What The Heck Is Going On?
Around 2006, I had the opportunity to work in Amman, Jordan for several weeks over the course of about six months. Talk about being out of my environment! I remember we were told before we entered Israeli airspace that we were not allowed out of our seats for any reason. The drive in from the airport to our hotel was at night and the sides of the road were alive with people having picnics and barbeques. We stayed at an American brand hotel (I don't recall the brand) which had quite the security checkpoint before you entered. The work week was Sunday through Thursday and for lunch our hosts fed us JFC -- Jordan Fried Chicken, Awful fried chicken with a slice of white bread. I remember eating a lot of hummus. One of the weeks was during Ramadan -- that was a tough week. When in Rome, I was able to sneak some sips of water during the day in a bathroom stall but other than that, it was no food or drink from sunrise to sunset. The wild part is that after sunset, Amman was rocking as every night was a feast night. I learned that there are many more accidents during evening rush hour during Ramadan as folks are hungry and rushing to get home. Look it up -- it's true!
Perhaps the strangest part of the experience was the multinational group I worked with. I was with an American consulting firm representing the Jordanian national utility in it selection of a vendor to build a natural-gas fired plant. So on our side we had Americans and Jordanians. The vendor was a South Korean firm which was represented by both London-based and Seoul based attorneys. The lenders were there, too -- BNP from Paris (represented by a banker from Lebanon) and a London-based banker. Negotiations are tough enough with the language barrier. And it was the first deal outside of South Korea for the vendor -- they were surprised that we wanted to negotiate the terms and conditions.
One day took a break and three of us drove to the Dead Sea. Holy cow. Once we got along the Jordan River we could tell we were not in Kansas anymore. The Dead Sea is a resort of course -- my memory is that it felt very 1970s. It is indeed quite easy to float in the Dead Sea and the mud is supposedly good for your skin. I did not notice a difference. We made sure to be back in Amman by nightfall. The geography of the area between in Amman and the Dead Sea is rugged and dry.
One final memory. I remember our flight from Amman to Germany or Paris left at 2 am to 3 am. Similar to my experience in Asia. I remember having the hardest time getting my head around those departure times.
I posted this map to remind myself of the geography of the region. No doubt it is a melting pot. Hatred is an awful emotion.
The West Bank
The West Bank (Arabic: الضفة الغربية aḍ-Ḍiffah al-Ġarbiyyah; Hebrew: הגדה המערבית HaGadah HaMa'aravit or יהודה ושומרון Yehuda VeShomron) is a landlocked territory near the Mediterranean coast of Western Asia, bordered by Jordan and the Dead Sea to the east and by Israel to the south, west and north. Under Israeli occupation since 1967, the area is split into 167 Palestinian "islands" under partial Palestinian National Authority civil rule, and 230 Israeli settlements into which Israeli law is "pipelined".
The "West Bank" name was given to the territory after it was captured by Jordan in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War because it sits on the west side of the Jordan river. Jordan subsequently annexed the territory in 1950 and held it until 1967 when it was occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War.
The Oslo Accords, signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel, created administrative districts with varying levels of Palestinian autonomy within each area. Area C, in which Israel maintained complete civil and security control, accounts for over 60% of the territory of the West Bank.
The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, has a land area of 5,640 km2 plus a water area of 220 km2, consisting of the northwest quarter of the Dead Sea. As of July 2017 it has an estimated population of 2,747,943 Palestinians, and approximately 391,000 Israeli settlers, and approximately another 201,200 Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem. The international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this. The International Court of Justice advisory ruling (2004) concluded that events that came after the 1967 occupation of the West Bank by Israel, including the Jerusalem Law, Israel's peace treaty with Jordan and the Oslo Accords, did not change the status of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) as occupied territory with Israel as the occupying power.
The Gaza Strip
The Gaza Strip (/ˈɡɑːzə/; Arabic: قِطَاعُ غَزَّةَ Qiṭāʿu Ġazzah [qi.tˤaːʕ ɣaz.zah]), or simply Gaza, is a self-governing Palestinian territory on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, that borders Egypt on the southwest for 11 kilometers (6.8 mi) and Israel on the east and north along a 51 km (32 mi) border. Gaza and the West Bank are claimed by the de jure sovereign State of Palestine.
The territories of Gaza and the West Bank are separated from each other by Israeli territory. Both fell under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, but the strip has since the Battle of Gaza in June 2007 been governed by Hamas, a Palestinian fundamentalist militant Islamic organization which came to power in the last-held elections in 2006. It has been placed under an Israeli and US-led international economic and political boycott from that time onwards.
The territory is 41 kilometers (25 mi) long, and from 6 to 12 kilometers (3.7 to 7.5 mi) wide, with a total area of 365 square kilometers (141 sq mi). With around 1.85 million Palestinians on some 362 square kilometers, Gaza ranks as the 3rd most densely populated polity in the world. An extensive Israeli buffer zone within the Strip renders much land off-limits to Gaza's Palestinians. Gaza has an annual population growth rate of 2.91% (2014 est.), the 13th highest in the world, and is often referred to as overcrowded. The population is expected to increase to 2.1 million in 2020. In 2012, the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) in the occupied Palestinian territory warned that the Gaza Strip might not be a "liveable place" by 2020 and as of 2020, Gaza suffered shortages of water, medicine and power, a situation exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis. According to Al Jazeera "19 human rights groups urged Israel to lift its siege on Gaza". The UN has also urged that the blockade be lifted while a report by UNCTAD prepared for the UN General Assembly and released on 25 November 2020, said that Gaza’s economy was on the verge of collapse and that it was essential to lift the blockade. Due to the Israeli and Egyptian border closures and the Israeli sea and air blockade, the population is not free to leave or enter the Gaza Strip, nor allowed to freely import or export goods. Sunni Muslims make up the predominant part of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip.
Despite the 2005 Israeli disengagement from Gaza, the United Nations, international human rights organisations, and the majority of governments and legal commentators consider the territory to be still occupied by Israel, supported by additional restrictions placed on Gaza by Egypt. Israel maintains direct external control over Gaza and indirect control over life within Gaza: it controls Gaza's air and maritime space, and six of Gaza's seven land crossings. It reserves the right to enter Gaza at will with its military and maintains a no-go buffer zone within the Gaza territory. Gaza is dependent on Israel for its water, electricity, telecommunications, and other utilities. The system of control imposed by Israel is described[by whom?] as an "indirect occupation". Some other legal scholars have disputed the idea that Israel still occupies Gaza. The extent of self-rule exercised in the Gaza Strip has led some to describe the territory as a de facto independent state.
When Hamas won a majority in the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, the opposing political party Fatah refused to join the proposed coalition, until a short-lived unity government agreement was brokered by Saudi Arabia. When this collapsed under joint Israeli and United States pressure, the Palestinian Authority instituted a non-Hamas government in the West Bank while Hamas formed a government on its own in Gaza. Further economic sanctions were imposed by Israel and the European Quartet against Hamas. A brief civil war between the two Palestinian groups had broken out in Gaza when, apparently under a U.S.-backed plan, Fatah contested Hamas's administration. Hamas emerged the victor and expelled Fatah-allied officials and members of the PA's security apparatus from the strip, and has remained the sole governing power in Gaza since that date.