Biden needs to find the ‘will’ to pursue Israel-Palestine peace, a congressional ally says

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Updated 16 June 2022

Biden needs to find the ‘will’ to pursue Israel-Palestine peace, a congressional ally says

Biden needs to find the ‘will’ to pursue Israel-Palestine peace, a congressional ally says
  • The US must end inaction and convene the stakeholders, who should decide between ‘a one-state option, a two-state option, a federated model, or a Belgium model,’ says Democrat Marie Newman
  • Congresswoman is outspoken critic of Tel Aviv’s policies and human rights violations, including ‘immoral’ home confiscations

CHICAGO: President Joe Biden needs to find the “will” to do the right thing and push Israelis and Palestinians together to achieve peace, one of his strongest supporters in Congress told Arab News Wednesday.

Congresswoman Marie Newman, a Democrat, said the issue of Palestine and Israel is important to her constituents in her former 3rd District, and even more so in the newly drawn 6th District where she is running for re-election in the June 28, 2022 Democratic Primary election.

Newman has been an outspoken critic of the Israeli government’s harsh policies toward Palestinians, including the home confiscations in Sheikh Jarrah and several other human rights violations. But she insisted she supports Israel and the Biden administration, explaining that getting both to do the right thing is not something to be criticized for.

“I wish the answer was yes, Ray, I just don’t think it is there. I think it is not a priority for them. And as much as I scream about it, Rashida screams about it, and Ilhan. There are 10 of us that talk to the State Department regularly about this and it has not been prioritized. We fight, we fight. We fight. Because every fight starts with one person. Then it grows to 10. And then it grows to a thousand. We have to fight,” Newman said.

“It is all about will. We could go in and start peace talks ... and it would take some finessing … because there are many members of Palestine’s various areas that would have to be represented, because there is not just one government entity there. With regards to Israel, we would have to get them to the table. But here is what is important. I am never a fan of forcing what someone’s governmental model should be. Getting them together is the main (aim), convening the stakeholders is our job. The US’ job. If they chose a one-state option, a two-state option, a federated model, a Belgium model, I am okay with it because they chose it as a team. So, let’s let the people who live in the place decide. Let’s not ... I shouldn’t be deciding for them. The American government should not be deciding for them. But it is our job as the leader of the free world to bring them together and to have peace talks and help them get to a place where both can live freely, equally and in justice.”

Newman unseated an entrenched conservative Democrat in March 2020 to represent the 3rd Congressional District which had the largest concentration of Palestinians and Muslims of any of the nation’s 435 congressional districts. Pro-Israel Democrats redrew the district merging it with the 6th District forcing her to face-off on June 28, 2022 with another Democrat, Congressman Sean Casten, hoping Newman might be forced out.

But Newman said the Palestinian, Arab and South Asian Muslim community has doubled in size making the need to speak to Palestinian and Arab needs that much more of an imperative. Newman said nearly 10 percent of the old 3rd District was Palestinian, Arab and South Asian Muslim; the same community in the newly drawn 6th District is “closer to 18 percent.”

Newman praised Biden for supporting many important issues and sponsoring policies to help Americans, but she said the Palestine-Israel conflict is an “additive” issue in his administrative.

“Let’s be very clear. This is additive. Has he done some great things with foreign policies? Is he handling Ukraine well and all those things? But when it comes to Israel and Palestine, we are very conflict-diverse because Israel is a close ally of ours. And it should remain a close ally of ours,” Newman said.

“But let’s be clear. This (supporting Palestine rights) is additive. It is not critical (to Biden). I am saying now is the time to start addressing the issue. Add it to the top of your priority list. It is additive.”

As a result of supporting Palestinian rights, Newman has been attacked as being “anti-Semitic.” The freshman congresswoman has sponsored and supported several pieces of legislation and endorsed resolutions that have criticized Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.

She remains resolute despite the personal attacks: “You can’t be afraid to do the right thing. The right thing, is the right thing.” She said it is becoming easier for members of Congress to support Palestinian rights because American attitudes, especially among the younger generation, are steadily changing.

“At the end of the day, what was even controversial five years ago is not controversial now. The sentiment around Palestine and Israel has really gotten to be a much more realistic look at what the state of the situation is. Years ago, people would just say Israel could do no wrong. Everybody wants Israel to be at peace and be prosperous,” Newman said,

“But when the government and the military mistreat the Palestinians, that is absolutely wrong and I will not stand for it. And humanitarian rights are humanitarian rights. And this is not about religion or anything else. This is about treating humans correctly and that is really where all this is rooted in.”

Newman insisted that criticizing Israel’s government is legitimate and that she is offended by attacks from pro-Israel extremists and even extremist members of Congress who have labeled her “anti-Semitic.”

She said being called anti-Semitic is “infuriating” and very hurtful to her husband, who is Jewish.

“I think you know that my husband is Jewish. I am called anti-Semitic on social media, members of Congress called me anti-Semitic. It is so upsetting to my husband and his family when that happens,” Newman explained.

“I am saying hey Israel, you cannot steal homes. You cannot disrupt people’s lives. You cannot drag people out of their homes and take their homes away from them. No. First of all, it is incredibly immoral but secondly you wouldn’t allow that in France. You wouldn’t allow that in Canada. You wouldn’t allow that in Korea. Why do you let Israel, without speaking up? So we criticize our ally Israel and say, wow, you have a huge humanitarian rights violation issue here. Huge.”

Newman acknowledged there are some in the Arab and Muslim community who want her to be even tougher in her criticism of Israel, but she said that she works closely with the community to get them to understand the reality of achieving peace.

“Because I am close to the community they understand, now, that I mean that Israel should be free, and be their own sovereign entity and be able to prosper and be their own nation. Israel has a right to exist now, too. I want both of them to live in peace and I think they really understand that,” Newman said.

“I think my ability to understand the complexity and the everchanging nature of what is on the ground there is emblematic. And I think people now trust that I constantly seek information and counsel because it is an everchanging situation. What we don’t want is war. We are pro-peace and pro-justice. And I think the community really understands that is my goal, is that we just want freedom for the Palestinians. The occupation is bad for Israel and Palestine, by the way. It is a horrible thing for both of them. It’s not a sustainable model moving forward. It is completely untenable.”

Newman strongly supported a resolution introduced to Congress in May that recognized the Palestinian “Nakba,” the Arabic word for “catastrophe.” Last year, Newman urged Biden to stop Israel’s evictions of Palestinians from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington DC including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio show podcast here: www.arabnews.com/RayRadioShow


Russia’s Lavrov vows aid for West Africa’s extremist fight

Russia’s Lavrov vows aid for West Africa’s extremist fight
Updated 07 February 2023

Russia’s Lavrov vows aid for West Africa’s extremist fight

Russia’s Lavrov vows aid for West Africa’s extremist fight
  • Lavrov made the remarks at a press conference during a visit to Bamako that the Russian envoy described as a ‘historic’ first
  • Lavrov promised Mali further military support and declared Russia’s wider backing for Africa in the face of what he described as the West’s ‘neo-colonial approach’

BAMAKO: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday promised the Kremlin’s help for states in West Africa’s Sahel and the Gulf of Guinea which are facing a ruthless extremist insurgency.
“The fight against terrorism is of course an issue for the other countries in the region,” Lavrov said during a visit to Mali, which Russia is already helping militarily.
“We are going to provide our assistance to them to overcome these difficulties. This concerns Guinea, Burkina Faso and Chad and the Sahel region generally and even the coastal states on the Gulf of Guinea,” he said.
Lavrov made the remarks at a press conference during a visit to Bamako that the Russian envoy described as a “historic” first.
Since seizing power in 2020, Mali’s ruling junta has brought in Russian planes, helicopters and paramilitaries to strengthen its fight against extremist militants.
The closer ties with the Kremlin have coincided with the departure of France, the country’s former colony and traditional ally, which says the Russian operatives are Wagner mercenaries.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the UN have implicated Wagner and the Malian army in an alleged massacre at Moura in central Mali last March in which several hundred people were rounded up and killed.
The landlocked state is the epicenter of an extremist insurgency that began in northern Mali in 2012 and spread to neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso in 2015.
Thousands of civilians have died across the three countries, and millions have fled their homes.
Discontent within the military in Mali and Burkina has spurred two coups in both countries.
Sporadic cross-border attacks have also taken place in Togo, Benin and Ivory Coast in recent years, spurring fears that the extremists are seeking to push southwards to the Gulf of Guinea.
France wound down its long-running military presence in Mali in the face of mounting hostility with the junta and pulled out its last troops in 2022.
Similar tensions have recently broken out between France and Burkina Faso. The French military contingent there, a unit of special forces numbering around 400 men, is to be withdrawn this month.
Lavrov promised Mali further military support and declared Russia’s wider backing for Africa in the face of what he described as the West’s “neo-colonial approach.”
“We are going to provide our support for resolving problems on the African continent,” he said.
“We always start from the basis that African problems must be resolved by African solutions.”


German court rejects climate lawsuit against automaker BMW

German court rejects climate lawsuit against automaker BMW
Updated 07 February 2023

German court rejects climate lawsuit against automaker BMW

German court rejects climate lawsuit against automaker BMW
  • The group Environmental Action Germany argued that manufacturers such as BMW pose a threat to people's right to property, health and life if they continue making vehicles that produce greenhouse gas emissions

BERLIN: A German court on Tuesday rejected a lawsuit by environmental campaigners seeking to force automaker BMW to stop selling vehicles with combustion engine by 2030.
The group Environmental Action Germany, also known by its German acronym DUH, argued that manufacturers such as BMW pose a threat to people’s right to property, health and life if they continue making vehicles that produce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Munich regional court ruled Tuesday that while the plaintiffs’ arguments couldn’t be dismissed from the outset, “at present there is no threat of illegal encroachment” of their rights.
Judges noted that German and European lawmakers, spurred partly by a 2021 ruling by Germany’s top court, have taken numerous measures to achieve the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord. As such there was no absence of laws that would warrant civil action against BMW “at last not at this time,” they said.
The Munich-based automaker welcomed the ruling, saying efforts to cut emissions should be determined by democratically elected parliaments, not in the courts.
DUH said it was satisfied the court had recognized the permissibility of their lawsuit in principle. It plans to appeal the ruling.
The group said vehicles sold by BMW in 2021 were responsible for more emissions of planet-heating carbon dioxide than countries such as Finland or Portugal produce in a year.
A similar lawsuit against Mercedes-Benz was rejected by a German court last year and the appeal is pending.
A third lawsuit, against energy company Wintershall Dea, is scheduled to be heard in August.


Calls mount on Philippine government to review labor agreements with Kuwait 

Calls mount on Philippine government to review labor agreements with Kuwait 
Updated 07 February 2023

Calls mount on Philippine government to review labor agreements with Kuwait 

Calls mount on Philippine government to review labor agreements with Kuwait 
  • In 2018 and 2020, the Philippines banned worker deployment to Kuwait after murder cases
  • Over 268,000 Filipino workers, mostly women employed as domestic helpers, live in Kuwait 

MANILA: Philippine lawmakers are calling on the government to review labor agreements with Kuwait after increasing reports of abuse, including a brutal murder, of Filipino migrant workers. 

The murder of 35-year-old maid Jullebee Ranara, whose charred body was found abandoned in a desert in late January, had sent shockwaves across the Philippines. She was one of over 268,000 Filipino workers living in Kuwait, a group of mostly women employed as domestic helpers. 

After Ranara’s murder, Philippine authorities tightened rules for recruitment agencies in Kuwait. In another case that emerged in the media recently, a Filipina worker in Kuwait was reportedly paralyzed after trying to escape her abusive employer. 

“There is growing clamor for a review of all labor agreements entered by the Philippines with countries of destination to determine specific guidelines and mechanisms needed for the protection of their human rights,” lawmaker Marissa Magsino said in a resolution introduced in the House of Representatives on Monday. 

The agreements, Magsino said, must not only ensure the welfare of overseas Filipino workers and guarantee their access to legal support but also “provide for serious consequences” in cases of abuse. 

She told Arab News on Tuesday that such bilateral labor agreements are very important, “especially with Kuwait,” where about 100 overseas Filipino workers were now at a shelter, waiting for repatriation. 

“They are those who were maltreated, abused, and then they ran away (from their employer),” the lawmaker, who is also a member of the House’s Overseas Workers Affairs committee, said. 

“The only reason why they are in the shelter is that it’s the last recourse for them to seek refuge, to be able to run away from their abusive employers.” 

Ranara’s murder was not the first such incident in Kuwait, where the 2018 killing of a Filipina domestic helper, Joanna Daniela Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer at an abandoned apartment, led to the Philippines imposing a worker deployment ban to the Gulf country. 

The ban was partially lifted that same year after the two countries signed a protection agreement for workers. 

But it was again introduced in January 2020, after the 2019 killings of Filipina maid Constancia Lago Dayag and Jeanelyn Villavende, who was tortured by her employer to death. 

The ban was lifted when Kuwaiti authorities charged Villavende’s employer with murder and sentenced her to hanging. 

According to Sen. Rafael Tulfo, another ban might be needed following the latest incidents. He has also called for a “tighter screening process on foreign employers to avoid abuse and maltreatment of (Overseas Filipino Workers),” his office said in a statement on Monday. 

“The senator,” the statement said, “maintained that his proposed deployment ban to Kuwait can be used as a leverage when the Philippine government sits down with Kuwait for bilateral talks.” 


India’s new Hajj policy promotes women’s pilgrimage, abolishes VIP quota

Muslim Indian pilgrims wait at Jeddah airport prior to the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Makkah. (File/AFP)
Muslim Indian pilgrims wait at Jeddah airport prior to the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Makkah. (File/AFP)
Updated 07 February 2023

India’s new Hajj policy promotes women’s pilgrimage, abolishes VIP quota

Muslim Indian pilgrims wait at Jeddah airport prior to the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Makkah. (File/AFP)
  • 500 spots in India’s annual Hajj quota previously reserved for VIPs
  • New policy allows women pilgrims to embark on Hajj individually

NEW DELHI: Indian authorities have abolished the VIP quota for pilgrims and allowed single women to apply as well, in a step they said on Tuesday was aimed at making the country’s pilgrimage policy more inclusive.

With more than 200 million Indians professing Islam, the Hindu-majority South Asian nation has the world’s largest Muslim-minority population. Every year, more than 150,000 Indian Muslims embark on Hajj, a spiritual journey and one of the five pillars of Islam.

While some of them need to wait years for their turn, there were 500 reserve spots set aside annually for top government officials — a practice that was stopped on Monday under the new Hajj policy released by the Ministry of Minority Affairs.

The new policy also increased the number of pilgrimage embarkation points from 10 to 25, and waived application fees.

A.P. Abdullakutty, chairman of the Haj Committee of India, a statutory body of the Indian government that organizes Islamic pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia, said: “In front of Allah everyone is the same therefore there is no need to have special quotas.”

The policy also allows women to apply individually.

“So far the policy was that women above 45 can travel in groups of four without a male companion, but this time a single woman can also apply,” Abdullakutty added.

A total of 175,000 pilgrims from India will embark on Hajj this year, with the journey of 80 percent of them being handled by the committee, and the remaining 20 percent by private operators.

S. Muawari Begum, vice chairperson of the Hajj committee, told Arab News the new policy was “people friendly and more inclusive toward women.”

India’s civil society saw the move also as a step for India in becoming more accepting of women’s independence.

“To be independent is a different thing and the society accepting the independence of a woman is a different thing,” Jamila Nishat, a women’s rights activist based in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, said.

“This is a good step. This is a step to accept the independence of women.”


Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf buried in Karachi amid tight security measures

Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf buried in Karachi amid tight security measures
Updated 07 February 2023

Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf buried in Karachi amid tight security measures

Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf buried in Karachi amid tight security measures
  • Top military leadership, former army chiefs and politicians attend the funeral at Malir garrison
  • In 1999, after a military career spanning 38 years, Musharraf took power in Pakistan in a bloodless coup

KARACHI: Top military leaders and politicians attended the funeral prayers of former Pakistani president and army chief, General Pervez Musharraf, at a military garrison in the seaside metropolis of Karachi, before he was laid to rest in an army graveyard.

In 2022, Musharraf’s family said he had been hospitalized due to complications from a rare organ disease called amyloidosis. He died on Sunday at a Dubai hospital, aged 79. 

Musharraf’s body and his family reached Karachi via a special flight from Dubai on Monday night, state-run Radio Pakistan reported. 

Strict security arrangements were made for the funeral which media was not allowed to cover. Army and paramilitary forces were deployed outside Malir cantonment and around the military graveyard to prevent any media or members of the public from entering. 

Dr. Muhammad Amjad, former chairman of the Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League, told Arab News the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Sahir Shamshad, former army chiefs Generals Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Qamar Javed Bajwa, former governor Moinuddin Haider and other ex-military officers attended the funeral. 

“Leaders of the PMLN, PTI and MQM also attended,” said Amjad, referring to three major political parties in Pakistan. 

In 1998, after a military career spanning 37 years, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the brother of Pakistan’s current prime minister, appointed Musharraf as army chief. The following year, he seized power and toppled Sharif’s government, citing the deteriorating political and economic conditions in Pakistan. 

In 2002, Musharraf was appointed president, a title he held in addition to army chief, after winning more than 90 percent of the vote in a controversial national referendum. He stepped down as army chief in 2007 and as president in 2008. 

Musharraf subsequently lived in London but returned to Pakistan in 2013 aiming to contest elections later that year. However, he instead faced a slew of court cases and was subsequently banned for life from holding public office. 

In 2016, he left Pakistan for medical treatment in Dubai, where he died on Feb. 5. 

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