Archive for the 'Palestinian politics' Category

Aug 24 2015

How one West Bank mosque is reconnecting with local Palestinians

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Azmi Shuokhi has been on a mission for some time now. As the head of the local popular committees for Hebron, he has been trying to convince fellow Hebronites not to abandon the Ibrahimi Mosque. His idea is simple and peaceful: He wants all the Palestinians of the city to hold their social events — especially weddings — on the mosque’s grounds.

 Shuokhi, who is also the head of the consumer protection committee in the city, doesn’t just talk about his idea, he practices it. Speaking to Al-Monitor, Shuokhi explained that he has applied his theory in his own family.

Shuokhi held his own son’s wedding at the Ibrahimi Mosque and invited the local boy scouts to participate in the celebration with their drums and bagpipes. The wedding celebrations were filmed and posted on YouTube May 2. Even the his grandson’s circumcision was celebrated at the mosque Aug. 14.

Shuokhi’s call for increased visits to the mosque aims to stem the tide of Jewish settlers trying to isolate Muslims from the mosque.

Hebron, with a population of over 250,000 people, is the largest Palestinian city and competes with Nablus as the commercial capital of the West Bank. Its population generates about 30% of the West Bank’s economy. Continue Reading »

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Aug 20 2015

Palestinian official denies Abbas resignation rumors

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Mohammad Shtayyeh, president of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction, said that the Palestinians’ current political strategy is focused on making Israel pay a price for the occupation of Palestinian lands, while at the same time finding ways to disengage from it economically and at the security level. In response to the Israeli government’s refusal to consider a political horizon, he said, “We will work with various international institutions, such as the United Nations Security Council, as well as world parliaments with the aim of reaching a time-based, end of occupation agreement.”

Shtayyeh, who had been a member of the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid peace talks in October 1991, said that special efforts are being made in Europe to lead Israel to change course politically. He stated, “We are asking European countries to ask dual national settlers to leave the occupied territories, since they are living on stolen, occupied land.”

The senior Palestinian official expressed support for the Iran nuclear deal with the international community and called for a similar agreement to open Israeli nuclear facilities to inspection. He predicted that Iran will have a positive political role in the region, asserting, “The Iran deal is causing changes to Iranian policy; some of these changes are on the Palestinian front, and we want a healthy relationship with Iran.” According to Shtayyeh, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to visit Iran in the next few months to stress the need for Tehran to support the Palestinian cause, not just one faction.

Also a senior member of Fatah, Shtayyeh told Al-Monitor that the movement’s seventh congress will be held Nov. 29, 2015, in Ramallah. He further stated, “This congress will be unique, and we are working on the political platform to be presented to the members for approval.” Shtayyeh is considered a possible contender to assume the top spot in Palestinian politics, but he declined to speak in depth about the issue of succession to the 80-year-old Abbas. He said the subject is only being discussed in the media, asserting, “Rumors about his resignation are not true.”

The text of the interview follows: Continue Reading »

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Aug 19 2015

Time to solve some bridge problems

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Following appeared in the Jordan Times Newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

The decades-old conflict with Israel and the aftereffects of the Israeli occupation of what was Jordanian land in the West Bank continue to be a source of hardships and problems for individuals and businesspeople on both sides of the Jordan River.

Attempts to resolve the many problems that continue to reverberate as a result of the 1967 occupation of the West Bank whether by individuals, organisations or foreign country representatives are met with huge difficulties.

Be it the bridge policy, trade issues, the special status of East Jerusalemites or Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian trade, all these issues are faced with immense bureaucracy.

Jordan, like the rest of the world which does not recognise the Israeli occupation, translates this lack of recognition into not treating the King Hussein Bridge as part of an international border.

What applies to movement of people and goods at any other border crossing does not apply on Jordan’s only crossing point into the West Bank. But this lack of legal and political recognition does not make the crossing point any different. Individuals, diplomats, businesspeople and representatives of international organisations cross the bridge in both directions and often have to go through legal and administrative hoops to make this trip easier. Continue Reading »

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Aug 13 2015

Israelis lean right toward one-state solution

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Of all the Israelis who spoke out against the burning of the Dawabsheh family in the village of Duma near Nablus, the voice of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin seemed the most sincere.

 Speaking at a rally in Jerusalem on Aug. 1, the Israeli president rejected the idea that this was an isolated case with no context to it. “Every society has extremist fringes, but today we have to ask: What is it in the public atmosphere that allows extremism and extremists to walk in confidence, in broad daylight?” he asked. American writer Peter Beinart later wrote in the Israeli daily Haaretz on Aug. 5 that Rivlin accepted moral responsibility while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “denied and lied about incitement including his own.” This was the clearest accusation against Netanyahu of responsibility for what happened.

But beyond Rivlin’s humanistic exterior is a senior Israeli official who is an ardent supporter of the total annexation of the West Bank to Israel. Rivlin’s actions don’t hide the fact that he, like many in his and Netanyahu’s Likud Party, has a much more radical plan for solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The idea of a Jewish one-state solution has been detailed by a member of the current Netanyahu government. Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party (HaBayit HaYehudi) gave specific information in an article published in the Times of Israel of how he would impose such a state starting with annexing Area C. That his party didn’t do so well in the last elections has largely weakened his party, but the idea of a one-state Jewish Israel continues to be reiterated by many Israelis, including many in the presiding Likud Party, the government and the presidency. Continue Reading »

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Aug 13 2015

American Palestinians speak out about denied entry to Israel

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Over the course of a few days in July, three US citizens of Palestinian descent were denied entry into Israel. All three have published detailed testimonials of their experiences.

 George Khoury, professor and theologian, has been a naturalized US citizen since 1975. His visit to Israel as part of a religious pilgrimage in late July ended in the detention center at Ben Gurion Airport. For Israeli airport security, the problem was that 46 years ago, in 1969, Khoury had lived in the West Bank city of Beit Jala while he studied at its well-known Latin Seminary. While Khoury, 70, has been a US citizen for over 40 years now, he is still treated as a Palestinian national by the Israeli airport authorities.

In the early morning hours of July 21, Khoury was taken by car to a detention center outside the airport, where he was held for over a day before being rushed back to the airport to catch a departing flight. It then appeared that the security officials thought he was another detainee called Carlos. When they realized he wasn’t Carlos, they brought him back to the detention center where he had to wait for his flight. Khoury was eventually deported back to San Francisco, arriving late on July 23, without having been allowed during the layover in Italy to get his passport and travel to Jordan. He had hoped he could enter the West Bank via the Jordan River crossing or at least continue the Jordanian leg of the pilgrimage he was on.

On July 29, Khoury published the exchanges he had with Israeli passport control officers and the guards at the detention center. Continue Reading »

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Aug 13 2015

Is Islamic State threatening Jerusalem’s Christians?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Some members of Jerusalem’s small Palestinian Christian community were worried for a while this summer by what appeared to be threat from Islamic State sympathizers ordering them to vacate East Jerusalem or be killed. The threat turned out to be nothing but hot air.

Concern began to emerge June 28, when leaflets bearing IS’ insignia appeared in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, calling on Christians to leave the city during Ramadan or be massacred on the first day of Eid al-Fitr, the feast at the conclusion of the holy month of fasting.

The Tarazi family has been part of the Greek Orthodox Church for centuries. Margo Tarazi, who works in a family-run tour agency in Jerusalem, told Al-Monitor that she was never much worried by the threat. “We Palestinians are united and aware, and this kind of thing doesn’t shake us,” she said.

The Palestinian leadership seemed to have reached a similar conclusion. In the weekly cabinet meeting held June 30, the government emphasized the unity of the Palestinian people. It did not stoop to mention the threatening leaflet itself, but the press statement issued after the session denounced the “dubious announcement seeking to harm the unity of the people and to incite a struggle in the holy city.”

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, told Al-Monitor that the leaflet was most likely “planted,” arguing that more than 93% of Palestinians are opposed to IS. In an email exchange with Al-Monitor, she stated, “There are those who would like to exploit such a hateful phenomenon for their own ends: raising the spectre of sectarianism in Palestine — a place that has always been pluralistic, inclusive and tolerant — creating a sense of insecurity and fear among Palestinian Christians, particularly in Jerusalem, as a means for the further ethnic cleansing of the city.”  Continue Reading »

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Jul 30 2015

Is Abbas resigning or not?

Following appeared in the Jordan Times Newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

During Yasser Arafat’s long tenure as the head of the PLO, Mahmoud Abbas, who was his deputy, wasn’t always happy with the decisions taken by the leader. A depressed and unhappy Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, would sometimes disappear for months, often in Morocco. The act is often referred to in Arabic as “harad” — the nearest translation to it according to Google Translate is “sulk”. It is the same term used for unhappy wives who go to their parents’ home for a few months as an act of protest against certain unacceptable acts of their husbands.

As in many marital cases, Abu Mazen would usually return after the initial anger had gone — often with the help of a trusted friend or a senior member of the leadership — and things would return to normal between the two senior leaders, until the next time, Arafat would do something, as he often did, without consulting senior members of the leadership.

All this was possible as long as Abbas was the number two man in the leadership. While his absence was felt, it was not a catastrophe. However, as president of the Palestinian government and chairman of the PLO, Abu Mazen doesn’t have the luxury he had when he was the number two man. He can’t simply sulk or go away to Morocco for a few months.

Instead, what Abbas and his close aides try to do when things are not going their way is to threaten resignation. Initially, Abbas himself said that he will not stand for the office of president of the Palestinian Authority again. But the supposed parliamentary and presidential elections, which are long overdue, have been hampered by the Gaza crisis and — according to Fateh — the reluctance of Hamas to participate in elections that public opinion polls say they would lose. With elections still unclear, this week rumours are surfacing that Abbas plans to resign within months, with or without elections. Continue Reading »

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Jul 29 2015

Travel permits aim to manage, not solve, Palestine-Israel conflict

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

When Saja Attaiya traveled on July 19 from the Palestinian village of Beit Sira, west of Ramallah, to the Mediterranean Sea, it only took her 30 minutes to get there. Previously, her attempts to visit Jaffa and Tel Aviv had been met with restrictions and checkpoints, as Israel has rarely given travel permits to Palestinians from the West Bank to enter Israel since 2000, especially to young Palestinians.

 This year, travel restrictions were eased for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, thus allowing Attaiya, 21, and thousands of Palestinians to cross into Israel and spend time at the beach. Attaiya arrived at her destination at 1 p.m. and stayed on the Mediterranean coast for 12 hours with her fiance Mohammad Flaneh, her brother Taleb and her cousin Mohammad, both 16, as well as thousands of others who were given travel permits for the holiday.

“No one understands the sea except those who are denied,” Attaiya told Al-Monitor in a phone conversation.

To get to the coast, Attaiya didn’t need a travel permit, as the Israeli authorities allowed all Palestinian women to enter into Israel during the month of Ramadan and the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday by merely showing their ID card. Continue Reading »

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Jul 23 2015

Israel’s small but genuine peace camp

Following appeared in the Jordan Times newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

Their numbers might be small but their presence is, and should be, publicly acknowledged and encouraged. They are the small group of dedicated Israelis who make it their goal to be present physically to express solidarity with Palestinians in the occupied territories.

They are regularly sharing with the people of Bilin, Nabi Saleh or Nilin their Friday protests against the separation wall and settlements.

Now they are present in the south Hebron village of Suisia, supporting Palestinians whose presence is being threatened by oppressive Israeli measures. The culprit this time is the Israeli army itself which is eager to use the lightly populated area as military target practice. They probably prefer Suisia to locations in the Negev because it is close to their homes and more comfortable than the hot desert!

Israelis who show solidarity with Palestinians often face dual discrimination. By taking a strong and public stand with Palestinians they are automatically in the minority in a country that was built on military power and is focused on the love and adoration of its army. While it is true that many Israelis don’t very much like the radical settlers that the army is protecting, nevertheless, these peace activists are on the fringe because they are courageous enough to confront their own soldiers and provide protection for Palestinians by their mere presence. Continue Reading »

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Jul 21 2015

Iran Deal Could Help Palestinian Cause

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Following appeared in the Jordan Times newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict might get an unexpected shot in the arm as a result of the recently concluded Iran nuclear agreement.

While the P5+1 talks in Vienna focused only on the issue of Iran’s nuclear capability, many are looking for how this agreement will effect regional conflicts. Some of the harshest critics of the deal accuse the Obama administration of making an agreement with what is described as the world’s “leading supporter of terrorism” without dealing with many of the Middle East’s regional issues.

Although those making these accusations have no interest increasing the pressure on Israel, this might be exactly what will possibly happen.

Political posturing has consequences, and the possible success of Obama’s foreign policies over warmongering hawks will not be lost on anyone in Washington.

Last March, the U.S. capital witnessed a rare and unusual event. The prime minister of a foreign country went to the podium of the U.S. congress and bad-mouthed a sitting president in cooperation with his political domestic opponents. This act by Israel’s Benyamin Netanyahu will certainly have consequences if and when President Obama will sign the Iran Nuclear deal despite objections of his Republican opponents and right wing Israelis. Continue Reading »

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