'Boycott Israel' reverberates in new Paris rally

Updated 24 July 2014
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'Boycott Israel' reverberates in new Paris rally

PARIS: Several thousands Wednesday held a fresh protest in Paris against the Israeli offensive in Gaza amid tight security days after similar rallies descended into violence and looting.
Police said the rally gathered about 14,500 people, while organizers put the figure at 25,000.
The government, which had banned the prior protests seeking to restrain what it called anti-Semitic radicals, authorized the march after its organizers gave “security guarantees,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said.
More than 1,000 undercover and uniformed officers were deployed along the march route, which ended in the upscale Invalides area where several government ministries are located.
The marchers, many of whom held Palestinian flags or stickers saying “Boycott Israel,” shouted slogans such as “Israel killer” and “Long live Palestine, long live the resistance!.”
Samira Cheblal, a marcher, said she had come with a simple message: “Stop the massacre of children and civilians.”
In addition to the Paris event, staged by a coalition of pro-Palestinian and left-wing groups, demonstrations were also held in the cities of Lyon, Toulouse, Lille and Reims.
As the Paris marchers dispersed after the protest, a few threw bottles at the police, who did not respond.
President Francois Hollande issued a reminder to protesters that the “responsibility of the state, the government and the president is to ensure that order is respected.”
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve had warned that anyone caught shouting “Death to the Jews!” or burning an Israeli flag during the marches would be arrested.
But Cazeneuve had also denounced the Jewish Defense League — deemed a “right-wing terrorist group” by the FBI — whose members clashed with pro-Palestinian supporters in an earlier Paris demonstration.
Banned rallies took place anyway at the weekend in Paris and its suburb town of Sarcelles, and ended in clashes, with police firing tear gas and arresting scores of protesters.
In Sarcelles, several Jewish businesses were looted, prompting Roger Cukierman, the head of the country’s main CRIF Jewish grouping, to voice fears of “pogroms.”
On Tuesday, four men were sentenced to between three and six months in prison for their role in the Sarcelles violence, and three others were given between three and five months suspended jail sentences for their involvement in the Paris unrest.
The main organizer of Wednesday’s protest, the National Collective for Just and Durable Peace between Israelis and Palestinians, hailed the decision to let the demonstration go ahead.
“It’s a victory for democracy and freedom of expression,” said Taoufiq Tahani, president of the France-Palestine Solidarity Assocation that is part of the collective that called the rally.
Another pro-Palestinian demonstration in Paris is planned for Saturday, and authorities have not yet said whether it will be allowed to proceed.
The Israeli-Palestinian offensive has stirred up huge passions in France — home to the largest Muslim and Jewish communities in western Europe with around five million Muslims and half a million Jews.
Valls, who was a tough-talking interior minister until his promotion this year in a cabinet reshuffle, has blamed extremist groups for the violence last week.
He told the Le Parisien daily certain unspecified “networks and extremist groups are trying to capitalize on this (Israeli offensive) by riding on sentiments of anti-Semitism and hatred” and using it “to foment disorder.”
Responding to Cukierman’s comments over the risk of pogroms, Valls said there was “very big concern” among Jews in France, particularly after high-profile anti-Semitic attacks such as the May shooting in Brussels’ Jewish Museum.
French political parties have broadly hailed the decision to authorize Wednesday’s march.
Four groups helping to organize the rally — the influential CGT union and three leftist parties — are also deploying people during the rally to ensure there is no violence.


Sabotage of oil tankers stirs concerns over Gulf shipping

Updated 22 May 2019
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Sabotage of oil tankers stirs concerns over Gulf shipping

  • The acts of sabotage near the UAE coast highlight new threat to maritime traffic and global oil supplies
  • Experts say increased threat to navigation and global oil supplies not limited regionally but has global dimension

DUBAI: Amid rising tensions between the US and Iran, sabotage attacks on four commercial vessels off the coast of the UAE’s Fujairah port have raised serious questions about maritime security in the Gulf.

The incidents, which included attacks on two Saudi oil tankers, were revealed by the UAE government on May 12, drawing strong condemnation from governments in the Middle East and around the world as well as the Arab League.

Now experts have warned that the sabotage attacks highlight a new threat to maritime traffic and global oil supplies.

A Saudi government source said: “This criminal act constitutes a serious threat to the security and safety of maritime navigation, and adversely affects regional and international peace and security.”

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said the incidents threatened international maritime traffic.

While crimes on the high seas, including piracy, have tapered off in recent years, the attacks on the ships, three of which are registered to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have called into question common assumptions about the Gulf’s stability.

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Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics in Washington D.C., said governments of the Gulf region are mandated to watch over oceans and waterways. “On top of this requirement is the need for a new regime of maritime coordination to prevent attacks on shipping because of the repercussions for logistical chains, corporate strategies and insurance rates,” he told Arab News.

The sabotage attacks took place east of Fujairah port, outside the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway through which most Gulf oil exports pass and which Iran has threatened to block in the event of a military confrontation with the US.

Johan Obdola, president of the International Organization for Security and Intelligence, said the recent attacks underscore the need for closer intelligence-coordinated capabilities among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, including satellite communication and maritime or vessel security technology.

“The threats to oil tankers are not limited to the Gulf, but have a global dimension,” he said.

According to Obdola: “A coordinated joint task force integrating oil, intelligence security and military forces should be (established) to project and prepare (for potential future attacks). This is a time to be as united as ever.”

GCC countries have intensified security in international waters, the US navy said. Additionally, two US guided-missile destroyers entered the Gulf on May 16 in response to what the US called signs of possible Iranian aggression.

“The attack has brought (the region) a bit closer to a possible military confrontation amid the escalation in tensions between the US and Iran,” Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a former chairman of the Arab Council for Social Sciences, told Arab News.

He said Iran is purposely dragging Saudi Arabia, the UAE and possibly other Gulf countries into its fight with the US. “The credibility of the US is at stake and Trump has said he will meet any aggression with unrelenting force. If Iran continues on this path, we might see some kind of a military showdown on a limited scale.”

Given the importance of the region’s oil supplies to the US, Abdulla said “it’s not just the responsibility of Arab Gulf states but an international responsibility” to keep the shipping lanes safe.