Apr 12 2016

Palestinian PM says he is ‘bitterly disappointed’ in US

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Since being appointed Palestinian prime minister in June 2013, Rami Hamdallah has run a tight economic ship, earning him praise from Christoph Duenwald, the local representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Hamdallah proudly showed Al-Monitor a Feb. 11 IMF statement acknowledging the reduction of the Palestinian deficit to nearly 1% of gross domestic product (GDP).

 Praise from the IMF aside, Hamdallah said, “As prime minister I am bitterly disappointed when it comes to the US.” During an interview with Al-Monitor in his Ramallah office, Hamdallah explained that although US support in 2010 reached $1.45 billion, in 2015 Washington pledged to provide $290 million but only delivered $130 million. The remaining $160 million was frozen by Congress.

The prime minister also expressed displeasure with US efforts to scuttle Palestinian moves at the United Nations. “They always want us to wait. … There are the primaries, then the general elections, then the midterms. They always want us to wait for this or that reason. We have been under occupation for 49 years, and it is 68 years since the Nakba,” he asserted.

These days, Hamdallah is also frustrated about Arab funding for the Palestinian government. “Only Saudi Arabia and Algiers have carried out their pledges to Palestine,” he said. Although the Palestinians have only received 28% of the $4.9 billion pledged by the international community to help reconstruct Gaza, the clean up of the rubble has almost been completed, and the power grids destroyed by Israel have almost all been rebuilt. Hamdallah revealed that the Ramallah government spends NIS 420 million ($111 million) in Gaza monthly while only taking 15-20 million shekels ($4-5.3 million) in tax revenues and fees each month.

The text of the interview follows: Continue Reading »

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Apr 11 2016

Tax havens and journalistic work

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

Some five years ago, a lawyer working for the Panama-based Mossak Fonseca leaked a trove of documents exposing the identity of the owners of a large number of offshore companies registered in Jersey, the British Islands and Luxemburg.

This massive leak led to the German government’s closing three banks it deemed had violated German law and the case stopped there.

But the leaker was not satisfied and decided to make a second effort. Around a year ago, some 11 million documents including e-mails, company registrations and other sensitive documents were leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutche Zeitung.

The Munich-based newspaper realised that to make use of this leak, it needed an international effort.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) was asked to help and the largest journalistic effort was launched: 330 journalists from around the world were contacted and asked to participate in the follow up to this leak with conditions. Continue Reading »

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Apr 05 2016

Nowhere to run: Palestine marathoners race on short track

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

For the fourth year in a row, Bethlehem hosted a spring marathon. Nearly 4,400 participants, including foreigners and local Palestinians, ran, walked or pushed baby strollers in the Palestine Marathon on April 1 in a festive atmosphere.

 To finish the full marathon, the runners had to complete two laps of a 21-kilometer (13-mile) track. The inability to provide a single 42-kilometer (26-mile) course lies at the heart of the organizers’ purpose in holding this event. In coordination with the Copenhagen-based Right to Movement, Palestinian organizers have turned the sporting event into a public demonstration of the Israeli restrictions on Palestinians, showcasing the difficulties of living under occupation and being surrounded by an 8-meter (26-foot) concrete wall.

Local Palestinian organizer George Zeidan told Al-Monitor that this year’s marathon was the biggest. Zeidan proudly noted the participation of more than 2,000 women, nearly 46% of all registrants. While a large number of participants completed part of the marathon, 298 men and 89 women ran the entire 42-kilometer run. Runners of 64 nationalities participated in the marathon, which 450 volunteers helped make a major success. Continue Reading »

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Apr 05 2016

Is Israel reviving this 50-year-old land plan?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

In a March 18 statement, the Land Defense Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) reintroduced to political discussion terminology no longer often heard. In the statement, the PLO accused right-wing Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu of reviving theAllon Plan, so named after the late Labor Party Minister Yigal Allon.

 The Allon Plan, developed shortly after Israel began its occupation of Palestinian lands in 1967, proposed that Israel relinquish the main Palestinian population centers in the West Bank to Jordan while retaining land along the Jordan River under Israeli military control. In implementing part of the plan, Labor-led governments between 1967 and 1977 created 21 settlements along the length of the Jordan Valley.

In addition to Israel having permanent control over the Jordan Valley, the Allon Plan also proposed that Israel annex areas along a corridor connecting the Jordan Valley to the city of Jerusalem, with the possibility of excluding Jericho. Israel also carried out elements of the Allon Plan under Likud administrations, but it has yet to annex the areas it covers, possibly out of concern of international opposition. Continue Reading »

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Apr 03 2016

Jordan’s way of dealing with terrorists

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

After every horrific act of violent extremism we are inundated with right-wing incitement against followers of a major religion and, often from the West, with calls to use the Israeli approach in combating terrorism.

Very little effort is made by pundits to actually dig deeper and think of a more appropriate and effective approach to this disease without compromising human values.

A look at the Jordanian model reveals a strategy that has proved to be effective in keeping the country safe without resorting to heavy-handed and wildly restrictive actions that often do more long-term harm.

Jordan’s methodology in dealing with the scourge of violent extremism and terror is largely preventative. It stems from the need to have a good idea about some of the extreme members of the society and work diligently through different means to contain and weaken them, as well as making the red lines crystal clear.

The Jordanian model is focused. It depends much on human intelligence efforts focused on the individuals that are believed to pose a particular threat, rather than on an entire group or community. Continue Reading »

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Mar 23 2016

Is the Arab world losing its diversity?

Published by under Arab Issues,Articles

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By Daoud Kuttab

The airlifting of a dozen-and-a-half Yemeni Jews to Israel last Monday received wide coverage. The action to evacuate 19 Yemenis to Israel is said to have included four stops and was done in cooperation with the US State Department.

What happens to these Yemeni Jews, as well as what happened to the earlier Yemenis who came to Israel, is not the focus of this article, although one can talk a lot on that issue.

The real concern is the effect the departure of these few remaining Yemeni Jews does to pluralism and diversity that has for so long been a hallmark of Arabs.

The golden years of Arabs in Andalusia were successful precisely because of the plurality, of the tolerance for people of different faiths.

People leaving during times of war and economic difficulty is not new. It is possible that people with connections to more stable and prosperous countries tend to benefit from these connections to get the needed permission to emigrate. Continue Reading »

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Mar 22 2016

Gaza’s Christians prepare to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Karam Qubrosi can’t believe that Israel is allowing so many Gazans to travel on the occasion of Easter. “This is a dream come true, especially for many of us in the age group of 18-35,” he told Al-Monitor.

Speaking to Al-Monitor after reaching the West Bank town of Beit Sahour, Qubrosi, 28, said that the last time Israel gave travel permits for men under the age of 35 to travel out of Gaza was at Easter 2008. “That was the last time I was able to travel to Jerusalem for Easter,” he said. Qubrosi explained the process of getting permits: “Every church in Gaza gives names of its parish members who want to travel to the Palestinian department of civil affairs in Gaza, which then sends the requests to the Israelis for permission. ”

Qubrosi, who plans to settle in the West Bank, said that Israel has been giving permits to various Gazan groups, including businessmen and Muslim worshippers, in recent months. Two hundred Gazans over the age of 60 were permitted to travel to Jerusalem on Feb. 26 for Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque. Permission for similar-sized groups have come every Friday. Some individual travel requests for humanitarian reasons are being granted, but not for groups. Continue Reading »

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Mar 21 2016

Palestinian farmers caught in political tug of war

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Hundreds of Palestinian dairy and meat farmers find themselves caught in a political struggle between Israel and the Palestinian authorities.

 The problem of Palestinian farmers began on March 10 when Israeli troops barred trucks belonging to the five leading Palestinian dairy and meat companies from entering into Jerusalem. Trucks from Hamoda dairy company were coming from Hebron, and the order was applied to four other companies.

Kamel Mujahed, head of the Palestinian Milk Council, which represents dairy farmers, told Al-Monitor that Palestinian farmers are the first to suffer from this Israeli decision. “Fifty percent of our sales are to consumers in Jerusalem, and by barring our dairy trucks, our farmers are stuck with a very perishable products.”

It is unclear what triggered the unilateral Israeli decision that was implemented without an official announcement or justification. But Jamal Dajani, director of strategic communications at the Palestinian prime minister’s office, told Al-Monitor he believes politics are behind the Israeli decision. “It seems that this act is done in retaliation on the voluntary public Palestinian ban of illegal settlement products and an attempt to further exercise sovereignty over East Jerusalem.” Continue Reading »

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Mar 17 2016

Palestinian families need closure

Jordan times logo

By Daoud Kuttab

One of the nastiest acts that has emerged since the beginning of the current wave of Palestinian resistance to Israel is the cruel punishment of withholding bodies of dead Palestinians.

Israel is holding the corpses of some 13 Palestinians, some summarily killed by Israeli soldiers, for as long as five months.

Taher Abu Ghazaleh was killed on October 8, 2015. Also held are the bodies of Hassan Manasreh, 15, Alaa Abu Jamal, 32, Bahal Allian 22, Motaz Oweisat, 16, Mohammad Abed Nimr, 37, Omar Iskafi, 21, Abdel Mohsin Hasoneh, 21, Mohammad Abu Khalaf, 20, Fadwa Abu Ter, 51, Foad Abu Rajab, 21, Mohammad Jamal Kaloti, 21, and Abdallah Abu Kharoub, 19.

The dead all come from Jerusalem, old city, and neighbourhoods and suburbs.

Israel’s justification for this vile act is that it wants to prevent Palestinians from celebrating their martyrs whom Israel considers terrorists.

Israel seems to believe that giving these dead people a popular funeral will somehow encourage others to try and stab Israelis so that they can also be hailed as heroes. In addition to the fact that this act is immoral and is considered collective punishment by humanitarian law, the very premise of the Israeli thinking is completely flawed. Continue Reading »

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Mar 16 2016

Literary world celebrates Palestinian poet’s 75th birthday

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish was born on March 13, 1941, in the Galilee village of al-Birweh. Darwish’s birthplace has now been replaced by Jewish settlements. Moshav Ahihud and Kibbutz Yasur now sit where the Palestinian village once stood in northern Israel, east of the port city of Acre. Today, 75 years after his birth, Darwish is being recognized as an Arab international literary icon.

 Palestinian literary critic Faisal Darraj manages the Mahmoud Darwish Foundation’s Mahmoud Darwish Award for Creativity. Darraj told Al-Monitor that in honor of Darwish, annual prizes of $25,000 are awarded to Palestinian, Arab and international literary artists.

“He was a symbol of the Palestinian struggle and reflected Arab culture. His works and his values encompassed not only his love and defense of Palestine, but also his Arab and universal outlook,” Darraj said.

Darwish embodied the Palestinian revolution like no other poet and was closely associated with the Palestine Liberation Organization and its leader Yasser Arafat. His 1982 poem “Why did you leave the horse alone?” reflected the Palestinian bitterness at Arab abandonment after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. He was elected to the PLO’s Executive Committee in 1987, but resigned in 1993 after the signing of the Oslo Accord. Continue Reading »

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