Archive for the 'Palestinian politics' Category

Dec 14 2014

Death of Ziad Abu Ein could work to Abbas’ advantage

 

By Daoud Kuttab

The death of senior Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein, while he attempted to plant olive trees in Palestinian territory, is sure to reignite calls for a major discussion of Palestinian resistance tactics and strategies. Palestinian nonviolent efforts have been going on for years without producing concrete results.

At a time when negotiations had reached a dead end and armed resistance had proven extremely costly in human and other terms, an alternative strategy was sought. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and others in the Palestinian national camp advocated nonviolent popular struggle as the most effective means to force Israel to end its 47-year occupation. The Israelis, who recognized how lethal responses to popular protests fueled the first intifada, have confronted the various efforts with just enough violence to try to deter, but without major fatalities.

Israel’s oppressive efforts to stifle Palestinian resistance have been seen in places likeNi’llin, Nabi Musa, Nahalin and other villages where protests have been taking place every Friday for years. The demonstrations, largely against the separation wall and confiscation of Palestinian lands, have included Israeli peace supporters and international solidarity activists. Media have also had a presence, regularly filming and reporting on Israeli actions, although with time the impact of these actions diminished, in part because of the absence of fatalities. A Dec. 10 confrontation between Palestinians and Israeli forces, however, did result in a fatal injury to a senior Palestinian official.

Abu Ein had been a minister without portfolio in the Palestinian government and head of the Commission Against the Separation Wall and Settlements. Abu Ein, also a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council (FRC), was declared dead at a Ramallah hospital after suffering serious injuries in a confrontation with Israeli troops. Continue Reading »

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Dec 14 2014

New mooovie remembers cows that ‘threatened’ Israel

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Award-winning documentary “The Wanted 18” reveals the nonviolent ambitions of Palestinian activists in the first intifada who wanted to challenge Israel’s occupation through means of self-sufficiency and tax evasion.

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Dec 07 2014

Concern grows over Abbas’ autocratic tendencies

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The sight was unusual and the purpose was even more bizarre. A large contingent of the Palestinian police force surrounded the office of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), which has not been in session for years. Palestinian police showed up in the afternoon of Dec. 2 and have been stationed outside all its entrances and exits since.

Jehad Harb, a researcher at the PLC, told Al-Monitor that when he asked the police officers about their presence, they told him that President Mahmoud Abbas instructed them to prevent PLC Secretary-General Ibrahim Khreisheh from reaching his office. The Palestinian media reported that Khreisheh was fired from his position by Abbas, allegedly over his public support for the head of the civil servants union, Bassam Zakarneh. Khreisheh is a member of Abbas’ Fatah revolutionary PLC. Zakraneh and his deputy, Muin Ensawi, were arrested on Nov. 6 for leading an “illegal” union. Both were released on Nov. 13, but the union has been declared illegal and the legitimacy of the union is now to be evaluated in a Palestinian court.

Left-wing PLO Executive Committee member Tayseer Khaled expressed dismay at the sight of the police. “At a time that parliaments around the world are voting in recognition of Palestine, it is unacceptable that the Palestinian police surround our own parliament,” Khaled, a senior member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was quoted as saying.

Najat Abu Bakr, an elected Fatah legislator from Nablus, told Al-Monitor that the presence of armed police on PLC premises is a direct violation of Clause 51 of the Palestinian Basic Law, which states that only the head of the legislature can order the police on PLC premises. Abu Bakr said that it is a gray zone, because the PLC has not been in session for years. “The constitutional crisis is the result of a lack of consensus within the parliament’s own factions,” he said. Abu Bakr was not the only Fatah legislator to complain. The head of the parliamentary faction, Azzam Ahmad, spoke publicly against the police presence saying that the decision about who is the secretary-general of the legislative PLC is the sole prerogative of the PLC itself. Continue Reading »

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Dec 07 2014

Palestinians prepare push for UN resolution on statehood

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ own people often have some unflattering words for him. He has been called a “traitor” and a “quisling,” accused of selling out Palestine in peace negotiations. While Israelis also attack him as a “diplomatic terrorist” and “Arafat in a suit,” one important Israeli sector has been praising him. The Israeli security establishment has nothing but positive words for the embattled Palestinian leader for his consistent support of security cooperation with Israel.

The public support from Israel’s security chief Yoram Cohen directly contradicts the statements of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and provides Abbas with a strong new political weapon. Speaking in Cairo at the Arab League foreign ministers meeting Nov. 29, Abbas threatened to end security cooperation if plans for a timetable to end the occupation fail at the UN. The Palestinian leader has secured support from the Arab League for a resolution to be submitted to the UN Security Council demanding a short time frame for the end of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands occupied after 1967. Palestinian and Arab sources have been quiet about the exact details of the resolution. Previous public statements by Palestinian officials talked about a “firm timetable” of two or three years.

Having secured the support of the Arab League, the fight to end Israel’s occupation now moves to the UN Security Council. Jordan, the only Arab member of the council, has been asked by the Arab League to carry the Palestinian position. Dina Kawar, Jordan’s UN representative, told Al-Monitor that once the resolution is officially submitted, “There are bound to be negotiations as to which text will be agreed to.” Kawar said, “Once we decide with the Palestinians to put the draft in blue, it means it has to be voted on.” But Kawar expects that the negotiations will take some time. Continue Reading »

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Dec 04 2014

A Resounding Public Support for Palestine Around the World

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By Daoud Kuttab

Politicians holding down the floodgates against a public display of support for the state of Palestine were embarrassed in recent weeks. As soon as these political gatekeepers allowed their rank and file to express their positions, tremendous backing came for Palestine and its people. This happened in the British House of Commons, where an overwhelming number of MPs voted for Palestine, followed by Spain and, this week, by France. Other European countries are set to vote in the coming weeks, after it became unacceptable to deny the representatives of the people the right to say their word.

True, the votes recognizing the state of Palestine are not binding on the governments, but they send a powerful message and make it very difficult for these countries’ representatives at the UN Security Council to vote against a resolution that goes against what their own parliament voted for. The UK and France are permanent members; Spain will become a member of the prestigious UN Security Council on January 1, 2015.

France’s foreign minister is trying hard to avoid a UN Security Council vote; he has been trying hard to organize a peace conference in Paris that can bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table. Palestinians are clear that the time for negotiations is over, and only accept an end of the occupation. Talks to any other end would be a waste of time and an opportunity for Israel to obfuscate and delay. Of course, all the votes in favor of Palestine took place in Europe. The United States is a different story. Continue Reading »

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Nov 27 2014

Israel’s nationality bill threatens agreement with PLO

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

When former Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei and President Mahmoud Abbas, as representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), held secret talks with members of Israel’s Labor Party in 1993, they were dealing with a secular political party that headed a coalition also including non-Zionist religious parties. When Yasser Arafat, as chairman of the PLO’s Executive Committee, signed a letter that same year recognizing the State of Israel, the secular coalition government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had not tried to define Israel as the national homeland for the Jewish people.

These documents through which the PLO and Israel officially recognized each other needed to be signed before Arafat and Rabin could publicly meet and approve the Declaration of Principles (the Oslo Declaration). Once the letters were signed Sept. 9, the two leaders met publicly in Washington, on Sept. 13, and the world witnessed their famous handshake on the White House lawn. These documents — the bedrock of the current Palestinian-Israeli agreements — are now in jeopardy. Speaking to Voice of Palestine Radio, Yasser Abed Rabbo, PLO secretary-general, used the word “dangerous” to describe the possible change in the legal character of Israel currently under discussion.

Although the issue of the Jewish character of Israel has been part of domestic debates for decades, on Nov. 23 the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a legal step on the matter. In a 14-6 vote, his Cabinet approved the latest draft of a controversial 14-item bill to declare Israel “the national homeland of the Jewish people.” According to Netanyahu, the measure will give Arab citizens of Israel equal individual rights while bestowing Jews in Israel and around the world national rights, an assertion fiercely rejected by many in Israel. Continue Reading »

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Nov 25 2014

Jailed Palestinian leader calls for armed resistance

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

For the 23rd time since his arrest in 2002, Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti was transferred to an isolated cell in the Israeli Hadarim prison. The Israeli press said that the punishment was due to a letter smuggled out of prison by the Palestinian leader and published in the largest Palestinian newspaper.

In the letter, published in Al Quds on Nov. 11, Barghouti remembered the late Yasser Arafat on the 10th anniversary of his death and called on Palestinians to honor him with a “comprehensive resistance and the gun” that would lead to independence. In the 632-word letter, Barghouti mentioned the term resistance three times and recalled other leaders such as Hamas’ Ahmed Yassin, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s Abu Ali Mustafa, Fatah leader Khalil Wazir Abu Jihad, Islamic Jihad’s Fathi Shiqaqi and Fatah’s Al Aqsa Brigade leader Raed Karmi.

Fadwa Barghouti, wife of the jailed leader, told Al-Monitor that her husband has never changed his position. “Ever since his arrest until now, he has held on to the right of comprehensive resistance that international law guarantees,” she said. Fadwa spoke to Al-Monitor before leaving for Chile and Argentina to join international events of solidarity for her husband.

When pressed about the use of the additional term of the gun, Fadwa Barghouti, who on her Facebook page had removed the word “gun,” suggested that his reference to armed resistance was a tactical statement and not a strategic one: “He is not expected to change his position while he is suffering in prison.” Fadwa Barghouti insisted that Marwan Barghouti’s policies are known to all, a reference to his general support for the peace process and the two-state solution. He has also stated on numerous occasions his opposition to attacks on civilians. Continue Reading »

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Nov 24 2014

Obama says no plans to remove Assad

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Obama clarifies Assad policy

Speaking to reporters at G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia on November 16, US President Barack Obama dismissed reports of pending changes in Syria policy, saying “We have not had a comprehensive review of Syria. We’ve had a comprehensive review of what are we doing each and every week” in the military campaign to defeat the Islamic State.

On the role of Assad in the battle with IS and in a political transition in Syria, Obama said “there’s no expectation that we are going to in some ways enter an alliance with Assad. He is not credible in that country. Now, we are looking for a political solution eventually within Syria that is inclusive of all the groups who live there — the Alawite, the Sunni, Christians. And at some point, the people of Syria and the various players involved, as well as the regional players — Turkey, Iran, Assad’s patrons like Russia — are going to have to engage in a political conversation. And it’s the nature of diplomacy in any time, certainly in this situation, where you end up having diplomatic conversations potentially with people that you don’t like and regimes that you don’t like. But we’re not even close to being at that stage yet.”

Asked pointedly if he was actively discussing ways to remove Assad in the context of plans for a political transition in Syria, Obama responded with a simple “No.”

Obama’s clarity on Syria stood in contrast to an unusual presentation by US Secretary of State John Kerry the next day on how the Islamic State and the government of Syria are actually “co-dependent” or “symbiotic,” that is, they need each other as enemies, and the US must build and back a “moderate center” in Syria.

Kerry’s remarks come as Syrian military forces this month retook the area around the Al-Shaer gas field from the IS terrorist group after fierce fighting, as reported by Khaled Atallah. Continue Reading »

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Nov 24 2014

Could Israel’s policies pave way for an intifada?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

In the early months of the first intifada, Palestinians waited for the underground leadership’s directions, which came out in a numbered statement that was quickly distributed by fax throughout the occupied territories. The leaflet, Bayan al-intifada, came to be regularly issued by what was known as the Unified National Command of the Intifada. This underground leadership was a well-kept secret, and for Israel, its members were like needles in a haystack.

In 1987, I was asked about it in an interview with Israel TV about the leadership. I answered half-jokingly that it could be meeting anywhere, including in West Jerusalem or even in a Tel Aviv cafe. I am told that this made Israelis go berserk, not knowing which of the Palestinians they saw at their cafes were part of the underground leadership and which were simply out for a cup of coffee.

At the time of the first intifada, there was no wall and no restriction on the movement of Palestinians from the occupied territories into Israel.

In Nov. 13 meeting of journalists who worked at the now defunct Palestinian newspaper Al Fajr, Hatem Abdel Qader, one of the paper’s editors who later became a member of the Palestinian Parliament and a minister for Jerusalem affairs, revealed that the underground leadership often met on the premises of the newspaper’s Nablus Road offices in East Jerusalem. An editor in attendance indicated that the third leaflet had been produced at the newspaper premises. A Palestinian engineer from Ramallah, Khaled Batrawi, posted on his Facebook page this week that he had been aware of a number of meetings of the underground leadership held in West Jerusalem.

At the time, membership in — or even sympathy for — the PLO was illegal, so it was necessary to direct it in secret. This need, coupled with Palestinians’ freedom of movement, created the formula for the creation of the underground leadership. Continue Reading »

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Nov 20 2014

The ‘Battle for Jerusalem': It Is Personal

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By Daoud Kuttab

It is not clear whether Israeli prime minister’s portrayal of the latest violence as the battle of Jerusalem was a description of what was happening or an electoral wish. Whatever the case, the results of the “battle for Jerusalem”, if it is that, will certainly be different from what Israelis predict.

One of the first indications that Jerusalem is different is the personalization of the victims.
Everyone has a name and the names are given prominence.

More than 2,000 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli war on Gaza, but we know very little about them. In Jerusalem, however, the names of both Palestinians and Israelis who are killed are given much more prominence in media coverage and public discussions.

Mohammad Abu Khudair who was brutally killed by Jewish settlers, and Yusuf Hasan Al Ramuni, the Palestinian driver who operated an Israeli bus and was said to have hanged himself, have become household names.

The Israelis who were killed in the attack on the synagogue also have been named: Rabbi Moshe Twersky, Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, Rabbi Kalman Levine and Aryeh Kupinsky.

Similarly, the press gave the names of the two Palestinian cousins, Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal, from the Jerusalem neighbourhood of At Tur.

This high visibility of the various victims of the violence in Jerusalem is certain to raise the emotional and political temperature in a city that has been near boiling point since summer.

Israel’s planned punishments for the people of Jerusalem will do little to de-escalate the tensions, but will certainly contribute to widening them.

While Israel’s prime minister and other ministers and politicians quickly accused the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah and Gaza for what happened, Israel’s security chiefs, including the head of Shin Bet (internal security), publicly contradicted their political leaders and blamed the violence on the visit by members of the Knesset to Al Aqsa Mosque and the killing of Abu Khudair, rather than anything else.

The fact is that, unlike other areas in the occupied territories, Israel has full control over East Jerusalem and has created a wall separating Jerusalem from the rest of the Palestinian territories. Continue Reading »

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