American Jewish groups support Ben & Jerry’s decision to end sales in Occupied Territories

Ben & Jerry's announced that it will stop selling ice cream in the Israel-occupied Palestinian territories since it was
Ben & Jerry's announced that it will stop selling ice cream in the Israel-occupied Palestinian territories since it was "inconsistent with our values." (AFP)
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Updated 23 July 2021

American Jewish groups support Ben & Jerry’s decision to end sales in Occupied Territories

Ben & Jerry's announced that it will stop selling ice cream in the Israel-occupied Palestinian territories since it was "inconsistent with our values." (AFP)
  • The company stressed that its decision only applies to illegal Israeli settlements inside the Occupied Territories, and not to Israel
  • The US government does not officially recognize Israeli settlements built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as part of Israel

ATLANTA: Iconic ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling its products in illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories has reignited the debate over whether international companies should boycott Israeli settlements as part of the effort to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.

Officials from two Republican-controlled states — Texas and Florida — weighed in on the debate on Thursday, issuing statements threatening Ben & Jerry’s parent company Unilever with sanctions if the ice-cream brand does not reverse its decision. Officials also called on their citizens to boycott Ben & Jerry’s.

Texas and Florida are two of the 35 American states to have passed laws, or to have executive orders, that prevent companies from participating in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that is designed to negatively impact Israel’s economy as a way of protesting its actions against Palestine.

Israel’s Ambassador to the US Gilad Erdan sent a letter to the governors of those 35 states demanding they take legal action against Ben & Jerry’s. Israeli officials and pro-Israeli groups in the US have called the company’s decision “anti-Semitic,” “anti-Israel,” and “a new form of terrorism.”

Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street — an influential liberal Jewish group based in Washington D.C, issued a statement rejecting those labels, however.  

“When a major ice-cream company founded by two Jewish entrepreneurs decides not to sell its products in occupied Palestinian territory, that isn’t antisemitism. It doesn’t ‘dehumanize Jews.’ It’s not an act of violence or hatred,” he said. “What it does is draw a principled and rational distinction between commercial transactions inside the sovereign State of Israel, and those in the territory it occupies.”

Ben-Ami also decried Erdan for interfering in domestic US politics and for lobbying to pass “constitutionally dubious laws” — a reference to anti-BDS laws — that undermine the First Amendment rights of American citizens, then demanding the use of such laws against Ben & Jerry’s.

Rabbi Les Bronstein, board co-chair of the New York-based Jewish organization T’ruah, which represents more than 2,000 rabbis and their communities in North America, released a similar statement describing the labeling of Ben & Jerry’s decision as anti-Semitic as a “deliberate attempt to distract from the significant human rights violations faced by Palestinians every day.”

Bronstein called on American officials to reject calls to penalize Ben & Jerry’s and also criticized Erdan.

“Asking the US to target the company under unconstitutional anti-BDS laws is political gamesmanship with very real consequences,” he said. “We call on American officials to reject the request to penalize Ben & Jerry’s under anti-BDS laws, which violate the First Amendment and open the door to much broader government control of public discourse.”

Ben & Jerry’s is well-known for its support of various social causes. In a statement early last week, the company said: “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.”

Vermont-based pro-Palestinian human rights organization Vermonters for Justice in Palestine (VTJP) has, since 2013, called on Ben & Jerry’s to remove its products from illegal Israeli settlements.

The company stressed that its decision only applies to illegal Israeli settlements inside the Occupied Territories, and not to Israel.

The US government does not officially recognize Israeli settlements built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as part of Israel.

Israel occupied the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Syrian Golan Heights during the 1967 war and has since constructed hundreds of settlements for Jewish residents — an action that violates international law, which bans occupying powers from moving their own citizens into occupied territories.


Salih calls for respect for Iraqi sovereignty

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (R), and Barham Salih, President of the Republic of Iraq, meeting during the the 76th session of the UNGA. (AP)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (R), and Barham Salih, President of the Republic of Iraq, meeting during the the 76th session of the UNGA. (AP)
Updated 14 sec ago

Salih calls for respect for Iraqi sovereignty

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (R), and Barham Salih, President of the Republic of Iraq, meeting during the the 76th session of the UNGA. (AP)
  • President: Iraq, Iran should maintain ties based on mutual respect
  • Concerns raised over hardships caused by Iranian, Turkish dams

WASHINGTON D.C.: Iraqi President Barham Salih said his country should not be used as a proxy by its more powerful neighbors Iran and Turkey to settle regional conflicts.

Speaking at an event hosted on Wednesday by the Council on Foreign Relations, he added that Iran might be wary of Iraq’s reemergence as a regional power in the future, but that both countries should maintain ties based on mutual respect.

Iran maintains a powerful influence on Iraqi domestic politics through political parties and militias that receive political and financial support from Tehran.

Salih, who is attending the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, said Iraq and Iran should treat each other as “sovereign states.”

He added that he met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the UNGA, and discussed bilateral relations and Ankara’s incursions into Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish militants.

Salih said recent droughts and the loss of agricultural land, mainly due to dams built by Turkey and Iran that restrict the flow of water downstream to Iraq, are causing severe problems for his country.

Iraq depends for its agriculture on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which flow downstream to Syria and Iraq from Turkey.

An extensive Turkish dam system has restricted the flow of the rivers downstream, causing severe droughts in both Arab countries.

Similarly, Iranian dams have caused drought and economic hardship in Iraq, especially in the Kurdish region.

Salih said the situation will worsen as Iraq’s population of around 40 million is projected to double by 2050.

He stressed the need for Iraq to establish long-term economic planning to address an eventual drop in its oil sales — which represent the majority of its income — due to emerging technologies that do not depend on oil.

Salih discussed Iraq seeking stronger economic ties with Jordan and Egypt, including connecting the three countries with a common electrical grid and building an Iraqi oil pipeline that goes through Jordan.


Ethiopia will ‘pay price’ for Renaissance Dam: Arab League chief

Ethiopia will ‘pay price’ for Renaissance Dam: Arab League chief
Updated 23 September 2021

Ethiopia will ‘pay price’ for Renaissance Dam: Arab League chief

Ethiopia will ‘pay price’ for Renaissance Dam: Arab League chief

Ethiopia will “pay the price” for constructing the Renaissance Dam, which has caused a crisis between Addis Ababa on the one hand, and Cairo and Khartoum on the other, said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

“It is a dam of ruin for two Arab countries (Egypt and Sudan),” he said, adding that the “tragic situation” facing the Arab world in recent times has given Turkey, Iran, Israel and Ethiopia an opportunity to interfere in the region’s affairs.

Aboul Gheit said his priority at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly is to focus on the Palestinian issue again, to which he “will demand a political solution.”


Israeli court hears custody fight over cable car survivor, 6

Israeli court hears custody fight over cable car survivor, 6
Updated 23 September 2021

Israeli court hears custody fight over cable car survivor, 6

Israeli court hears custody fight over cable car survivor, 6
  • Eitan Biran’s relatives on both sides attended the session in Tel Aviv
  • Eitan’s immediate family was among 14 people killed when the cable car carrying them crashed into a mountainside in May

JERUSALEM: The bitter custody battle over a 6-year-old boy who survived a cable car crash in Italy inched forward in Israel on Monday with a hearing in family court.
Eitan Biran’s relatives on both sides attended the session in Tel Aviv, in a legal fight that spans both countries where his remaining relatives reside. Eitan’s immediate family was among 14 people killed when the cable car carrying them crashed into a mountainside in May. The child’s survival sparked an immediate international dispute between his maternal and paternal families.
Members of both families met in family court in Tel Aviv on Monday, a next step in the dispute. Those present included Eitan’s aunt Aya Biran, who lives in Italy and has filed a formal request with the Italian court system seeking Eitan’s return to Italy. Also attending Monday’s hearing was the child’s grandfather, Shmulik Peleg, who spirited the boy away to Israel.
Eitan’s relatives in Italy say he was taken without their knowledge and are seeking his return. The child’s relatives in Israel have denied to local media that they abducted Eitan and insist they are acting in his interest.
Peleg has acknowledged driving the child from Italy into Switzerland before flying him back to Israel, telling Channel 12 that “we departed in a totally legal way.”
Peleg was questioned by Israeli police on kidnapping suspicions and placed under house arrest pending an ongoing investigation.
Italian authorities also have opened an investigation. Peleg told Israel’s Channel 12 that he had given up on contesting custody in the Italian court system and said he expected the boy to understand once he got older.
“I believe that one day Eitan will grow up and say grandfather, you did everything for me, you saved me,” he said, breaking into tears. “And my daughter, who one day will meet me in heaven, will be proud of me that I saved her son.”


Houthis must be re-designated a terrorist organization: senior Yemeni official

Houthis must be re-designated a terrorist organization: senior Yemeni official
Updated 23 September 2021

Houthis must be re-designated a terrorist organization: senior Yemeni official

Houthis must be re-designated a terrorist organization: senior Yemeni official
  • The US State Department early this year lifted a terrorist designation against the Houthis

DUBAI: The Houthi militia must be re-designated as a terrorist organization to curb its violence-driven ambitions in Yemen and force it to talk peace in the war-torn country, a senior Yemeni official said.

The brief designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization during former US President Donald Trump’s tenure was a positive step, Muammar Al-Eryani, the minister of information, was quoted by state news agency SABA as saying.

And he added that during the designation period, the Houthi’s efforts declined and its various military operations stopped.

In a virtual meeting with Peter Derrek Hof, the Dutch ambassador to Yemen, Al-Eryani called on the international community and the European Union to take serious steps to re-designate the Iran-backed group as a terrorist organization.

The US State Department earlier this year lifted the terrorist designation against the Houthis that the Trump administration issued during its final days on the grounds that it would cause more suffering to millions of Yemenis than the militia force.

Al-Eryani emphasized that the Yemeni government made concessions to various peace efforts to ‘reach peace and in order to end the war imposed by the Iran-backed Houthi militia.’

Meanwhile, foreign affairs minister Ahmad Awadh bin Mubarak and his Irish counterpart Simon Coveney met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s meetings to discuss latest developments in Yemen.

The two discussed the Houthi militia’s military escalation in Marib and targeting populated areas, Iran’s role in destabilizing Yemen and the region, as well as how the UN Security Council could help achieve lasting peace in the country.


Sudan’s military strikes out at civilian politicians after coup attempt

Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Burhan Abdelrahman
Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Burhan Abdelrahman
Updated 23 September 2021

Sudan’s military strikes out at civilian politicians after coup attempt

Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Burhan Abdelrahman
  • Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan said the military was the group most interested in the transition to democracy and elections, scheduled for early 2024

KHARTOUM: Sudanese military leaders said on Wednesday the civilian politicians they share power with had opened the door to a coup attempt by neglecting public welfare while they were consumed by internal squabbles.
A body known as the Sovereign Council has ruled Sudan under a fragile power-sharing deal between the military and civilians since the overthrow of Omar Bashir in 2019 but their relationship has remained fractious since then.
Military authorities said on Monday they had detained 21 officers who had attempted to take power in the early hours of the day. The threat appeared to have escalated the tensions between the partners.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia condemned the coup attempt Al-Arabiya TV reported on Wednesday, citing the country’s Foreign Ministry.
Egypt also condemned the coup attempt and stressed its support for its neighbor’s transitional government.
In a statement on its official Facebook page, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry affirmed its support for efforts by Sudan’s government to meet the aspirations of its people at this important stage in the country’s history.
Cairo stressed its keenness to see stability and security in Sudan, and condemned any attempt to obstruct development efforts there.
Speaking at a military graduation in Omdurman, Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, head of the Sovereign Council, and his deputy General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, accused the civilian politicians of seeking personal gains and forgetting the aims of the revolution.
“The politicians gave an opportunity for the coup because they neglected the citizen and his livelihood and basic services and were occupied with fighting over seats and divvying up positions,” Dagalo said, in unusually strong criticism of the civilian team.
After the coup attempt, civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok reiterated calls to restructure the military and bring its business interests under civilian oversight, a key source of dispute, in a speech that did not emphasize military-civilian unity as he has done previously.
Political parties called on citizens to reject military rule and protect the revolution. Burhan called such statements “unacceptable.”
“Who should they rise to protect the revolution against? From us, the military? We are the ones who are protecting it from them, the ones who want to steal it.”
Burhan said the military was the group most interested in the transition to democracy and elections, scheduled for early 2024.
“They are occupied with fighting and yelling and are directing all their arrows at us,” he said.
Both men said they felt their forces were unappreciated.
“The military is met with humiliation and insults day and night, so how can there not be coups,” said Dagalo.