyptian, one Israeli – with strong connections to their respective security services persuaded their governments to sign a deal for Egypt to supply Israel with natural gas at bargain-basement prices, a deal that now risks bankrupting the Egyptian economy.
But peeping out from the shadows are the real gangsters: US officials, members of the Middle East peace process industry, who are normally presented as the “good guys”.
They exploited the very unaccountable, undemocratic nature of Egypt’s security state under Hosni Mubarak to ensure that Cairo helped Israel with its energy needs. The prices agreed effectively gave away a key Egyptian natural resource to Israel, while vastly enriching the middlemen in the local military-industrial complexes.
In three years between 2008 and 2010, Egypt subsidised Israel’s energy needs by $1.8bn. As one analyst observes, Egypt effectively provided the energy Israel needed to wage Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s savage attack on Gaza in 2009.
It was a growing awareness among Egyptians of this appalling scam that led in part to the Tahrir uprising, and ultimately propelled the Muslim Brotherhood into power. For the first time, under Mohammed Morsi, the crooks who gave away Egypt’s gas were put on trial.
During this period the gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel was repeatedly blown up, in a sign of popular outrage. But Egypt’s failure to supply Israel with gas violated the terms of the agreement, meaning that the Egyptian government is now liable for $8bn damages (out of total national coffers of only $14bn).
It was the Egyptian military, intimately involved in the original rip-off, who engineered energy shortages that led to the unrest that helped oust Morsi.
But now, paradoxically, Egypt really is short of gas, just as Israel is becoming a major gas exporter. Israel, of course, has no intention of returning the favour by supplying gas cheaply to Egypt. But it will probably be more than happy to do so at the full market rate.
And that means Egypt will soon be as dependent on Israel for its energy needs as Gaza currently is – which is quite a frightening thought. Cairo’s generals are now even more deeply in Israel’s pocket than they were before. And that, in the words of those “peacemakers” in Washington, was precisely how they always wanted it.