Arab-Muslim woman accuses Israel’s El Al Airlines of discrimination

Arab-Muslim woman accuses Israel’s El Al Airlines of discrimination
To win support for inclusion in the visa-waiver program, Israeli officials in early July declared that US citizens, regardless of background, would be allowed to travel through Israeli ports of entry open to tourists (AFP)
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Updated 01 August 2023
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Arab-Muslim woman accuses Israel’s El Al Airlines of discrimination

Arab-Muslim woman accuses Israel’s El Al Airlines of discrimination
  • American citizen Noor Wazwaz claims Israeli and US TSA officials harassed her because of her faith and Palestinian background
  • Wazwaz, a journalist, was blocked from boarding her flight to visit West Bank relatives over laptop testing ‘positive’ for explosives

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: An Arab-Muslim woman filed a complaint Monday against El Al, the national airline of Israel, alleging she was prevented from boarding a flight on July 18, 2023, and subjected to invasive screening by officials because of her ethnic background and faith. 

Noor Wazwaz, an American citizen and journalist, said she was attempting to board the El Al plane in Newark to visit relatives in the West Bank when El Al Israeli security agents and American TSA, or Transportation Security Administration, officials put her through a special screening process that included an extensive body pat-down and removal of clothing.  

She was subsequently barred from the flight when they alleged her laptop tested positive for “explosives.” 

An official of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee called the accusation of “explosives” ludicrous, asserting the claim is often used to block Palestinian Americans from traveling to visit families and friends in the occupied territories. 

 “It is unconscionable that a US citizen would be subject to such treatment, let alone having it happen here in the US. There is no justification for the treatment she faced, and we demand an immediate investigation into all of El Al’s policies,” said Abed Ayoub, the ADC’s national president, in a statement. 

 “There is no room for airlines who create different rules and procedures for passengers of different racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. There is no justification of allowing Israeli security personnel to target our community members at American airports. The treatment Ms. Wazwaz faced has been historically faced by US citizens of Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim backgrounds while flying El Al and continues until today.” 

Ayoub stated that Wazwaz managed to book a different flight but was then detained for a long period by Israeli security at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv when she arrived days later. Wazwaz charged that Israeli security also deleted documents that were on her cellphone, which went through extensive security examination. 

 Although Israeli security asserted the laptop tested positive for “explosives,” Ayoub stated that they did not do any additional testing or screening and also denied Wazwaz an opportunity to challenge the claims. 

 “Among the demands made of Ms. Wazwaz (by Israeli officials) was an accounting of every contact in her phone that had a Palestinian or Israeli country code,” Ayoub stated.  

 “When Ms. Wazwaz’s ordeal finally ended and she arrived at her destination, she discovered that her bags had clearly been searched and ransacked though no note was placed indicating such a search.” 

 The ADC complaint is embarrassing for Israel which has been lobbying to win special privileges under the US’ Visa Waiver Program, which would allow Israelis to travel to the US with minimal security requirements. 

 To win support for inclusion in the visa-waiver program, Israeli officials in early July declared that US citizens, regardless of background, would be allowed to travel through Israeli ports of entry open to tourists. 

 That assertion prompted America’s Department of Homeland Security to release a statement on July 19, 2023, further strengthening support for visa-waiver approval. 

“DHS welcomes these steps by Israel toward meeting the Visa Waiver Program requirements. The United States will engage with the Government of Israel on its implementation of its new travel policies. For entry into the Visa Waiver Program, all of the Program’s mandatory requirements must be satisfied. The Department is working closely with the Government of Israel in its efforts to meet those requirements, in furtherance of our shared goal that Israel join the Visa Waiver Program.” 

 Historically, Americans of Arab heritage have been singled out by Israel for special scrutiny and physical searches before being allowed to board El Al planes in New York, and also when they arrive at Ben Gurion Airport. 


UK uses Rwanda flights for Vietnam, East Timor deportations

UK uses Rwanda flights for Vietnam, East Timor deportations
Updated 58 min 19 sec ago
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UK uses Rwanda flights for Vietnam, East Timor deportations

UK uses Rwanda flights for Vietnam, East Timor deportations
  • Home Secretary Yvette Cooper: ‘Today’s flight shows the government is taking quick and decisive action to secure our borders and return those with no right to be here’
  • Cooper called the Rwanda scheme, intended to deter migrants making the Channel crossing in small boats from northern France, ‘the most shocking waste of taxpayers’ money’ she had seen

LONDON: Britain’s new Labour government on Thursday said it had deported 46 people to Vietnam and East Timor, after ditching the previous Conservative administration’s plan to send migrants to Rwanda.
Home Secretary Yvette Cooper this week said flights initially intended to fly undocumented migrants to the east African nation would instead be used to deport foreign criminals and immigration offenders.
The chartered return flight, which took off on Wednesday and arrived on Thursday, is the first ever to East Timor and the first to Vietnam since 2022, her department said.
“Today’s flight shows the government is taking quick and decisive action to secure our borders and return those with no right to be here,” added Cooper.
Labour, elected in a landslide election win this month, has scrapped the Tories’ Rwanda plan, which had been deemed illegal under international law by the UK Supreme Court.
Former prime minister Rishi Sunak had aimed for the first flights to take off this month, after legislating to designate the African nation a safe third country.
Cooper this week called the Rwanda scheme, intended to deter migrants making the Channel crossing in small boats from northern France, “the most shocking waste of taxpayers’ money” she had seen.
The Tories had spent £700 million ($900 million) on the scheme but only four migrants had relocated to Rwanda — and they went voluntarily.
She also told parliament Sunak’s government planned to spend more than £10 billion on the scheme in total.
Labour’s approach is to prioritize returns of failed asylum seekers to designated safe countries to ease a huge backlog in the claims system.
It also wants closer cooperation with European partners to “smash” the people-smuggling gangs behind the Channel crossings, which so far this year have seen nearly 16,000 people brought ashore.
Vietnamese nationals accounted for 20 percent of undocumented migrants intercepted making the journey between January and March this year, Oxford University’s Migration Observatory said.
In March this year, Sunak’s government launched a global social media campaign, aimed at Vietnam in particular, to deter people from using the route.
On Wednesday, a gang of British people-smugglers were jailed after trying to hide two Vietnamese migrants in a hidden compartment of their campervan as they traveled between France and the UK.
Eleven people have been convicted in the UK in connection with the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants who were found in the back of a lorry in 2019 after being smuggled from northern Europe.


Belgium searches 14 houses in terrorism probe, detains 7 for questioning

Belgium searches 14 houses in terrorism probe, detains 7 for questioning
Updated 25 July 2024
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Belgium searches 14 houses in terrorism probe, detains 7 for questioning

Belgium searches 14 houses in terrorism probe, detains 7 for questioning
  • The specific targets of the attack had not yet been determined
  • The house searches took place in the cities of Antwerp, Liege and Ghent, among others, and in the Brussels region

BRUSSELS: Belgian police have conducted 14 house searches in a terrorism investigation, the federal public prosecutor’s office said on Thursday, adding seven people were taken in for questioning.
“They are suspected, among other things, of preparing a terrorist attack. The specific targets of the attack had not yet been determined,” it said in a statement.
A judge will decide later if they are to be charged.
The house searches took place in the cities of Antwerp, Liege and Ghent, among others, and in the Brussels region.
The prosecutor’s office did not immediately comment on whether the plans had a link to the Paris Olympics, which commences on Friday.
The Paris anti-terrorism prosecutor did not respond when asked if it was involved in the investigation.
The perpetrators of the 2015 Paris attacks, in which 130 people were killed and 368 wounded, largely planned and coordinated them from Belgium, with several of the attackers being Belgian nationals or residents.
In 2016, bombings at Brussels airport killed 34 people and injured 340. Among those convicted for the attacks was Salah Abdeslam, who was also the main suspect in the Paris attacks trial.


Marcos blames climate change for deadly Manila floods

Marcos blames climate change for deadly Manila floods
Updated 25 July 2024
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Marcos blames climate change for deadly Manila floods

Marcos blames climate change for deadly Manila floods
  • At least 14 Filipinos were killed, over 1.1 million people affected by Typhoon Gaemi
  • Deadly storm spurred fresh calls for climate action in the Philippines

MANILA: Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Thursday that climate change was to blame for the severe floods that submerged the capital Manila, after heavy rains from Typhoon Gaemi triggered a deadly deluge and landslides.

Gaemi, known as Carina in the Philippines, did not make landfall in the country but has intensified seasonal monsoon rains, causing landslides and flooding over the past few days and forcing authorities to declare a state of calamity in the capital region that is home to roughly 15 million people.

At least 14 people were killed, and more than 1.1 million people were affected by Typhoon Gaemi in the Southeast Asian nation.

Marcos joined relief efforts on Thursday and handed out food parcels to those hardest hit by the floods in Manila.

“I wanted to see what the situation was. I was right; it’s very different reading a piece of paper than actually seeing what the people have to go through,” Marcos said.

“This is what the effects of climate change are.”

Philippine climate activists are now renewing their calls for action, citing the devastating effects of Typhoon Gaemi.

“Typhoon Carina highlights the extreme weather impact being experienced in the world, and especially in the Philippines. It just emphasizes that our country is at the forefront of the climate crisis,” Greenpeace Philippines campaigner Khevin Yu told Arab News.

“It is really important for the Philippines to demand climate justice. So, this has been echoed by President Marcos, but we are pushing him to do more.”

Activists demand that bills related to climate justice and accountability be passed. Yu said Filipinos must also be included in discussions and urged officials to move forward with energy transition plans.

Jashaf Shamir Lorenzo, head of policy development and research at BAN Toxics Philippines, said Typhoon Gaemi sent a “very clear” message.

“Climate targets that have long been ignored by developed countries are impacting our countries … and this will only get worse unless we call for accountability. We call for actions on the end of not only the Philippines, but these developed countries who are contributing a lot to climate change,” Lorenzo told Arab News.

“Extreme weather conditions have been becoming more common,” he said. “This is only going to get worse if we do not address all the fundamental issues that we have.”

The Philippines sees about 20 storms and typhoons every year, but the changing climate is making the storms more unpredictable and extreme.

In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever recorded, left more than 6,000 people dead or missing and displaced millions in central Philippines, while in 2021, Super Typhoon Rai, known locally as Odette, killed over 200 people.


UN experts urge halt to violence against Ahmadis in Pakistan

UN experts urge halt to violence against Ahmadis in Pakistan
Updated 25 July 2024
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UN experts urge halt to violence against Ahmadis in Pakistan

UN experts urge halt to violence against Ahmadis in Pakistan
  • “We are alarmed by ongoing reports of violence and discrimination against the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan,” said the nine independent experts
  • The experts highlighted a number of specific incidents over recent months

GENEVA: United Nations experts on Thursday voiced grave concern at reports of surging discrimination and violence against Pakistan’s Ahmadi minority community, including extrajudicial killings and attacks on places of worship.
The Ahmadiyya sect, considered heretics by fundamentalist groups, has been persecuted for decades in Pakistan but threats and intimidation have risen in recent years.
“We are alarmed by ongoing reports of violence and discrimination against the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan,” said the nine independent experts, including the special rapporteurs on extrajudicial executions, on freedom of expression and on freedom of religion.
“Urgent measures are necessary to respond to these violent attacks and the broader atmosphere of hatred and discrimination which feeds it,” they said in a statement.
The experts, who are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council but who do not speak on behalf of the United Nations, highlighted a number of specific incidents over recent months.
Those included the extrajudicial killing of two Ahmadis in Saad Ullah Pur on July 8 and the killing on March 4 of the president of the Ahmadiyya community in Bahawalpur district.
They also noted reports of an alarming number of attacks on Ahmadi places of worship and cemeteries since the beginning of the year, including some that had led to the serious injury of worshippers.
The statement also highlighted a number of alleged arbitrary arrests of Ahmadi worshippers over religious holiday periods “to obstruct their participation in their religious practices.”
Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims, and their faith is identical to mainstream Islam in almost every way.
But their belief that the movement’s founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the “mahdi” or messiah has marked them as blasphemous unbelievers, particularly in Pakistan. There are around 500,000 Amadis in Pakistan according to their community leadership.
The constitution has branded them non-Muslims since 1974, and a 1984 law forbids them from claiming their faith as Islamic or openly practicing Islamic rituals.
“Ahmadis’ right to peacefully manifest their beliefs must be respected,” the experts insisted, warning that “judicial harassment serves to normalize violence against Ahmadis by non-State actors.”
They welcomed Pakistan National Assembly’s adoption last month of a resolution urging federal and provincial governments to ensure the safety and security of all Pakistani citizens including religious minorities.
But, they cautioned, “such good-faith efforts to counter discriminatory discourse will be ineffective unless they address its structural drivers, (including) blasphemy laws and discriminatory legal provisions.”


Sheep ‘buried alive’ in Greece amid disease cull: official

Sheep ‘buried alive’ in Greece amid disease cull: official
Updated 25 July 2024
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Sheep ‘buried alive’ in Greece amid disease cull: official

Sheep ‘buried alive’ in Greece amid disease cull: official
  • Officials since early July has been trying to contain an outbreak of sheep and goat plague
  • The disease known as Peste des Petits Ruminants, or PPR, is highly contagious to sheep and goats

ATEHNS: A senior veterinary official in Greece was replaced after it emerged that sheep had been “buried alive” in a disease control move, a regional governor said Thursday.
“We received a complaint concerning live animals in the burial process,” Dimitris Kouretas, governor of the central region of Thessaly, told reporters.
“This merits further investigation. For this reason I replaced the veterinary supervisor” responsible for the area of the incident, Kouretas said.
Officials since early July has been trying to contain an outbreak of sheep and goat plague near the central city of Trikala.
The disease known as Peste des Petits Ruminants, or PPR, is highly contagious to sheep and goats but does not affect humans. Meat and pasteurised milk are also safe to consume, officials said.
The Greek agriculture ministry has said it is the first time the disease has been detected in the country.
Over 2,400 sheep have been culled since the first case was detected on July 11 near the town of Kalabaka, according to the agriculture ministry.
Farmers and officials have said the disease was likely brought into the country by imported livestock.
“Non-stop checks are underway” by scores of vets, Agriculture Minister Kostas Tsiaras told Skai radio, adding that some had interrupted their summer holidays.
Tsiaras noted that Greek farmers had increased animal imports after local flocks were decimated in last year’s disastrous floods caused by Storm Daniel.
Tens of thousands of sheep perished at the time.
Non-EU imports “are mainly from Romania, Turkiye and Albania,” the minister said, adding that the animals’ origin would be investigated.
The governor’s office has temporarily shut down local abattoirs and farmers have been instructed to keep their flocks indoors.