Israel has granted a U.S. company the first licence to explore for oil and gas in the occupied Golan Heights, John Reed of the Financial Times reports.

A local subsidiary of the New York-listed company Genie Energy — which is advised by former vice president Dick Cheney and whose shareholders include Jacob Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch — will now have exclusive rights to a 153-square mile radius in the southern part of the Golan Heights.

That geographic location will likely prove controversial. Israel seized the Golan Heights in the Six-Day War in 1967 and annexed the territory in 1981. Its administration of the area — which is not recognised by international law — has been mostly peaceful until the Syrian civil war broke out 23 months ago.

“This action is mostly political – it’s an attempt to deepen Israeli commitment to the occupied Golan Heights,” Israeli political analyst Yaron Ezrahi told FT. “The timing is directly related to the fact that the Syrian government is dealing with violence and chaos and is not free to deal with this problem.”

Earlier this month we reported that Israel is considering creating a buffer zone reaching up to 10 miles from Golan into Syria to secure the 47-mile border against the threat of Islamic radicals in the area.

The move would overtake the UN Disengagement Observer Force Zone that was established in 1973 to end the Yom Kippur War and to provide a buffer zone between the two countries.

Reed notes that recent natural gas finds off Israel’s coast in the Mediterranean have made Israel’s offshore gas reserve is one of the largest of its kind in the world and will make the Jewish state a significant energy exporter in its region.

Pic: Golan Heights. There are about 20,000 Israeli settlers in the Golan Heights. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

• Avaaz:

Dear friends,

Murdoch’s media is using all its might to influence the Australian election, and unfortunately — it’s working. His plan is a simple one: create credible newspapers, gain the trust of readers and then bombard them with propaganda that furthers his own agenda. It’s deceptive and it works — but we can make sure it backfires this election.

Since day one of the election Murdoch’s papers have launched a one-sided campaign, dangerously and intentionally blurring the lines between editorial and reporting content. Front-pages depicting the Prime Minister as a Nazi TV character have in essence turned the papers into Australia’s most widespread political advertisements. And with Murdoch companies owning 65% of all newspapers read in Australia his agenda has become the nation’s agenda.

But there’s a weakness in his plan — it only works so long as people trust his newspapers. Once people know they’re being manipulated by a billionaire it’ll break his spell and they’ll turn against him. We just need a way to get this message into every home in Australia — and a brilliant new ad from GetUp gives us that opportunity.

The ad has already been seen by thousands, loosening Murdoch’s grip, but together we can get it in front of hundreds of thousands more and break Murdoch’s spell. Watch the ad here, and donate to ensure every Australian has the opportunity to make up their own mind this election:

Murdoch papers have the ability to change the outcome of the election. In Brisbane, which has the most marginal seats in the entire country, his paper The Courier Mail is the only daily state-wide paper available. Together with his other mouthpieces he’s using it to push his own agenda knowing the voting public have few places to turn to hear a different point of view. Even the Australian Press Council, a body funded by the media that’s typically very timid, has been driven to speak out, saying “a paper’s editorial viewpoints and its advocacy of them must be kept separate from its news columns.”

News Corp papers have talented journalists doing great work, which Murdoch undermines every time his attack dog editors use his front pages as election pamphlets. His bullying is legendary — most who have tried to stand up to him have failed. But we’re a movement, not a politician dependent on his praise, which gives us a unique ability to fight back.

This ad by GetUp tells the story of his bias in an accessible way that connects with everyday Australians. It’s an ad that everyone needs to see if we’re going to defeat Murdoch’s plan to decide this election for us. Click to see the ad and donate now to help put it on the air and ensure we have a fairer media in general:

The Avaaz community has campaigned tirelessly for media reforms that will limit Murdoch’s power and restore a fair and honest media. We won a government media inquiry that was a crucial first step and helped provide the public support for brave politicians to speak out against Murdoch’s abuses. Now Murdoch is fighting back, but if we stick together and work hard we’ll see our papers to return to fearless journalism, not fear-mongering campaigning.

With hope,

Oli, Ben, Emily, Ari, Moj and the rest of the Avaaz team.


Murdoch’s election coverage ‘insult to Australians’ (The Age)

Australian press watchdog chides Murdoch media (Reuters)

Murdoch row amid Australia election campaign (BBC)

Murdoch media accused of bias in Australian election coverage (RTE News)