Unlikely End, Unjustified MeansSunday 17/06/2018

Unemployment, poverty and the meaning of sanctions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

There are those who say that the end justifies the means, and there are those who oppose that notion. But when the declared end is not even achieved, any justification of the means falls flat.

In the previous article we dealt with the outcomes of sanctions policy on poor areas in general, with particular attention to sanctions in the disputed territories in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  We looked at the probable economic and social harm to the individuals affected by this policy as well as their society in general. In this article we show the impact of the sanctions on daily life, in both the short run and the long run.

It is well known that unemployment causes massive harm to affected populations. This damage begins with the individual but spreads to the surrounding society.  The individual experiences loss of his ability to pay for housing, food, bills, medical care, etc. as a result of lack of income. This situation has a variety of implications, even in developed countries.  Tent cities in the USA are an example of this principle. Individuals who suffer unemployment also report feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression, made worse when the unemployed person is responsible for a family. This was shown by research done during the time of the US sub-prime breakdown, when banks offered easy access to money that later triggered the mortgage crisis.

Unemployment also affects the afflicted society by preventing it from reaching its economic potential. In the short run, the workers are not creating economic gains that would fulfill their potential contribution to that society. In the long run,* the unemployed look for any job that will feed themselves and their families, which makes them accept jobs not fitted to their skills and creates a loss of human capital in those skills. This problem intensifies during long terms of unemployment, as the quality of work within their original skills and abilities deteriorates.

In search of income, people in economic distress often fall into criminal activity in order to make a living. This dependency has been encouraged and exploited by terrorist organizations in the West Bank and Gaza, who offer money to those in need, thereby recruiting them for the advancement of terrorism.

Thus, in addition to unemployment, sanctions cause poverty, widen inequality, and increase crime in the affected societies; all of which causes more tension that can lead to more violence.  A definite connection was found in research regarding these effects of sanctions imposed upon multi-ethnic societies.

This research should serve as an alarm bell concerning sanctions implemented against the disputed territories: it points to potentially catastrophic results that can easily lead to increased violence. It is important to note that the territories are already experiencing a complex reality of political tension between ethnic groups, increasing the likelihood that sanctions would only make that tension worse.

There are two more reasons why these sanctions are not likely to achieve their declared goals. Firstly, 65-95% of the sanctions imposed worldwide to date have failed. Secondly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not primarily an economic dispute. It is based on many years of political, religious and historical disputes, which sanctions would not resolve.

In short, sanctions as a means will not only cause harm; they will also fail to achieve the end which supposedly justifies that means.

* Anderton, Alain (2006). Economics (Fourth ed.). Ormskirk: Causeway.

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