Mar 25 2014

Senior Fatah Leader links Israeli prisoner release to UN push

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

A leading Palestinian official has said that the end of March, rather than the end of April, could be the date that the Palestinian leadership moves to join United Nations agencies. “Our agreement was clear,” Abbas Zaki, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, told Al-Monitor in an exclusive interview. “In return for Israel releasing all 104 [Palestinian] prisoners, we will refrain from joining any further UN agencies. If they renege on this issue, we are free to join UN agencies. This has nothing to do with the end-of-April deadline for the face-to-face talks.” Zaki called the current situation “very dangerous” and said the Central Committee is holding an “open-ended emergency session.”

Israeli officials, including Tzipi Livni, the justice minister and lead negotiator, have threatened that the release of the fourth tranche of prisoners, scheduled for late March, would not go forward unless the Palestinians agreed to an extension of the talks beyond their April 29 deadline.

Zaki, a former ambassador of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to Beirut, asserted in the interview that the Palestinians continue to yearn for peace, but not at any cost. “We have absolutely no regrets for taking the path of peace, but if this process is a failure and a waste of time, we will not hesitate to say so.”

Speaking on the upcoming Arab summit, scheduled March 25 in Kuwait, the current commissioner for Arab affairs in Fatah said that he hoped Arab leaders would support Palestine and refrain from taking contradictory positions. “We want them to truly support the Palestinian negotiating position and to ensure that the United States remains neutral in the negotiations. What we don’t want is for anyone to volunteer a position without knowing the background to it.”

Zaki said that the issue of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state has been rejected by Palestinians as well as Arab foreign ministers at a meeting in Cairo in the preceding days. More of the interview follows. Continue Reading »

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Mar 23 2014

Reality Check Forces the Search for a New Post-Dispensational Theology

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By Daoud Kuttab

A search is on among Christian evangelists to find a new theology that can take the place of the discredited dispensational theology, which many are unable to defend in light of the realities on the ground. The most critiqued part of dispensationalist theology is blindly assigning support for the state of Israel in the name of the Bible. This search was most obvious recently when Palestinian Christian evangelists met in mid-March with fellow global evangelists in a theological conference, Christ at the Checkpoint, held in the occupied Palestinian city of Bethlehem.

The complaint raised by Palestinian evangelicals is that God’s Old Testament promises can’t be used to support the injustice taking place against them and their fellow citizens. The natural Christian alternative to dispensationalism, which gives special privileges to secular and nonsecular Israelis solely because of their Jewish faith, is to stress that the Church today has taken the place of the Jewish people in God’s eyes. However such talk is considered, replacement theology, which has been used in an abusive way for centuries in Europe, to persecute the Jews, ultimately leading to the Holocaust. Any attempts to promote such alternative theologies, like any attempts to criticize Israel, are quickly dismissed as the religious source of the scourge of anti Semitism.

While many evangelicals are now calling themselves progressive dispensationalists, the alternative to dispensanalism remains elusive. Continue Reading »

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Mar 23 2014

Abbas returns to warm welcome after resisting US pressure

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received a hero’s welcome in Ramallah after returning from what was billed as a tough summit in Washington with US President Barack Obama.

Abbas was hailed as having stood his ground in the Oval Office meeting, resisting strong pressure from the United States to budge on at least two publicly stated issues: recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and the long-term deployment of Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley.

Neither US officials nor Palestinians have stated what went on in the closed meeting. Public demonstrations in support of Abbas were held in many West Bank cities before and during the meeting. While thousands rallied in the West Bank, Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip banned the holding of similar demonstrations.

The fact that Abbas held his ground was indirectly admitted by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin, who told Al-Monitor that the Palestinian leader has not changed his position “one millimeter.” Abbas himself basked in the public support and gave a short statement reassuring his supporters that he has held his ground politically. Continue Reading »

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Mar 19 2014

Nazareth election beginning of end for Israel’s Communist Party

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The loss of the Nazareth mayoralty in the March 11 recall elections marked the beginning of the end of the Israeli Communist Party in Israel. Ramez Jaraisi, the mayor for nearly four decades, lost to Ali Salam, who won more than 61% of the city’s votes.

Israeli Communist leaders in Nazareth accepted defeat and issued a statement six days later to congratulate the new winners, stating that they accepted the will of the people of Nazareth. They also promised to search hard for the reasons for their political setback. Jaraisi gained almost the same number of votes, 16,000, while his opponent (who was his deputy for years) won over the votes that went to other groups that competed in the first round against Jaraisi.

While the election campaign turned sectarian in the early stages of the election campaign, that Salam’s “Our Nazareth” list was endorsed by well-known Christian leaders and clergy reduced much of the tensions. Many feel that the religious-sectarian issue was manufactured, rather than a real reflection of any Christian-Muslim tensions on the ground.

The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, a coalition led by the Israeli Communist Party, has been the major political force for Palestinian citizens of Israel since it was created in this form in 1977. The Jabha as it is called in Arabic, or Hadash in Hebrew, has maintained an Arab-Jewish partnership despite the vast majority of its members and voters being Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel. Israeli Communists, through different coalitions, have maintained three or four members of the 120-member Israeli Knesset since the establishment of Israel. Continue Reading »

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Mar 19 2014

Christian Zionism criticized at evangelical conference

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Christian Zionism, which cites the Bible to support Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands, received heavy criticism at a conference organized by Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem the week of March 10 and attended by Al-Monitor.

Theologians from Europe and North America as well as Palestinian speakers presented lectures full of biblical references at the third Christ at the Checkpoint conference questioning the validity of what is referred to as dispensational doctrine.

Rev. Alex Awad, pastor of the East Jerusalem Baptist Church, explained how Christian Zionism has led many Christians to blindly support Israel. Awad then went even further, describing the wariness of many evangelicals toward calls for peace. “Some Christians are suspicious of peace because they’ve heard sermons that delegate peace and peacemaking as the work of the Antichrist,” Awad said. “But the Bible calls us to be peacemakers,” he added.

Awad, who is also dean of students at Bethlehem Bible College, the conference founder and sponsor, explained that many evangelicals think that supporting the actions of the State of Israel, even if they violate human rights and dehumanize Palestinians, is a way to obey and love God. He asserted, “They conflate political backing of a secular state with spiritual blessing upon God’s chosen people.”  Continue Reading »

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Mar 19 2014

Israeli killing of judge at border provokes backlash in Jordan

Published by under Articles,Jordan

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The killing of Raed Zeiter, a Palestinian-Jordanian judge, at the entry to the Israeli-controlled side of the King Hussein Bridge on March 10 has resulted in an explosion of anger in the Hashemite kingdom. Protests and marches took place late that night near the Israeli Embassy in Amman. The following day, a vigil at Amman’s Justice Palace saw thousands of lawyers and judges unite in denouncing the killing. Students also protested at various universities, but perhaps the strongest voices were raised at the March 11 afternoon session of the Jordanian parliament, where legislators demanded in unison that the government expel the Israeli ambassador and recall Jordan’s envoy to Tel Aviv. Many even went so far as to call for scrapping the Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement. Others sought clemency for Ahmad Daqamseh, the Jordanian soldier who killed seven Israeli girls on the Jordan’s side of the northern crossing point in March 1997 and has served more than half of his 25-year sentence.

The killing took place just two weeks after Amnesty International produced a report detailing how ”trigger-happy” Israeli soldiers often abuse their firepower. The shooting of Judge Zeiter very much fits the profile of the way well-armed Israeli soldiers conduct themselves, likely due to the impunity provided by the Israeli establishment. The study found that in most cases, Israeli soldiers are not held accountable for premeditated killings. Amnesty judged these premeditated wanton killings — in which the soldiers’ lives are not in danger — to be war crimes. Continue Reading »

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Mar 19 2014

Israel irked by pro-Palestinian evangelical Christian conference

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

A Palestinian college in Bethlehem will host a weeklong conference aimed at weakening the traditional evangelical support to Israel, despite strong Israeli pressures.

The third Christ at the Checkpoint Conference at the Bethlehem Bible College is expected to host the “widest and most diverse” group of evangelical Christians, according to conference organizers. The conference scheduled to commence on March 10 will feature well-known evangelical speakers from around the world as well as Palestinian Christian theologians and activists. Speakers include Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary-general of the World Evangelical Alliance, and Joseph Cumming, who previously served as the director of the Yale University Divinity School’s Reconciliation Program.

Messianic Jewish leaders Evan Thomas and Daniel Juster will be present, along with Holy Land Trust Director Sami Awad and Bethlehem Bible College President Jack Sara.

Participants will hear leading world evangelicals critique traditional pro-Israeli Christian theology, interact with fellow Palestinian Christians and take note of the suffering that Israel and its occupation is causing for Palestinians. Continue Reading »

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Mar 13 2014

Israeli Occupier-occupied Paradigm Must End

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By Daoud Kuttab

For 46 years the bridge connecting the West Bank with Jordan has been a source of hardships, humiliations and extremely long and unnecessary delays, not to mention cumbersome and exaggerated body and baggage searches. This nightmare has to end.

What happened on Monday morning March 10th is a symptom of the occupation versus occupied paradigm that must come to an end. A 38-year-old Jordanian father of two and a sitting judge in Amman’s Court of First Instance, attempted to travel to Nablus like many Palestinians and Jordanians of Palestinian origin. His altercation with Israeli soldiers that ended with his death must be a warning flag that this injustice and humiliation cannot continue.

Anyone who crosses the King Hussein Bridge knows very well how the Israelis have for decades forged a shameful occupier-occupied relationship with the power of their guns. The Oscar-winning film Twelve Years a Slave, perfectly illustrates the way that the oppressed absorb all kinds of humiliation simply in order to survive as they wait for salvation.

Raed Zuaiter, the Jordanian judge, like any other human being, apparently walked into this mess without the added shield of years of humiliation and he couldn’t accept it. For their part, the Israeli soldiers, brainwashed to suspect every passenger as a potential “terrorist”, viewed the rebellion against accepting the occupier-occupied paradigm as enough proof that the rebellious person must be a terrorist. As they say, the rest is history.

The Israeli spin machine quickly went into action. The oft-repeated defense was that Zuaiter went for the soldier’s gun. Later it was adjusted that he went for his throat, attempting to strangle him. The “terrorist” label also required some audio. So again the spin machine fabricated that the judge yelled Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar before lunging for the soldier’s gun (or throat), thus confirming that he was a terrorist. Continue Reading »

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Mar 09 2014

‘Omar’ Oscar nomination a win for Palestinian film industry

Published by under Articles,Uncategorized

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences met for the 86th Oscars, Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir hosted an all-night party in Amman, hoping Hany Abu-Assad’s “Omar” would win the trophy for best foreign film. “We are burning the midnight candle and crossing our fingers,” she told Al-Monitor before the results were known in the very early hours of March 3. Jacir’s late-night party echoed a similar party she held eight years ago in Ramallah when another Abu-Assad film, “Paradise Now,” was also up for an Oscar.

“Omar” did not win the award, which went to the Italian film “The Great Beauty.” Jacir, whose latest film “When I Saw You” has been well-received around the world, insists that “the fact that Hany made it this far and that Palestine was represented despite attempts to keep Palestinian voices out of the mainstream is a major achievement.”

Saed Andoni of Dar Films wasn’t surprised that ”Omar” did not win an Oscar. Speaking to Al-Monitor from his studio in Ramallah before the results were known, Andoni predicted that the Palestinian film would not make it. “These prizes are political,” he argued, stressing that being nominated is an “important win for Palestinian cinema that has been forcing itself on all festivals.” Andoni, who’s in the final phase of producing “The Wanted 18,” a co-production with France and Canada to be released in June, highlighted the economic side of the cinema business. “The importance of ‘Omar’ is that it was produced almost exclusively by private Palestinian funding.” Continue Reading »

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Mar 04 2014

Palestinian government may soon pass transparency law

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The possibility that Palestine will soon have an access-to-information law is looking promising. Concrete steps by the Palestinian government and a public advocacy campaign are being taken to prepare for such a decision.

Despite the Palestinian Legislative Council being dormant for seven years due to the internal Palestinian split, Ramallah is poised to pass a much improved access-to-information law, a draft of which has recently been circulating in public forums.

The 41-article draft law has received a positive evaluation from the international nongovernmental organization Article 19. The NGO welcomed the draft law and said it has many “positive features,” while suggesting a few changes to bring it into full compliance with international standards and best practices.

Before the council’s suspension, a draft access-to-information law was made available for discussion. But political paralysis put the law on hold until it was recently revived by Palestinian media activists.

The Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) has taken upon itself the responsibility of fighting to improve the draft law and advocating for its approval. In 2012, MADA organized a public campaign that attempted to bring together civil society activists, parliamentarians, access-to-information experts, journalists and Palestinian government officials. Continue Reading »

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