Jan 25 2015

Did US backtrack on Palestinian statehood to please Israel?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The United States, which has progressively moved toward recognizing the State of Palestine, has suddenly backed away from even using the word Palestine. Were the previous positions merely lip service and are we now witnessing the true US position, or did the United States backtrack to please Israel?

A look at the history of US rhetorical interaction with the issue of Palestine shows progress over the past decades, from ignoring the existence of the Palestinian people to talking about Palestinian statehood.

George W. Bush received much attention as the first US president to use the word Palestine during a speech he made at the Saban Forum in December 2008. “At the heart of this effort is the vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. I was the first American president to call for a Palestinian state, and support — and [to] build support for the two-state solution has been a top priority of my administration,” Bush said.

The term State of Palestine was used 38 times in official statements and speeches by the Republican president. Continue Reading »

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Jan 22 2015

Is Quartet making comeback?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The statement was made Jan. 15 by US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power in New York. The setting was the UN Security Council’s monthly debate on the Middle East, the scene of a failed attempt to set an end date to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The justification, as expressed by Power, was to “urge both parties to exercise maximum restraint and avoid steps that threaten to push Israeli-Palestinian relations into a cycle of further escalation.”

Powers’ declaration revealed that representatives of the long dormant international Quartet were to meet in Brussels on Jan. 26. The Quartet was established in Washington in 2002 and is made up of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. It has been in hibernation ever since the beginning of the US-sponsored direct peace talks in July 2013.

A look at the website of the Quartet’s representative, Tony Blair, shows that the last statement by the four major world parties was made Sept. 27, 2013, and contained a briefing by the United States on the direct talks. Since that date, the Quartet has been silent, except for protocol issues and resolving some problems around the movement of people and goods, especially the Gaza Strip.

Furthermore, the last entry on the site of the Quartet representative was made Dec. 10, 2014, and contained a statement by Blair on the death of Palestinian Minister Ziad Abu Ein during a nonviolent anti-settlement protest near Ramallah. Continue Reading »

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Jan 18 2015

Palestinians to give UNSC bid another shot

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo Jan. 15 approved a Palestinian request to return to the UN Security Council to seek an end to the Israeli occupation. The ministers did not set a date for the next UN campaign, leaving the decision to a committee made up of Jordan, Kuwait, Mauritania, Egypt, Morocco and Palestine. Addressing the foreign ministers, President Mahmoud Abbas asked Arabs to financially support the Palestinian government in light of Israel’s decision to withhold tax revenue. Abbas said that the Palestinians had notified the United States of their intention to join the International Criminal Court (ICC). “Had America told Israel to stop settlements, we wouldn’t have gone,” he added.

The Palestinian leadership’s desire to return to New York has repeatedly been made clear by Abbas since the previous bid failed. At a Jan. 4 cultural conference in Ramallah, Abbas said, “We didn’t fail, the UN Security Council failed us. We’ll go again to the Security Council, why not?”

After participating in the Paris solidarity rally, Abbas told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Palestinians will seek another vote at the UN Security Council. And at a Jan. 12 press conference, he said, “Nothing will ever deter us from continuing our march toward obtaining the rights, freedom and independence of our people.”

On paper, the chances of a Palestinian statehood resolution receiving the nine positive votes needed have been greatly increased with the changes at the turn of the year. Australia, which voted against the resolution, has been replaced by New Zealand, and majority-Muslim Malaysia has replaced South Korea, which abstained. Sources in the Palestinian and Jordanian missions in New York are optimistic. Continue Reading »

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Jan 13 2015

Abbas’ presence at Paris rally boosts Palestinian legitimacy

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The participation of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in France’s mega unity demonstration in Paris on Jan. 11 was apparently not of his own making.

A day earlier, the Secretariat of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had announced plans to hold a rally in support of France in Manara Square in Ramallah at noon the following day. The Israeli press has since made it clear that Abbas’ participation in Paris came about to counter the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who insisted on attending despite opposition from Paris. Netanyahu, who initially indicated he would not be going, citing security reasons, quickly reversed his decision after his electoral opponents Avigdor Liberman and Naftali Bennett decided to attend. The French are said to have told the Israeli leader that if he came, they would invite the Palestinian president.

Much of this background was unknown to most Palestinians, who were divided upon seeing their president march in Paris alongside world leaders, including Netanyahu. Opposition to Abbas’ Paris visit arose initially from hard-line Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar, who called it “hypocrisy and political acrobatics.”

Social media was full of posts from individuals comparing Abbas’ Paris trip to his “non-visit” to Gaza since the end of the 2014 Israeli war, which resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including 17 journalists. This sentiment was echoed by Fadi Elsalameen, adjunct senior fellow at the American Security Project and a Palestinian activist in the United States. Speaking to Al-Monitor, Elsalameen echoed many in stating, “I wish he [Abbas] showed the same support for his people locally. He banned solidarity demonstrations with Gaza and has no shame in showing up in Paris.” Continue Reading »

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Jan 12 2015

The real war is the ideological one

By Daoud Kuttab

Very few people know that in Islam there are two kinds of jihad. The smaller Jihad is the more known one namely the one which reflects the military a struggle. But the greater Jihad which is less known is the internal Jihad- or Struggle.

Few people also know that the Arabic word Jihad is used throughout the Christian Bible as well.  II Timothy y 4:7 states I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. The Arabic verse uses  the term fight  for the word Jihad.

So whether it is the struggle or the fight for a better world, the militaristic Jihad is certainly not a monopoly to Islamists.

How does this affect the current war on Islamic extremism that most tangible form has been the Islamic State militias who have controlled large segments of land and people in northern Iraq and eastern Syria.

France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said that his country is now at war with radical Islam. “It is a war afraternity, freedom, solidarity,” Mr. Valls said during a speech in Évry, south of Paris.

World leaders have correctly pointed out that the fight radical Islam including the current coalition against against DAESH (the Arabic acronym of ISIS) must be both a military and an ideological one. We have heard and seen a lot of the former but very little has been done to tackle the ideologies behind this extreme group. Continue Reading »

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Jan 06 2015

Netanyahu’s threats won’t sway Abbas

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Both the content and the body language reflected a profound Israeli irritation. “We will not allow IDF soldiers and commanders to be hauled before the International Criminal Court [ICC] in The Hague,” said an angry Benjamin Netanyahu at the opening of the weekly Cabinet meeting on Jan. 4.

The response of the Israeli prime minister was accompanied by threats and punitive actions against Palestinians, including warnings that Israel would also prosecute Palestinians for war crimes and that the monthly customs taxes collected on behalf of Palestinians would not be turned over (the December 2014 transfer is about $127 million). For once, it seems that Palestinians got under Netanyahu’s skin.

The Palestinian leadership, of course, is not interested in the emotional state of Netanyahu or the Israelis, and the refusal to turn over Palestinian monies — called another war crime by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat — will certainly not sway Palestinians from their game plan.

This is not the first time that the Israelis have frozen the transfer of Palestinian taxes only to rescind their decision for fear that cutting off Palestinian funds could result in the collapse of the Palestinian government.

But the tit-for-tat that is taking place on the diplomatic and political scene is aimed at changing the rules of the game. For the first time in many years, the Palestinians appear to be executing a well-designed plan in which every action is calculated and reactions by the international community and Israel are factored into the calculations and tend to trigger further action. Continue Reading »

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Jan 05 2015

Why the world doesn’t see Palestine’s suffering

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

One of the most exasperating problems facing Palestinian efforts to end the Israeli occupation has been conveying to the world the daily suffering that they endure under it. The difficulty of the effort continues, as the Palestinians struggle to find an effective strategy internally or through the world’s leading forum, the UN Security Council, to lift the occupation.

The interest of politicians, pundits and journalists usually piques about the Palestinians after sensational news generating major headlines, such as multiple killings, major settlement activities or various political machinations. Real-life, everyday events occurring throughout the occupied territories are rarely covered, although they are accessible through various public platforms.

To bring this issue to light, there is a need to look at the micro picture, not just the big picture. A painstaking observance of daily events in the occupied territories gives a contextual picture of why ending the occupation is the No. 1 priority of Palestinians. Here is a list of news items from Dec. 28 as reported by the official Palestinian news agency, WAFA:

  • Three injured as Israeli soldiers suppress peaceful protest in Beit Hanoun, north Gaza

  • Israeli soldiers raid Hebron school in search of two students

  • Israeli settler runs over 8-year-old near Hebron

  • Israeli bulldozers raze wheat crops near Nablus

Continue Reading »

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Jan 04 2015

After rejecting Palestinian statehood, what next?

By Daoud Kuttab

There is an Arab saying about taking away options to people. It says’ don’t break a full loaf of bread and don’t eat from a broken loaf but feel free to eat as much as you want.’

This is the international community’s response to Palestinian efforts to end an unjust 47 year old Israeli occupation. When Palestinians use armed resistance which is legal by international law, they are called ‘terrorists’ and asked to refrain from acts that endanger the lives of Israelis whose offensive actions against the people of Gaza are legitimate self defense.

When Palestinians try popular national resistance, their actions are called  provocative and their leaders are oppressed. Israel deported (nonviolent leader Mubarak Awad) and caused the death of Minister Ziad Abu Ein as it uses excessive force against demonstrators.

Palestinians tried negotiations despite a statement by the former Israeli Prime Minister Yitshaq Shamir that Israel will drag that talks for 10 years without results. The talks have dragged 20 years without results.

An attempt to use the Security Council route was opened and then quickly shut down. An attempt to put an end date to the occupation was not acceptable by western countries despite the support of their public in overwhelming numbers. France tried to water down the Palestinian version without providing assurances that the US will indeed support it. And in the end the US bullied Nigeria to abstain in the vote and therefore didn’t even need to use its threats to veto the said resolution. Continue Reading »

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Dec 28 2014

My problem with the capital punishment in Jordan

Published by under Articles,Jordan

By Daoud Kuttab

I am in principle opposed to the capital punishment. In Jordan I am even more opposed to carrying out this inhuman punishment for a number of reasons.

Among the main reasons people are opposed to the capital punishment is the fact that the chances of miscarriage of justice is high. Throughout history the cases of proven death to individuals who later were proven to be innocent exist in abundance. The development of DNA testing has shown that some of the world’s most careful judiciaries have made mistakes that led to this irreversible punishment.

In Jordan, the judiciary is well respected by the public but it is not prone to mistakes. In fact weeks ago an issue that led to the early retirement of five senior judges point to the potential of grave miscarriage of justice.  A 1% chance that a wrong judgment can lead to the end of someone’s life is enough reason to refrain from carrying out this cruel punishment.

Another issue that needs to be addressed is the problem of double jeopardy. The fact that after an 8 year hiatus in which the capital punishment was suspended and then reinstated means that those hanged last week were punished twice. Jordanian law and general principles of justice make it unacceptable to punish a person twice for the same crime. Effectively replacing the capital punishment with a long term imprisonment and then reversing that on the same individual’s means that those who suffered from long term jails and the capital punishment were victims of this illegal double jeopardy. Continue Reading »

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Dec 14 2014

Death of Ziad Abu Ein could work to Abbas’ advantage

 

By Daoud Kuttab

The death of senior Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein, while he attempted to plant olive trees in Palestinian territory, is sure to reignite calls for a major discussion of Palestinian resistance tactics and strategies. Palestinian nonviolent efforts have been going on for years without producing concrete results.

At a time when negotiations had reached a dead end and armed resistance had proven extremely costly in human and other terms, an alternative strategy was sought. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and others in the Palestinian national camp advocated nonviolent popular struggle as the most effective means to force Israel to end its 47-year occupation. The Israelis, who recognized how lethal responses to popular protests fueled the first intifada, have confronted the various efforts with just enough violence to try to deter, but without major fatalities.

Israel’s oppressive efforts to stifle Palestinian resistance have been seen in places likeNi’llin, Nabi Musa, Nahalin and other villages where protests have been taking place every Friday for years. The demonstrations, largely against the separation wall and confiscation of Palestinian lands, have included Israeli peace supporters and international solidarity activists. Media have also had a presence, regularly filming and reporting on Israeli actions, although with time the impact of these actions diminished, in part because of the absence of fatalities. A Dec. 10 confrontation between Palestinians and Israeli forces, however, did result in a fatal injury to a senior Palestinian official.

Abu Ein had been a minister without portfolio in the Palestinian government and head of the Commission Against the Separation Wall and Settlements. Abu Ein, also a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council (FRC), was declared dead at a Ramallah hospital after suffering serious injuries in a confrontation with Israeli troops. Continue Reading »

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