Oct 08 2014

Creativity needed to break Israeli-Palestinian logjam

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

It might seem counterintuitive, but the current Palestinian-Israeli hostility is a healthy return to what relations between occupiers and the occupied should be. Thus far, it is largely a rhetorical escalation in hostilities, but such words often quickly become action.

In this war of words, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking before the UN General Assembly, called Israeli actions in Gaza this summer a “genocidal crime.” This was in turn rebuked as “slander and lies” by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who responded from the same UN podium with accusations that the Palestinian resistance is a carbon copy of the Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria. Another round in the war involved statements by chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat comparing Netanyahu to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the extremist, self-appointed caliph of the so-called Islamic State.

To be accurate, these words have not been entirely without action. Israel continued to confiscate Palestinian lands in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, prompting PLO official Hanan Ashrawi to say that Israel is “committed more to land theft than to peacemaking.”

The Palestinian side has yet to publicly threaten to go to the International Criminal Court (ICC) if its current efforts at recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN Security Council end with a US veto. The Palestinian delegation was said to have been divided on the issue in regard to the UN speech, and Abbas chose in the end not to mention the ICC to avoid angering the United States, which appears to have threatened to cut off $700 million in aid to the Palestinians. The Gaza reconstruction conference, scheduled to be held this month in Cairo, also seems to have played into Abbas’ decision. Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Oct 08 2014

Abbas makes last-ditch effort to win Palestinian independence

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is possibly making his last effort to try to bring about an independent state. The odds are against him, but he has a plan and he appears to be set to giving it his last best shot.

Abbas’ speech at the UN General Assembly attempted to lay down the basics. No more time-wasting negotiations with the Israelis; borders for the state of Palestine need to be drawn based on the 1967 lines and a reasonable time needs to be allotted to work out how the Israelis will end their 47-year occupation.

The political road map has also been publicly telegraphed. The Arab delegations to the UN are set to work with the Palestinians to draw up a resolution that will reflect most of the publicly declared positions of the international community, especially the United States.

Palestinians feel confident that at least nine members of the UN Security Council, including France, will likely vote “yes,” leaving Washington with the unenviable position of having to consider a veto at the very time they are executing a coalition with moderate Arab countries against Islamic extremists in the Middle East.

Palestinian sources in Ramallah told Al-Monitor that US diplomats had privately counseled chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and intelligence chief Majid Faraj against the Abbas plan, at least until after the US midterm elections in November. Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Oct 01 2014

Lingering dreams, shattered dreams

following appeared in the Jordan Times newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

Barbar was publishing media reports, running her own media training centre and was active in the field of women’s rights, but the one place she literally was dreaming to go to was the occupied West Bank.

Not only had she not visited other parts of Palestine, but at 26, she had never left the besieged Gaza Strip.

The report that the International Press Institute wrote after our visit stressed the need for freedom of movement between Gaza, and the West Bank and Israel.

I succeeded in getting Islam to Cairo in 2013 to attend the Aswatona community radio conference that I was involved in. The radio practitioners attending exchanged ideas on how to set up, manage and fund community-based stations.

A popular idea was to start with an online station and then to move into the FM sphere.

Energised by the potential of being involved in broadcasting, Barbar returned to Gaza and set her sight on creating a radio station that can focus on women’s issues.

Within a year she was able to secure a small grant from the UK-based Community Media Solutions, through Qarya Media Institute, a Palestinian NGO which also gave her technical support.

Nissagaza.com was launched on April 30, 2014, out of her Gaza city media centre, with local women’s organisations and women activists and local leaders from all walks of life attending.

Barbar was most excited on launch day; the programme started with a musical jingle that was created for the new women’s station by a male supporter. Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Sep 30 2014

Palestinian Trying to Rebuild Progressive Women Radio

HuffingtonPost-Logo

By Daoud Kuttab

When I met Islam Barbar in a Gaza restaurant in 2012 while on a human rights mission, I was impressed with her cheerful demeanor but taken aback by the hopelessness that she felt. Although Barbar was publishing media reports, running her own media training center and active in women’s rights issues, the one place that she was dreaming to go to was the occupied West Bank. Not only had she not visited other parts of Palestine, but at 26 years old she had never left the besieged Gaza strip. The report that the International Press Institute issued after our visit stressed the need for freedom of movement between Gaza and both the West Bank and Israel.

For my part, I succeeded in getting Islam to Cairo in 2013 to attend the Aswatona community radio conference that I was involved in. The attending radio practitioners exchanged ideas of how to set up, manage, and fund a community-based station. A popular idea discussed was to start with an online station and then to move into the FM sphere. Energized by the potential of being involved in broadcasting, Islam returned to Gaza, and set her sight on creating a radio station that can focus on women’s issues.

Within a year she was able to secure a small grant from the UK-based Community Media Solutions, through Qarya Media Institute, a Palestinian NGO which also gave her technical support. Nissagaza.com was launched on April 30, 2014 out of her Gaza city media center with local women’s organizations and women activists and local leaders from all walks attending. Islam was most excited on launch day with a musical jingle that was created for the new women’s station by a male supporter. She uses this story and the presence of men and women at her station to drive home the idea that gender issues are not the exclusivity of women. Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Sep 28 2014

Why is Abbas playing hardball with Hamas?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

On paper it looks like Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his counterparts in Hamas need each other. Abbas will be unable to carry out Gaza’s reconstruction or even talk convincingly to the world about the future of Palestine without the acquiescence of the Islamists. On the other hand, Hamas cannot get a hammer or nail into Gaza or pay the 40,000 workers it has employed without the approval of the Palestinian president. If both sides so badly need each other, why is the Palestinian leader playing hardball with Hamas?

According to leaked transcripts, Abbas was extremely tough with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal during a private meeting with the Qatari emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, during the last days of the recent war with Israel. Abbas’ anger with Hamas was alsomade public after the cease-fire agreement in interviews he gave to a Palestinian television station.

The Palestinian president has paid little attention to Gaza issues in the last few weeks, focusing instead on European and UN visits to promote his peace plan, which calls for the international community to demarcate the borders of Palestine and for a three-year transition to total independence.

Abbas’ displeasure with Hamas had been apparent in a meeting he held in Ramallah Sept. 17 with a group of some 30 businesspeople from Gaza. In the two-hour meeting, during which, attendees said, Abbas appeared unhappy, he insisted that all building materials will enter Gaza under the supervision of UN representative Robert Serry, a sign that he accepts this Israeli condition. Abbas’ tough position stems from his mistrust of Hamas and concern about potentially angering moderate Sunni states. His stance is unlikely to change even after the signing of an agreement Sept. 25 in Cairo that allows the Palestinian unity government to operate in Gaza but fails to strip Hamas militants of security control. Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Sep 23 2014

Najwa Najjar’s Film Reflects Palestinian Humanity

HuffingtonPost-Logo

By Daoud Kuttab

The 700-seat Ramallah Cultural Palace, on whose premises is the grave of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, was overcrowded on September 9. Over 850 people packed the cinema hall to watch Najwa Najjar’s premiere of her second long feature film,Eyes of a Thief.

The Palestinian filmmaker’s film follows her successful Pomegranates and Myrrh,which opened the Dubai Film Festival in 2008 and has racked up a huge number of awards.

The name of the film (in Arabic Eun al haramieh) refers to a rather desolate location on the valley between Nablus and Ramallah.

The location used to witness robberies, which made the British mandatory government build a police station to protect travellers.

The British barracks that still stand in the area have long been abandoned, but the Israelis used the location to set up a permanent checkpoint.

In 2002, at the height of the second Intifada, a lone Palestinian sniper gunned down 10 Israelis including seven soldiers.

Israeli experts at one time thought the sniper might be an older Palestinian who had participated in World War II, or a fighter from the Balkans who infiltrated the occupied territories or possibly an IRA connection to the PLO. Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Sep 23 2014

New Palestinian film shuns stereotypes

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The common saying that one person’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist well describes how the world is often divided over the Palestinian resistance.

One of the continuous and often angry arguments between Palestinians and Israelis concerns the form of Palestinian resistance. Israelis showcase cherry-picked acts of Palestinian violence in which Israeli civilians are killed as proof that all Palestinian resistance efforts are criminal and terrorist.

Palestinians often respond, without much success, that armed resistance is an internationally guaranteed right, that reserve soldiers and armed civilian settlers who often vandalize Palestinian property are fair game in a population fighting to rid itself of an illegal occupation that has spanned decades. The argument goes on at regional and international venues, with audiences taking whatever side they are already predisposed to sympathize with.

But while the arguments go on on university campuses and among activists, popular culture has often painted Palestinians along stereotypical lines. To be fair, the stereotyping of Palestinians is not always negative. Palestinians are also often portrayed by their supporters in a heroic light. Watching Arab and pro-Palestinian portrayals of Palestinians, one gets the impression that Palestinians are supermen. Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Sep 23 2014

Jewish extremists try to change status quo at Al-Aqsa

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

When Moshe Feiglin, deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset, set foot in Al-Aqsa Mosque around 10 a.m. Sept. 14, he was on more than a tourist visit. His venture to the mosque and short prayer in the area was seen as an attempt to declare Jewish sovereignty over the Islamic holy place. It violated agreements not to change the status quo and cast doubt on an assertion by the Israeli prime minister’s office that the status quo at Al-Aqsa would not change.

The rebellious parliamentarian walked barefoot in the courtyard of the Haram al-Sharif, an act meant to pay reverence to the area that what Jews believe was once the site of the Jewish temple. In 2013, an Israeli court barred Feiglin from ascending to the mosque area for fear that his uncoordinated visit might spark protests. Feiglin is so controversial that the United Kingdom refused him entry in 2008.

That Feiglin would go to the Haram al-Sharif was known for days and required a large contingent of Israeli police. The visit proceeded after Palestinian men and women worshipers under the age of 40 were barred from the area and all except one of the gates to Islam’s third-holiest mosque were closed.

While insisting that all Jews have a right to visit what they call the Temple Mount, Israeli security officials have in the past refused such provocative visits, citing the potential for violent opposition and thus denying access for security reasons. In recent months, and under pressure from the right-wing Israeli government, including Feiglin himself, Israeli security has changed its position. Instead of banning such visits, it has undertaken unprecedented actions to bar Palestinian Muslims from their own mosque hours before them. Protests from Jordanian Islamic waqf officials, who are entrusted as guardians of the mosque, have fallen on deaf ears. Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Sep 11 2014

Abbas’ new initiative

Following appeared in the Jordan Times newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

“I have had it up to here,” said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the emir of Qatar and the head of Hamas.

“I have had it with Hamas, with Arabs with Israel and even with Fateh.”

Abbas’ words and the minutes of the meetings of the three on the eve of the ceasefire agreement were made public by the Lebanese daily Al Akhbar recently.

With angry words, Abbas accused Hamas of lying. He said Hamas leader Khaled Mishaal’s commitment to limit the resistance in the West Bank to non-violent action has proved to be wrong. Proof, the capture by Israel of 93 Hamas supporters allegedly plotting to start a violent Intifada and try to overthrow Abbas.

While Mishaal vehemently denied and belittled the Israeli allegation, Abbas said he had evidence that Hamas had arms in the West Bank from an intelligence officer.

“Almost daily we catch them with weapons,” he told the two.

“I tell Farraj to take away their weapons and release them after a short imprisonment.”

Abbas also accused Hamas of creating a shadow government in Gaza, despite the agreement on the unity government, and of irresponsibly prolonging the war by refusing the initial Egyptian offer, which was later accepted.

Abbas did not give details about his dissatisfaction with Fateh, but one can easily assume that he is referring to the constant bickering and internal fighting among the Fateh leadership over petty issues and personal interests.

The most important part of the Palestinian leader’s efforts appears to focus on obtaining the support of the Islamic Hamas movement and fellow Arabs for his new strategy aimed at ending the Israeli occupation. Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Sep 09 2014

Will Abbas carry out threats if his peace plan is rejected?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

When chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and the head of Palestinian intelligence Majed Farraj walked into the offices of US Secretary of State John KerryJohn Kerry on Sept. 4, they were prepared for all eventualities.

For the first time in modern history, the Palestinian leadership had produced a time-based political initiative that was not dependent on the approval of the Americans or the Israelis. The Palestinians are applying the concept that to improve your negotiating position you must have credible alternatives.

President Mahmoud Abbas’ initiative is linked to a series of actions that Palestinians can take if their immediate counterpart says no or attempts to derail the plan. The Abbas plan calls initially for a three-month window to negotiate simply on the borders of the Palestinian state. Israel, in hundreds of negotiating hours, has refused ever to discuss or present a map of what they see as their expected borders with the Palestinian state. If the idea is rejected, the Abbas plan then includes presenting the peace initiative for a binding vote at the UN Security Council.

Palestinians believe that President Barack Obama’s administration, which has favored negotiations on borders and security, will have a hard time rejecting a reasonable proposal submitted at the UN. Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid has publicly asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to show the Cabinet a map of the future Palestinian borders. The current tensions between Israel and the United States have led Israeli officials to express concern that the United States might not veto a future UN Security Council resolution on the issue. Continue Reading »

No responses yet

« Prev - Next »