Archive for January, 2015

Jan 30 2015

New Greek PM Supports Palestinian Rights


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


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?


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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Jan 22 2015

Is Quartet making comeback?


By Daoud Kuttab

The statement was made Jan. 15 by US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power in New York. The setting was the UN Security Council’s monthly debate on the Middle East, the scene of a failed attempt to set an end date to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The justification, as expressed by Power, was to “urge both parties to exercise maximum restraint and avoid steps that threaten to push Israeli-Palestinian relations into a cycle of further escalation.”

Powers’ declaration revealed that representatives of the long dormant international Quartet were to meet in Brussels on Jan. 26. The Quartet was established in Washington in 2002 and is made up of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. It has been in hibernation ever since the beginning of the US-sponsored direct peace talks in July 2013.

A look at the website of the Quartet’s representative, Tony Blair, shows that the last statement by the four major world parties was made Sept. 27, 2013, and contained a briefing by the United States on the direct talks. Since that date, the Quartet has been silent, except for protocol issues and resolving some problems around the movement of people and goods, especially the Gaza Strip.

Furthermore, the last entry on the site of the Quartet representative was made Dec. 10, 2014, and contained a statement by Blair on the death of Palestinian Minister Ziad Abu Ein during a nonviolent anti-settlement protest near Ramallah. Continue Reading »

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Jan 21 2015

Joint Responsibility for Freedom of Expression Worldwide

Published by under Articles


By Daoud Kuttab

Social media activists have filled cyberspace with comments and arguments,criticising or justifying the presence of this or that leader at the gathering held in Paris in support of the people of France after the brutal killing, in two separate attacks on journalists, cartoonists, policemen and everyday shoppers in a Jewish supermarket.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was attacked for going to Paris while avoiding Gaza. Arab leaders were criticized for attending the French demonstration while not working to protect freedom of expression in their countries.

Arab leaders have many considerations, of course, when they make decisions such as last week’s. When a superpower like France calls for worldwide support, it is incumbent on world leaders to show solidarity by participating.

King Abdullah’s and Queen Rania’s presence in France sent multiple messages. Not only where they present to show public support for the grieving French, but also as a demonstration of moderate Islam. The direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammad and the sponsor of the Amman Message of religious dialogue had to make his presence known at such event.

The reaction from the French Muslim community welcoming the presence of the King and Queen shows that it was a positive move. Continue Reading »

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Jan 18 2015

Palestinians to give UNSC bid another shot


By Daoud Kuttab

The Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo Jan. 15 approved a Palestinian request to return to the UN Security Council to seek an end to the Israeli occupation. The ministers did not set a date for the next UN campaign, leaving the decision to a committee made up of Jordan, Kuwait, Mauritania, Egypt, Morocco and Palestine. Addressing the foreign ministers, President Mahmoud Abbas asked Arabs to financially support the Palestinian government in light of Israel’s decision to withhold tax revenue. Abbas said that the Palestinians had notified the United States of their intention to join the International Criminal Court (ICC). “Had America told Israel to stop settlements, we wouldn’t have gone,” he added.

The Palestinian leadership’s desire to return to New York has repeatedly been made clear by Abbas since the previous bid failed. At a Jan. 4 cultural conference in Ramallah, Abbas said, “We didn’t fail, the UN Security Council failed us. We’ll go again to the Security Council, why not?”

After participating in the Paris solidarity rally, Abbas told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Palestinians will seek another vote at the UN Security Council. And at a Jan. 12 press conference, he said, “Nothing will ever deter us from continuing our march toward obtaining the rights, freedom and independence of our people.”

On paper, the chances of a Palestinian statehood resolution receiving the nine positive votes needed have been greatly increased with the changes at the turn of the year. Australia, which voted against the resolution, has been replaced by New Zealand, and majority-Muslim Malaysia has replaced South Korea, which abstained. Sources in the Palestinian and Jordanian missions in New York are optimistic. Continue Reading »

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Jan 13 2015

Abbas’ presence at Paris rally boosts Palestinian legitimacy


By Daoud Kuttab

The participation of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in France’s mega unity demonstration in Paris on Jan. 11 was apparently not of his own making.

A day earlier, the Secretariat of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had announced plans to hold a rally in support of France in Manara Square in Ramallah at noon the following day. The Israeli press has since made it clear that Abbas’ participation in Paris came about to counter the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who insisted on attending despite opposition from Paris. Netanyahu, who initially indicated he would not be going, citing security reasons, quickly reversed his decision after his electoral opponents Avigdor Liberman and Naftali Bennett decided to attend. The French are said to have told the Israeli leader that if he came, they would invite the Palestinian president.

Much of this background was unknown to most Palestinians, who were divided upon seeing their president march in Paris alongside world leaders, including Netanyahu. Opposition to Abbas’ Paris visit arose initially from hard-line Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar, who called it “hypocrisy and political acrobatics.”

Social media was full of posts from individuals comparing Abbas’ Paris trip to his “non-visit” to Gaza since the end of the 2014 Israeli war, which resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including 17 journalists. This sentiment was echoed by Fadi Elsalameen, adjunct senior fellow at the American Security Project and a Palestinian activist in the United States. Speaking to Al-Monitor, Elsalameen echoed many in stating, “I wish he [Abbas] showed the same support for his people locally. He banned solidarity demonstrations with Gaza and has no shame in showing up in Paris.” Continue Reading »

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Jan 12 2015

The real war is the ideological one

By Daoud Kuttab

Very few people know that in Islam there are two kinds of jihad. The smaller Jihad is the more known one namely the one which reflects the military a struggle. But the greater Jihad which is less known is the internal Jihad- or Struggle.

Few people also know that the Arabic word Jihad is used throughout the Christian Bible as well.  II Timothy y 4:7 states I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. The Arabic verse uses  the term fight  for the word Jihad.

So whether it is the struggle or the fight for a better world, the militaristic Jihad is certainly not a monopoly to Islamists.

How does this affect the current war on Islamic extremism that most tangible form has been the Islamic State militias who have controlled large segments of land and people in northern Iraq and eastern Syria.

France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said that his country is now at war with radical Islam. “It is a war afraternity, freedom, solidarity,” Mr. Valls said during a speech in Évry, south of Paris.

World leaders have correctly pointed out that the fight radical Islam including the current coalition against against DAESH (the Arabic acronym of ISIS) must be both a military and an ideological one. We have heard and seen a lot of the former but very little has been done to tackle the ideologies behind this extreme group. Continue Reading »

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Jan 06 2015

Netanyahu’s threats won’t sway Abbas


By Daoud Kuttab

Both the content and the body language reflected a profound Israeli irritation. “We will not allow IDF soldiers and commanders to be hauled before the International Criminal Court [ICC] in The Hague,” said an angry Benjamin Netanyahu at the opening of the weekly Cabinet meeting on Jan. 4.

The response of the Israeli prime minister was accompanied by threats and punitive actions against Palestinians, including warnings that Israel would also prosecute Palestinians for war crimes and that the monthly customs taxes collected on behalf of Palestinians would not be turned over (the December 2014 transfer is about $127 million). For once, it seems that Palestinians got under Netanyahu’s skin.

The Palestinian leadership, of course, is not interested in the emotional state of Netanyahu or the Israelis, and the refusal to turn over Palestinian monies — called another war crime by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat — will certainly not sway Palestinians from their game plan.

This is not the first time that the Israelis have frozen the transfer of Palestinian taxes only to rescind their decision for fear that cutting off Palestinian funds could result in the collapse of the Palestinian government.

But the tit-for-tat that is taking place on the diplomatic and political scene is aimed at changing the rules of the game. For the first time in many years, the Palestinians appear to be executing a well-designed plan in which every action is calculated and reactions by the international community and Israel are factored into the calculations and tend to trigger further action. Continue Reading »

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Jan 05 2015

Security Council Vote Legitimizes Israeli Occupation


By Daoud Kuttab

There is an Arab saying about depriving people of options. It says: “Don’t break a full loaf of bread and don’t eat from a broken loaf but feel free to eat as much as you want.”

This is the international community’s response to Palestinian efforts to end the unjust 47-year-old Israeli occupation.

When Palestinians use armed resistance, which is legal by international law, they are called terrorists and asked to refrain from acts that endanger the lives of Israelis whose offensive actions against the people of Gaza are “legitimate” defense.

When Palestinians try popular national resistance, their actions are called provocative and their leaders are oppressed.

Israel deported (non-violent leader Mubarak Awad) and possibly caused the death of minister Ziad Abu Ein by using excessive force against demonstrators.

Palestinians tried negotiations despite a statement by the former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir that Israel will drag talks for 10 years without results. The talks have dragged for 20 years without results.

An attempt to use the Security Council route was opened and then quickly shut. The attempt to put an end date to the occupation was not acceptable by Western countries despite the overwhelming support of their populations.

France tried to water down the Palestinian version of proposal without providing assurances that the US will indeed support it. And in the end, the US bullied Nigeriato abstain from voting, and therefore did not even need to use its threats to veto the said resolution. Continue Reading »

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