El-Sisi, Ramaphosa discuss Libyan developments

Fighters loyal to the UN-recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) secure the area of Abu Qurain, half-way between the capital Tripoli and Libya's second city Benghazi, against forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar, who is based in eastern Benghazi, on July 20, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 26 July 2020

El-Sisi, Ramaphosa discuss Libyan developments

  • The two sides reviewed ways of reaching a political settlement within the framework of the Berlin Summit and the Cairo Declaration in an effort to combat terrorism, extremist armed militias and external interference
  • The initiative, which was welcomed by various foreign and Arab countries, mandates an intra-Libyan resolution as a basis for resolving the country’s conflict

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on Saturday received a phone call from South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa in which they exchanged views regarding the latest developments in Libya.

A statement from the Egyptian president’s office stressed that the two sides reviewed ways of reaching a political settlement within the framework of the Berlin Summit and the Cairo Declaration in an effort to combat terrorism, extremist armed militias and external interference that threatens regional security and stability.

The Cairo Declaration was a recent joint political initiative announced by El-Sisi, the commander of the Libyan National Army, Khalifa Haftar, and the speaker of the Libyan Parliament, Aguila Saleh, to resolve the cuntry’s crisis.

The initiative, which was welcomed by various foreign and Arab countries, mandates an intra-Libyan resolution as a basis for resolving the country’s conflict.

Forces loyal to Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), who are supported by Turkey, are reportedly planning to launch an attack on Libya’s port city of Sirte and also in Al-Jufra, which El-Sisi recently described as “red lines” in relation to Egypt’s security.

In another development, footage shared on social media showed the moment French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy arrived in the Libyan city of Misrata in an official motorcade.

The visit sparked an angry reaction and widespread controversy in Libyan political circles on all sides. The Presidential Council of the GNA denied having knowledge of Levy’s visit to the areas under its control.

“The council has no relationship or knowledge of the visit and did not coordinate it with him,” Fayez Al-Sarraj, head of the council, said.

The statement indicated that the council took measures to investigate the visit and who was behind it, and that it had issued strict instructions to all agencies, departments and ports to prevent any future violations.

A video clip showed the moment Levy’s motorcade escaped from Tarhuna after he was arrested and expelled from it, and headed to the city of Al-Khums.

Some Arab politicians and activists call Levy, the “Godfather of the Arab Spring,” and accuse him of engineering the French military intervention in Libya and of contributing to the overthrow of former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

“The Zionist Bernard Levy, the godfather of the Hebrew spring, arrived in Misrata where a high-level delegation from the militia government (the government of reconciliation) met him, and where visits will be organized for him to Al-Khums, Tarhuna and Tripoli, and where a number of senior officials in the militia government meet. Levy has a dangerous role,” Egyptian MP Mustafa Bakry said via his official Twitter account.

Levy had appeared in Libya in 2011 alongside rebel leaders against Gaddafi. He consulted with then French President Nicolas Sarkozy before the military intervention in Libya, and was even credited with helping persuade Sarkozy to play a major role in overthrowing the former Libyan regime.

Political analyst on Libyan affairs Abdel-Basset Hamel said that Levy’s visit to Tarhuna and Misrata “is a scandal by all accounts,” noting that Levy arrived at Tarhuna at the invitation of the minister of interior of the Al-Sarraj government to provide him with support.

Hamel added that Levy had close ties to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, and that Al-Sarraj presented Libya “on a plate of gold to Turkey,” saying that (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan was “trying to restore the glories of the Ottoman Empire through the Libyan gate. The new Ottomans have returned to Tripoli and are exploiting the Syrian mercenaries looking for dollars.”

Hamel said there were currently thousands of militiamen and mercenaries of various nationalities in Libya, including Egyptians.


Seth Rogen’s Israel comments highlight fraught diaspora ties

Palestinian firefighters try to extinguish a fire after an Israeli airstrike, on a floor in a building that also houses international media offices in Gaza City. (Reuters/File)
Updated 08 August 2020

Seth Rogen’s Israel comments highlight fraught diaspora ties

  • Jewish comedians’ conversation on Israel spark an uproar

TEL AVIV: It began as a lighthearted conversation between two Jewish comedians, riffing on a podcast about the idiosyncrasies of their shared heritage. But after talk turned to Israel, it didn’t take long for Marc Maron and Seth Rogen to spark an uproar.

Their comments about Israel — especially Rogen saying the country “doesn’t make sense” — infuriated many Israel supporters and highlighted the country’s tenuous relationship with young, progressive Jewish critics in the diaspora.
Israel has long benefited from financial and political support from American Jews. But in recent years the country has faced a groundswell of opposition from young progressives, disillusioned by Israel’s aggressive West Bank settlement building, its perceived exclusion of liberal streams of Judaism and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cosy relationship with President Donald Trump.
“What Seth Rogen said is par for the course among our generation and the Israeli government has to wake up and see that their actions have consequences,” said Yonah Lieberman, spokesman for If Not Now, an American Jewish organization opposed to Israel’s entrenched occupation of the West Bank.
Rogen’s remarks follow a dramatic shift by an influential Jewish American commentator who recently endorsed the idea of a democratic entity of Jews and Palestinians living with equal rights on the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Peter Beinart’s argument that a two-state solution — Israel and Palestine — is no longer possible sent shock waves through the Jewish establishment and Washington policymaking circles.
For many Jews, Israel is an integral part of their identity, on religious grounds or as an insurance policy in the wake of the Holocaust and in a modern age of resurgent anti-Semitism. But polls have shown that while most American Jews identify with Israel and feel a connection to the country, that support has waned over recent years, especially among millennials.
Some have even embraced the Palestinian-led movement calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel to protest what it says is Israeli oppression of Palestinians. Israel accuses the movement of waging a campaign to delegitimize its very existence.

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Their comments about Israel — especially Rogen saying the country ‘doesn’t make sense’ — highlighted the country’s tenuous relationship with young, progressive Jewish critics in the diaspora.

In the podcast, Rogen, who appeared in such smash comedies as “Superbad” and “Knocked Up,” talked about attending Jewish schools and Jewish summer camp while growing up in Vancouver. He said his parents met on an Israeli kibbutz.
As they continued to chat, Rogen appeared to question why Israel was established.
“You don’t keep all your Jews in one basket. I don’t understand why they did that. It makes no sense whatsoever,” Rogen said. “You don’t keep something you’re trying to preserve all in one place especially when that place has proven to be pretty volatile. I’m trying to keep all these things safe. I’m going to put them in my blender and hope that that’s the best place to, that’ll do it.”
Rogen then said he was “fed a huge amount of lies” about Israel during his youth. “They never tell you that ‘oh, by the way, there were people there.’ They make it seem like, ‘the (expletive) door’s open.’”
Maron and Rogen both joked about how frightened they were about the responses they would receive from Israel’s defenders. Their concerns were justified.
Rogen’s comments immediately lit up “Jewish Twitter.” They unleashed a flurry of critical op-eds in Jewish and Israeli media. And they prompted Rogen to call Isaac Herzog, the head of the Jewish Agency, a major nonprofit that works to foster relations between Israel and the Jewish world.
In a Facebook post, Herzog said he and Rogen had a frank and open conversation. He said Rogen “was misunderstood and apologized” for his comments.
“I told him that many Israelis and Jews around the world were personally hurt by his statement, which implies the denial of Israel’s right to exist,” Herzog wrote.
In an interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz, Rogen said he called Herzog at the urging of his mother and he denied apologizing. He said the comments were made in jest and misconstrued.
“I don’t want Jews to think that I don’t think Israel should exist. And I understand how they could have been led to think that,” he said.
Rogen also said he is a “proud Jew.” He said his criticism was aimed at the education he received, and he believed he could have been given a deeper picture of a “complex” situation.
Ironically, Rogen was on the podcast to promote his new movie, “An American Pickle,” about a Jewish immigrant to the US at the start of the 20th century who falls into a vat of pickle brine and emerges 100 years later. He called the project a “very Jewish film.”
Lieberman, from If Not Now, said the uproar shows “how much the conversation has changed” about Israel among American Jews.
Shmuel Rosner, a senior fellow with the Jewish People Policy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank, said Israel should not be expected to change its “security and foreign policies” based on growing estrangement from Jews overseas.
But he said it can take realistic steps to close the gap, such as establishing a pluralistic prayer site at the Western Wall, long a sticking point between Israel’s Orthodox establishment and more liberal Jews in the US
“It’s a challenge for Israel. It’s inconvenient. We want everyone to love us, especially other Jews,” he said. “Israel can do certain things to make it somewhat better.”