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Academicians and

by Rogério Beltrão Coelho

Once in a while a closer contact with one’s readers is appropriate to make them more acquainted with the orientation of the newspaper they chose to read.
It is common knowledge that any newspaper is made up of local and foreign news, of opinion columns, interviews, profiles and other subjects, aiming to inform, enlighten or simply to entertain during off hours.
Is also widely known that written contents do not weigh the same in terms of importance, quality and value.
As a matter of fact this reminds me of a column read sometime ago in the Spanish daily El País by Mario Vargas Llosa. It centered in something that, out of pragmatism, I could not completely disagree with.
The Peruvian writer said that it is counterproductive to prevent television viewers of programming of questionable quality that attracts formidable audiences or newspaper readers from information that is void of content but manage to fill wide spaces in the Press. It is unintelligent to do that, deemed Llosa. Audiences would drop with no compensation, and newspaper runs would shrink with no moral benefits added to this world.
Llosa also said – and here is where we reach agreement – that it is possible and should even be advisable, in true conscience, that those responsible for content should be concerned with introducing in a gradual and appealing way other subjects and themes of higher quality aiming to create opinions and instill appetite for cultural matters, for instance.
With this in mind, Macau Daily Times introduced regular opinion columns signed by its staff reporters. It enlarged the publication of interviews and coverage of wider subjects. Links and agreements with academics and prestigious institutions were also established or renewed in several areas of knowledge.
It is exactly this kind of academic participation in the newspaper that we feel should be enhanced. The aim – and none better than the reader to judge if the goal is being met – is to let those with expertise convey their knowledge with the scientific approach and accuracy that is expected of them, though void of the hermetic language that is common in their community and inhibits outsiders.
Here we feel that the MDTimes – quite frankly speaking – succeeds in bringing the University (in a pure and broader meaning) closer to the common citizen, helping it to fulfill its core purpose: to disseminate knowledge.
With short though well-founded texts in a widely accessible and understandable language for the common reader we hope to be doing exactly what we set out to do I might say.
Since I quoted Llosa, let me just recall another Latin-American writer, Jorge Luis Borges of Argentina who once said, at the close of his literary career, that it is a lot harder to write briefly – in a succinct way – than to fill hefty books with words.
Fortunately, in the same way, we seem to have managed to convey concepts with objectivity, science with accessible language, knowledge devoid of excessive doses of academicism.
Enough to avoid widening the gap between academicians and … simple ‘homo sapiens’.


The Normalization of Fatah

‘Signs that Fatah is moving towards becoming a normal political party were ample. Gone were the khaki suits and militaristic paraphernalia, replaced by business suits and proper conference IDs for delegates. Backroom decisions and top-down guidance was replaced by a democratic free-for-all […].’ – writes Daoud Kuttab, Palestinian journalist and former Professor of Journalism at Princeton University.

The Normalization of Fatah

by Daoud Kuttab

Fatah, the leading guerrilla movement within the Palestine Liberation Organization, has moved one step closer to becoming a normal political party. Its just concluded sixth congress was held for the first time in the occupied territories, which meant that former guerrillas from Lebanon and Jordan were allowed entry by Israel. The conference, it appears, succeeded in reuniting and reinvigorating the movement, which has suffered since the death of its founder and long-time leader, Yasser Arafat.
More than 2,000 delegates, representing former Fatah fedayyin (guerrillas) and intifada activists, voted to continue all forms of resistance for the liberation of Palestine. Yet the term “armed resistance” was missing from all the documents approved at the conference. Mahmoud Abbas – unanimously elected as Fatah’s leader and commander-in-chief – made clear that while all options remain available for ending the occupation, the preference is still negotiations. While some (such as Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak) took the resistance rhetoric of some delegates seriously, Fatah spokesman Nabil Amr officially assured all concerned that Fatah is committed to “peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
Any organization that has not provided democratic mechanisms for change and renewal tends to age and become monotonous and ineffective. This aging and dullness became most evident in the past few years, as Fatah first lost the 2006 legislative elections to Hamas, and then its presence in the Gaza Strip.
Signs that Fatah is moving towards becoming a normal political party were ample. Gone were the khaki suits and militaristic paraphernalia, replaced by business suits and proper conference IDs for delegates. Backroom decisions and top-down guidance was replaced by a democratic free-for-all that saw many of Fatah’s historic leaders fall to the wayside, making room for younger, locally popular leaders. Prisoners held in Israeli jails were granted 20 seats in the enlarged 100-member revolutionary council. A jailed intifada leader, Marwan Barghouti, was among the highest elected new leaders to the central committee, the movement’s executive body.
Naturally, the 20-year hiatus since the last congress created a huge gap that was quickly filled by intifada veterans rather than old-style guerrillas, who had dominated the movement since its establishment. Fourteen of the 19 elected members of the central committee are first-time members, most of whom represent the leadership of the 1987 uprising in the occupied territories. The shifting age and geographic location of the Fatah membership was the reason for the failure of some of Fatah’s historic leaders, such as Ahmad Qureia and Intisar Wazir, the widow of the late Abu Jihad.
Moreover, holding the congress in Palestine ended the role of many Fatah leaders who had opposed the Oslo accords, such as Farouk Qaddoumi and Mahmoud Jihad. Sidelining men like Qaddoumi, whose accusation, on the eve of the congress, that Abbas and Mohammad Dahlan had helped Israel poison Arafat, also distances Fatah from its one-time alliance with hard-line Arab countries such as Syria and Libya.
While the old guard had to strike a balance between the different Arab countries that backed the PLO, the new guard will have to find a workable solution with their rivals in Hamas if a viable compromise agreement with Israel is to be found. Opinions vary, with some calling for a tough position towards Hamas and others advocating a softer approach.
Another major challenge facing the new Fatah leadership will be how it deals with the duality of holding party posts while also holding ministerial positions within the Palestinian Authority. Some are calling for Fatah leaders to abstain from ministerial roles, whereas others see no reason why one can’t be a leader of a party and the government simultaneously.
In his acceptance speech, Abbas referred to the leaders of the first Intifada, telling the congress that they drew the guidelines that have become the movement’s political platform. Leaders like Barghouti, former preventative security chief Jibril Rajoub, and Gaza’s Dahlan are now in the driver’s seat of the Fatah movement.
Dahlan, accused by some of being responsible for the loss of Gaza to Hamas, gave a strong speech accusing the previous Fatah leadership of having lost Gaza long before it actually fell to Hamas in June 2007. Dahlan detailed how the former Fatah leadership repeatedly ignored his warnings and his pleadings with the central committee members to come to Gaza and see for themselves the situation on the ground.
The Fatah congress also dealt a blow to the abuse and corruption that have plagued the movement in recent years, especially since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. Speaker after speaker insisted that the movement’s weakness was brought about by the fact that its leaders succumbed to the temptations that come with government positions. Thus, for example, Ahmad Qurei (Abu Ala’a), a former prime minister and senior negotiator who is accused of owning shares in a Palestinian company that supplied cement for Israel’s construction of the hated wall that cuts through Palestinian territory, lost his position within Fatah’s leadership.
The Fatah movement has a long way to go before it becomes a full-fledged political party. The delegates overwhelmingly agreed that the movement must keep open the option of returning underground if negotiations for statehood fail, while being ready to become a political party if a Palestinian state is born. Nevertheless, the results of the Sixth Fatah Congress reflect a clear bias in favor of becoming a party rather than an armed resistance movement.

©: Project Syndicate/MDTimes, 2009