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


Russian court lets opposition figure’s jail term stand

Russian court lets opposition figure’s jail term stand
Updated 6 sec ago

Russian court lets opposition figure’s jail term stand

Russian court lets opposition figure’s jail term stand
MOSCOW: A court in Moscow on Wednesday rejected a prominent Russian opposition figure’s appeal of the 15-day jail sentence he received on charges of failing to obey police.
The decision by the Moscow City Court, the capital’s highest municipal judicial body, came one day after Ilya Yashin was sentenced.
Yashin, who has publicly criticized Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, was detained late Monday in a Moscow park. Police said he grabbed an officer by his uniform and insulted police, which Yashin denied.
In May, Yashin was ordered to pay 90,000 rubles ($1700) on charges of discrediting the Russian military.
Russia has cracked down on critics of its “special military operation” in Ukraine, A well-known dissident, Vladimir Kara-Murza, was arrested in April and remains jailed while awaiting trial on charges of spreading false information about the military. The offense carries a potential sentence of up to 15 years.

NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, Madrid summit statement says

NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, Madrid summit statement says
Updated 1 min 15 sec ago

NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, Madrid summit statement says

NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, Madrid summit statement says
  • The alliance also agreed on a new strategic concept

MADRID: NATO has invited Sweden and Finland to become members of the military alliance, a commununique published by the NATO summit in Madrid on Wednesday said.
“The accession of Finland and Sweden will make them (the allies) safer, NATO stronger and the Euro-Atlantic area more secure,” the communique said, adding that the alliance also agreed a new strategic concept.
The communique described Russia as the “most significant and direct threat to the allies’ security,” a reaction to the massively deteriorated relationship to Russia since its invasion of Ukraine.
The alliance pledged further help to Kyiv and agreed a package of support aimed at modernizing the country’s defense sector.
At the same time, NATO decided to significantly strengthen its own deterrence and defense.
“Allies have committed to deploy additional robust in-place combat-ready forces on our eastern flank, to be scaled up from the existing battlegroups to brigade-size units, where and when required underpinned by credible available reinforcements, prepositioned equipment, and enhanced command and control,” the communique said.
In the communique, the alliance described China as a challenge to NATO’s interests, security and values, and as a country that is seeking to undermine the rules-based international order.


EU proposes ban on flavored heated tobacco products

EU proposes ban on flavored heated tobacco products
Updated 47 min 18 sec ago

EU proposes ban on flavored heated tobacco products

EU proposes ban on flavored heated tobacco products
  • A recent commission study showed a 10% increase in sales of heated tobacco products in more than five member nations
  • The ban would cover devices using heated tobacco to produce emissions containing nicotine inhaled by users

BRUSSELS: The European Union’s executive branch on Wednesday proposed a ban on the sale of flavored heated tobacco products as part of its plan to fight cancer.
The European Commission said its proposal comes in response to a significant increase in the volume of such products sold across the 27-nation bloc.
A recent commission study showed a 10 percent increase in sales of heated tobacco products in more than five member nations, while heated tobacco products exceeded 2.5 percent of total sales of tobacco products overall across the region.
The ban would cover devices using heated tobacco to produce emissions containing nicotine inhaled by users. E-cigarettes may contain nicotine, but not tobacco. With traditional cigarettes, users inhale smoke from burning tobacco.
“With nine out of 10 lung cancers caused by tobacco, we want to make smoking as unattractive as possible to protect the health of our citizens and save lives,” said Stella Kyriakides, the commissioner for health and food safety.
According to EU figures, cancer is the second cause of death in the bloc of 450 million residents. There are about 1.3 million cancer deaths and 3.5 million new cases annually in the EU.
An estimated 40 percent of EU citizens will face cancer at some point in their lives, with the annual economic impact estimated at around 100 billion euros ($120 billion).
The European Commission previously said it wanted to ensure that less than 5 percent of the EU population uses tobacco by 2040.
The proposed ban now goes to member nations and European Parliament lawmakers for review.


Taliban and US officials to meet amid quake relief efforts

Taliban and US officials to meet amid quake relief efforts
Updated 29 June 2022

Taliban and US officials to meet amid quake relief efforts

Taliban and US officials to meet amid quake relief efforts
  • Last week’s devastating earthquake in southeastern Afghanistan killed around 770 people
  • Even before the Taliban takeover last year, Afghanistan’s economy had been deeply reliant on foreign aid

ISLAMABAD: Afghan finance and central bank officials from the Taliban-led government departed for Qatar on Wednesday to meet with a US Treasury department official, after last week’s deadly earthquake highlighted how critical relief efforts have stumbled under the weight of the country’s spiraling economic woes.
Last week’s devastating earthquake in southeastern Afghanistan killed around 770 people, according to UN figures, though the Taliban put the death toll at closer to 1,150, with thousands injured. The UN says 155 children are among those killed in what was the deadliest earthquake to hit the impoverished country in two decades.
The quake struck a remote, deeply impoverished region of small towns and villages tucked among rough mountains near the Pakistani border, collapsing stone and mud-brick homes and in some cases killing entire families. Nearly 3,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged in Paktika and Khost provinces.
News of a meeting between Taliban government officials and US officials was confirmed by Taliban Foreign Ministry spokesman Hafiz Zia Ahmad, who said the Afghan delegation will be led by Foreign Minister Maulvi Amir Khan Muttaqi. He said the officials will meet in Doha, Qatar with the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and officials from the US Treasury Department to discuss Afghanistan’s economic and banking sectors.
The Washington Post first reported Tuesday that senior Biden administration officials are working with Taliban leadership on a mechanism to allow Afghanistan’s government to use its central bank reserves to deal with the country’s severe hunger and poverty crises while erecting safeguards to ensure the funds are not misused.
The Biden administration froze some $9 billion in foreign Afghan central reserves after the Taliban seized power last August, prompting a chaotic and deadly withdrawal of US and NATO allied forces, as well as more than 100,00 Afghans and others.
The international sanctions that followed choked off bank transfers for months into the country, even for many aid groups still operating there. Afghans have since struggled to withdraw money from local banks and tens of thousands of public sector employees continue to see their salaries delayed as the Taliban leadership seeks ways to collect taxes and other fees to keep the government running.
No government has yet recognized the Taliban’s rule over Afghanistan. The former insurgents have resisted international pressure to maintain the previous rights gained by Afghan women, instead imposing restrictions on women’s dress and limiting access to schools for teenage girls.
Even before the Taliban takeover last year, Afghanistan’s economy had been deeply reliant on foreign aid. The UN and an array of overstretched aid agencies in the country have tried to keep Afghanistan from the brink of collapse, including the International Committee of the Red Cross which is paying the salaries of health care staff and the operational costs of more than 30 hospitals across the country.
Overstretched aid agencies said the earthquake underscored the need for the international community to rethink its financial cut-off of Afghanistan since Taliban insurgents seized the country. That policy, halting billions in development aid and freezing vital foreign reserves, has helped push the economy into collapse and plunge Afghanistan deeper into humanitarian crises and near famine.
Authorities and charities are struggling to access the far-flung region where the quake struck, and appear overwhelmed by the scale of the damage and the daunting task of debris removal, let alone reconstruction.
Survivors have had to dig through debris with their bare hands to search for missing loved ones as the ground continues to rumble with more aftershocks.


Joe Biden announces US military reinforcements in Europe

Joe Biden announces US military reinforcements in Europe
Updated 27 min 38 sec ago

Joe Biden announces US military reinforcements in Europe

Joe Biden announces US military reinforcements in Europe
  • NATO will be ‘strengthened in all directions across every domain — land, air and sea’

MADRID: President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced US reinforcements of NATO forces in Europe, saying the alliance is needed more today “than it ever has been.”
NATO will be “strengthened in all directions across every domain — land, air and sea,” he told a summit of the transatlantic alliance being held in Madrid.
Biden, who was meeting NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, said the extra forces included: Boosting the fleet of US naval destroyers from four to six in Rota, Spain, a permanent headquarters in Poland of the 5th Army Corps, and an “additional rotational brigade” in Romania, consisting of “3,000 fighters and another 2,000-personnel combat team.”
Other forces vowed were enhanced rotational deployments in the Baltic countries, two additional squadrons of the F-35 stealth plane to Britain, as well as “additional air defense and other capabilities in Germany and in Italy."
“Together with our allies we’re going to make sure that NATO is ready to meet the threats from all directions across every domain,” Biden said.
“In a moment where (Russian President Vladimir) Putin has shattered peace in Europe and attacked the very, very tenets of rule-based order, the United States and our allies, we’re going to step up,” he said.
“We’re stepping up, proving that NATO is more needed now than it ever has been and it’s important as it ever has been.”
Referring to NATO unity on accepting the applications of previously neutral Finland and Sweden to join the alliance, Biden said Putin’s strategy in invading Ukraine had backfired.
“That’s exactly what he didn’t want but exactly what needs to be done to guarantee security for Europe,” Biden said.
Stoltenberg commented that the expansion of NATO was “the opposite” of what Putin hoped for.
A White House statement detailing the reinforcements said that in the Baltics, “we will maintain persistent, heel-to-toe presence in the region and will intensify training.”
This will include “armored, aviation, air defense, and special operations forces, building further interoperability and intensified training with these allies, and enhancing our ability to quickly reinforce and provide combat-credible defenses.”
The additions to the US presence are part of a much wider expansion of NATO capabilities being announced in Madrid, as well as a new strategic blueprint which will highlight the threat from Russia but for the first time also name China as a challenge.
White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the US military expansion in Europe comes on top of reinforcements already sent in the wake of Russia’s Ukraine invasion.
“Since the invasion itself, (Biden) ordered the deployment or extension of over 20,000 additional forces to Europe in response to the crisis, all across the domains... which brought our total to over 100,000 service members across Europe,” Kirby said.