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May 29 – Palestinians, and International Organizations

This week we cover two partially related subjects: Palestine, and international organizations.

The first is some very difficult ground – literally and figuratively.  Everyone knows, at least roughly, “Palestinian” – one of the group of three generations of refugees and IDPs in and around Israel.  You might know the Jewish nationalist movement pre-dates World War II, and certainly everyone knows what it meant to be Jewish during World War II. The Holocaust, of course, but also Jewish refugees rejected by the United States and others.

In other courses I have detailed some of this important Jewish and Israeli history, including as refused refugees.  In this course, instead, we will look at some things from Palestinian perspectives.  Most of the sources are from the Palestinian perspective, and as you might suspect therefore some of them are more pro-Palestinian or even anti-Israel. It should be obviously but we will specify nevertheless: none of this is to support or promote anti-Israel or anti-Semitic sentiment – and none of that language will be welcome in our essay posts and replies. We are using the important story of Palestinian refugees – in the same way that next week we look at Bosnians and we might otherwise have considered Cambodians, Afghans, Sudanese, or others.

To repeat, debate over policy is valuable. But nothing presented here is to promote anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic sentiment, and no discussion against any race, religion, or ethnicity will be tolerated in this class.  We had this conversation about Israel-Palestine in this same online course last summer and it was really very productive.  Thanks for doing the same here.

You might also note that while we usually think of this as a Jewish-Muslim conflict, a large percentage of Palestinians in 1947 were Christian, maybe 10-20%.  Efforts to protect the remaining Palestinian Christians (now maybe 1-2%) are part of the work of certain NGOs.

Our second topic this week is international organizations.  We’ll introduce some of the international law related to refugees, and some of the work that the United Nations undertakes.

You should know by now, I hope, to click on each of the links below.  At the bottom of this page, we’ll have some suggested prompts for essays posts for the week.  Be sure also to see the short videos from a Palestinian friend, interviewed about life in the West Bank. The video is choppy at times, but the messages are worth hearing.

Palestinians as Refugees

We talked last week about “stateless” people and peoples – and Palestinians are perhaps the largest stateless group.  The Kurds do not have a state of their own, and are spread across Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and Syria, but at least they have historically been considered citizens of those countries.  Many Palestinians have not had that benefit.

To get a sense of the background, and to get a sense of the pro-Palestinian perspective, this short video (6 min) is instructive. It starts with some fair-minded background – “One group of refugees [European Jews] found a much-needed home, but in the process a new group of refugees was created.”  It then shifts to criticisms of Israel while omitting some important historical context, especially Israel’s legitimate security concerns.  We repeat here:  no anti-Semitic language or sentiment is appropriate from us; but understanding the perspectives of others in their own voice can be useful.  (In the same way that Bosnians, Serbs, and Croats might be especially unflattering of each other, including some fierce, very different descriptions of events. As in Bosnia next week, we can choose to approach these differences by seeking understanding of different views – without endorsing the animosities.)

With a sense of the tone of this topic, we can look at some “quick facts” offered by IMEU. IMEU is a Palestinian-American organization, outlining some of the history and current issues, with links to elaborations.  A longer (14-page) doc you should review outlines the history, background, development, and current status of the “Nakba” – the “catastrophe” of 1947-1949.  It’s important to note that this Nakba is considered to be ongoing, not limited to events 70 years ago.  A final resource from IMEU is a short introduction to “the right to return – along with control of Jerusalem, perhaps the trickiest part of any eventual “two-state solution”described briefly here and more seriously and with historical context here – look at the first, at least skim the second.

Palestinian refugees live in a number of countries, not just land controlled by Israel.  We start with a look at the Gaza Strip, and Palestinian refugees as part of long-predicted environmental challenges – drought and water crises. (We see versions of this elsewhere, too, including in the U.S. southwest, over the Nile River, and over the Aral Sea.)

Nearly half a million Palestinians live among fellow Arabs in Lebanon, but this article describes how they are in so many ways stateless. We’ll see in a couple of weeks how the Syrian refugees have complicated Lebanon’s population of 4 to 5 million people.  Perhaps 2 million Lebanese have emigrated since 1975, and more than a million Syrian refugees have arrived in the last five years.

We also need to look at a snapshot from Jordan.  Jordan has a population of 9 to 10 million people, with 2 million Palestinian refugees, many for decades, and more than a million Syrian refugees in the last five years.

We end our tour in the West Bank, the largest region of any future Palestinian state.  In this look at the vulnerability of the economy and society to the whims of tourists who cancel trips whenever there is violence – and there was a surge at the end of last year.

We end on a hopeful note.  Based on the “contact hypothesis” that prejudices break down when people are exposed to groups that fear or dislike, many organizations work across the Israel-Palestine lines to bring together kids for sports, music, or other bridge-building.  This isn’t easy, but groups on both sides continue to try.  Can these make a difference?  Consider a couple of examples, here, here, here, here, and here.

We supplement these readings with two first-person interviews posted on our facebook page.  One is a young American woman who first went to Palestine on an environmental project and became fascinated with the people and their story.  The second is a lawyer and artist born and raised in a camp in the West Bank. Each offers a compelling narrative and a window into life in Palestine.  I’ll put the links to these interviews on our fb group page, instead of here.  You will need to be logged in to our fb group to see these.

Looking for more?  A treasure trove here on a wide range of topics at the Institute for Palestinian Studies.

Refugees and International Organizations

A quick note on language, in case you are not a politics major:  by international organization, we mean “international governmental organizations” or IGOs – organizations whose members are typically states (that is, countries) or the governments of states: the UN or World Bank or OPEC or NAFTA, for example. Medicines sans Frontiers and ExxonMobil and Amnesty International are international organizations in a “plain language” kind of way, but not in a political-science-y kind of way.

We can start with some of the modern foundation of refugees law: the 1951 Refugee Convention. Signed by 144 countries, a key idea was “non-refoulment” – refugees should not be returned to their home country if they would face threats to their life or freedom there.  The 1951 convention grew out of the massive refugee crises during and after World War I and World War II.  The 1967 Protocol eliminated the limits of time (pre-1951) and space (Europe) to which the original convention applied.  A good summary of the 1951 and 1967 agreements is here. If you are interested, you can get a thorough introduction to the international law on forced migration and refugees at the lecture below (and with supporting documents):


You might have noticed that the links about it were from – the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees.  This is the UN agency that covers a wide range of geographic and functional concerns.  It deals with urgent crises now including the Central African Republic and South Sudan, among others. (These are cases, by the way, you might consider for your end-of-semester paper.) UNHCR’s wide range of tasks include shelter, coordination of assistance, statelessness, public health, and more. It works with a large number of states, NGOs/development organizations, donors, and other partners, including other UN agencies, like the World Food Program and the World Health Organization.

UNHCR also works with regional UN agencies.  With respect to Palestine, for example, there is UNISPAL and UNRWA, a “relief and development organization” for Palestinian refugees. (Despite these noble goals, UNRWA also has its critics.)  Other UN organizations sometimes involved with refugees include UNMIK for Kosovo since 1999, UNIFIL in Lebanon since 1978, MINUSCA in the Central African Republic since 2014,  and UMOGIP in Kashmir since 1949. (Again, these are cases you might consider for your end-of-semester paper, if you do a case study.)

The UN is not the only international organization dealing with refugees.  The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has roots in  postwar Europe. It is now a major global actor partnering with the UN and states on a wide range of issues. You can play around with its interactive Where Are They Now map, click to how many migrants in Country X from Country Y. IOM hosts a useful dictionary too.  IOM is especially interesting to Americans, although few know it:  IOM does the initial interviews of Syrians and Iraqis who are applying for refugee status to the U.S.

OSCE – the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – is nominally a “UN for democracies” but in fact many of its members fall short of that characterization. OSCE has important programs in democratization and human rights, including human trafficking and minority rights. It raised a number of issues for its member states on World Refugee Day.

Your Turn

Facebook – By Tuesday night of each week, please post a story with your own 10-25 word commentary, probably but not necessarily related to refugees, on our fb page. (In this case, by Tuesday, May 30.)  By Thursday night of each week, comment on at least one or two stories posted by a classmate.

*Be sure to see the notes on the syllabus that offer guidance on what constitutes a good post. Thanks!

Essay Prompt – just below here, please write in the “What do you think?” box. This week’s prompt is wide open:  You might choose to write about one or more aspects of Palestinians as refugees. You might choose to write about one or more international organizations that deal with refugees (or both Palestinians and international organizations).  Answer this:  What really struck you as interesting, important, surprising, etc.?  As appropriate, draw from any of the materials assigned above and/or your own background and experiences.  You want to be in the 300-350-word neighborhood, by Wednesday night (In this case, by Wednesday, May 31.).  By Saturday night, you want to reply to at least two of your classmates’ essays – all just below in the “What do you think” box at the bottom of this page.

*Be sure to see the notes on the syllabus that offer guidance on what constitutes a good post. Thanks!

40 Replies to “”

  1. Two of the concepts touched on in the readings are of vital importance to refugee rights: right to return, and nonrefoulment A refugee has the right to return from an area from which they fled or were forced to leave, but they also cannot be sent back to a place where they may be in danger. It seems to me that, though these rights are both basic and should of course belong to each and every refugee, they contradict each other at the same time, because there is a key third piece of the puzzle that is missing. There is no international regulation that compels states to reshape themselves in such a way that they will again be a safe and acceptable place for the people they pushed out. Because of this, refugees may exist in some permanent purgatory, where on paper they have the right to return to their homeland but in reality that land does not care to have them back, and thus to return home will forever be refoulment. The situation of the Palestinian refugees is a prime example of this: they long to return home, but in the foreseeable future, Israel will not be a place willing to accept them. Sadly, it seems that no amount of international human rights conventions can trump the ultimate power that states retain to effectively banish certain groups from their land, as there is no authority to stop them from doing so. This may be the case more in Israel than in any other refugee crisis, too; Israel is in the unique position of enjoying the unconditional support of the United States, insulating them even further from any international pressure to reach a peaceful solution with Palestine. Of course, I do not mean to say that Palestine is innocent in the conflict, but they are certainly held back by the lack of an international law that would not just guarantee a “right of return,” but ensure that that right would be honored across the globe.

    1. As I noted with my response, and my reply to other responses, the idea of international human rights would be ideal and it is just finding a compelling enough way to implement it for the region as the efforts so far have not been as fruitful as one would hope.

    2. The problem is that although there is international laws such as UN Resolution 194, it is very hard to enforce laws made by supranational organizations. Many states rely on self-policing when it comes to these types of laws. Even if the UN tried to pass a resolution in regards to the refugee crisis and ethnic cleansing that is taking place, the United States would immediately veto any such resolution that sought to take action on Israel. I agree with what the first video said, that it is up to us to put pressure on our government and international community to stop turning a blind eye to what the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinian people.

      1. Putting pressure on Israel could be effective, but I think that policies would be more effective. As Joe expressed, international law is not enforced the same way as national law and is based on reciprocity. The videos and readings clearly express that Israel does not want a compromise, but instead wants a nation state. Comparative politicians have expressed that there can be a dilemma between nation and state building. I believe when Israel received independence it also succeeded in becoming a state. But Israel is still struggling to become a nation. I think that international messages (not just from U.S.) push for integration of Israeli and Palestine nations into one nation rather than a fight over a state.

    3. Yes, right to return is a tough one though and I believe that it will only get tougher as time goes on. This is because in many places I can see the populations coming back being fought tooth and nail. In Israel/ Palestine, this is an issue that is extremely divisive as many do not even agree that these were the legitimate homes of refugees to start with. In other cases, people are likely not going to be welcome back because they can be seen as a threat to the government, I believe this will eventually happen in Syria as well.

    4. It is interesting that you point out that ultimately states have their own power that cannot be trumped by international human rights conventions. I agree, because in 1948 when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, many of the countries part of it were abusing human rights (segregation was still at work at the time in the US.) This year, the U.N voted Saudi Arabia to be part of the Commission on the Status of Women. The commission is in charge of “promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.” Yet, Saudi Arabia has a system of male guardianship in place through which women must obtain permission from a male guardian in order to travel, marry or exit prison. According to the Work Economic Forum which measures the survival, health, economical, educational, political empowerment of women ranked Saudi Arabia 134 out of 145 countries for gender equality. Organizations rooted in human rights are sometimes made up of the very countries themselves that the do the same. Do you think that has to do because of how they were founded? Or because there is no reinforcement?

  2. Last semester in my Gender & the Middle East Class the Palestine refugee crisis was touched on for a brief time. As the articles from the IMEU explained, the refugee crisis happened with a forceful hand, with one refugee group switching places with another. One thing that surprised me during my last class and these readings is how blatantly exclusionary the Israeli policies are. Israel is not trying to hide the fact that they want all Palestine’s out of their territory, supported by Ben-Gurion and exemplified in statements like “Drive them Out” when asked what to do with the Palestinians. Even with these statements, not many objected to Palestinian cleansing and by the late 1940s the British army had completely left. Atrocities such as the massacre in the village of Deir Yassan occurred without reprimand. Similarly, Israel tactfully placed new villages so that Palestinian villages that could not be torn down became increasingly disconnected from people and resources, eventually driving them out.

    The readings also reminded me of ethnic cleansing that occurred in Rwanda against the Tutsi population. The Huti believed themselves to be more superior and in charge of the territory. During this time, the U.S. knew what was occurring but did not intervene in the situation and only aids Rwanda now that the genocide has passed. Based on the readings, the U.S. was almost absent for most of the time, except for when they supported Resolution 194 that gave refugees the right to return. A lot of U.S. aid now comes from NGOs & IGOs such as the UN and Human Rights Watch, etc. The U.S. seems to have a common theme of entering human rights violations once they have already occurred, rather than when they are occurring. I believe that IGOs are necessary to ensure that a country receive the aid that is needed to sustain refugees, but what are the ulterior motives? Sometimes government organizations may have other motives that are politically or economically driven, such as oil relations with the middle east.

    It does not seem ethical to drive out one population for another when that population has been in that territory longer than the Jewish population. The true question is, “What can the solution be?” As explained by the contact hypothesis, groups that interact with each other are more likely to favor each other. But, Israel does not want to share territory with Palestinians while Palestinians have no issues with it and because of this political advocacy may have to begin to target the Israeli population. Second, if cohabitation cannot work than a territory must be dedicated to the Palestinians without any religious or civil persecutions as agreed upon in the Balfour Declaration.

    1. I agree with your statement noting that it is not ethical to drive out one population for another. The notion of inclusion and the ability for there to be some integration slowly will be useful and it is just finding a way to genuinely implement that that will need to be driven by political and social change.

  3. When looking specifically at the video that is above regarding the Israel/Palestine conflict, it is important to understand the depth and stressful history that this topic involves. The displacement that took place, as depicted by the green on the map is one that demonstrates what occurs in the process of accommodating one group and forgoing a comprehensive approach to maintaining an overall consideration to all refugees of one particular area. As noted by the Nakba by the numbers, it is clear that nearly 750k to 1 million Palestinians were made refugees by the Zionist forces. These numbers only continued to become more significant as the conflict was not being directly addressed and as the states tension began to grow the involvement of other nations in the region became prevalent. This notes, for me, that refugees in one state becomes an international issue quite quickly because of the high levels of displacement and disruption it causes for neighboring states.
    The displacement that took places was not just internationally, but the internal displacement of individuals called “Israeli Arabs” did not reap any benefits by being allowed to stay as they had lost many rights and were under the guidelines of martial law. As refugees themselves the maximum inclusion desired for the Jewish citizens in the Israeli state seems contradictory to what the basis of what their values should have been given their lower status earlier on in the history of that region. With force and military occupation the issue continues to grow, and for me I see that the conflict seems to go forward without any particular resolution in place. The involvement of other nations including by the Arab nation as well as The Untied States has not helped reach any resolution – and it begs the question if international involvement from parties not directly invested in the occupation of that land will be able to provide unbiased aid in a humane and reasonable response, but rather it seems that Israel and Palestine are unable to reach a semblance of progress.

    1. I think you bring up a good point in regards to how necessary it is to have an unbiased response. States that are not directly involved have their own self-interests as mind. I truly doubt United States would be able to mediate in such a resolve because of the U.S having a strategic interest in keeping Israel in power. This is enough for us to ignore what is truly going on. Another example that comes to mind is Saudi Arabia. Although the Saudi monarchy violates human rights constantly, the United States turns a blind eye to them due to the strategic advantage having them as an ally gives us in the region.

    2. I agree that when studying and discussing this issue, it must be reviewed with a critical eye from the historical perspective. In many of my classes, I have been taught to approach issues from many facets, such as race, religion, history, culture, society, etc. I think this conflict is one where it is even more important to study all facets, especially historical, because it has been going on for so long and there is such a history of violence and hatred. The history of the issue seems so engrained in the people living through the conflict, that is seems to have taken on a life of its own. The problems and disputes rooted in history are almost more important than the current conditions to some people it seems. I think this makes the conflict more difficult to solve because solutions cannot only be based on the present, but must consider previous implications and past occurrences, which brings even more problems to trying to bring peace to the area.

    3. The issue on internal displacement is very important. It is also seen as refugees enter a new country in seek of asylum. It is fair to argue that living in such conditions of intolerance, where the ruling religion is a form of dictatorship, is as inhumane as having no land to call ones own. Palestinians are strangers in their own land, and while Israeli’s do have a right to the development of their country, the negligence of the Palestinian occupancy is a dangerous way of practicing power. As you mentioned, a solution or any form of progress is far from near because of the internal disagreements occurring within Israel and Palestinian land, the continued oppression of Palestinians grows more complicated unresolved feelings of hatred towards the Israeli government, making compromise and cooperation further from reach.

    4. I agree that progress in this issue currently seems to be out of reach, and this is because both sides are not willing to compromise. Both sides want almost the exact same thing, and this is always how it has been. However, from what we have seen in news, and like you mentioned the green portion of the map, it seems like the benefit of the doubt usually goes to Israel. It is important to understand that both sides are not exactly equal in this issue. One side is occupying the other side, and this side is clearly superior in every aspect be it militarily, economically, and influentially (always had the US as its closest ally).

  4. I think the most obvious issue for me that came up in this weeks readings was how downplayed the Israeli Apartheid is. I think this is because many do not think of the Israeli-Palestinian conflicting subsequent partition as a refugee crisis. This reminds me of what Munir Atalla discussed in the article Letter from Jerash, Jordan: A visit to the Gaza Refugee Camp. He talks about how other Palestinians he has met have claimed to be from towns in the Palestinian homeland, yet their families have lived in Jordan for two generations. He talks about how Zionist have advocated for a “Jordan is Palestine policy” in hopes that Palestinians will no longer regard Palestine as their homeland. This is very similar to the way many of us think of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. When we think of Palestine we ten to think of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In our mind this is Palestine and we forget that Palestinians have no other choice but to live within these designated parcels of land due to Israeli occupation. It is this mentality that perpetuates our blindness to the serious issue this partition is.

    Another thing that shocked me was the restriction of water to parts of the West Bank. According the the Al Jazeera report, some Arab municipalities have not received was in over 40 days while illegal Israeli municipalities in the west bank continue to receive water. Even in places where water is not being siphoned off Palestinians receive 1/5 of the water that Israeli settlers do. What is so shocking to me this is that it is so blatant in its disregard for human life. It is also appalling that Israel continues to be the largest receiver of U.S foreign aid in the world, despite rampant ethnic cleaning. As the largest sponsor of democracy and freedom in the world, the United States should taking a stand on such atrocities.

    1. Not receiving water for 40 days is unfathomable and like you said a blatant disregard to the Palestinian people located within these municipalities. The only way something can be done here, is to speak up, protest, and make it more known to people around the world that these people continue to suffer. Do you think that the Palestinians and Israeli’s will ever find a happy medium or meet with an agreement separate or fair lands for all? Thanks for the post! I enjoyed your insight.

  5. The Palestinians as refugees is one of the toughest situations to discuss with people, and I believe that this is a big part of the problem. There is simply no middle ground on this issue. Some people fall on the side that they are all being mistreated and displaced, and some believe that they are absolutely not displaced or mistreated. Attempting to bridge this gap in conversation is enough to ensure that an individual is able to walk away with nothing short of a barrage of insults against them. This is a serious problem onto itself because it makes solutions difficult as people cannot even agree on the parameters of the problem to start with.
    With that said I believe the problem only gets worse from here because the Palestinians as a group tend to get ignored regionally. They seem to be too political for some to attempt to help or get involved with. These situations only ensure that the Palestinians can be guaranteed more suffering and abuse both at home and abroad when they attempt to leave. Their stories are often not told or buried under narratives in which they are punished collectively for all actions. The US is not a help here either because it often ignores their plight, minimizes it, or treats it as an afterthought, and also blocks inquiries into the abuses against the Palestinians on the world stage.
    This is not how it is all over the world of course. The conversations are not as political in other places because it is not as politically shared like it is here. However, I find the greatest disappointment to be the regional silence and lack of support for the refugees that come from Palestine. Without them having more input and a louder voice, I doubt that there can be much better change or direction for the lives of the Palestinian people.

    1. I was intrigued by your idea that the situation is hindered by the fact that there cannot be an open conversation about it. I believe that creating a dialogue is the first step toward any solution, so the fact there the issue is so intensely black and white stops the conversation before in can even begin, therefore stopping solutions before they can be proposed. Like one of the videos mentioned, the previous peace talks were inadequate toward making progress because at least one side was refusing to take them seriously and truly listen. Unfortunately, until this is a topic that can be talked about openly and honestly without fear of making someone else defensive or angry, there may be few steps toward making an agreeable solution.

      1. Samantha, I do think that a conversation is great but how can you force one side to speak if they do not want to? Israel has no want or need to currently have a conversation with the Palestinian. At the same time, words are not a written agreement that holds more power to it. I would agree with you that this has to become a topic that is talked about openly, without anger and fighting, but that still may be unrealistic. I think the only way Israel would cooperate is if the agreement was somehow beneficial to them beyond ethical righteousness.

      2. I agree with Dimitri. I do not believe it is not about not having a conversation but about a power imbalance that will stop one side from having valid input unless they can find a way to balance it. As mentioned in the video this is not a new problem but one that has been happening for many years, therefore there have been many conversations and protests and yet it remains the same. However from my experience, as I mentioned in my own post it is interesting that despite the abuses happening, Birthright and other Jewish organizations seem to have positive campaign efforts. It is around me that I do not really see the conversations happening when these food trucks come to campus/or I stumble upon them in NYC and what that might mean or why they are doing this.

  6. More than anything I linger on the ending on a hopeful note. I want the exposure and the relationships between these two groups to be the reason that there is hope in the future. I think that seeing each other as human is the key but I fear that the rhetoric in the region, and the world right now seems to not be about equity. The region appears to be about drawing lines in the sand and stating how they are either right or wrong and that they are worthy or not worthy. We are doing it here in the US as well. There is a clash happening between groups where everyone simultaneously feels like the victim as well as the problem. The MENA region is rife with this as well. The divisions run deep and the alliances are made up of cultural ones, tribal ones, religious ones and more. And on each side, they fail to really see the other side. I sadly believe that this is a historic marker of human nature in which we have to separate ourselves at all times and find ways to have the in group and then the “other”. We cannot live if we do not have this “other” to condemn and to point the finger at all of the time. It is surely getting better, but as the conflicts that are taking place now show, maybe we just hope we are getting better. Whether it is the Balkan fight of the 90s or the Rwanda/ Congo fights of the same period, or the ongoing attacks on the Kurdish or the now evident plights of the Rohingya in Asia, the conflicts on what makes us different win out every single time. The same has been happening to the Palestinians, and despite the desire of many to build bridges between the Palestinians and Israeli, the hostility is still very much so intense.

  7. This week’s topic about Palestine is one that I am personally all too familiar with. I was born in Jordan and lived in Amman until I was in middle school. My parents are both originally from Jerusalem, but had both left there after the 1967 war. My father’s family bounced around a little bit from Lebanon to Jordan and then finally immigrated to the United States, whereas my mother’s family settled in Jordan. In both cases, they were lucky enough to not really be refugees in the true sense of the word, for they were able to secure citizenship and find a new home elsewhere.

    Growing up in Jordan however, I have always been exposed to those not so fortunate. Many of those I know have been living in limbo for generations. People who have been born in Jordan, to refugee parents that are neither citizens of Palestine/Israel nor citizens of Jordan. This is my greatest fear; being a person without a country. Munir Atalla’s “Letter from Jerash” was particularly relevant. For starters, I attended the same school as Munir in Jordan; he was several years older than me though. Second, and more relevant to the topic at hand, he brings up the “right of return” and talks about “Jordan is Palestine” policy, that has been a controversial topic as long as I can remember. This was never an idea anyone wanted to discuss seriously. Jordanians would dismiss the idea as complete non-sense while Palestinians would insist that one day they will get the right to return. The idea that “Jordan is Palestine” is particularly and understandably unpopular in Jordan because that would mean that the country becomes a Republic or a Constitutional Monarchy at best, and in a political system where the majority rules, where it is “one man one vote”, the government would always be Palestinian since by the numbers, Palestinians (or those of Palestinian origin) far outnumber Jordanians.

    Finally, and personally, I do not believe that any party is really interested in solving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. The video places a lot of the blame on the United States, but I do believe that this is unfair. The United States is one of many parties at the negotiating table, and while yes, some administrations might be biased to one side over the other, at the end of the day the main stakeholders here are divided among themselves. The video oversimplifies the problem, completely ignoring issues such as that of religion. For example, the majority of Sunni Arab nations would much rather have a strong and friendly Israel in the region than a strong and hostile Iran (a Shiite State). Keeping Iran at bay is one reason Arab countries that originally opposed Israel, or had even gone to war with Israel, are willing to turn a blind eye to the Israeli- Palestinian Conflict. This is an extremely complex situation, and unfortunately, especially for all those who continue to live in refuge, I do not believe there is a solution in sight.

    1. And that is a sad state of affairs in my opinion. That the support and attention that the GCC nations should have for someone who is linked to them by culture, religion and common ethnic identification is put to the side for an attempt to place Saudi hegemony into the region, an effort by the way which is faltering and futile in the most obvious of manners. So, with that said the Palestinians are left without any real allies at all other than states that use them as pawns in their own regional fight for power and influence. This is a reality that for me is actually quite sickening to watch as it is so obvious that their treatment, especially in Gaza, is beyond horrific.

  8. Before this week, I knew very little about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I did not know the historical context or that the issue had been going on for so long. During the readings and videos, two topics really interested me: the two-state solution and the contact hypothesis. First of all, I was surprised at how many years ago the two-state solution was proposed. It seems like a rational solution to me, though I understand that disputes over territory would be very personal after so many years of conflict, so peace talks and coming to agreements would be very difficult. Although I would have thought that they would have been able to reach an agreement in the last thirty years, if for nothing else but to save human lives caught in the crossfire like the man accidentally killed by a sniper in the street. I worry that the conflict has spiraled into something that has been going on for so long, that people have hatred so deep they would not know how to adjust to a life without it. The other solution proposed, the contact hypothesis, has a better chance of making a difference, I believe. Instead of changing lines on a map through international politics, it would be making changes at a cultural level. In order for something to be accepted and implemented, such as new borders, the people must be even more accepting of it than the government. There has to be a cultural change and I think how organizations are trying to bridge the gap between the two peoples could create that change. The contact hypothesis also reminds of the mere exposure effect, which states that people prefer things that are familiar to them. So instead of one child looking at the other as an enemy, playing soccer together could change their viewpoints through exposure and contact, allowing them to realize their similarities and overcome prejudice. It would reduce the hatred between the two groups. Personally, I would advocate for the solution of bridging the communities to create more kinship before trying to implement the two-state solution.

    1. Yes, this is very true. I definitely see a large part of this issue coming from cultural acceptance. Many times the impact of religion is underestimated in this conflict, and yet, it is the very reason why this is happening if you look at the history of it. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis associate with different religions that dominate the culture they live in. It creates a great schism in the willingness to understand each other, and sadly, so much violence occurs as a result.

    2. Samantha I agree with you that a two state solution seems rational but it still poses problems for both sides. As you mentioned, this conflict has been going on for a very long time. The disputes are rooted in culture, religion and politics. Generations have been brought up on either side of the conflict and indoctrinated to their side’s beliefs. Soccer games and community activities are good and all, until it comes down to the negotiating table. Take Jerusalem for example, both sides believe that it is their capital; Israeli’s believe that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and Palestinians, namely the Muslims hold Jerusalem sacred because it was the first direction of prayer in Islam and remains the third holiest site in Islam. Such issues will always pose dispute. The majority would rather see no agreement and no peace reached at all, rather than Jerusalem being given up to the other side.

  9. While doing the readings for this week, particularly about the Israeli/Palestine conflict, I kept thinking back to a John Stewart skit with John Oliver called “Sir Archibald Mapsalot III.” In it, John Oliver plays a British man responsible for drawing lines in the Middle East after WWI. Western powers, but particularly Britain, have been more or less drawing lines and signing treaties dictating the borders of the Middle East and as a result, as the video explained, Israel provided a much-needed home to persecuted Jews, but caused a new group of refugees in the process. I think in some ways, refugee crises tend to be removed from their historical roots and are often seen as a problem of bad governments or violence. There is often little acknowledgement of how those in power came to be or what cause the outbreak in violence. Oftentimes, it is Western intervention that causes, or at the very least, exacerbates the issues at hand, but their role is seldom acknowledged.

    I think this is where international comes into play, because while evolving norms of sovereignty emphasize human rights and “responsibility to protect,” there is little accountability for these governments to follow international doctrines. And even when they do intervene, such as the US and peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, they tend to only make matters worse. International law, while it has the potential to create a lot of change and lay out legislative frameworks to better protect refugees, there is little to no enforcement mechanisms that force states to comply. Moreover, their role in creating international conflict is also often minimized, which makes people and other governments less likely to hold them accountable in working towards peace rather than if this was acknowledged. In that way, international organizations can do a lot of harm as well as good. For instance, the United Nations sanctioned the creation and growth of the Jewish state of Israel in Palestinian land, denying these people their rights to own and live on their land. These issues are complex and very rarely as cut and dry as they get portrayed, which also plays a role in states and IOs not being held accountable.

    1. Maggie, I’ve seen the Jon Stewart skit you are talking about. Many of the conflicts today, whether in the Middle-East, South East Asia or Africa are indeed due to arbitrary lines drawn by former colonial rulers. In fact, an interesting fact is that Jordan has straight borders because Winston Churchill drew them on a plot of desert, using a ruler, while he was drunk in a bar. That is besides the point though. Colonial history aside though, and in a bit fairness to colonial rulers, many of those places had already been in conflict prior to colonial rule. Warring tribes in the Middle-East and Africa, for example. It is true though that the colonial borders forced those different people into living together, which certainly added to the problem. As far as Palestine goes however, people of the three Abrahamic faiths can all trace history back to this region. What the video does not show is the history of all three Abrahamic Faiths in the region that is today Palestine/Israel. This means that people of all three faiths have some sort of claim to the land. This makes the issue all the more complicated.

  10. Last year a speaker from J Street came to one of classes. J Street is a pro-Israel advocacy group that pushes for a two-state solution. The speaker presented statistics on how Jewish Americans in the United States feel and how many did not even consider Israel to be one of their pressing issues despite what is understood by others. But the video described that since the U.S. has been involved Israel has expanded. Therefore where does the idea of the one state solution push in the United States comes from if the American Jewish population is more supportive of that decision?

    Something else that was surprising is thinking about Birthright and how it might relate to the displacement of Palestinians. I had not initially put context to the name and it sounds powerful, if you are Jewish you have the right to come on a free trip and explore what is your homeland. The messaging also appears to want to create feelings of nationalism amongst the younger abroad Jewish populations using phrases like “Invest together in a stronger Jewish future” and how will they becomes “stakeholders” in the “Jewish future.” This makes sense because as land continues to be occupied people need to come and live in it as well as continue to support the efforts. If anything, it appears as though “Birthright” different name to what America’s “manifest destiny” that encouraged the United States its essential mission to conquest the west. It is also interesting to think of the food trucks and bouncy houses that were on campus last year that was paid for by birthright and other similar organizations. Their campaigns stretch far and are sophisticated.

    1. I believe that a two state solution is the only way for peace in this conflict. In a one state solution, there are two scenarios: the Israelis and Palestinians live together as citizens in the same state, in which the Palestinians are now able to out vote the Israelis…My guess is that Israel would not accept this, so this scenario is unlikely to happen. The other scenario in one state is the continuation of what is currently going on: endless occupation over the Palestinians, and the Palestinians currently do not accept this. Two states is the only way for peace and I can’t seem to understand why some have such a negative view towards this option.

  11. The Israeli Palestinian conflict is one of the most divisive conflicts in the world today, and both sides have very strong views about the situation. It is definitely complex, but the video provided really simplified the conflict. I believe that there should not be violence coming from either side, because that just ignites the fire, and both sides will respond to provocation. With that being said, I think that it is important to understand that one side on this conflict is a top military power with nuclear weapons, and the other is a territory that is much made up of defenseless citizens. The Israeli side does have legitimacy in its argument that attacks come from the Palestinian side and they are simply defending themselves. Rockets should not be fired in the first place, however Israel has the Iron dome, the most advanced of missile defense technology in the world today. This defends well, but the occupation, settlements, and raids in Palestinian territories seems as though it is Just extra provocation.
    One of the most significant portions of this argument is the fact that one side clearly has refugees and the other does not. Another significant element is the fact that the Palestinian side is somewhat unheard because much of the lands resources and property rights go to Israelis, and it seems like by looking at the maps over the years, the size of the territories is decreasing more and more over time.
    The government of Israel does not seem to favor a two state solution, but this is the only way for peace in this conflict. There cannot be peace with a one state solution because in a one state solution, the Palestinians would outvote the Israelis which I don’t think the Israelis would be ok with, or the Israeli occupation just continues forever which I don’t think the Palestinians would be ok with. The only way for peace is a two state solution.

    1. The voices of Palestinians are constantly downplayed by governments and frequently unheard. They need people from around the globe to speak up on their behalf to stop the funding of the Israeli government, as well as resolutions be made to assist in the Palestinian refugees. This is a national security issue for all countries in the geographical region of Israel. Years of settlement by Israeli’s make the two state solution that much more difficult. Don’t you think? Interesting insight on your post this week. Thanks!

    2. I agree that the two-state solution seems the most peaceful. However, I also think it contradicts the right to return. Also, it underestimates the importance of religion to both peoples. The reality is that both groups consider Palestine their home, thus, there will always be conflict over the issue of borders for them. Not to mention, the conflict over the religion causes so much polarization that virtually no one is able to approach the issue with enough neutrality.

  12. This is a very interesting topic this week, as I was just in the Jordan area two weeks ago. The Israeli government continues to create policy that excludes Palestinians from “their” lands. With political and financial support from the United States, this government will absolutely continue to drive out and violate Palestinian human rights. The United Nations passing Resolution 194 did little to help refugees. This stated that refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date and be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property. This did little for refugees that returned home and then had their property disconnected from people and resources, inevitably leaving them to flee the area once again. The video illustrates the massive amounts of Palestinians(almost 1 million) were displaced from the place they thought they could call home. A migration of this size would easily disrupt a successfully working government and economic system. The issue that I see is that there seems to be no international plan to help these displaced individuals, and to stop the military occupation of Palestinians in Israel. I feel as though many of us seem to view Palestine as the specific locations such a Gaza Strip and West Bank as Palestinian lands, where the quality of life is not even remotely close to fair or just. It has been years that Palestinians have taken refuge in geographically close locations to Israel, but where do they see their homeland? Some may say Jordan, or Lebanon because they have lived there for so long. Unfortunately, the international community has seemed to turn a blind eye to these refugees, as other major crisis have come about in recent years. Palestinian voices of abuse and neglect have been swept under the rug for so long that they are in need of individuals from around the world that must come together to bring international attention to these human rights issues.

    1. Yes, they have been swept under the rug and here in the US the voices that attempt to bring it to light are so quickly labeled in the worst of manners. This causes there to be a narrative written in which one side is a dove and the other side a ravenous beast worthy of only contempt. This cannot go on forever and I would like to think that more and more people are seeing the situation for what it really is but western nations need to be partners in this as well and not only involved when it is the Israeli side that is attacked.

    2. I do think that many Palestinian refugees are disregarded in parts of the world because it is assumed to be an issue that the Israeli’s are dealing with. Many governments also decide not to get involved because of its extremely complicated nature. It’s sad to see a whole community without appropriate representation being swallowed up by a larger entity; the handling of Palestinian land occupation within Israel has been bigoted and unsympathetic in many ways. I always thought that because of past Jewish hardships, the government should behave in a more tolerant manner towards Palestinians, but communities respond to traumas in different ways and Israel seems to have taken the more “autonomous”, “strongly nationalistic” route.

  13. There are two parts of this crisis that essentially contradict each other: The right to return, along with the two-state solution which was decided after the 1967 war. At first, it seems obvious that the two-state solution would allow for both groups of people to coexist in peace. However, stating that Palestinians have the right to return to their native land, means that some of the regarded Israeli territory in the two-state solution would have to be surrendered to the Palestinians. Of course, the land was also home to the Israelis even before they sought refuge there post-WWII, which adds another layer to the issue.
    Also, although native Palestinians lived in Palestine even during the post WWII influx of israelis, many were driven out and did not return until years later, leaving much of Palestine under the control of the Israelis, who had already been granted the state by the EU. As a result, there is also a confusion over the ownership of this land. The right to return allows both groups to return “freely” to their native home, but how could a Palestinian comfortably return home when not only are they denied citizenship, but they are also denied basic human necessities such as drinking water or physical safety? Realistically, these are the conditions that Palestinians return home too, which only polarizes the problem greatly. Not to mention, since Israel and the U.S. are allies, naturally it is difficult for the U.S. to maintain neutrality, and therefore we wind up militarily supporting the Israeli cause. Consequently, this crisis is indeed, one of great polarization. Religion is one of the largest contributions as well, with the two main religions of the state being Judaism and Islam (and even a small percentage of Christians), many disagree over the official religion of the state, or whether there should even be one. Thus, in conclusion, the right to return and the two-state solution often polarize and continue fuel conflict in the Palestinian refugee crisis.

    1. : I think this is the major problem that I see. How can this be called a democracy when there is no citizenship rights being given to the Palestinians? They are not being given even basic human rights either. They are subjected to mass/ collective punishment and they are kicked out of their homes and they are not allowed to have full citizenship. This is not a democracy and the world needs to recognize that. The treatment of people will cause there to be animosity and leads to terrorism, I am not sure how people are shocked when there is animosity and hatred on the part of the Palestinians and then this is taken advantage of by terror groups? The conditions are ripe for it.

  14. Okay, everyone. you are off to a good start. We have begun this course with the most difficult case and you have approached it well.
    Just a few notes. A design difficulty here is that I assumed everybody already had some knowledge and we could look at one side and particular. This was probably unfair of me. If you didn’t know anything about the situation, you would certainly be persuaded by the Palestinian cause because those are most of the documents we have here. This makes sense. Next time I will be sure also to add some Israeli perspectives. Whatever disagreements there might be about current Israeli policies, they take place within historical and geographic perspectives, obviously the Holocaust, and a tiny minority religion surrounded by two hundred million potential enemies.

    Among the comments you made, you identified the world’s nation-state system is anarchic, that is, there is no one in charge of the different states. We talked about the United Nations or other international law, but as some of you identified international law is still mostly voluntary.

    Others of you did a very good job talking about the importance of History. You can look just at what Israel has done in the last 15 years. Or you can look at Israel Palestine in the last 20 or 40 years. Or you can look at the Arab-israeli wars in the decades before that. Or you can look at the role of Britain and other colonizers. You can also take a much longer View going back to the Crusades, or the Old Testament, etc. Some of you pointed out that not only is this ethnic or political, but it is religious, and has been for thousands of years.

    Some of you asked about the role of outsiders. Britain, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and others.

    Finally, we return to the question of what can be done about this situation. The readings about international law talk about the right to return and talk about not forcing people to return to unsafe areas. But fixing these questions in a place like Bosnia is in some ways a lot easier than fixing these issues in israel-Palestine. And as we will see next week fixing them in Bosnia is certainly not easy.

    I want to make a special note about the comments from those of you with particular experience in the Middle East. I was delighted by the depth of understanding that neither side is completely wrong or at least, neither side is completely right. The difficulties are refugees today in Jordan Lebanon the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and other places is simply amazing. If I had taught this class 10 years ago we would have been talking about the huge flow of refugees into Syria. That’s right, from Iraq into Syria, where Syria was a safe relatively prosperous place. Not only are things enormously difficult in this part of the world, but they’re also volatile and changing.

    So thanks again to all of you for trying to approach this enormously difficult topic with some sympathy to all the parties. Next, return to a place that I know much more intimately, and that I feel much more personally. More on this soon. Thanks again

  15. The Israeli-Palestine conflict is one of the most intriguing and intricate situations going on in the world. The root of this issue comes from a long history of colonialism, were the land was in a constant shift of occupiers. With this in mind, it would be very difficult to pick a “correct side”, considering that they each have valid points in their arguments. After World War II and the hardships that were experienced by the Jewish community it could only be assumed that they would want a land of their own as validation and recognition of their independence. It would also come as no surprise that the UN would grant this petition. The allocation of 55% of the “Palestinian land” wouldn’t have been such a controversial issue if the Palestinian parts of the land had been in that moment clearly defined. Over time, as the state of Israel grew it came to occupy 78% of historic Palestine, this is probably due to the fact that the sharing of a land is not possible if a government of a lot more developed nature is involved. Also keeping in mind that the Israeli spirit consists of strong, independent, survival instincts developed after harsh historical events. In order for the Israeli to rid them of any threat that might endanger their liberty and holy land, they would encourage The Nabka that took place and currently still exists. The 1951 Refugee Convention that was created after World War II caught my attentions, it seems to be of an ironic nature, a refugee law created primarily because of Jewish exploitation is now most needed by refugees created because of a Jewish Colonialist movement. In reality, this convention does not help Palestinians because most of the conditions they endure are unfair, but not necessarily violent or qualifying for asylum. Another part of the issue is that many of these Palestinians are as passionate about their land as the Israeli’s, meaning that they will not move to another country without a fight. Figuratively speaking, there is no way of solving this issue without unfairly taking away someone’s land. History has shown that these cultures cannot live together in peace because the willingness to compromise is lacking. Apart from this, there are also a lot of religious and political clashes. The ugly truth is that before this issue finds a viable answer were the outpour of refugee’s stops, years of repression will be reciprocated in the form of violence.

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