Archive for the 'Palestinian politics' Category

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

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

Jordan times logo

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 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 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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Jan 11 2016

Arab MK says battle for equality, ending the occupation ‘inseparable’

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

A leading Knesset member of the predominantly Arab Joint List has described press reports of a $3.8 billion budget to improve Arab communities in Israel as exaggerated. In an interview with Al-Monitor, MK Aida Touma-Sliman commented, “Our estimate is that it amounts to nearly 10 billion shekels [$2.5 billion].”

 Touma-Sliman further said of the funds earmarked for fixing dilapidated Arab communities, “This is a third of what we had suggested based on a five-year plan that we worked out with our experts that estimated there is a need for 32 billion shekels [$8.15 billion].” She was quick to add that the provision of funds aimed at improving the Arab communities will not water down demands for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.

“Ending the occupation is a basic condition for our people to gain equality. As long as the government is looking at our people as enemies, and as long as there is occupation and settlements, the priority will always go to the defense budget and to settlements. For us, the battle for equality and ending the occupation are inseparable,” asserted Touma-Sliman. Continue Reading »

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Jan 05 2016

On its 51st anniversary, is Fatah facing identity crisis?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

As the leading Palestinian national movement celebrates its 51st anniversary, two major challenges loom large in determining whether it survives or disintegrates.

Fatah, formerly the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, was established in 1959 but declared itself publicly on Jan. 1, 1965. The first press release under the Fatah name announced a guerrilla operation by its military wing, al-Asefa, initiated from south Lebanon against the Israeli water system.

The movement has been credited by historians with shaping present day Palestinian nationalism by leading the Palestinian struggle for liberation and independence. It has further played a role in changing the Palestinian mindset from victimized refugees at the mercy of the international public eye to a proud nation insisting on their liberation.

But this identity — which became the movement’s raison d’etre — was epitomized by Yasser Arafat, who was replaced by Mahmoud Abbas. The difference between the two is often reflected in the image that they have chosen to portray. Arafat was proud of his army fatigue and nationalist keffiyeh and keeping irregular work hours, while Abbas attempts to portray a leading civilian by regularly wearing a business suit and encouraging a professional work ethic. Continue Reading »

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Dec 30 2015

Palestinians learn the power of a picture

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Photos, posters, videos and a variety of imagery have been part of the Palestinian struggle since 1948. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East possesses possibly the largest and most impressive photo and video archivesof Palestinian refugees. These photos have been taken by professional photographers from different backgrounds.

Images were also created by artists such as Ismail Shammout, whose painting “Where to?” — of a grandfather being asked this question by his grandchildren — captured the sense of Palestinian loss as a result of the 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe) of the expulsion from Palestine.

After the 1967 occupation and the rise of the Palestinian guerrilla movement, it was the Karameh (Pride) battle in which Palestinians (and the Jordanian army) stood up to the invading Israelis in March 1968, which was the focus of that era’s image. The resistance to the Israelis inspired a poster by Fatah, which became a major source of pride, fundraising and recruitment.

The popular Palestinian intifada in 1987, followed by Al-Aqsa intifada in 2000 and the current habbeh have produced iconic video images and marked a progress of Palestinians taking the lead role in the creation of their own image.  Continue Reading »

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Dec 18 2015

What suspending security coordination with Israel would mean for the PLO

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

A member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee has predicted that a possible decision to suspend security and economic ties with Israel will make it impossible for the Palestinian National Council (PNC) to hold a meeting planned for next February.

 Hanna Amireh told Al-Monitor that plans are set to hold the Palestinian parliament in exile late February or early March 2016. “But if certain decisions are made, especially in relation to security and economic relations with Israel, then it is unlikely that the PNC will meet,” he said. “Israel will most likely take measures that will prevent us from having enough people to attend, and as a result we will not have a quorum.”

Amireh, who is also a member of the political bureau of the Palestinian People’s Party, said that hard choices regarding security cooperation with Israel have not yet been fully agreed on out of fear of Israeli retribution. He told Al-Monitor, “There are some, for example, who expect that Israel will place a full siege on all Palestinian areas and separate them from each other and that Israel will confiscate all Palestinian funds, which are the right of the Palestinian people, and that the Israeli army will reoccupy all areas.”

He said that it is unlikely that Hamas and Islamic Jihad members will attend the upcoming meetings because of the unresolved conflict between the leading Palestinian groups, and noted that the Palestinians are planning to decide soon on going to the UN Security Council with a new resolution through the Arab League.

The full text of the interview with Amireh follows: Continue Reading »

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