Archive for the 'Articles' Category

Nov 18 2015

What’s the difference between habbeh and intifada?


By Daoud Kuttab

Palestinians and Arabs are still unsure about what to call the protest activities that began on the eve of the Jewish New Year on Sept. 13, 2015. Since then, 89 Palestinians and 12 Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers have been killed and many more injured.

After the 1987 first intifada and the 2000 second intifada, it has taken pundits and politicians some time to decide whether what we are witnessing today is a full-blown uprising, or intifada in Palestinian terminology, or simply short, popular outbursts of protests, what Palestinians call “habbeh jamaherieh” in Arabic.

The differences have followed the split within the Palestinian movement with pro-Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas media and politicians calling it habbeh, while pro-Hamas leaders and media are calling it an Al-Quds intifada or Al-Aqsa intifada.

Mohammad Omar, a leading Jordanian media expert and the editor of the Pan-Arab website Al-Bawaba, told Al-Monitor that it is hard to differentiate between the two terms. “What is accepted throughout the Arab world is that the habbeh, or outburst, is usually a reaction, is short winded and doesn’t usually include unified effort,” he explained. Continue Reading »

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Nov 18 2015

Religion should not be used to fight radicalism

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

In fighting the scourge of radicalism and religious fundamentalism, one of the strategies is to use religion.

Proponents of this approach vary from those who insist that Daesh and its ideology is simply built on a warped understanding of religion to those who say that the best way to fight religious fundamentalism is by promoting religious moderation as the effective way of combating dark and deadly ideology.

Both ideas have an inherent problem in them.

Playing the game of the radicals and terrorists is unlikely to solve anything.

The fact is that any religious text is easily amenable to interpretation, which means that anyone can find a text to support his/her position.

It is very easy to take a text out of context in order to support a particular point of view.

Yousef Rababaa, a Jordanian professor at Philadelphia University, north of Amman, argues forcefully against the efforts of Jordan TV to fight religious radicalism by using religion.

In an article recently published on AmmanNet, titled “Fighting radicalism with radicalism”, he argues that radicals will always win if you argue with them, simply on the basis of religious text. Continue Reading »

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Nov 16 2015

Senior Palestinian official refuses to give up on peace process


By Daoud Kuttab

Senior Palestinian leader Maj. Gen. Jibril Rajoub told Al-Monitor on Nov. 13 that the Fatah Central Committee and other factions are opposed to turning the current uprising into a military one. “There is a decision by all Palestinian factions not to militarize the popular struggle. We want to send a civilized message to the world that military occupation and colonial settlement is the real terrorism and that its continuation is a danger to them as well,” Rajoub said.

 The leading member of the Fatah Central Committee and a possible successor to Mahmoud Abbas, 81, praised imprisoned leader Marwan Barghouti, but stopped short of endorsing him for a senior position while in jail. “Marwan is a great Fatah leader and, along with him, there are many other leaders and fellow legislators in prison. I don’t think this is a priority issue on our agenda,” he said.

Rajoub spoke powerfully about the need for unity among Palestinians and blamed Hamas for the delay in implementing the reconciliation agreement. “I tell you in the name of Fatah that we are genuinely in favor of doing everything possible to form a national unity [government] with Hamas. Our goal is to reach a strategic agreement on the basis of any future peace agreement,” he told Al-Monitor. Continue Reading »

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Nov 10 2015

Jerusalem and Hebron: A tale of two cities


By Daoud Kuttab

The story of the Palestinian uprising that began Sept. 13 with protests against Israeli intrusions at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on the Jewish New Year is actually the story of two cities — Jerusalem and Hebron.

Of the 84 Palestinians listed by Shfa News as having been killed by Israelis as of Nov. 9, the majority, 57%, are from Jerusalem and Hebron. The 30 Palestinians killed in the Hebron area represent 36% of the current death toll, while the 18 killed in Jerusalem constitute 21% of those whose lives have been cut short by the Israelis.

The protests that spread throughout the West Bank and Gaza may have begun in Jerusalem, but the bulk of the Palestinians resisting the Israeli occupation and paying the ultimate price come from Hebron. What is it about Jerusalem and Hebron that unites them at the forefront of the struggle against Israeli military forces and the Jewish settler population? Continue Reading »

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Nov 06 2015

Palestinians divided over future of jailed Fatah leader


By Daoud Kuttab

While violence in the occupied Palestinian territories continues to spiral in an unclear direction without an end in sight, a familiar name has returned to the political agenda. Marwan Barghouti, an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a senior Fatah leader, is being discussed in political and diplomatic circles. Talk of him intensified when Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, in a highly publicized video conference on Nov. 4, told Gaza supporters that Hamas will call for the release of Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, in a prisoner exchange deal with Israel.

Barghouti — a former student leader at Birzeit University who was deported by Israel during the first intifada in 1987 and helped launch the Fatah youth movement — is a hero to many Palestinians. Public opinion polls by Arab World for Research and Development show Barghouti gaining in popularity over the years as President Mahmoud Abbas’ elected successor. Continue Reading »

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Nov 04 2015

Resorting again to detaining journalists

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

The government, which has made slow but important progress in guaranteeing media freedoms, took a turn backwards.

The attorney general ordered on October 20 the detention of Osama Al Ramini, a member of the journalist syndicate and the owner of a licensed news website.

The act violates the country’s commitments.

Detaining journalists comes as a result of a loophole in the electronic crimes law.

The prime minister had earlier asked a governmental advisory body for the interpretation of Clause 11 of the recently amended electronic crimes law.

The Office of Interpretation, headed by Judge Hisham Al Tal, the president of the Judicial Council, responded on October 19 that the clause does allow the detention of a person accused of tort and slander on any electronic site; at the same time, the interpretation overrode clear clauses in the amended Press and Publications Law that forbid the detention of journalists.

The following day, the government ordered Ramini’s detention, causing an uproar among journalists, the syndicate and NGOs defending media.

The decision to detain a journalist is yet another blow to Jordan’s thriving electronic media, which has been growing steadily over years despite the continuous restrictions.

The same 2012 amended Press and Publications Law that guaranteed immunity to journalists from arrest for their views also stipulated that electronic news websites must be licensed just like the newspapers.

Nearly 300 unlicensed websites were blocked in June 2013 because of their violation of the controversial law.

The blocking of websites brought criticism of Jordan from relevant media rights groups locally and internationally. Local protests and an attempt to challenge the law in courts failed.

Publishers of electronic news sites that had complained about the new licensing scheme were told that by working for a licensed electronic publication, journalists and publishers will be protected from detention because they would automatically fall under the Press and Publications Law, which stipulates civil penalties but no detentions.

By being targeted for detention on accusations of slander, electronic journalists have been punished twice.

Having to adhere to the rigorous obligations of being licensed like a newspaper, including hiring an editor who is a four-year veteran member of the syndicate, electronic journalists are being negatively discriminated against by being detained before a judge can decide whether what they publish is slander or not.

The government decision to go after electronic journalists reflects a mentality that thinks it can deter all electronic media outlets by detaining journalists working for them.

This act is contrary to international commitments and it once again could break the trust between the government and the public.

When governments break their sacred promise to honour the right of the public to know and detain accredited journalists working for licensed news sites, they are attempting to muzzle the fourth estate.

The chilling effect of such detentions prevents professional journalists from doing their job, as they see that they are not protected even if they follow all the rules and regulations.

Jordan’s media scene was reviewed thoroughly this year by a UNESCO-appointed team that applied, for the review, the international organisations media index.

Some of the positive results highlighted by the report will most certainly be erased by the government decision to go after journalists in order to protect government officials or business people in bed with the government.

It is high time that the government understands that in the second decade of the 21st century, putting a journalist in prison is unacceptable and counterproductive.

Civil society and press freedom advocates also have a much more challenging goal now.

They can no longer accept pledges and guarantees of immunity from imprisonment in one law while other laws allow it.

It is now crucially important to ensure that proactive legislation clearly and unambiguously states that no journalist can be detained or arrested because of his/her views.

Such guarantee must clearly supersede the various existing laws that still allow for detaining journalists under a variety of justifications.

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Nov 03 2015

How to apply the lessons from protecting Hebron to Jerusalem


By Daoud Kuttab

As the violence in the occupied territories that began with clashes on the Jewish New Year, Sept. 13, is escalating, Palestinian officials say that 70 Palestinians were killed in the month of October alone. Meanwhile, Palestinian calls for international protection have been gaining traction.

 The United States attempted on Oct. 19 to finesse the issue by saying that even Jordan doesn’t accept international observers on the Haram al-Sharif. On the same day, a fatwa was issued by the head of the Supreme Islamic Council in Jerusalem, Ekrima Sabri, also echoing the Jordanian rejection.

But Palestinians continue to call for protection in Jerusalem and all other points of friction with Israeli settlers. France, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, also supports the need for an international presence in Jerusalem until a solution is found.

While Israel’s UN representative rejected the idea, Palestine’s UN representative reminded the world of the 1994 resolution calling for disarming settlers and employing international observers. He also said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed — during his first term as prime minister — to the idea of international observers in Hebron back in 1997. Continue Reading »

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Oct 30 2015

How to bring peace to Israel


By Daoud Kuttab

Knesset member and Palestinian firebrand Ahmad Tibi has reiterated that the current wave of violence is a reflection of anger and despair and called on Israelis to seize the moment and act to correct the situation. In an interview with Al-Monitor, Tibi appealed to the Israelis, saying that the fastest way to reach peace and save lives is to end the occupation of Palestinian lands. “Sooner or later, the Israelis must realize that nothing can break the will of a people longing for freedom and independence. This, the longest and last remaining occupation on Earth, must come to an end, through international pressure and the struggle of the people,” he said.

Tibi pointed out that the current situation has increased cohesion between Palestinians, even though the division continues. “The Palestinian people are akin to a multi-sided body existing as one in the West Bank, Gaza, the interior and the diaspora. Despite that fact, we regret the continued division among the Palestinian people.”

One of the most vocal Arab members of the Israeli Knesset, Tibi appeared to be indirectly criticizing the current round of violence by Palestinian youth, calling instead for a totally nonviolent peaceful protest, saying, “Broad, peaceful, popular resistance is an avenue that remains untried but must be espoused, as it will garner the support of the whole world.”

The brunt of Tibi’s anger was focused on the right-wing Israeli government and its racist attitudes toward Palestinians. He told Al-Monitor, “The current Knesset is the most extremist, racist and hostile to Arabs and Palestinians.” Continue Reading »

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Oct 28 2015

Stateless residents

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By Daoud Kuttab

When Israeli troops occupied the West Bank’s main city, Jerusalem, in June 1967, a thriving population was already living there. Jerusalem’s Palestinians did not go to Israel, the state of Israel came to them. However, while the rest of the occupied territories were ruled by an army using military law, the Israelis treated East Jerusalem differently.

Within months of their occupation, the Israelis expanded the boundaries of East Jerusalem, especially in the northern part, so that it includes Qalandia Airport and imposed Israeli civil law on the city’s population. Theoretically, the difference between living under civil rather than military rule appears more advantageous to the population. But in fact, and especially after the signing of the Oslo Accords, this advantage turned into a major liability.

As the population of the rest of the West Bank slowly moved towards statehood, received Palestinian passports and were able to participate in political life, the situation of Jerusalemites remained stagnant and in many ways worsened. Efforts got under way to separate East Jerusalem from its natural surroundings by means of an eight-metre high cement wall and strict orders were issued banning engagement by Palestinians with their legitimate leadership in Ramallah. Housing permits within Jerusalem continued to be rare and economic  development received a big blow as the natural population that came to the city from nearby towns and villages all of sudden needed Israeli army-issued permits to enter.

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Oct 25 2015

Jerusalem’s Orient House a symbol of Palestinian struggle


By Daoud Kuttab

The young Palestinians active in the current Jerusalem protests were infants when the PLO’s headquarters in Jerusalem were ordered temporarily closed for six months on Aug. 9, 2001, along with nine other Palestinian organizations. Fourteen years later, the six-month closure has been repeatedly renewed along with the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce.

A question that has been publicly asked is whether the reopening of Orient House would help in restoring a local Palestinian leadership that has been decimated for the past two decades.

Faisal Husseini, the son of Palestinian leader Abdel Qader Husseini, who was killed in the 1948 war, attempted to establish himself as a local leader by getting involved in public affairs. Under Faisal Husseini’s guidance, the Arab Studies Society was established in 1980, registered in Israel as a public institute and was located in the historic Orient House building, which the Husseini family owns. Like any think tank, the society held lectures and conferences and housed a big public library.

The website of the Arab Studies Society says Orient House was the site of many diplomatic functions, including a tea party in honor of German Emperor Wilhelm II when he visited Jerusalem in 1898. Hashemite Emir Abdullah, former King Ali and Prince Zeid accepted condolences at Orient House when their father, Sharif Hussein bin Ali (who had been sharif of Mecca), was buried in the Haram al-Sharif in 1931.

Ishaq Buderi, who has administratively headed the Arab Studies Society since its launch, told Al-Monitor that after the first intifada began in 1987, Husseini’s efforts were focused on the political and then the negotiations process. “Orient House eventually became the leading address for diplomats and politicians in the runup to the Madrid talks; the Arab Studies Society became its academic arm and think tank.”

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