Bolivia severs diplomatic ties with Israel, citing ‘crimes against humanity’

Bolivia's deputy Foreign Minister Freddy Mamani (R) speaks next to the minister of the presidency Maria Nela Prada, during a press conference announcing that Bolivia will break relations with Israel, on October 31, 2023, at the Casa Grande del Pueblo government palace in La Paz, Bolivia. (AFP)
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Bolivia's deputy Foreign Minister Freddy Mamani (R) speaks next to the minister of the presidency Maria Nela Prada, during a press conference announcing that Bolivia will break relations with Israel, on October 31, 2023, at the Casa Grande del Pueblo government palace in La Paz, Bolivia. (AFP)
Bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes on houses in Jabalia refugee camp, lie at a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip, October 31, 2023. (REUTERS)
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Bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes on houses in Jabalia refugee camp, lie at a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip, October 31, 2023. (REUTERS)
A picture taken from Israel's southern city of Sderot shows smoke rising during Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip on October 31, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. (AFP)
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A picture taken from Israel's southern city of Sderot shows smoke rising during Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip on October 31, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. (AFP)
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Updated 01 November 2023
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Bolivia severs diplomatic ties with Israel, citing ‘crimes against humanity’

Bolivia severs diplomatic ties with Israel, citing ‘crimes against humanity’
  • Interim Foreign Minister Maria Nela Prada said the press conference had been called “in reference to the crimes against humanity being committed in the Gaza Strip against the Palestinian people”

LA PAZ: Bolivia’s government said it had broken diplomatic ties with Israel on Tuesday, accusing Israel of committing crimes against humanity in its attacks on the Gaza Strip.
Bolivia “has decided to break diplomatic relations with the Israeli state in repudiation and condemnation of the aggressive and disproportionate Israeli military offensive taking place in the Gaza Strip,” Deputy Foreign Minister Freddy Mamani announced at a press conference.
Mamani added that Bolivia was calling for a cease-fire and an end to “the blockade that prevents the entry of food, water and other essential elements for life.”
Interim Foreign Minister Maria Nela Prada said the press conference had been called “in reference to the crimes against humanity being committed in the Gaza Strip against the Palestinian people.”
The Israeli foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bolivia is among the first countries to actively break diplomatic relations with Israel over its war in Gaza, retaliation for an Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel by Palestinian Hamas militants that Israel says killed 1,400 people and took 240 hostages.
The South American country had previously cut diplomatic ties with Israel in 2009 under the government of leftist President Evo Morales, also in protest of Israel’s actions in Gaza.
In 2020, the government of right-wing interim President Jeanine Anez reestablished ties.
Tuesday’s announcement came hours after Morales on social media pressured current President Luis Arce to condemn Israel and declare it a terrorist state.
On Monday, Arce met with the Palestinian ambassador to Bolivia.
“We reject the war crimes being committed in Gaza. We support international initiatives to guarantee humanitarian aid, in compliance with international law,” Arce said on social media on Monday.
Gaza health authorities say that 8,525 people, including 3,542 children, have been killed in Israeli attacks since Oct. 7. UN officials say more than 1.4 million of Gaza’s civilian population of about 2.3 million have been made homeless.
The Israel military has accused Hamas, which rules the narrow coastal territory, of using civilian buildings as cover for fighters, commanders and weaponry, accusations it denies.  

 


Saudi Shoura Council speaker holds meetings during official trip to Jordan

Saudi Shoura Council speaker holds meetings during official trip to Jordan
Updated 48 min 58 sec ago
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Saudi Shoura Council speaker holds meetings during official trip to Jordan

Saudi Shoura Council speaker holds meetings during official trip to Jordan
  • Gatherings attended by several officials from the 2 sides

RIYADH: The Speaker of the Saudi Shoura Council Sheikh Abdullah Al-Sheikh met Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh on Wednesday as part of his official visit to Jordan, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The discussion emphasized the strong and deep-seated relations between Saudi Arabia and Jordan, highlighting their extensive coordination and cooperation across various sectors.

Both officials explored ways to enhance bilateral ties, with a particular focus on strengthening parliamentary relations.

Al-Sheikh also held discussions with Faisal Akef Al-Fayez, president of the Jordanian Senate, on the same day.

He highlighted Saudi Arabia’s rapid economic growth and development, attributing this progress to the leadership of the Kingdom.

Al-Sheikh expressed gratitude for Jordan’s unwavering support and spoke of the consistent backing the Kingdom has provided to Jordan.

The meeting also focused on ongoing cooperative efforts between the Shoura Council and the Jordanian Senate, along with discussions on various other subjects.

Both meetings were attended by several officials from the two sides.
 


Why displaced Syrians in Lebanon face an agonizing dilemma amid mounting hostility 

Why displaced Syrians in Lebanon face an agonizing dilemma amid mounting hostility 
Updated 7 min 53 sec ago
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Why displaced Syrians in Lebanon face an agonizing dilemma amid mounting hostility 

Why displaced Syrians in Lebanon face an agonizing dilemma amid mounting hostility 
  • Lebanon hosts the greatest number of refugees per capita of any country in the world, placing additional strain on its economy 
  • The recent murder of a Lebanese Forces party official has triggered a fresh wave of violence and vitriol against Syrians 

LONDON: Syrian refugees in Lebanon are in an impossible fix, unable to safely return home while also facing mounting hostility from host communities and local authorities, especially following the death of a Lebanese Forces party official, allegedly at the hands of Syrian criminals.

Pascal Suleiman, the Byblos District coordinator of the Christian-based party, was reportedly kidnapped and later killed in a Syrian area near the Lebanese border. Seven Syrian nationals were arrested on suspicion of killing Suleiman in what was dubbed a botched carjacking.

The killing of Pascal Suleiman, the Byblos District coordinator of the Christian-based Lebanese Forces party, is being blamed on Syrians but party leaders are not convinced. (AFP/File Photo) 

The Lebanese Forces and its allies were not fully convinced that Syrians were behind the killing, which took place in an area controlled by its Hezbollah rivals, suggesting that Lebanese authorities were using the Syrians as a convenient patsy.

Although the scapegoating of Syrians in Lebanon has been commonplace since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, dispersing millions of refugees throughout the region, the murder of Suleiman has triggered a fresh wave of violence and vitriol against displaced households.

Haneen, a Syrian university student whose name has been changed for her safety, described recently witnessing a group of Lebanese men assaulting and hurling abuse at a man they labeled “Souri” (Syrian). 

“The slaps were so loud, I felt as if they were falling on my face,” she told Arab News.

Videos have emerged on social media in recent days showing Lebanese Forces supporters venting their fury on random Syrians in the street — many of them refugees. Angry mobs also vandalized cars with Syrian license plates and looted Syrian-owned businesses.

Supporters of the Lebanese Forces Party block a main highway in Byblos, Lebanon, on April 8, 2024, to protest the fate of a local official, who security forces later said was killed by a group of Syrians in an attempted carjacking. (REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir)

Other videos showed Lebanese men on motorcycles roaming the streets in various parts of the country, including Keserwan and Burj Hamoud, where they ordered Syrian occupants to leave their homes and businesses within 48 hours.

Intercommunal tensions in Lebanon have been stoked further by the rhetoric of Lebanese politicians, who frequently blame the country’s many ills on the presence of more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees.

Between April and May 2023, the Lebanese army arbitrarily arrested and deported thousands of Syrians, according to Human Rights Watch.

In a recent press conference, Bassam Mawlawi, the acting interior minister, said the country “will become stricter in granting residency permits and dealing with (Syrians) residing in Lebanon illegally.”

He claimed that “many crimes are being committed by Syrians” and stressed that the “Syrian presence in Lebanon can no longer be tolerated and is unacceptable.”

In October last year, he even sought to portray Syrian refugees as a danger to the country’s “existence” and “a threat to Lebanon’s demographics and identity.”

Echoing these sentiments was Abdallah Bou Habib, the acting foreign minister, who during a visit to the Greek capital Athens on April 8 described the number of Syrians in Lebanon as “a problem.”

Just days before Suleiman’s death, Amin Salam, Lebanon’s economy minister, said the caretaker government should declare a “state of emergency” regarding Syrian refugees.

Karam Shaar, a senior fellow at the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, a nonpartisan Washington think tank, said Lebanese politicians were showing signs of “hysteria” over the Syrian presence in Lebanon.

While “part of that is understandable and fair,” Shaar told Arab News that “part of it is just Lebanese politicians scapegoating their failures and pinning them on Syrians.”

Omar Al-Ghazzi, an associate professor of media and communications at the London School of Economics, acknowledged that the influx had “made long-standing economic problems worse, whether in terms of infrastructure, public services and unemployment, particularly as Lebanese leaders stand accused of making financial profit from international aid.

“However, rather than blaming leaders and the political system for the collapsed economy in Lebanon, it became a convenient narrative to blame Syrians.”

Furthermore, he told Arab News: “Sunni-Shiite tensions during the Syrian war, and Christian fears of Muslim dominance, have made any discussion of Syrian refugees take the form of a toxic and violent discourse — as if anti-Syrianness is the one thing that the divided Lebanese could agree on.”

Anti-Syrian sentiments in Lebanon did not first emerge with the influx of refugees after 2011. They have far deeper historical roots. 

“Since Lebanon’s independence, Lebanese political culture has sustained a sense of superiority over the country’s Arab neighbors, mainly Palestinians and Syrians, as well as a sense of being threatened by their presence and influence,” said Al-Ghazzi.

“Following the end of the Lebanese civil war, the hegemony of the Syrian regime in Lebanon exacerbated an anti-Syrianness that often took the shape of discrimination against Syrian laborers.”

However, Al-Ghazzi believes “this renewed racism cannot be separated from the rise of fascism and anti-immigrant sentiment in the West that gives legitimacy to nationalist chauvinism on a global scale.

“Sadly, it is marginalized and vulnerable Syrians who are paying the price of this politics. In Lebanon, they face daily acts of discrimination, humiliation and violence as they have to confront bleak prospects whether they stay in Lebanon, attempt illegal migration to Europe, or go to Syria.”

The arrival of Syrian refugees over the past decade has placed a burden on Lebanon’s already stretched services and infrastructure.

Lebanon hosts the greatest number of refugees per capita of any country in the world, according to Lisa Bou Khaled, spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, in Lebanon.

“UNHCR fully recognizes the impact this is having on the country, notably while it is facing the worst economic crisis in its modern history, pushing the most vulnerable to the brink,” she told Arab News.

Likewise, Shaar of the Newlines Institute said: “Lebanon’s economy is actually struggling, and yet the number of Syrians is on the rise — just from natural increases. So, the problem that Lebanon faces is real.”

He stressed the need for “a systemic solution to this crisis — a concerted effort to actually address it because otherwise, my main worry is that there will be more xenophobic rhetoric and attacks against Syrians.”

In the last five years, Lebanon’s currency has lost more than 98 percent of its value, according to the World Bank. The spillover from the ongoing war in Gaza has also dealt a major blow to the country’s stability.

To make matters worse, funding for UN agencies to assist displaced communities is drying up fast amid the world’s multiple, overlapping humanitarian emergencies. 

According to Bou Khaled, “in 2024, UNHCR and the World Food Programme are able to assist 88,000 fewer refugee families than in 2023 with cash and food assistance, reflecting a 32 percent decrease in the number of beneficiaries.”

Syrian refugees in Lebanon are among the most vulnerable populations, with approximately 90 percent of households living in extreme poverty and 80 percent lacking legal residency.

Jasmin Lilian Diab, director of the Institute for Migration Studies at the Lebanese American University, said that “depriving Syrian refugees of proper documentation not only violates their fundamental human rights but also exacerbates their vulnerability.

“Without legal status, refugees face barriers accessing essential services such as healthcare, education, and employment, further marginalizing them within Lebanese society,” she told Arab News.

“This lack of documentation also increases the risk of exploitation, abuse, and detention, leaving refugees without legal recourse or protection. More recently, this has made them increasingly vulnerable to deportation amid ongoing raids and crackdowns.”

For Bou Khaled of UNHCR, housing is also a major concern. “More than half of the Syrian population (52 percent) live in dangerous, sub-standard or overcrowded shelters with the worst/most dangerous conditions reported in Mount Lebanon, (the) south and Beirut,” she said.

In March, a huge fire broke out in a Syrian refugee camp in Wadi Al-Arnab in the northeastern town of Arsal. The inferno, reportedly caused by an electrical fault, devoured more than 36 makeshift tents.

The fire was only the latest in a series of similar incidents to befall this vulnerable population. A similar blaze occurred in Hanine in Bint Jbeil District during a heatwave in July 2023, while another broke out in October 2022, reducing 93 tents to ashes.

Those living in rented accommodation are hardly better off. Average monthly rents in Lebanese pounds have “increased by 553 percent in 2023; from LBP 863,000 in 2022 to over 5.6 million LBP in 2023,” said Bou Khaled.

For Syrian refugees, unable to live under these circumstances but too frightened to return home, where they might face arrest, persecution, or conscription by the regime or one of the country’s armed factions, the most practical way out seems to be onward migration.

“UNHCR does not hinder the return of refugees to Syria,” said Bou Khaled. The UN agency “is also actively working to support durable solutions for Syrian refugees, including resettlement to third countries, and return to Syria.”

She added: “Resettlement allows responsibility sharing and show of solidarity with host countries like Lebanon, supporting large refugee populations.” This, however, “depends on quotas UNHCR receives by resettlement countries.

“Overall, since 2011 and up to the end of 2023, about 100,000 refugees have been resettled from Lebanon to third countries. In 2023, there was a 9.25-percent increase in resettlement departures when compared to 2022, and the highest number recorded since 2017.”

For many Syrians in Lebanon, onward migration through legal routes is out of reach. Hundreds have instead resorted to making the dangerous sea journey to the EU’s easternmost state, Cyprus, which is a mere 160 km from Lebanon.

Caption

Earlier this month, Cyprus expressed concern over the sudden surge in arrivals of Syrian refugees from Lebanon. With more than 600 Syrians crossing in small boats, the island’s reception capacity has reached breaking point, Reuters reported.

Shaar suspects “the number will only increase going forward as the situation becomes worse and worse” in Lebanon.

Diab of the Institute for Migration Studies at LAU said that “while sea journeys to Europe may seem like the only option for some Syrian refugees in Lebanon, safe alternatives do exist in theory — albeit a much slower process that many refugees cannot afford to wait for.”
 

 


World Endurance Championship camel race begins May 4 in Al-Ula

World Endurance Championship camel race begins May 4 in Al-Ula
Updated 17 April 2024
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World Endurance Championship camel race begins May 4 in Al-Ula

World Endurance Championship camel race begins May 4 in Al-Ula
  • Championship includes a 16 km race split into two 8 km stages, with a 30-minute break in between
  • Inaugural event has a prize pool of more than SR2 million ($533,000) up for grabs

RIYADH: The International Federation for Camel Racing (IFCR) has announced that the first edition of the World Endurance Championship camel race will begin May 4 in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ula.

The inaugural event has a prize pool of more than SR2 million ($533,000) up for grabs.

The championship includes a 16 km race split into two 8 km stages, with a 30-minute break in between.

During the first stage, 20 male and 15 women riders will compete in order to qualify for the finals. The first place prize is SR500,000, the IFCR said, with the remaining money distributed among 10 winners for both categories.

IFCR member states can compete in the championship with 10 male and five female competitors. Non-members can borrow camels and submit a maximum of three competitors of both genders.


Kings of Jordan, Bahrain discuss Arab cooperation on regional issues

Kings of Jordan, Bahrain discuss Arab cooperation on regional issues
Updated 17 April 2024
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Kings of Jordan, Bahrain discuss Arab cooperation on regional issues

Kings of Jordan, Bahrain discuss Arab cooperation on regional issues
  • The meeting highlighted the importance of the upcoming Arab League Summit

AMMAN: Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa met in Aqaba on Wednesday to discuss Arab solidarity and coordination, the Jordan News Agency reported.

The meeting highlighted the importance of the upcoming Arab League Summit, which opens in the Bahraini capital Manama on May 16, in the light of the challenges now facing the region.

King Abdullah praised Bahrain's efforts in organizing the event.

At the meeting, which was also attended by Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah, the leaders emphasized the strong ties between Jordan and Bahrain and expressed their commitment to further cooperation and economic integration.

King Hamad commended Jordan for its role in promoting peace in the region and its support for Arab and Islamic causes, especially the Palestinian issue.

The leaders stressed the urgent need for international intervention to achieve a ceasefire agreement in Gaza and called on the UN Security Council to take immediate action to protect civilians, ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid and prevent the conflict from escalating.

They also voiced their opposition to any actions that might widen the conflict, including the Israeli ground offensive in Rafah or the displacement of Palestinians.
 


What We Are Reading Today: Basic Equality

What We Are Reading Today: Basic Equality
Updated 17 April 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Basic Equality

What We Are Reading Today: Basic Equality

Author: Paul Sagar

What makes human beings one another’s equals? That we are “basic equals” has become a bedrock assumption in Western moral and political philosophy. 

And yet establishing why we ought to believe this claim has proved fiendishly difficult, floundering in the face of the many inequalities that characterise the human condition. 

In this provocative work, Paul Sagar offers a novel approach to explaining and justifying basic equality. Rather than attempting to find an independent foundation for basic equality, he argues, we should instead come to see our commitment to this idea as the result of the practice of treating others as equals. 

Moreover, he continues, it is not enough to grapple with the problem through philosophy alone — by just thinking very hard, in our armchairs; we must draw insights from history and psychology as well.