Appointment of Palestinian to Biden leadership team sparks controversy in Israel

Appointment of Palestinian to Biden leadership team sparks controversy in Israel
(Credit: buildbackbetter.gov)
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Updated 26 November 2020

Appointment of Palestinian to Biden leadership team sparks controversy in Israel

Appointment of Palestinian to Biden leadership team sparks controversy in Israel
  • Supporters rally to Reema Dodin's defense as pro-Israel lobby accuses her of justifying suicide bombings

CHICAGO: President-elect Joe Biden’s decision to appoint a Palestinian American to a key White House position sparked a storm of political controversy.

He announced on Monday that Reema Dodin will serve as one of two deputy directors of his legislative affairs team, which helps define presidential policies. The other is Shuwanza Goff, who is an African American.

The appointment of Dodin, a veteran Washington insider, adds substance to campaign promises made by Biden in his six-page “Plan for Partnership” with the Arab American community, published in August, in which he promised to repeal the Trump administration’s Muslim ban and recognize Arab American rights.

“The American people are eager for our administration to get to work, and today’s appointees will help advance our agenda and ensure every American has a fair shot,” Biden said. “In a Biden administration we will have an open door to the Hill and this team will make sure their views are always represented in the White House.”

Ron Klain, Biden’s White House chief of staff, said: “President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris share a bold agenda that will build our nation back better than before. Our team will work with the president-elect and vice president-elect to implement that agenda and deliver results for American families.”

Pro-Israel groups and organizations criticized the appointment of Dodin, accusing her of attempting to justify “suicide bombings.” The allegation, which was supported by a twisting of the facts about past comments she made, is a common criticism leveled against Palestinians appointed to public office in US, based on presumed support for Palestinian rights.

The Jerusalem Post, a conservative, English-language Israeli newspaper, highlighted a comment Dodin allegedly made in 2002 in which she told an audience in Lodi, California, that “suicide bombers were the last resort of a desperate people.”

She also participated in a rally supporting the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS) movement, which opposes Israel’s policy of stealing land from Palestinians, setting up illegal settlements and harvesting the land for profit.

More than 26 US states, including Illinois, have passed legislation that makes support of BDS illegal and punishable in a number of ways.

Reacting to the appointment of Dodin, an article published on the website of anti-Arab extremist Sarah Geller said: “As predicted, the radical anti-Israel Left will have a prominent role in the potential Joe Biden administration. Palestinian American Reema Dodin, who has expressed support for suicide bombings against Israelis, will help negotiate legislation for Joe Biden.”

The pro-Israel Jewish Press also slammed Dodin in their coverage, citing claims that she is “acting as an agent of influence for the [Muslim] Brotherhood’s operations inside America.”

Dodin, who worked for many years as deputy chief of staff for Senator Dick Durbin, a moderate and popular Democrat from Illinois, immediately made her Twitter account private, apparently in an attempt to prevent critics from sifting through her past comments and using them to portray her as an extremist.

Durbin issued a statement in which he welcomed the appointment of Dodin to the Biden administration, and praised her service to his office. In a message posted on Twitter, he wrote: “Excited that my floor director, Reema Dodin, will be joining President-elect Biden’s (Legislative) Affairs team. She is smart, trusted, and has the respect of members on both sides of the aisle. Reema is just what our new president needs to help him in the Senate.”

Prominent Arab Americans and politicians rallied to Dodin’s defense.

Ziad Asali, founder of the American Task Force on Palestine, said that Dodin had “worked her way from law school to community activity to Senator Durbin’s office, all the way to the White House. Message to young Palestinian/Arab Americans: Yes you can. Belong and earn your way with competence and commitment. Meritocracy means success without waste.”

Warren David, the president of media organization Arab America said: “We are so excited about Reema’s appointment. It means so much to Arab Americans, who have been marginalized throughout the years, to see a senior official of Arab/Palestinian heritage in the White House. Hopefully, appointments such as this are not the ‘exception’ but the ‘rule’ regarding Arab Americans in public service.”

Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal also welcomed the appointment, saying: “Over my 10 years in the Senate, Reema has been an invaluable source of insight and counsel. She is invariably conscientious and caring, and the Biden admin is lucky to have her. I’ll miss her on the Senate Floor but look forward to working with her in her new role.”

Dodin was born to Palestinian immigrants whose origins can be traced to Dura in Palestine, near the Israeli-occupied city of Hebron.

She has been active in Arab American circles for many years. In May 2018 she participated in the Arab American Institute’s annual Khalil Gibran Awards ceremony, during which she presented an award to Marcelle M. Wahba, the president of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington D.C. and a former US Ambassador to the UAE.

Dodin has a strong resume, having served as Durbin’s research director and an aide to his Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law. She was also a volunteer voter-protection counsel on a number of political campaigns, including Obama for America.

She is a Truman National Security fellow, a New Leaders Council fellow, an Aspen Socrates alum, a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a member of the Jenkins Hill Society, a consortium of women in politics supporting female politicians.

Originally from California, Dodin is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Neither Dodin nor Durbin’s office responded to requests by Arab News for comment.
 


Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program
Updated 17 min 52 sec ago

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program
  • Priority for age groups and medical vulnerability waived in favour of permanent residents of nearly 100 islands
  • Islanders make up around 1.5 million of Greece’s population of 10.7 million

NAXOS, Greece: A vaccination program for Greek islands is being accelerated to cover all local residents by the end of June, the government announced Tuesday ahead of the launch of the tourism season.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said a nationwide priority system for age groups and medical vulnerability was being waived for permanent residents of nearly 100 islands.
“This initiative is aimed at supporting local island communities and their economy and it also aspires to send a positive overall message for our tourism,” Mitsotakis said.
Greece is fighting to revive its key tourism sector that was battered by the pandemic in 2020 but its vaccination rates remain below the European Union average and the country has only recently stabilized a surge in cases.
Islanders make up around 1.5 million of Greece’s population of 10.7 million. Many holiday islands have a year-round population of under 10,000, while Crete has the largest with more than 600,000 residents, followed by Evia, Rhodes, Corfu, Lesbos, and Chios. The tourism season will officially start Friday.


Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday

Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday
Updated 11 May 2021

Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday

Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday
  • Sweden of 10 million inhabitants registered 44 new deaths, taking the total to 14,217
  • The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks

STOCKHOLM: Sweden, which has shunned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, has registered 13,812 new coronavirus cases since Friday, health agency statistics showed on Tuesday.
The figure compared with 14,950 cases during the corresponding period last week.
The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 44 new deaths, taking the total to 14,217.
The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks.
Sweden’s death rate per capita is many times higher than that of its Nordic neighbors’ but lower than in most European countries that opted for lockdowns.


At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting

At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting
Updated 11 May 2021

At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting

At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting
  • RIA Novosti news agency reported that a teenager was detained
  • Local officials said some children were evacuated from the school but others still remained in the building

MOSCOW: A school shooting erupted Tuesday in the Russian city of Kazan, leaving eight students and one teacher dead, Russia’s state RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing local emergency services.
According to the Interfax news agency, two gunmen opened fire in the school, and one of them — a 17-year-old — has already been apprehended.

“According to preliminary information, the second attacker in the school in Kazan who remained in the building was killed,” the TASS state news agency reported, citing a law enforcement source.
Local officials said some children were evacuated from the school but others still remained in the building. Authorities said additional security measures have been put into place in all schools in Kazan, the capital of Russia’s Tatarstan region, roughly 700 kilometers (430 miles) east of Moscow.
While school shootings are relatively rare in Russia, there have been several violent attacks on schools in recent years, mostly carried out by students.


India’s seven-day COVID-19 average at new high, WHO issues warning on strain

India’s seven-day COVID-19 average at new high, WHO issues warning on strain
Updated 11 May 2021

India’s seven-day COVID-19 average at new high, WHO issues warning on strain

India’s seven-day COVID-19 average at new high, WHO issues warning on strain
  • The seven-day average of new cases is at a record high of 390,995

BENGALURU: India’s coronavirus crisis showed scant sign of easing on Tuesday, with a seven-day average of new cases at a record high and international heath authorities warning the country’s variant of the virus poses a global concern.
India’s daily coronavirus cases rose by 329,942, while deaths from the disease rose by 3,876, according to the health ministry. India’s total coronavirus infections are now at 22.99 million, while total fatalities rose to 249,992.
India leads the world in the daily average number of new deaths reported, accounting for one in every three deaths reported worldwide each day, according to a Reuters tally.
The seven-day average of new cases is at a record high of 390,995.
The World Health Organization said the coronavirus variant first identified in the country last year was being classified as a variant of global concern, with some preliminary studies showing that it spreads more easily.
“We are classifying this as a variant of concern at a global level,” Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID-19, told a briefing in Geneva on Monday. “There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility.” Nations around the globe have sent oxygen cylinders and other medical gear to support India’s crisis, but many hospitals around the nation are struggling with a shortage of the life-saving equipment.
Eleven people died late on Monday in a government hospital in Tirupati, a city in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, due to a delay in the arrival of a tanker carrying oxygen, a government official said.
“There were issues with oxygen pressure due to low availability. It all happened within a span of five minutes,” said M Harinarayan, the district’s top bureaucrat said late on Monday, adding the SVR Ruia hospital now had sufficient oxygen.
Sixteen faculty members and a number of retired teachers and employees who had been living on the campus of Aligarh Muslim University, one of India’s most prestigious, had died of coronavirus, the university said.
Adding to the strain on medical facilities, the Indian government has told doctors to look out for signs of mucormycosis or “black fungus” in COVID-19 patients as hospitals report a rise in cases of the rare but potentially fatal infection.
The disease, which can lead to blackening or discoloration over the nose, blurred or double vision, chest pain, breathing difficulties and coughing blood, is strongly linked to diabetes. And diabetes can in turn be exacerbated by steroids such as dexamethasone, used to treat severe COVID-19.
Doctors in the country had to warn against the practice of using cow dung in the belief it will ward off COVID-19, saying there is no scientific evidence for its effectiveness and that it risks spreading other diseases.
In the state of Gujarat in western India, some believers have been going to cow shelters once a week to cover their bodies in cow dung and urine in the hope it will boost their immunity against, or help them recover from, the coronavirus.
“There is no concrete scientific evidence that cow dung or urine work to boost immunity against COVID-19, it is based entirely on belief,” said Dr. J.A. Jayalal, national president at the Indian Medical Association.
India’s second wave has increased calls for a nationwide lockdown and prompted a growing number of states to impose tougher restrictions, impacting businesses and the wider economy.
Production of the Apple iPhone 12 at a Foxconn factory in the southern state of Tamil Nadu has slumped by more than 50 percent because workers infected with COVID-19 have had to leave their posts, two sources told Reuters.
(Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee, Anuron Kumar Mitra, Kannaki Deka, Manas Mishra in Bengaluru and Sudarshan Varadhan in Chennai; Writing by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)


Security experts downplay uranium discovery in Mumbai

Security experts downplay uranium discovery in Mumbai
Updated 11 May 2021

Security experts downplay uranium discovery in Mumbai

Security experts downplay uranium discovery in Mumbai

NEW DELHI: Experts said on Monday that a discovery of uranium was no cause for concern as it did not pose a security threat.
The comments came a day after India’s counterterrorism organization, the National Investigative Agency (NIA), took over the probe of a case involving the recovery of more than 7kg of natural uranium in Mumbai.
“I see a remote possibility of such uranium being misused to pose a threat to the nation,” Rajiv Nayan, a New Delhi-based expert on nonproliferation and arms control at the Manohar Parrikar Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) think tank, told Arab News.
“Theoretically, the possibility of misuse is there, but only details will tell when the persons reveal why they were carrying the natural uranium,” Nayan added.
On May 5, the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in the western Indian state of Maharashtra arrested two individuals for the possession of 7.1 kg of natural uranium worth $3 million in Mumbai.
The ATS lodged a case against Jigar Jayesh Pandya, 27, and Abu Tahir Afzal Choudhary, 31, before sending the samples to the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai — India’s premier nuclear research facility — for testing.
On Thursday, the BARC confirmed that the substance was natural uranium.
According to officials, the duo was attempting to sell the uranium online when the ATS sent a fake customer and secured a substance sample. On Sunday, the NIA took control of the case and registered it under Section 24(1)(a) of the Atomic Energy Act (1962), which makes the possession of uranium without a license illegal and invites stringent punishment.
Both the ATS and the NIA were unavailable for comment when contacted by Arab News on Monday. However, according to media reports, Tahir’s father owns a scrapyard in the Mankhurd area of Mumbai and bought a truck full of factory waste two years ago. The uranium was reportedly among other forms of industrial waste found on the vehicle. This is not the first time authorities have recovered the radioactive material, with Ajay Sahni, a New Delhi-based security expert and director of the Institute for Conflict Management, saying that “such seizures of uranium have taken place.”
Sahni told Arab News: “In the late 1990s or early 2000s, a couple of scrap dealers had picked up quantities of uranium and arrested them. These are low-level people who have accidentally come across a certain amount of uranium and hope to make a little bit of money out of it.”
He added: “I don’t think it raises any basic question of critical security importance. It raises questions of how such material is handled and safeguarded in the country.”
However, he warned that “if it falls into the wrong hands it can be used for very dangerous ends.
“We don’t know the details. It could depend on the nature of individuals and possible connections with terrorists or whether this could have been acquired by terrorists.
“They are not interested in using it for any particular purpose, or they were trying to make money. It depends where something like this goes.”
Sahni termed the find as a “failure” of India’s security system to manage or guard the uranium flow.
“This is a failure of the security system, but it is not easy to say whether it represents a major security failure,” he added.