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.”

Continue Reading »

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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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Jul 28 2014

Internationalization needed to solve Gaza conflict

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The problems facing Israel in its search for a party to guarantee any possible cease-fire with Hamas has led some to suggest new ways out of the current stalemate in Gaza. One new idea is to apply some type of internationally sponsored demilitarization of the Gaza Strip similar to the efforts that produced the removal and disposal of Syria’s chemical weapons.

 Such ideas for an international role in the occupied territories has been suggested and re-suggested many times by the Palestinians and UN agencies, only to run into a veto from the Israelis. The Israeli argument is multifaceted on this issue. On the one hand, Israel says it has no faith in the international community’s ability to effectively carry out such an act. Their supporters point to the example of the UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon as failing to thwart Hezbollah. When a suggestion is made that the force can be multinational and not necessarily a UN force, Israeli officials also find a reason to oppose it generally under the argument that they can’t trust anyone but themselves for the security of their people. Even when it is suggested that a US-led or a completely American force could be deployed, the Israelis have yet another argument, saying that Israel doesn’t want Americans to die protecting it.

This, of course, is not the real reason for Israel’s rejection of any external party that can come between them and their subjects, the Palestinians. Every effort to create a buffer between the Israeli occupier and the occupied Palestinians has been systematically rejected by Israel.

Demilitarization of Gaza will not be easily accepted by Hamas and other Palestinian militants. Speaking about the Islamic movement’s conditions for a cease-fire in Doha, Hamas’ political bureau chief Khaled Meshaal was adamant about refusing to give up the weapons of resistance unless the occupation and settlements end. Continue Reading »

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Jul 25 2014

Demilitarizing Gaza could end conflict for good

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The problems facing Israel in its search for a party to guarantee any possible cease-fire with Hamas has led some to suggest new ways out of the current stalemate in Gaza. One new idea is to apply some type of internationally sponsored demilitarization of the Gaza Strip similar to the efforts that produced the removal and disposal of Syria’s chemical weapons.

Such ideas for an international role in the occupied territories has been suggested and re-suggested many times by the Palestinians and UN agencies, only to run into a veto from the Israelis. The Israeli argument is multifaceted on this issue. On the one hand, Israel says it has no faith in the international community’s ability to effectively carry out such an act. Their supporters point to the example of theUN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon as failing to thwart Hezbollah. When a suggestion is made that the force can be multinational and not necessarily a UN force, Israeli officials also find a reason to oppose it generally under the argument that they can’t trust anyone but themselves for the security of their people. Even when it is suggested that a US-led or a completely American force could be deployed, the Israelis have yet another argument, saying that Israel doesn’t want Americans to die protecting it.

This, of course, is not the real reason for Israel’s rejection of any external party that can come between them and their subjects, the Palestinians. Every effort to create a buffer between the Israeli occupier and the occupied Palestinians has been systematically rejected by Israel. Continue Reading »

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Jul 23 2014

Israel warms to Abbas as Gaza mediator

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The role of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as a possible mediator and guarantor of any long-term Hamas-Israeli cease-fire has returned to the forefront of current diplomatic discussions. Abbas’ political resurrection is more the result of there being no other credible mediator than something of his own doing. What appears to have been the main cause of the war on Gaza — the reconciliation between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hamas — now appears to offer the potential to end the Israeli assault on the Palestinians.

The major problem facing Israel and the international community is that they need the acquiescence of the Islamic movement for any sustained cease-fire, yet they refuse, for political reasons to communicate, recognize or seriously engage with Hamas. The problem began when the Egyptian government, which has a peace treaty with Israel, offered a cease-fire agreement to Hamas via the media — that is, without even consulting the Gaza-based group. Under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt has blamed Hamas for the security troubles Cairo faces in the Sinai Peninsula and has been reluctant to lend Hamas the credibility it needs for a truce and vouch for or give any long-term guarantees about Hamas to the Israelis.

Other possible guarantors, such as Qatar and Turkey, have been rejected by Israel. Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Liberman, viciously attacked the Qataris and called for banning their flagship satellite station, Al Jazeera. As for Turkey — which has yet to fully restore ties with Israel after the killing of nine of its citizens by the Israeli navy in the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident — Ankara has been rejected because of, among other things, statements by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan referring to Israeli actions in Gaza as “more barbaric than Hitler.” Continue Reading »

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Jul 23 2014

Deconstructing Israeli Claims

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By Daoud Kuttab

Before the information revolution, it was a given that a victor writes history. In today’s world, with credible irrefutable information at your fingertips, how come so many people get it wrong? Media spin has gone into overdrive in justifying the Israeli onslaught against Palestinians in Gaza. A careful study of the facts and the reality is in order to set the record straight. Israel and many of its allies in the world, including the US, say that the current military offensive on the 1.8 million Palestinians of Gaza is a mere “defensive act” The Israelis repeatedly say that no country in the world would tolerate the barrage of rockets that are falling on its population. Before dealing with the defense issue, it is critically important to note that Israel is no ordinary country. It is an occupying power that has for 47 years held a captive Palestinian population under its military control. Israel, which received its initial legitimacy by the UN in 1947, has refused to honor UN Security Council Resolution 242 that considered its occupation of Arab lands in 1967 to be “inadmissible.”Since then, Israel has also violated international law by moving its people into occupied territories, it has illegally confiscated Palestinian land and for seven years collectively punished the people of Gaza with an immoral and illegal land and water siege that has never been authorized by a single country or world power. Continue Reading »

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