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Israel presents a unique case for study. For close to a century, Israel and the Zionist movement which preceded it has been a focal point for conflict in the Middle East. Throughout its existence, Israel has almost always been in a perpetual state of conflict from its Arab neighbors surrounding it. This conflict can be thought of as having deep social, cultural and political roots stemming centuries deep worth of history.
Even if Israel has historically been steeped in armed conflict, it is not immune from the effects of Globalization. As a small country, the Israeli economy is dependent on foreign imports of crude oil, grains, raw materials and military equipment. Government actions are poised to promote foreign investment to offset a large trade deficit. Even if it is a small country, Israel has a sizeable high technology sector which includes firms specializing in avionics, communications, software, medical technology and software. Noted foreign firms have created centers of development in Israel with the notable example of Intel having developed its Centrino notebook processor system at an Israeli development center. Imports outnumber exports 55 billion USD to 50 billion USD (CIA World Factbook).
The face of globalization is seen not only in Israel’s industry mix. At the end of 2006, there were 300,000 foreign workers in Israel according to official numbers. These migrant workers come to Israel in the hopes of better paying employment, hoping to be able to send back money to the families they left in their homeland. These workers come from a variety of countries with the leading suppliers being Thailand, The Philippines, and Romania (Yacobi).
Apart from migrant workers, a special subset of the population of Israel has been its Arab population. A sixth of the Israeli population identifies itself as Palestinians. In Israel, Palestinian people are a minority. While Palestinians enjoy most of the democratic rights enjoyed by Jewish citizens, Israeli law does not prescribe full equality between the two ethnicities, marginalizing Palestinians in the political arena. The situation is even more grim for Palestinians living in contested territories which are granted no rights at all (Payes).
With the marginalization of Palestinian citizens, there has been a flourishing of Palestinian-Israeli citizens NGOs (PINGO). These PINGOs deal with a large host of issues from education to culture – all in line with their goals of elevating the civil status of Palestinians in Israel. Even though Israel can be considered a first class economy, PINGOs face challenges similar to those faced by NGOs in third world economies. Unlike Jewish NGOs, PINGOs receive little help from the state and is oftentimes at odds with the government. PINGOs also perform more advocacy work than their Jewish counterparts. All of this stems from the representation of PINGOs of a marginalized sector in society (Payes).
In light of the limited government aid, support from Northern NGOs as well as from overseas has been critical in the functioning of PINGOs. Data from 1990 showed that European donors were the largest contributors to PINGOs, contributing 24% of PINGO funds. Other large Northern NGO donors include the Welfare Association, and The New Israel Fund based in the US. For PINGOs in Israel, Northern NGOs serve as the lifeline for their advocacy work. Through PINGOs, these donations serve as a form of indirect foreign aid. This indirect aid is used to provide services for Palestinian citizens which the Israeli government is unwilling to provide (Payes).
On the other side, Palestinian NGOs (PNGOs) are concerned with advocacies for the Palestinians found in the conflict areas of Israel. PNGOs follow the same thread as PINGOs. However, PNGOs do not only perform advocacy. Their close proximity to the conflict makes them an important source of information for the outside world. PNGOs act as a lone witness to the conflict, having to deal with the humanitarian crisis on its own as foreign NGOs working in the region must vacate in times of conflict. The preoccupation with humanitarian efforts also works against the interest of the PNGO as with the need to protect civilians during times of conflict, they are unable to build upon a larger grassroots organization for long term socio political goals. PNGOs become a lifeline organization instead of a focal point for sustained change in the region (Hanafi and Tabar).
Globalization has worked greatly in favor of Israel. The changing geo-politics of the area has created a situation where the US and Israel form a hegemonic presence in the Middle East. This hegemony was solidified with the fall of the Soviet Union, the 1991 Gulf War and the increased reliance of Middle Eastern states on Western technological and manufacturing imports (Hanafi and Tabar). The growing disparity in the standard of living between the Jewish state and its neighbors points to support this assertion. Economic, social and political forces of Globalization have worked to solidify the Jewish ethnocratic state of Israel.
Who ultimately lose out are the NGOs and the various trusts they represent. Even operating outside of government influence, NGOs are still affected by the geo-politics of the area. The marginalization of Palestinian citizens and the Palestinian people by the Israeli government has already been well established and discussed in this report. But the unity of conflict and the nature of NGO work still extends to areas far from the roots of the conflict. This can be seen in the attitudes of Israeli and Palestinian NGOs working in the field of environmental protection – a relatively politically neutral field compared to the advocacy of the Palestinian people. Palestinian NGOs report of dangers in working with Israeli NGOs due to the threat of the Israelis “having their own agenda”. Publicization of successful projects were seen by Palestinian NGO partners as ways for Israel to downplay the state of Palestinian oppression in the area. Israeli partners complain of cultural differences, stressing the thought that their Palestinian partners were placing the blame for environmental degradation on Israeli aggression (Chaitin et al).
With the geo-politics of the area, it is clear that there is no clear end in sight for the conflict in Israel. With this, NGOs working on both sides still have a lot of advocacy work to perform. However, the task is greater for NGOs representing marginalized advocacies due to the extremely confrontational and torrid socio-political climate of the area.
Chaitin, J., Obeidi, F., Adwan, S., & Bar-On, D. (2002) Environmental Work and Peace Work: The Palestinian-Israeli Case. Peace and Conflict Studies. 9, 60-94.
Hanafi, S. & Tabar, L. (2003) The Intifada and the Aid Industry: The Impact of the new Liberal Agenda on the Palestinian NGOs. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. 23, 205-214.
Payes, S. (2003). Palestinian NGOs in Israel: A Campaign for Civic Equality in a Non-Civic State. Israel Studies. 8, 60-90.
Yacobi, H. (2008). Circular Migration in Israel. CARIM AS 2008/19, Robert Schuman Center for Advanced Studies, San Domenico di Fiesole (FI): European University Institute.