The Israel-Palestine Conflict

Before the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) debates on the Israel-Palestine conflict, Bhanvi Musalgaonkar, reporter for the ECOSOC, writes a detailed account describing the repercussions of the dispute on the economic and social status of the nations involved.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been causing destruction and disturbance in the Middle-east for over a century. The chaos created by the conflict in these countries is equivalent to the chaos involved in the evolution of the war itself. Given below is a basic description of the events that led to the conflict, its effects on the countries involved as well as the neighbouring countries, and its repercussions on the economic and social strata of Palestinian refugees.

The events responsible for the situation seen today in the Middle-east dates back to the 19th century when the Ottoman Empire ruled the area between the Mediterranean sea and the Jordan river. During the 1880s, the Middle-east, especially Jerusalem, was religiously diverse with Muslims, Christians, and Jews. This diverse mix of people co-existed largely in peace. However, two radical ideas changed the situation completely:
1. The Arabs wanting a distinct Palestinian identity,
2. Not so far away in Europe, the rise of the Zionist movement, which claimed that Judaism is not only a religion but also a nationality and that the Jews are safe only in a nation of their own somewhere in the Middle-east.

Thousands of Jews started immigrating to Palestine. November 1917 witnessed the signing of the Balfour Declaration in support of the establishment of Palestine as a safe home for Jews. In 1918, because of the First World War, the area was converted into the British-mandate for Palestine for thirty years, with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland governing the Arabs and the Jews living in the territory.

Tensions between the Jews and the Arabs rose and the British started limiting Jewish immigration. This led to the Jews fighting both the local Arabs as well as the British rule. The British soon handed over this “out of control” situation to the United Nations (UN).

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In 1947, the UN General Assembly recommended the partition of the British-mandate Palestine into two separate states:
1. One for the Jews (the State of Israel),
2. One for the Arabs (the State of Palestine).
The city of Jerusalem, where Jews, Muslims, and Christians had holy sites, was to be converted into a special international zone.

The Jews agreed to the plan but many Arab states saw this move as one of the tactics of the European nations to establish their control. Thus, the neighbouring Arab states revolted. This led to the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, which was eventually won by Israel. Israel took over the whole of Palestine, the West Bank became part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Gaza Strip of the Arab Republic of Egypt, and the city of Jerusalem was split between Israel on the west and Jordan on the east. Many Palestinians were stranded as refugees.

In 1967, the Six-Day War was fought between Israel and the neighbouring Arab states. After the war, Israel seized
1. The Golan Heights from the Syrian Arab Republic,
2. The West Bank from Jordan,
3. The Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.

In 1978, the Camp David Accords was signed between Israel and Egypt. Accordingly, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. Other Arab countries gradually made peace with Israel except for Palestine. The conflict between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which wanted to completely wipe out Israel, went on for years.

Over the years, Palestine witnessed Jewish settlements because of religious and political reasons, and cheap housing funded by the Israeli government. This occupation made life difficult for Palestinians, with walls and borders being constructed to limit Palestinian movement. This led to a massive revolt from the Palestine, known as the First Intifada, from 1987 to 1993. Thousands of civilians from both sides were killed.

Two radical ideas changed the situation completely: the Arabs wanting a distinct Palestinian identity and the rise of the Zionist movement.

Around the same time, some Palestinians in Gaza considered the PLO as too secular an organization and thus established another institution with an extremist mindset known as Hamas. Hamas was entirely for the devastation of Israel.

In 1993, both the countries signed the Oslo Accords, which was seen as a major step in making peace between states with Israel allowing Palestinian independence.

However, tensions continued and the Second Intifada raged between 2000 and 2005. This was worse than the First Intifada, with massive killings and bloodshed. Israel withdrew from Gaza and Hamas split from the PLO. Movement of Palestinian citizens was restricted and unemployment in Gaza rose to 40%.

The peace process has merely prolonged and pacified the conflict rather than end it. Presently, a permanent solution is nowhere in sight.

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