EU vows to make Jerusalem capital for Palestinians too

A protester holds a picture of Al-Aqsa Mosque during a demonstration near the American Embassy in Amman, Jordan, on Thursday. (Reuters)
Updated 08 December 2017
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EU vows to make Jerusalem capital for Palestinians too

BRUSSELS: The EU’s top diplomat pledged on Thursday to reinvigorate diplomacy with Russia, the US, Jordan and others to ensure Palestinians have a capital in Jerusalem after US President Donald Trump recognized the city as Israel’s capital.
The EU, a member of the Middle East Quartet along with the US, the UN and Russia, believes it has a duty to make its voice heard as the Palestinians’ biggest aid donor and Israel’s top trade partner.
“The European Union has a clear and united position. We believe the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states and with Jerusalem as the capital of both,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told a news conference.
She said she would meet Jordan’s foreign minister on Friday, while she and EU foreign ministers would discuss Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Brussels on Monday.
“The European Union will engage even more with the parties and with our regional and international partners. We will keep working with the Middle East Quartet, possibly in an enlarged format,” said Mogherini, citing Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as Norway. “We remain convinced that the role of the United States ... is crucial,” she said.
Mogherini, who also spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, threw her weight behind Jordan’s King Abdallah, saying he was “a very wise man” that everyone should listen to as the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. Trump’s decision stirred outrage across the Arab and Muslim world and alarm among US allies and Russia because of Jerusalem’s internationally disputed status, and the Palestinian group Hamas urged Palestinians to abandon peace efforts and launch a new uprising against Israel.
Mogherini stressed all 28 EU governments were united on the issue of Jerusalem and seeking a solution envisaging a Palestinian state on land Israel took in a 1967 war, but policy divisions within the bloc have weakened its influence.
“This is the consolidated European Union position,” she said, saying EU foreign ministers made that clear to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday in Brussels.
Hurdles for the EU include its range of positions, ranging from Germany’s strong support for Israel to Sweden’s 2014 decision to officially recognize the state of Palestine.
The EU is also perceived by some in Israel as being too pro-Palestinian, partly because of the EU’s long-held opposition to Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, diplomats say.
 


‘Of Fathers and Sons,’ a bleak look at transformation of children into militants

A boy stands on rubble following regime airstrikes and shelling in the Douma neighborhood of Damascus. (Reuters)
Updated 18 November 2018
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‘Of Fathers and Sons,’ a bleak look at transformation of children into militants

  • “The women are the biggest victims in this society,” Derki said
  • Derki: The horror in the film does not come from violence and blood and gore

LOS ANGELES: A group of children giggle as they play in a dusty, barren landscape near their home in northern Syria, but this is no ordinary game of catch, for their ball is a live bomb.
The macabre game of chicken is one of the most blood-chilling scenes in “Of Fathers and Sons,” filmmaker Talal Derki’s disturbing new expose on the grip of extremism in his native Syria.
“This is the scene that broke my heart,” Derki told AFP in an interview in Los Angeles this week, recalling the blood-chilling episode.
“I was seeing my six-year-old boy through the lens.”
For more than two years, the celebrated filmmaker lived with a family in a war-ravaged region bordering Turkey, focusing his camera primarily on the children to capture their gradual radicalization.
The result is a bleak and haunting 98-minute documentary that gives viewers rare insight into the brutal daily life of militants, who in recent years have sown fear across the globe.
“I call it the nightmare,” the 41-year-old filmmaker said, referring to the spread of the jihadist movement.
The film, released in the US on Thursday, won the world cinema documentary competition at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
Derki’s previous documentary, “Return to Homs,” won the grand jury prize at Sundance in the same category in 2014.
“Of Father and Sons” tracks Abu Osama, one of the founders of Al-Nusra, an Al-Qaeda affiliate group, as he leads two of his eight sons — Osama, 13, named after dad’s personal hero Osama bin Laden, and Ayman, 12, named after the current Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri — down the path to jihad.
Berlin-based Derki said he gained Abu Osama’s trust by posing as a war photographer sympathetic to the militant cause and lived on-and-off with the family for two-and-a-half years, sharing their most intimate moments.
The horror in the film does not come from violence and blood and gore, Derki said. Rather the viewer is sickened as the documentary charts the children’s brutal transformation from innocent youths to fighters.
“This is a film that makes you understand how the brain functions,” Derki said. “You have the horror in the language, in the education, in a single moment.”
He said he is still haunted by several scenes in his film, notably the one with the children playing with the makeshift bomb.
In another scene, one of the children proudly boasts to Abu Osama — which means father of Osama in Arabic — about killing a little bird.
“We put his head down and cut it off, like how you did it, father, to that man,” the boy proclaims.
The bombed-out desert landscape that the family calls home and the fact that the family’s women are never shown or even heard adds to the sense of despair throughout the film.
“The women are the biggest victims in this society,” Derki said. “I was there for two and a half years and I didn’t even know what the mother of these children looked like.
“Her name was not uttered and her voice was never heard.”
Derki said that while his first documentary, “Return to Homs,” tracked the evolution of the Syrian uprising and the regime’s brutal crackdown, “Of Fathers and Sons” was an obvious next chapter in his quest to explain the country’s slide into chaos.
“We have to use our weapon — which is cinema — to show what is really going on there, who these people are, how they brainwash societies,” he said.
“We have to think before we bomb any area, before we let a dictator kill his own people with heavy weapons,” he added.
Derki said “Of Fathers and Sons” has had such a profound psychological impact on him that he has put down the camera for now as he concentrates on healing.
“I am still recovering,” he said. “I have to take medication to fall asleep, otherwise I have nightmares.”
He added that after the final shoot he had his right arm tattooed and his ear pierced to ensure he would not be tempted to try and embed with militants in the future.
“If you have tattoos or piercings, you cannot be with them,” he said. “So this was my way of making sure I don’t go back.”