Archive for the 'Arab Issues' Category

May 06 2014

Clerics, scholars debate action on Jerusalem


By Daoud Kuttab

The dangers facing Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque finally appear to have elicited serious Arab reactions. The guests and comments of the organizers of a recent conference held in the Jordanian capital of Amman reflect a newfound seriousness.

“The Road to Jerusalem” — held April 28-30 and organized by the World Islamic Sciences and Education University and Jordan’s Palestine parliamentary committee — tackled some hard issues never before confronted. The seriousness of the discussion was best conveyed when Jordan’s Prince Ghazi bin Mohammad, King Abdullah’s right-hand man on religious issues (including Jerusalem), convened a private meeting, without the press in attendance, with delegates from Palestine and the Arab world.

Leaks from that meeting indicate that Ghazi described the seriousness of the situation, in particular in regard to the Hashemite pledge to protect and defend the Haram al-Sharif, the site of Al-Aqsa, and Jerusalem in general. Jordan’s unique role in Jerusalem is codified in Article 9 of the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty and in a special Jordanian-Palestinian agreement signed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah in March 2013. Continue Reading »

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Mar 30 2014

British minister opposes arming Syrian rebels


By Daoud Kuttab

AMMAN, Jordan — Hugh Robertson, Britain’s minister of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, has opposed calls to arm the Syrian rebels, instead insisting that all sides need to return to the negotiating table.

“Generally speaking if you want to end a war, arming both sides is not the way to do it,” he told Al-Monitor in an exclusive interview on March 26, on the sidelines of his tour of Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Robertson noted that Britain has additional motivation for peace because of the presence of some 400 British jihadists that are fighting in Syria. “This increases the importance of a political settlement in Syria. Without it, there will be instability, which will increase extremism and bring about an increase of jihadists.”

On the Palestinian peace process, Robertson noted that his government does not recognize Israel as a Jewish state and does not back demands for Palestinians to do so.

Robertson admitted that the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip amounts to collective punishment, but laid the blame for the humanitarian situation on Hamas, which he called a “terrorist” organization. “The single best thing to alleviate the situation in Gaza is to have progress in the peace talks,” he said.

Talking about US President Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Robertson stressed the need for the West to “stand by our traditional allies” in the Gulf, noting that Gulf states felt an “existential threat” posed by Iran’s nuclear program.

When asked if success over Iran’s nuclear talks would result in greater pressure on Israel over its nuclear program, Robertson said it had not been mentioned. Continue Reading »

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Feb 16 2014

Palestinian foreign minister open to Iran visit

Published by under Arab Issues,Palestinian politics


By Daoud Kuttab

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki is willing to visit Iran if he receives an official invitation. In an exclusive interview, he told Al-Monitor: “If an official invitation is directed to me, I will accept it. If they choose to invite the president, I would go and prepare for such an official visit.”

Concerning peace talks with Israel, the top Palestinian diplomat reiterated his support for a third-party force to replace the Israeli army “anywhere” in the occupied territories. The comment came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly rejected the idea of NATO forces replacing Israeli troops in the occupied Palestinian territories, but said he would consider a third-party force.Malki’s public openness to the Islamic Republic followed a high-level January visit by Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub to Tehran, where he met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Although Malki said Rajoub’s visit was not officially sanctioned by the ministry, he is open to further engagement with Iran.

Malki also defended the ministerial visits from the Ramallah government to Damascus as necessary to remain neutral in the Syrian conflict, saying, “We need to keep our neutrality and make sure that our people are not drawn into the violence. That is why it is imperative that we have good relations with all sides.” Continue Reading »

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Feb 09 2014

Egyptian Revolution Will Fail if the Press Is Not Free

Published by under Arab Issues,Articles,Media Activism


By Daoud Kuttab

I was part of a delegation of the International Press Institute that visited the Egyptian capital last week to try and plead the case of some 12 Egyptian and foreign journalists who are being held behind bars.

The new powers in Egypt seem to have very little tolerance for anyone with an opinion that is not favourable to the June 30 events that led to the ouster of Egypt’s president Mohamed Morsi.

Meetings with journalists, lawyers and human rights activists revealed a culture of physical violence and intimidation against journalists in general and especially against members of the press covering anti-government protests.

The Qatari-owned Al Jazeera satellite station appears to get the lion’s share of thisanti-journalist behaviour.

The culture of impunity has encouraged many citizens and local groups to lash out against journalists, especially camera operators.

The Arab Human Rights Network declared that under the new rulers in Egypt, eight journalists were killed, while only one was killed during Morsi’s one-year reign.

When we were in Cairo, we were informed by human rights lawyer Gamal Eid that 12 journalists, including a Turk and an Australian, were detained. Continue Reading »

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Sep 19 2013

An Arab “Third Way”

Published by under Arab Issues,Articles



By Daoud Kuttab

AMMAN – Throughout the post-colonial period, Arab countries have consistently failed to produce an efficient – let alone democratic – system of government. Now, after a half-century of competition between military or royal dictatorships and militant Islamist regimes, many Arabs are again seeking a “third way” – a path toward a credible form of representative democracy. But will their efforts prove as futile now as they have in the past?

The Middle East – named for its geographic position between Europe and East Asia – was under Ottoman rule for 400 years before the Allied powers, after defeating the Ottomans in World War I, partitioned the region into distinct political units that, under the Sykes-Picot Agreement, fell within spheres of influence carved out by the United Kingdom and France. But, in response to these new divisions, an Arab awakening – shaped by pan-Arabism and support for Palestine – was occurring.

Charismatic young military rulers-turned-dictators like Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, and Syria’s Hafez al-Assad used these popular causes to win public support. But their failure to deliver better lives to their citizens, together with the discrediting of left-wing ideologies following the Soviet Union’s collapse, fueled the rise of a rival movement: political Islam.

The Muslim Brotherhood – established in the Egyptian town of Ismailia in 1928 and political Islam’s oldest, best organized, and most widespread proponent – was (and is) despised by both secular Arabs and Arab monarchies. Indeed, secular dictators have worked to suppress the Brothers at every turn – often violently, as when Assad ruthlessly crushed a Brotherhood-led uprising in Hama in 1982. Continue Reading »

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Jul 03 2013

Arabs need a First Amendment

Published by under Arab Issues,Articles,Jordan



By Daoud Kuttab

I thought I would use my column, which appears on US Independence Day, to celebrate one of America’s most valued contribution to the world: the First Amendment.

Here is the exact text of the amendment adopted in 1791 as part of 10 amendments that make up the US Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

At a time when religion is clearly the biggest obstacle to progress in the Arab world, it would be great to have a First Amendment-like clause in all Arab constitutions.

The failed first year of Muslim Brotherhood presidency in Egypt, the failure of Hamas Islamists in Gaza and the sectarianism rocking Syria, Iraq and Bahrain, to name a few Arab countries, are enough to make one dream of a governance structure in the Arab world that is not based on or involves religion or takes sides in a religious sectarian conflict.

The First Amendment of the US Constitution is also a great source of inspiration and support for freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the right of people to hold peaceful protests.

Denying the legislature the chance to pass media-restrictive laws would go a long way in planting permanently the seeds of the right to freedom guaranteed in the 19th article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers”. Continue Reading »

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