Jo-Ann Mort

Jo-Ann Mort has reported and written commentary from the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel for a range of publications including The American Prospect, Foreign Policy, The Chicago Tribune, Dissent, and The Forward. She is also a strategic adviser to progressive organizations in the U.S., Israel, and the Palestinian Authority areas. 

Recent Articles

Disentangling from Israel

A conversation with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh 

A visitor to Ramallah can see how the economy has changed in recent years—not for the better. The building boom of several years ago has stopped; new office buildings stand empty; the once bustling café and restaurant scene is bustling no more. Banks have been ordered by the Palestinian central bank to reduce loan repayment requirements for public workers by half this month, as these workers have been on half salary for some time now. Fearful of making loans that cannot be repaid, the banks are holding on to their reserves, unwilling to lend more. This past spring, the new Palestinian Authority government under the leadership of Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, an internationally regarded economist, decided to forego the tax repayments owed to them under the 1991 Oslo Accords by Israel, after Israel insisted on withholding funds that it estimated the PA would transfer to families of Palestinians convicted by Israel of terror attacks. More recently, the PA was hit with...

Beyond the Gaza Coup

Is imprisoned Young Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti the last best hope for Palestinian nationalism?

JERUSALEM -- A few days ago I visited the Muka'ata, the presidential headquarters in Ramallah, to meet Dr. Rafik Husseini, Palestinian President Abu Mazen's chief of staff. It was my first visit to the Muka'ata since Yasser Arafat occupied it, and I saw a marked difference. There was almost a yuppie professionalism about the place. When the taxi from Jerusalem dropped me off at the walled entrance to the compound, two cherub-faced guards asked my name and phoned one of Mazen's aides to confirm my appointment. I walked through the open cement yard, where a mosque is being constructed alongside Arafat's tomb, to the left of the presidential headquarters. Once inside the headquarters, I was met by Amal Jadou, the director general of the presidential International Relations Unit. Jadou, 32-years old and fiercely secular, HAS two U.S. degrees -- one from Harvard Law School and one from the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts University. A strong feminist, she has a lot to lose if the...

Guns Versus Butter in the Palestinian Authority

For Fatah and its allies to succeed in building a viable alternative to Hamas, they must provide food for the tables and a credible security command.

Jerusalem -- Talk about stepping on a news story. The new Palestinian Authority, now cloistered in Ramallah, was expecting a big television press hit on July 4, not to celebrate American Independence Day (perhaps one day they will be able to celebrate independence of their own from America, but that is still a ways off), but the first day in 15 months when the Authority was able to pay thousands of public sector salaries in full throughout the West Bank and Hamas-controlled Gaza. Unfortunately, Hamas stole the nightly TV headlines, relegating the salaries to item two or at the very least, a split screen, by releasing the kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston, who had been held captive in Gaza for nearly four months, on the same day as payday. Indeed, this was unfortunate for the Fatah-supported Palestinian government, but it was certainly no accident -- and it also underscores the dilemma facing the technocratic emergency government of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Palestine, a...

The Year that Never Ended

1967 was the year that Israel, and the Mid-East, changed. As Tom Segev shows, the country still lives with the consequences, forty years later.

Haaretz journalist Tom Segev's book, 1967: Israel, the War, and the Year That Transformed the Middle East , is, as, one reviewer noted, "a doorstopper." At over 600 pages, it is a monumental cultural and military history of a transformational moment both for Israel and the region. Recently published in English to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the June 1967 Six Day War, the book should become the definitive telling not only of the war itself from an Israeli point of view, but of the time leading up to it and the consequences that resulted. Segev, one of Israel's most respected journalists, had access not only to newly de-classified documents, but to surviving family members of some of the key players at the time, including the widow of Levi Eshkol. (Eshkol was Prime Minister during the war.) Born in Jerusalem in 1945 (his father was killed in Israel's War of Independence in 1948), Segev has a feel for Israeli society unparalleled by any other Israeli writer translated into...

American Jews and the Mideast

Attention, Democratic candidates: Most American Jews aren't hardliners on Israel.

"Shalom, chaver" ("Good-bye, friend") was president Bill Clinton's memorable refrain at slain Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin's funeral. And few things have demonstrated so clearly the profound link between the Israeli people and America as the "Shalom, Chaver" bumper stickers that showed up on Israeli cars after a right-wing Jew murdered the prime minister, in November 1995. Twelve years later, the tatters of these bumper stickers can still be seen on the backs of autos, even as the Israeli nation drives aimlessly into the 40th year of a tragic occupation over the Palestinians. But the bumper stickers were more than an artifact of binational friendship; they were also a populist statement by a large number of Israelis that Bill Clinton understood them, and a thank-you to Clinton for trying to assist Rabin in bringing peace to the region. Candidates running in the current presidential election would do well to remember the impact Clinton had on the Israeli public. They'd do equally well...