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 »
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 »
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 »
By Daoud Kuttab
For the first 27 days of the 2015-16 school year in Israel, some 33,000 Palestinian students stayed at home during a strike demanding equality with Jewish schools, the first such action of its kind. On Sept. 27, the country’s 47 private Christian schools — on strike since Sept. 1, the first day of the school year — announced their unanimous support for an agreement reached by a six-person committee representing the Christian schools and the Israeli Ministry of Education. The strike had focused primarily on the state subsidies provided to schools to allow them to lower the tuition paid by students’ families.
Botrus Mansour, general director of the Nazareth Baptist School and one of the six negotiators, told Al-Monitor that September had been a difficult month, filled with pressure from the Israeli government as well as the parents of students. Everyone involved in the episode, however, is content with the results, according to Mansour.
“Our efforts began a year ago, and for six months, between March and August, the Israeli officials didn’t talk to us. Our unity and perseverance paid off. This was a huge success,” said Mansour. Christian schools — suffering from a decline in the government subsidy while having to adhere to a cap on tuition fees — had been attempting in vain to reach agreements with the Israeli Ministry of Education so they could remain open without running into financial difficulties.
The Catholic and Protestant schools that went on strike have existed for decades, long before the establishment of the State of Israel. The heart of their mission has been to educate and transmit knowledge. Palestinian students in these Christian-run schools were exposed to a huge civics lesson in the weeks they waited and watched as the adults struggled to convince the government that the right of equality should be universal, irrespective of religion or national background. Continue Reading »
By Daoud Kuttab
The Palestinian envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour, welcomed what he described as “efforts to create an effective multilateral approach” to resolving the Palestinian conflict. Speaking by phone to Al-Monitor, Mansour said that France is working hard to create an effective mechanism similar to that which succeeded in reaching the Iran nuclear deal.
“The thinking is to find a way to expand the scope and the working style of the Quartet, as well as to add some countries to it that can make a valued contribution to its efforts,” said Mansour.
Mansour admitted that world leaders are totally preoccupied with the war on the Islamic State (IS), but he signaled that this effort would be a waste if it didn’t include an attempt to solve the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Mansour related Palestine’s intervention Sept. 29 in a US-initiated meeting on countering violent extremism on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. “We made it clear that no effort to end extremism will work without dealing with the Palestine issue because the Israeli violations and occupation are poisoning the atmosphere.”
The head of the Palestinian mission at the UN also expressed support for the worldwide boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) efforts against Israel. “We consider the BDS to be a positive movement; we feel that the time has matured for an effective, worldwide campaign against Israel, and we will be using the UN forum at the right moment to give this effort an international impetus.”
Al-Monitor spoke with Mansour a day prior to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ address before the UN General Assembly on Sept. 30. In this speech, Abbas signaled that he plans to walk away from the 20-year-old Oslo Accord. “So long as Israel refuses to commit to the agreements signed with us, cease settlement construction and release prisoners, Israel has left us no choice but to insist that we will not remain the only ones committed to these agreements,” he said to world leaders from the UN podium. Continue Reading »