Visits to Israel by Iraqi officials stir controversy

The ministry said the Iraqi travelers had visited “Israeli officials and universities,” as well as the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem pictured above. (Getty Images)
Updated 07 January 2019
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Visits to Israel by Iraqi officials stir controversy

  • Baghdad does not recognize Israel, and is technically in a state of war with it
  • A significant Iraqi Jewish community lives in Israel and regularly calls for a normalization of ties between Baghdad and the Jewish state

BAGHDAD: Visits by Iraqi officials to Israel announced by the Jewish state stirred controversy Monday in Iraq, where the deputy parliamentary speaker demanded a probe to identify those who crossed a “red line.”
Israel’s foreign ministry said on Twitter on Sunday that three Iraqi delegations visited Israel in 2018, and details were also later released by media.
Baghdad does not recognize Israel, and is technically in a state of war with it.
First deputy speaker of parliament Hassan Karim Al-Kaabi called in a statement for “an investigation... to identify those who went to the occupied territory, particularly if they are lawmakers.”
“To go to the occupied territory is a red line and an extremely sensitive issue for all Muslims,” the statement said.
Kaabi is close to Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr, whose bloc won the largest number of seats in Iraq’s legislative election last year.
Israel’s foreign ministry said on Twitter that the 15 Iraqi visitors were “influential Shiite and Sunni personalities in the country,” but did not give names.
The ministry said the Iraqi travelers had visited “Israeli officials and universities,” as well as the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.
A spokesman for the memorial told AFP that “a group of 10 Iraqis” had “undertaken a guided tour in late December.”
He said he was not able to give details on the identity and roles of the Iraqis.
Private Israeli TV station Hadashot, which described the Iraqis as “local leaders,” said Sunday that they had stressed they were not taking part in an official visit and that secrecy was paramount.
A significant Iraqi Jewish community lives in Israel and regularly calls for a normalization of ties between Baghdad and the Jewish state.
But the question remains sensitive and Israel’s support for an independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan in late 2017 provoked Iraqi officials’ ire.
Israel was the only country to back the vote, which Baghdad deemed illegal.
In 2017, a former Miss Iraq sparked a storm when she took a selfie with Miss Israel.


Moroccans protest prison sentences of anti-poverty activists

Updated 29 min 46 sec ago
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Moroccans protest prison sentences of anti-poverty activists

  • Security forces kept watch as participants sang, “The people want the detainees released” and “Long live Rif.”

RABAT: Thousands of demonstrators in Morocco are condemning prison sentences given to the leader of the Hirak Rif anti-poverty movement and dozens of other activists.
The demonstration brought one of the main avenues of the Moroccan capital, Rabat, to a standstill on Sunday. Security forces kept watch as participants sang, “The people want the detainees released” and “Long live Rif.”
Hirak leader Nasser Zefzafi was sentenced to the maximum prison term of 20 years for threatening state security. An appeals court upheld his sentence and those of other activists this month.
Rif is the struggling region in northern Morocco where the Hirak movement was born in 2016. The movement demands development and job creation for the region.
Families, human rights organizations and left-wing parties are demanding the imprisoned activists’ immediate release.