Apr 06 2015

Will PA focus on settlements at ICC?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

No one is saying it out loud, but it appears that the Palestinian leadership is choosing to pursue the settlement track rather than the Gaza track in the war crimes efforts against Israel. Palestinians have publicly talked about pursuing in the International Criminal Court (ICC) war crime cases against Israel for the deaths and destruction in Gaza during last summer’s war and for the ongoing illegal settlement activities in the occupied territories.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) became an official member of the ICC on April 1. And while Palestinian spokespersons are talking about both tracks, they are sending signals that they will not push hard when it comes to Gaza issues.

It appears that the ICC’s prosecutor had already begun examining the Gaza war for possible war crimes back in January, but it appears that this case will take a long time. “There’s no time line, some of the preliminary examinations at the court have been going on for four years,” Richard Dickers, the director of Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program, told Vice News. “What’s underway is only the first phase of the judicial process.”

The ICC is considered a court of last resort. Its official website states that it “will not act if a case is investigated or prosecuted by a national judicial system unless the national proceedings are not genuine.” Continue Reading »

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Apr 02 2015

Wanted a serious inclusive Palestinian Strategy

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By Daoud Kuttab

The state of Palestine officially became a member of the International Criminal Court April1 allowing it to sue Israel for crimes of war. The distance between the ability to sue and an actual conviction is going to be long and arduous and will require a totally new strategy. And such a strategy will require an ingredient that has been missing for year- national unity.

While any new Palestinian strategy must be focused on the ultimate goal of ending the occupation, it is important not to continue using the issue of the ICC as a bargaining chip. Past delays have been made in return for shameful short term gains.

The Palestinian team preparing the case against Israel reportedly has two different areas for which to sue Israel for crimes of war. It can charge Israelis for crimes of war during last summer’s war on Gaza in which 2,200 Palestinians were killed, thousands were injured and buildings including hospitals, schools and homes were demolished. Palestinians can also begin proceedings against Israel for its continued war crimes in the occupied territories namely the colonial settlement activities. Continue Reading »

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Mar 30 2015

Deconstructing Netnayhau

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By Daoud Kuttab

Pundits are wondering why two statements by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prior to the Israeli elections and on the day of the elections drew so much attention.

After the elections, Republican leader and former presidential contender John McCaintold US president Barack Obama to “get over your temper tantrum.”

For Israel supporters like McCain, Netanyahu’s statements are merely election rhetoric that can easily be resolved and even erased.

In fact, Netanyahu already slightly backtracked from his pre-election opposition to the two-state solution and also technically apologized to Israel’s Arab citizens.

So some might wonder why the big fuss over these two statements. Well, to understand the depth of the problems caused by these two statements, it is important to understand the two basic components of the world (i.e., US) policy towards Israel.

Washington and many European countries consider Israel a democratic country that fairly and honestly represents all its citizens, and not just the Jewish population.

If the US and other Western countries reached the conclusion that Israel is undemocratic and a religious state, they could not have given it the kind of support (financial, political and military) they have. Continue Reading »

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Mar 24 2015

Netanyahu’s charm offensive

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Many might be surprised in the coming weeks and months with the charm offensive likely to be launched by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli right-wing leader won election over his opponent Isaac Herzog, mostly because of Netanyahu’s opposition to Palestinian statehood and racist rhetoric about Arab voter turnout. Netanyahu’s Likud Party gained 30 seats compared with 24 for Herzog’s Zionist Camp.

With the elections over, Netanyahu understands that he will have to build bridges with the international community.

After cobbling together a coalition government, Netanyahu will most certainly attempt to give the impression of political moderation. He is likely to make some gestures to the Palestinians, one of which might be returning to the Palestinian government thePalestinian tax monies held by Israel since January. Israel has suspended the monthly transfer of customs and tax monies collected on behalf of Palestinians because Palestine decided to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Other gestures might include some easing of the travel restrictions as well as the Gaza siege. It is even possible that major settlement expansions might be slightly delayed to brand Netanyahu’s next step with moderation and goodwill.

This strategy is not new for politicians after elections. Nor is it new that an Israeli right-wing leader — who has won mostly because of being opposed to Palestinians’ rights — would make some gestures in favor of the Palestinians. Continue Reading »

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Mar 24 2015

Palestinian focus on isolating Israel, continuing ICC efforts

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Weeks before the results of the Israeli elections were known, the Palestine Central Council (PCC) met in Ramallah to decide on the Palestinian strategy. Somehow anticipating a continuation or a shift to the hard right, the council resolved on March 5 to give Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas the mandate to suspend security cooperation and to move ahead with the ongoing efforts at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The United Nations declared that the nonmember state of Palestine will become a full legal member in the ICC on April 1. Palestine will reportedly sue Israel for war crimes in the Gaza Strip, as well as the perpetual war crimes in terms of the illegal settlements in the occupied territories.

The move toward a proactive strategy comes after years of futile negotiations with an Israeli protagonist that talks about peace, but acts with tanks and bulldozers. Now that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s anti-peace and racist ideology has become public, the rest of the world has seen what Palestinians have known for decades: that the Israelis are not serious about peace.

Despite this prophetic knowledge, however, Palestinian options are limited. Short of a violent uprising, which in the past has brought disastrous results, the Palestinians’ main option is to help further isolate Israel internationally and to make its occupation costly.

To further isolate Israel, the Palestinians will be pushing hard to show the world that the so-called only democracy in the Middle East is in reality implementing an apartheid regime against 4 million Palestinians. Palestinians living under Israeli military control are disenfranchised and are denied their basic political rights. If the idea of a Palestinian state is no longer on the books, as per the statement of Netanyahu on the eve of the elections on March 16, this automatically means that the majority of Palestinians in Palestine are being ruled by the Israeli minority. Continue Reading »

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Mar 18 2015

World No Longer Bound to Defend Israel Internationally

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By Daoud Kuttab

AMMAN — The Israeli electorate had a choice to make. By re-electing a leader whopublicly reneged on his commitments to peace and a two-state solution, they voted against peace. What remains now is how the Palestinians and the world will react to the closure of the charade that was called the peace process.

Palestinians have for years lost hope in the peace process and have been telling everyone who is willing to listen that the Israeli leaders are merely giving lip service to it as their own bulldozers were gobbling up Palestinian lands. The world kept on believing in the lip service until the Israeli public forced their leader to state his case in Hebrew to his own people. Now that we know that Israel is not a democracy to all its citizens (see Netanyahu’s racist comments about Arab citizens) and Netanyahu never meant his commitment to a Palestinian state, the world must react.

The vote by the Israeli public has sealed the fate of Mahmoud Abbas who had placed his bets on the peace process and the support of the international community. The 79-year-old will certainly set the stage for a new generation of Palestinian leaders duringthe upcoming seventh congress of Fatah. But in the meantime he has been given a mandate to follow-up on efforts to ostracize Israeli internationally while suspending security cooperation.

The efforts by the UN’s non-member state of Palestine to pursue Israel in theInternational Criminal Court must now be seen as a positive nonviolent act that is much kinder to Israel than what should happen to an occupying power. Instead of criticizing Palestine, the US and other western countries must praise the actions of Mahmoud Abbas as a moderate peaceful alternative to various offers of resistance. Continue Reading »

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Mar 17 2015

West Bank refugee camp threatens Palestinian leadership

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The largest Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank is boiling, and the troubles that are usually confined to the Balata camp are now spilling outward, with the main Ramallah-Nablus road blocked by protesters. Continuous gunshots can be heard from the camp, travelers on the road told Al-Monitor. The camp has been the scene of regular clashes between armed militants and the Palestinian security forces since February, raising fears that the camp will provoke a major destabilization campaign against the Palestinian government and presidency.

Situated on the outskirts of the West Bank’s largest city, Nablus, the Balata camp is home to over 23,000 Palestinian refugees, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

For years the camp was the hotbed of anti-Israeli protests and resistance, but in recent years it has become the battleground for internal Palestinian wars. The majority of Balata’s residents support the mainline Palestinian movement Fatah, but herein lies the problem.

Moamar Orabi, who runs Wattan TV in Ramallah and is producing an investigative report on Balata, told Al-Monitor that the camp is now home to various rebellious individuals, including those aligned with ousted Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan. “It is an internal battle within Fatah and it is clear that the refugee camp has been hijacked by militants,” he said. Continue Reading »

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Mar 13 2015

Legislative Challenges to the Audiovisual Media in Jordan

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

Jordan’s Parliament is expected to discuss a new audiovisual law. The law fulfills the constitutional need of updating all temporary laws.

The current audiovisual law, issued in 2002, was seen as ushering in an end to government monopoly of airwaves. Tens of private radio and TV stations have since been licensed, but the sector has witnessed many distortions that media freedom activists hope will be corrected in the new law.

Zakaria Al Sheikh, the head of the parliamentary guidance committee, has been holding consultations with media owners and held a number of workshops and a two-day retreat in Aqaba in the hope of reaching consensus among members of his committee and other relevant groups, including the government. What emerged from these behind-the-scenes activities is a law that reportedly will abandon the clause which gives the Cabinet full power to license radio and TV stations or reject applications without giving a reason for the rejection.

Yet, this is not a way to go if the country wishes to attract investment. The new law will also end the practice of allowing business companies that work with government agencies not to pay license fees. Neither will it allow licensed broadcasters to get a waiver for the fees and advertise at the same time, which has been the case with a number of government-owned stations (army, police, Amman municipality). While this move is welcome as it attempts to create a level playing field, it fails to give a serious push to community media. Continue Reading »

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Mar 12 2015

One Palestinian’s quest for a US visa

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

When “Mahmoud” won a scholarship to get his Ph.D. from a US university, he was ambivalent. After all, he had always been politically opposed to the Americans because of their foreign policy even though he was impressed by their democracy. In fact, Mahmoud, a lecturer on media ethics who asked to use a pseudonym because of the sensitivity of the subject, is not a big fan of the Palestinian president, and US ally, Mahmoud Abbas. Despite Mahmoud’s father having been a Fatah leader, he has generally voted for Hamas candidates in student council elections and did so as well in the decisive 2006 parliamentary elections, which Hamas swept, winning 74 of the 132 Palestinian Legislative Council seats.

After Mahmoud’s paperwork was finalized and his documents arrived from the United States, all that remained was an interview at the US Consulate General in Jerusalem, but there was a problem: Jerusalem was beyond the wall, and the only way to reach the city was to get a permit from Israel. Mahmoud and his wife applied for permits, and she was immediately approved. His application was held up; the requirements for security clearance for Palestinian women are usually much lower than those for men. As the interview neared, Mahmoud still had no permit. He began thinking about a plan B. A work colleague from Jerusalem offered to drive him into the city using the settler road, where soldiers don’t usually check every car, but that worried Mahmoud.

What would happen to his colleague if they were stopped? Would the US officials punish him if they found that he had been “smuggled” into the city? He had an official letter from the US Consulate showing that he had an interview, but friends told him that soldiers only accepted Israeli-issued permits in the city, which Israel unilaterally annexed following the 1967 war and subsequent occupation. Continue Reading »

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Mar 12 2015

Is the Oslo process really over?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

A headline featured on the website of Al-Quds, a Palestinian daily, was very clear: “The decision of the Palestinian Central Council means the end of the Oslo era.” The headline was taken from a quote by council member Mustafa Barghouti of Al-Mubadara Party, following the conclusion of the council’s two-day meeting March 5.

But did the Palestinian Central Council really end the 1993 memorandum of understanding between Israel and the PLO, which is commonly referred to as the basis of the Oslo Accord?

The fifth clause of the council’s recent communique comprises six points and deals with Palestine’s relationship with Israel. The first point states that “Israel will be held responsible for the welfare of the Palestinian people as an occupying power according to international law.” The resolution’s most important point follows, calling for the “end of security coordination, in all its forms, with the Israeli occupying authorities, in light of its failure to adhere to the agreements signed between both parties.” Continue Reading »

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