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The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Bit of BackgroundRalph Stone Salem-News.com
Almost 58 percent of Palestinians live in poverty, and about half of this group lives in extreme poverty.
(SAN FRANCISCO) - Much of the reportage on the Israeli commandos attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla killing nine passengers, Israel's 2008/2009 invasion of the Gaza strip, its 2006 war with Lebanon, and its continued settlement building, gives the American public the impression that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is 21st century phenomenon.
What is sometimes lost in such coverage is the deep background the events described above are but the latest chapters in a long saga stretching back to the creation of Israel in 1947.
Then, the United Nations partitioned the land, allotting the Jews 55 percent of Palestine. The Arabs did not agree to this partition. In the 1948 “war of independence” (called the “The Nakba,” the catastrophe, by the Arabs), Israel ended up with 78 percent of the area of Palestine. This war displaced 750,000 Palestinians and over 450 Arab villages were erased.
In the war of 1967, the remaining Palestinian territory was captured by Israel. Out of this captured land, Israel created the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by chopping up the land into isolated enclaves surrounded by Jewish settlements and Israeli occupation forces. The Palestinians lost 78 percent of their land to Israel and are left with 22 percent.
In recent years, Israel has erected a wall or fence, which cuts deep into Palestinian territory, joining large Jewish settlement blocks to Israel, further confining the Palestinians to isolated enclaves. Israel continues to establish new settlements (called outposts), demolishing homes and uprooting plantations in the process. While Israel has walled-in the Palestinians, it has in turn is ghettoized itself.
Since Israel instituted a strict closure policy in 2000, the Palestinian economy has been on a downward trend. Fuel, electricity and materials to maintain water and sanitation are under Israeli control. The lack of investment in public infrastructure and private enterprises is eroding the limited remaining Palestinian economic base.
The economic blockade has devastated the Gaza private sector and driven almost all industrial producers out of business.
Almost 58 percent of Palestinians live in poverty, and about half of this group lives in extreme poverty. About 50 percent of Palestinians experience or risk experiencing food insecurity. Food insecurity is particularly severe in Gaza, where the majority of the population relies on humanitarian assistance to survive. The rate of chronic malnutrition in children under the age of five has increased, reaching almost 10 percent, and the mortality figures for children under the age of one and under the age of five have each increased by about 30 percent.
Anemia is common, with 55 percent of children under the age of three affected by the condition. Among pregnant women, the rate is 36 percent -- 46 percent for nursing mothers. The West Bank and Gaza ranks 110 out of 182 countries on the United Nations Development Programme's 2009 human development index.
Is it any wonder that the Palestinians believe that Israel’s ultimate goal is to take over the entire country and to drive out the non-Jewish population? How can a People, who have been persecuted for centuries and were the victims of the Holocaust, in turn persecute the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip?
What do the Palestinians want? The Palestinians want “Two States for Two Peoples” -- Israel and Palestine -- which means the peaceful coexistence of two independent states with West Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, including the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter, and East Jerusalem to be the capital of Palestine, including the Temple Mount, with open borders between between the two states.
They want a return of territories annexed by Jewish settlements. They want Israel to recognize the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees as an inalienable human right with the establishment of a Committee of Truth and Reconciliation to establish the historic facts with the right of return for some and compensation for others. They want to establish joint control of the water resources.
And finally, they want a security pact between Israel and Palestine, endorsed by the the international community and reinforced by international guarantees.
In his June 2009 Cairo Islam speech, President Obama called for a Palestinian state and a freeze on Israeli settlements. The Obama administration seemed to be announcing a more even-handed Middle East policy or at least a less pro-Israel approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He seemed to recognize that without a peace agreement, the United States partiality toward Israel would continue to fuel Arab anti-American sentiment. Unfortunately, a year later the prospects for a Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement still seem beyond reach. I am still hopeful, but not optimistic.
Salem-News.com writer Ralph E. Stone was born in Massachusetts. He is a graduate of both Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School. We are very fortunate to have this writer's talents in this troubling world; Ralph has an eye for detail that others miss. As is the case with many Salem-News.com writers, Ralph is an American Veteran who served in war. Ralph served his nation after college as a U.S. Army officer during the Vietnam war. After Vietnam, he went on to have a career with the Federal Trade Commission as an Attorney specializing in Consumer and Antitrust Law. Over the years, Ralph has traveled extensively with his wife Judi, taking in data from all over the world, which today adds to his collective knowledge about extremely important subjects like the economy and taxation. You can send Ralph an email at this address firstname.lastname@example.org
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