Little difference between ‘toxic’ Trump policies and Biden’s ‘indecisiveness,’ pro-Palestinian activists argue

A dozen pro-Palestinian speakers, from Palestinian leader Hanan Ashrawi to Pink Floyd singer and songwriter Roger Waters, were at the conference entitled “Transcending the Israel Lobby at Home and Abroad.” (Screenshots)
A dozen pro-Palestinian speakers, from Palestinian leader Hanan Ashrawi to Pink Floyd singer and songwriter Roger Waters, were at the conference entitled “Transcending the Israel Lobby at Home and Abroad.” (Screenshots)
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Updated 05 March 2022

Little difference between ‘toxic’ Trump policies and Biden’s ‘indecisiveness,’ pro-Palestinian activists argue

A dozen pro-Palestinian speakers, from Palestinian leader Hanan Ashrawi to Pink Floyd singer and songwriter Roger Waters, were at the conference entitled “Transcending the Israel Lobby at Home and Abroad.” (Screenshots)
  • Conference in Washington D.C. brought pro-Palestinian speakers and activists together to discuss Israel’s manipulation of media coverage

CHICAGO: A dozen pro-Palestinian speakers, from Palestinian leader Hanan Ashrawi to Pink Floyd singer and songwriter Roger Waters, told a gathering of activists in Washington D.C. Friday that Israel manipulates news media coverage and hides behind accusations of anti-Semitism to justify its hypocritical policies on Palestine.

The annual conference entitled “Transcending the Israel Lobby at Home and Abroad,” attended virtually by Arab News, scaled the enormous breadth of anti-Palestinian policies not only in Israel but also from America and challenges that exist with the current administration of President Joe Biden.

Ashrawi said a thin line separates the “toxic policies” of Donald Trump and the “indecisiveness” of Biden.

“Settlers are on a rampage everywhere in Palestine. The annexation and expansion of settlements and home demolitions are going on at twice the rate in which they were carried out during in the Trump period. During Biden, the escalation of violations is incredible and is enormous. The extra-judicial executions, daily killings of our people continue with full impunity,” Ashrawi said from her home in Ramallah in Occupied Palestine.

“And Israel, as they say, is taking advantage of the US weakness and indecision. They are very happy that they think of the Biden administration as indecisive, and they are quite happy to live with timid verbal reprimands with no consequences. The rate at which the destruction is taking place and the killings is so accelerated.”

Ashrawi said Biden opposes “settlement expansion” but does not speak out to confront existing “illegal settlements,” a major change from previous administrations. She said the Biden administration allows Israel’s government to “set the policies” for America, including having to “ask” Israel for permission to do things they have the power to do, such as re-opening the consulate in East Jerusalem or re-joining organizations such as UNESCO.

American policy changed dramatically, Ashrawi said, under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who declared US policies had to “pivot away from the Middle East” because achieving peace was difficult.

Sut Jhally, professor of communication at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and executive director of the Media Education Foundation, said many of the challenges Palestinian face is the result of a deliberate propaganda campaign by Israel to define Palestinians as terrorists and Israelis as defenders.

Jhally said that until late in the 1980s, the mainstream news media was fair and often criticized and challenged Israeli actions. 

“Such coverage is unthinkable today ... Journalism in the US doesn’t exist today,” Jhally said. One strategy was to counter justice for Palestinians with threats of terrorism against Israelis. Reverse the reality, he said Israelis were advised, and always start their propaganda with repetitive phrases such as “Hamas rockets” and “Palestinian terrorism,” not with Israeli violence.

Jhally said that in the 1990s, Israelis gathered marketing and media experts to redefine how the conflict was being presented to the public, dubbed “Hasbara,” and strategize on managing news media coverage. “Propaganda is not a dirty word,” Jhally said media experts told Israel. The Hasbara strategists also recommended to “avoid history and avoid facts” in speaking to Americans, Western audiences and media.

Waters, who has organized boycotts of Israel by some of the world’s most famous artists, said he is often attacked as being “anti-Semitic” because he supports human rights for Palestinians. 

“I support the fight for human rights of all people everywhere,” Waters said defiantly.

Waters, who has called Israel a “terrorist, apartheid regime,” said there is a positive impact for Palestinians from the artist boycotts on Israel, educating fans about Israel’s apartheid policies and violence.

He said he speaks out in defense of human rights across the world, but said his voice in support of Palestinians “by far draws the most ire.”

“We know what anti-Semitism means and it does not mean criticizing the state of Israel, you a------,” Waters said to cheers. “No conversation about Israel is possible without using the word apartheid. Because Israel is an apartheid nation.”

Speakers addressing the conference included Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy, who said Israelis simply close their eyes to reality, denouncing the occupation and violence in Ukraine while saying nothing about occupation and violence in the occupied West Bank.

Rev. Donald Wagner, former national director of Friends of Sabeel-North America and Middle East studies professor, spent years studying “Christian Zionism” and explained the powerful impact American Christians from the far right have on US policy against the Palestinians. Ironically, the Christian Palestinian population has dropped significantly from 13 percent at the start of the 1967 occupation to under 1 percent, today.

Huwaida Arraf, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and who is running as a Democratic candidate for Congress in Michigan’s 10th District, said her activism fighting for Palestinian human rights prepares her for fighting for the rights of families in her district.

“Around me, my neighbors, there are human rights violations being committed every day. They are not the same as what I saw in Palestine, for sure,” Arraf said.

“When you have to decide between putting food on the table and heating your home, you are not free ... when you have to ration your medication, when you are afraid to go to the hospital because you cannot afford the hospital bill, you are being denied, you are not free.”

She said her focus is “putting people at the center of our policies whether they are foreign or right here.”

Arraf said she expects her critics to avoid the real issues and instead attack her falsely in the campaign as being “anti-Semitic.”

The conference was organized by the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs magazine, based in Washington D.C., and the Institute for Research and Middle East Policy.


Senior UAE and Japan ministers vow to strengthen ties beyond 50th year of relations

Senior UAE and Japan ministers vow to strengthen ties beyond 50th year of relations
Updated 14 sec ago

Senior UAE and Japan ministers vow to strengthen ties beyond 50th year of relations

Senior UAE and Japan ministers vow to strengthen ties beyond 50th year of relations

TOKYO: Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology for the United Arab Emirates and Special Envoy to Japan, talked with Japan’s Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa on Thursday with the two ministers resolving to use the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries to enhance cooperation even further.

Al Jaber and Hayashi said they would continue to work together under the Comprehensive and Strategic Partnership Initiative (CSPI) to further strengthen cooperation in various fields and elevate the strategic partnership to the next level looking toward the next 50 years, the foreign ministry in Tokyo said.

Minister Al Jaber once again offered his condolences on the passing of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. 

This article was originally published in Japanese on Arab News Japan


UK, Pakistan reach deal over criminal deportations

UK, Pakistan reach deal over criminal deportations
Updated 18 August 2022

UK, Pakistan reach deal over criminal deportations

UK, Pakistan reach deal over criminal deportations
  • Reciprocal agreement to expedite return of offenders from both countries

LONDON: The UK has signed a deal with Pakistan to expedite the deportation of criminals and rejected asylum seekers, The Times reported on Thursday.
Home Secretary Priti Patel pushed for the reciprocal deal, which encourages both countries to accept the return of deported criminals, including those who violate immigration law.
The UK has struggled in the past in dealing with the Pakistani government on matters related to criminal deportations. Among foreign criminals in Britain, Pakistanis make up the seventh-largest nationality.
The deal with the South Asian country follows similar agreements with Serbia, Nigeria, Albania and India.
Patel reportedly has plans to create a performance table of countries based on their willingness to cooperate over the return of foreign criminals from Britain.
The table aims to ease the burden on the UK immigration system, with “uncooperative” countries set to face increased bureaucracy and costs for travelers entering Britain.


Philippine official cites Saudi Arabia’s commitment to migrant workers’ rights

Philippine official cites Saudi Arabia’s commitment to migrant workers’ rights
Updated 18 August 2022

Philippine official cites Saudi Arabia’s commitment to migrant workers’ rights

Philippine official cites Saudi Arabia’s commitment to migrant workers’ rights
  • Over 150 countries voted in favor of the UN Global Compact on Migration with the exception of five countries
  • Saudi Arabia has signed 23 agreements with labor-exporting countries, the contents of which conform to international standards

DUBAI: Philippine migrant workers secretary Susan Ople has cited Saudi Arabia’s commitment to support migrant workers’ rights, as she announced stricter measures to protect the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), particularly domestic workers.

The official, in a statement highlighted Saudi Arabia’s “public expression of support for the UN Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which declares that the protection of migrants and migrant workers is a shared responsibility among States.”

“Even countries where the sponsorship or ‘Kafala system’ is in place have signed this UN document, signifying their support to sound migration governance and humane treatment of migrant workers, including those in vulnerable occupations such as domestic work,” Ople said in her statement.

Over 150 countries voted in favor of the UN Global Compact on Migration with the exception of five countries: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Poland and the United States.

Sattam Alharbi, Deputy Minister of Human Resource and Social Development, in an earlier UN forum in New York, reiterated the robust partnership between the Philippines, as the labor-sending country, and Saudi Arabia, a country of migrant labor destination.

Saudi Arabia has signed 23 agreements with labor-exporting countries, the contents of which are per international standards, to ensure a partnership based on the promotion of human rights between employees and employers.

In 2021, about 1.6 million overseas Filipinos comprised Saudi Arabia’s 13.49 million expatriate population. Saudi Arabia is the leading destination for OFWs, making about 26.6 percent of those being deployed.

“Safeguarding the rights and welfare of our migrant workers is at the heart of the DMW’s programs, services, and agreements. We will always strive to do our best amid so many challenges in the world we live in,” Ople said.

Some of the initiatives to be put in place to ensure protection of OFWs include the performance review and assessment of licensed recruitment agencies and their foreign counterparts, the issuance of country-specific employment contracts taking, stricter guidelines to only qualified and fully trained household workers are deployed abroad and white-listing of ethical recruitment agencies and foreign recruitment agencies.

Meanwhile, the names of foreign employers and recruitment agencies, both local and foreign, that have been blacklisted due to recruitment and labor violations would be published as a warning to the public.


Death toll from Kabul mosque blast now at 21

Death toll from Kabul mosque blast now at 21
Updated 18 August 2022

Death toll from Kabul mosque blast now at 21

Death toll from Kabul mosque blast now at 21
  • No immediate claim of responsibility for the attack
  • Several children were reported to be among the wounded

KABUL: A bombing at a mosque in the Afghan capital of Kabul during evening prayers killed at least 21 people, including a prominent cleric, and wounded at least 33 others, eyewitnesses and police said Thursday.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack Wednesday night, the latest to strike the country in the year since the Taliban seized power. Several children were reported to be among the wounded.

The Daesh group’s local affiliate has stepped up attacks targeting the Taliban and civilians since the former insurgents’ takeover last August as US and NATO troops were in the final stages of their withdrawal from the country. Last week, the extremists claimed responsibility for killing a prominent Taliban cleric at his religious center in Kabul.

Khalid Zadran, the spokesman for Kabul’s Taliban police chief, gave the figures for the bombing at the Siddiquiya mosque in the city’s Kher Khanna neighborhood. An eyewitness said the explosion was carried out by a suicide bomber.

The slain cleric was Mullah Amir Mohammad Kabuli, the eyewitness said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid condemned the explosion and vowed that the “perpetrators of such crimes will soon be brought to justice and will be punished.”

There were fears the casualty numbers could rise further. On Thursday morning, one witness to the blast who gave his name as Qyaamuddin said he believed as many as 25 people may have been killed in the blast.

“It was evening prayer time, and I was attending the prayer with others, when the explosion happened,” Qyaamuddin said. Some Afghans go by a single name.

AP journalists could see the blue-roofed, Sunni mosque from a nearby hillside. The Taliban parked police trucks and other vehicles at the mosque, while several men carried out one casket for a victim of the attack.

A US-led invasion toppled the previous Taliban government, which had hosted Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Since regaining power, the former insurgents have faced a crippling economic crisis as the international community, which does not recognize the Taliban government, froze funding to the country. On Thursday, the Taliban hosted a gathering of 3,000 tribal elders, religious scholars and others in Kandahar, their state-run Bakhtar News Agency reported. It wasn’t immediately clear what topics they planned to discuss.

Separately, the Taliban confirmed on Wednesday that they had captured and killed Mehdi Mujahid in western Herat province as he was trying to cross the border into Iran.

Mujahid was a former Taliban commander in the district of Balkhab in northern Sar-e-Pul province, and the only member of the minority Shiite Hazara community among the Taliban ranks.

Mujahid had turned against the Taliban over the past year, after opposing decisions made by Taliban leaders in Kabul.


Former Malaysian PM Najib’s lawyer wants out of case; court says no

Former Malaysian PM Najib’s lawyer wants out of case; court says no
Updated 18 August 2022

Former Malaysian PM Najib’s lawyer wants out of case; court says no

Former Malaysian PM Najib’s lawyer wants out of case; court says no
  • Defense lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik says he made an error of judgment in accepting the case
  • Najib is seeking to overturn his jail sentence for corruption in a high-stakes legal gambit 

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia: Malaysia’s top court on Thursday began hearing ex-leader Najib Razak’s appeal to overturn his jail sentence for corruption in a high-stakes legal gambit that could see him locked up or potentially launching a political comeback.
The Federal Court on Tuesday dismissed the former prime minister’s plea for a retrial, clearing the way for the hearings, which will be held until August 26.
But as the hearing started, defense lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, surprised the court by telling the panel of five judges that he wanted to be discharged from the case.
“I would like to start by tendering the following apology from the bottom of my heart. I am unable to proceed with this appeal,” Hisyam said.
“It was an error of my judgment when I accepted the case,” he said.
The court had earlier dismissed Hisyam’s request for three to four months to prepare.
Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat told the lawyer that he cannot just discharge himself and called for a break.
“You still want to discharge yourself and leave your client unrepresented? In our mind, you cannot discharge yourself. You have to carry on,” the chief justice said.
Najib, 69, and his ruling party were roundly defeated in 2018 elections following allegations of their involvement in a multi-billion dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB.
He and his associates were accused of stealing billions of dollars from the country’s investment vehicle and spending it on everything from high-end real estate to pricey art.
Following a lengthy High Court trial, Najib was found guilty of abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust over the transfer of 42 million ringgit ($10.1 million) from a former 1MDB unit to his personal bank account.
He was sentenced to 12 years in jail in July 2020, and an appellate court last December rejected his appeal, prompting him to mount a final plea before the Federal Court.
Najib had been hoping the court would grant a full retrial but that request was unanimously rejected on Tuesday.
Dressed in a dark suit and white mask, Najib arrived in court Thursday and waved to around 70 supporters, who shouted “bossku,” meaning “my boss,” which has turned into a rallying cry among his defenders.
If the conviction is upheld, Najib will begin serving his jail sentence immediately, lawyers said.
An acquittal, however, could propel him into contention for his former political post, as he remains popular in Malaysia despite the scandal that plagued his administration.
He remains an elected member of parliament with the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the leading party in the current government.