Archive for May, 2015

May 31 2015

No promises in Netanyahu’s offer to negotiate settlement annexation

Published by under Articles,Palestinian politics


By Daoud Kuttab

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed that he is a masterful politician in his most recent offer to the EU’s top foreign official. During her visit to Israel and Palestine May 24, the Israeli leader told EU Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini that he was ready to discuss the borders of settlement blocs that would one day be swapped with the Palestinians. Haaretz reported that Netanyahu wants “to reach understandings on the borders of settlement blocs that Israel would annex under any peace agreement.”

The offer, which was quickly rejected by Palestine’s top negotiator Saeb Erekat and Israeli Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, can be seen in both negative and positive lights.

Erekat correctly noted that by prioritizing the borders of the Israeli settlement blocs that will become part of Israel, Netanyahu is giving legitimacy to settlements without making commitments on the issue of a Palestinian state. It is as if the Israeli prime minister is taking for granted that the illegal settlements will become part of Israel while retaining the right to negotiate later on a Palestinian state.

On the other hand, what appears to be an Israeli concession of sorts does reflect the serious dilemma facing Israel in its settlements enterprise. Netanyahu made his statement knowing very well that the EU is about to sharply increase the pressure on Israel over settlement products and settlers who carry European passports. The EU is insisting that Israel can no longer label any products made in West Bank settlements as “Made in Israel.” Continue Reading »

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May 27 2015

How Netanyahu keeps fooling the world

Published by under Articles,Palestinian politics

Following appeared in the Jordan Times newspaper

For the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the pressure from the EU regarding Israel’s settlements is nothing compared to the pressure of forming a majority coalition.

Netanyahu used his shrewdness and clever play on words to charm the visiting European foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Instead of balking on the issues of the peace process and what Israel calls the right of Jews to settle everywhere in “Eretz Yisrael” (Greater Israel), Netanyahu surprised Mogherini, telling her that Israel is interested in negotiating the borders of the West Bank settlement blocks.

The idea behind the offer rests on a concession made by Yasser Arafat during the failed 2000 Camp David summit regarding Palestinian acceptance of the idea of land swaps.

The Israeli leader, therefore, wants to agree on the settlement blocks that will be swapped in a future deal so as to annex those blocks to Israel and thereby avoid the claim that products made in these settlements are wrongly labelled as being made in Israel.

Of course, the concept of land swap was made on the basis of two important features that Netanyahu cleverly ignores: that it will be made as part of the two-state solution in which an independent, contiguous state will replace the current military occupation; and that it will be equal in size and extent.

It is not clear at all from the leaked report of the meeting between Netanyahu and Mogherini if either of these conditions was talked about. Continue Reading »

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May 27 2015

Jibril Rajoub confident FIFA will vote on expelling Israel

Published by under Articles,Palestinian politics


By Daoud Kuttab

The head of the Palestinian Football Federation spoke optimistically of winning the vote that the general assembly of the world soccer association FIFA will hold May 29. Three-fourths of the association’s 209 members are needed to remove a member. “I am 100% sure we will win the vote and remove the Israelis from FIFA,” Jibril Rajoub told Al-Monitor on May 21 after meeting with FIFA head Joseph “Sepp” Blatter.

Rajoub appeared to have little faith in the mediation efforts of Blatter, who had met May 19 with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Palestinians have been through this before and have in past years agreed to withdraw their efforts to kick the Israelis out only to find that travel restrictions have continued, Rajoub argued. Palestinian players, especially from the Gaza Strip, are often denied travel to the West Bank or abroad to participate in training or in games. Players from visiting teams are also sometimes denied entry, causing embarrassment to the Palestinian Football Association.

“He tried to present some new assurances about the movement of our players, but it was too little, too late,” Rajoub said.

Blatter told Palestinians that he has received new concessions from the Israelis regarding the travel issues of Palestinian players. A committee has been created, including a Palestinian, an Israeli and a FIFA representative, who meet on a monthly basis to review the situation.

“Our issue with the Israelis is not only about the movement of our players. We can’t accept that the Israeli Football Association includes five clubs from settlements and the racism in Israeli stadiums,” Rajoub said. Israeli soccer teams and their fans act and tolerate a high level of racism against Arabs in the stadiums. FIFA has a strongpolicy against racism and conducts campaigns to root it out of the game. Continue Reading »

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May 27 2015

The story behind Palestine’s canonized nuns

Published by under Articles,Palestinian politics


By Daoud Kuttab

The Vatican gave Palestine three gifts within the span of a few days. On May 13, it recognized Palestine, thereby making the state of Palestine, rather than the Palestine Liberation Organization, its official diplomatic point of reference. The Vatican also ameliorated years of struggle by Palestinians on May 17 by canonizing two Palestinian nuns who were born and served in the 19th century. On the day the nuns were proclaimed saints, Pope Francis referred to the leader of the Palestinian national movement, President Mahmoud Abbas, as an “angel of peace.”

 The story of the two nuns has been told repeatedly among Palestinians, passed from generation to generation, but now their narratives are officially part of Catholic Church history, along with those of saints who lived and served with Jesus Christ in Palestine and throughout the world.

Marie-Alphonsine Ghattas was born in 1843 in Jerusalem during Ottoman rule and died there during the British mandate period, in 1927. She is credited with establishing the Rosary Sisters convent, which runs educational and charity projects throughout Palestine and Jordan.

Mariam Baouardy Haddad, born in 1846, in Ibillin, a village in the Galilee, was said to have had mystical powers. While a child, she moved to Egypt, where she later survived an attempt by a fellow servant to kill her when she refused to renounce her faith and convert to Islam. Baouardy Haddad received the name Sister Mariam of Jesus Crucified in 1867. She spent time in India before returning to the Holy Land and founding the Carmelite convent in Bethlehem in 1875, opposite the Church of the Nativity. She died in 1879 at the young age of 33. 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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May 17 2015

Palestinian state would solve right of return

Published by under Articles,Palestinian politics


By Daoud Kuttab

Visualizing Palestine, a Lebanese-based nongovernmental organization, created an interactive map that shows the shrinking Palestinian population in Palestine between 1918 and 2015. The graphic, “Palestine Shrinking, Israel Expanding,” demonstrates in a clear and simple way the catastrophe that has befallen the Palestinians as a result of Zionist immigration to Palestine and their (direct and indirect) expulsion.

The Zionist narrative falsely claims that Palestine is a “land without a people for a people without a land.” In the process of colonization and settlement by Jewish immigrants, Palestinians were dispossessed and made stateless. They have remained stateless for 67 years.

Palestinians have repeatedly said that the right of return enshrined in various United Nations resolutions is non-negotiable and does not have an expiry date. Palestinians want Israel to recognize its legal and historic responsibility for the refugee crisis, but they have also said that while this right is inalienable, its implementation is subject to negotiation. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas went even further in 2012 and said on Israel TV that he no longer has any desire to live in the city in which he was born and raised, Safad, but would not mind visiting it. In February 2014 in Ramallah, he also told a group of 300 visiting Israelis that Palestinians are not interested in “flooding Israel with Palestinian refugees.” Continue Reading »

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May 13 2015

Remember the Suffering of Palestinians

Published by under Articles,Palestinian politics


Following appeared in the Jordan Times newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

AMMAN — Sometimes it is difficult to remember the daily suffering of Palestinians living under occupation.

The wars and turmoil all around us tend to divert our attention from genuinely terrible issues that might seem mundane when compared to the wars in Syria or Yemen. But the human tragedy in Palestine is real, even if it is not headline news.

Take, for example, the case of Khaled Abu Arafeh, Ahmad Ottwan, Mohammed Totah and Mohammad Abu Tier, who have been denied their birthright to live in Jerusalem and are forced to reside in nearby Ramallah without any documentation.

Their crime is that they were elected (in the case of Abu Arafeh, minister) following the victory of the pro-Hamas parliamentary list in 2006.

For 10 years, they have been fighting their case in the Israeli courts, and were imprisoned three times. Their main sin (as per the Israeli prosecutor) is that theyhave not shown loyalty to the state of Israel.

East Jerusalem, the birthplace of these men, was unilaterally annexed by Israel shortly after the 1967 occupation. No country in the world has recognized this annexation.

Further south, there is the case of the villagers of Susya, a rural community south of Hebron that the Israeli forces have been using for military exercises.

When the villagers complained to the Israeli high court, it ruled in favor (you guessed it) of the army, not of the third-class Palestinians living on their lands.

In April 2002, Israel surrounded the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in an attempt to arrest a group of Palestinians who had decided to hide there. After intensive negotiations, Israel agreed to allow the 39 Palestinians temporary free passage to various locations. Thirteen were sent to different European countries and 26 were sent to Gaza. Continue Reading »

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May 12 2015

Israeli court to rule on minister’s deportation case

Published by under Articles,Palestinian politics


By Daoud Kuttab

For nine years, former Palestinian Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Khaled Abu Arafeh and elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council Ahmad Ottwan, Mohammed Totah and Mohammad Abu Tier have been waiting for a decision from the Israeli Supreme Court.

 Shortly after the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, the four Jerusalem residents were banned from entering their city of birth and residency. Their crime, according to arguments by the Israeli prosecutor, is that by participating in elections on behalf of a pro-Hamas list, they showed that they are “not loyal to the State of Israel.” The same applies to Abu Arafeh, who was not elected but was asked to join the government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

The 2006 elections were allowed to take place by the State of Israel. East Jerusalemites voted and international observers, including former US President Jimmy Carter, participated in a monitoring role.

There was a sweeping victory by the Islamists Change and Reform List — the pro-Hamas list — which won 76 out of the 132 legislative council seats, allowing the head of the list, Haniyeh, to become the fifth prime minister of the Palestinian Authority government. Continue Reading »

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May 11 2015

New Israeli government makes no pretense of peace

Published by under Articles,Palestinian politics


By Daoud Kuttab

For the first time in 20 years, an Israeli government will be sworn in without a mention or plan of resolving the Palestinian conflict. This is actually a good thing, for it reveals the true nature and position of Israel. Israelis have in the past boasted that when it comes to Palestine, they negotiate the conflict among themselves.

Now there is no mention, no program and therefore no more pretense that Israel wants peace and the only thing holding back the winds of peace is the absence of a Palestinian partner.

Center-left government members have forever shielded their country from world opposition to Israel’s illegal occupation by giving off the appearance of a reasonable government that wants peace. After all, Israel is supposed to be the only democracy in the Middle East, and it is inconceivable to anyone around the world that a democratically elected government would endorse the most extreme human rights violations. A military occupation coupled with a colonial settlement program is unacceptable by any democratic system, thus leaving the world confused. Can democracy and occupation coexist? Can a country be truly democratic yet totally at peace with ruling another people by brute military force?

The answer of the March 17 elections and the formation of the government on May 6 has removed Israel’s peace-loving mask. Israeli lust for Palestinian land and its justification of perpetual control and settlement-building based on millennium-old claims of divine promise is the main reason for this military occupation of nearly half a century. Continue Reading »

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May 06 2015

‘Public service broadcasting should not be run by government’

Published by under Articles,Jordan

Following appeared in the Jordan Times newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

The caller on the phone, a close friend, was frantic.

“They are going to destroy us,” she said.

After calming her down, my friend who is a senior adviser at a local commercial TV station, said that several of their staff are leaving to work for a new station that the government is setting up.

“How can that happen, we invested in these people trained them and we pay them well. Furthermore what is the government doing creating yet another TV station, doesn’t it have enough with the existing stations it owns; and now it will take away the little advertising we have worked hard to attract,” she was saying.

I quietly explained to her that there is nothing one can do about the poaching problem, but that a real problem is the mistake that publicly funded television is allowed to broadcast advertising, which clearly violates the need for a level playing field.

The next day, my friend and I, and others, were invited by UNESCO to a celebration of Press Freedom Day held on the premises of the Royal Film Commission.

Half way through the event, the minister of state for media affairs spoke about the new TV station.

“It will be a truly public service station,” he assured those gathered, although he refused to say if it will refrain from broadcasting advertising.

UNESCO defines public service broadcasting as “broadcasting made, financed and controlled by the public, for the public”. The organisation further says that it “is neither commercial, nor state-owned” and must be “free from political interference and pressure from commercial forces”.

Jordan Radio and Television (JRTV), which owns and runs multiple TV and radio stations, is funded by tax payers and advertisers. One dinar is deducted from the electricity bill from every home, office or factory every month. JRTV also gets further tax payer funding from the general budget.

The problem is in the way this money is spent.

JRTV has an exaggerated payroll, made up mostly of people appointed by the government, often as part of political patronage. Although on paper JRTV is supposed to have an independent board, the government directly appoints its director general as well as many of its senior managers.

UNESCO says that if public service broadcasting works properly, “citizens are informed, educated and also entertained. When guaranteed with pluralism, programming diversity, editorial independence, appropriate funding, accountability and transparency, public service broadcasting can serve as a cornerstone of democracy”.

When a government minister says that the new station will be truly a “public service” one, this is an indirect admission that the current station, which employs over 2,000 and costs tens of millions of dinars, is not.

If the new TV station wants to apply international standards, it is important that at least two conditions are met. First, the government must stay away from owning and running this station so as to satisfy the “must not be state owned” condition, and that it is “controlled by the public and for the public”.

An independent board representing a spectrum of Jordanians should manage this station, totally divorced from government pressure.

Second, and since public service broadcast, according to the UNESCO definition, is not commercial and must not be “influenced by commercial pressures”, the audio visual regulator must ensure that it does not deform the commercial broadcasting field by competing with commercial stations through cutting into the already small advertising cake.

The problem with asking this of the regulator, however, is that Jordan does not have an independent regulatory board. Media, both print and audio visual, are regulated by a government-appointed director who is accountable to the same minister of media affairs who wants to start this new station using public funds.

A much better and more efficient path to creating a truly public service broadcasting station would be to address the deformities at JRTV, which will no doubt again be taking away the lion’s share of advertising in the upcoming Ramadan season.

And instead of creating yet another satellite station, effort and support must be given to create local terrestrial digital stations once the migration from analogue to digital takes place in the coming months.

My friend’s worry about the future of commercial broadcasting in Jordan is real and it will unlikely be resolved as long as the government continues to be an active player in a field it is not traditionally known to do well in: the media business.

Governments should govern independently and fairly, representing the entire population. They should not try to govern using media outlets that are intended to be used by the public and for the public, and not as a government mouthpiece.

Continue Reading »

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