Restricting the activities of secret agencies in collecting and exchanging data in order to prevent potential terrorism.
by Kilian Justus
In the past decades, the world has undergone a radical process of digitalization. With annual global computer sales more than doubling between 2000 and 2010, nearly 75% of the world’s population owning mobile phones, and the percentage of global internet users climbing from 16% in 2005 to 39% in 2013, the world is becoming increasingly interconnected and communication is becoming more accessible than ever. Nonetheless, this revolution in global communication also gives birth to a series of new questions: What is privacy, in the 21st century? How do privacy standards, such as the one set forth in Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, translate to the modern age? To which extent may secret agencies collect and process private data, whether at home or abroad, and circumvent privacy rights in the attempt of assuring security?
Definition of Key Terms
National Security Agency (NSA) - The National Security Agency (NSA) plays one of the most central roles in the debate concerning governmental collection of data to prevent potential terrorism, which lit up in the past year. It is an organization which works for the US Government and is tasked with both “information assurance” (encrypting communications from the US Government) and “signals intelligence” (reading encrypted communications and gathering intelligence, this is often contracted to SIGINT).
Central Security Service - The Central Security Service is a US organization which performs “codemaking and codebreaking work” for the armed forces of the US – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. The NSA and the CSS work closely together. In fact, the Director of NSA is also the Chief of the Central Security Service.
PRISM - PRISM is a clandestine intelligence operation (a clandestine operation is one carried out in a way that it goes unnoticed by the general public) which was launched by the NSA in 2007, with later participation by the GCHQ. It collects stored communication information via demands made to internet companies, and thereby conducts surveillance over global online communications. The existence of the program was uncovered in 2013 by Edward Snowden.
XKeyscore – XKeyscore is a computer system of the NSA used for searching and analyzing worldwide internet data. According to Snowden, the system enables nearly unlimited surveillance of all people in all countries of the world. The former NSA contractor revealed XKeyscore to the public in July 2013. According to the NSA, the program is used only to legally obtain required information to “defend the nation and to protect the US and allied troops abroad”.
Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) – The Government Communications Headquarters, a British intelligence agency, which provides its government and armed forces with signals intelligence (SIGINT) and information assurance, is sometimes referred to as the British counterpart of the NSA. As a result of the ongoing global surveillance disclosures emanating from Edward Snowden’s cache of sensitive data, the GCHQ has received considerable recent media attention for its Tempora program.
Tempora – Established in 2011, Tempora is a clandestine security electronic surveillance program operated by the GCHQ. By intercepting fiber-optic cables, it possesses access to vast amounts of personal internet data. Like PRISM, Tempora was exposed by Snowden. Amongst others, his documents also reveal that data collected by the Tempora program is shared with the NSA.
Global Surveillance Disclosures (2013-Present)
Since June 2013, the global media have published reports disclosing confidential information about the National Security Agency and its partners’ - particularly the GCHQ’s - surveillance of foreign residents and US citizens. The majority of these reports emanates from a stockpile of documents from ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Although the precise number of documents Snowden stole remains unknown, the US Pentagon estimated that he copied about 1,7 million US files. Nevertheless, only a fraction of these have been published so far. It appears likely that there is more to come. In fact, NSA officials have expressed concern that whistleblower Snowden possesses documents sometimes referred to as “Keys to the Kingdom”, which could offer a rival nation a “roadmap of what we know, what we don’t know, and give them – implicitly – a way to protect their information from the US intelligence community’s view,” as Richard Ledget, current Deputy Director of the NSA, explained.
Some of the reports of the past year revealed that a number of agencies aside from the NSA and the GCHQ conducted national or international surveillance on surprising scales as well, or supported the NSA in its espionage. To begin, the French General for External Security has been monitoring the majority of telephone and internet communications within France, in violation of French law. Other documents reveal Australia to have contributed to the NSA’s XKeyscore. Der Spiegel revealed Germany’s “Bundesnachrichtendienst” (BND) and “Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz” (BfV) to contribute to the NSA’s XKeyscore network. Sensitive files also proved the NSA to share certain information with Israel, and the Dutch intelligence service was also reported to gather data from ordinary citizens, and to share information from Afghanistand and Somalia with the NSA. Finally, the Communications Security Establishment Canada was found to have run a two-month program which tracked the electronic devices of those logging onto free wireless internet services in airports.
Snowden’s Most Important Exposures
Between June 2013 and now, countless documents have been published, revealing the extent of the surveillance of the NSA and the GCHQ step by step. Below, only those points most probable to be pertaining to the attempts of the two organizations to combat terrorism are listed. The individual revelations include the dates they were made open to the public.
According to Snowden’s documents,
- the NSA collected metadata from millions of Americans’ phone calls. (June 5, 2013)
- the NSA has direct access to the servers of some of the biggest US technology companies through its PRISM program. (June 6, 2013)
- the NSA hacked civilian computer networks in both Hong Kong and mainland China. (June 14, 2013)
- the GCHQ’s Tempura conducts mass surveillance by tapping into fiber optic cables which carry immense amounts of internet and telephone data. (June 21, 2013)
- the NSA collected 1 trillion online metadata records as of December 2012. (June 27, 2013)
- the GCHQ passes metadata into the NSA’s systems. (June 27, 2013)
- the NSA can track 1 billion daily mobile calls. (June 28, 2013)
- the NSA monitors 500 million data connections in Germany every month. (June 30, 2013)
- the NSA accesses internet and telephone data of millions of foreign citizens through partnerships between foreign and American telecommunication companies. (July 6, 2013)
- the NSA conducts surveillance of citizens of Latin American countries including Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, and El Salvador. (July 9, 2013)
- the NSA maintains a network of 500 servers around the world to collect internet data as part of the XKeyscore program. (July 31, 2013)
- the NSA paid GCHQ over $155 million, in part because British law allows for greater surveillance than American law. (August 1, 2013)
- the GCHQ has direct access to fiber optic cable networks of seven telecom companies, including BT, Vodafone, and Verizon Business. (August 2, 2013)
- the NSA collected as many as 56,000 American emails annually over three years. (August 21, 2013)
- the NSA annually pays hundreds of millions of dollars to private US companies for access to their communication networks. (August 29, 2013)
- the NSA has cracked methods of encryption used by millions, keeping a database of common decryption keys. (September 5, 2013)
- the NSA has collaborated with technology companies to implant back doors into consumer products. (September 5, 2013)
- the NSA has performed bulk data collection on international financial networks. (September 16, 2013)
- the GCHQ has hacked the Belgium telecom company Belgacom in an attempt to gain access to smart phone data. (September 20, 2013)
- the NSA stores metadata of millions of web users-regardless of whether they are agency targets-for up to a year. (September 30, 2013)
- the NSA and GCHQ have attacked the TOR network, which permits users to conceal their identities while browsing. (October 4, 2013)
- the NSA collects over 250 million email inbox views and contact lists a year-data of both US and foreign citizens. (October 14, 2013)
- US drone strikes draw on information from closely-targeted NSA surveillance. (October 16, 2013)
- the NSA monitors French citizens, having collected 70.3 million phone records from French citizens over a single thirty-day period (October 21, 2013)
- the NSA spies on Italian citizens, intercepting intelligence from three fiber optic backbones in Italy. (October 24, 2013)
- the NSA conducts surveillance over Spanish citizens, having collected 60 million Spanish telephone calls in a thirty day period. (October 25, 2013)
- the NSA has hacked into connections between data centers owned by Google and Yahoo, allowing for direct access to unencrypted user data. (October 30, 2013)
- the GCHQ cooperates with intelligence agencies in Germany, France, Spain and Sweden to develop its mass surveillance capabilities. (November 1, 2013)
- the NSA’s core philosophy lies in collecting all data it legally can, no matter how significant. (November 2, 2013)
- the NSA acquired data on 33 million Norwegian cell phone calls in one 30-day period. (November 19, 2013)
- the NSA plans on achieving greater legal power and technological dominance, to access data from “anyone, anytime, anywhere” it requires. (November 22, 2013)
- the NSA has infected more than 50,000 computer networks worldwide with malicious spying software. (November 23, 2013)
- the NSA collects a daily five billion cell phone location records from ordinary people around the world and saves these into a massive database. (December 4, 2013)
- the NSA, Pentagon, FBI, and GCHQ have been monitoring online games played by millions of people worldwide, claiming that terrorists may use gaming platforms to communicate. (December 9, 2013)
- the NSA stores both metadata and content from foreign SMS en masse. (January 16, 2014)
- the NSA collects data, such as users’ physical locations, from smartphone apps. (January 27, 2014)
- the GCHQ monitored and analyzed trend information on YouTube, Facebook, and blogs. (January 28, 2014)
- the GCHQ utilizes “dirty tricks”, methods such as jamming cell phones, spreading propaganda online, honey trapping, or sending anonymous messages, against its adversaries. (February 7, 2014)
- the GCHQ collects metadata and images from millions of global Yahoo video chat users, scanning the data with facial recognition technology. (February 27, 2014)
- the NSA has constructed a way to implant millions of global computers with malware, granting it access to most sensitive data of private users. (March 12, 2014)
- the NSA collects both metadata and contents from all phone calls within target countries and stores them for 30 days. (March 18, 2014)
Critique of Disclosure
Governmental officials of the US and UK have criticized media reports on the global surveillance disclosures and the disclosures as a whole. Obama stated in January 2014, that “the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out has often shed more heat than light”. After its first investigations, the Pentagon referred to Snowden’s revelations as the “biggest theft” of US secrets in history. A former director of the GCHQ called the disclosure the “most catastrophic loss to British intelligence ever”. In general, the two countries display that which Snowden refers to as carrying out his responsibility as a citizen, as treason, and as a breach in their countries’ security.
Defense of Surveillance Programs
Accordingly, the accused security agencies and their supporters have listed numerous arguments in defense of the surveillance programs. Amongst others, Obama has defended the US programs as key in combating terrorist threats, saying that “they may identify potential leads with respect to folks who might engage in terrorism”. It is unclear however, how many terrorist attacks were truly prevented through the collection of data. In one analysis of 225 terrorism cases inside the US since September 11, 2001, the NSA was found to have had “no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism”.
Nevertheless, outside the US, there have been certain discoveries concerning criminal networks made by the NSA programs. To give an example, the espionage on international bank transactions has seen some degree of success. Afterall, according to NSA analysts, financial transfers are the “Achilles’ heel of terrorists” and often provide a more complete picture of individuals. Hence, the monitoring of financial transactions has led to the placing of Arab banks on the US Treasury’s blacklist, proof for one bank to be involved in illegal arms trading, and evidence that a financial institution was backing a dictatorial regime in Africa.
The NSA has also protected its programs by explaining the collection of data only occurs with legal permission, when appropriate warrants are granted. Nonetheless, according to some documents, American intelligence staff did not require warrants to freely spy on foreign citizens. Furthermore, accusations of breaches in citizens’ privacy have been downplayed with the argument that the data processed is metadata, not the actual content of phone calls, emails, or the like. Still, a number of Snowden’s documents oppose this statement.
Violated Agreements and Broken Laws
There exist a number of agreements and laws which the NSA and the GCHQ have clearly violated and are still breaking. To give an example, the NSA’s surveillance of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) violates an agreement with the European Union which was met in 2010. Most significantly however, the secret agencies’ surveillance interferes with legislature of sovereign countries on national levels. By spying on communications in, for example, Germany, the NSA impedes German national law.
United Nations on the Question
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
In Article 12 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the member countries of the UN agree that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks”. Although this fundamental statement protects all people’s privacy, it does not define “arbitrary” interference. Due to the subjectivity of this definition, it remains difficult to argue that a security agency is violating fundamental human rights by spying on others.
Specific Resolutions on the Question
On 18 December 2013, the UN General Assembly adopted an anti-spy resolution, backing the right to privacy in the digital age, and calling on all nations to take steps to end activities violating this essential “tenet of democratic society”. For the first time, the UN affirmed that the rights people have offline must also be protected online. The resolution, which had been drafted by Brazil and Germany, does not mention any specific countries. Nonetheless, it is a clear response to the documents leaked by Snowden which delineate the extent of the NSA’s observance of other countries. Recently before the two G4 nations crafted the resolution, the NSA was revealed to have been bugging German Chancellor Merkel’s mobile phone for years and to have hacked into the computer network of Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras.
Non-Governmental Organizations on the Question
Privacy International is an international NGO which promotes the right to privacy. Based in London, it organizes campaigns around the globe. Amongst others, it assigns annual “Big Brother Awards” to organizations which persistently invade privacy, but also to promoters of privacy who help protect the human right thereto. In 2014, one of the Big Brother Awards handed out in Germany went to the German Chancellery, the “Bundeskanzleramt”, for its involvement in the NSA spying scandal. Edward Snowden was also granted an award for his initialization of the disclosures. Similar awards are granted by Privacy International in a number of other countries aside from Germany. Privacy International also conducts privacy rankings (see this link: goo.gl/oq9ZNN) of all countries on the planet and studies on the role of privacy in different states. Needless to say, it heavily criticizes the infringement upon privacy rights by security agencies such as the NSA.
There exist too many NGOs involved in the question of privacy in the digital age and protection from breaches therein by secret agencies to list. On numerous occasions, these organizations have voiced their concern, often in unison. As an example, in April 2014, a “Joint NGO Letter Regarding Surveillance of Human Rights Organizations” (goo.gl/sBp7CA) was published by several Civil Society Organizations. Similarly, over 110 Civil Society Organizations published a statement coordinated by the World Wide Web Foundation and Access Info Europe in December 2013, which portrays concern about how open governments in which secret mass surveillance is conducted are. On November 20, 2013, a letter from five human rights organizations (Access, Amnesty International, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Human Rights Watch, and Privacy International) to the General Assembly called for the United Nations body to make clear that mass surveillance is inconsistent with the fundamental right to privacy. This was shortly before the GA passed its resolution affirming the right to privacy in the digital age.
The question of internet privacy, and especially the act of compromising it for public safety, plays an unmistakably critical role in the Digital Age. Besides the rapidity with which the world has globalized and is still spreading its new means of communication, the recent global surveillance disclosures call for further response from the United Nations.
Member Nations’ policies on this issue diverge; nonetheless, with the international community’s successful agreement on the General Assembly Resolution from December 2013, there is good reason to look optimistically towards solution-finding during debate. The Security Council may encompass representatives of all sides of this question, nevertheless, with compromise, progress can be made.
- Timeline of Edward Snowden’s Revelations, to which one can find a summary in section “III) c)” of this report (Aljazeera)
- Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 18 December 2013 concerning the right to privacy in the digital age
- Article explaining resolution from General Assembly from December 2013 on the right to privacy in the digital age (UN News Centre)
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations)
- Privacy International Homepage; good place to find arguments in favor of privacy and decreased influence of secret agencies
Assisting the Peace Negotiations in Israel and Palestine
by Nickolas Dodds
Definition of Key Terms
In order to engage in fruitful debate, delegates should be well versed in the following terms and names:Israel - kingdom in ancient Palestine comprising the lands occupied by the Hebrew people
Palestine - ancient region in South West Asia bordering on the East coast of the Mediterranean & extending East of the Jordan River
Zionism - political support for the creation and development of a Jewish homeland in Israel Gaza - Palestinian-administered city near the Mediterranean; with surrounding coastal district (Gaza Strip, adjoining Sinai Peninsula), administered 1949–67 by Egypt, subsequently by Israel, and since 2005 by the Palestinian Authority West Bank - area in the Middle East West of the Jordan River; occupied by Israel since 1967 with parts having been transferred to Palestinian administration since 1993
Resolution 181 (II) - A resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly, with a detailed description of how the territory of Palestine should be split up between the Israelis and Palestinians
United Nations Special Commission On Palestine (UNSCOP) - A UN commission suggested by the British government to investigate the cause of the conflict in Palestine, and furthermore to devise a possible solution to resolve the problems in the area
Hamas - militant PalestinianIslamic movement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that is dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state in Palestine; considered by Israel, the USA and the EU to be a terrorist organisation
Fatah - political and military organisation of Arab Palestinians, founded in the late 1950s (…) with the aim of wresting Palestine from Israeli control by waging low-intensity guerrilla warfare
Benjamin Netanyahu - Israeli politician and diplomat, who twice served as his country’s prime minister (1996–99 and 2009–)
Mahmoud Abbas - Palestinian politician, who served briefly as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority in 2003 and was elected its president in 2005 (…)
6 Day War - a conflict fought between Israel and Syria, Egypt and Jordan, triggered by the mobilisation of Egyptian troops along the Israeli border, followed by surprise air strikes launched from Israel. Israel commenced the war having taken charge of the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, furthermore blocking the Straits of Tiran therefore controlling access to the North Eastern off branch of the Red Sea.
Yom Kippur War - the 4th Israeli-Arab war, triggered by Egypt and Syria, when their troops marched on Israel with the intention of forcing a defeated Israel to negotiate on terms more favourable to the Arab nations; the war started on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur on the 6th Oct. 1973, and ended 20 days later, on the 26th of Oct. of the same year
Intifada - an armed uprising of Palestinians against the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank
Oslo Accords - established in 1993, the Oslo accords marked the beginning of an 8 year peace process to lessen the Arab-Israeli conflict, with a great deal of successes, however also noticeably many setbacks
Embargo - legal prohibition by a government or group of governments restricting the departure of vessels or movement of goods from some or all locations to one or more countries
Sovereignty - the right to be the ultimate overseer, or authority, in the decision-making process of the state and in the maintenance of order; a sovereign state may not be interfered in by other nations regarding national affairs
Mandate - an official order to do something; the power to act that the voters give their leaders
The roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not obvious and clear, yet tangled deep inside the history of the relationship of the aforementioned peoples. For the sake of fruitful debate, this paragraph will focus on the events from the beginning of the British occupation in Palestine. After World War II, and as a result of the holocaust, a large wave of the Jewish population fled to the middle eastern state of Palestine. This enormous flood of immigrants led to the sparking of nationalism on both sides. On the one hand, the Palestinians did not welcome the newly settled Jewish population, and strived for a one state solution and the creation of a Palestinian state. On the other hand, the Jewish population who had been driven out of Palestine nearly 10 centuries before, believed that they too had the right to claim part of the land as theirs, as it had once belonged to them. On the 29th of November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 181 (II), which supposedly contained a solution and a plan for the division of the land demanded by both peoples. The resolution was not recognised as legitimate by the Palestinian government, and that same night Israel’s neighbouring countries Palestine, Egypt to the south, Jordan to the west, and Iraq to the west, declared war on the newly announced state of Israel. Due to military and technological support from the United States of America, Israel successfully managed to defend itself from its aggressors, further occupying Palestinian territory. The West Bank had been taken by Palestine’s ally to the west, Jordan, and the Gaza strip by it’s ally to the south, Egypt. Ever since the official declaration of the State of Israel by David Ben Gurion, the territorial disputes regarding Palestine continue and to this day remain to be one of the UN’s most pressing issues.
Syria - As the Hamas formerly had its headquarters located in the capital city of Syria, Damascus, questions of ties between dictatorial ruler Bashar al-Assad and the politburo of the Hamas have come into question. An element that needs to be taken into account however is that after the collapse of the Assad regime, the Hamas was forced to withdraw its headquarters from Damascus, as a result of inadequate support during the regimes struggle to maintain power.
Iran - The government in Tehran, headed by president Mahmud Ahmadinejad, has issued various statements expressing support for the Hamas. This has created tensions between the Abbas government in the West Bank, which opposes the Hamas, and the country of Iran, as the government in the West Bank has accused Ahmadinejad of trying to separate even further the two radically different governments in their respective territories. Iran has also been accused of financing the creation of weapons in the Gaza strip, then used to attack and bomb Israel.
Hezbollah in Lebanon - Hassan Nasrallah, leader and head of the militant Islamic group, Hezbollah, has called upon various Arab leaders to open up their borders to Palestinian refugees fleeing from the Gaza strip and West Bank. He has accused Israel of using the Syrian conflict to further wage war on Gaza and has openly voiced support for the Hamas. Egypt - In 2012, the newly elected president Muhammad Morsi declared that they would support and help encourage any truces and treaties that proposed peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Egypt at the time of Morsi’s rule was faced with a difficult position, wanting to keep powerful allies such as the United States, who provide millions of dollars worth of military aid to Egypt every year, however also recognising its historical ties to the other Arabic countries in the Middle East, especially with such countries as Saudi Arabia, as one of Egypt's main economic supporters.
Qatar - As one of the richest countries in the Middle East, Qatar also plays a major role in the conflict. Similar to Egypt, Qatar has to be careful not to lean too much to either one or the other side, as powerful ties with the United States are valuable to the oil rich country. Over the last couple of years however Qatar has regarded Israel’s acts as intensified and has drawn away from Israel, turning to a more radical view of the conflict. Along with Egypt, Qatar has also been pushing hardest for a truce between Palestine and Israel, within the Arab League. The Arab League - The Arab League is using its powerful position within the region to try and bring Palestine and Israel to a truce, that will stop the violence and end the suffering in the region. It has however condemned Israel’s actions and has called for Israel to take the first step towards a peaceful end to the conflict.
The United States of America - As Israel’s most important ally and supporter in this conflict, the United States are responsible for the largest part of exports to Israel. As a nation very well educated in weapons and technology, it has exported enormous amounts of weaponry and technology to Israel, as the USA views the Hamas’ violence against Israel as the trigger of the conflict, and would never dream of letting a terrorist organisation stomp out a peoples such as the Israelis. Only with the help of the USA has Israel been able to successfully defend itself against its neighbouring countries to this day.
In the last couple of years, many things have happened regarding the territory of Palestine, and its division between the Israelis and the Palestinians. A very important element of the conflict that must be kept in mind during debate is the fact that each side has a wide variety of opinions on the matter. According to a German study, unfortunately slightly out of date (2008), 66% of the Palestinian population and 67% of the Israeli population wish the conflict to end as soon as a productive solution has been proposed. While the majority of both people’s voted in favour of the aforementioned question, the same people voted on the Palestinian side 56% for and 42% against and on the Israeli side 46% for and 50% against a final territory exchange and recognising of borders between the two countries. Other elements of the conflict that play a major role in the decisions made are the problems of the holy city of Jerusalem, water resources, Palestinian refugees, Israeli security concerns, Israeli settlements and occupation of the West Bank, and the blockade of the Gaza strip. Before addressing the first issue in debate, the holy city of Jerusalem, one must realise two things. The holy city of Jerusalem is claimed by the 3 major Abrahamic religions to be of the utmost importance to their religion. The other fact that must be made aware of is that at the current time, due to Israels occupation of the West Bank, it is in charge of the area, although in the original plan set up by the United Nations General Assembly, the entire city of Jerusalem was to stay neutral and under the control of the UN, and all people’s wishing to live there and visit the city were permitted to do so.
Another very critical issue in the area is the sparse water resources, that are essential to cities that wish to thrive and flourish. As the territory of Palestine lies in the subtropical climate zone, it is very rare that any rain falls upon the hot and dry earth, thus placing the few natural water resources at the top of any priority list in the region. The Israelis have developed a sparing (and extremely efficient irrigation system, in order to) irrigation system that does not waste a drop of water, in order to agriculturally outdo the Palestinians. They also have in the past blocked certain water passages that run through the north of Israel, leading to the Palestinians having to yield in order to regain access to the precious water. In general Israel has a very well developed water network, that supplies all it’s its major cities with accessible water, while certain areas of Palestine rely on water trucks to receive daily rations of the valuable and life essential fluid.
Palestinian refugees: the people that have been forced to leave their homes due to the Israeli occupation of UN declared Palestinian territories such as the Gaza strip and West Bank. These people have fled to neighbouring countries such as the civil war stricken Syria, the military run country of Egypt, and the Hezbollah influenced country of Lebanon. In a meeting with the president of the United States, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas reiterated that he refused to recognise the “Right to Return”, a right that would cause approximately 5 million Palestinian Arab refugees to return to Palestine, and most probably end a breakout of anarchy due to intense overpopulation.
Yet another element of the conflict that must be considered is the Israeli security concern. Israel is a tiny country approximately 21 000 square kilometres (smaller than the German state of Brandenburg (29 000 square kilometres), surrounded by countries that have sworn to the destruction of it and its people. Constant Hamas rocket attacks from the Gaza strip have for years terrorised the Israeli people, and contributed to a general feeling of upset and fear. Because of great assistance especially from countries such as the United States of America, Israel has created a rocket defence system nicknamed the “Iron Dome”, that provides protection for its people and managed to defend off 90% of the threatening 300 rockets fired from Gaza during the Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012.
Ever since the Israeli occupation of the West Bank after the 6 Day War, conflicts such as the first and second Intifada have erupted in Israel and Palestine. During the occupation, Israeli settlements were built, thus expanding the territory of Israel, as they now had citizens living on the newly conquered soil of Palestine. This ties into the problem of the Palestinian refugees, as this triggered a huge wave of such to flee to the Gaza strip and the West Bank, as well as the neighbouring countries mentioned in the paragraph above.
The blockade of Gaza by the Israeli and Egyptian military caused a major outbreak of international criticism. During the blockade Israel blocked off all incoming and leaving products from the Gaza strip, thus leaving its people and interim government helpless and resourceless. The criticism made by many external countries was that blocking the Gaza strip from foreign aid not only hit the Hamas but also the innocent citizens living in the area. Originally the plan was to block incoming weaponry and technology that could benefit the Hamas in their war on Israel, but ended up as a full scale blockade ignoring the supposed sovereignty of Palestine.
The United Nations have until this day not managed to come to a significant and useful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One of the only resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council, that actually had an immediate effect on the conflict was Resolution 242, which is briefly paraphrased in the following paragraph. An issue that the United Nations General Assembly is constantly confronted with is the intense alliances and conflicts between the parties involved. The Security Council has been very inefficient, due to the United States using its veto power on behalf of Israel. An example of such was the conference in 1988, to be held in New York, where the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was denied the necessary visa to attend the meeting in the United States. As the Security Council has not been able to use its power to the full extent, the General Assembly has placed a higher priority on the conflict, calling sessions to discuss the conflict and possible solutions. The problem that the General Assembly is faced with however remains that they have no power to force parties and countries to follow a mandate, as this is the privilege of the Security Council. The UN has passed multiple resolutions on the conflict, however, to sum up the idea of this paragraph, has always had obstacles in its way, making it very hard to actually influence things under a United Nations Security Council mandate in the territory of Palestine.
242: Resolution 242, passed after the war in 1967, calls for Israel to withdraw troops from the occupied areas of the Sinai peninsula from Egypt, the Golan heights from Syria, and the West Bank from Jordan. This resolution is the basis for most peace plans to come, as it furthermore reminds of the “…sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area…”
338: Resolution 338, passed immediately after the Yom Kippur War, calls for the immediate implementation of Resolution 242, passed 6 years earlier.
425: Resolution 425, calls for Israel to withdraw its military forces from Lebanon, which it did in 2000, approximately 22 years after the resolution was passed.
681: Resolution 681, passed on the 20th of December 1990, calls for a conference on the Middle East regarding alliances and ties backing a global effort to withdraw Saddam Hussein’s military from Kuwait. *note: the Gulf War started weeks later in 1991
1322: Resolution 1322, passed in October of 2000, realises the numerous tragedies and deaths on both sides of the conflict, and stresses the necessity to find a productive solution based off the passed resolutions 242 and 425.
During debate the delegates must consider many issues and sides to this extremely complicated issue. On the one hand, it is the duty of the Security Council to respect the rights of all peoples involved in the conflict, yet if strict measures are seen to be the only way to ease the problem in the area, such can and should be taken. Many questions regarding religion and ethnicity will have to be addressed adequately, so as not to ignore any group living in the area. The basic human rights must at all times be the top priority of the Security Council, and it is never wise to encourage military action before thoroughly thinking through and examining the delicate issue at hand. The issues mentioned in the aforementioned paragraphs are vital to the conclusion of a helpful and productive resolution that addresses all important elements of the conflict.