Japan is Arabs’ favored Middle East peace mediator, poll finds

Japan is Arabs’ favored Middle East peace mediator, poll finds
Deputy Representative of Japan in Palestine, Makoto Hirose (C), attends a kite flying event with Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
Updated 27 October 2019

Japan is Arabs’ favored Middle East peace mediator, poll finds

Japan is Arabs’ favored Middle East peace mediator, poll finds
  • Japan was ranked first by 56 percent of respondents, followed by EU and Russia
  • Jordanians seen to have the lowest support for the US as a Middle East mediator

DUBAI: Japan could potentially be a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At least that is what the majority of Arabs in a YouGov survey hope for.

The study looked at Arabs’ perception of Japan, polling the views of 3,033 people from the GCC, the Levant and North Africa.
When asked to name the most neutral mediator for a possible peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, Japan was ranked first by 56 percent of Arab respondents, followed by the EU at 15 percent and Russia at 13 percent.
This is an overwhelming majority, considering the US only received 11 percent approval and the UK 5 percent. 
“The findings of the survey are not surprising because of the Japanese approach to the region and the nature of Japanese society that puts Tokyo in that specific light,” said Theodore Karasik, senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC.
“Japan’s approach to the Middle East earns respect from many different stakeholders. It is a mix between the politics of accommodation combined with the evolution of Japanese business practices, especially by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and other agencies.”
Support for mediation by Japan is highest in the older age group: 66 percent of those aged 40 and above chose Japan, compared to 45 percent of 16 to 24-year-olds.
The older age group were less likely to support the US as a mediator, with only 6 percent. 


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In terms of nationalities, Jordanians had the lowest support of the US as a mediator, with only 4 percent considering them a neutral mediator, and 73 percent choosing Japan.

Palestinians also ranked Japan high on their list – at 50 percent – followed by the EU, which 27 percent of Palestinians said would be a good mediator.
The figure is significantly higher than other Arab countries, of which on average only 15 percent selected the EU as their top choice.
“The findings are not a bit surprising,” said Albadr Alshateri, politics professor at the National Defense College in Abu Dhabi.
“Japan has always maintained an equidistance from the belligerents. It recognized Palestinian rights and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) early on, while maintaining friendly ties with the Arab world.”
He said Japan extended a lot of aid to Palestinians through many programs such as Assistance to the Palestinian refugees, to the Gaza Strip, socially vulnerable people and for improving financial conditions.
“Japan has no stake in the Arab-Israeli conflict one way or the other, thus appearing neutral in such conflict,” he told Arab News. “Secondly, Japan’s geographical distance from the Middle East allows for a more detached approach to the conflict.”
Palestine is not the only Arab state that has been aided by Japan. In May 2016, the Japanese government announced it would accept a maximum of 150 Syrians as students over five years with the aim of offering educational opportunities to Syrian youth, who will contribute to Syria’s future reconstruction when it takes place.
For this purpose the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) established the program “Japanese Initiative for the future of Syrian Refugees” in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Japan has also contributed $7 million this year for emergency assistance in Syria.

In the survey 60 percent of Syrians picked Japan as a potential mediator, over Russia at 21 percent. Nationals from the Levant strongly supported Japan in a mediator role, at 63 percent, whereas only 6 percent selected the US.
“There is no pro-Israeli constituency within Japan; and no Israelis are of Japanese descent,” Alshateri noted.
“Whereas Russia is exactly the opposite: a large number of Israelis are of Russian descent of recent and older immigration. Likewise, with Europeans who have greater skin in the game.”
Looking to the future, Karasik said Japan could become a mediator on the Israeli-Palestinian issue because of Tokyo’s balanced approach. In addition, because of Japanese interests in the region in infrastructure and investment, he believes Tokyo may be a good candidate.
“It also helps, of course, that Japan has excellent relations with all “area” states, which puts it in an interesting position,” Dr. Karasik said.
“Investment by Gulf States in Japan and Tokyo’s investment in the region make for a good balance in approaching the Israeli-Palestinian issue from the East without a Russia or a China fully involved, although both Moscow and Beijing will have much to say in this scenario.”
Karasik believes Japan’s entry into this arena is likely to be halted by Moscow since the Kremlin wishes to be the driver of any settlement.
“But if Russia sees an advantage in Japan leading such talks, then there may be a geopolitical bonus in another arena, probably in Northeast Asia,” he said.
In Alshateri’s opinion, Japan could play an auxiliary role in the mediation of the conflict, given its economic and financial muscle and diplomatic weight.
However, he believes it lacks leverage on the principle protagonist — Israel — to persuade it to make the necessary concessions to obtain peace.
“Japan understands that the conflict is quite radioactive, and perhaps will avoid being entangled in a process that it will reap no benefits from,” he said.
“The sensitivity of the conflict for the US is all-obvious for anyone to attempt at resolution. Last but not least, Japan has enormous interest in oil, and oil producers are distancing themselves from the conflict, to put it mildly.”
Given all of these factors, he concluded that one cannot be very sanguine about Japan or anybody else’s mediation in this “rather intractable” conflict.
“Japan’s role will be welcomed by Arabs and Palestinians for all these reasons,” he said. “Whether it will bear fruits is something else.”

Egypt affirms support for Libya

Egypt affirms support for Libya
Libyan Government of National Accord fighters stand guard at the reopening of a road between Misrata and Sirte. (AFP)
Updated 22 June 2021

Egypt affirms support for Libya

Egypt affirms support for Libya
  • Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi stresses full support toward efforts to restore security and stability to Libya

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has affirmed that restoring Libya’s sovereignty begins with the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries, stressing Egypt’s full support for these efforts during all its actions at the bilateral, regional and international levels.
During his meeting with the Libyan foreign minister, Najla El Mangoush, in Cairo, President El-Sisi affirmed Egypt’s full support for the Presidential Council and the Libyan Government of National Unity during the transitional period with the aim of restoring security and stability to Libya, leading to holding national elections in December. He said that this is an essential step on the path to a political settlement of the Libyan crisis by activating the free will of the Libyan people.
He affirmed Egypt’s firm support for preserving the territorial integrity of Libya, safeguarding the capabilities of the Libyan people, and not interfering in Libya’s internal affairs.
The Libyan foreign minister expressed the Libyan government’s appreciation of the Egyptian role in the region and Egypt’s tireless efforts to support its brothers in Libya, which stem from the principles of preserving the unity of the Libyan territories and restoring stability and preserving the national institutions of the Libyan state.
These include the unification of the military establishment, the end of foreign interference, the exit of all mercenaries and foreign fighters, and the establishment of the principles of dialogue between the Libyan parties.
These include the unification of the military establishment, the end of foreign interference, the exit of all mercenaries and foreign fighters from Libya, the establishment of the principles of dialogue between the Libyan parties, support for national reconciliation in preparation for fair and transparent elections.
She commended Egypt’s support of efforts to settle the Libyan crisis, in light of the historical ties between the two countries.

Battle for the Nile
How will Egypt be impacted by Ethiopia filling its GERD reservoir ?

Arab League intervention in Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam not new: Aboul Gheit

Arab League intervention in Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam not new: Aboul Gheit
Secretary-General of Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit speaks during a news conference after the 29th Arab Summit in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 22 June 2021

Arab League intervention in Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam not new: Aboul Gheit

Arab League intervention in Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam not new: Aboul Gheit
  • Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that the Arab decision included a protest against any step that would illegally fill the dam, which represented a threat to the water security of Egypt and Sudan

CAIRO: Secretary-General of the League of Arab States Ahmed Aboul Gheit has said that the role of the league in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam issue is not new and that Ethiopia claims there is an Arab-African clash over the matter.
The secretary-general explained in television statements to the local Sada Al-Balad TV channel that the Doha meeting raised important points, the first of which was that the water security of Egypt and Sudan was part of Arab national security and the second was the request of the Security Council to hold a meeting about the issue.
Aboul Gheit said that the intervention of the Arab League in the issue of the Renaissance Dam was not new. It had previously formed a committee consisting of several countries, in addition to the league’s envoy at the UN, to follow up on the issue. He said that there was an urgent need for a member state of the Security Council to adopt the demand for holding a session on the issue, similar to Tunisia, explaining that the matter would come at the request of Egypt or Sudan.
He said that the Arab decision included a protest against any step that would illegally fill the dam, which represented a threat to the water security of Egypt and Sudan.
Aboul Gheit said that there was an Ethiopian attempt to claim that there was an Arab-African clash, explaining that this was not the case, especially since Egypt and Sudan were part of Africa, and two-thirds of Arabs lived in Africa.
He said that the Ethiopian claim mainly aimed to win the support of Africa on the issue of the Renaissance Dam at the expense of the two downstream countries, explaining that African Arabs, led by Egypt, always provided support to their continent. The secretary-general indicated that the cooperation between the Arab League and the African Union was clear as the league participated in the meetings of the African Union and vice versa, explaining that Ethiopia had the right to reject what it saw, but the Arab League also had the right to support the rights of its countries.
Aboul Gheit said that far from the Ethiopian reaction, which was characterized by a strong attack on the role of the Arab League, respect for the rules of international law remained a necessity that should be adhered to during the next stage.
“We are not in the jungle . . . The Nile River is governed by the rules of international law, and there is an absolute right for Egypt and Sudan to reject any unilateral measure that causes harm,” he said.
Aboul Gheit said that there was a legal obligation for the Ethiopian government to respect the rights of all riparian countries and not to cause any harm to downstream countries.
He said that Ethiopia must take into account all concerns that might affect the downstream countries, explaining that issues should be addressed through dialogue and consultation between the three countries.
The secretary-general added that the matter required an active role by the African Union and the EU, and that he believed the international community would not accept threats to stability in the Horn of Africa.
He stressed the need to push for negotiations to reach a binding agreement on the filling of the Renaissance Dam.
Aboul Gheit warned that continued Ethiopian intransigence would lead to a dangerous situation, especially as such a policy could lead to deaths. He said that the ministerial decision taken by the meeting in Doha was unanimous and that all countries had announced their support for the downstream nations.


Battle for the Nile
How will Egypt be impacted by Ethiopia filling its GERD reservoir ?

Protests spark after Lebanon bids to curb fuel smuggling

Protests spark after Lebanon bids to curb fuel smuggling
A shortage of fuel is the latest grievance for the Lebanese population, who are quickly sinking into new depths of poverty, amid an economic crisis. (AFP)
Updated 22 June 2021

Protests spark after Lebanon bids to curb fuel smuggling

Protests spark after Lebanon bids to curb fuel smuggling
  • On the black market, the price is between 70,000 to 100,000 Lebanese pounds

BEIRUT: Demonstrators blocked a highway connecting Lebanon and Syria on Monday with burned tires and metal bars, protesting a decision aimed at curbing smuggling into Syria.
Gasoline smugglers blocked the Masnaa crossing after security forces moved to prevent them from driving through the legitimate crossing.
Amid worsening living conditions in Lebanon, some are filling up their cars with goods and fuel and traveling into Syria through the Masnaa crossing to sell them on the other side at double the price.
“The process involves paying bribes to pass into Syrian territory, so when the Lebanese side decided to prevent smuggling, the smugglers protested,” said a security source.
Customs authorities in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa region announced they will strictly enforce permit requirements for vehicles going into Syria to limit fuel smuggling.
Protesters on the international highway demanded the process be applied to everyone crossing into Syria or be scrapped.
The Lebanese are still queuing for hours at gas stations to get subsidized gasoline, with a 20-liter canister of gasoline being sold for 44,000 Lebanese pounds ($29).
On the black market, the price is between 70,000 to 100,000 Lebanese pounds.
The shocking costs have led to citizens waiting at gas stations getting into fights.
One person was wounded from a fistfight that turned into a shooting in front of a station in Tripoli on Monday.
The minister of energy in the caretaker government, Raymond Ghajar, said a few days ago: “The real price of a canister is about 200,000 Lebanese pounds, while the Lebanese now pay about 40,000 Lebanese pounds.”
His remarks came amid indications that the substance will no longer be subsidized “at a certain point.”
The former head of the Banking Control Commission of Lebanon, Dr. Samir Hammoud, said the Banque du Liban (BDL) was trying to buy time and provide sufficient capacity to face the harshest emergency conditions.
He believes that the Central Bank would continue to provide support and would not leave the country in chaos.
“The easiest thing to do would be to resort to lifting subsidies on gasoline, even if the price of a canister becomes 200,000 Lebanese pounds, but who will secure dollars to cover the cost of import?”
He said: “If the process of securing dollars is carried out from outside the Central Bank, we would be in a hellish cycle of chaos.
“Should the central bank manage the import process, the pressure on the dollar market would be relieved and gasoline will be secured for the Lebanese even if it is at 200,000 Lebanese pounds per canister.”
Hammoud, however, said that if dollars are secured from the market, it would be catastrophic since a canister would be sold at 400,000 Lebanese pounds, and the dollar exchange rate would surge to 30,000 or 40,000 Lebanese pounds for $1, and another dark tunnel would be awaiting the Lebanese.
The state is gradually lifting subsidies without making public statements about the process, for fear of the situation imploding. However, the process could be made public once the subsidy card is approved, but the bill is still stuck in parliament.
The presidency of the caretaker government issued a statement on Monday on the matter: “The resigned government has completed the subsidy card bill, as well as the World Bank loan program to help needy families, and has developed many formulas to rationalize support.”
The presidency added it is “is awaiting parliamentary approval on the subsidy card to determine the appropriate formula, and is working to mitigate the repercussions of BDL’s decision to stop financing the import of gasoline, diesel, medicine and fuel for electricity, which we did not agree to without the subsidy card.”
In a statement, caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government hit out at “the political impotence that tries to hide behind smoke bombs and throws the weights of its impotence on the caretaker government, to push it to violate the constitution.”
Diab’s government is already under criticism for doing nothing to confront the deep crisis in light of the failure to form a new government.
The process of forming the new government stumbled upon further obstacles following the stance taken on Sunday by the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil.
Visitors to the Lebanese President Michel Aoun quoted him on Monday as saying that he “still has hope that the initiatives would reach a solution in the presence of sane people, provided that the constitution and the powers of the presidency of the republic are not violated.”
They noted that Aoun accused “former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora of attempting to marginalize the presidency since 2005, as he allowed himself to organize the government’s agenda, hold sessions, and issue decisions, ignoring the presence of the president at the time.”
According to the visitors, Aoun also accused parliament of marginalizing the presidency of the republic because “it did not reconsider Siniora’s illegitimate decisions, and the presidency has become under the authority and tutelage of other leaders, with the resulting rampant corruption.”
Hammoud, meanwhile, refused to accuse the BDL and the banks of “gobbling up the money of the Syrian refugees.”
He added: “When dealing with refugee money, the BDL and the banking sector took different measures.
“Refugee money was paid at 6,240 Lebanese pounds for 1$; 60 percent more than the rate set at 3,900 Lebanese pounds for other depositors.
“Today, they receive their money at 12,000 Lebanese pounds for $1, according to the rate on Sayrafa, BDL’s official platform. This way, they stay fair to everyone and preserve the purchasing power of displaced Syrians.”

Yemenis hail UN blacklist of Houthis

Yemenis hail UN blacklist of Houthis
A Yemeni fighter backed by the Arab coalition fires his weapon during deadly clashes with Houthi forces on the Kassara frontline near Marib. (File/AP)
Updated 22 June 2021

Yemenis hail UN blacklist of Houthis

Yemenis hail UN blacklist of Houthis
  • Iran-backed militia rapped for ‘crimes against childhood’

ALEXANDRIA: Yemenis from all walks of life have hailed the UN blacklisting of Iran-backed Houthis for killing children in the war-torn country and renewed calls for tougher measures against the rebels, including designation as a terrorist organization.

Yemeni politicians, human rights activists and journalists who have long advocated shaming and naming the Houthis for abusing children praised the UN boycott and called on individual countries to follow suit.
“The grave violations committed by the Houthi militia against civilians in the past six years amount to war crimes against humanity, mainly against children,” Mohammed Ahmed Al-Omda, director of Yemen Human Rights and Freedoms Network, a Yemeni NGO that documents Houthi human rights abuses, told Arab News on Monday.
“This designation is the only weapon that can pressure the Houthis to stop crimes and violations against Yemeni children,” he said.
Fuad Al-Mansouri, head of Development Media, called for the Houthis to be designated a terrorist organization for threatening regional and international security.
“The Houthi militia is a terrorist group according to different definitions of terrorism. It targets civilian gatherings in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and threatens international shipping lines,” Al-Mansouri told Arab News.
On Friday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres added the Houthis to a UN blacklist for killing and injuring children.
The Yemeni rebels have been included in the UN Secretary-General Report on Children and Armed Conflict for abusing and recruiting children since 2016.
Yemenis have launched a social media campaign to thank the UN for blacklisting the Houthis and also remind the international community about Houthi crimes against children.
Sharing graphic images of wounded or dead children, dozens of Yemeni activists, journalists, politicians and individuals said that the militia is responsible for killing and wounding thousands of Yemeni children and forcibly recruiting thousands more.
Abdul Basit Al-Baher, Yemeni army spokesperson in Taiz, said that the intensive rebel shelling of residential areas in the country kills young Yemenis at the same time as the militia “brainwash the minds of Yemeni children.”
“The Houthis physically are killing Yemeni children with weapons, but are also harming them mentally by raising an extremist generation on grudges and hatred,” the military official said in a twitter post.
Eyad Al-Sharabe, a Yemeni journalist and human rights activist, said that the Houthi abuse children under their control by brainwashing them. Children are then trained and sent to the battlefield. Meanwhile, children who live in government-controlled areas have their houses and schools targeted by missiles, mortars rounds and explosive-rigged drones.
“Children are not spared. They are pushed to the incinerators of death, and bombed in areas outside the Houthis’ control,” the activist said.
Sharing images of children gunned down by the Houthis, the Yemeni activists said that in August 2020, a militia sniper killed eight-year-old Ruwaida Saleh while she was collecting water in the city of Taiz, and fired at people who rushed to rescue her.
Other Yemeni activists posted images of Lian, the five-year-old who was burnt to death in a deadly Houthi strike in the central city of Marib on June 6.

This designation is the only weapon that can pressure the Houthis to stop crimes and violations against Yemeni children.

Mohammed Ahmed Al-Omda

“Whoever talks about Houthi humanity is inhuman. What do the criminal Houthi want from childhood?” asked Walid Al-Rajhy, director of the Marib-based Saba Media Center, on Twitter.
Human rights groups have monitored Houthi abuses of children along with the deaths, maiming and forced recruitment of thousands of Yemeni children since early 2015.
Yemen Human Rights and Freedoms Network has documented 20,977 abuses by the Houthis against Yemeni children as the rebels’ repression and military operations displaced 43,000 more children from January, 2017 to March, 2021.
Violations include killing, abduction, forced displacement, and depriving children of education and medical treatment. During those four years, the militia killed 343 children, including 31 infants.
Houthi mortar fire killed 287 children and land mines killed 136 others, according to the organization.
The organization said that 1,716 children have been killed while fighting with the Houthis.
Nadwa Al-Dawsari, a Yemeni conflict analyst, said that the blacklisting of the Houthis is welcomed by Yemenis who view the move as international recognition of rebel crimes.
“Child recruitment, mass indoctrination, and the laying of land mines that killed and maimed thousands, mostly children, are only a few ways that the Houthis systematically abuse children, destroying the future of generations to come,” the analyst said.

Donations pour in to rebuild Gaza bookshop

Donations pour in to rebuild Gaza bookshop
Updated 21 June 2021

Donations pour in to rebuild Gaza bookshop

Donations pour in to rebuild Gaza bookshop
  • Over $210,000 raised, tens of thousands of books donated via global campaign
  • Samir Mansour’s shop was destroyed in multiple Israeli airstrikes in May

LONDON: Cash and book donations have flooded in to help rebuild one of Gaza’s largest and oldest bookshops, a two-storey building completely leveled by Israeli attacks.

The Samir Mansour bookshop was hit by multiple airstrikes on May 18, during 11 days of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants that claimed the lives of around 150 Palestinians.

Founded over two decades ago, the Palestinian-owned shop was a much-loved part of the community.

It contained tens of thousands of books, covering genres from fiction to philosophy and everything in between.

Now a global movement has emerged to rebuild the Gaza treasure, with UK-based online children’s bookseller Books2Door donating 1,000 books.

“Without any hesitation I knew we could help,” said Books2Door founder Abdul Thadha. “We were kindly informed by the fundraisers that Samir had a diverse, eclectic collection, so we hope we have done him proud.”

A fundraiser set up by human rights lawyers Mahvish Rukhsana and Clive Stafford Smith has raised over $210,000, and tens of thousands of books from all over the world have been donated to Mansour’s rebuilding effort.

“Dropping bombs on Samir Mansour’s bookshop is not the worst tragedy to have hit the people of Gaza — but this particular airstrike targeted access to books,” said Rukhsana.

“It was an attack on the knowledge and literacy of this community. Samir lost almost 100,000 books and served schoolchildren and adults alike,” she added. 

“I knew hospitals and roads would receive funding, but secondary cultural institutions such as libraries are often overlooked but equally critical to the community.”

They are hoping to rebuild the bookshop, replace all of Mansour’s 100,000 lost books and create a new project, the Gaza Cultural Center, which would be a new library next door, allowing readers to borrow books without paying.

Rukhsana said in Mansour’s shop, “people were allowed to stay, have tea and read his books for as long as they wanted free of charge without an obligation to purchase … He has decided to use all gently used and some new books to create a true library.”

Mansour told The Guardian that his “heart was burning” when he realized missiles had hit his bookshop.

“The Israeli airstrikes bombed half of the building and my bookshop was in the other half. I wished they would stop … My feet took me a few steps forward, towards the bookshop. The last missile came and destroyed the building,” he said.

“It was six in the morning. I didn’t know what to do. I started searching among the rubble for anything related to my library. But everything was under the rubble,” he added.

“I sat thinking about why my shop was bombed. I did not publish, write, or attack any country or person in my life. I did not spread hatred but spread culture, science and love. I did not find answers to my questions.” But he vowed to “rebuild all over again, no matter what it took from me.”