Archive for October, 2015

Oct 30 2015

How to bring peace to Israel

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Knesset member and Palestinian firebrand Ahmad Tibi has reiterated that the current wave of violence is a reflection of anger and despair and called on Israelis to seize the moment and act to correct the situation. In an interview with Al-Monitor, Tibi appealed to the Israelis, saying that the fastest way to reach peace and save lives is to end the occupation of Palestinian lands. “Sooner or later, the Israelis must realize that nothing can break the will of a people longing for freedom and independence. This, the longest and last remaining occupation on Earth, must come to an end, through international pressure and the struggle of the people,” he said.

Tibi pointed out that the current situation has increased cohesion between Palestinians, even though the division continues. “The Palestinian people are akin to a multi-sided body existing as one in the West Bank, Gaza, the interior and the diaspora. Despite that fact, we regret the continued division among the Palestinian people.”

One of the most vocal Arab members of the Israeli Knesset, Tibi appeared to be indirectly criticizing the current round of violence by Palestinian youth, calling instead for a totally nonviolent peaceful protest, saying, “Broad, peaceful, popular resistance is an avenue that remains untried but must be espoused, as it will garner the support of the whole world.”

The brunt of Tibi’s anger was focused on the right-wing Israeli government and its racist attitudes toward Palestinians. He told Al-Monitor, “The current Knesset is the most extremist, racist and hostile to Arabs and Palestinians.” Continue Reading »

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Oct 28 2015

Stateless residents

Jordan times logo

By Daoud Kuttab

When Israeli troops occupied the West Bank’s main city, Jerusalem, in June 1967, a thriving population was already living there. Jerusalem’s Palestinians did not go to Israel, the state of Israel came to them. However, while the rest of the occupied territories were ruled by an army using military law, the Israelis treated East Jerusalem differently.

Within months of their occupation, the Israelis expanded the boundaries of East Jerusalem, especially in the northern part, so that it includes Qalandia Airport and imposed Israeli civil law on the city’s population. Theoretically, the difference between living under civil rather than military rule appears more advantageous to the population. But in fact, and especially after the signing of the Oslo Accords, this advantage turned into a major liability.

As the population of the rest of the West Bank slowly moved towards statehood, received Palestinian passports and were able to participate in political life, the situation of Jerusalemites remained stagnant and in many ways worsened. Efforts got under way to separate East Jerusalem from its natural surroundings by means of an eight-metre high cement wall and strict orders were issued banning engagement by Palestinians with their legitimate leadership in Ramallah. Housing permits within Jerusalem continued to be rare and economic  development received a big blow as the natural population that came to the city from nearby towns and villages all of sudden needed Israeli army-issued permits to enter.

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Oct 25 2015

Jerusalem’s Orient House a symbol of Palestinian struggle

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The young Palestinians active in the current Jerusalem protests were infants when the PLO’s headquarters in Jerusalem were ordered temporarily closed for six months on Aug. 9, 2001, along with nine other Palestinian organizations. Fourteen years later, the six-month closure has been repeatedly renewed along with the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce.

A question that has been publicly asked is whether the reopening of Orient House would help in restoring a local Palestinian leadership that has been decimated for the past two decades.

Faisal Husseini, the son of Palestinian leader Abdel Qader Husseini, who was killed in the 1948 war, attempted to establish himself as a local leader by getting involved in public affairs. Under Faisal Husseini’s guidance, the Arab Studies Society was established in 1980, registered in Israel as a public institute and was located in the historic Orient House building, which the Husseini family owns. Like any think tank, the society held lectures and conferences and housed a big public library.

The website of the Arab Studies Society says Orient House was the site of many diplomatic functions, including a tea party in honor of German Emperor Wilhelm II when he visited Jerusalem in 1898. Hashemite Emir Abdullah, former King Ali and Prince Zeid accepted condolences at Orient House when their father, Sharif Hussein bin Ali (who had been sharif of Mecca), was buried in the Haram al-Sharif in 1931.

Ishaq Buderi, who has administratively headed the Arab Studies Society since its launch, told Al-Monitor that after the first intifada began in 1987, Husseini’s efforts were focused on the political and then the negotiations process. “Orient House eventually became the leading address for diplomats and politicians in the runup to the Madrid talks; the Arab Studies Society became its academic arm and think tank.”

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Oct 23 2015

Jerusalemites need to be empowered not collectively punished

Alarabiya English-Logo

By Daoud Kuttab

Israel’s continued punishment for the people of Jerusalem will do little to de-escalate the tensions, but will certainly contribute to widening them. Isolating neighborhoods and demolishing Palestinian homes is considered a collective punishment and a violation to the IV Geneva Conventions.

What Israel needs to do immediately is to empower Palestinians in East Jerusalem by allowing local leadership to rise.

Israel has full control over East Jerusalem (unlike the rest of the occupied territories) and has created a wall separating to further isolate the city from its natural Palestinian cities and leadership.

Isolating neighborhoods and demolishing Palestinian homes is considered a collective punishment.

Daoud Kuttab

The Israeli obsession to weaken the national aspiration of Jerusalemites by cutting off East Jerusalem from the rest of Palestine has meant that the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership has no leverage on fellow Palestinians. Continue Reading »

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Oct 22 2015

To calm the situation in Jerusalem

Jordan times logo

By Daoud Kuttab

The question asked by political leaders and pundits is how to end the current wave of violence in Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territories.

As in any conflict resolution effort, one needs to look at the root of the problem that caused this wave of anger that cause people to sacrifice their lives to make a point.

In searching for the roots of the problem, one can obviously point to the 47 years of Israeli occupation, but that would not necessarily explain the specificities of the current protests.

However, a close look at the source of the current anger brings one to focus on East Jerusalem, in general, and on the status of Al Haram Al Sharif, in particular.

Jerusalem’s status has been deteriorating since the Oslo Accords, which dealt with many land issues, exception for Jerusalem.

The idea of the architects of the Palestinian-Israeli agreement signed at the White House in 1993 was that the five-year transitional period would be long enough to resolve all permanent-status issues. Jerusalem, which was one of these five issues (in addition to borders, refugees, settlements and economic agreements), was privately and publicly declared by many as one of the hardest nuts to crack and therefore left as the lowest priority.

The five-year transitional period has become two decades.

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Oct 16 2015

Jerusalem’s intifada takes its toll

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Despite the sense of pride Palestinians have been expressing as they break the fear barrier and stump one of the world’s most powerful armies, Jerusalem’s intifada is taking its toll on the Palestinians of the holy city.

The trigger-happy Israeli soldiers, settlers and citizens encouraged by their government to carry weapons have created fear and terror among the 350,000 Palestinians who make East Jerusalem their home.

A resident of the Old City expressed this fear. In a post on his Facebook page Oct. 12, Ahmad Buderi said that Palestinians in the Old City want international protection, especially from armed settlers. “Any mistake can easily lead to the end of your life using the cover of self-defense. All it takes is for the settler to say ‘mikhablim’ [Hebrew for terrorists], and you can easily be the target of bullets coming at you from all directions.”

Buderi said that Palestinians refrain from talking about this, “but you can see this in the eyes of the mothers. Their pride prevents them from talking about it, but I see it even in the eyes of many young people.” Buderi, who works as a reporter for ABC News, had received 1,736 likes on his post and 335 shares at the time of this writing, and the 114 comments mostly express fear. A few comments expressed worry that if Israelis see the Buderi’s Facebook post they might be encouraged.

The worry expressed by Buderi turned into a nightmare for Abber Majed, 16, and her sister Wafa, 13. The girls had walked from their home in the Saadieh neighborhood in the Old City in the late afternoon of Oct. 13 to buy bread from the Musrara bakery just outside Damascus Gate: They didn’t return home. Their family panicked and started looking for the girls; they even posted their disappearance on social media with pictures and a phone number to call. Shortly after midnight the girls returned home. They had been detained and held for questioning by the Israeli police without being allowed to inform their family of their whereabouts or contact a lawyer — a clear violation of Israeli law. Continue Reading »

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Oct 14 2015

Terror in Jerusalem

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By Daoud Kuttab

As Israel and its main ally the US are denouncing the “terrorist” acts against Israelis, very little is being said about what Palestinians describe as summary executions of individuals who do not pose a life-threatening danger.

It is unclear why Israel has yet to begin an investigation into the large number of killings of individual Palestinians, who are killed point-blank range and under questionable circumstances.

Several of these cases are recorded on video and clearly show indifference towards the injured and a mob mentality that justifies summary executions.

While the US, the UN and the rest of the Quartet on Palestine acceded to the Israeli demand not to come to Jerusalem and the occupied territories, the Israeli political leadership continues to accuse Palestinian leaders while the Israeli army contradicts the political branch and insists that the Ramallah-based leadership is not involved in encouraging the current attacks.

Little or no attempt is being made to look at the root causes of the current escalation, namely the attempts to change the status quo of Al Aqsa Mosque, the absence of local Palestinian leadership in East Jerusalem as a result of a concerted Israeli campaign and the absence of a political horizon for all Palestinians.

The atmosphere created by the iron fist policy was further exacerbated by calls to Israelis to move around armed, with the mayor of West Jerusalem walking around brandishing a gun as a sign of power and intimidation.

Calls on the government to ease gun licensing laws further creates fear that the Israeli security is losing control and is moving towards a militia state rather than a country where the rule of law is observed.

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Oct 14 2015

The ‘smartphone intifada’

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Every revolution seems to have perfected or made particular use of a technological advancement. The current series of protests begun by Palestinian activists Sept. 13 is no exception. Social media via smartphone appears to be the flavor of the month in modes of communication, due to the ease it offers for instantly uploading video.

Danny Qumsieh, owner of the radio station Mawwal FM in Bethlehem, believes that the availability of high-quality mobile video cameras has made a huge difference. “Now everyone is involved in taking videos, positing them and sharing them with as many people as possible,” Qumsieh told Al-Monitor.

Mamoun Matar, a leading Palestinian broadcasting engineer, observed that technology has allowed many more people to take part in the ongoing Palestinian national struggle, stating, “Everyone has a mobile device or a laptop, and those who can capture photos and videos, and the rest work in the backrooms to edit and circulate the powerful images around the world.” Matar pointed out that young activists today are doing much of the work that traditional broadcast media used to do. This is unlike the second intifada that began in October 2000, when Al Jazeera and other Arab and regional satellite stations actively covered Palestinian protests. “Not this time,” said Matar. “They are busy with violent events in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya, so they are not giving Palestine as much attention as before.”

Khaled Abu Aker, director of Amin, one of Palestine’s first news websites, told Al-Monitor that for the first time, Palestinians no longer need traditional media. He remarked, “During the first and second intifada, we used to get calls asking the media to come and cover events. Today, the youth are doing the broadcasting themselves.” One entrepreneurial media outlet, however, has been providing the live TV coverage that many Palestinians and their supporters seek. Technicians from the Palestine News Network posted a camera near the main location of protests in Bethlehem and was able to live-stream scenes from the protests. Continue Reading »

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Oct 11 2015

Netanyahu weighs more aggressive action as Hamas leader backs ‘intifada’

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called for “strengthening and increasing the intifada” on Oct. 9, saying that “Gaza was ready for confrontation.” The surge in violence, which began last month in Jerusalem, spread in the past week to the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. On Oct. 9, Israel restricted access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque to prevent further confrontations. The Noble Sanctuary, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, are revered by Muslims as the spot where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, central to the Jewish faith as the site of two ancient temples, the first by King Solomon in 960 B.C.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure from his right flank for his management of the crisis. Ben Caspit reports that Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked from the HaBayit HaYehudi party and Yisrael Beitenu party leader Avigdor Liberman are calling for more aggressive actions, including new settlements and counterterrorism operations similar to those undertaken by Israel during the second intifada (2000-2002).

“At this stage, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon are siding with the IDF [Israel Defense Forces], which is trying to ‘contain’ the events, to react with proportionate force, not to burn down their bridges and instead maximize the chances for cooling down the atmosphere. The problem is that under the explosive situation created on the ground, something can go wrong at any given moment or a terror attack can succeed, leading to deterioration. No one is really interested in an escalation, except for Hamas and other terror organizations. However, that does not mean that an escalation will not take place,” Caspit writes. Continue Reading »

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Oct 08 2015

A different kind of intifada

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The ultimate direction of the current violent escalation in Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank is a mystery. Is it the long-anticipated third intifada? Or is it merely a short-term spike in the escalation of violence?

One thing seems clear: There is no way of knowing or predicting the depth, length or nature of what happens when people lose hope. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to wash his hands of the 1993 Oslo Accord — which he himself had signed 22 years earlier — might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.Without any peace process in sight and with the young Palestinian population seeing no future, it is not surprising that people are revolting. The question that is hard to answer is related to sustainability: How long will the people protest before they reach exhaustion? Ironically, this question was asked at the beginning of the last two large uprisings — the first and second intifadas.

During the first intifada the unified leadership was completely underground, even though it was loosely affiliated with the various Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) factions. During the second intifada, also referred to as Al-Aqsa Intifada, the role of the lightly armed Palestinian police and the suicide attacks, as well as the role of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, provided backing to the protest activities.

Analysts and commentators as well as political leaders seem to be in almost universal agreement that the current violent side of the protests will not last. They argue that without organized support for the uprising, the most likely result will be a slow fizzling out of the resistance protests.

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