This was inevitable. Whenever I tell people I study conflict resolution, the immediate reaction is “Oh, Israel?” As if that’s the only conflict in the world. But the more I immerse myself in my studies, the more I realize that while it isn’t the only conflict in the world, it serves as a model for many others. I have come to understand that “Israel/Palestine” is not just one conflict but many conflicts building on top of one another. Israel/Palestine is an identity conflict. It is a geopolitical conflict. It is an ethnic conflict, and yes a religious one too. It is an asymmetrical conflict. It is a conflict for security, acknowledgment, and legitimacy. And finally, with climate change finally escalating to a point where it drastically affects the lives of people, particularly those in poverty and conflict zones, Israel/Palestine has also become an environmental conflict. Specifically, a water conflict.
My fellow graduate research students and I will be departing the United States bright and early on 1 January 2010 to examine the aspects of environmental policy, management, and conflicts at the regional and national levels in the Middle East. We will be focusing on the Jordan River biosphere, looking at case studies of desertification, restoration, development and water crises. On a broader level, it will give us an opportunity to also examine how quickly the environment can be damaged as a result of political conflict, the need for development and carelessness.
I would get more into detail about the specifics of the conflict, but Amnesty just released a report that would make for better background reading than anything I can write at this time: http://www.amnestyusa.org/pdf/mde150272009en.pdf
(As a warning, the rhetoric can be a bit abrasive at times.)