EL MONTE, California — In the Middle East today, a historic struggle between the countries of Israel and Palestine has had major impacts on the Palestinian people. The devastation caused by this quarrel continues to wreak havoc across the affected territories. The impacts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are severe and call for an urgent end to the discord as human rights violations continue.
The Impact on Palestinians
More than one million Palestinians are living in poverty due to the Israeli-led blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2007. The blockade has devastated the economy of Palestine, costing more than $16 billion for the Palestinian inhabitants. Since the 2007 blockade of the Gaza Strip, the people of Gaza have had very little access to clean water, electricity or proper sanitation. Furthermore, it has reduced access to basic goods while external trade ceased indefinitely.
Additionally, the poverty rate in Gaza has increased to 56% in 2017 from 40% back in 2007, leaving millions of Palestinians without the ability to afford basic necessities. Data indicates that Palestinian live at double the poverty rate when compared to Israel’s average poverty rate. The high poverty rates that plague Palestinians are mostly due to the “discriminatory policies” that the Israeli government has placed
against them in terms of resource allocation” and building permits.
The Effects of COVID-19
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has, unfortunately, not resulted in peacemaking efforts. As conditions deteriorate, the conflict between Israel and Palestine makes the struggle to combat COVID-19 even more difficult. The number of COVID-19 cases in Palestine increased from just “a few cases a day in April to around 2,500 cases a day or more by late November and early December.” The Palestinian Authority (PA) ended coordination with the Israel Civil Administration, further complicating efforts of bringing medical supplies and equipment into occupied territories.
Israel is currently the second leading nation globally for the number of COVID-19 vaccinations per head of population. Israel eased COVID-19 restrictions earlier in February 2021 as the vaccinations proved to be effective. The vaccination campaign started in December 2020 with many Israelis and Palestinians living in East Jerusalem having access to the vaccine. Israel was not offering the vaccine to other Palestinians outside of East Jerusalem until March 2021 when Palestinians came to work in Israel or in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
The vaccination program recently started in the West Bank and Gaza as COVID-19 cases started climbing once more. In March 2021, the first batch of vaccines provided by COVAX arrived in the West Bank and Gaza. This should cover up to 20% of vaccine requirements for Palestinians. The UAE also supplied Gaza with 20,000 Russian vaccines. Fortunately, Israel itself says it will be providing 5,000 of its secured doses to the Palestinians.
The two-state solution is one of the most proposed efforts to resolve the conflict. The two-state solution plan would create two separate states for both Israelis and Palestinians. The Israel state would have a Jewish majority and the Palestinian state would have a Muslim majority.
Another alternative is the one-state solution. The one-state solution would allow for one common state where both sides “live as citizens with equal rights.” While the conflict is ongoing, achieving peace between these two nations is essential to improve living conditions for those affected.
The Jerusalem Center for Women
While the conflict continues, organizations are dedicating efforts to helping the people whom the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has affected most. The Jerusalem Center for Women (JCW) was “founded in 1994 and located in East Jerusalem.” The main focus of the nonprofit is to empower Palestinian women to become “resilient agents of change within their own communities.” The nonprofit also works to raise awareness of the human rights violations that Israeli forces have committed against Palestinians. Women are often the first victims in situations of conflict and violence, and the JCW seeks to protect and empower them.
Fadwah Khawjah, the head of the board at the Jerusalem Center for Women, told The Borgen Project that the Palestinian side is the obvious weaker side, deprived of basic necessities and rights like safety, education, health and free movement. Palestinians are being oppressed by Israel through acts of abuse, persecution and displacement. Khawjah states further that it is the responsibility of powerful global leaders like the U.S. and the EU to formulate a way to end the conflict and achieve peace in a way that secures rights for both Palestinians and Israelis.
Speaking more on the ways that the U.S. can help address the impacts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Khawjah says, “The United States can help spread awareness to help marginalized people in Palestine by providing them with unconditioned aid through effective institutions in the community.” She explains further that Palestinian women’s organizations need the support of women’s organizations in the United States to help them achieve the greater goal of reconciliation and conflict resolution.
The Road Ahead
As far as future plans go, the goal of the JCW now lies in building a system with the women of Israel to achieve peace and safety for both groups based on UNSCR 1325. UNSCR 1325 asserts “that peace and security efforts are more sustainable when women are equal partners in the prevention of violent conflict, the delivery of relief and recovery efforts and in the forging of lasting peace.” An outcome that the JCW hopes to achieve is a policy that is the base of peace talks and negotiations for both Israel and Palestine. The JCW seeks to have a peace accord based on UNSCR 1325 and is currently working toward this with an Israeli group of women lawyers called Itach Ma’aki.
While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues, global leaders and international entities must focus their efforts on establishing peace and protecting the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians in the country.
– Jose Ahumada