Voices critical of Israel’s role in the Middle East sometimes argue that its occupation of the West Bank, much of the Golan Heights and the Gaza Strip is imperialist in nature. Such criticism draws a parallel with 19th and 20th century European imperialism, casting the Palestinians as the indigenous inhabitants of the region and the Israelis as a hostile ‘foreign’ power. Another implication of this characterization, however, is that the occupation is economically motivated, or is best understood in economic terms. Today, to complement our discussion of ‘Economics, Politics and War’ last week, we examine some aspects of the political economy of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Specifically (and with the help of Miriam Qamar’s recent essay “Thoughts on the Dialectics of Revolution and Palestinian Nationalism”), we do so through a Marxist lens. » More
September marks the beginning of term not only for students but also for hundreds of UN diplomats in New York. Taking over the role of Assembly president from Joseph Deiss (Switzerland), Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser (Qatar) opened the 66th UN General Assembly last Tuesday. After having had a couple of days to deal with organizational matters, the GA started its substantive deliberations today:
- High-Level Meeting on Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are non-infectious illnesses such as cardiovascular and chronic lung diseases, cancer or diabetes. The high-level meeting will discuss methods to help prevent and control such diseases, which kill three in five people worldwide. The GA will especially be focusing on NCDs’ economic and social impacts, particularly on developing countries.
- Following this, tomorrow (Tuesday), a second, lower-key, High-Level Meeting on Desertification will take place. Participants will address the issues of desertification, land degradation and drought in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. The meeting is being held under the auspices of the 1996 UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
- The General Debate, which is what the media mean when they say ‘General Assembly’, starts on Wednesday 21 September and will continue through next week. » More
Following the breakdown of direct peace talks last autumn, the Palestinian Authority (PA) ruling the West Bank has now come to adopt a new diplomatic strategy: its aim is securing United Nations’ recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. And chances are that this plan will succeed.
Israel and the United States both oppose such a move, arguing a real solution can only be reached through negotiations. However, if no changes are made between now and September 2011, the UN is almost certain to declare a Palestinian state. And if a state of Palestine is declared, Israel will inevitably be put into the uncomfortable position of being considered an occupier of another UN-member country.
Hardly surprising, therefore, the Palestinian march towards statehood is unnerving both Israel and the United States. As a result they have come out with new peace plans to act as counterweights: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is to travel to Washington next month, where he will present his initiative, has not yet spelled out the content of his plan. However, it is said to include a repositioning of Israeli occupation forces in parts of the West Bank, as well as some improvements of Palestinian daily life. Furthermore, Israel is said to transfer some of the territories classified as Area B and Area C to Palestinian control. But not a single Jewish settlement will be dismantled. » More
Recently, Israel has experienced several inner conflicts. But this time, Palestinians have nothing to do with them. It is a series of conflicts and tensions between the two faces of the Israeli population: Orthodox Jews and secular Jews. As a report by the Institute for National Security Studies of Tel Aviv mentions, “a different but no less serious challenge to Israel is the deep ideological divisions among the Jews themselves.”
Examples of this division can be observed almost daily in the local media. From the settlement policy to the future of Palestine, the ideological difference is clear. Part of the Orthodox minority, most of them are settlers, is determined to occupy, if not conquer, the land they believe God gave them. As a short example of their determination, the government needed 40,000 troops and policemen and months of preparation to remove fewer than 8,000 settlers from the Gaza Strip over a period of a few months.
Until recently, this minority had little to say in terms of national policy. But the last election that saw Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gathering a right-wing coalition changed the presence of the orthodox group on the political stage. The coalition government now includes several members of the Shas party and even one member of The Jewish Home. Theses religious parties are strong advocates of the presence of the Halakha, the Jewish law, in Israeli law. This once-stable coalition is now starting to fall apart: » More