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Guest Writers

Adapt, survive and thrive: UNRWA responds to the Syria crisis

Chris GunnessIt was the start of another day for the UNRWA team in Syria. Our convoy entered the besieged Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus on 31 January where, as usual, a river of people as far as the eye could see stood waiting for food. A colleague casually snapped a photo, unaware that he had captured an image that was to make history. We posted the picture at unrwa.org and within hours it had gone viral, with 8 million postings in the first 24 hours. It later formed the centerpiece of a social media campaign, in which nearly forty million people clicked to have the image featured on the two highest profile billboards on earth, in New York's Time Square and Tokyo's Shibuya district. In a beautiful act of global solidarity, people on two sides of the planet took "selfies" in front of the giant screens and we whizzed them back to Yarmouk. The message was clear. Yarmouk will not be forgotten. The UN will not neglect your plight.

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Negotiations and reconciliation

Hani Al-MasriAfter the US president announced the need to stop the Palestine-Israel negotiations for a while in order to reflect on what has happened and study the alternatives suggested by both parties, which would, according to American predictions, push both sides back into negotiations because the alternatives are far worse than negotiations, the picture remains unclear. This is because there are several scenarios, including Netanyahu's threat to resort to taking unilateral measures in the West Bank, the agreement on a new formula to resume negotiations, or keeping the current situation the way it is.

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The Israeli recipe to prolong the conflict

Dr Saleh Al-NaamiIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes that he has discovered the recipe to ensure that legitimacy is given to his refusal to withdraw from the West Bank while, at the same time, holding the Palestinians responsible for the failure to reach a political settlement of the conflict. This recipe is in the form of Israel's demand that the Palestinians recognise Israel as "the nation-state of the Jewish people". At first glance, it seems that Netanyahu's attempt to impose this demand aims to ensure that the Jewish demographic character of Israel is maintained, on the grounds that Palestinian recognition of Israel's Jewishness would imply a waiver of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to lands from which they or their parents and grandparents were displaced in 1948. Sadly, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has made it clear on more than one occasion that the solution to the refugee problem is not necessarily through their return to areas from which they were expelled; this has upset the Palestinian people. In addition, Abbas appealed to the Israelis in an interview with Channel 2 on November 2, 2012, in which he said that he dreams of returning to the city of Safed, from which his family was driven in 1948, but only as a tourist.

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The Israeli-Palestinian 'Peace Process': Trapped in a Nash Equilibrium

Ian S. LustickIn Stalin's Soviet Union, mention of the great dictator's name in any mass meeting could trigger a standing ovation. This became a problem. In The Gulag Archipelago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn tells the story of a party meeting during which Stalin's name is mentioned. Immediately every functionary on the dais and every person in the hall rose to his or her feet and started clapping. And clapping. And clapping. And clapping. Afterall, who would stop clapping first? Who would reveal less enthusiasm for the Great Leader than everyone else. And so, as the story goes, the applause continued for more than 11 minutes. Finally, one factory director on the dais stopped and sat down. Immediately everyone else stopped, and the meeting resumed. That night the factory director was arrested. After his interrogation he was given ten years in the Gulag and reminded: "Don't ever be the first to stop clapping!"

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S is for Sanctions

Hugh LanningIt is often forgotten that BDS is a three letter word. To achieve real success and a free Palestine we need to make progress on every front: B, D and S. Unfortunately, life never follows neat lines but, hopefully, BDS is a linear progression, getting stronger all the time. In the UK we are doing well, going from B to D, but next we need to get to S and S is for Sanctions.

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