Top UK Catholic urges PM Liz Truss to reconsider Tel Aviv-Jerusalem embassy move

Cardinal Vincent Nichols posted on Twitter on Thursday to say he had penned a letter to Truss about his concerns over the potential move. (AP/File Photo)
Cardinal Vincent Nichols posted on Twitter on Thursday to say he had penned a letter to Truss about his concerns over the potential move. (AP/File Photo)
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Updated 07 October 2022

Top UK Catholic urges PM Liz Truss to reconsider Tel Aviv-Jerusalem embassy move

Top UK Catholic urges PM Liz Truss to reconsider Tel Aviv-Jerusalem embassy move
  • Nichols also said that moving the embassy would be “seriously damaging” to international reputation of UK

LONDON: The top Catholic cardinal in the UK has urged prime minister Liz Truss not to move the British embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols posted on Twitter on Thursday to say he had penned a letter to Truss about his concerns over the potential move.

“I have written to the Prime Minister to express profound concern over her call for a review of the location of the British Embassy to the State of Israel, with the suggestion that it might be moved away from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” he tweeted.

Truss, who took up her position as prime minister last month, said recently she was reviewing whether or not to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv, a move that would mirror a controversial decision made by former US president Donald Trump in 2018 to move the American embassy to Jerusalem.

Nichols also said that moving the embassy would be “seriously damaging” for “any possibility of lasting peace in the region” as well as to the “international reputation of the United Kingdom.”

The head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has consistently called for maintaining the status quo on the issue of Jerusalem.

Israel currently claims the whole of the city as its capital, but the Palestinian Authority wants East Jerusalem to form the capital of any future state.

Speaking to Reuters, a spokesperson for the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office said Truss understood the “importance and sensitivity” of the location of the British embassy in Israel.


Morocco reaps cash, clout from fertilizer supply shock

Morocco reaps cash, clout from fertilizer supply shock
Updated 9 sec ago

Morocco reaps cash, clout from fertilizer supply shock

Morocco reaps cash, clout from fertilizer supply shock

RABAT: A global fertilizer supply shock deepened by Russia’s Ukraine invasion has brought boom times for the North African phosphate superpower Morocco and earned the country new diplomatic capital.

Rabat is using the leverage especially in the decades-old fight over the disputed desert territory of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony also claimed by Algeria-backed rebels, analysts say.

Morocco is set to chalk up record revenues for a second year running as farmers worldwide scramble for phosphate, made scarce by sanctions against top world producer Russia and a Chinese ban on exports.

Phosphate is a key ingredient of artificial fertilizers, which are vital for industrial agriculture and global grain supplies despite the long-term damage they inflict on soil and groundwater.

“It’s a strategic mineral for the future because it’s crucial for global food security,” said Abderrahim Handouf, an agricultural policy expert.

“As populations grow, fertilizers are the most effective way to increase farm productivity.”

According to Morocco’s state-owned phosphates firm OCP, the country controls around 31 percent of the international trade in the substance.

The OCP, which holds a national monopoly in the trade, is on track to record more than 131 billion dirhams ($12.4 billion) in revenue this year, up 56 percent on 2021 — already a bumper year.

Even before the start of the year, prices had been edging higher as the world emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic and market leaders like China imposed export restrictions, said sector expert Mounir Halim.

There was also “strong demand from India, one of the world’s biggest importers, which had exhausted its stocks,” Halim said.

Then as Western powers imposed sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, prices of fertilizer shot up.

That made Morocco a vital alternative supplier. 

The kingdom’s exports of phosphates and their derivatives jumped by two thirds year-on-year in the first nine months of 2022, according to the latest official figures.

Morocco has around 70 percent of the world’s phosphate reserves, and has been mining four sites since 1921, including in the disputed Western Sahara.

Morocco’s OCP has ramped up its production capacity by a factor of four since 2008, hitting 12 million tons last year, on target to reach 15 million by the end of 2023.

That makes it a major player in a global market fearful of further supply shocks.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization warned in a report this year that “fertilizer supplies remain restricted, stocks are depleted and geopolitical tensions could spark additional supply restrictions at short notice.”

The result is that Morocco is enjoying not only an influx of cash, but also growing diplomatic muscle, particularly on Western Sahara.

The kingdom sees the vast stretch of desert as an integral part of its territory, but the Polisario movement backed by Morocco’s arch-rival Algeria seeks independence there.

Rabat has placed the question at the heart of its diplomacy.

King Mohammed VI in August demanded that Morocco’s allies “clarify” their stances on the issue, calling it “the prism through which Morocco views its international environment.”

According to L’Economiste, a Moroccan French-language newspaper, OCP has become “the economic arm of Moroccan diplomacy.”

In September, Rabat recalled a shipment of 50,000 tons of fertilizer destined for Peru after Lima restored diplomatic relations with the Polisario’s self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

But as well as sticks, OCP offers carrots.

The firm has been expanding its presence across Africa, with branches in 16 countries, a fertilizer factory in Nigeria and a deal signed in September to open another one in Ethiopia.


Palestinian Santa brings festive cheer to Jerusalem

Palestinian Santa brings festive cheer to Jerusalem
Updated 9 min 11 sec ago

Palestinian Santa brings festive cheer to Jerusalem

Palestinian Santa brings festive cheer to Jerusalem

JERUSALEM: In Jerusalem’s Old City there are dozens of churches, but as Christmas beckons there is just one Santa Claus — a towering Palestinian former basketball player.

Each December, the streets sparkle green and red as Christian pilgrims and others arrive to celebrate Christmas in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

Seven years ago one resident, Issa Kassissieh, transformed the ground floor of his 700-year-old home into a grotto, complete with candy, mulled wine and a chance to sit on Santa’s lap.

Welcoming the season’s first visitors to Santa House, the red-suited and bearded Kassissieh belted out a “Ho, ho, ho!” at families queueing to see him.

“We are dealing with many religions here in Jerusalem. We have Muslims, Christians and Jews. I have all religions come to my house. I open my hands to everybody,” said Kassissieh, himself a Christian.

Among the visitors were a group of Israeli tourists, as well as two priests who blessed the opening with prayers in Arabic and the ancient language of Aramaic.

At 1.9 meters tall, Kassissieh’s height served him well as captain of the Palestinian basketball squad, and does not seem to intimidate the children he towers over.

“I’m not a Christian, but I still love Santa Claus ... We have a (Christmas) tree at home too,” said eight-year-old Marwa, a Palestinian Muslim, grinning.

Visitors from around the world also lined up to sit on Santa’s lap, and to find out if they were on his naughty or nice list.

Alison Pargiter, from the US, waited with her children.

“It is important that our kids have fun, but we also want them to know the true story behind Christmas,” the 52-year-old said.

At Santa House, Kassissieh said his young visitors have more modern concerns.

“Every child asks me for an iPhone,” he chuckled.

“I never promise anything, but I say: ‘Let’s pray, and if you’re on my good list, you will get it’.”

As a child, Kassissieh’s father would dress up as Santa for him and his two sisters.

Fifteen years ago, he found his father’s suit and decided to slip into the red velvet role.

But it has involved more than just putting on a suit.

Since then, he has attended the World Santa Claus Congress in Denmark and studied at a Santa school — yes, there is such a thing — in the US state of Colorado.

Kassissieh displayed a certificate from another center of Santa learning, the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School, and said his training makes him Jerusalem’s only accredited Santa.

Based in Michigan, the Howard school traces its establishment to 1937, making it the world’s longest-running.

In his role, he is all too aware of the sensitivities in Jerusalem.


‘Farha’: Palestinians reject Israeli backlash against Nakba film

‘Farha’: Palestinians reject Israeli backlash against Nakba film
Updated 12 min 32 sec ago

‘Farha’: Palestinians reject Israeli backlash against Nakba film

‘Farha’: Palestinians reject Israeli backlash against Nakba film
  • Netflix release, directed by Jordan’s Darin J. Sallam, tells 1948 story of girl in village overrun by Israeli militias
  • Jordan chose ‘Farha’ to represent it in the Oscar for Best Foreign Film award during the next edition of the world’s premiere film event

RAMALLAH: Palestinians are defending the newly released movie “Farha” following an Israeli backlash against the film’s depiction of events in 1948.

As Netflix faces criticism for airing the film, activists advocating the Palestinian cause are taking the initiative to support its release.

The Jordanian film depicts the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948, known as the Nakba.

Screening of the film has caused widespread Israeli anger with threats to cancel Netflix subscriptions.

Israeli ministers and officials have accused the film’s creators of promoting a false narrative and inciting violence against Israeli soldiers.

The movie, directed by Darin J. Sallam, a Jordanian woman of Palestinian origin, tells the story of a 14-year-old Palestinian girl who witnesses the murder of her entire family, including an infant, when Israeli militias overrun her village and execute civilians during the Nakba. The girl dreams of moving from her Palestinian village to the city to continue her education.

The village’s exposure to the invasion prompts the girl’s father to hide her in a small room, and her life changes dramatically in a matter of days.

The film, inspired by real events, was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2021.

Jordan chose “Farha” to represent it in the Oscar for Best Foreign Film award during the next edition of the world’s premiere film event.

The film was launched on Netflix on Dec. 1.

Israeli officials claim that Farha “presents a false narrative” about the Nakba, in which 760,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homelands.

Prominent Palestinian poet and writer Mutwakel Taha told Arab News that the reason for the Israeli anger was because the country’s actions in the Nakba had been exposed to the world through the film.

“They want to monopolize the victim image alone. So their madness is because the Palestinians appear as victims of the Israelis,” Taha told Arab News.

Taha said that Palestinians are betting on cultural solutions after the failure of efforts to reach a political settlement with Israel.

A Palestinian narrative of events during the Nakba frightens Israeli, said Taha.

Palestinian writer Tahsin Yaqeen agreed.

Yaqeen told Arab News that Israel considers every artistic or literary work from the side of Palestine as an attack, adding that Israel’s narrative had been challenged and undermined through the work of Israeli historians such as Ilan Pappe.

Shlomo Sand, another prominent historian who has questioned Israel’s actions, has also challenged prominent narratives, Yaqeen said, adding: “We do not need as Palestinians to explain what happened in 1948 and before and after that, because the world knows very well what happened.”

Israelis should view “Farha” and listen to the stories of Palestinians, even if they do not agree, said Yaqeen.

The writer asked: “If the Israelis are not believing what is narrated by the ‘Farha’ film, would they not ask themselves today, what is their government and army doing in the West Bank?”

Yaqeen said that the Israeli reaction to the film was based on “a national rejection because it violated the Israeli narrative.

“It is not artistic criticism of the film’s narrative.”

Sireen Jabarin, an Israeli-Arab activist from Umm Al-Fahm, told Arab News: “Israeli authorities limiting freedom of art is not new, but, interestingly, the Israeli policies in this direction are tending toward racism and extremism and not accepting the narration of the other party, and even rejecting any action that explains the truth to the Palestinians about what happened decades ago.”

An Israeli intellectual who opposes the release of “Farha” told Arab News: “Netflix is a global network and has many subscribers in Israel. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Israeli subscribers have canceled their subscriptions to Netflix during the past few days in protest of its marketing of the Jordanian film ‘Farha,’ which lacks balance and objectivity, and neglects to mention the Israeli point of view.”

Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman denounced the release of the film.

Lieberman said: “It is insane that Netflix decided to broadcast a film whose sole purpose is to present a false claim and incite against Israeli soldiers.”

Lieberman added: “We will not allow the reputation of Israeli army soldiers to be tarnished.”

The minister said that he had directed the leadership at the Ministry of Finance to take measures to withdraw the budget of the Jaffa Theater, which chose to screen the film.

Israeli Culture Minister Hili Tropper said that the screening of the film in Israeli cinemas was a “shame,” adding that “Farha” promotes “lies and slander.”

Darin J. Sallam and producers Dima Azar and Aya Jardaneh condemned criticism of the film.

They criticized a social media campaign targeting the film’s rating on IMDb, attempts to stop the screening of the film at Jaffa Theater and threats to cancel Netflix subscriptions.

They also condemned hate messages, harassment, accusations and bullying on social media.

The trio said that they would not tolerate any harmful threats against any member of the “Farha” team.

“These attempts to silence Arab women and filmmakers is a stripping of humanity and freedom of expression,” they said.

“The film’s existence is a reality, and our existence is a reality. We have been robbed of a lot, but our voices will not be taken away.”

Azar and Jardaneh stressed their support for Sallam’s decision to “tell this human and personal story, and share it with the world, and to realize this creative vision cinematically without any restrictions.”


Tehran’s actions lessen prospect of nuclear deal revival: US envoy

Tehran’s actions lessen prospect of nuclear deal revival: US envoy
Updated 19 min 10 sec ago

Tehran’s actions lessen prospect of nuclear deal revival: US envoy

Tehran’s actions lessen prospect of nuclear deal revival: US envoy
  • Robert Malley: ‘The more Iran represses, the more there will be sanctions’

LONDON: Tehran’s decision to arm Russia in the war against Ukraine, and its crackdown on anti-regime protests, have made the prospects of reviving the nuclear deal slim, said the US special envoy on Iran, The Observer reported on Sunday.

At a conference in Rome, Rob Malley said Iran’s leadership has trapped itself in a “vicious” and “self-reinforcing” cycle in which it continues to ostracize itself from its own people and the international community. 

“The more Iran represses, the more there will be sanctions; the more there are sanctions, the more Iran feels isolated. The more isolated they feel, the more they turn to Russia; the more they turn to Russia, the more sanctions there will be, the more the climate deteriorates, the less likely there will be nuclear diplomacy,” he added. 

“The repression of the protests and Iran’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine is where our focus is because that is where things are happening, and where we want to make a difference.”

 


Prime minister hails ‘made in Egypt’ footballs for World Cup

Prime minister hails ‘made in Egypt’ footballs for World Cup
Updated 27 min 45 sec ago

Prime minister hails ‘made in Egypt’ footballs for World Cup

Prime minister hails ‘made in Egypt’ footballs for World Cup

CAIRO: Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has praised a Cairo-based co-manufacturer of the official World Cup ball, named Al Rihla (Arabic for “The Journey”), being used at the ongoing tournament in Qatar.

FIFA said in a statement: “It is the 14th ball that Adidas manufactures, and it is characterized by its ability to move in the air faster than any other ball in the history of the tournament.”

Madbouly recently met with representatives of the Forward Egypt company, which participated in the manufacture of the official ball for this year’s World Cup.

He expressed the hope that the venture would boost the national industry to make world-class sports products.

Adidas entered into a contract with Forward Egypt to produce 1,500 soccer balls.

The company’s facility in Egypt is the first and the only Adidas-approved factory in the Middle East.

Saif Al-Waziri, head of the International Presentation and Stadium companies, said: “Egypt is the main export station for the ball that will be used in the Qatar World Cup 2022…I was honored to be a small part of this great achievement.”

In a recent interview with Qatar News Agency, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif also expressed his country’s pride in contributing to the World Cup by co-manufacturing the ball.

Jasser Al-Sayed, head of Forward Egypt, told Arab News: “There are balls in Qatar’s stadiums that are manufactured in our factory in the Rubiki district, east of Cairo, and in the company’s factory in Pakistan.

“We know very well the Pakistani experience in the manufacture of footballs, and that is why we contracted with a Pakistani company to transfer expertise.

“It is one of the largest companies responsible for manufacturing balls in the world, and they transferred expertise, equipment and all the details to us over the past six months, and we were able to implement that in the factory.”

The factory located in Egypt operates with a production capacity of about 3.5 million soccer balls a year.

It employs around 600 workers, all of whom are Egyptians who have been trained “according to the latest systems and experiences in this field, in addition to three foreign experts,” Al-Sayed added.