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Whither the MEPP?

In reading the history of the Palestinian-Israel conflict, I found the role of the United States, extremely disheartening. Even before the War on Terror, the United States readily accepted the characterization of Palestinian resistance as “terrorism” meanwhile dismissing the IDF’s asymmetrical use of force as legitimate. A more recent history of the conflict more easily portrays the Palestinian side as the larger perpetrator of terrorism, however, before the creation of the Jewish state, both Jews and Arabs committed acts of terrorism against the British whom they viewed a colonial power denying them their right to control to their native lands. After Britain issued the 1939 White Papers reversing the Balfour Declaration, Ben-Gurion, who would later become the first Prime Minister of Israel declared: “We shall fight the war as if there were no White Paper; we shall fight the White Paper as if there were no war!”[1]. When war eventually broke out in 1948, all sides, including the British, used terror as a method during their respective military campaigns.[2] Violence has been used by all sides to try and maintain dominance. Though it is easy to characterize violence as categorically counterproductive, this does not seem historically true. Israel owes part of its existence to the use of terrorism.

Lustick’s argument, that the Israel-Palestinian conflict will endure so long as the United States continue to unilaterally support Israel, is convincing. The inauguration of former president Trump bolstered the Israeli side at the expense of the Palestinians. In line with Trump’s general foreign policy strategy of unilateralism, the last administration ignored international law and only ambiguously announced its support of a two-state solution. Over the last four years, the decision to support settlements in the West Bank, move the United States embassy to Jerusalem and cut off high-level talks with the PLO only further isolated the Palestinians and distanced both sides from the possibility of long-lasting peace.[3]

So long as the status quo is comfortable enough to Israel, peace in the levant will appear a pipe dream. The Camp David Accords were only signed by Begin when Carter threated to cut off all aid to Israel.[4] Though this coercive diplomacy was effective in forcing Begin’s hand, it was ineffective in bringing either side to discuss final status issue such as Jerusalem and the Golan Heights because these issues never even appeared on the table. The Peel Commission was accepted by the Jewish Agency when they felt themselves the underdog. Perhaps when both sides perceive an absolute gain in cooperation and compromise the Palestinian-Israeli conflict may finally be laid to rest.

[1]Bickerton, Ian J., and Carla L. Klausner. A History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. (London: Routledge, 2018), 66.

[2] Bickerton, Ian J., and Carla L. Klausner. A History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. (London: Routledge, 2018), 121

[3] https://www.bloomberg.com/quicktake/two-state-solution

[4] Bickerton, Ian J., and Carla L. Klausner. A History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. London: Routledge, 2018, (234)

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Me, Water, and MENA

My daily water intake  is 2,003 gallons per day and my household daily intake is 13,098 per day. I completely underestimated my personal and even household numbers for two main reasons. One, my two sisters and I don’t eat meat. Two, my family recycles all of our papers and plastics.

In a lot of ways, I think my family’s socioeconomic status acts as a double-edged sword. Living a sustainable vegetarian diet is only possible because I have access to a reliable grocery store with healthy meat alternatives and protein supplements. Also, we have been able to reduce our water footprint because of  our county’s recycling system – a privilege also afforded to us by socioeconomics and geography.

However, access to water also means there are areas in which I abuse and overconsume. My food intake and recycling put me under average but my overconsumption of clothing more than overcompensates for that. Quite honestly, before calculating, I wouldn’t have ever guessed that durables would have such an effect on water consumption. I believed diet, taking short showers, and turning the water off made me “eco-conscious”. I was more than wrong.

The MENA area I am studying, North Africa, is comparatively worse off than Gulf and Levant countries with respect to overall water access. Given the scarcity of the resource, there is potential that it will cause domestic skirmishes or small-scale conflict in the future. However, after a quick Google search on Morocco, I found that access to water has increased substantially over time thus, overall, access is positively trending. If I am to argue from the liberal IR camp, I would see Morocco’s increase in access due to their capability to use virtual water and other compensatory factors that make up for geography.

 

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Other

The best way to describe my neighborhood of Chevy Chase, Maryland, is wealthy, white, old, and liberal. According to the 2019 United States government census, about 86% of Chevy Chasers were white – 10% higher than the national average. The median age in Chevy Chase is 47 while 38 is the national average age, and, in 2016 election, Chevy Chase residents donated 98% of campaign donations to Hilary Clinton. Indeed, The Guardian, wrote a 2015 article titled, “Chevy Chase, Maryland: the super-rich town that has it all – except diversity”.

Since going to college, I haven’t engaged with my hometown community as much as I had in my adolescence. My connections are probably best maintained through the small tutoring pod I’ve taught since August. The pod consists of three black middle school girls from the neighborhood.

In a way, I am the “other” in my neighborhood. Apart from the girls that I tutor, I don’t see other Black Chevy Chase residents shopping in our local market or walking on the sidewalks.As an “other”, I feel noticed but not ostracized; looked at but not glared at. I recognize that a part of my feeling of belonging comes from the other ways in which I may “fit in.”

In my neighborhood, though race poses as a social distinguisher, the most obvious indicator or “otherness” is socioeconomic status. The people whose labor maintains our lawns manicured and our homes remodeled aren’t truthfully recognized as a central feature of our community. Because their presence isn’t permanent, it often goes unacknowledged. I think “othering” looks different from community to community, but in my neighborhood, the “other” is too ignored to even be acknowledged as “other”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where I Live, Where They Live

I went on a graduation trip to Europe and the Middle East the summer before entering college. Given that the trip was nearly a month long, we decided to visit 4 countries, 3 of which I could pick. My Dad had taken a business trip to Israel nearly 18 years before and adamant that we revisit with him that summer.

The culture shock had set in long before we actually landed in Israel. While in a security line to board the plane, my younger brother, only 6 at the time, was holding a small plush toy. Right before we went through the metal scanner, one of the security officials took his toy and threw it in the trash for “safety concerns”.

On the first day, we headed straight for Jerusalem guided by one Palestinian tour guide and one that was Israeli. I remember seeing, in  the airport TV, that a man had been shot in front of the Rock of the Dome in Jerusalem two days prior.  On the way there, our bus was stopped right before we entered Jerusalem and armed soldiers boarded to check our passports. I began to realize the gravity of the situation. When we finally arrived at the Old City, I quickly learned that I had underdressed and would not be allowed into the Churches unless I covered my knees and my shoulders. I ended up wearing a man’s XXL T-Shirt and an ankle-length dress on top the dress I already had on. As we walked through the Old City, the tour guides would swap in and out when we approached areas where one wasn’t allowed to go. Other than being uncomfortable because I was wearing three layers in 112-degree weather, the culture shock in seeing so many armed men and women was hard to get accustomed to. Only recently, however, my own backyard, Washington DC looked similarly armed.  However, just as in Israel, people kept living in spite of the heightened tensions.

When I reflect on my time in Israel, the more culturally shocking events are highlighted by my memory. However, I was only apprehensive in those acute, punctuating moments. While I remember the armed guards, I also remember wading in the Dead Sea, visiting the Masada, and cooling off with strawberry ice-cream afterwards. I remember feeding birds with my younger siblings and grabbing coffee at an Elvis-themed diner in the desert.

Outside of my mini trip to Israel, everything else I think I know about the Middle East is grabbed from headlines and viral clips. I recognize that that scope is severely limited. Headlines are sensational. The DC I saw on TV looked like a scene from a Hollywood dystopian film. However, as I walked through the capital in the weeks following the insurrection, I saw tanks and armed military officials, but I also saw joggers sprinting right past them.

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