Archive for the 'Palestinian politics' Category

May 17 2015

Palestinian state would solve right of return

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Visualizing Palestine, a Lebanese-based nongovernmental organization, created an interactive map that shows the shrinking Palestinian population in Palestine between 1918 and 2015. The graphic, “Palestine Shrinking, Israel Expanding,” demonstrates in a clear and simple way the catastrophe that has befallen the Palestinians as a result of Zionist immigration to Palestine and their (direct and indirect) expulsion.

The Zionist narrative falsely claims that Palestine is a “land without a people for a people without a land.” In the process of colonization and settlement by Jewish immigrants, Palestinians were dispossessed and made stateless. They have remained stateless for 67 years.

Palestinians have repeatedly said that the right of return enshrined in various United Nations resolutions is non-negotiable and does not have an expiry date. Palestinians want Israel to recognize its legal and historic responsibility for the refugee crisis, but they have also said that while this right is inalienable, its implementation is subject to negotiation. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas went even further in 2012 and said on Israel TV that he no longer has any desire to live in the city in which he was born and raised, Safad, but would not mind visiting it. In February 2014 in Ramallah, he also told a group of 300 visiting Israelis that Palestinians are not interested in “flooding Israel with Palestinian refugees.” Continue Reading »

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May 12 2015

Israeli court to rule on minister’s deportation case

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

For nine years, former Palestinian Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Khaled Abu Arafeh and elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council Ahmad Ottwan, Mohammed Totah and Mohammad Abu Tier have been waiting for a decision from the Israeli Supreme Court.

 Shortly after the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, the four Jerusalem residents were banned from entering their city of birth and residency. Their crime, according to arguments by the Israeli prosecutor, is that by participating in elections on behalf of a pro-Hamas list, they showed that they are “not loyal to the State of Israel.” The same applies to Abu Arafeh, who was not elected but was asked to join the government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

The 2006 elections were allowed to take place by the State of Israel. East Jerusalemites voted and international observers, including former US President Jimmy Carter, participated in a monitoring role.

There was a sweeping victory by the Islamists Change and Reform List — the pro-Hamas list — which won 76 out of the 132 legislative council seats, allowing the head of the list, Haniyeh, to become the fifth prime minister of the Palestinian Authority government. Continue Reading »

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May 11 2015

New Israeli government makes no pretense of peace

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

For the first time in 20 years, an Israeli government will be sworn in without a mention or plan of resolving the Palestinian conflict. This is actually a good thing, for it reveals the true nature and position of Israel. Israelis have in the past boasted that when it comes to Palestine, they negotiate the conflict among themselves.

Now there is no mention, no program and therefore no more pretense that Israel wants peace and the only thing holding back the winds of peace is the absence of a Palestinian partner.

Center-left government members have forever shielded their country from world opposition to Israel’s illegal occupation by giving off the appearance of a reasonable government that wants peace. After all, Israel is supposed to be the only democracy in the Middle East, and it is inconceivable to anyone around the world that a democratically elected government would endorse the most extreme human rights violations. A military occupation coupled with a colonial settlement program is unacceptable by any democratic system, thus leaving the world confused. Can democracy and occupation coexist? Can a country be truly democratic yet totally at peace with ruling another people by brute military force?

The answer of the March 17 elections and the formation of the government on May 6 has removed Israel’s peace-loving mask. Israeli lust for Palestinian land and its justification of perpetual control and settlement-building based on millennium-old claims of divine promise is the main reason for this military occupation of nearly half a century. Continue Reading »

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May 05 2015

The switch to digital television faces bumpy road in Palestine

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

For most Palestinians, July 17, 2015, means very little. But for those who have long been working toward the migration of all Palestinian TV frequencies from analogue to digital, the date has been etched in stone. Mandated by the International Telecommunications Union and approved by the Arab League, all Arab states agreed in 2006 to turn off the analogue TV signals by this date.

In Palestine, the move toward digital broadcasting was preceded by a move to local television broadcasting. Shortly after the Oslo Accord began to be executed, there was a rush to establish local radio and TV stations especially in the cities from which the Israeli army withdrew. At one time, more than 31 local television broadcasting using terrestrial frequencies spread throughout the occupied territories. Nablus, Palestine’s largest city, had the record for having nine local television stations in 1996. However, by 2010, the number of stations was down to 18 local stations and in Nablus down to four. In time, some of these small stations folded or merged into networks such as the Maan TV network, which has become a national community-owned TV station.

As the target date approached, a frenzy of movement took place on various levels. The Palestinian Telecommunications Ministry produced a 12-page strategy paper that ended with the establishment of a large governmental committee that was mandated to prepare for the migration from analogue to digital. The supervising committee included representatives of relevant ministries including telecommunications, interior and information as well as a representative of Palestine TV, and one representing local TV stations. Birzeit University’s Media Development Center held a number of discussions on the topic and will be shortly producing a long detailed report on the topic by mid-May 2015. Continue Reading »

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May 04 2015

After 15 years some Palestinian doctors now drive into Israel

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The news report was short, but was broadcast widely in the Palestinian and Arab media. Social media platforms have been buzzing as well. After 15 years of its unjustified ban, Israel has allowed a few Palestinian doctors to use their West Bank cars to reach Israeli hospitals, where they have been accepted for training.

 The head of the Palestinian Doctors Association, Nidam Najib, told Al-Monitor that the permission does not include West Bank doctors working for East Jerusalem hospitals, which is where most of the doctors are working.

Nevertheless, Najib said that in general, his association is opposed to any cooperation with Israel. “We have already announced that we boycott Israeli products, including medicines that have a Palestinian alternative. We are also opposed to any act of normalization with the occupation,” he insisted. Najib said that his organization, which represents all Palestinian doctors, was not asked for its opinion on the travel permits for doctors and has no relationship with the decision. However, he said, no disciplinary measures will be taken against doctors who receive permits to drive their cars into Israel.

An Israeli medical source who wished to remain nameless told Al-Monitor the permitting procedure goes through both health ministries, saying, “Applicants have to prove that they work in Israeli hospitals. However, their application has to be approved by the Palestinian Ministry of Health before being issued a permit by the Israeli military coordinator.” Continue Reading »

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Apr 27 2015

THERE CAN BE NO PEACE WITHOUT AN END TO OCCUPATION

Al-Araby al-jadeed

By Daoud Kuttab

Out of nowhere this week, two prominent individuals came out in support of the two-state solution as the best way to move the dormant Palestinian-Israeli conflict forward.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, whose organisation is part of the comatose Quartet, spoke at a special session of the UN Security Council in New York about the need for a negotiated solution. “I strongly urge the incoming government to reaffirm Israel’s commitment to the two-state solution,” Ban said.

At the same time, Noam Chomsky and the voluntarily exiled Israeli academician Ilan Pappe produced divergent points of view. While Pappe, known for research into the Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948, urges the scrapping of the two-state solution and the adoption of the one-state option, Chomsky backs the two-state idea.

These ideas endorsed by the UN head or the MIT professor are not new. They reflect the vast majority of worldwide political thinking as the easiest and fastest way to resolve the nearly half a century of Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.

What is new is that neither of these men gave any new direction as to how to accomplish this goal in light of the rejection of the current Israeli leader and the majority of Israelis who voted for him in last March’s Knesset election.

It is true that shortly after winning the election (largely due to the statement that there will be no Palestinian state) Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to backtrack, but it would be hard to find any respected Israeli or international figure who does not believe that what Netanyahu said on the eve of the elections is what he truly believes and what apparently most Israelis also agree with. Continue Reading »

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Apr 27 2015

Palestine should not be collateral damage of Iran deal

Al-Araby al-jadeed

By Daoud Kuttab

An important question has yet to be answered. Will Arabs and especially Palestinians be the biggest losers in the game being played between Iran, the White House, Capitol Hill and Israel?Arab thinker Azmi Bishara believes that if Arabs stay neutral over the P5+1 framework deal they will become collateral damage. In other words it is not possible to remain neutral in a process that is attractive to Iranian reformers and American liberals.

On the other hand Israel is heavily engaged in two international cases: the international efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear programme and the world’s desire to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

While the nuclear issue appears to be well on its way to being resolved, there is concern that a trade-off between the two cases might take place.

All sides deny any link, but there is concern that the fierce Israeli opposition to agreement with Iran could force Washington to make an unethical trade-off.
The US president, Barack Obama, is facing stubborn opposition from Republicans in Congress, and even from some of his fellow Democrats.

Continue Reading »

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Apr 26 2015

UNESCO resolutions raise Palestinian hopes

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The United Nations Education Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has finally produced resolutions “with teeth.” Elias Sanbar, the permanent Palestinian representative to UNESCO told Al-Monitor that the resolutions adopted April 20 in Paris attempts to address the usual Israeli apathy to UNESCO decisions in a practical way.

Sanbar, who has been the head of the Palestinian mission to UNESCO since 2012 said that in the past, the UNESCO executive board would meet once every few months, issue resolutions and await the Israeli reaction, “and the Israelis simply ignored the resolutions.” Sanbar believes that ignoring the most recent resolutions will have consequences. “The resolutions overwhelmingly passed by the executive board have deadlines and consequences,” he said.

While previously UNESCO would send missions — which were either allowed or denied visits to Jerusalem — UNESCO has resolved to appoint a permanent representative to be stationed in East Jerusalem. The specific wording of the resolution states: UNESCO “[d]eeply regrets the Israeli refusal to implement UNESCO previous decisions concerning Jerusalem particularly 185 EX/Decision 14 and reiterates its request to the Director-General to appoint, as soon as possible, a permanent and eminent expert(s) to be stationed in East Jerusalem to report on a regular basis about all the aspects covering all UNESCO fields of competency in East Jerusalem.”

Sanbar told Al-Monitor that the decision to have a UNESCO officer in Jerusalem was fought the hardest by some of the pro-Israel delegates on the executive board. “The US and especially Germany fought extremely hard against this actionable part of the decision,” Sanbar said. Continue Reading »

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Apr 26 2015

Facebook group shares checkpoint wait in real time

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The first thing that Tanya George does when she wakes up in her Ramallah home is to check the Facebook group “
Status of the Road, Qalandia and Hizma.” She scrolls to the latest entry checks and reads the status of Palestine’s worst checkpoint. If it is crowded, she would take the longer road to her job in East Jerusalem, where she works to support underprivileged students, rather than risk waiting in line for hours, or might decide to do some work at home and leave for the office later.

For most Palestinians, the Qalandia checkpoint is the nearest crossing point from downtown Ramallah to downtown East Jerusalem. Individuals working for international organizations can use a special checkpoint north of al-Bireh, referred to as the DCO checkpoint. A third option is the Hizma checkpoint. The last two are farther away than Qalandia, but faster to get through if Qalandia is backed up. Qalandia also connects Ramallah to Bethlehem via the alternative Wadi al-Nar Road.

The Facebook group monitoring the crossings was started by Richard Khoury, a Palestinian who works for the International Committee of the Red Cross. In an interview with Al-Monitor, Khoury explained how the group was established. “My wife and I live in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, and on weekends we normally go to Ramallah to see family and friends.” Khoury said that after wasting so many hours waiting in line, he and his colleagues at work began exchanging information on traffic backups through Facebook. Continue Reading »

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Apr 17 2015

New Arab MK jockeys for influence on women’s issues, budget

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The strong showing by Palestinian citizens of Israel in the March 17 Knesset elections, winning an unprecedented 13 seats, has revived hope that the 20% Arab population in Israel can have a strong influence on the workings of the state.

Aida Tuma, one of two Arab women elected to the Knesset, told Al-Monitor that the 13-member Joint List of predominantely Arab parties is expected to wield serious influence in the Knesset committees, saying, “We want to be active in a way to have a genuine positive effect on our people.” Tuma is a member of Hadash, the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, who joined Knesset member Ahmad Tibi in the temporary finance committee.

Committee selection usually awaits the formation of the government, but until then, two temporary committees are formed: one for foreign relations and security and the other for finance. “We chose to take two seats in the finance committee because we are sure that if we go for the foreign relations and security committee, they will not allow us to have any effect by moving all-important topics to subcommittees of which we are not members,” Tuma told Al-Monitor by phone on her way to Ramallah to meet with the Palestinian leadership.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Likud won an unexpected 30 mandates, is having a hard time forming a narrow coalition. Israeli media reports say that he prefers a unity government with the Zionist bloc, with 25 seats headed by Isaac Herzog. To pass a confidence vote, Israeli governments need at least 61 mandates out of 120 members of the Knesset. Continue Reading »

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