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Title: Arab Israeli Conflict

Total Pages: 14 Words: 3602 Bibliography: 0 Citation Style: APA Document Type: Essay

Essay Instructions: Need re-write - condense (shorter paper is okay)

My Outline is as follows:

A. Description of “intractable conflict”
B. Influences that have further prolonged the conflict

A. Israeli Perceptions
1. Social Institutions
2. Political Institutions
B. Palestinian Perceptions
1. Social Institutions
2. Political Institutions
C. Outlook on overcoming pervasive beliefs


A. Previous peace negotiations failures
1. Oslo Accords
2. Camp David Peace Talks
B. Annapolis
C. The “Road Map”

A. Rise of Hamas
1. Social/economic conditions and negotiation failures
B. External View of Hamas
1. Israel
2. U.S. and the rest of the Quartet
C. Internal View of Hamas
1. Fatah/PA
2. West Bank / Gaza Strip
D. Need for a unified political entity to represent all of Palestine
1. Wither Hamas? – Remains to be seen
2. Possibility of a re-emergent PLO?

A. Israeli Security
1. Security cannot be obtained without addressing northern border issue
B. Strategic importance to Syria
1. Counter to Iran’s regional ambitions
2. Sunni Stronghold to offset Iran

A. Challenges and/or obstacles
1. Failed international institutions
2. Spoilers (Muslim radicals and Israeli right-wing extremists)
3. Legitimacy of representation
a. U.S and the Quartet
b. Hamas
c. Re-emergent PLO?
B. Outlook
1. Arab Initiative


The establishment of the Israeli State, followed by the subsequent Arab-Israeli Wars has been at the heart of Middle Eastern violence over the last half century. The conflict between Israel and Palestine continues to fuel tensions throughout the entire region. While many conflicts pass through periods of intensity before reaching a peaceful settlement, the conflict between Israel and Palestine has developed into a continuous cycle of violence that is not leading towards any agreement of peace. This is an intractable conflict where all parties are contributing to sustaining the conflict. Complex issues such as: identities, fulfillment of basic needs, nationalism, religious zeal, and cultural differences have compounded the problems surrounding the conflict. These factors have shaped both Israeli and Palestinian perceptions, where both sides are victims and fight against a threatening enemy. In this paper we will look at the influences that have lead to the intractable conflict between Israel and Palestine, and analyze the divergence in their perceptions. We will then address the peace building islands that are emerging in the region that may lay the groundwork for stability. Then we will discuss the strategies of the Quartet in brokering for peace in the region, as well as look at the results of past initiatives such as: the Oslo Accords, and Camp David Peace Talks. After which we will address the issues surrounding Hamas and how their emergence has affected the conflict with Israel. We will also look at the role of Syria as an external stakeholder in the conflict, and why they play an important role in establishing peace. Finally we will discuss the current challenges towards establishing peace between Israel and Palestine, and present our outlook on the future of the conflict.

Intractable conflicts, while not unique occurrences by themselves, consist of common characteristics that define their very existence in international affairs. These types of conflicts can transpire between nation states, factions, and individuals and seemingly resist any attempts at peaceful mitigation; eventually escalating in both intensity and hostility. The Arab-Israeli conflict is an excellent example where an intractable conflict has not only persisted both internally and externally, but has persevered into a self-perpetuating interface where both sides share vested interest in prolonging its existence. The continuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict and its repercussions has been felt on both the macro and micro levels of the international community. While conflict resolution with respect to the Arab-Israeli conflict is complex and intricate, comprehension and management is key to prevention of further escalation.

Armed aggression has become the most viable solution to both the Israel and Palestine, which has perpetuated the conflict. Israel’s identity is an armed struggle for survival. Without a decisive military advantage, Israel would not have lasted through the 20th century. Years of war and violence with Arab neighbors have formed the Israeli mindset into seeing the use of force as the solution to foreign relations, and necessary for national security. Palestine is in a continual struggle for concessions with hopes of achieving self sovereignty. Without political legitimacy able to claim sovereignty, they are denied political channels used to negotiate with Israel. Their disadvantaged position moves them towards violence as a means of negotiation. As Palestine is able gain concessions, it re-enforces their use of violence as a viable tool. The conflict is then prolonged by the view, which is influenced and supported by Hamas, that concessions such as Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip represent a “victory for armed resistance.” Therefore, both Israel and Palestine continue to negotiate through armed conflict. Each answers with increased violence, prolonging the conflict into an intractable state.

Palestinian perceptions towards the conflict are increasingly divergent, causing greater divisions within the society. In a joint Israeli-Palestinian public opinion poll taken in 2005, the majority of Palestinians were in favor of ending the conflict, yet armed resistance was widely perceived as effective against Israel. In the poll 65% of the Palestinians were in support of a compromise ending the conflict, yet “82% of the Palestinians saw the evacuation of the Israeli settlements from Gaza as a victory for the Palestinian armed struggle against Israel.” The failure of the Oslo Accords and subsequent second Intifada has caused the Palestinians to perceive violence as an effective means for negotiation with Israel.
Palestine is also politically divided, hindering any general consensus on how to deal with Israel, and govern themselves. Palestine’s political parties are divided across the ideological axioms of Islam, Nationalism and Marxism. Parties such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad perceive Palestine as an Islamic State and want to institute Islamic Law. The Nationalist movement led by Fatah, has until recently dominated Palestinian politics. They push towards the complete liberation of Palestine, and want to establish an independent democratic state. The Marxist parties include the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), and the Palestinian People’s Party (PPP). While the Marxist movement has not been able to overcome the Nationalistic or Islamic movements, they are open to negotiations with Israel, and want to establish a state in which both Palestinians and Jews can live together.
There are certain prevailing perceptions that have permeated society in both Israel and Palestine which does not necessarily reflect the reality on the ground. However, these perceptions have been deeply ingrained into the cultural mindsets which will not change unless Arab and Israeli leaders lead the way and promote a mindset that is conducive to a negotiation of peace. In order to accomplish this – leaders must first disavow the notion that they can “have it all” and uphold that concessions will have to be made. Geopolitical changes in the region have created an opportunity to negotiate a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine that has not existed over the past 60 years. Meanwhile, the Hamas victory lent further credence to the claim that Palestinians are “violent” and support “terror.”
Due to the costliness, length, and propensity for escalation of violence, the intractable conflict in Israel, while seemingly resistant to conflict mitigation, must be resolved through peaceful means. While several attempts at improving the protracted conflict within the Mideast have taken place in the past, other “Peace Building Islands” exist within Israel’s borders today. These bastions of hope highlight plausible and peaceful resolutions and cross psycho-social, economic, and educational barriers preexistent within Israel today.
The creation of the village of “Neve Shalom,” near the town of Latrun in Israel, is one of these Peace Building Islands. Neve Shalom is a co-op village built in the early 1970’s for Palestinian and Jewish citizens in an effort to openly demonstrate that both Arabs and Israeli’s can live together peacefully. It boasts a population of approximately 170 families and is democratically governed and owned by Arabs and Israeli’s alike; its community holds no political party affiliation. The village members dwell upon its founding creed of communal acceptance, mutual respect, tolerance, and collaboration in establishing its community projects. Two of these projects are the village’s humanitarian relief program, aimed at assisting Palestinian villagers overcome by the ongoing conflict, and the establishment of its exceptional “School for Peace.”
The School for Peace is another peaceful resolution to the divergence that offers educational programs, aimed at promoting Arab-Israeli understanding within the conflict, as well as community outreach through cultural and social relations. The school offers varying levels of education in bi-national and bilingual curriculum, communal projects, and offers training programs and workshops to students, teachers, and professionals from the village and local communities. Its main purpose is to educate Arab-Israeli’s in developing and reinforcing critical thinking skills and identify those regressive mechanisms prevalent in Israeli society; mechanisms that serve to perpetuate the ongoing conflict.
A third attempt at conflict mitigation of the Arab-Israeli predicament is the establishment of localized groups intolerant of the intractable conflict such as the “Combatants for Peace.” Created in 2005, the uniqueness of the group is that it is comprised of both Arab-Israeli veterans of the ongoing armed conflict; former Israeli Defense Force soldiers and Palestinian fighters. The views of the group are that the Arab-Israeli conflict can only be resolved through non-violence, joint efforts aimed at ceasing the violent hostilities between the Palestinians and Israeli’s. Some of the groups goals are to educate and promote non-violent struggle, create political pressure to both political party leaderships, and resume dialogue amongst the key players. They have sponsored several public forums at universities and schools on the conflict, support meetings for victims of the conflict, participated in re-building homes destroyed in the ongoing conflict and conducting relief effort convoys to the Gaza strip. QUARTET STRATEGIES FOR PEACE
The decline of social and economic factors during the Oslo process exacerbated Palestinian frustrations which ultimately led to the acceptance of violent extremists “at the forefront of Palestinian politics” . While the failure of the Oslo Accords and Camp David peace talks was the primary influence on the second intifada – the escalation of violence during the second intifada forced Israel into an even greater defensive posture and elicited a greater response. If you compare the first and second intifada – the first led to emerging peace talks between Israel and Palestine. Conversely, the second gave rise to the factional politics that plague the Palestinian political landscape today and pose an even greater challenge to the peace process . As far as the Annapolis peace talks, Israel has placed the burden of proof on Palestine as to whether they will be a cooperative partner in the peace process.
The two main focuses of the 2008 Annapolis Conference was the International Quartet’s 2002 Road Map and permanent status negotiations leading to a peace agreement at the end of 2008. Israel will make no concessions without execution of the Road Map. That is to say that if the Palestinians wish to realize their goal of Statehood – they must first eradicate the militant factor that continues to use terrorist tactics in attempt to realize their goals or seek vengeance upon a perceived enemy . Perhaps this is the fatal flaw in the Road Map, but according to President Abbas, “the Annapolis summit saw a resumption of talks between the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Israel after a seven-year hiatus. The sides pledged to do everything possible to draft a peace settlement by the end of 2008, as well as to come to an agreement on the form of a future independent Palestinian state.” Unfortunately, the talks stopped when Hamas' rockets incited Israel to retaliate with overwhelming destruction.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan emphasized, "It is the view of the Quartet that all members of a future Palestinian Government must be committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the road map."

The U.S. non-negotiation policy towards terrorist organizations has affected past policies and could lead to further unsuccessful negotiations with Palestine. After the 2006 democratic elections, Hamas became a leader in the Palestinian government, which inhibited U.S.-Palestinian negotiations. Rene Wadlow of the Carnegie Council pointed out that “the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, the Israeli Government, the U.S. Government, and to a lesser extent the European Union, would like to see living conditions in Gaza get worse so that the Hamas administration will fail.” As we saw in 2008, this effort had the exact opposite effect of enraging the Palestinians and uniting them behind Hamas. If the U.S. only deals with a portion of the government with limited control, negotiations will fail to produce a united Palestinian State.
The EU committed itself to the reconstruction of Palestine after the 2008 Israel-Hamas conflict. Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, stated at the International Conference for the Reconstruction of Gaza on March 2, 2009 that “while taking care of the immediate needs for reconstruction, we must place our efforts in the broader perspective of a comprehensive resolution of the conflict that is the root cause of the tragedy of Gaza.” He also stressed that “urgent work is needed to restore a credible and sustained political process that will lead to a just and lasting peace for Palestinians and Israelis alike, and ultimately all the peoples in the region.” Curiously, he named President Abbas and the PA as the lead for distribution of the financial aid, bolstering Palestinian support for them. His omission of Hamas shows the EU's continued rejection of Hamas as a legitimate government and continued attempts to weaken their influence in Palestine.
Russia took a different perspective to Hamas and the conflict. After the 2006 Palestinian elections, Russia recognized Hamas as a legitimately elected government instead of a terrorist group. Russia has capitalized on the old Soviet agreements with Arab nations and Israel, due to its large former-Soviet Jewish immigrants in Israel and Russia's large Muslim population in Central Asia, to become more neutrally aligned than the U.S. in regards to the conflict. Russia seems open to all sides of the conflict. Then-president Putin met with President Abbas in 2008 to discuss Russia's increasing role in the peace process, even though President Abbas stated that Hamas was “not part of an official government” and had no right to be invited to a conference.
While the Quartet backed the Road Map vision, the U.S. support for the annexation of settlements in the West Bank became an obstruction to its pursuit. Despite Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, failure of the peace process led to Hamas’s success in Palestinian elections in 2006 . There is an absence of a single unified political body that speaks for all segments of the Palestinian people; the refugees of the Diaspora, those living in the occupied territories, and the Palestinians living in Israel. In order to realize Palestinian national goals during the peace process – it is essential that the body at the negotiating table represents all Palestinians - not just those of the occupied territories. The lack of consensus on what aims they should push for in the negotiation process remains a serious challenge to their goals.
In addition to their position towards Israel, the Hamas government will likely run contrary to the more modernizing and secular elements in the region .
“To promote such a positive situation, the Arab states need to demonstrate that they have the capacity and the political will to rein in extremist groups, like Hamas and Hezbollah, should they refuse to heed the Arab collective will. Thus far, several Arab states have not only refused to impede the activities of such groups; they have actually supported their violent resistance to Israel.”
According to Ayman El-Amir, former Al-Ahram correspondent in Washington, DC, “the PA and Arab governments involved, mainly Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states, realize that without the active involvement of Hamas's administration, no reconstruction will be possible.” As of 17 March 2009, Hamas and Fatah were negotiating semantic points over “respect for” or “abide by” past peace agreements with Israel. If successful, the united PLO as the PA would legally represent all Palestinians under the 1993 Oslo Accords.

Syria is a key player in any Arab-Israeli peace-process negotiation. In order for Israel to attain their goals of security, it must also address the return of the Golan Heights in exchange for a comprehensive peace. The Sunni-Shiite conflict that has spread throughout the Middle East has placed Syria in a position whereby the necessity to portray a unified Sunni front has become imperative.
Syria is host to 10 official and three unofficial Palestinian refugee camps, which support “119,055” registered refugees. The Syrian government supports Hamas' struggle against Israel, but “is keenly interested in ending Israeli occupation of its Golan Heights and restoring the rights of the Palestinians.” Israel's 40-plus year occupation of the Golan Heights is a major issue blocking an Israel-Syria peace treaty, which is currently being mediated by Turkey. This is likely being used as a bargaining chip with Syria to aid the peace process, which would lead to an independent Palestine. Syria's strong relations with Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas place it in a unique position to argue for Hamas' inclusion in the Palestinian government. “US Envoy Jeffrey Feltman said after four hours of talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallim that Syria could play "an important and constructive role" in the region.”


Much attention is given to external factors of the peace process; however, it is entirely plausible for the internal factors that exist within Palestine, such as corruption and factional strife, to play a greater role in the outcome. In Palestine, an authoritarian regime may be favored over the democratic route simply because it is more convenient. Continued failure on the part of elected officials in Palestine to end the Israeli occupation of the territories would certainly make that option more feasible
At its best, the Palestinian cause sought to accept and integrate the State of Israel – their inherent right to exist – into their own narrative. At worst, they sought to eliminate the State altogether and deny their right to exist . The use of tactics to provoke Israeli retaliation thereby undermining support for peaceful negotiations will have to end.

Israel cannot thumb its nose at the Arab Initiative lest it damage their ability to successfully negotiate their national concerns with Palestine and other Arab States such as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt. Israel and Palestine have arrived at an impasse in the conflict, where neither side can take steps towards peace without making major concessions. Grievances over years of violence, territorial disputes, relative deprivation, inequality, and social conditioning continue to fuel the conflict. Arab States such as: Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan are also tied to the conflict. Their support of Palestinian organizations like Hamas and the PLO, sustainment of large Palestinian refugee camps, and land disputes with Israel has brought the conflict to the forefront of their national concerns. In working towards peace, Israel cannot thumb its nose at the Arab Initiative lest it damage their ability to successfully negotiate their national concerns with Palestine and other Arab States such as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt. The failures of peace initiatives framed by the Quartet such as the Oslo Accords and Annapolis conference have exacerbated the conflict. Instead of hopes for peace, these failed negotiations are viewed as signs that peace will never be achieved. The emergence of Hamas is another key inhibitor in the current Road Map towards peace. Not only has Hamas rekindled violent conflict with Israel, but it has further fragmented Palestinian solidarity, which impedes a unified Palestinian body that can negotiate for peace. Despite internal peace building islands such as the village of Neve Shalom and Combatants for Peace, the conflict will continue unless Israel and Palestine re-evaluate their perceptions and uphold concessions that will have to be made.

There are faxes for this order.

Excerpt From Essay:

Title: Antigua Guatemala coffee

Total Pages: 18 Words: 5779 Sources: 2 Citation Style: MLA Document Type: Research Paper

Essay Instructions: I need a business plan for an international business located in Guatemala exporting Guatemalan coffee to Japan specifically and international as well.


International Business Plan Template

1. Executive Summary

Nature of the opportunity

Scope of the opportunity

Why this opportunity?

Why this country?

Financing requirement

Risk assessment

Return on investment

Request for action

2. Nature of business

Summary description

Corporate mission statement (if any)

Corporate history:

? Founders

? When established

? Key milestones

Core competencies:

? Product

? Process

? Technology

? Service

? Operations

? Other

3. Customer Profile

Characteristics of users:

? Age categories

? Occupations

? Income levels

? Other distinguishing features

Who makes the purchasing decision (if different from users)?

Spending patterns of buyers:

Place of product in spending

Disposable income

Factors influencing purchase:

? Price

? Quality

? Features

? Time to market

? Reliability of supply

? After-sales service

? Fads and trends

? Other

4. Current market

Total domestic market for product or service:

? By value

? By volume

? Current and projected trends

? Geographical distribution

Company?s share of domestic market:

? By value

? As a percentage

? Current trends

Company?s foreign markets (if any):

? By value

? By country

? Current trends

5. Description of product or service

What is the need it fills?

Technical description

Distinguishing features differentiating product or service from its competition.

Expected life cycle of current offering:

Can it become obsolete or is overtaken by replacement offerings?

Renewal strategy

? Quality improvements

? Enhanced features

? Replacement offerings

6. Marketing Strategy

Significant trends in the marketplace

? Demographic and social changes

? Macroeconomic factors

? Technological developments

? Regulatory changes

Emerging opportunities for the company

Marketing objectives:

By volume

By market share

By characteristics of target market

Marketplace positioning

Pricing strategy

7. Sales activities

Available resources:

? Internal sales staff

? External sales force (e.g. agents, distributors)

? Sales budget

Sales tactics:

? Promotional techniques

? Special offers

? Unique features of sales approach


8. Intellectual property

Proprietary technologies embedded in the product or service

Proprietary production processes

Patents held

Trademarks, trade names, copyrights, etc.

R&D capabilities

Current R&D activities

R&D objectives

9. Operations

Plant or premises:

? Size

? Location

? Features

? Ownership

? Applicable leases


? Description

? Age

? Applicable leases


? Maximum capacity

? Current utilization

Cost of overheads:

? Materials

? Labor

? Administration

? Rents, leases and utilities

? Marketing and sales

? Other


? Current levels (by number)

? Estimated value

10. Human resources

Number of employees

Functional areas:

? Number in each area

? Skill requirements by area

Educational levels

Gaps in available skills

Recruitment and training strategy

11. Supplier network

Key inputs required:

? By type

? By value

Current suppliers:

? Name

? Location (domestic or foreign)

? Inputs supplied

? Value of orders

Purchasing strategy:

? Supplier qualification

? Method of ordering

? Special techniques (e.g. Just-in-Time ordering)

? Controls

12. Physical distribution

Distribution requirements:

? Nature of product or service

? Order processing

? Handling and shipping techniques used

? Special requirements

Internal capabilities:

? Storage and warehousing

? Preparation and handling

? Shipping

External service suppliers:

? Shipping and handling

? Carriers

? Insurance

? Name of supplier

? Average annual business volume

13. Financial performance: past five years







Gross sales

Cost of goods

Gross profit

Cost of sales


Pre-tax profit


After-tax profit


14. Financial performance: five-year projection







Gross sales

Cost of goods

Gross profit

Cost of sales


Pre-tax profit


After-tax profit


15. Financial requirements of existing business


Cash flow projection

Case requirement




Key Assumptions

16. Possible financing sources


Commercial lenders


Government sources

Other situations

17. Proposed application of funds


Capacity expansion

Marketing initiatives


18. Ownership and structure

Share structure and owners

Senior management


19. Risk Analysis


? Hedging

? Forward contracts

? Transfer pricing

? Asset valuation


? Expropriation

? Discriminatory treatment

? Repatriation funds

? Political environment


? Credit check

? Dispute mechanisms

? Performance bonds

Project management

? Performance bonds

? Reporting systems

? Decision-making mechanisms



? Private

20. Conclusion and recommendations

21. Appendices: Additional supporting information (prepare list)

Management biographies

Product literature

Letters of reference, awards


Major contracts

Asset valuations

Descriptions of assets

Relevant studies

Financial data:

? Cash flow projection

? Profit and loss statement

? Balance sheet

? Auditor?s report

Antigua Guatemala Coffee Info

Tucked away in a valley and nestled between three volcanoes, lies beautiful Antigua, Guatemala; it is in this climatically diverse region that you will find the local farmers growing some of the world?s finest coffee. This region is perfect for cultivating coffee; with ample rainfall, elevations reaching 4,600 feet, and a constant humidity of 65%, it makes absolute sense for coffee to be the number one industry in Guatemala.

This highly rated and well-known gourmet coffee is light-medium roasted to brew into full-bodied coffee with unique smoky and chocolaty undertones. Richly complex and well-balanced, this gourmet coffee from Guatemala has hints of spice in the finish that will please the senses.

25 lbs. Guatemala Antigua Fresh Roasted Coffee Beans

Fresh Roasted Coffee Beans
Guatemala Antigua
? Name: AGAIG
? Origin: Guatemala
? Region: Antigua
? Altitude: 1200-2000
? Processing Method: Washed
? Drying Method: European Prep
Cupping Notes:
Spices,citrus,toasted nuts.
About this Coffee:
Valley Coffee Roasters and Pete have been custom roasting for As Green As It Gets for a few years now. It just seemed funny for us to keep buying our Guatemalan coffee from anyplace else. On August 11 2011 I called AGAIG and now we are buying our Antigua direct from the growers! This is just one of a few coffees I hope to buy direct like this. Remember Direct Trade is getting all of the money back to the growers and IMHO is far better than any Fair Trade Certified coffee.
From As Green As It Gets Site
Our farmers are exporting 21 tons of coffee! This export represents the combined efforts of over 300 people from 64 farming families. From humble beginnings, we have grown from 800 lbs to 42.000 lbs a year, and we're still growing!. Their capital investments continue to grow.
This certified scale weighs legal export weight.

This sewing machine seals each bag in seconds compared to the twenty minutes it takes to sew a bag by hand.

Our farmers have their own export license, export plantation code, FDA registration, tax-payer id number, certified receipts, a legal business entity with board of directors, registered land titles, and a host of legal paperwork to make them bonafide producers and exporters. That?s exciting, but not as exciting as #24378.
This year, the farmers are exporting as Plantation #24378.

That number indicates that the government of Guatemala has recognized them as legal, registered, independent producers and exporters of coffee.

Guatemala History

The golden age and decline of the Maya empire

In 1542, 32 years after Columbus had discovered America, under Pedro de Alvarado the Spanish invaded the region, which now is Guatemala. At this time this region was highly populated by the descendants of the Maya, who, in the years 300 until 900 AD, had known a cultural golden age, in which they had developed a very precise script of words and pictures as well as mathematical and astronomical knowledge. Reasons for the decline of the Maya empire have not been resolved clearly until now. In the opinion of a lot of scientists, an ecological catastrophe destroyed the former flourishing Mayan metropolises that afterwards were overgrown by the rain forest. Therefore, at the time of the Spanish invasion, the Mayan descendants lived in very simple circumstances, pursued agriculture and were in close contact to nature.

"Discovery" of America

By the invasion of the Spanish, the living standards of the Mayas got worse dramatically. They were driven out or forced to work; they suffered from mistreatment, hunger and diseases brought in from Europe. Within a very short time the population of 800,000 reduced to approximately 100,000.

Independence of Guatemala

At the end of the 18th century, resistance was formed by the country exploited by the Spanish Crown which led to independence of Guatemala in 1821. After independence, huge coffee and banana plantations were formed that were led by domestic big landowners and increasingly by foreign companies, e.g. the "United Fruit Company". Politically the country was unstable and subject to dictatorial regimes. The dictatorship of Jorge ?bico (1933 - 1944) can be seen as the climax of the ordinary people's suffering. During this dictatorship all of Guatemala turned into a "big private madhouse", as quoted by a Times correspondent at the time. The Ind?genas, as the Mayan descendants are called today, were deprived of all their rights and tortures and shootings reached alarming and unbearable proportions. In an uprising of the public population, government was removed and nine years of democracy followed.

Under President Juan Jos? Ar?valo, who was elected in 1945, general electoral law was ratified, trade unions were legalized and literacy programmes were carried out. But when Jacobo Arbenz, his successor, wanted to carry out a land reform in which the Guatemalan plantations as well as the United Fruit Company were planned to be expropriated, the government was overthrown with financial help of the US and the support of the CIA in 1954.

Acts of terror and troops of death

During the following decades and with changing governments, the country remained in the hands of the powerful elite that was formed by big landowners, the army and increasingly industrialists. The oppression of a large part of the population was carried on with by extended states of emergency, acts of terror and troops of death.

Policy of the burned ground

At the end of the 70s, the guerrillas began to recruit again after several years of peace. President Romeo Lucas Garc?a, holding office at the beginning of the 80s, tried to fight them by introducing his "policy of the burned ground", which meant destroying whole villages and the killing of a lot of people, mostly of the indigenous population. Garcia?s successor, the religious fanatic Rios Montt, who became president in 1982, was pursuing the same politics more radically. During the 17 months of Rios Montt's dictatorship in Guatemala, the Guatemalan population suffered from the most horrible crimes of the civil war, which lasted more than 36 years: 440 villages were razed to the ground, 50,000 people "disappeared" and more than 100,000 people were killed. Those responsible have not been called to account yet and Rios Montt had immunity as president of the Congress until 2003.

On the way to democracy

Since 1986 Guatemala has been governed by civil presidents, but it wasn't until 1993, when the human rights representative of the government, Ramiro de Le?n Carpio, was called into office as new president, that hope arose on a process of establishing a real democracy. As prisoner between the interests of the army and the economy, he did not achieve any far-reaching reforms either. In 1996 Alvaro Arz? became president. His biggest achievement was the successful conclusion of the peace negotiations, which lasted nearly 10 years and the signing of the final peace contract on 29 December 1996 that put an end to the 36 years of civil war.

The peace contract of 1996

After euphoria, disillusion followed quickly. Until today, economic and political structures remain unchanged and the realisation of a lot of contract issues still are slowed down. In only a few sectors progress had been made, like the reform in the justice system. For a while long prison sentences against members of the army, who were made responsible for the murder of bishop Gerardi four years ago, in the last year, were considered as big results against the general exemptions from punishment. Two days before he was killed, Bishop Gerardi had presented the human rights report on the crimes committed by the army during the civil war. In October 2002, the sentence mentioned above was annulled. Now, after another appeal against this verdict by the defence, this case lies in the responsibility of the constitutional court.

Unfortunately, the death of Bishop Gerardi is not an exception: It is still very dangerous in Guatemala to fight for human rights and to support coming to terms with the dark past of the country. Everyday, activists and offices of human rights organisations as well as a lot of journalists are threatened with death, are attacked and killed in many cases. Obviously, still there are a lot of people (especially in higher ranking positions in the government and army) that are in full consciousness of their guilt and responsibility during the period of the armed conflict and therefore fear any solving of these crimes.

We hope that the peace process, which is stagnating so obviously and only can be seen as a retrograde step in some sectors, will be put on the right track and manifestation of the peace expected will be realised as soon as possible during the following years.
A Short History of Guatemala

Early Mayan civilization and culture began to develop around 2000 B.C., all throughout the territory that we currently know as southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and western Honduras. The first period of Mayan civilization is referred to as the Pre-classic period and it occurred at the same time as the Golden Age of Greece and the conquests of Alexander the Great, lasting until around 250 A.D. The Classic period (following the pre-classic), was contemporary to the fall of the Roman Empire, and covers the years from 250 A.D. to 900 A.D. Following the classic period is the Post classic period from 900 A.D. up until the Spanish conquest of Guatemala in 1524.
The Maya were considered one of the most developed human cultures of their time. They established trade routes throughout the area mentioned above, and also traded with other people in surrounding areas, e.g. with Teotihuacan. The most powerful Mayan cities during the height of Mayan civilization were Tikal, Calakmul, Caracol, Uaxact?n, Yaxh?, Chichen Itz?, El Mirador, Nakbe, Cop?n, Palenque, Yaxchil?n, and Kaminaljuy?. These cities were commercial and spiritual centers. They traded jade, obsidian, quetzal feathers and liquidambar resin from the highlands, seashells, fish and salt from the coast, and cacao, cotton, and macaw feathers from the lowlands. Each city was ruled by a k'ul ajaw, a king of god status, who ruled a united secular and religious realm.

Ball game court in front of the Temple I in Tikal.
Centers of the ancient cities were characterized by plazas, temple pyramids, and ball courts, all designed to model the landscapes surrounding the cities. Pyramids were symbols of the mountains and home to the gods. Ball game courts were symbols for the valleys between the mountains and were considered the entrances to the underworld. The wide central plazas symbolized the surfaces of lakes, which were thought to be the surface of the underworld. Celebrations and sacrificial ceremonies were held on the stage of this sacred landscape (Freidel et al. 1993).
All of the ruins which can be seen today survived under the thick cover of the rainforest for centuries before being uncovered. Today they help us recreate the history of the ancient Maya, together with the arts and crafts and written testimonies carved in stone, written on paper and on pottery. The Maya used the most complex writing system of all American cultures up to their time. They also used an advanced calendar based on exact astronomic observations. Mayan mathematics included the concept of zero and agriculture was dominated by corn, which is still the main base of the Guatemalan diet today.

Itzamn? - Maya god of creation, drawing from Dresden Codex, 1500 A.D. (Post-classic Period).
The late Classic period was characterized by many autonomous city centers that were often in conflict with each other, trying to divide up political territories. The mystery surrounding the collapse of the major Mayan sites in the 9th century continues today. One possible theory is the idea that the uncontrolled exploitation of resources by the Maya (slash and burn agriculture for example), long dry seasons, overpopulation, illnesses, wars, invasions and obstruction of trade routes, depleted the resources needed to support such a large population and caused the civilization to fold upon itself. Either way, what is known is that the main centers of the Classic Period were abandoned and the populations diminished at the end of this period and later on, in the Post classic period, only smaller towns were known to exist around lake Pet?n Itz?. During the late Post Classic period the central towns were Tayasal, at lake Pet?n Itz?, and Topoxt?, at lake Yaxh?.
The long history of the Mayans ruling the majority of Mesoamerica ended with Spain's conquest of their lands. Spain entered to find new lands and resources to exploit and with their conquest they reduced Mayans to smaller populations and established their own cities on top of the Mayan ruins. Thus began three centuries of exploitation by the Spanish of the Mayan people, called the Colonial era, from 1524 to 1821. In 1524 Pedro de Alvarado began the conquest of the geographical area which is now known as part of Guatemala. He founded the first Spanish capital over the Mayan site of Iximch?, the former capital of the Cakchiquel Kingdom. From then on Spain continued to conquer Mayan population centers and defeated the last significant Mayan population in 1697 in Tayasal, capital of the Itzaes of Pet?n. In one of Alvarado's battles Tec?n Um?n was raised to national hero status for his valiant fight against his Spanish intruders.
The name Guatemala was derived from "Quauhtemallan", which means 'place of abundant flowers' or from "Guauthemallan", which means 'place of trees' in the Aztec Nahuatl language. This name was given by the Tlaxcaltecas who came with Pedro de Alvarado to conquer this land. During the colonial time the capital of Guatemala changed location many times due to natural disasters. The capital "Guatemala de la Asunci?n", as it is today, was not named until 1776 after a severe earthquake which destroyed much of the previous capital, the city which is now Antigua Guatemala. During this time trading coalitions were established with Europe and the Catholic Church's influence was solidified throughout the whole country. Even though the Catholic Church tried to impose its beliefs on Mayans, some Maya codices and chronicles, with historical and religious information, were documented, preserved and even translated into Spanish by members of the very same Catholic Church. These members of the church had befriended certain Mayan leaders and were not comfortable forcing their religion upon the Mayans. In the 19th century various indigenous rebellions took place at different points in the country. Out of these rebellions rose another indigenous hero: Atanasio Tzul. He was made famous for leading a rebellion in the Quich? province of Totonicap?n in 1820.

Guatemala's flag and the emblem of liberty in 1821.
In 1821 the Modern Period began with the independence of Guatemala from Spain. A political union of all the countries from Central America took place from 1823 to 1839, known as Central American Federation. The central Government of it was situated in Guatemala, but finally all countries split like we know them today: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. No national currency was declared until 1924. Then the "Quetzal" was introduced, owing its name to the national bird.
Since pre-colonial times the Mayans have always used the slash-and-burn agriculture and it is still the most common method for cultivation of corn, the base of the Guatemalan diet. During and after the Colonial period, Guatemala exported products which had been originally processed by the Mayan people, such as cacao and Spanish Red, which is a dye extracted from cochineal insects. At the end of the 19th century numerous German immigrants came to Guatemala and planted large areas with coffee for exportation. This is how coffee "fincas" or farms originated and today they are still producing some of the finest coffees in the world. The 20th century began with strong investments from the United Fruit Company to establish banana plantations in Guatemala. The company signed a contract with then president Estrada Cabrera to grow and trade bananas, and thus began a decade of strong influences of the banana trade in Guatemalan power politics.
In 1960 a civil war began that lasted for 36 years, taking the life of thousands of Guatemalans, and not officially concluding until the signing of Peace Accords between the government and guerilla forces in 1996. Since the Peace Agreements were signed, their implementation has been given close attention by the international community while the national government has swayed from strong intentions to implement agreements in the accords to a seemingly disinterested stand on the matter. In the face of these fluctuations the country has a long way to go to achieve the goals laid out in this important document.

Guatemala's population is currently at around 13 million people, according to the national census. Guatemala is a multicultural country: 23 Mayan ethnic groups, "ladinos" (a mix of Mayan and Spaniards), and minor groups, which are mainly the Xinca and the Gar?funa. The Mayan population is around 60% of this number. They are settled mainly in the western highlands and in central Guatemala. Rural areas of Guatemala are a stark contrast to the urban centers. Most remote rural villages do not have paved roads, electricity or running water, and education is hard to access. The intensive use of the land in rural areas reflects the fact that agricultural production is still the main economic activity for the majority of the country's population. Some of the most prominent export products produced in Guatemala are: Cardamom, coffee, sugar cane, bananas, flowers and non-traditional goods like macadamia nuts and typical textiles and souvenirs. A significant amount of Guatemala's economy relies on tourism as the country's wildly diverse attractions, both natural and cultural, provide a wealth of attractions for visitors to the country.
One of the traditions in Guatemala which has endured centuries is that of the local markets. Markets are both trading centers and gathering sites and are generally operational only a couple of days each week, when people from a whole region will come to a town center to offer their wares and purchase basic necessity goods for their families. At the major markets one can observe local products and typical clothes from different areas and ethnic groups being bought and sold, since people from numerous small towns gather in the main markets at the same time.

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