Archive for the 'Palestinian politics' Category

Feb 23 2015

Ministry strike leaves East Jerusalemites in limbo

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Yasmine was born in July 2014 at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center. Six months later, she has yet to get a birth certificate from the Israeli authorities. While her mother Tamara was born and has lived all her life in East Jerusalem, young Yasmine’s sin is that her father hails from the nearby West Bank city of Beit Jala.

Shortly after Yasmine’s birth, Tamara took her daughter and all the necessary documents — the rental agreement for her Jerusalem home, utility bills and her blue ID card proving that Jerusalem is her place of residence — to the small office of the Israeli Ministry of Interior in East Jerusalem’s Wadi al-Joz neighborhood and waited in a long line.

After reviewing her papers, the Israeli clerk asked for yet another document, an affidavit signed in the presence of a lawyer vouching that Tamara actually lives in the home for which she provided a valid rental agreement. Months earlier, Israeli social security officials had visited her at the very same home to see she lived at that address before approving what every Israeli citizen and resident is entitled to: free medical care including hospital coverage for delivering a baby. Continue Reading »

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Feb 22 2015

Unity Is Needed as Palestinians Wait

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By Daoud Kuttab

As the Palestinian-Israeli conflict awaits Israeli elections, a number of important local and international developments are taking place that could have a long-reach effect on it.

Israeli elections, set for March 17, have all but frozen all efforts to move the stalled peace process. U.S. officials, as well as their European counterparts, have made clear that they will not allow any endeavour at the UN or at any other international forum until the Israeli public makes up its mind about whether it wants Benjamin Netanyahu to continue as its leader.

Netanyahu is embroiled in an unprecedented public conflict with the White House in regard to the Iranian negotiations, which are also due to reach their climax by the end of March.

In the absence of political developments, a number of important processes are taking place with which whoever is elected in Israel will need to deal. Two major changes being cooked behind the scenes have to do with the boycott movement and the International Criminal Court (ICC). The efforts to boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) Israel received a number of big prizes recently. More than 700 UK-based artists have signed a petition announcing that they will boycott Israel and Israeli cultural events. In the U.S., students at the prestigious Stanford University voted 10-1-4 to initiate BDS against Israel. Continue Reading »

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Feb 19 2015

Odeh: racist Israeli laws to benefit joint Arab list

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The Arab-Jewish party Hadash (the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) has been a small but permanent fixture in the Israeli parliament for years. It usually won four or five of the 120 Knesset seats in elections, providing a fig leaf to Israeli democratic claims without being able to influence either internal or external policies. In 2013, Hadash won four seats. This “problem” is set to change in the coming elections, ironically, as a result of the Israeli right’s attempts to keep Palestinian Arabs out of the Knesset.

Ayman Odeh, the head of the joint list of all the Arab parties in Israel, told Al-Monitor that the combination of racist policies and changes to the election law helped produce this unprecedented list. The unification was created as a result of “raising the threshold and an increase in racist policies and practices, which appeared in racist laws as well as the unprecedented assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014.”

Although he is not sure that the unification of democratic and peace forces in Israel will succeed in removing the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Odeh says, “This new experiment is still in its early stage.” However, the Haifa lawyer hopes that “this experience succeeds and continues because of the possibility of defeating the right wing.”

While focusing on the goal of removing the ruling right-wing government in Israel, the head of the Arab list is not very excited about the existing alternatives to Netanyahu. He tells Al-Monitor, “Our fight against the occupation, racism and discrimination constitutes a democratic alternative against the nationalist camp led by Netanyahu and the Zionist Camp led by [Isaac] Herzog and [Tzipi] Livni.”

Odeh is hoping that at the very least, their efforts, along with other democratic forces in Israel, can slow or stop what he calls a “deterioration toward fascism,” which he concludes is the result of the occupation. “Ending the occupation and establishing an atmosphere of peace are the first step in ending the racial discrimination against Arab citizens as a national minority,” he says.

Odeh is aware of the challenges ahead but has focused his attention on the need to encourage Arabs to participate in the elections that will not include any competition between Arab parties. He is hoping to increase the participation of Palestinian citizens in Israel from 56% in 2013 to 70% or more in this round.

The text of the full interview follows: Continue Reading »

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Feb 10 2015

Former Knesset speaker declares Zionism over

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

When Avraham Burg, former Knesset speaker and head of the Jewish Agency, attended a meeting of the socialist-inclined Hadash (the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality), he caught many people off guard. But the former Labor Party leader feels that anyone following his work should not be surprised.

“I left Zionism a long time ago,” he told Al-Monitor in a telephone interview. Asked what he thought of Yossi Beilin’s criticism of his stance that Zionism expired a long time ago, Burg said, “If Beilin’s departing point is that Zionism will exist forever, then he is mistaken.”

The kippah-wearing son of Yossi Burg, the founder of the National Religious Party (the forerunner of today’s extreme Jewish Home headed by Naftali Bennett) told Al-Monitor that “Zionism expired” when the State of Israel was established. “In 1948, Israel was secular and socialist; today, in 2015, it is nationalist and capitalist,” he explained.

Burg, one of the founders of Peace Now, said that a total transformation of society is needed. He is very worried about the nationalism that pervades Israeli society and would like to see a change from “tribalism to a citizenship-based society.”

Burg is a strong advocate of equality, which he believes is the key to change and is needed on both the ethnic and the gender levels. For that reason, Burg told Al-Monitor that he is not very happy with the joint Arab list that Hadash will compete for in the Israeli elections. The only Jewish person on the list, expected to yield 12-15 mandates, is Dov Khenin, considered by the Israeli Democracy Institute the best parliamentarian in 2012. Khenin is No. 8, and only two women join him in safe spots on the list. Continue Reading »

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Feb 09 2015

‘Palestine’ Is Becoming a Bad Word in Washington

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By Daoud Kuttab

The U.S. response to the efforts by Palestinian president to join international organizations, including the International Criminal Court (ICC), is puzzling.

The spokeswoman of the U.S. State Department made an unusual attack in trying to express Washington’s opposition. “The United States does not believe Palestine is a sovereign state and, therefore, does not qualify to be part of the International Criminal Court,” said Jan Psaki after the UN secretary general confirmed that Palestine’s application to the ICC has been officially accepted.

That Palestine is not a sovereign state is not disputed; that is exactly the problem which has been around for 47 years and which the latest UN Security Council resolution would have rectified, had it not been for the U.S. negative vote and unfair pressures on African countries.

The Palestinian president has stated clearly for some time that if the UN Security Council does not address this problem, the UN’s latest non-member state will join the Rome Statute which regulates the issue of the criminal court.

Before the beginning of the Madrid Peace process that led to the Oslo Accords, Americans were careful not to use the term Palestine. James Baker, the U.S. secretary of state, instructed his staff to use the term Palestinians rather than refer to Palestine. But all this changed after Oslo. Continue Reading »

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Feb 03 2015

Fatah power struggle leads to missing paychecks in Gaza

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was haunted last week by the Arabic saying “cutting livelihood is worse than cutting necks.” Abbas had stopped payment on the salaries of more than 200 security officers suspected of being loyal to renegade Fatah leaderMohammed Dahlan.

When the Palestinian government transferred 60% of December salaries on Jan. 20, 220 Gaza-based security officers discovered that their names were not among those submitted to the consortium of six banks responsible for distributing payrolls. The punishment for the alleged Dahlan loyalists by way of denials of payment did not go over well, leading to protests, petitions and calls for a reversal of the decision. Episodes of violence and unrest were recorded against a number of pro-Abbas officials and institutions.

The officers received a short-term payout from a financial security net fund established by pro-Dahlan supporters to offset the “no-salaries decision,” according to Samir Mashrawi, a staunch Dahlan confidant. The denial of salaries to people who are essentially civil servants was harshly rebuked by many in Gaza and the West Bank, including by some of the most senior officials in Abbas’s own Fatah movement.

Tawfiq Tirawi, a senior Fatah Central Committee member and former head of intelligence, described the decision as a “mistake” and called for its reversal. Tirawi echoed many others when he told the Gaza-based Donia al-Watan website that members of Palestinian security have their “loyalty to the nation and legitimacy and not to any individual.” A petition signed by Fatah members of the elected Palestinian Legislative Council called for a reversal of the decision and for holding those responsible for it accountable. Continue Reading »

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Feb 01 2015

Greece election result brings hope to Palestinians

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The victory of the Greek Syriza Party, which won 149 out of 300 parliamentary seats, has brought major concerns for Israel but was welcomed by the Palestinians. The radical left-wing party scored a decisive victory in the snap elections held Jan. 25 in Greece.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as well as the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Islamic Hamas movement were among those to congratulate the Greek people with the election results.

The Greek elections were mostly about economic issues. The anti-austerity party has promised to stop the painful policies that have been imposed on Greece by Europe and world leaders. This rebellious spirit will be a major challenge to some of the leaders of the European Union. Germany and the United Kingdom are unhappy with the results of the elections, while French President Francois Hollande was among the first to congratulate the Greek leader citing the friendship that unites France and Greece.

It’s easy to understand why Palestinians welcomed the left-wing Greek party’s victory, given the party’s actions and statements of its leaders that clearly oppose the Israeli occupation. Clause 38 of the political program of the Syriza party opposes cooperation with Israel and supports Palestinian rights. It states: “Abolition of military cooperation with Israel. Support for creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.” Continue Reading »

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Jan 30 2015

New Greek PM Supports Palestinian Rights

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By Daoud Kuttab

The results of the snap elections in Greece, which propelled the leftist Syriza Party to power this week, sent shockwaves to many world capitals.

Alexis Tsipras, the new prime minister, has vowed to fulfill his electoral promises, including reversing the harsh austerity plans that Europe has imposed on his country.

French President Francoise Hollande was among the first leaders to congratulate the new Greek leader.

France and Spain are facing economic austerity plans similar to Greece’s, and they will be watching carefully how Greece will deal with its major creditors, including Germany and the United Kingdom, who had engineered the very tough austerity plan that Tsipras used to vault into power.

While all the focus of the coverage of the Greek elections was on the economic policy, the radical leftist leader has been very vocal on where he sees his country’s position regarding Israel and Palestine.

During his political life, and especially in the current election campaign, Tsipras has vowed to end Greece’s military cooperation and joint exercise with Israel and to recognize the state of Palestine on the 1967 borders.

“Seeing Israel killing children in Palestine is unacceptable. We should unite our voices and forces so as to live in peace, expressing our solidarity to the Palestinian people,” Tsipras said during an anti-Israel demonstration in Athens last summer.

“When civilians and children are killed at beaches facing the same sea that borders on the European continent, we cannot remain passive, because if this happens on the other side of the Mediterranean today, it can happen on our own side tomorrow,” he said in reference to Israel’s killing of four Palestinian youths playing on the Gaza beach in August 2014. Continue Reading »

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Jan 27 2015

Palestinian political unity welcomed for Israeli elections

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Good cartoonists can summarize major issues with a simple image. The Palestinian cartoonist Khalil Abu Arafe summed up the Palestinians’ warm welcome for the joint list of Palestinian citizens of Israel to compete in the Israeli parliamentary elections scheduled for March 17. In a Jan. 24 cartoon, Abu Arafe depicts Ayman Odeh, head of the joint Arab list, saying, “We are staying here,” while next to him three Israeli candidates, Isaac Herzog, Tzipi Livni and Benjamin Netanyahu, ask in reference to the Arab list, “Where did they come from?”

The unprecedented success of Palestinians in Israel agreeing to a joint list is in fact likely to create the fourth-largest bloc in the 120-member Israeli Knesset provided the public comes out to vote. Palestinians in the occupied territories generally welcomed the unity of their compatriots in Israel, and some leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) have even taken partial credit for the list. In a phone interview with Al-Monitor, Yaser Abed Rabbo, secretary-general of the PLO’s Executive Committee, expressed his pride in the PLO’s contribution.

He commented, “We don’t hide the fact that we supported this unity move from the beginning. We are always supportive of unity on the bases of the joint national identity of the Palestinian people and in the face of racism whose victims are the Arab population in Israel.” Abed Rabbo explained that the PLO supports the unity of Palestinians everywhere for the same objective and national reasons and understands the specific nature and challenges of the various communities. Continue Reading »

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Jan 25 2015

Did US backtrack on Palestinian statehood to please Israel?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The United States, which has progressively moved toward recognizing the State of Palestine, has suddenly backed away from even using the word Palestine. Were the previous positions merely lip service and are we now witnessing the true US position, or did the United States backtrack to please Israel?

A look at the history of US rhetorical interaction with the issue of Palestine shows progress over the past decades, from ignoring the existence of the Palestinian people to talking about Palestinian statehood.

George W. Bush received much attention as the first US president to use the word Palestine during a speech he made at the Saban Forum in December 2008. “At the heart of this effort is the vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. I was the first American president to call for a Palestinian state, and support — and [to] build support for the two-state solution has been a top priority of my administration,” Bush said.

The term State of Palestine was used 38 times in official statements and speeches by the Republican president. Continue Reading »

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