Jan 11 2016

Arab MK says battle for equality, ending the occupation ‘inseparable’

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

A leading Knesset member of the predominantly Arab Joint List has described press reports of a $3.8 billion budget to improve Arab communities in Israel as exaggerated. In an interview with Al-Monitor, MK Aida Touma-Sliman commented, “Our estimate is that it amounts to nearly 10 billion shekels [$2.5 billion].”

 Touma-Sliman further said of the funds earmarked for fixing dilapidated Arab communities, “This is a third of what we had suggested based on a five-year plan that we worked out with our experts that estimated there is a need for 32 billion shekels [$8.15 billion].” She was quick to add that the provision of funds aimed at improving the Arab communities will not water down demands for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.

“Ending the occupation is a basic condition for our people to gain equality. As long as the government is looking at our people as enemies, and as long as there is occupation and settlements, the priority will always go to the defense budget and to settlements. For us, the battle for equality and ending the occupation are inseparable,” asserted Touma-Sliman. Continue Reading »

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Jan 05 2016

On its 51st anniversary, is Fatah facing identity crisis?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

As the leading Palestinian national movement celebrates its 51st anniversary, two major challenges loom large in determining whether it survives or disintegrates.

Fatah, formerly the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, was established in 1959 but declared itself publicly on Jan. 1, 1965. The first press release under the Fatah name announced a guerrilla operation by its military wing, al-Asefa, initiated from south Lebanon against the Israeli water system.

The movement has been credited by historians with shaping present day Palestinian nationalism by leading the Palestinian struggle for liberation and independence. It has further played a role in changing the Palestinian mindset from victimized refugees at the mercy of the international public eye to a proud nation insisting on their liberation.

But this identity — which became the movement’s raison d’etre — was epitomized by Yasser Arafat, who was replaced by Mahmoud Abbas. The difference between the two is often reflected in the image that they have chosen to portray. Arafat was proud of his army fatigue and nationalist keffiyeh and keeping irregular work hours, while Abbas attempts to portray a leading civilian by regularly wearing a business suit and encouraging a professional work ethic. Continue Reading »

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Dec 30 2015

Palestinians learn the power of a picture

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Photos, posters, videos and a variety of imagery have been part of the Palestinian struggle since 1948. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East possesses possibly the largest and most impressive photo and video archivesof Palestinian refugees. These photos have been taken by professional photographers from different backgrounds.

Images were also created by artists such as Ismail Shammout, whose painting “Where to?” — of a grandfather being asked this question by his grandchildren — captured the sense of Palestinian loss as a result of the 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe) of the expulsion from Palestine.

After the 1967 occupation and the rise of the Palestinian guerrilla movement, it was the Karameh (Pride) battle in which Palestinians (and the Jordanian army) stood up to the invading Israelis in March 1968, which was the focus of that era’s image. The resistance to the Israelis inspired a poster by Fatah, which became a major source of pride, fundraising and recruitment.

The popular Palestinian intifada in 1987, followed by Al-Aqsa intifada in 2000 and the current habbeh have produced iconic video images and marked a progress of Palestinians taking the lead role in the creation of their own image.  Continue Reading »

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Dec 18 2015

What suspending security coordination with Israel would mean for the PLO

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

A member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee has predicted that a possible decision to suspend security and economic ties with Israel will make it impossible for the Palestinian National Council (PNC) to hold a meeting planned for next February.

 Hanna Amireh told Al-Monitor that plans are set to hold the Palestinian parliament in exile late February or early March 2016. “But if certain decisions are made, especially in relation to security and economic relations with Israel, then it is unlikely that the PNC will meet,” he said. “Israel will most likely take measures that will prevent us from having enough people to attend, and as a result we will not have a quorum.”

Amireh, who is also a member of the political bureau of the Palestinian People’s Party, said that hard choices regarding security cooperation with Israel have not yet been fully agreed on out of fear of Israeli retribution. He told Al-Monitor, “There are some, for example, who expect that Israel will place a full siege on all Palestinian areas and separate them from each other and that Israel will confiscate all Palestinian funds, which are the right of the Palestinian people, and that the Israeli army will reoccupy all areas.”

He said that it is unlikely that Hamas and Islamic Jihad members will attend the upcoming meetings because of the unresolved conflict between the leading Palestinian groups, and noted that the Palestinians are planning to decide soon on going to the UN Security Council with a new resolution through the Arab League.

The full text of the interview with Amireh follows: Continue Reading »

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Dec 14 2015

The long road to labeling settlement products

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The European Commission’s Nov. 11 “interpretive notice” clarifying “the application of existing [European] Union legislation on indication of origin of products to products originating in Israeli-occupied territories” was not arrived at quickly or easily. In fact, it dates back to the mid-1980s.

In 1986, the issue had involved the legalities of how a Palestinian manufacturer in Ramallah could export its products to the European Economic Community (EEC), the EU’s predecessor. In 1995, the question arose as to why EU customs officials were failing to collect duties on Israeli settlement products because the settlements were not considered part of Israel, which had a preferential trade agreement with the EU. In 2012, discussion revolved around whether EU law permitted EU-funded support to activities and operations in settlements. The product labeling issue then became one of how the origin of items produced in Israeli settlements should be accurately identified — as all products must be under EU law — so as not to mislead European consumers.

Years of quiet and persistent action and advocacy dating back to 1984 paved the way for today’s notice. Around that time, some Palestinians had begun thinking about the value of exports. Among them was Charles Shamas, a lingerie manufacturer in Ramallah who approached the EEC about exporting his products to Europe. Now a senior partner with the Ramallah-based Mattin Group, Shamas spoke at length with Al-Monitor about the progression leading to the current labeling guidelines. Continue Reading »

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Dec 10 2015

Jerusalem Copts hope new bishop brings renewed support

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Members of Jerusalem’s small Coptic Christian community were thoroughly surprised when the leader of the worldwide Coptic Orthodox Church broke a papal-imposed boycott and visited them. The arrival of Pope Tawadros II followed the death of Bishop Anba Abraham, the longtime spiritual leader of the Coptic church in Jerusalem and Palestine. The pope officiated at the funeral service held Nov. 28 in Jerusalem, where the bishop had requested to be buried.

Abraham, who became a priest in Egypt in 1990 and was appointed to head the Church of the Holy Land in 1992, died Nov. 25 at the age of 72. Church officials told Al-Monitor that given the high rank of the bishop in the church, his funeral service could not be performed by priests or even bishops of the same rank — only by Tawadros.

For the past 30 some years, the spiritual leadership of the Coptic church has banned visits to occupied Jerusalem. This came about in part because in 1970 the Israeli police allowed monks from the rival Ethiopian Church to take over the Deir es-Sultan Monastery, located on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. At the time, the Israelis were involved in a war of attrition, and Ethiopia was an Israeli ally. The situation has remained unchanged, despite the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Continue Reading »

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Dec 09 2015

Are Palestinians losing interest in the two-state solution?

Jordan times logo

By Daoud Kuttab

The 8th Forum for Arab Investigative Journalists organised by Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ), concluded this week in Amman with a gala dinner where the winners of the 2015 ARIJ Prize for best investigation in print and video categories were announced.

The second prize in the short-form Film Category went to the Palestinian duo Karim Asakreh and Bassam Elroumi for “Hydro: Death Sentence Covered by Law”. 

For a people and a country under military occupation for almost a half a century one would expect that journalists would be investigating issues related to the Israeli occupation. In past years the reporters have won prizes for investigations related to settlements and the Israeli occupation rather than an internal Palestinian issue like the growing use of a particularly dangerous drug.

The change in direction in Palestine is not coincidental. In talks with a number of young reporters, one gets the feeling that they have largely lost hope in the two-state solution and the peace process, and they have clearly lost hope with the existing leadership, which seems totally out of sync with the aspirations and desires of young Palestinians who constitute the majority of the population. Continue Reading »

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Dec 03 2015

Will Fatah, Hamas take Egypt’s road to unity?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Hamadeh Faraneh, member of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), caused a firestorm Nov. 30 by revealing that Egypt has been working with the Palestinian president on advancing a four-point road map that includes internal unity within Fatah, reconciliation with Hamas, reconstruction of the Palestine Liberation Organization and general elections.

Faraneh, a former Jordanian member of parliament and who is also a member of the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) and is privy to internal Palestinian politics, spoke to Al-Monitor in his home in Amman about the Egyptian initiative and the reaction of various Palestinian groups to it. Reaction was mixed to an article seen as attempting to encourage the Palestinian leadership to face reality. “No one has denied the details of the contents [of the Ad-Dustour article Faraneh wrote Nov. 30],” he said.

“Some have called me saying it is true, but that it shouldn’t have been published,” Faraneh told Al-Monitor. “Egyptian officials were unhappy, although they were appreciative of the [comprehensive nature of the article]. What I did is put everyone to face their own reality in a strong way.” Continue Reading »

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Dec 02 2015

The future of the Palestinian National Theatre

Jordan times logo

By Daoud Kuttab

I still remember the early days in 1984 in East Jerusalem. I was a member of a Palestinian theatre company when we were fortunate enough to be able to give a physical home to Al Hakawati troupe.

We thought the building could be both a home for our company and a theatre for Palestinians.

A grant from the mayor of Nablus at the time, Zafer Al Masri, helped us buy the lighting equipment; most of the rest of the work was physical.

We had taken over the burnt-out Nuzha theatre, which had been destroyed from the inside, reportedly for screening lewd movies. To honour the tradition, we called it the Nuzha/Hakawati theatre.

Later we called it the Palestinian National Theatre, but the only name that stuck was the name of the original troupe that established it, Al Hakawati.

This week, the manager of this Palestinian theatre received a hefty Israeli municipal tax bill which is threatening to close this important cultural centre. Continue Reading »

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Nov 30 2015

Hebron radio stations closed for ‘exercising incitement’

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

During November, the Israeli army confiscated broadcasting equipment and closed three Palestinian radio stations in the Hebron area. While the unprecedented move coincided with the increase in anti-Israeli attacks in the Hebron area, this action against private media reveals a change in Israeli policy.

Until November 2015, Israel has blamed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the official media, Palestine Radio and TV, with incitement to violence. No proof was ever given by the Israelis to substantiate the accusations against the official Palestinian media.

The attacks against the commercial private Palestinian stations began in the early hours of Nov. 3. Ayman al-Qawasmi, chairman of Manbar al-Huriya radio station, reported to the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) the details of what happened: “Thirteen Israeli patrols surrounded the headquarters of the radio station, which is located in the Harizat building near the traffic department in Hebron. At approximately 1:50 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, dozens of IOF [Israeli Occupying Forces] raided the office and searched it, stopped the broadcasting, confiscated broadcasting equipment and carried out destruction to several equipment [such] as [computers, microphones, mixers rather than the furniture and the decor of the office].” Continue Reading »

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