Everyone knows that the violence that we’re witnessing in Gaza and the West Bank right now has roots that go back decades. Some of the trouble has come through the manipulative hand of outside forces, but it all rests on a deep-seated mistrust that persists between Israelis and Palestinians. After the years of violence and bloodshed sustained and perpetrated by both sides in the conflict, it’s easy to understand why those feelings persist.
Although the situation has alternated between bleak and uneasily calm in the region for many years, there has never been any shortage of those looking to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. The problem, most often, is that the would-be brokers of peace do not always act in the best interests of their respective peoples. More often than not, that’s a result of a lack of transparency and plenty of misinformation spread into the body politic on each side.
In Israel, citizens have the benefit of a relatively free media – guaranteed to them as a key part of the nation’s democratic ideals. The Palestinians, however, have no such guarantees. There are plenty of Palestinian journalists struggling to provide an accurate, honest portrayal of what’s happening in the region, of course. The bigger problem is that their access to the information isn’t as easy as it should be.
Israel itself, in many ways, has been a part of that problem. Case in point – the residents of the West Bank only received permission to deploy a 3G wireless network in January of this year. For context, imagine at a very basic level, lacking access to the bevy of products of Amazon, AliExpress or product reviews at Shifu. Then think of how you and your local economy would function without reliable internet access – or how easy it would be for your government or organizations to hide inconvenient information from you.
Ask yourself if the Israeli government is inadvertently aiding groups like Hamas by continuing to impede the spread of reliable wireless internet access into Gaza. In the real world, wireless signals don’t respect national borders, so it is unlikely that the bad actors in Gaza are going without wireless services. Instead, the lack of reliable wireless service in the area only serves to harm the local economy and makes it easier for local propagandists to spread their version of reality to the population.
There are already initiatives in Gaza that are trying to produce a thriving technology economy, and they should be encouraged. Organizations like Ggateway and grant awards from the World Bank stand a real chance of revolutionizing an economy that has remained stagnant for generations. Israel would do well to support these programs in every way possible. A stable and growing economic base would give stakeholders every reason to seek peace – and that’s something that has been missing from the area for far too long.
Israelis need only look within their own country to see the effects of a booming tech economy. It encourages international investment, increases quality of life, and powers GDP growth. All of those things also foster a kind of openness that would be more than welcome in Gaza and the West Bank. After decades of fruitless confrontations and recriminations, it’s well past time to take a chance on a future based on mutual economic prosperity. Whatever the perceived risks, it’s certainly better than the status quo.