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[- What are the challenges facing the new Palestinian PM
By daoudkuttab1, Section whatever...
Posted on Sat Sep 13th, 2003 at 05:23:56 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME
Hi, this is daoud kuttab and I am submitting a political piece that I would love to hear what you think about it.


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By Daoud Kuttab

The new Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qurei has a daunting challenge ahead of him. He needs to walk between the rain drops of continued Israeli military actions against Palestinians, US ambivalence and lack of real support for the peace process and militant Palestinian groups who want to carry out acts of revenge every time one of their leaders is assassinated

In order to break out of this series of Israeli assassinations follow by Palestinian suicide bombings, a change of thinking and actions is required.

The thought that either side can crush the other side and declare victory has proven elusive and has left a trail of blood and hatred.

Palestinian leaders feel that Israel must be made to understand that preemptive attacks and assassinations only increase the chance of more anti Israeli attacks not less. So far the right wing Sharon government, which seems to only give lip service to peace, is more than happy engaging in military actions that they know will lead to Palestinian retaliations. And as the tough Israeli actions fail to deter Palestinians, Israel seems to raise their harsh inhuman acts with the hope that maybe then Palestinians would stop. But all the inhumane Israeli actions seems to produce is more determined Palestinian reaction, and the cycle of killing and violence continues.

The US government must change its attitude. Instead of stating that they understand that Israeli must defend itself, the Bush administration needs to come out clearly and unambiguously against Israel's assassination acts and its collective punishment which includes uprooting decades old olive trees and destroying eight story buildings in addition to massive travel restrictions and continued settlement activity. If the Americans can get Israel to agree on this simple request, the situation could be ripe for enacting a cease fire agreement that would be the prelude to a genuine peace process.

Until recently Israeli officials have publicly and privately refused to respond to the Palestinian request for reaching a cease fire agreement. Instead they have pressed for the impossible request that the Palestinian Authority dismantle the militant groups, an act that Israel with all its powers has not succeeded in accomplishing. A deadly civil war would surely ensue if the Palestinian Authority attempts to crush Palestinian militants at a time of unrelentless Israeli attacks on them and their leaders and without any tangible progress in the peace talks.

Any ceasefire agreement requires both parties to refrain from attacking the other. These agreements normally include a clause setting up some kind of neutral third party monitors and finally for such a ceasefire agreement to stand it must be followed immediately upon signing it with a concerted effort to produce a political solution to the issues that caused the warring parties to attack each other. . The hudna worked out between the militant Palestinian groups and the Palestinian Authority with the knowledge of the Americans clearly was missing a major component with the absence of Israel in the agreement. One key component of this three month one sided truce was that Israel refrain from assassinating the leaders of the Palestinian resistance groups. Israel's insistence in continuing with its assassination policy has led to a violent reaction. This pattern of assassinations followed by revenge suicide bombings and then further assassinations has become a broken record repeating itself ad nasum without either side giving in. To break the cycle of violence the thought of one side crushing the other side must be removed. Israeli thinking that yet one more assassination will cause the Palestinians to crumble and the Palestinian belief that one more suicide attack would cause the Israelis to raise the white flag have proved to be futile. India's Mahatma Ghandi once said that an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth leaves the world blind and toothless. There has to be a stop to this zero sum game and a return to a sane policy based on reciprocity, compromise and reasonability.

The pattern of the past three years shows that the first order of business must be a ceasefire between the Israeli government and all its military and intelligence subsidiaries on the one hand and the Palestinian Authority with all the Palestinian factions. Such agreement must put an end to all types of military and armed attacks as well as assassinations. This agreement needs to be observed by a neutral third party. This could be done by the quartet led by the United States of America. Such a provision for foreign monitors already exists in the Road Map which was written by the US and which all parties have publicly adopted.

Finally such a ceasefire must be supported by concerted round-the-clock negotiations (preferably in secret with top US involvement) aimed at ending the basic reason for the violence, namely the occupation of the Palestinian areas and determining the issues of borders, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem. In this context, Israel must put aside the thoughts of choosing its negotiating partners. Palestinian president Yaser Arafat is the legitimately elected and historic leader of the Palestinian people. No serious negotiations can take place and no results can last, if one party vetoes the representatives of the other side. Real peace requires agreement between enemies and not friends.

Everyone involved in the Middle East knows pretty much what a peace agreement between the sides will most likely look like. In Taba, Palestinian and Israeli negotiators were very close to agreement on all those issues early in 2001. President Bush's vision of a state of a free and independent Palestine established in 2005 alongside a safe and secure state of Israel could also be used as a reference point for the talks.

Daoud Kuttab is an award winning Palestinian journalist. He is the director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University in Ramallah. His email is

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What are the challenges facing the new Palestinian PM | 4 comments
[new] Challenges facing progressive intellectuals (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#4)
by GitaHashemi ( on Thu Sep 25th, 2003 at 12:15:27 AM EURODISCORDIA TIME
(User Info)

Dear Daoud Kuttab,

Thank you for sharing your article. I have much respect for your work as a media pioneer in Palestine and for what you've started at Al-Quds University. However, I disagree with your analysis on fundamental issues. The main problem I see is that you have isolated the present-day manifestation of the conflict from its complex history of colonialism (I am refering to both European _and_ Zionist colonialisms here) and U.S. interventionism, and thus limited your analysis to only addressing superficial issues such as "leadership." The flaw shows, for example, where you refer to the U.S. as a "neutral third party" capable of monitoring a ceasefire, an assertion that even the Israelis would chuckle at since they consider the U.S. their biggest ally. (Surely, we don't need to be reminded of the 5-decades-long consistent flow of American military and financial aid to Israel?!)

Another example: Looking at Road Map as a "peace" agenda is, at best, misled. In essence, Road Map offers no substantial improvement on the Oslo Accord. There are no substantive provisons in Road Map for dealing with major issues such as the mushrooming illegal settlements (doubled in number since Oslo) and the right to return for Palestinian refugees (not only of 1967 but also 1948). And neither are there any mention of the rights of Palestinians living inside Israel, a sizable minority that is a demographic threat to maintaining the purist myth of an all-Jewish state. The Road Map, like Oslo, is a carrot offered to quel the dangerous popular discontent in the region with puppet regimes that have supported American wars in the Gulf twice now. It is important to remember that both of these so-called "peace initiatives" immediately followed the wars on Iraq. The U.S. successfully used the Oslo Accord to impose a "normalization" of the relations with Israel as part of its plan to bring Middle Eastern economies into the "new world order." Without an understanding of how these state-level political initiatives tie into neo-colonialist processes (a.k.a. globalization), it is not possible to address peace in a meaningful way. The Israeli scholar, Tanya Reinhardt, offers an excellent historical analysis of the Palestine-Israel war in her book, published in 2001, "The Palestine-Israel Conflict: How to stop the 1948 war." She tears through the rhetoric of "peace" to help us understand why the state of Israel in its current formulation and Zionist heritage is fundamentally incapable of making peace. In this book she also looks at Oslo and highlights the material conditions and Israeli state practices leading to, during and after the Accord that have fundamentally undermined the possibility of peace, and this while the Labour was the leading party in Israel. If anything, Israeli politics have taken a turn to the right, and there is little reason to believe that where Oslo failed Road Map can succeed.

Yet another flaw: The formation of the "Palestinian Authority" as such (as a dependent entity with severely limited domestic and foriegn policy authority) did not come through a democratic process. President Arafat, as he himself stated, about a week ago when he re-emerged from the rubble of his headquarters, was the only Palestinian leader who was willing to participate in a negotiation process that eliminated major issues of contention (such as the right to return and 1948 territorial borders) from the agenda. While I agree with you that the Israeli government has no right to impose Palestinian representation to its own liking, I see little advantage in representing Palestinians as politically homogenous. There is not a shortage of discontent with and criticism of current P.A among Palestinian progressive and _secular_ individuals and groups. It is not just the Hamas and other fundamentalists who disagree with President Arafat on major political issues. By the way, it is also important to remember that Abu Mazen too was kind of hand-picked and "approved" by the U.S. and Israel as a representative they were willing to speak to.

Finally, I must admit that I am truely surprised that you advocate secret negotiations as a way of achieving peace. Direct quote from your article:

"Finally such a ceasefire must be supported by concerted round-the-clock negotiations (preferably in secret with top US involvement) aimed at ending the basic reason for the violence, namely the occupation of the Palestinian areas and determining the issues of borders, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem."

Since when do we, as progressive and peace-loving intellectuals, have started thinking that secret, top-level, American-led negotiations can solve any problems let alone one with such a fraught history full of stellar instances of American interventionism in support of war? At a time when fascism and militarist colonialism (both led by the U.S.) are waging war elsewhere in the Middle East, I am utterly baffled by your proposition presumably as a way to "peace."

Of course, a ceasefire is crucial and there must be negotiations. The question is who negotiates with who and on what issues for what kind of peace?


Gita Hashemi

p.s. Considering "negotiations" in the context of Palestine-Israel was the animating theme of a recent arts-driven initiative that I had an organizing role in. The event took place in Toronto, Canada in June 2003 under the title of "Negotiations: From a Piece of Land to a Land of Peace." You may find the programme, and soon documentation of the discussions, at

[new] peace between enemies (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#1)
by saul on Thu Sep 18th, 2003 at 05:17:19 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME
(User Info)

Hi daoud, I really liked that piece, thanks for posting it on Discordia.

The idea of peace between enemies particularly appeals to me - I think this is missing from representational politics in general. In britain certainly there's little to choose from apart from the colour of the tie of the politicians we're allowed to choose from.

Unfortunately I can't see the process you describe starting with Sharon, Afarat and Bush at the helm; none of them seem comitted to peace with the possibly exception of Arafat, but form my limited understanding of the situation he seems to have hardly any room to manouver or anything much to bargain with so I'm not sure how it's going to start.

The only thing that does give me some hope is occasionally meeting young travellers from Israel, recenly finished their military service and on standard-issue tourist trip around the world. Somehow they don't seem to have the ingrained militancy and arrogance of the 1967 '7 days war' generation that I'm familiar with through my family, none of these kids want to be in the army, and many have sympathy with the Palestinian people and distain for the settlers. If only the'd stay in Israel and try calm things down rather than going travelling!

Is there any publication, and any specific journalists you can recommend for more good journalism about the middle east daoud?

What are the challenges facing the new Palestinian PM | 4 comments

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