Aug 14 2014

Jerusalem Grandfather with Hope

Published by under Blogs

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By Daoud Kuttab

This week I became a grandfather.

My eldest daughter, Tamara, gave birth to a baby girl in Jerusalem; baby and mother are healthy and fine.

This piece of good news did not come so easily emotionally or politically, however.

For weeks, we have been hearing, seeing and talking to people about children in Gaza losing their lives not because of natural causes, to accidents or earthquakes, but because of a man made gigantic disaster that in the end was probably aimed at little more than improving some politicians’ standings in upcoming elections.

Sure, there is plenty of talk and pontification about the reasons for the war on Gaza, about some “moral army” that supposedly takes “precautions” to prevent civilian deaths. But the reality is that the occupying Israelis appear to consider every Palestinian in Gaza a member of the Islamic Hamas movement.

While our thoughts and prayers were with the children of Gaza, the weeks leading to the birth of my first grandchild also had discriminatory bureaucratic problems that no expecting couple should have to go through.

My daughter has an Israeli residency in Jerusalem. When Israel occupied the remaining Palestinian territory, it unilaterally passed Israeli law on East Jerusalem, giving its residents (including my family) permanent residency, but not automatic citizenship. Continue Reading »

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Aug 14 2014

Momentum grows for ICC action on Gaza

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

As the sounds of gunfire in the Gaza Strip begin to cease, international human rights organizations, legal experts and political activists are speaking up about the need for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate whether war crimes were committed during the Gaza conflict this summer.

The ICC, created by means of the 1998 Rome Statute with the aim of prosecuting individuals for war crimes and amended a few times, became legal in 2002. Legal experts and the ICC’s own bylaws say that it is a court of last resort. This means that the ICC will only intervene when a country is found to be unwilling or unable to carry out its own investigation.

At present, neither Israel nor the state of Palestine are members of the ICC. A total of 122 countries have signed up for the Rome Statute, and Jordan is the only Arab country to have done so.

Fayez Abu Eita, a spokesman for the Palestinian Fatah movement, said the Palestinians need an international party to investigate the war crimes committed by Israel in its offensive on Gaza. In a phone interview with Al-Monitor, Abu Eita said that a Palestinian committee has been formed and the issue has been reviewed from all angles with the conclusion that the ICC should be joined. “There is a huge desire among the Palestinian people to hold the Israeli occupiers responsible for the war crimes they committed against Palestinian children, women and senior citizens,” he said. Continue Reading »

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Aug 10 2014

War on Gaza a ‘Tie’ With Hamas

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By Daoud Kuttab

The images were different, but two words were repeated in most TV graphics announcing the start of the ceasefire. “Gaza victorious” (Gaza tantaser) were the words superimposed on images of Palestinian fighters, rockets and scenes of destruction in the background. So was Gaza really victorious? The destruction, the nearly 1900 Palestinians killed and the 7,000 injured do not seem much of a victory. But in this region, everything is relative. Compared to the powerful Israeli military machine that is considered among the best equipped and trained in the world, the mere fact that the ceasefire was imposed while Palestinians were standing is seen as a huge victory. Palestinian resistance announcements stressed an important news item: in the last 10 minutes before the start of the 72-hour ceasefire, some 27 rockets aiming at various Israeli locations had been launched from Gaza, a message that Hamas, Islamic Jihadand others in the resistance were not entering the ceasefire defeated. In strategic terms, however, it is hard to consider the result of the war on Gaza as anything more than a tie. Neither Israel nor Hamas or Islamic Jihad was able to accomplish their goals during the fight. Israel was unable to stop the rockets and may not have destroyed all the tunnels. Nor is there any guarantee that tunnel digging has not started anew. On the other hand the Palestinians failed to gain any commitment, prior to the ceasefire, that the crippling seven-year-old siege on Gaza will be lifted. Continue Reading »

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Aug 10 2014

Israel’s Gaza offensive resurrects Hamas

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

While the war on Gaza is still not officially over, it is possible to draw some early conclusions.

At this moment, the two protagonists, Israel and Hamas, seem to have reached little more than a draw. Neither side has accomplished what it publicly set out to do. Israel said its aims were to stop the rockets and later added the goal of destroying the tunnels. Until the very last minute before the beginning of the cease-fire, Hamas and Islamic Jihad were clearly not ready to permanently halt their rocket launches. Twenty-six rockets were launched 10 minutes before the cease-fire and a statement by Hamas’ military wing vowed to continue rocket attacks if Israeli aggression continues. And while Israel says it destroyed all the “known” tunnels, few in Israel believe that the tunnel issue has been adequately addressed. There is also no reason to expect that Hamas and others will not dig new ones.

Despite its rhetoric, Hamas can’t declare victory yet, either. The cease-fire might stop the Israeli shelling, but ending the Israeli siege on Gaza has not been accomplished. Hamas was forced to accept an Egyptian proposal it had rejected a few weeks earlier.

If neither Israel nor Hamas accomplished their objectives, who were the winners and losers in this monthlong war? No doubt the innocent hundreds of Palestinians, entire families who perished, were the true victims. The Palestinian Health Ministry estimates that nearly 1,900 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed and over 10,000 injured. Homes and schools were destroyed. While the latter can be rebuilt, the lives taken are gone. Continue Reading »

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Aug 10 2014

Gaza war was built on lies

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip began, continued and is ending on a lie. The chief liar and man responsible for the disproportionate use of Israeli firepower that has resulted in nearly 2,000 Palestinian deaths — mostly civilians — versus three Israeli civilians, is none other than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

While the war in Gaza began on June 29, the incitement for the war began when Israel’s prime minister irresponsibly accused the Gaza-based Islamic Hamas movement of being responsible for what was declared a kidnapping of three Israelis. The three were apparently hitchhiking in areas under Israeli military control in the West Bank on June 12 when they were taken by yet to be identified kidnappers and apparently killed shortly thereafter. One of the three Israelis called the police and the sound of gunfire is heard on the phone call. Netanyahu immediately placed a gag order on the deaths.

Writing in the Jewish Daily Forward, J.J. Goldberg talks about how “politics and lies” triggered the war in Gaza. “Journalists who heard rumors [about the emergency call] were told the Shin Bet wanted the gag order to aid the search. For public consumption, the official word was that Israel was ‘acting on the assumption that they’re alive.’ It was, simply put, a lie,” Goldberg wrote. Continue Reading »

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Aug 03 2014

West Bank Palestinians raise money for Gaza

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

A burly man driving a Land Rover ran quickly into the Greenland supermarket and asked for 10 large boxes of bottled water. When the owner of the store, where I happened to be at the time, asked what the water was for, the man answered that it was a contribution to Gaza. Without a blink, the storeowner ordered one of his staff to add five more boxes as a contribution. At the entrance of the store in this Ramallah suburb of Tireh, I saw two signs calling on customers to contribute to Gaza. “Your small contribution will go a long way,” said an ad, signed by the Latin Church in Ramallah.

Driving through the occupied West Bank, we see large signs that state, “We are all Gaza.” Radio stations blare revolutionary chants, Marcel Khalife patriotic songs and Mahmoud Darwish poems between news reports and interviews with Gaza reporters and Palestinian analysts.

In Bethlehem, Alex Awad, 68, said that he felt guilty every time he went into a store and picked up a product with a bar code starting with 729 — a reference to its Israeli origin. Palestinians have been encouraged to look for products beginning with the 625, the Palestinian barcode. Awad, who runs the Shepherd Society, said he was working with Gazans to help them with the current crisis. Awad is working with a New Zealand Christian humanitarian organization to raise $100,000. They hope that the money will be distributed to Gazan families at the rate of $250 a family to help them with buying food, water, gas or paying for alternative housing if their homes are destroyed. Continue Reading »

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Aug 03 2014

Palestinian unity part of solving Gaza’s crises

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Two contradictory arguments are being discussed at various levels concerning postwar Gaza. One suggests that the war has brought an end to the Israeli-induced artificial separation between Gaza and the West Bank. The other suggests that Israel’s war, and more specifically the tunnels and the general Hamas-led resistance to Israel, has made the possibility of Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank that much more difficult.

Israel’s leading political columnist, Nahum Barnea, launched the first salvo when he publicly exposed the failure of Israel’s strategy to divorce the West Bank from Gaza. Tucked in a 4,000-plus-word column was an insightful thought rarely stated so clearly in public and certainly not by a leading Israeli analyst: “The Israeli government must aim for a fundamental change in the reality in Gaza, and perhaps, finally, even change the very nature of Israel’s relations with the Palestinians as a whole,” Barnea argued. “Israel’s attempt to separate the West Bank from Gaza, to divide and conquer, has failed. Vision is needed. Hope is needed. Not only for Israelis, but Gazans too.”

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Aug 03 2014

What made Abbas change position on Gaza war?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

There is little doubt that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was not a fan of Hamas’ strategy and actions when the current war on Gaza began. There is also little doubt that Abbas has made a major change that was reflected in his speech in Ramallah on July 23 to members of the Palestinian leadership that brought him praise from even Islamic Jihad.

What caused the change? Was it something that happened in his visits to Cairo, Doha and Ankara? Was it something that happened within his own Fatah movement or was it because Hamas was standing up to the Israeli ground invasion?

Up until this important speech, the Palestinian leader felt ideologically and politically distant from Hamas and its “resistance” creed and action. Abbas at one time convinced Hamas’ leadership to publicly support “popular resistance” as the preferred way to liberate Palestine. In translating his philosophy, Abbas saw in the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire a way out of the killing and a return to negotiations. Abbas, who has had a hard time creating chemistry with new Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, accepted the cease-fire formula that the Arab League — and later the United States and Israel — had also approved. Continue Reading »

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Jul 31 2014

Gaza and the West Bank One Palestinian Entity

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By Daoud Kuttab

The admission was buried deep in a long, drawn-out analysis by Israel’s leading columnist. Nahum Barnea revealed that one of the yet to be declared results of the war on Gaza is the realization that the attempts to separate Gaza from the West Bank has failed.

While the focus of discussion in various regional and world capitals has been on lifting the siege on Gaza and specifically the opening up of the Rafah crossing with Egypt, a much more crossing point is coming to focus now.

If in fact this fact is truly internalized by the various Israeli political and military elements, we might be seeing the beginnings of the accomplishment of one of the basic tenants of an independent Palestinian state.

The unity of the Palestinian territory is essential to fulfill the requirement for “contiguity” when it comes to the ability of movement between Gaza and the West Bank.

The safe passage road between the northern Gaza borders and the Tarqomia crossing south of Hebron was talked and has been detailed in great details in the Oslo Accords. A further attempt to further discuss the movement of persons and good between the two Palestinian areas was hammered out in US-Israeli and Palestinian discussions under the leadership of former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But all that talk and agreements failed as Israel implemented a fool hearted and reckless policy to separate Gaza from the West Bank. It is not clear what the Israeli strategists were hoping but certainly what has resulted in the radicalization of the Gaza strip and its equipping with long range rockets, was certainly not on those Israeli strategists agenda. Continue Reading »

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Jul 30 2014

In Ramallah, a Wedding Stands Against the Chaos and Hate

Published by under Articles,Personal

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By Daoud Kuttab

Weddings in Ramallah usually take place on Saturdays or Sundays. But when my daughter Tania and her in-laws to be were discussing her wedding date, the main concern was to avoid the World Cup finals. The only available date was Friday, July 11th. Little did we know last April, when we met with the priest at the Latin Church in Ramallah with our expected new in-laws, that this July date would be in the crossfires of a war on Gaza in which rockets would be flying all over. In addition to local friends and family, we were expecting relatives to arrive from Jordan and the U.S. via Jordan bridges, and some straight into Tel Aviv. As the wedding day neared, we had to reassure friends and relatives that Ramallah was safe. Friends from Nazareth, Jerusalem and Amman were calling us, saying that they are worried about coming. A week earlier, my brother-in-law, his wife and another couple were nearly killed by angry settlers as he was returning from a wedding in Ramallah. The incident caused us all to reserve half a local hotel in Ramallah to ensure that family and guests would sleep in town rather than risk returning home at night. Continue Reading »

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