Palestinians in South America criticize government reactions to Israel-Hamas violence

Palestinians in South America criticize government reactions to Israel-Hamas violence
Palestinians search for survivors after an Israeli air strike on buildings in the refugee camp of Jabalia in the Gaza Strip on Oct. 9, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 09 October 2023
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Palestinians in South America criticize government reactions to Israel-Hamas violence

Palestinians in South America criticize government reactions to Israel-Hamas violence
  • Hamas condemned despite pro-Palestinian sympathies of Chilean, Brazilian, Argentinian presidents
  • However, Venezuela demands end to Israeli occupation

SAO PAULO: Living in countries whose presidents have expressed pro-Palestinian views, Palestinian communities in Chile, Brazil and Argentina have expressed disappointment with statements issued by these countries’ governments concerning the fighting between Hamas and Israel.

Most Latin American nations released statements condemning Saturday’s attack on Israel by Hamas from the Gaza Strip.

The exceptions were Venezuela, which demanded that Israel immediately halt the occupation of Palestinian territories, and Bolivia, which said it is following developments with concern and accused the UN of inaction.

In Colombia, the Foreign Ministry released a statement condemning violence against civilians and asking both parties to hold dialogue on a two-state solution.

But President Gustavo Petro has written several times on his X account about the historical violations of the Palestinians’ rights, and shared posts accusing Israel of “apartheid.”

Israeli Ambassador to Colombia Gali Dagan said he expected that a “friendly country” would strongly condemn “the terrorist attack against civilians in the State of Israel.”

Petro answered on X that “terrorism is to kill innocent children, either in Colombia or in Palestine,” and said both sides should negotiate peace.

In Chile, where an estimated 500,000 Palestinians and their descendants live — making up the largest community in the diaspora outside the Middle East — many community leaders were dissatisfied with the statement released by Foreign Minister Alberto van Klaveren on X.

“We are following with great concern the terrorist attack against Israel and express solidarity with the victims and their relatives,” van Klaveren said.

“We condemn the use of violence and demand its immediate stop. We keep our commitment to the peace process between Israel and Palestine.”

Palestinian-born Nicola Hadwa, a prominent Middle East analyst, told Arab News that Palestinians in Chile feel “betrayed,” adding: “That kind of declaration comes from political leaders who are subordinated to the US and Israel.”

Hadwa, who also worked as a football manager and was the first professional coach of the Palestinian national team in 2002, said: “Every day, the Israelis kill two or three young Palestinians and nobody talks about it in the media. When Palestine reacts, suddenly everybody is concerned.”

Chilean President Gabriel Boric’s administration seems to be coming under pressure from both sides.

While Palestinian Chileans criticized van Klaveren’s statement, Israelis — alongside the nation’s Jewish community — were offended by another of his posts.

“The use of force against civilians is never acceptable in armed conflicts, even in the exercise of legitimate defense,” he said.

“This is valid for Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the State of Israel, and any other actor that intervenes in the conflict.”

Israeli Ambassador to Chile Gil Artzyeli described as “unfortunate” the idea that Israel cannot defend itself from such an attack.

Since his electoral campaign, Boric has manifested his support for the Palestinian cause on several occasions.

In September 2022, he refused to receive Artzyeli’s credentials on the day they were scheduled to meet because a Palestinian child had been killed by Israeli forces. Last December, Boric announced that he would establish an embassy in Palestine.

A similar pro-Palestinian record is held by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who in his second tenure as Brazil’s president officially recognized the State of Palestine, leading other countries in Latin America to do the same.

In his speeches at the UN General Assembly, he always mentions Palestinian hardships, most recently on Sept. 19.

But his X post concerning the Hamas attack disappointed Palestinian Brazilians. “I was shocked by the terrorist attacks today against civilians in Israel, which caused numerous victims,” he said.

“I send my condolences to the victims’ relatives. I reaffirm my repudiation of terrorism in any of its forms.”

Sayid Tenorio, vice president of the Brazil-Palestine Institute, told Arab News: “I was surprised with the use of the term ‘terrorist.’ I don’t think he wrote it. His assistants did, and they seem to be people who are influenced by … pressure from the media.”

Tenorio emphasized that Lula has a “historic commitment to the Palestinian cause,” but in his team there are people who “at the same time defend the Palestinians’ rights and hesitate when it comes to the Palestinian resistance.”

Tenorio added: “I was disappointed but I don’t condemn Lula. I think it was a mistake, maybe an excess of precaution now that Brazil assumed the presidency of the UN Security Council.”

Ualid Rabah, who heads the Arab Palestinian Federation of Brazil, considered Lula’s statement to be “balanced” but also criticized the use of the term “terrorist.”

Rabah said: “In order to please the Zionists, he used that term for us, comparing us with the terrorists who attempted to stage a coup against him on Jan. 8.”

Rabah attributed such an error to the “Zionist gang which is part of the Brazilian left wing,” adding: “We know that word didn’t come from Lula’s mouth nor his heart. He has always been our friend, and we know how to forgive someone who makes a mistake. But we’d like him to apologize for such an injustice.”

Rabah accused the media of trying to make Palestinians “invisible,” adding: “We’re facing a media massacre. How can we be accused of terrorism by people who only want to defend the Israeli regime, run by a handful of fascists?”

In Argentina, where significant Jewish and Palestinian communities live, President Alberto Fernandez condemned “the brutal terrorist attack perpetrated by Hamas.”

He said he talked to Israeli President Isaac Herzog and repeated a couple of times that it was a “terrorist” act.

Argentinian Finance Minister Sergio Massa, who is running for president, also expressed solidarity with Israel and repudiated the “terrorist” aggression waged by Hamas.

During a presidential debate aired on Saturday night, Massa said he would include Hamas on Argentina’s list of terrorist organizations if he is elected.

Fernandez and his party have a record of expressing pro-Palestinian sentiment. In 2021, for instance, Argentina issued a statement condemning the “disproportionate use of force by Israeli security units to face protests against potential displacements of Palestinian families from their homes in the (Jerusalem) neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.” The statement was criticized by Israel and its ambassador to Argentina.

Despite that, many Palestinian Argentinians consider Fernandez and his colleagues to be hesitant when it comes to defending Palestinians’ rights.

“The Palestinian community in Argentina, and the Arabs as a whole, have always expressed how apathetic Fernandez and his government are when it comes to that issue,” said activist Fernando Isas. “Unfortunately, our criticism doesn’t reverberate in society as much as we wish.”

He said there is a “media blockage” in the country impeding people from knowing more about the Palestinian reality.

“Newspapers only talk about attacks ‘suffered’ by the Israelis,” he added. “We need to boost pictures and content on social media. That’s the only way to inform the people.”


US candidate Haley sides with court ruling that embryos are babies

US candidate Haley sides with court ruling that embryos are babies
Updated 7 sec ago
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US candidate Haley sides with court ruling that embryos are babies

US candidate Haley sides with court ruling that embryos are babies
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley said on Wednesday that she believed frozen embryos created through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) were babies, endorsing a controversial ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court.
That state’s high court said that frozen embryos in test tubes should be considered children, rattling doctors and patients in reproductive medicine as well as raising legal questions, US media reported after Friday’s decision.
Haley, in an interview with NBC News, sided with the Alabama court.
“Embryos, to me, are babies,” Haley said. “When you talk about an embryo, you are talking about, to me, that’s a life. And so I do see where that’s coming from when they talk about that.”
The former South Carolina governor said she had her son after using artificial insemination, a different procedure which does not involve embryos in a lab.
Haley is the last major 2024 Republican presidential challenger to frontrunner Donald Trump. The two will face off a third time on Saturday in her home state of South Carolina, with Haley again trailing in opinion polls but refusing to drop out.
Trump has not publicly mentioned the Alabama ruling. A representative for his campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The ruling was greeted by widespread shock in Alabama, which has one of the nation’s strictest abortion laws, according to news reports, with patients confused about whether to proceed with IVF and others wondering whether to move their embryos.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham paused in-vitro fertilization after the state supreme court ruling, due to fear of prosecution and lawsuits, a hospital representative said.
“This is exactly the type of chaos that we expected when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and paved the way for politicians to dictate some of the most personal decisions families can make,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Tuesday.
The Alabama ruling was the latest involving reproductive services after the US Supreme Court in 2022 overturned its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that had recognized women’s constitutional right to abortion.
Republican candidates this election cycle largely steered clear of the abortion issue. The party’s underwhelming performance in the 2022 midterm elections was seen as voter backlash against the Roe v. Wade ruling.
Haley, the only Republican woman in the 2024 race, has urged Republicans to focus on finding consensus, rather than faulting those who favor abortion rights.
Trump has taken credit for appointing three right-wing justices to the Supreme Court, securing the majority needed to overturn Roe in the first place. But he has also avoided saying whether he would sign a national ban into law.

Ukrainian soldiers expect more assaults after Russian forces capture eastern town

Ukrainian soldiers expect more assaults after Russian forces capture eastern town
Updated 33 min 31 sec ago
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Ukrainian soldiers expect more assaults after Russian forces capture eastern town

Ukrainian soldiers expect more assaults after Russian forces capture eastern town
  • The capture of Avdiivka, after months of little change in the front lines, indicated a change of momentum as the second anniversary of the Russian invasion nears

NEAR AVDIIVKA, Ukraine: Ukrainian soldiers dug in around new positions outside of Avdiivka say Russian forces who captured the eastern Ukrainian town last week are pressing on toward nearby towns and villages.
“It doesn’t end with them taking Avdiivka. They continue assaulting (our positions),” said Andriy, a Ukrainian drone pilot of the 47th Mechanized Brigade, sitting quietly in a darkened area.
“After Avdiivka, the villages nearby are next. And then, Myrnohrad and Pokrovsk, the nearest larger towns.”
Russian forces secured Avdiivka after months of bombardment reduced the town to rubble. It was Russia’s biggest battlefield victory since its forces captured Bakhmut in May 2023.
The capture of Avdiivka, after months of little change in the front lines, indicated a change of momentum as the second anniversary of the Russian invasion nears. President Vladimir Putin says Russian troops will push further into Ukraine.
Russian forces, Andriy said, have “a lot of manpower. There is lots of shelling. And KABs (guided aerial bombs) still bomb us as they used to. Well, perhaps there is a little less, but still a lot.”
A member of the unit launches an FPV (First Point View) drone from a wooded area and, wearing goggles, controls its trajectory on a monitor.
The whine of the drone eventually turns into a slight thud, indicating that an explosion has occurred. The drone flies headlong into a dugout.
Andriy and his fellow unit member, identifying himself as Huk, follow the progress of drones.
Footage shows the vast coke and chemical plant on the edge of Avdiivka, once one of Europe’s largest, and the area around it. Two blurred figures, Russian soldiers, are seen walking through an open area.
Maksym Zhorin, Deputy Commander of Ukraine’s Third Assault Brigade, wrote on Telegram on Wednesday: “The situation on the Avdiivka front is quite clear. The Russians will advance as far as their strength allows, depending on who among them survives.”
Andriy and Huk harbor no illusions of what lies ahead.
“It seems like things are calmer, but they are continuing their attempts to capture Lastochkyne. They are moving toward it,” Huk says, referring to a village to the northwest.
“I think they are now taking a small break to gather their forces so as to continue attacking us.”
Neither is demoralized by the decision to move out of the town, once home to 32,000 people. But some relief would be welcome.
“What will happen further? I don’t know. I just live day by day, or at least I try to,” Andriy said.
“We will keep working. That it our duty. And first of all, we are waiting to be replaced. We would like at least part of our ranks to rotate out. We don’t just want our ranks to be replenished.”


Brazil condemns ‘paralysis’ on Gaza, Ukraine at tense G20 meeting

Brazil condemns ‘paralysis’ on Gaza, Ukraine at tense G20 meeting
Updated 22 February 2024
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Brazil condemns ‘paralysis’ on Gaza, Ukraine at tense G20 meeting

Brazil condemns ‘paralysis’ on Gaza, Ukraine at tense G20 meeting
  • “Multilateral institutions are not properly equipped to deal with the current challenges, as has been demonstrated by the Security Council’s unacceptable paralysis on the ongoing conflicts” in Gaza and Ukraine, Vieira says

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil criticized the “paralysis” of the UN Security Council on the wars in Gaza and Ukraine as it opened a G20 meeting Wednesday where the international community’s deep divisions were on display.
The outlook is bleak for progress on the thorny agenda of conflicts and crises gripping the planet as foreign ministers from the world’s biggest economies gather in Rio de Janeiro for the Group of 20’s first high-level meeting of the year.
Opening the two-day meeting, which featured US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Brazil’s top diplomat, Mauro Vieira, said the explosion of global conflicts shows international institutions like the United Nations are not working.
“Multilateral institutions are not properly equipped to deal with the current challenges, as has been demonstrated by the Security Council’s unacceptable paralysis on the ongoing conflicts” in Gaza and Ukraine, Vieira said, adding the situation was costing “innocent lives.”
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell for his part warned multilateralism “is in crisis.”
The Security Council has failed to act on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, held in check by Russian veto power, and has struggled to find a response to the war in Gaza, with Israel’s ally the United States using its veto to block calls for a ceasefire, most recently Tuesday.
Brazil, which took over the rotating G20 presidency from India in December, has voiced hopes the group could be a forum to make progress on such questions.
But that likely took a hit when Lula ignited a diplomatic firestorm Sunday by accusing Israel of “genocide,” comparing its military campaign in the Gaza Strip to the Holocaust.
The comments drew outrage in Israel, which declared him persona non grata, and could overshadow any bid to de-escalate the conflict via the G20.
Blinken, who met Lula Wednesday in Brasilia before heading to the G20, “made clear we disagree with (his) comments,” a senior State Department official told journalists.
The secretary of state and Brazilian leader had a “frank exchange” in their more than 90-minute meeting at the presidential palace, the official said.
More than four months after the Gaza war started with Hamas fighters’ unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, which has vowed to wipe out the Islamist group in retaliation, there is little sign of progress toward peace.
The outlook is similarly grim on Russia’s war in Ukraine, which also has G20 members divided as the second anniversary of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion approaches.
Despite a push by Western countries to condemn the invasion, the G20’s last summit ended with a watered-down statement denouncing the use of force but not explicitly naming Russia, which maintains friendly ties with India and Brazil, among other members.
UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron said he planned to use the Rio meeting to “call out Russia’s aggression” directly to Lavrov, as Britain announced sanctions on six Russian officials over opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s death in prison last week.
Lavrov — who will meet Lula in Brasilia Thursday, according to a Brazilian official — meanwhile lashed out at the West for “pumping Ukraine full of arms.”
“Neither Kiev nor the West have shown the political will to resolve the conflict,” he told Brazilian newspaper O Globo.
Blinken voiced pessimism on the current chances for diplomacy on Ukraine in his meeting with Lula. “We don’t see the conditions for it right now,” a US official said.
Brazil also wants to use its G20 presidency to push the fights against poverty and climate change.
There will also be space for bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the gathering — though a Blinken-Lavrov encounter looks unlikely, given soaring tensions.
The pair last met in person at a G20 gathering in India in March 2023.
Founded in 1999, the G20 brings together most of the world’s biggest economies.
Originally an economic forum, it has grown increasingly involved in international politics.
A Brazilian government source said that after recent G20 struggles for consensus, the hosts axed the requirement that every meeting produce a joint statement — with the exception of the annual leaders’ summit, scheduled for November in Rio.


In life or death, Navalny will influence history: exiled lawyer

In life or death, Navalny will influence history: exiled lawyer
Updated 22 February 2024
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In life or death, Navalny will influence history: exiled lawyer

In life or death, Navalny will influence history: exiled lawyer
  • Olga Mikhailova says Navalny had been tortured in prison for the past three years but was not broken
  • One of Navalny's most high-profile lawyers for 16 years, Mikhailova is now a target of a criminal probe herself
  • She left Russia last October and is applying for asylum in France. Three of her lawyer partners are in jail

PARIS: Alexei Navalny’s top lawyer, Olga Mikhailova, said on Wednesday that in life or in death he would “influence history” as she paid an emotional tribute to the late Russian opposition leader.

Mikhailova, who is arguably the most high-profile member of Navalny’s defense team, had defended the opposition politician for 16 years.
She was often pictured by his side as President Vladimir Putin’s top critic sought to clear his name in a years-long legal tug-of-war with the Kremlin.
Now a target of a criminal probe herself, Mikhailova left Russia in October last year and is applying for asylum in France.

Olga Mikhailova, one of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny’s main lawyers, speaks during a conference by the Russian opposition in Paris on Feb. 21, 2024. (AFP)

“Alexei Navalny is an amazing, courageous, charismatic politician,” Mikhailova, who looked visibly upset, said at a Russian opposition event in Paris.
“The authorities claim that he is dead. Even if that is so and he was killed, I am sure that he will not only go down in history but will also influence the future course of history,” Mikhailova told several dozen people, her voice sometimes breaking.
She did not take questions and declined to speak to journalists.
Russian authorities said on Friday that Navalny, 47, suddenly died in his Arctic prison. The announcement plunged his supporters around the world into a state of shock.
Speaking at the event organized by the Russie-Libertés association, Mikhailova sometimes spoke of Navalny using the present tense.
“He’s not like regular people. He is an iron man,” she said.
Navalny barely survived a poisoning with the Soviet-designed nerve agent, Novichok, in 2020. Following treatment in Germany, he returned to Russia in 2021 and was immediately arrested and subsequently jailed.
Mikhailova, 50, said she warned the opposition politician against coming back to Russia.
“In Berlin, I told him, ‘You’ll be jailed for 10 years,” Mikhailova said.
“And he replied with a smile: ‘You always say I’ll be jailed. Well, you’ll be defending me then.”

Tortured and starved
Upon return, he was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Last year a Russian court sentenced him to 19 years behind bars on extremism charges.
Mikhailova said he had been tortured in prison for the past three years but was not broken.

Raindrops cover Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's portrait placed between flowers in front of the Russian Embassy in Berlin, Germany, on Feb. 21, 2024. (AP)

“They abused and starved him,” she said.
“He spent about 300 days in a cold punishment cell where he could either stand or sit on a metal stool during the day,” Mikhailova said.
“Three times a day a mug of hot water was brought to him and it was the only hot meal he had.”
Last fall, the Russian authorities cracked down on Navalny’s defense team.
In October, three lawyers defending Navalny were detained and charged with taking part in an “extremist organization.”
Russian authorities have accused Navalny’s defense team of spreading his anti-Kremlin message from prison by posting his letters on social media.
The announcement of Navalny’s death came as Putin is gearing up to extend his two-decade hold on power in a presidential election in March.
Mikhailova, who says she was on holiday abroad when the three members of the defense team were arrested, decided against returning to Russia where she knew she too would be jailed.
Writing on Facebook in January, she said life abroad was difficult for her daughter and her. “We have no home and a lot of problems,” she added.
In mid-February, a Moscow court ordered Mikhailova’s arrest in absentia.


Chaos erupts in British Commons over Gaza motion

Chaos erupts in British Commons over Gaza motion
Updated 22 February 2024
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Chaos erupts in British Commons over Gaza motion

Chaos erupts in British Commons over Gaza motion
  • Disorder erupted when Speaker Lindsay Hoyle ignored a Gaza ceasefire motion by the SNP and allowed a vote instead for a Labor Party motion
  • Political passions are running high in Britain ahead of a general election due this year, with the Conservatives widely tipped to lose

LONDON: Britain’s House of Commons descended into chaos on Wednesday over a motion calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

The chamber was due to debate and vote on a motion for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza by the Scottish National Party (SNP).
Instead, in an unusual move, speaker Lindsay Hoyle allowed a vote on a motion for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza by the Scottish National Party.
This sparked fury and shouts from the ruling Conservatives and the SNP.
SNP head in the Commons, Stephen Flynn, branded the move as “complete and utter contempt” of his party.
Faced with the outrage, Hoyle apologized, saying he had only intended to allow a wider debate on the issue.
The motion was not officially voted on, after the government said it would not participate in protest.
Political passions are running high in Britain ahead of a general election due this year.
The Conservatives, in power since 2010, are widely tipped by pollsters to lose.
Labour has been buoyed after having wrestled away several seats in by-elections from the Conservatives.