A growing movement in Norway is challenging collaboration with Israeli exploitation of fossil fuel resources in the occupied Golan Heights and the Mediterranean Sea.
Oil and gas, extracted through offshore platforms, has helped to create one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds. The Government Pension Fund Global, known informally in Norway as “the oil fund,” has divested from Israeli companies due to their involvement in violations of human rights.
But in September, Norway’s Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Tord Lien of the ultra-right Progress Party, led a delegation to Israel with representatives from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim and the University of Stavanger. The purpose of the delegation was to explore possibilities for research and industrial collaboration in oil and gas extraction.
The delegation met with the Delek Group, which provides fuel for the Israeli military and operates gas stations and convenience stores in West Bank settlements. The firm is planning to begin production in the next two to three years in major offshore gas fields in the Mediterranean.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the gas fields “a gift from God” that would give the country energy independence. Sixteen years ago, the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had made a nearly identical statement, but Israel’s blockade of Gaza has made Palestinian exploration of these resources impossible.
The Israeli subsidiary of US-based Genie Energy is already drilling for oil in the Golan Heights, Syrian territory occupied by Israel since its capture in 1967. In recent years, Israel has exploited the ongoing war in Syria to seek international recognition of its annexation of the territory.
This month the student government at the University of Oslo adopted a resolution opposing cooperation in petroleum technology between Norwegian and Israeli institutions.
“Research cooperation has its limits; not all international cooperation is good cooperation,” Kristina Muñoz Ledo Klakegg, who introduced the resolution and serves in the student government, stated. “It puts pressure on the student democracies elsewhere in Norway to take a stance when we do.”
Because the University of Oslo is not directly involved in petroleum research, the resolution calls on other schools to adopt such measures and tighten ethical guidelines to give human rights and international law a greater role in the formation or continuation of academic cooperation.
A group of Norwegian academics and labor unions are petitioning the University of Stavanger and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology to end natural resource exploitation research projects with Israeli institutions.
“To assist Israel with academic expertise in petroleum technology will strengthen the strategic and economic position of the Israeli occupation at the expense of the rights of the Palestinians,” the petition states.
On 5 November, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s student parliament passed a resolution demanding an end to all communication and collaboration between the school and Israeli institutions regarding petroleum extraction. In 2013, the University of Stavanger entered into an agreement with Technion, an Israeli university deeply embedded with Israel’s military industry.
Such cooperation with Israeli institutions would appear to conflict with Norway’s role as the head of the Donor Group on Palestine, which coordinates foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority, and its foreign policy in general, which is consistent with the international legal consensus that all settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal.
Israel’s exploitation of natural resources claimed by the Palestinian Authority also stands in violation of the Oslo accords signed by the Palestinian leadership and Israel in the mid-1990s.
That agreement includes “co-operation in the field of energy, including an energy development program, which will provide for the exploitation of oil and gas [and] will encourage further joint exploration of other energy resources.”