US criticized for recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Golan

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in 1981. (AFP)
Updated 29 March 2019

US criticized for recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Golan

  • Syria’s closest ally Russia urged governments to continue to view the Golan Heights as Israeli-occupied territory
  • Trump’s proclamation that the Golan Heights are part of Israel raised questions about the future of UNDOF after its mandate expires on June 30

UNITED NATIONS: The US came under sharp criticism from the 14 other Security Council nations Wednesday for its decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights in violation of council resolutions.
Speaker after speaker at the open meeting supported Syria’s sovereignty over the strategic plateau and opposed Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and President Donald Trump’s proclamation earlier this week.
As South Africa’s UN Ambassador Jerry Matjila said, “this unilateral action does nothing to assist in finding a long-term peaceful solution to the conflict in the Middle East.”
He and others pointed to resolutions calling for Israel to end its occupation of the Golan Heights, including a December 1981 Security Council resolution that called Israel’s annexation of the strategic area “null and void and without international legal effect.”
Syria’s closest ally Russia urged governments to continue to view the Golan Heights as Israeli-occupied territory.
“If anybody feels any temptation to follow this poor example, we would urge them to refrain from this aggressive revision of international law,” Russia’s deputy ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said.
While Syria got support on its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen and Britain’s Ambassador Karen Pierce also used the meeting to criticize President Bashar Assad’s government for bombing civilians, using chemical weapons and violating human rights violations during the ongoing eight-year civil war.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in 1981. A 1974 cease-fire agreement that officially ended the 1973 Mideast war led to the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force known as UNDOF on the Golan Heights.
Trump’s proclamation that the Golan Heights are part of Israel raised questions about the future of UNDOF after its mandate expires on June 30.
US political coordinator Rodney Hunter told the council UNDOF has “a vital role to play in preserving stability between Israel and Syria,” an assurance that the Trump administration’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau won’t affect its operation.
He said the force’s mandate to ensure that the area of separation between Syria and Israel “is a buffer zone free from any military presence or activities” is of “critical strategic and security importance” to Israel, and “can contribute to the stability of the entire Middle East.”
Hunter said US recognition that the Golan Heights are part of Israel doesn’t affect the 1974 cease-fire agreement, “nor do we believe that it undermines UNDOF’s mandate in any way.”
He strongly criticized “the daily presence of the Syrian armed forces” in the area of separation, where UNDOF is the only military force allowed, calling their presence a violation of the 1974 cease-fire agreement.
The US calls on Russia to use its influence with President Bashar Assad “to compel the Syrian forces to uphold their commitment” to the cease-fire agreement “and immediately withdraw from the area of separation,” Hunter said.
UN peacekeeping chief Jean Pierre Lacroix told the council there is “a continued significant threat” to UNDOF personnel from explosive remnants of war, “and from the possible presence of sleeper cells of armed groups including (UN) listed terrorist groups.”
Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo expressed hope that “the recent developments will not be used as an excuse by anyone to pursue actions that could undermine the relative stability of the situation on Golan and beyond.”


Cairo turns to Tokyo for a lesson on education

Updated 23 August 2019

Cairo turns to Tokyo for a lesson on education

  • The Japanese education system is recognized as one of the top five worldwide

CAIRO: Egypt is seeking Japan’s help to improve its education system, which has fallen to 130th place in international rankings.

The Japanese education system is recognized as one of the top five worldwide, and Cairo is hoping to apply key aspects of Japan’s approach to the Egyptian curriculum.

Education has played a major role in transforming Japan from a feudal state receiving aid following World War II to a modern economic powerhouse. 

During a visit to Japan in 2016, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi discussed political and economic development with Japanese officials, and was also briefed on the Japanese education system.

The Egyptian leader visited Japanese schools and called on Japan to help Egypt introduce a similar system in its schools.  

As part of Egyptian-Japanese cooperation, Japan’s embassy established cultural cooperation as well as technical and professional education links between the two countries. Collaboration has been strengthened from kindergarten to post-university, with Japanese experts contributing in various education fields.

Japanese experts have held seminars in schools across the country, focusing on basic education. 

During one seminar, Japan highlighted the importance of enhancing education by playing games during kindergarten and primary school, encouraging children’s ability and desire to explore.  

Education expert Ola El-Hazeq told Arab News that the Japanese system focuses on developing students’ sense of collective worth and responsibility toward society. This starts with their surrounding environment by taking care of school buildings, educational equipment and school furniture, for example.

“Japanese schools are known for being clean,” El-Hazeq said. “The first thing that surprises a school visitor is finding sneakers placed neatly in a locker or on wooden shelves at the school entrance. Each sneaker has its owner’s name on it. This is a habit picked up at most primary and intermediate schools as well as in many high schools.”

Japanese students also clean their classrooms, collect leaves that have fallen in the playground and take out the garbage. In many cases, teachers join students to clean up schools and also public gardens and beaches during the summer holidays.

El-Hazeq added that neither the teachers nor the students find it beneath their dignity to carry out such chores.

The academic year in Japan continues for almost 11 months, different from most other countries, with the Japanese academic year starting on April 1 and ending on March 31 the following year.

Japan’s school days and hours are relatively longer in comparison with other countries. Usually the school day is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Teachers normally work until 5 p.m. but sometimes up to 7 p.m. Holidays are shorter than in other countries. Spring and winter holidays are no longer than 10 days, and the summer holiday ranges from 40 to 45 days.