Archive for May, 2016

May 30 2016

Netanyahu, Lieberman deal meant to derail French plan

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By Daoud Kuttab

If the French diplomatic machine had a hard time scheduling a conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry, it will soon find out that its effort to arrange an international conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be that much harder. In a three-day spat, a behind-the-scenes effort by Kerry and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to move theIsraeli government toward peace backfired.

The plan included Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog joining the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give it more muscle against right-wing settler ideologues. To make it more acceptable, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, one of the more popular Arab figures in Israel today, gave a pro-peace speech and said he was willing to help. Netanyahu and Herzog were supposed to head to Cairo to meet with Sisi.

However, instead of adding 25 members to his one-seat parliamentary majority, the prime minister offered the Defense Ministry to settler Avigdor Lieberman, whose right-wing Jewish Home party only won six seats in last year’s elections. This turn of events produced many reactions in Israel, including in the army, but the biggest potential loser in this cabinet reshuffle will be the French plan to hold an international conference. Continue Reading »

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May 19 2016

What is an accepted mode of resisting Israeli occupation?

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By Daoud Kuttab

A Palestinian supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement debated online a European official in Israel who insisted that the EU is opposed to boycotts of Israel and rejects BDS.

At the end of the twitter debate, the Palestinian posed the following simple question: “Could you tell us what forms of resistance to Israeli occupation Palestinians can use that are approved by European values?”

The EU, which is active in the boycott of Russia over the latter’s military actions in the Ukraine, and also boycotted Iran, cannot easily explain its opposition to the non-violent BDS, which is becoming the most potent anti-occupation threat.

The British, the EU like the Americans and other Western countries whose policies have led us to where we are today cannot simply shrug off their responsibilities and, worse, preach to Palestinians and their supporters what they need to do to end this scourge that has transcended the 20th and 21st centuries.

Western ideas for a solution through multilateral engagement are fine except that without any cost for failure of these engagements there is no guarantee that the debacle of the last 20 years of useless and counterproductive talks will not continue for a further 20 years.

The talks since the 1993 Oslo agreements have failed because Israel succeeded in relieving itself of the worst part of the occupation, namely patrolling populated Palestinian areas.

This last part was subcontracted to US-trained Palestinian security. Continue Reading »

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May 18 2016

Magnetic card system restricts Palestinian visits to Jerusalem


By Daoud Kuttab

One of the leading sources of anger among Palestinians under occupation is restriction on their movement. Palestinians living in the West Bank cannot travel to Gaza, and Palestinians in Gaza are normally not allowed to leave Gaza. Travel from the occupied territories to neighboring Jordan and Egypt also involves various kinds of restrictions. After the intervention of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Egypt opened the Rafah crossing on May 9 for two days, but only a very small percentage of the 30,000 Palestinians wanting to exit Gaza were allowed to do so. A reported 1,221 Palestinians who had been stuck outside Gaza were allowed to return.

 In a January 2016 bulletin, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that in the final quarter of 2015, Israeli forces had established 91 new checkpoints, further obstructing Palestinians’ freedom of movement throughout the West Bank. For Palestinians living near Jerusalem, the issue of travel to the holy city for work or for family visits is of great importance. When Israel unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, and when it built the wall through the West Bank, it isolated Jerusalem from its environs, including the towns of Ramallah, Bethlehem and Abu Dis.

Continue Reading »

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May 12 2016

A holistic approach to press freedom

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By Daoud Kuttab

The celebration of Press Freedom Day by Jordan’s UNESCO office by means of a debate on this year’s theme of access to information revealed the gap that exists between Jordan’s public position and the reality.

For press freedom to exist and flourish, a holistic approach is needed. Such approach must also be part of a larger human rights approach.

Producing a human rights strategy and declaring that the sky is the limit for press freedom will not do if there is no serious political will in this direction.

Examples of the gap are plenty.

According to the annual report of the Centre for Defending the Freedom of Journalists, Jordan imprisoned 10 journalists in 2015 for what they wrote and for expressing their views.

These arrests did not go unnoticed by the US State Department, which made freedom of the press and detaining journalists its number one issue in its most recently produced human rights report about Jordan.

The gap between words and reality was evident in the statements made at the debate on access to information organised by UNESCO on Sunday. Continue Reading »

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May 11 2016

Can France Make Middle East Peace?

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By Daoud Kuttab

RAMALLAH – Since the beginning of the year, the French government has been building support for an international conference to restart the Israel-Palestine peace process. France deserves applause for its brave effort to revive a process that has been going nowhere for the better part of a decade. But success will require more than courage. Any international bid to resolve the problem of Palestine depends on six factors.

The first is seriousness. When France first made its plans known in January, many dismissed the idea as little more than a diplomatic stunt. Palestinian officials were at first suspicious of the initiative. They feared that it would merely give the Israelis another photo opportunity: After the handshakes, ordinary Palestinians would continue to suffer under the occupation.

When it became clear that the French effort was in earnest, and a date was announced for preparatory talks on May 30, the clear timelines encouraged Palestinian officials to sign up to the process. This good faith must continue no matter what obstacles arise.

The second key ingredient is multilateralism. Israel, the stronger party in the conflict, prefers bilateral talks, which put it in a better position to dictate terms. The weaker side in such talks does, of course, have a sort of power: the power to say no. But the exercise of that power usually comes at a high price. Continue Reading »

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May 11 2016

Palestine to raise concerns about settlement-based teams at FIFA conference


By Daoud Kuttab

The president of the Palestinian Football Federation (PFF), Jibril Rajoub, plans to raise at the FIFA congress in Mexico the status of five soccer clubs based in Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. The five teams located in the West Bank are Beitar Givat Ze’ev, Beitar Ironi Ariel, Ironi Yehuda, Beitar Ironi Ma’aleh Adumim and Hapoel Bik’at Hayarden. All five teams play in the Israeli Football Association, a clear violation of the statutes of the world football governing body FIFA.

 Palestinians want to remind the world that the Crimean sports clubs were banned in 2014 from playing in the Russian League by FIFA’s Europe’s regional association UEFA after the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula.

Article 10.1 of the FIFA statutes states, “Only one association shall be recognized in each country.” FIFA has recognized both the Israeli Football Association and the Palestinian Football Association, and therefore neither is allowed to play in the territory of the other without permission.

The case of the five settlement clubs was raised during the contentious May 2015 FIFA congress in Zurich when the PFF requested the ouster of the Israeli association for multiple FIFA violations, including the settlement teams. At the time, a compromise was brokered that allowed the Palestinians to withdraw their request, and in return a FIFA committee headed by South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale was asked to study all the Palestinian complaints. Continue Reading »

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May 05 2016

Challenges facing Palestinian journalists

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By Daoud Kuttab

For most journalists, the challenge of doing their job usually comes from one source. However, restrictions and challenges facing Palestinian journalists are multi-levelled and much more complicated.

While most human and media rights organisations usually list governments as restricting journalists, Palestinians living in the occupied territories are restricted by both Israel and Palestine.

The major problem Palestinian journalists face with Israel is lack of recognition. Despite its claim to be the “only democracy in the Middle East”, Israel has not once recognised a single Palestinian journalist working for the Palestinian media. 

Israeli military authorities do not issue authorised press cards to Palestinians and the only press cards available come from the Israeli government press office.

The coveted Israeli government press cards have been issued to Palestinians, but only when they work for recognised international media.

One can be the best Palestinian journalist working for the Ramallah-based Al Ayyam daily, or Bethlehem Radio or Palestine TV, but Israel will not recognise him/her, while a junior journalist working for Dutch TV or a Brazilian newspaper will be recognised by Israel, which will grant a press card that allows trouble-free travel. Continue Reading »

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May 04 2016

Why is Jordan restricting Palestinians’ travel?


By Daoud Kuttab

Like so many accomplished students, Benaz Someir, a Palestinian from Gaza, chose to attend Birzeit University.

 While pursuing her degree in journalism, Benaz met and later married Walid Batrawi, a fellow BA journalism student from Ramallah. For family and professional reasons, Benaz, a resident of Khan Yunis in Gaza, requested and was given permission to change her residency to the West Bank.

Having successfully convinced the Israelis to change her residency to the West Bank, Benaz was now able to travel to different parts of the world using the King Hussein Bridge, which was easier than returning to Gaza. The choice was hard, but Benaz felt that it was best for her and her career as a media trainer and for her new family in Ramallah.

That decision was made more than 20 years ago. But despite being married to a Palestinian and having proper residency in Ramallah for two decades, Benaz is being treated by Jordanian border control officers as a Gazan. Like all other West Bank and Gaza residents, Benaz holds the same Palestinian passport, yet she is treated differently than her husband.

Walid is allowed to travel to Jordan or via Jordan without any restrictions, while Benaz needs to get prior Jordanian approval. This practice began when Gazans carried Egyptian travel documents and West Bankers carried Jordanian travel documents. Continue Reading »

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May 03 2016

‘bridging’ dilemma

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By Daoud Kuttab

One issue subject to intense discussions is the “bridge” policy.  That is, King Hussein Bridge, which connects Palestine to Jordan and, by extension, to the rest of the world.

The bridge policy is unknown and undeclared. The main reason is that the bridge is not an international crossing point. 

While Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel, it does not consider this a recognised border point, but it is also unable to call it an official border point with Palestine because the Israeli army is still the de facto power on the western part of the bridge.

The fact that the West Bank was Jordanian territory before 1967 and Jordan has not yet constitutionally ceded the West Bank (King Hussein did sever administrative ties with it in 1989) adds to the reasons the bridge is not an international border yet.

But regardless of legal definitions, some 2.8 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and holding passports issued by the Palestinian government have no possibility to travel after Israel blocked their ability to use the Lod (Ben Gurion) Airport other than the King Hussein Bridge.

For some time after the outbreak of the second Intifada, in 2000, every Palestinian wanting to travel across needed to get permission to enter issued by the Jordanian Ministry of Interior. Continue Reading »

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May 03 2016

Palestinians from Gaza who hold properly issued passports are being discriminated against if they were born in Gaza


By Daoud Kuttab

Of all the Jordanian policies that have often been the subject of intense discussion, the one subject that has been a taboo for anyone to talk about has been the ‘bridge’ policy. The reference here is to how decisions are made in regards to travel on the King Hussein Bridge which is the only connecting point between Palestine and Jordan and by extension the only connecting point for all (except for East Jerusalem residents) to the rest of the world.

The bridge policy is unknown and undeclared.  While Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel and recognises the state of Palestine, it does not consider the bridge a recognised border point.
The West Bank was part of Jordan before 1967 and Jordan has not yet constitutionally ceded the West Bank (King Hussein did sever administrative ties with it in 1989) adds to the reasons the bridge is not an international border yet. Continue Reading »

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