Filmmaker hopes to spread awareness of Balfour legacy in Britain

Filmmaker hopes to spread awareness of Balfour legacy in Britain
Palestinian students Leen and Georgina talking to documentary maker Martin Buckley on the roof of Wi’am Palestinian conflict transformation center in Bethlehem about the legacy of the Balfour Declaration on their day-to-day lives. (AN photo)
Updated 31 October 2017

Filmmaker hopes to spread awareness of Balfour legacy in Britain

Filmmaker hopes to spread awareness of Balfour legacy in Britain

LONDON: As the centenary of the Balfour Declaration approaches, few people in the UK are aware of the implications of the 1917 document for Palestinians today, according to former BBC documentary maker Martin Buckley.
“There is a kind of unawareness in Britain,” said Buckley, at a London screening of the rough cut of a new documentary he directed.
He hopes it will help better inform the British public about the legacy of the 1917 declaration and how it paved the way for the creation of Israel in 1948.
The document — drawn up by the then-foreign secretary Arthur Balfour — declared the UK’s support for the Jewish people to be granted their own ‘national home’. It was welcome news to the growing Zionist movement in Europe.
“One of our inteviewees said that, didn’t she? That the average person on the street in England has no idea what Balfour is, but the average person in the street in the Middle East will have a strong opinion on Balfour,” he said.
He recounted a story about being sat on the tube in London chatting about this film with a colleague when the word ‘Balfour’ caught the attention of at least two Arabs sitting nearby who immediately joined in the debate. “It’s a powerful word for them,” he said.
One of those on the train — a student — was so interested in the event that he even turned up at the screening.
The inspiration for the documentary – which has the current working title of ‘From Balfour to Banksy’ — originally came from Miranda Pinch, a political activist and former social worker.
In the run up to the centenary of the Balfour Declaration on Nov. 2, Pinch saw an opportunity to tell the Palestinian side of the story on how the events that followed that 1917 declaration have affected their lives.
The film also demonstrates how the second part of the declaration, which said that that the rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine should be protected — has not been fulfilled.
Pinch met Buckley at an event earlier this year and within a couple of weeks the project was in motion.
The documentary was showcased to a small audience on Oct. 19 inevitably already well aware of the implications of Balfour.
Palestinian women; students; a filmmaker from Syria now living in France; a man in a free Gaza T-shirt and keen supporter of the London-based non-profit organization, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, all made it through the rain to watch the film in North London held in an art gallery displaying pop art from North African artists.
Buckley however wants to get the film’s message out to far more people than this relatively small test audience, not only in the UK but across the world. The final version of the film is expected to be released in early November. He aims to put a version online as well as screened at film festivals.
The film traces the Palestinian story from the declaration of 1917: The UK’s mandate over Palestine; the creation of Israel to the recently installed art installation and hotel created by the UK artist Banksy called the ‘Walled Off Hotel’ – which opened this year in Bethlehem. The hotel rooms feature Banksy art and satirizes British foreign policy and its impact in the Middle East.
Buckley — who presents the documentary — interviews Palestinians in Hebron and the West Bank — all of whom express their frustration with the current Israeli government’s policies and the Jewish settlements in the West Bank as well as the daily restrictions on their movement within the occupied territories.
A young Palestinian student interviewed who studies in the shadow of the huge wall first erected by Israel in 2000 to divide the West Bank from Israel said “we feel like dreams don’t exist anymore.”
Yet, the film aims to be far more than just a historical documentary. “What I wanted from this film is to spend some time with Palestinians and see how they feel about the consequences of the Balfour declaration – not a pompous lecture about the declaration,” he said.
He added that it was important to include the Israeli perspective.
“I interviewed Jewish Israelis who were so keen to say why they thought the Balfour declaration had been a bad thing, and that they felt the Israeli state had become some kind of monster — and if it is going to survive as a state and physically – and those are interlinked — it is going to have to stop saying the British gave us a license to do whatever we wanted in 1917.”
The film currently ends — pending its final edit — with Palestinians calling for people from across the world to come and visit Palestine to meet the people and to learn more about the legacy of Balfour.
One of the woman interviewed in the closing sequence said it was no longer about being pro-Palestine or pro-Israel, but ‘pro-justice’.


India’s COVID-19 cases dip from peak, calls for shutdown mount

India’s COVID-19 cases dip from peak, calls for shutdown mount
Updated 22 min 22 sec ago

India’s COVID-19 cases dip from peak, calls for shutdown mount

India’s COVID-19 cases dip from peak, calls for shutdown mount
  • The 366,161 new infections and 3,754 deaths reported by the health ministry were off a little from recent peaks

NEW DELHI/BENGALURU: Calls grew for India to impose a nationwide lockdown as new coronavirus cases and deaths held close to record highs on Monday, increasing pressure on the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The 366,161 new infections and 3,754 deaths reported by the health ministry were off a little from recent peaks, taking India’s tally to 22.66 million with 246,116 deaths.
As many hospitals grapple with an acute shortage of oxygen and beds while morgues and crematoriums overflow, experts have said India’s actual figures could be far higher than reported.
Sunday’s 1.47 million tests for COVID-19 were this month’s lowest yet, data from the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research showed. The figure compared with a daily average of 1.7 million for the first eight days of May.
The number of positive results from the tests was not immediately clear, however.
Many states have imposed strict lockdowns over the last month while others have placed curbs on movement and shut cinemas, restaurants, pubs and shopping malls.
But pressure is mounting on Modi to announce a nationwide lockdown as he did during the first wave of infections last year.
He is battling criticism for allowing huge gatherings at a religious festival and holding large election rallies during the past two months even as cases surged.
“A failure of governance of epic and historic proportions,” Vipin Narang, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States, said on Twitter.
On Sunday, top White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said he had advised Indian authorities they needed to shut down.
“You’ve got to shut down,” Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week” television show. “I believe several of the Indian states have already done that, but you need to break the chain of transmission. And one of the ways to do that is to shut down.”
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has also called for a “complete, well-planned, pre-announced” lockdown.
New Delhi, the capital, entered a fourth week of lockdown, with tougher curbs such as the shutdown of the suburban rail network, while residents scrambled for scarce hospital beds and oxygen supplies.
“This is not the time to be lenient,” Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Sunday.
“This phase is so tough, this wave is so dangerous, so many people are dying...the priority at this hour is to save lives,” he said in a televised address.
Late on Sunday, the northern state of Uttarakhand said it would impose curfew from Tuesday until May 18, just days after mass religious gatherings held in the state became virus super spreading events.
Shops selling fruits, vegetables and dairy items will stay open for some hours in the morning, while malls, gyms, theaters, bars and liquor shops are among the enterprises that will be shut, the government said.
Organizers of the popular and lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament conceded the remaining games will have to be played overseas after they suspended the contest over the virus this month.
Global support, in the form of oxygen cylinders and concentrators, ventilators and other medical gear, has poured in.
On Monday, US company Eli Lilly and Co. said it signed licensing deals with Indian drugmakers, such as Cipla Ltd., Lupin and Sun Pharma to make and sell its arthritis drug baricitinib for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
India’s drug regulator has approved the drug for restricted emergency use in combination with remdesivir for hospitalized adult sufferers in need of supplemental oxygen.
By Sunday, the world’s largest vaccine-producing nation had fully vaccinated just over 34.3 million, or only 2.5 percent, of its population of about 1.35 billion, government data shows.


Britain set to ease COVID-19 lockdown

Britain set to ease COVID-19 lockdown
Updated 59 min 12 sec ago

Britain set to ease COVID-19 lockdown

Britain set to ease COVID-19 lockdown
  • Rapid vaccination programs have allowed a number of wealthy nations to start taking steps toward normality

LONDON: Britain on Monday was set to announce a further easing of its coronavirus lockdown, joining several European nations in gradually reopening their economies, but India remained in the grip of a devastating outbreak.
Rapid vaccination programs have allowed a number of wealthy nations to start taking steps toward normality, but the virus is still surging in many countries and concerns are growing about global vaccine inequality.
The pandemic has claimed close to 3.3 million lives worldwide and Britain has the highest death toll in Europe, but its successful vaccination program has allowed the authorities to start relaxing curbs.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was due to announce the latest measures – effective May 17 – in a press conference on Monday, including the reopening of indoor seating in pubs and restaurants.
When asked during a BBC interview Sunday if hugging would be allowed, senior minister Michael Gove said: “Without prejudice to a broader review of social distancing... friendly contact, intimate contact between friends and family is something that we want to see restored.”
Cinemas are also expected to reopen, as well as some large indoor venues after the government held several pilot events – including a rock concert – to test safety measures.
This follows Spain’s lifting of a state of emergency in place since October, allowing people to travel between regions.
“It’s like New Year’s,” said 28-year-old Oriol Corbella in Barcelona, where the end of the curfew was met with shouts, applause and music.
In Germany, people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 were exempt from many restrictions from Sunday after the government passed new legislation.
And Cyprus on Monday will exit a third partial lockdown with a new coronavirus “safety pass” system to allow people to move freely.


Afghanistan Taliban plan three-day cease-fire for Eid holiday

Afghanistan Taliban plan three-day cease-fire for Eid holiday
Updated 10 May 2021

Afghanistan Taliban plan three-day cease-fire for Eid holiday

Afghanistan Taliban plan three-day cease-fire for Eid holiday
  • The cease-fire would begin on either Wednesday or Thursday
  • The Afghan government has not yet responded to the Taliban announcement

KABUL: Afghanistan’s Taliban Monday announced a three-day cease-fire for the Eid-Al-Fitr holiday this week marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The cease-fire would begin on either Wednesday or Thursday. The Muslim calendar follows lunar cycles and the Eid holiday depends on the sighting of the new moon.
Justs hours after the pending cease-fire was announced, a bus in southern Zabul province struck a roadside mine killing 11 people, said Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Aeian. At least 24 more people on the bus were injured. Improvised explosive devices litter the countryside and have been used extensively by the Taliban.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said Taliban fighters have been ordered to stop all offensives, “to provide a peaceful and secure atmosphere to our compatriots … so that they may celebrate this joyous occasion with a greater peace of mind.”
The cease-fire announcement comes amid heightened violence in the country and follows a brutal attack on a girls’ school on Saturday that killed as many 60 people, most of them students between 11-15 years old. The death toll from the three explosions continues to climb.
The Taliban denied any responsibility and condemned the attack, which occurred in the mostly Shiite neighborhood of Dasht-e-Barchi in the west of the capital.
Attacks in the area are most often claimed by the Afghan Islamic State affiliate, but no group yet has claimed the attack on the school.
The cease-fire announcement also comes as the US and NATO are withdrawing the last of their military forces. The final 2,500-3,500 American soldiers and roughly 7,000 allied NATO forces will leave by Sept. 11 at the latest.
The Afghan government has not yet responded to the cease-fire announcement.


US man kills 6 people and himself at Colorado birthday party

US man kills 6 people and himself at Colorado birthday party
Updated 10 May 2021

US man kills 6 people and himself at Colorado birthday party

US man kills 6 people and himself at Colorado birthday party
  • Gunman fortunately did not fire on children who were present inside a trailer at a mobile home park
  • The massacre was the latest in a resurgence of mass shootings in the US

COLORADO SPRINGS, US: A man fatally shot six people including his girlfriend before turning the gun on himself early on Sunday at a birthday party in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but did not fire on traumatized children who were present inside a trailer at a mobile home park.
Police arrived to find six people dead plus a seventh who was seriously wounded and died after being taken to a hospital, a police statement said.
“The suspect, a boyfriend of one of the female victims, drove to the residence, walked inside and began shooting people at the party before taking his own life,” said the statement released by the Colorado Springs Police Department.
“Friends, family, and children were gathered inside the trailer to celebrate when the shooting occurred,” the statement said.
A motive has yet to be determined.
The shooting happened within the Canterbury Manufactured Home Community, a mobile home park of some 470 trailers and largely Latino residents on the southeast side of town, near the Colorado Springs airport, about 70 miles (110 km) south of Denver.
Police blocked off the area, where a mobile crime lab was parked near the home. A small group of adults stood nearby, some of them audibly sobbing, along with a small child.
Freddie Marquez, 33, said his mother-in-law was one of the victims and that he was at the party but left around 10:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Some time after midnight, he received a call from the son of one of the women at the party, who was crying on the phone.
“Somebody came in and shot everybody,” Marquez said, relating what he had been told on the phone.
The Denver Post quoted neighbor Yenifer Reyes as saying she was awakened by the sound of gunfire.
“I thought it was a thunderstorm. Then I started hearing sirens,” Reyes told the newspaper.
She said she saw police take children out of the trailer and put them into a squad car.
“They were crying hysterically,” Reyes said.

Spate of mass shootings
The massacre was the latest in a resurgence of mass shootings in the United States after such occurrences seemed to recede during the height of coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
Among the incidents this year was one in Boulder, Colorado, where a 21-year-old man has been charged with killing 10 people in a March 22 shooting spree at a supermarket about 30 miles (50 km) northwest of Denver. That came less than a week after another 21-year-old gunman was accused of killing eight people at three Atlanta-area day spas.
Colorado was also the state where two other deadly rampages took place, both in the Denver area: the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School that killed 15 people including the two perpetrators, and the 2012 shooting in an Aurora movie theater that killed 12 people and wounded about 70. The Aurora shooter is serving a life sentence.
The recent shootings have revived the gun control debate, with Democratic President Joe Biden calling them a “national embarrassment” and calling for new legislation from Congress.
But he faces serious opposition from gun rights advocates including Republicans and some Democrats who cite the US Constitution’s protection of gun ownership rights.
Police said they withheld releasing details of the shooting for several hours “in order to properly and respectfully notify family members of the deceased and ensure support was in place.”
The names of the victims will be released later, the statement said.


South Sudan president dissolves parliament

South Sudan president dissolves parliament
Updated 10 May 2021

South Sudan president dissolves parliament

South Sudan president dissolves parliament
  • Activists and civil society groups welcomed the dissolution of parliament, saying it was long overdue but also expressing distrust

JUBA: South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has dissolved parliament, opening the way for lawmakers from opposing sides of the country’s civil war to be appointed under a 2018 peace accord. Kiir’s decision was announced on public television but no date was given as to when the new parliament will begin working.

The setting up of a new legislative body was part of an accord signed in September 2018 between Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar, for years on opposition sides during the five-year civil war that left 380,000 people dead and four million displaced.

Activists and civil society groups welcomed the dissolution of parliament, saying it was long overdue but also expressing distrust.

“It is a welcome development and we hope that the dissolution (will not) also open the way to a lengthy process toward reconstituting the parliament,” Jame David Kolock, chairman of the South Sudan Civil Society Forum.

“The civil society is getting frustrated and no longer believes that even if the parliament is reconstituted it will be a very viable parliament.”

In accordance with the 2018 accord, the new assembly will number 550 lawmakers, the majority — 332 — from Kiir’s governing SPLM party. The parliamentarians will not be elected but nominated by the different parties.

The dissolution of parliament came on the eve of a visit to the capital Juba by US special envoy to South Sudan Donald Booth.

“Of particular concern to the United States is the slow implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, ongoing violence, and deteriorating economic and humanitarian conditions,” the US State Department said in a statement.

Kiir and Machar formed a coalition government on February 22, 2020 after nearly a year of delays.

However few provisions of the truce have been honored, and analysts have warned of a return to war.

The oil-rich country remains severely underdeveloped and poorly managed.

Despite the peace deal, brutal communal conflicts — often over cattle raiding — continue, with more than 1,000 killed in violence between rival communities in the last six months of 2020.