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water_technology
Many say that the next major war will not be for territory but for water. The precious liquid is needed for humankind’s very existence, yet it is becoming scarcer and scarcer as the world’s population continues to grow.

A tiny, arid country surrounded by deserts has been fighting, literally at times, for water since its inception in 1948. Israel is one of the world’s leaders in water conservation technology, simply because it has to be in order to survive. It has only gotten harder recently, with prolonged droughts and increasing population adding to the problem.

As a result of the Israel‘s harsh climate, it has developed world-class water technology, and this fact has now been recognized by the World Bank. Because of Israel’s advanced knowledge of water technology, they are in a position to help other countries with their own water problems.

Israel’s Ministry of Economy has given $500,000 to the World Bank Group’s Water Global Practice. The money will be used to increase and enhance water knowledge in developing countries. The agreement also includes sharing ideas, best practices and water industry expertise with developing countries.

Also included in the agreement are study tours, that are “expected to be held in Israel in the next two years and will include officials from developing countries, as well as World Bank Group staff. In addition, the agreement will include an analytical profile study of Israel’s experience in managing water and transferring of global expertise on water security.”

So what exactly does Israel bring to the table when it comes to water technology, and how can it help the developing world? Their advanced drip irrigation systems, for one. The Israeli inventor Rafi Mehudar has been developing drip irrigation systems for 40 years. Netafim is the company he has been working with, and both are now big players in the water tech industry – their drips reduce water usage by 90%, raise crop productivity and are being used in India, Brazil, China and Africa.

The one issue that comes with a large corporation making technology like this is that Netafim cannot sell to a family or single farmer – it is just not feasible, with a drip irrigation system costing $500. This is almost half of the average income an Indian made in 2014 of $1,140. This is where NGOs as well as governments come into the picture. The government in India is paying for half of every drip irrigation system bought from either Netafim or one of the company’s competitors.

Netafim relies on NGOs to organize farmers in Africa into groups to help with the costs. Often single farmers only have plots large enough to feed their family, so selling to a single farmer will not work.

Because of this, Israel sits on a fence edge when it comes to helping the global poor. While they have made the contribution to the World Bank Group, their immensely useful water technology is still only a business, and they rely on others to make it affordable for the developing world. Time will tell whether their technology is a sustainable help for countries with water issues of their own.

– Greg Baker

Sources: The Atlantic, World Bank Washington Post, Times of Israel
Photo: greenprophet

Palestinian Israel Tax Freeze
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to end a tax transfer freeze on the Palestinian Authority (PA). The Israeli government collects and transfers about $125 million each month to the PA, but cut them off last December after the PA was accepted into the International Criminal Court. Israel now plans to release the several months’ worth of revenue that it had previously withheld.

The freeze in tax transfers hit the Palestinian Territories hard. The economy was already in a recession, with unemployment at 25 percent and a budget deficit of 15 percent of GDP. The PA was then forced to cut public sector wages by 40 percent. Tax transfers account for 70 percent of the Palestinian Authority’s revenue and the freeze pushed the region to the brink of collapse.

Palestine’s stock market has contracted by 10 percent since this time last year. The Palestinian Central Bank had warned there was an imminent risk of a major financial crash. Hospitals reported a shortage of medicine and equipment.

The Israeli government cited the humanitarian crisis and the threat of increased instability in the West Bank as its primary reasons for resuming tax transfers. The Palestinian Authority had warned it was unlikely to survive for much longer without tax revenue. Israeli military officials had also warned that the Palestinian Authority was at risk of collapsing and disbanding.

The Israeli military also warned that the freeze was fueling instability and extremism and was a threat to Israel’s national security. Officials had previously recommended that the government end the freeze to prevent the spread of instability in the already unstable region.

This is good news for the West Bank, which has long struggled with high rates of poverty. The resumption of tax revenue will help to alleviate this and lesson the effects of the ongoing economic crisis. But since the Palestinian Authority is set to officially join the ICC on April 1, relations with Israel will remain strained and the threat of a future transfer freeze still remains.

– Matt Lesso

Sources: BBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal
Photo: Wall Street Journal

poverty in palestine
For years, the conversation on Palestine and its territories has almost exclusively focused on the relationship between Palestine, Israel and Egypt. For the 1.1 million Palestinians that live in poverty as a result of high unemployment, lagging wages and harmful inflation rates, Israel’s recent military actions in the Gaza strip have hardly encapsulated the extent of Israel’s effect on Palestinians.

Official statistics from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics reveal the poverty rates to be 25.8 percent in the Palestinian
Territory, 17.8 percent in the West Bank and a staggering 38.8 percent in the Gaza Strip for 2011, the last year for which statistics are available.

While these rates sound high, there’s more to the story than the statistics suggest.

In a sobering July 2013 report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, it was reported that “the Palestinian Authority suffered its most serious fiscal crisis since 2006” because of less foreign aid and “Israel’s withholding of Palestinian revenue.” In 2012, Palestine’s growth was halved from the previous two years to just six percent due to structural barriers imposed by Israel and the international market.

Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinian goods, for example, meant less money returned to the pockets of Palestinians, severely reducing growth and worsening already high rates of poverty. Furthermore, the illegal expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank left Palestinians with fewer options to physically export their goods, and many were simply incapable of accessing the same productive resources because of aggressive Israeli settlement expansion.

In the Jordan Valley, Palestinian workers are forced to take longer roads and go through checkpoints. These actions imposed by Israeli officials increase costs and decrease Palestinian competitiveness in the international market, ultimately reducing employment opportunities and deepening levels of extreme poverty.

Of course, not all of Palestine’s economic woes can be ameliorated with less aggressive Israeli policies. Low labor productivity contributes to poor Palestinian economic performance and leaves less money in the coffers of government officials, who spend large portions of the government’s budget on social spending. Illegal smuggling of economic goods is also a major drain to the taxable actions of Palestinian officials.

Overall, those living in poverty in Palestine make up a significant portion of the population, which consists of about nine million citizens.

While no World Bank data exists to detail the number of individuals living on two dollars a day or less in Palestinian-controlled territories, the research conducted by the United Nations and the statistics compiled by the Palestinian government provide a distressing picture of the state of the poor in Palestine. These poor are large in number, and if international donors do not pledge aid to assist Palestinians or if Israel adopts less-aggressive economic policies in the West Bank, the number of impoverished living in Palestine will surely increase.

Joseph McAdams

Sources: UNCTAD, PCBS, Reuters
Photo: GIJN

children villages
SOS Children’s Villages prevent children from being abandoned. They provide individuals with the opportunity to play a crucial role in a child’s upbringing. Yet the villages themselves are susceptible to the spillover of outside violence. Children are the most vulnerable to this violence. The proper means for child development cannot be provided if their well-being is not treated with more respect and concern.

There are provisions necessary for the proper development of a child. Children need to have a loving family, respect and security. Yet with the increase of conflict, children are being placed in more and more unsecure conditions which are stripping away at their quality of development.

In the Children’s Village of Rafah, a southern city of the Gaza Strip, the sounds of bombs can be clearly heard on a daily basis. The children do not understand the cause of the violence and are terrified by the sounds. Some ask the SOS mothers, “Why are there so many people being killed? Why are there so many houses being destroyed?” But the mothers cannot even answer and simply try to keep the children happy.

The Children’s Village in Israel, home to Muslim, Jewish and Christian children, is in just as much turmoil, its occupants disturbed by the sounds of war around them. Here the Children’s Village is based in the conflict zone area, accompanied with fortified protection for families to take refuge.

Still, many children are too scared to leave the sides of their SOS mothers, some even too afraid to go to the bathroom alone. Older children say that this may be how their lives always are, always fearful of the raging war.

In Africa, the SOS Village of Malakal was forced to evacuate after threats of rebel violence. The village was later overrun by rebels and now lies in ruins. Plans of relocation to Juba, the capital city, were politically denied. Now the children of Malakal Village have no permanent home.

Countless stories exist about children who are barely surviving on the streets in their countries. From Ammar, the 10-year-old Syrian boy who spends his days collecting litter and who wakes up to insects crawling all over his body, to Tahir, an 18-year-old survivor of the SOS Village Malakal raid who ran for his life after witnessing murder, the situation of children without proper homes is worsening in these violent regions.

Ashley Riley

Sources: SOS Children’s Villages 1, SOS Children’s Villages 2, Bor Globe
Photo: SOS Children’s Villages

joint distribution committee
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee aims to serve those across the globe who are in the most need of immediate assistance. Whether it is a matter of confronting human rights violations or simply providing for the world’s poor, the goal of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is to provide relief.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is active in over 70 countries and works to aid those with persisting poverty issues, as well as those negatively impacted by factors ranging from times of war to unexpected and destructive weather. The organization has been active since 1914 and seeks to provide a worldwide community for those in need.

Although the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee works worldwide to aid those in need, they operate on three basic principles in order to sustain Jewish culture. The organization aims to “save the poorest Jews, to develop tomorrow’s Jewish leaders, and to revitalize Jewish life.”

The organization has most recently been active in aiding people in Israel who have been under constant rocket fire from Gaza. The American Jewish Distribution has “activated their emergency phone chains and are regularly checking in on those they serve, providing for their safety, and meeting their needs as the emergency continues.”

Plans of action include delivering meals to those unable to leave their homes in areas such as Be’er Tuvia, Merchavim and Sdot Negev. Through the Better Together program, they are working to establish alternative activities to keep children busy and to decrease their levels of fear and anxiety caused by the long periods of time spent in bomb shelters.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution has provided assistance during the Carmel fires, Second Intifada and the Second Lebanon War. The organization is no stranger to providing assistance during times of conflict.

Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Holocaust Encyclopedia
Photo: Lastheplace

Israel
The United Nations Human Rights Council has just agreed to launch an investigation into violations that may have been committed by Israel during its last military offensive in Gaza.

The Gaza Health Ministry reported 664 Palestinian deaths from the attack; though it’s unclear how many of these were civilian, the United Nations estimates the count to be around 70 percent. With the country now under investigation, the Human Rights Council is pushing for increased precautions and an end to the blockade of Gaza, which is the underlying conflict between the two nations. Still, it’s unclear whether these actions from the U.N. will fix anything.

While Israel certainly holds more responsibility for the death count in the conflict (more than 550 Gazans were killed, compared to 25 Israeli soldiers and 2 Israeli citizens,) pressure from external forces is not changing the country’s stance on the issue.

“Israel must not agree to any proposal for a cease-fire until the tunnels are eliminated,” said Gilad Eran, the right-wing minister of communications. In fact, both sides remain adamant on their stance: while Israelis feel they withdrew from Gaza only to allow it to become a launching pad for rockets, Hamas refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.

Israel’s envoy to the UNHRC, Eviatar Manor, responded to the HRC’s comments, stating that Hamas was in fact committing war crimes by using people as “human shields” and insisted that it was a terrorist group. “There can be no moral symmetry between a terrorist aggressor and a democracy defending himself,” Manor preached.

Nevertheless, the conflict’s lopsided death toll has raised skepticism from parties other than the United Nations. The United States’ Secretary of State, John Kerry, recently urged a cease-fire, as well. Yet the battle seems to only be half-finished.

“With Hamas there, there is no option for a political solution,” said Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. “If anybody believes in peace negotiations, two-state solution, Gaza is clear proof we are far away.”

Nick Magnanti

Sources: The Guardian, CNN, The New York Times
Photo: Haaretz

protests_in_paris

On July 19, pro-Palestinian protests in Paris found trouble with the police. A ban was announced regarding a planned rally against violence in the Gaza strip, to which some Parisians responded actively.

In northern Paris, protestors launched projectiles at police, who responded with teargas and stun grenades. Demonstrators outwardly protested Israel by burning the Israeli flag. Other protests took form in climbing buildings and setting at least one car on fire.

By the end of the night, 38 of nearly 5,000 protestors were arrested as the riot came to a close.

The heightened conflict with Gaza has contributed to growing tensions in France between its Muslim and Jewish populations.

Following the protests, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls stated that France “will not tolerate attempts to—with violence, words or acts—import the Israeli-Palestinian conflict onto its soil.”

The ban took place as a result of a march on synagogues in Paris the previous weekend, which ended in eight arrests. President Francois Hollande banned possibly violent protests to prevent further clashes between citizens and police.

However, it was the ban itself that angered anti-Israeli Parisians who gathered on Saturday chanting “Israel, assassin.” These peaceful protests were not limited to the capital. All across France protests have taken place regarding the Gaza conflict.

President Hollande has taken a great amount of criticism for the government’s apparent failure to take a stand against Israel’s recent actions in Gaza. However, there is another side of opposition against Hollande from the far-right National Front who has criticized the government for being too “soft” regarding crimes and illegal immigration.

The European Decolonial Network, based in the Netherlands, started a petition to preserve the rights of the protestors and to dissemble the ban. So far, the petition has 200 signatures from around the world.

Jewish community leaders have complained that the ban on demonstrations promotes discrimination against the Jewish community in France.

Pro-Palestinian protestors were attacked by members of the Jewish Defense League, which often advocates the use of violence against Palestinian supporters.

One protestor compared the current situation to the liberation of African-Americans in the 60’s. Aya Ramadan stressed, “It’s evident that today when we see a mass of Arabs and black people coming together over the Palestinian cause…It’s relatively the same thing: Arabs supporting and independence movement abroad. And they face violent repression.”

Protests have been seen all around Europe, such as in Geneva and London. Nearly 300 protestors gathered outside the U.N. European Headquarters to demonstrate against Israel. In London, thousands marched peacefully outside of the Israeli embassy while clutching Palestinian flags and displaying banners that read, “Stop the bombing” and “Free Palestine.”

The conflict in Gaza rages on, and it seems that the rest of the world will remain involved until a solution is reached. Although Israel houses only about eight million people, this is a conflict that has harnessed the hearts and lives of the entire international community.

– Cambria Arvizo
Sources: Al Jazeera, The Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera, Reuters
Photo: The Independent

crisis in gaza
Since the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers last month by the terrorist organization Hamas, tensions between Israel and Gaza have skyrocketed. Israel retaliated this week by launching missiles into Palestinian territory, killing over 120 Palestinians, including many women and children, and injuring over 800.

Residents are warned before the bombings, but local hospitals in Gaza are still overwhelmed and unable to effectively treat the inundation of patients.

Emergency rooms across the territory are crowded and patients have resorted to sleeping on hospital floors. In Al-Shifa hospital, the central medical center in Gaza, all 12 beds in the intensive care unit are in use.

Gaza launched numerous missiles into Israel this week as well.

“Gaza is completely missing about 30 percent of essential drugs,” said Ashraf al-Qedra, Gaza’s Health Ministry spokesman.

The numbers of medicines, gloves, urine catheters and other medical supplies are dwindling.

Fuel shortages have further limited what medical treatment Palestinians have access to. Only half of the ambulances have enough fuel to run, and hospital lights may fail within the next few days as generators give out. This puts patients who rely on incubators, dialysis machines and other lifesaving equipment at especial risk.

As violence continues to devastate the Israel and Palestine region, there is a beacon of hope, a potential for peace; many injured Palestinians have been treated in Israeli hospitals, despite the airstrikes on both sides. If other Palestinians and Israelis overcome the differences of nationality and religion, the death toll may finally slow.

– Adam Kaminski

Sources: Al Jazeera America, CNN, New York Times
Photo: JFJFP

Hamas
For months, Israel and Egypt have bounced back and forth between missiles and peace talks. The most recent attempt at a ceasefire lasted mere hours. On July 15 in the earlier hours of the morning, the Israeli cabinet gathered to agree to the Egyptian-supported ceasefire set to begin at 9 a.m., along with Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups that reside in Gaza.

What seemed to be a hopeful outlook quickly turned into a fiery mess as Hamas backed out at the last second.

Hamas’ reasoning to back out of the ceasefire is vague, citing that the proposal written by the Egyptians barely assessed the needs of the Hamas leaders and heavily favored Israel more so than Hamas.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders have been asked to end the siege on Gaza and the Palestinian citizens that reside there. However, they decided to disregard the ceasefire. Instead, Hamas’s armed sector, Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, announced their presence in Israel would “increase in ferocity and intensity.”

In response, the Israeli military was forced to resume their operation against Hamas.

“Hamas has fired 47 rockets since we suspended our strikes in Gaza (this morning),” said an Israeli military agent.

NPR reporter Linda Gradstein said that during the eight days of non-stop fighting, Hamas fired more than 1,000 rockets at southern Israel and Israel bombed 1,600 sites affiliated with Hamas, according to an Israeli army spokeswoman.

The intensity of battle has left the Gaza Strip in ruins, with many Palestinians paying for it with their lives. The attempts at peace talks and ceasefires have left leaders with nothing but dirt and missiles in their hands.

With this conflict holding such deep roots in history, it is likely that it will take more than a few agreements to settle this centuries-old dispute.

“ [It is] clearly unsustainable that Israel would hold its fire any longer and let its cities be bombarded by rockets,” said an Israeli official during a conversation with Time Magazine.

The Gaza Strip inspires nothing but animosity between the groups fighting to control it, with little to no regard for those that are paying the steep price of war with their lives.

The lack of consideration for the loss of human life on both sides of this conflict leaves the world wondering how the end of the fighting can benefit anyone, especially as so much has been lost already.

– Elena Lopez

Sources: Reuters, NPR, Time
Photo: NPR

medical aid
The World Health Organization warns of the critical medical situation within Palestine and the Gaza Strip. The four days of rocket attacks from both Palestine and Israel has left those in Gaza in a critical state.

The recent violence has increased medical emergencies, and the Palestinian healthcare system is struggling to cope with the new burden. WHO reported that large amounts healthcare debt, in addition to medical and fuel shortages, have severely crippled health services in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Unless the international community takes immediate action, Palestinians will not be able to have their basic medical needs met.

With the most recent strikes by Israel on Gaza on June 11, 2014, the death toll in Palestine has reached nearly 100. Over 570 people have been injured since the conflict started on July 6, 2014. Those in Gaza continue to fight back, and it appears that the conflict will only continue to escalate.

The fighting has weakened the already inadequate medical system in Palestine, and especially in Gaza. WHO is now making an international plea for funding and medical aid to help Palestinians receive urgent medical care.

To make matters worse, the hospitals in Gaza only have 10 days worth of fuel left to run the buildings. The lack of fuel is alarming, as the fighting continues to interrupt electricity. In an effort to conserve money, the hospitals are only performing operations on those in life-threatening conditions. Those with less threatening, but still serious, medical problems cannot receive treatment.

The Israeli airstrikes damaged a hospital, three clinics and a water sanitation facility in a refugee camp in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. The organization reports that hospitals in East Jerusalem are struggling financially because of unpaid referral services, and there is a shortage of medications in both the West Bank and Gaza.

While the attacks on Israel have left multiple civilians injured, the poorer and militarily inferior Palestine is grappling to provide essential services for those injured and affected by the conflict.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health, with backing from WHO, is making a pressing appeal for $40 million in aid, enough to provide critical medical supplies for six months. The United Nations has also stepped in to help organize the relief effort.

The hope is that with numerous aid agencies involved in bringing the severity of the situation in Palestine into the international spotlight, hospitals will receive the supplies they need, and victims of the fighting will receive the care they desperately require.

– Kathleen Egan
Sources: The New York Times, WHO, Ma’an News Agency
Photo: The New York Times