Aug 18 2016

Need for a paradigm shift

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By Daoud Kuttab

One of the reasons the Palestinian conflict continues without resolution is the fact that the people affected by the Israeli occupation have no democratic power to change their occupiers.

Palestinians can protests, use violence or resort to totally non-violent resistance, and yet nothing happens.

The reason is simple: nearly 4 million Palestinians under occupation cannot vote to change the Israeli government that controls the basic features of their lives.

This paradigm must change in one of two ways: either Palestinians can vote in the general Israeli elections or they are allowed independence and vote for their own sovereign government.

As Palestinian thinker and political strategists professor Sari Nusseibeh put it: “We need to either share the power or share the land.”

At present, Palestinians have neither access to power sharing, through elections, nor share the land by means of the two-state solution. Occupation is the worse option possible.

To put the issue in practical terms, one only needs to look at the travel restrictions, harassment, delays and frustrations every Palestinian is faced with when travelling within the West Bank, between the West Bank and Gaza (practically impossible today) or between the West Bank and Israel (1.8 million Palestinian citizens of Israel have friends and relatives in the West Bank). Continue Reading »

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Aug 14 2016

Hizb ut-Tahrir: Palestine is not our main cause

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Many of the ideological concepts and doctrines of Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation) and the Islamic State (IS) are similar. They both believe in the goal of establishing Islamic caliphate rule and in the strict interpretation of Islamic law. The two groups differ, however, in one major respect: Hizb ut-Tahrir stands categorically against the use of violence and military means to realize its ideals.

“We are against any use of material means to accomplish our goals,” Musab Abu Arqoub, a Palestinian Hizb ut-Tahrir leader, told Al-Monitor by phone from the town of Dura, in the Hebron district.

Abu Arqoub, a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s media office, said that the 63-year-old Islamist party, founded by Palestinian judge Taqudin al-Nabahani in 1953, does not consider the liberation of Palestine its central cause. “Our central, existential cause is the re-establishment of the caliphate, and after that we would work for the liberation of Palestine as well as ridding the Muslim world of the pro-Western regimes that are ruling them.”

With Hizb ut-Tahrir opposed to using violent means to accomplish its goals, the Israelis have over the years largely left the movement alone. The same is true of the Palestinian government, which allowed the group to organize rallies in major West Bank cities this year to commemorate the 93rd anniversary of the fall of the caliphate in Istanbul, in 1923. After the death of Prophet Muhammad, various men have been declared caliph, giving them near absolute power in overseeing the Islamic nation. With the demise of the Ottoman Empire following World War I, the era of successive caliphs came to a close. Continue Reading »

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Aug 10 2016

UN report: West Bank house demolitions up 25%

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

A recent report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was jarring. In addition to the usual listing of casualties and injuries among Palestinians, it reported a huge spike this year in the demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures by Israel.

In the Aug. 4 report, OCHA cited 684 buildings as having been demolished so far this year in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, compared to 531 for all of 2015. This 25% increase in demolitions has largely affected East Jerusalem and locations designated as part of Area C under the Oslo Accords. Area C constitutes more than 60% of the West Bank and is under Israeli administrative and security control. To date this year, 574 Palestinian structures have been destroyed in Area C, compared to 453 in 2015. In East Jerusalem, the number of buildings destroyed up until Aug. 4 stands at 110, compared to 78 in 2015.

Palestinians and Israeli activists fear that Israel is focusing on Area C and East Jerusalem for political reasons. Salim Shawamreh, whose home in East Jerusalem’s Anata village was destroyed for the seventh time, was forced to temporarily move to Kufr Aqab. He hopes one day to return to his land and rebuild his house. Continue Reading »

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Aug 07 2016

Prices of illegal weapons in West Bank on the rise

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

A marked increase in the black market price of weapons in the occupied territories has produced a flurry of attention. Press reports have indicated for example that the coveted M16 gun that used to be sold for 40,000 shekels ($10,400) a year ago is currently sold for 65,000 shekels ($17,000). Pundits are not clear as to the reason for this spike and whether it is a result of the Israeli crackdown on smuggling on the Jordanian and Egyptian borders, or of the Palestinian security campaigns following fatal shootings in local feuds. A third argument suggests that maybe Palestinians are hording guns in fear of potential lawlessness and chaos in the Palestinian territories.

Two Palestinians were killed and 14 were injured on June 29 in a tribal dispute in the northern West Bank town of Yabad. In Nablus, violence using illegal guns led to five deaths on the same day. While use of illegal weapons has continued, no fatalities have occurred since.

According to Palestinian police spokesman Maj. Gen. Adnan al-Damiri, illegal weapons come from two sources: homemade guns and smuggled weapons. Damiri told Al-Monitor that the Palestinian security forces have been working hard to crack down on anyonepossessing unregistered guns. “We have launched wide and continuous efforts to close gun-making shops and to arrest anyone who carries a gun that is not properly registered and licensed,” he said. Continue Reading »

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Aug 07 2016

Diaspora Palestinians called to invest in homeland

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

As external donor support is being reduced and Israeli restrictions are increasing, Palestinians are turning to another source of support: Palestinians in the diaspora, especially those living in Latin America.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, diaspora Palestinians in non-Arab countries numbered 624,824 in 2010. By 2015, the numbers had increased to 700,000 in Latin America, leading Latin American researcher Cecilia Baeza told Ma’an News.

Chile and Honduras have 350,000 and 280,000 of Palestinian origin, respectively. There are so many Palestinians in Chile that Mario Nazal, the director of the Palestinian Foundation Bethlehem in Chile, often says that every village in Chile “is sure to have three things: a priest, a policeman and a Palestinian.”

In Palestine, especially in the town of Beit Jala, the relationship with Chile is very evident. You can find Chile Square and the School of Chile in Beit Jala, reflecting the generous support from successful Palestinians in Chile for their ancestral town. Continue Reading »

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Aug 04 2016

Accident exposes hate, intolerance

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

The incident was tragic by any standard, but the response appears even more tragic.

When Shadi Abu Jaber, a 17-year-old Jordanian, along with another passenger died in a car accident in Amman, social media users started talking about the young man whose life was cut short. 

Among other things, friends recalled various things about young Abu Jaber, including that his mother sang in a local church (his uncle is an evangelical pastor) and that he was a guitar player in a local band.

Words of condolences filled the Facebook page of a local TV station’s website that broke the story. People used the normal words in such occasions, such as “Allah yerhamo” (May God have mercy on him).

The outpouring of warm words and condolences apparently did not please some people who seem to have a problem with such normal human reaction.

How can people express such words of sympathy in the case of a young man who “played the guitar”? 

And anyway, said others, Muslims are not allowed to call for mercy on non-Muslims. Continue Reading »

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Aug 02 2016

Will upcoming Palestinian local elections pave way for general elections?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

In October 2012, a previously unknown English professor was nominated by the Fatah movement for mayor of Bethlehem. Vera Baboun, a mother of five, beat a male opponent supported by the Islamic Hamas movement and has become a well-known icon in Bethlehem and the world. Since her election, Baboun has met Pope Francis, US President Barack Obama and other world leaders, and has attended the annual Christmas Eve mass (held three times on Dec. 24) every year since.

The decision of Fatah to nominate a respected woman rather than the usual party activists was taken as a result of the 2006 parliamentary defeat and the desire to win. But the Fatah movement is more divided now than ever and Palestinian satisfaction with President Mahmoud Abbas is at a low 34%, according to a June 7 poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

Nearly 2 million Palestinians are eligible to vote in 141 municipalities (local councils) and 275 village councils in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the spokesman for the Central Elections Commission told Al-Monitor by email.

The Palestinian Basic Law calls for municipal elections once every four years, but since the signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993, only two municipal elections have taken place. Gaza and the West Bank held unified municipal elections in 2004, and that was the last time the Gaza Strip has held municipal elections because of the split between Gaza and the West Bank. In 2012, municipal elections took place in the West Bank only. Continue Reading »

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Aug 02 2016

Palestinian municipal polls will create movement

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The stagnant Palestinian political waters will soon experience some movement. The French efforts to hold an international conference will kick into high gear this fall, starting with the UN General Assembly.

On the ground in Palestine, the October 8 local polls are expected to see nearly 2 million Palestinians participate in the election of the members of some 416 municipal and local village councils.

What is new this time around is that the Islamist Hamas movement has agreed to participate and its security forces in control of the besieged strip will allow Gazans to participate in the elections.

The last time the people of Gaza participated in any form of elections was in 2006 when the pro-Hamas change and reform list swept the majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council, a result that led to the appointment of Ismail Haniyeh as prime minister. 

In 2012, Hamas refused to allow Gazans to participate in local elections, leaving the poll to be taken only in the West Bank. Continue Reading »

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Jul 27 2016

Palestinians concerned about new Israeli NGO law

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Susan Jaber says her life changed four years ago when she began volunteering with the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. “When they gave me a camera and I began using it, the level of harassment and attacks by settlers and soldiers went down a lot,” Jaber told Al-Monitor.

 Jaber, 39, lives in Hebron very close to the Ibrahimi Mosque and in the path of Jewish settlers who would be happy to see her leave. “Before we began filming and B’tselem was publishing videos of settlers’ harassment, our family was living in constant fear. We are now able to live a normal life. The cameras that we have are our strongest weapon,” Jaber, a mother of seven children, said. She pointed to the Facebook page showing her and other volunteers filming.

Like other Palestinian volunteers working with B’Tselem, Jaber has heard about the new Israeli law restricting the work of all Israeli nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), but she is not surprised by it. “It is normal that the occupiers do that, because they can see that B’Tselem is doing a good job documenting and exposing Israeli crimes,” she said. Continue Reading »

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Jul 21 2016

THE FALSE BALANCE BETWEEN THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION AND PALESTINIAN ‘INCITEMENT’

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By Daoud Kuttab

One of the lessons professional journalists have learned over the years is that objectivity and balance can sometimes be wrongly used. If, as a journalist, you are witnessing rain, you are not obliged to report that one side says it is raining and the other side says it is not. You have an obligation to your audience to tell it simply that it is raining.
Such false balance is often seen in conflict-resolution cases where the side attempting to mediate a case where one side is clearly guilty and failing to act to resolve the conflict, presents a “balanced” solution to a skewed situation, accusing each side of committing some kind of mistake. This false balance naturally produces an angry response from the side that is actively trying to produce a solution.
In its attempt at striking balance in the asymmetrical Palestinian-Israeli situation, the Quartet made up of the US, UN, EU and Russia Israel’s nearly 50 years of military occupation and illegal colonial settlements with Palestinians’ “incitement to violence”.
The often-repeated accusations that Palestinian school textbooks and media are instruments of incitement to violence have long been scientifically debunked even though they were regularly repeated by Israeli officials and Israeli apologists.
The claim that Palestinians teach their children hate has been rejected by tens of and European, as well as Israeli and Palestinian, academic studies since the turn of the millennium.  Continue Reading »

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