May 04 2016

Why is Jordan restricting Palestinians’ travel?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Like so many accomplished students, Benaz Someir, a Palestinian from Gaza, chose to attend Birzeit University.

 While pursuing her degree in journalism, Benaz met and later married Walid Batrawi, a fellow BA journalism student from Ramallah. For family and professional reasons, Benaz, a resident of Khan Yunis in Gaza, requested and was given permission to change her residency to the West Bank.

Having successfully convinced the Israelis to change her residency to the West Bank, Benaz was now able to travel to different parts of the world using the King Hussein Bridge, which was easier than returning to Gaza. The choice was hard, but Benaz felt that it was best for her and her career as a media trainer and for her new family in Ramallah.

That decision was made more than 20 years ago. But despite being married to a Palestinian and having proper residency in Ramallah for two decades, Benaz is being treated by Jordanian border control officers as a Gazan. Like all other West Bank and Gaza residents, Benaz holds the same Palestinian passport, yet she is treated differently than her husband.

Walid is allowed to travel to Jordan or via Jordan without any restrictions, while Benaz needs to get prior Jordanian approval. This practice began when Gazans carried Egyptian travel documents and West Bankers carried Jordanian travel documents. Continue Reading »

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May 03 2016

‘bridging’ dilemma

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

One issue subject to intense discussions is the “bridge” policy.  That is, King Hussein Bridge, which connects Palestine to Jordan and, by extension, to the rest of the world.

The bridge policy is unknown and undeclared. The main reason is that the bridge is not an international crossing point. 

While Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel, it does not consider this a recognised border point, but it is also unable to call it an official border point with Palestine because the Israeli army is still the de facto power on the western part of the bridge.

The fact that the West Bank was Jordanian territory before 1967 and Jordan has not yet constitutionally ceded the West Bank (King Hussein did sever administrative ties with it in 1989) adds to the reasons the bridge is not an international border yet.

But regardless of legal definitions, some 2.8 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and holding passports issued by the Palestinian government have no possibility to travel after Israel blocked their ability to use the Lod (Ben Gurion) Airport other than the King Hussein Bridge.

For some time after the outbreak of the second Intifada, in 2000, every Palestinian wanting to travel across needed to get permission to enter issued by the Jordanian Ministry of Interior. Continue Reading »

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May 03 2016

Palestinians from Gaza who hold properly issued passports are being discriminated against if they were born in Gaza

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By Daoud Kuttab

Of all the Jordanian policies that have often been the subject of intense discussion, the one subject that has been a taboo for anyone to talk about has been the ‘bridge’ policy. The reference here is to how decisions are made in regards to travel on the King Hussein Bridge which is the only connecting point between Palestine and Jordan and by extension the only connecting point for all (except for East Jerusalem residents) to the rest of the world.

The bridge policy is unknown and undeclared.  While Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel and recognises the state of Palestine, it does not consider the bridge a recognised border point.
The West Bank was part of Jordan before 1967 and Jordan has not yet constitutionally ceded the West Bank (King Hussein did sever administrative ties with it in 1989) adds to the reasons the bridge is not an international border yet. Continue Reading »

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Apr 26 2016

Newton’s theory in Palestine

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By Daoud Kuttab

The cycle of violence in Palestine is so predictable that almost anyone following the news can easily forecast what happens next.

This ability to anticipate what happens if the cycle of violence is not broken is perhaps the most concrete proof that the Israeli occupation is the source of all the violence.

The explosion that occurred this week in an Israeli bus comes after seven months of individual attacks of Israelis that did not include any explosive devices.

The attacks, mostly with knives, produced a disproportionate Israeli army response that often included extrajudicial killings.

Isaac Newton’s theory on gravitation perfectly explains this cycle of violence.

“A particle attracts every other particle in the universe using a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses but also inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.”

In laypeople’s terms, Newton’s theory is summarised in the, by now, familiar saying: for every action there is a reaction.

Two weeks ago, Israeli leaders and pundits were beginning to prematurely celebrate the end of individual attacks. Continue Reading »

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Apr 17 2016

Israel’s ‘absurd’ Jerusalem map

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By Daoud Kuttab

It has been proven true over the years that victors write the history. Nowhere is this fact more obvious than in Jerusalem, where Israelis are trying unsuccessfully to rewrite centuries-old history.

By changing facts on the ground the Israelis are desperately trying to claim exclusivity to a city that has been known for its diversity and religious pluralism.

The latest attempt to monopolise the holy city for Jews has been so over the top that an Israeli newspaper called the effort “absurd”.

A map of Jerusalem’s old city distributed for free to all tourists and produced by the Israeli tourism ministry received widespread condemnations from Christian and Muslim religious and social leaders.

Of the 57 tourist locations identified by Israelis in the old city of Jerusalem, only one Islamic and five Christian sites were listed.

Al Haram Al Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary covering 144 dunums, which occupies about a quarter of the old city is the only Islamic site on the said map. Continue Reading »

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Apr 12 2016

Palestinian PM says he is ‘bitterly disappointed’ in US

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Since being appointed Palestinian prime minister in June 2013, Rami Hamdallah has run a tight economic ship, earning him praise from Christoph Duenwald, the local representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Hamdallah proudly showed Al-Monitor a Feb. 11 IMF statement acknowledging the reduction of the Palestinian deficit to nearly 1% of gross domestic product (GDP).

 Praise from the IMF aside, Hamdallah said, “As prime minister I am bitterly disappointed when it comes to the US.” During an interview with Al-Monitor in his Ramallah office, Hamdallah explained that although US support in 2010 reached $1.45 billion, in 2015 Washington pledged to provide $290 million but only delivered $130 million. The remaining $160 million was frozen by Congress.

The prime minister also expressed displeasure with US efforts to scuttle Palestinian moves at the United Nations. “They always want us to wait. … There are the primaries, then the general elections, then the midterms. They always want us to wait for this or that reason. We have been under occupation for 49 years, and it is 68 years since the Nakba,” he asserted.

These days, Hamdallah is also frustrated about Arab funding for the Palestinian government. “Only Saudi Arabia and Algiers have carried out their pledges to Palestine,” he said. Although the Palestinians have only received 28% of the $4.9 billion pledged by the international community to help reconstruct Gaza, the clean up of the rubble has almost been completed, and the power grids destroyed by Israel have almost all been rebuilt. Hamdallah revealed that the Ramallah government spends NIS 420 million ($111 million) in Gaza monthly while only taking 15-20 million shekels ($4-5.3 million) in tax revenues and fees each month.

The text of the interview follows: Continue Reading »

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Apr 11 2016

Tax havens and journalistic work

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

Some five years ago, a lawyer working for the Panama-based Mossak Fonseca leaked a trove of documents exposing the identity of the owners of a large number of offshore companies registered in Jersey, the British Islands and Luxemburg.

This massive leak led to the German government’s closing three banks it deemed had violated German law and the case stopped there.

But the leaker was not satisfied and decided to make a second effort. Around a year ago, some 11 million documents including e-mails, company registrations and other sensitive documents were leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutche Zeitung.

The Munich-based newspaper realised that to make use of this leak, it needed an international effort.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) was asked to help and the largest journalistic effort was launched: 330 journalists from around the world were contacted and asked to participate in the follow up to this leak with conditions. Continue Reading »

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Apr 05 2016

Nowhere to run: Palestine marathoners race on short track

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

For the fourth year in a row, Bethlehem hosted a spring marathon. Nearly 4,400 participants, including foreigners and local Palestinians, ran, walked or pushed baby strollers in the Palestine Marathon on April 1 in a festive atmosphere.

 To finish the full marathon, the runners had to complete two laps of a 21-kilometer (13-mile) track. The inability to provide a single 42-kilometer (26-mile) course lies at the heart of the organizers’ purpose in holding this event. In coordination with the Copenhagen-based Right to Movement, Palestinian organizers have turned the sporting event into a public demonstration of the Israeli restrictions on Palestinians, showcasing the difficulties of living under occupation and being surrounded by an 8-meter (26-foot) concrete wall.

Local Palestinian organizer George Zeidan told Al-Monitor that this year’s marathon was the biggest. Zeidan proudly noted the participation of more than 2,000 women, nearly 46% of all registrants. While a large number of participants completed part of the marathon, 298 men and 89 women ran the entire 42-kilometer run. Runners of 64 nationalities participated in the marathon, which 450 volunteers helped make a major success. Continue Reading »

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Apr 05 2016

Is Israel reviving this 50-year-old land plan?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

In a March 18 statement, the Land Defense Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) reintroduced to political discussion terminology no longer often heard. In the statement, the PLO accused right-wing Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu of reviving theAllon Plan, so named after the late Labor Party Minister Yigal Allon.

 The Allon Plan, developed shortly after Israel began its occupation of Palestinian lands in 1967, proposed that Israel relinquish the main Palestinian population centers in the West Bank to Jordan while retaining land along the Jordan River under Israeli military control. In implementing part of the plan, Labor-led governments between 1967 and 1977 created 21 settlements along the length of the Jordan Valley.

In addition to Israel having permanent control over the Jordan Valley, the Allon Plan also proposed that Israel annex areas along a corridor connecting the Jordan Valley to the city of Jerusalem, with the possibility of excluding Jericho. Israel also carried out elements of the Allon Plan under Likud administrations, but it has yet to annex the areas it covers, possibly out of concern of international opposition. Continue Reading »

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Apr 03 2016

Jordan’s way of dealing with terrorists

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

After every horrific act of violent extremism we are inundated with right-wing incitement against followers of a major religion and, often from the West, with calls to use the Israeli approach in combating terrorism.

Very little effort is made by pundits to actually dig deeper and think of a more appropriate and effective approach to this disease without compromising human values.

A look at the Jordanian model reveals a strategy that has proved to be effective in keeping the country safe without resorting to heavy-handed and wildly restrictive actions that often do more long-term harm.

Jordan’s methodology in dealing with the scourge of violent extremism and terror is largely preventative. It stems from the need to have a good idea about some of the extreme members of the society and work diligently through different means to contain and weaken them, as well as making the red lines crystal clear.

The Jordanian model is focused. It depends much on human intelligence efforts focused on the individuals that are believed to pose a particular threat, rather than on an entire group or community. Continue Reading »

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