Archive for February, 2014

Feb 27 2014

Community radio gets a boost in Jordan

Following appeared in the Jordan Times

By Daoud Kuttab

Community media received a major boost in Jordan this week with the launch of the third Aswatona conference at the Dead Sea.

More than 100 community radio activists gathered at the lowest spot on Earth to talk about the challenges of producing, broadcasting and sustaining community owned media, especially radio.

Community radio activists from areas not under the control of the Syrian regime were the stars of the event organised by a local Jordanian NGO, Community Media Network, and the UK-based Community Media Solutions in association with Jordan’s Audio Visual Commission and the World Association of Community Broadcasters.

Broadcasting radio in the Middle East and North Africa is a huge challenge. The post-colonial region witnessed many revolts and military coups that always included taking over national radio.

New powers were careful not to allow others to own radio stations so as not to have them do what they did when they took power. Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Feb 27 2014

Amnesty report timely reminder of Israel’s brutal occupation

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

In a powerful and comprehensive report, the global human rights organization Amnesty International has sharply criticized Israeli soldiers for their reckless use of force in putting down nonthreatening Palestinian demonstrations. The report calls on Israel to stop using lethal force against Palestinian demonstrators and rescind military orders that reject Palestinian rights to freedom of expression and assembly. It also called on the Palestinian Authority and the PLO to “sign and ratify, without reservations, international human rights treaties including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”

Publishing a damning report on Israel at a time when the world is busy with Syria and Ukraine will no doubt help shift attention back to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It also adds a powerful element to the political discussion, namely the need for Western powers to stop selling weapons to Israel because of its flagrant violation of human rights and its war crimes that have been taking place undetected. The fact that a major international organization like Amnesty International is supporting the weapons boycott of Israel is a major political breakthrough.

The 87-page research report, citing UN figures, titled “Trigger-Happy, Israel’s Use of Excessive Force in the West Bank,” reveals the Israeli military’s disregard for Palestinian human life. It includes field investigations of 22 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank killed by Israeli soldiers in 2013. A further 261 Palestinians, among them 67 children, were injured by live ammunition in the period 2011-13. The number of killings and injuries in 2013 were a sharp increase of previous years. Most of the cases documented involved young people below the age of 25, and included four children. Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Feb 27 2014

Palestinians receive little in Israeli-proposed land-swap deal

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The current Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, planned to last nine months, have one month left to produce a peace treaty. Palestinian officials are on record as refusing to extend the talks, while the Israelis are sending clear messages that they want the talks to be extended. In a statement made to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, the presidential spokesman outlined two issues that the Palestinians have a problem with.

“We will not accept a Palestinian state without East Jerusalem as its capital. We will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state,” Nabil Abu Rdeineh, the official spokesperson of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was quoted as saying.

While Abu Rdeineh highlighted these two hot button issues, a more serious discussion is going on behind the scenes about the issue of land swaps. Ever since the Camp David II summit, while Palestinians have consistently called for the 1967 borders to be the perimeter of their state, Abbas and late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat both publicly and privately have accepted the idea of land swaps. Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Feb 24 2014

Unilateral steps may pave way for lasting Israel-Palestine peace

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

US Secretary of State John Kerry and his team seem to have a very clear idea of what they want in the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. But the general public seems lost trying to figure out exactly what he is after.

A close and thorough analysis of publicly available information, plus knowledge of the area and the political maneuverability of the main players, leads to a deceptively simple conclusion. Kerry and peace envoy Martin Indyk are clearly not after an agreement that will end the conflict once and for all. This was the goal demanded by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak during the Clinton-led Camp David II effort, which ended in failure.

At the same time, it is clear that neither the Americans nor the Israelis want to repeat Israel’s unilateral military actions in South Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, moves that were rejected by the other side, lacked international backing and failed to provide peace or quiet. Instead, it appears that the US team is after something less than a contract to end the conflict: a set of actions that both sides privately agree to and will not derail.

The idea of a unilateral agreement sounds contradictory. But if one can be reached, it would ease points of tension in the occupied territories, lessen the space that Israel commits not to further settle and slowly prepare the public for a much later deal. Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Feb 20 2014

Jordanian Diplomacy and Public Protests Produces Results in Protecting Al Aqsa

Published by under Articles,Jordan

HuffingtonPost-Logo

Following appeared in the Jordan Times

By Daoud Kuttab

Jordan succeeded this week to force the Israeli Knesset to cancel a discussion planned for Tuesday regarding Al Aqsa Mosque.

The public debate was initiated by the deputy speaker of the Israeli legislature, Moshe Feiglen, and was intended to focus on the issue of sovereignty over the third holiest place in Islam.

Rightwing Israelis want to remove any non-Israeli control over the mosque area.

Al Haram Al Sharif, built in the seventh century, is a walled area that spans 144 dunums and includes two mosques (the silver-domed Al Aqsa Mosque and the gold-covered Dome of the Rock), as well as court areas, an Islamic museum, a Sharia Islamic court and other facilities.

The cancellation of the Israeli Knesset session followed what appeared to be a well-orchestrated public, private and governmental approach.

Jordan’s Parliament got the ball rolling initially, with a strong statement by its Palestine committee threatening to cancel the Israeli-Jordan treaty if the status of the revered Islamic site is changed.

Jordan’s treaty with Israel clearly specifies the Hashemite Kingdom’s unique role in protecting the status of holy shrines in Jerusalem. Furthermore, a Palestinian-Jordanian agreement that recognises Palestinian sovereignty over occupied Jerusalem accepts the role of the Hashemites as guardians of Islamic and Christian holy places in Jerusalem. Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Feb 20 2014

Public apathy may help Israeli-Palestinian peace

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Palestinian and Israeli negotiators might have stumbled across two powerful weapons that could help them convince their publics to support a compromise peace agreement — political exhaustion and apathy.

While the issues surrounding the peace talks, such as refugees and Jerusalem, are emotional triggers that easily move public opinion, the parties to the decades-old conflict appear to be slogging through a period of political fatigue. Hot button items that would usually bring crowds into the streets and force politicians to backtrack are not producing these effects.

On the Israeli side, the public is enjoying an unprecedented calm in terms of security, and an economic boom has made many Israelis seeming apathetic to the comings and goings of politicians and negotiators. On the Palestinian side, the continued occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands, coupled with the implosion of major Arab countries, seem to have had a discouraging effect on the public mood.

The reaction to the conciliatory speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to a group of 300 Israeli students on Feb. 16 is a perfect example of how this exhaustion is playing out. A review of media reactions and interviews with opinion makers illustrates this point. Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Feb 20 2014

Abbas delivers message of peace to Israeli students

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

When Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas met with 300 Israeli university students in Ramallah on Feb. 16, he accomplished more than one goal. He simultaneously sent a powerful message of peace to the Israeli public while indicating to his own people, and the region as a whole, the areas where Palestinian negotiators are willing to compromise.

The visit, which had been planned for last December but was postponed for logistical reasons, was organized by One Voice, an international organization whose mission is to “amplify the voices of Palestinians and Israelis.” The students chosen to attend were selected from 1,000 applicants who had written essays about why they would like to meet with the Palestinian leader.

Among the most highly quoted statements was Abbas’ insistence that he does not plan to “drown” Israel with refugees. This statement came after Labor Party Knesset member Hilik Bar, born in Safad, invited the Palestinian leader to visit his birthplace as a “tourist.” Abbas had previously said that he has no plans to return to the city where he was born.

In his talk to the Israeli students, Abbas covered almost all the issues of contention, including Jerusalem, water, borders, settlements, incitement to violence and recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. In his answers, the Palestinian leader was honest and persuasive. For example, he admitted without reservation or explanation that the Palestinian media and school books do include “incitement,” but argued that Israelis also “incite” against Palestinians. In order to deal with both, he argued, a third party, the United States, could be the judge as to what is and what is not considered incitement. Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Feb 20 2014

Abbas considers sacking Palestinian prime minister

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s days in office are numbered, according to reliable sources in the Muqata (headquarters). The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, told Al-Monitor that for a convergence of reasons they expect Hamdallah to be replaced by President Mahmoud Abbas within a month.

The addition of prime minister to Abbas’ set of titles — president of Palestine and chairman of the PLO — would be in accordance with the Doha Agreement reached with the Islamist movement Hamas in February 2012 and a prelude to possible presidential and parliamentary elections.

While the change of prime minister will most certainly be in compliance with the reconciliation agreement, other problems are brewing within the Palestinian leadership that may contribute to Hamdallah’s early departure.

A major dispute between the prime minister and Minister of Waqf (Religious Endowments) Mahmoud al-Habbash has received media attention. Habbash, who has extremely close ties to Abbas, angered Hamdallah regarding the status of income that is collected on behalf of the Islamic waqf. Habbash refused to turn over monies collected for rent of waqf properties, citing religious reasons. Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Feb 16 2014

Kerry Peace Plan Shakes up Jordanian-Palestinian Relations

HuffingtonPost-Logo

By Daoud Kuttab

The seriousness of the U.S.-initiated framework for a possible solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem appears to have shaken dormant relations in the region, including in Jordan.

The Palestinian-Jordanian relationship, which is experiencing its highest degree of cooperation and mutual trust, is being put to the test.

The challenges facing this important relationship stem from identity issues that have plagued Jordan for decades but which have been pushed under the rug.

Jordanian politicians, pundits, journalists and even government officials are expressing different degrees of concern and worry regarding the aftermath of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry plan, even though information about the plan is very sketchy.

The potential of solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has resurrected badly needed discussion about political reform, which was delayed until the resolution of the Palestinian cause.

The refugee issue is perhaps the most important part of this discussion. Two million registered refugees in Jordan are the biggest single group of Palestinian refugees in the world. Their case is even more complicated by the fact that they are also full Jordanian citizens, though not equitably represented in Parliament as a result of large-scale gerrymandering. Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Feb 16 2014

Jordanians demanding transparent discussions on nuclear plans

Published by under Articles,Jordan

HuffingtonPost-Logo

By Daoud Kuttab

Heated discussions today in Jordan are not about political reform or media policy, but about an issue that is even more relevant to every citizen: the nuclear energy programme.
A debate held last Saturday at the Parliament by Radio Al Balad revealed some of the deep-seated emotions on both sides of the argument.
A saner roadmap to reaching agreement on what is best for Jordan is needed. Perhaps one place to go to for such advice is Sweden, a country of nine million which has a nuclear programme.
I asked for advise to the Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation Hillevi Engström on a visit to Jordan.
Her answer could be a good basis for what the discussions in Jordan should focus on. Engström noted that the issue of nuclear energy is very complicated and that in order to take the right decisions, it is important to have a comprehensive discussion on it.
She also noted that her government vowed not to add any new reactors but to work hard on improving existing reactors to ensure safety and security.
The Swedish minister also expressed the need to follow a parallel policy of encouraging clean alternative energy solutions.
If one takes this advice to the Jordanian scene, one finds some huge holes in how Jordan, especially its Nuclear Atomic Energy Commission, and its director Khaled Toukan are conducting themselves. Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Next »