Archive for the 'Articles' Category

Feb 11 2016

Reconciliation is measured by results

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By Daoud Kuttab

For the first time in years, Palestinian reconciliation talks have not received the usual high-calibre media coverage, not even in the Palestinian media.

The low level of coverage might be a good thing. The deeply split parties Fateh and Hamas know that their credibility has been eroded by many false promises and optimistic headlines.

The current talks appear to focus on implementation mechanisms rather than making any changes to the content of previously signed agreements.

The Palestinian public is very sceptical regarding any breakthrough, and negotiators are aware of this, so it was a clever decision to keep the talks at very low profile, without making promises that might not be carried out.

The outstanding issue is clear: Hamas should allow the presidential guards to retake their former positions at the Gaza border crossings, which will ensure the opening of the Rafah crossing point.

This has been an Egyptian demand and all parties know that the Sisi administration, which is not very friendly to any Muslim Brotherhood group, will not negotiate it. Continue Reading »

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Feb 10 2016

How Palestine plans to shift its media strategy

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

You would expect the holder of the title “director of strategic communications and English-language spokesman” to talk about how to woo The New York Times or how to convince the BBC for positive write-ups about Palestine. But while Jamal Dajani — appointed Jan. 26 as new media guru for Palestine’s prime minister — is deeply interested in how the Palestinian narrative is reflected internationally, his first priority is working with the local media. For him, the first task in representing a politician is to communicate with the local constituency.

Dajani, a 58-year-old Jerusalemite, is a graduate of Columbia University and has been living in San Francisco. He told Al-Monitor via Skype that he never applied for the job, but feels that it is part of his national duty to serve. After years in the United States and on the road, Dajani is now back in his birthplace.

The new head of Palestinian communications lays out his credentials: “I have never been disconnected from Palestine. The nature of my work as a journalist, radio and TV producer and working in media development has put me in a unique position looking both from outside and the inside.”

The Palestinian-American journalist who won a Peabody Award for producing “MOSAIC: World News from The Middle East,” a TV program that provides original news from the Middle East, is not new to creating and leading communications strategies. He said, “I served as commissioner on human rights in San Francisco. I was also chairman of the Immigrant Rights Commission. In all these positions, the first order of business is to make sure that people know that you are working on their behalf.” Continue Reading »

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Feb 08 2016

Guest workers in Jordan

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

The preliminary results of the national census in Jordan show that Syrian refugees number around 1.3 million.

Along with other nationalities, non-Jordanians now compose what amounts to 31 per cent of the total population.

Of the 9.5 million people living in Jordan, 6.6 million are Jordanian citizens, according to the Census Bureau.

We are told by the census commission that among non-Jordanians, 634,000 are Palestinians. It is not clear if these Palestinians are the displaced Gazans who made it to Jordan in 1967 and who, unlike their West Bank brethren, never had Jordanian citizenship or if this number includes Palestinian passport holders who are living and working in Jordan, or both.

In addition to Syrians and Palestinians, Jordan today is also home to some 390,000 Egyptian (the real number is most likely higher because many are without work permits and probably avoided the census). There are also 130,000 Iraqis, 31,000 Yemenis and 23,000 Libyans.

These numbers are a clear indication of the depth of the economic difficulties that Jordan is facing as a result of its policy to host Arab refugees and will certainly play a role in the conference on Syrian refugees that will take place in London today. Continue Reading »

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Feb 08 2016

The man behind the future of education in Palestine

AlMonitor

For more than 52 years, Palestinians completing 12th grade have faced a stressful, life-changing experience. Their admission to university has depended on how they do on a single, national exam. The “tawjihi,” the comprehensive matriculation exam designed to test knowledge and ability, has been a source of incredible pressure for students, their families and communities at large.

Young Palestinians cram for weeks before the exam and often lose sleep trying to be as prepared as possible, learning by heart the information that might be on the test. The results determine whether a student will be admitted to medical school or qualifies to study engineering. Thus, the test has become a huge part of Palestinian life.

Sabri Saidam, Palestinian minister of education and higher education, told Al-Monitor that he wants to revise the tawjihi, which he believes covers too much material and is based on rote memorization. In doing so, Saidam seeks to reduce the pressure on students and their families while also better evaluating students’ abilities.

In a comprehensive interview with Al-Monitor, Saidam, who was appointed in August 2015, also wants to use changes to the controversial test to introduce a much more effective education system. The test results often determine people’s future and ultimately can bring great benefits to their families or keep them in poverty. Scholarships are available to students who get high grades. “This [testing] system divides society on the basis of the results of the tawjihi, which does not allow the students to express themselves and does not provide any space for analysis or interactive learning,” Saidam explained. Continue Reading »

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Jan 27 2016

Abbas defends policy

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By Daoud Kuttab

In today’s politically expedient age, it has become rare to see a leader defend one of his own.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, went on air this week, attempting to deflect the avalanche of angry protests directed at the Palestinian intelligence chief Majid Faraj.

Faraj and a chief Palestinian negotiator were featured in a long article published in an American military publication.

The New York-based Defence News quoted Faraj as saying that the Palestinian security averted nearly 200 attacks against Israelis and arrested 100 Palestinians that were about to attack Israelis.

The statements drew angry responses, especially from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad movement.

Faraj was attacked even by a number of PLO leaders for his public justification of security cooperation with Israel at a time of continued Israeli summary executions of young Palestinian protesters. Continue Reading »

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Jan 26 2016

Palestinian intelligence chief undermines his own political ambitions

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The head of the Palestinian intelligence service, Maj. Gen. Majid Faraj, is often seen traveling alongside Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In fact, Faraj has been considered by local and international analysts as one of the possible successors of the Palestinian leader.

 Faraj rarely talks to the media, but in one of his first interviews, which was part of an article published Jan. 18 by the New York-based Defense News website, he seems to have gotten in big trouble with his own people. The attacks against Faraj, who was born in Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem, focus on what people see as his justification of the Palestinian security coordination with Israel.

The article titled “Keeping ISIS out of Palestine” talks about two possible contenders to take Abbas’ leadership position: Faraj, and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. In the 3,000-word piece, author Barbara Opall-Rome veers away from the danger of radicalism in Palestine and deals with Palestinian-Israeli relations. She writes about Faraj, “He insists that since October, PA intelligence and security forces have prevented 200 attacks against Israelis, confiscated weapons and arrested about 100 Palestinians — claims that were not rejected out of hand, but could not be confirmed by the Israeli military.” Continue Reading »

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Jan 21 2016

When tribal law supersedes civil law

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

A murder took place in Jordan. The suspected killer is known, but unlike in normal cases, this time it was addressed by tribal law.

Tribal law is not new in Jordan. It has existed for centuries and the modern nation state has found ways to accommodate it.

Civil courts have often been presented with cases of conflicts that had been initially resolved in a tribal manner and used such decisions to make their final resolution.

But when tribal law replaces civil law and when such a decision involves members of the government, one has to take a clear position.

The deputy prime minister and minister of education headed on January 15 a delegation of dignitaries with the aim of soothing the anger of one of Jordan’s communities in the south.

As part of the atwa (tribal agreement), the deputy prime minister and his delegation signed a document that violates Jordan’s Constitution, laws and treaties.

The agreement, signed by Minister Mohammad Thneibat, declares without trial the guilt of the suspected killer, decides capital punishment for him and vows not to pursue any effort for clemency for him. Continue Reading »

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Jan 14 2016

Arrest of Palestinian journalist reflection of ‘political chaos’

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Palestinian journalist Salim Sweidan, owner of Nablus TV, was released Jan. 12 after having spent four days in jail. Sweidan, a member of the board of the Maan News Network, the leading independent satellite station and news website, was released on a bail of 1,000 Jordanian dinars ($1,400) after publishing an online apology.

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Sweidan said that the reason for the arrest was that his TV station’s website republished a news story that had been written about the circumstances surrounding the arrest of a Hamas cell accused by Israel of killing two Israeli settlers in October 2015.

Members of the Palestinian Preventive Security Forces in Nablus had summoned Sweidan to their offices, where he was subsequently held. The name of one of the officers was listed in a controversial posting on the website that explained why the security force took the unusual step of arresting a well-known veteran journalist.

According to a testimony by his brother, Anees Sweidan, to the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) on Jan. 11, Salim was accused of six charges, namely “the publication of articles harmful to Palestinian national unity, assault of Palestinian national unity, incitement as well as inciting sectarian conflicts, verbal abuse and contempt.” Continue Reading »

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Jan 14 2016

Knowledge helps creating an enabling environment for change in Jordan

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

Behavioural experts have been studying what makes people change the way they think and work. Change management has become a popular field people are trying to figure out how to operate and refine.

Some argue that societal change needs to begin at the bottom and rise to the top, while others insist that only a few elite persons can effect change and, therefore, it needs to take place at the top and work its way down.

In all cases experts agree that for change to occur it requires an enabling environment that supports and rewards, rather than discourages and fights change.
A crucial element for change is the human element.

Change, however, is not always easy to accept. Resistance to change is often listed as one of the biggest obstacles that cause delays and sometimes the abortion of ambitious and strategic plans that require change.
People at the bottom as well as leaders often voluntarily or involuntarily become change obstructionists.

Obstructionists are usually ready to stop change with boilerplate formulas. It is coming from abroad, it does not fit our cultural way, it is against our values: these are some of the ready statements that delay and sometimes stop change. Continue Reading »

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Jan 11 2016

WILL 2016 BE THE YEAR FOR NEW PALESTINIAN LEADERSHIP?

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By Daoud Kuttab

If the Obama administration’s prediction that 2016 will fail to witness the birth of the Palestinian state proves true, then this year should be dedicated to leadership transition.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, 81, needs to hand in his long-awaited resignation and Palestinians at large should be given the chance to choose a new leadership.
A number of obstacles continue to cause delays in holding elections. The absence of a unified single control over the West Bank and Gaza is the largest.
The PLO and Hamas signed numerous reconciliation agreements, but have not carried out their commitments.
Some blame external forces of wanting to perpetuate the split. The regional differences that pitted nationalists against Islamists reflected almost daily on the Palestinian conflict.
The problem is not the war on extremism, but rather the conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood. Continue Reading »

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