Archive for the 'Arab Issues' Category

Sep 28 2016

Democracy is impossible with occupation and rebellion rule

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By Daoud Kuttab

The overtly exaggerated power of electoral democracy has once again been put into question in the Middle East. Municipal elections slated for the West Bank and Gaza on October 8th will not take place due officially to a decision of the Palestinian High Court.

But the high court decision -whether you believe it was taken independently or not- reflects a clear problem in the situation that Palestinians were facing in the fall of 2016.

In most Arab countries the problem with electoral democracy is that it is often the only portion of democracy that is implemented and usually for a short period. The separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary and a robust free media are often missing in most cases where elections are taking place which are usually not even free or fair.

In the Palestinian example the last time municipal elections took place was in 2012 and was limited to the West Bank. The Islamic movement didn’t allow elections to take place in the Gaza strip which has been under their control since 2007 and at the same time they instructed their supporters in the West Bank to boycott the elections. 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 10 2016

Defamation and Development in the Arab World

Published by under Arab Issues,Articles


By Daoud Kuttab

AMMAN – With the violent radicalism and civil wars of the Middle East and North Africa capturing the world’s attention, the region’s grossly distorted legal systems are being given short shrift. Yet problematic laws, like those criminalizing defamation, \ facilitate political and economic repression, undermine development, and destroy lives.

Egypt’s government is perhaps the biggest abuser of defamation and blasphemy laws to suppress differing views. In particular, the Egyptian authorities brazenly use Article 98(f) of the Egyptian Penal Code – which prohibits citizens from defaming a “heavenly religion,” inciting sectarian strife, or insulting Islam – to detain, prosecute, and imprison members of non-majority religious groups, especially Christians. All that is needed is a vague claim that their activities are jeopardizing “communal harmony.”

Moreover, the writer Ahmed Naji was recently handed a two-year prison sentence for violating “public modesty,” by publishing a sexually explicit excerpt from his novel. This came just a month after the author Fatma Naoot appealed the three-year sentence she received when a Facebook post criticizing the slaughter of animals for a Muslim feast led to a guilty verdict for “contempt for Islam.” The list goes on.

Moreover, the writer Ahmed Naji was recently handed a two-year prison sentence for violating “public modesty,” by publishing a sexually explicit excerpt from his novel. This came just a month after the author Fatma Naoot appealed the three-year sentence she received when a Facebook post criticizing the slaughter of animals for a Muslim feast led to a guilty verdict for “contempt for Islam.” The list goes on.

Ominously, according to a 2015 report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, blasphemy cases have been on the rise since 2011. In January 2015, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi issued a decree that permits the government to ban any foreign publications it deems offensive to religion, thereby expanding the government’s already significant censorship powers and increasing pressure on journalists further. Continue Reading »

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Feb 16 2016

A bad deal on Syria

Published by under Arab Issues,Articles,US-Middle East

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By Daoud Kuttab

A truce reached at the Munich Security Conference last week requires halting the fight in blood-soaked Syria within a week.

We have yet to see whether the commitment to a political solution is genuine. The Russians have shown no sign of slowing down their lethal air campaign on Aleppo.

Sceptics suspect that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not halt his military support for the Syrian regime and that US President Barack Obama will not do anything to turn things around.

Since Russia started its campaign in Syria, it has been talking about the necessity of reaching a political solution and defeating Daesh. And yet, Russia has done nothing to help defeat Daesh while it has targeted only the moderate opposition groups.

The Russian calculations could not be more obvious. For it, targeting the moderate opposition will push all forces to join Daesh and in this case, Syrian President Bashar Assad can claim that the battle is between his forces and Daesh.

The international community, according to this reasoning, will have no option then but to support Assad.

Meanwhile, the American administration is losing leverage in the crisis. Continue Reading »

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Aug 21 2015

The Iran Deal Appears to Have Eased Some of the Conflict in the Middle East

Published by under Arab Issues,Articles


By Daoud Kuttab

AMMAN — Contrary to the claims of Israel and U.S. Republicans, the P5+1 agreement with Iran has eased, not exacerbated, the boiling conflicts in the Middle East. Within a short period of time, a silver lining is appearing in the bloody Syrian civil war.

The legitimate Yemeni powers are retaking large sections of south Yemen without any reaction from the Iranians, who many claimed would move to support the Houthis. In Iraq, the prime minister has passed the most wide-ranging anti-corruption law in parliament, without the Iranians meddling in the affairs of their neighbor, whose leaders happen to be fellow Shiites.

The Libyan conflict also appears to be moving towards a diplomatic resolution as all parties are now meeting in Geneva under UN auspices. The Islamic republic of Iran has not delayed these diplomatic solutions; on the contrary, it appears to have been encouraging them.

Iran and Russia are working together with the aim of finding a political solution to end the Syrian conflict. While various regional conflicts appear to be on their way to being resolved, it is very hard to make a direct connection between the P5+1 agreement with Iran and the easing of these crises. A 48-hour ceasefire was declared in many Syrian cities and was even extended. Continue Reading »

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Jul 01 2015

To defuse tension about Al Aqsa

Published by under Arab Issues,Palestinian politics

Following appeared in the Jordan Times Newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

Despite the lack of a political horizon in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one area that appears to witness a de-escalation of tensions might be Al Aqsa Mosque.

According to a just-released comprehensive report by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, Jordan and Israel are close to an agreement that can re-establish the modalities at Islam’s third holiest site as those that existed on the eve of the second Intifada.

For Muslims, the 500-square-metre area that contains Al Aqsa Mosque, the golden Dome of the Rock, the Islamic Museum and large courtyards is considered a single religious site generally referred to as Al Haram Al Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary.

Israeli Jews refer to the same site as the Temple Mount. Authors of the crisis group report use the neutral term Holy Esplanade.

In their recommendation, the international researchers called on Muslim leaders to stop making the unsubstantiated claims that the Israeli archaeological digs aim at bringing down the Islamic mosque.

At the same time, the International Crisis Group agrees with the Jordanian authorities responsible for the mosque area that visiting Jews should not be allowed to pray. Since 1187, non-Muslims have been forbidden to pray on the premises of the mosque. Continue Reading »

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May 24 2015

Teamwork is absent

Published by under Arab Issues,Articles

following appeared in the Jordan Times Newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

A quick survey of the success of Arabs at the Olympic Games shows an important phenomenon. With the exception of the bronze won by the Saudi equestrian jumping team in the 2012 London games, none of the nearly 100 medals won by Arab countries represents a team sport.

Some of the Arab individual medal winners include athletes like Taoufik Makhlouf, 2012 gold winner of the 1,500-m race, Syria’s Ghada Shouaa, who won the 1996 heptathlon in Atlanta and Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj, who won gold in the 1,500-m and 5,000-m races in the 2004 games in Athens.

In the World Cup, the best that Arab countries have done is to reach the 16th round before faltering.

Winning individual medals takes a lot of effort and dedication, but winning a team sport requires added sense of cooperation, sacrifice and selflessness.

Our failure at successful teamwork is not limited to sports.

We excel in family businesses, but do poorly in the corporate world.

Family businesses make up over 85 per cent of the whole Arab world’s non-oil GDP, according to the Emirati 24/7 publication.

Some of our successful companies are doing well because of a certain individual or family at its head.

Public libraries in the Arab world are like haunted houses. Arabs who boasted about the Alexandria Library have abandoned the public sphere or book sharing and book exchange habit, with most of our intellectuals having huge libraries in their homes but not bothering to bestow their book collections to any public institute, often resulting in the trashing or even burning of these books. Continue Reading »

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Apr 27 2015


Published by under Arab Issues,Articles

By Daoud Kuttab

is may be an existential question, but why, indeed, do people go to war?

One reason people and nations go to war is to settle a dispute that they are unable to resolve peacefully. The stubbornness exhibited in this case is often based on a lie that is perpetuated and repeated so much that even the party that is lying often starts believing it.

This is particularly the case in the case of an internal or civil war.

People go to war because they lie to themselves that everyone believes their lies, only to be confronted by an opposition that feels the exact opposite.

While war often happens when both parties are lying to themselves and others, often it takes one side’s lie for a war to break.

If war is therefore the result of a lie, what happens when everyone attempts to tell the truth?

First, it is often hard to know where the truth is.

Unless one has free and fair elections, it is often hard to know which side’s opinions are really representing the majority. And elections are a complicated act that require consensus on how to conduct them.

Are they based on national lists or on the one-person one-vote system? Are they about the winner takes it all or do they encourage power sharing? Continue Reading »

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Feb 09 2015

How to Win the Ideological Battle Against Extremism

Published by under Arab Issues,Articles


By Daoud Kuttab

I am quite certain that the military war on DAESH (ISIS) will be largely won in 2015. The anger that has engulfed Jordan after learning of the heinous crime against the pilot Muath Kassasbeh will certainly help ensure that this war is won militarily. This is the second time in six months that a young Arab Muslim is burnt alive by extremists. Last July Jewish settlers burnt alive a Palestinian teeanger Mohammad Abu Khdair.

However I can’t say that I have the same confidence of such a success in the ideological war on extremism. Both battles need to be fought simultaneously and won.

The physical rise of the self appointed Caliphate-run DAESH; (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) has provided Arab and western military with a clear tangible target which can be defeated. Finding and defeating the intangible causes that prepared the welcoming environment for these extremists needs an effective strategy.

To fight ideological extremism in the Middle East the main starting point must be youth. It is vitally important that Arab/Muslim youth are given satisfactory answers to their economic, community and spiritual needs. The challenge is difficult and there are no magic solutions. Continue Reading »

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Nov 06 2014

Don’t Forget Gaza


By Daoud Kuttab

For a few days last week Gaza Strip turned into a large prison.

Ever since October 24, the Rafah crossing point has been closed by the Egyptians following the huge attack on the army in north Sinai.

Israel has also closed all its crossings with Gaza on November 2, allegedly following the launch from Gaza on that same day of a single rocket that landed in a deserted area.

The Israelis reopened their crossing points Tuesday, but Rafah continues to be closed.

Egypt, which was stunned by a horrific series of attacks that caused the death of over30 soldiers, has been searching for answers, and the army argues that the problem lies in Gaza.

Not only has the Rafah crossing been totally and completely closed since then, but Egyptian engineers have also been busy destroying houses on the Egyptian side of Rafah in order to create a 500-metre buffer zone that they hope will forever end the problem of the tunnels to Gaza.

The closures come at a time the reconstruction process is moving at a very slow pace. While the donor conference in Cairo produced better than expected pledges, the crucial unity between Fateh and Hamas has yet to produce a major breakthrough.

Hamas is still holding off turning over control of its side of the Rafah crossing to the joint presidential guards and EU monitors. This failure has allowed Egypt to continue its narrative that Hamas is part of the problem.

As a result, the Egyptian army and political leadership have had little problem in justifying this hermetic closure of the only crossing point enabling Gazans to leave and return. Continue Reading »

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