Bassem Yousef delivers history masterclass in second Piers Morgan interview

Bassem Yousef delivers history masterclass in second Piers Morgan interview
Youssef is seen gifting the television host with a jug of olive oil from the West Bank. (Screenshot)
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Updated 03 November 2023
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Bassem Yousef delivers history masterclass in second Piers Morgan interview

Bassem Yousef delivers history masterclass in second Piers Morgan interview
  • Satirist and actor highlights the ongoing denial of Palestinian rights, excoriates ‘apartheid’ Israel
  • Morgan surprisingly slams Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu for being ‘complicit in keeping Hamas in power’

LONDON: Bassem Youssef delivered a history masterclass, in his inimitable satirical and subversive manner, in his second interview with Piers Morgan on Nov. 2 — highlighting that Palestinian rights were continually being denied by the powerful, “apartheid” state of Israel and its allies.

The two-hour Piers Morgan Uncensored interview has amassed over 6.6 million views since it was posted. It was a stark contrast to the stiffness of their viral interview on Oct. 17 which was heated, marred by signal delays, and saw Morgan struggling to respond to the Egyptian-American comedian’s satirical humor on the conditions Palestinians face under Israeli occupation.

This time the interaction between the two was noticeably warmer, with Morgan flying halfway across the world to meet with Youssef in a Los Angeles comedy club.  

Youssef is seen gifting the television host with a jug of olive oil from the West Bank, where centuries-old olive trees are passed down through generations and recognized as symbols of Palestinian national pride. 

Reflecting on their previous conversation, Morgan admitted that he was initially uneasy when Youssef used dark comedy to respond to his talking points on the war Israel has launched in occupied Gaza. 

“Then I realized what you were doing was very powerful. It was savagely satirical and extremely effective,” he added.

According to Youssef, satire does not push against talking points but rather exaggerates the reality of the situation. Laughter, he explained, was an effective way of emphasizing the extreme nature of Israel’s response to the Hamas attack on Oct. 7. 

Opening up further, Youssef confessed his initial refusal to appear on Morgan’s show was that he feared being critical of Israel would be “career suicide.”

“I left Egypt and came to America: the land of the free, the home of the brave. But I didn’t know that there was a fine print that you cannot speak about Israel,” Youssef said.

The comedian argued that the word antisemitism has been abused to smear anyone opposing Zionism. This, Youssef highlighted, even extends to Jewish peace advocates championing a free Palestine, who have been derogatorily branded as “self-hating Jews” or “Kapos,” a term denoting Jewish prisoners in Nazi camps who were forced to serve as guards.  

Youssef clarified that while he does not endorse celebrations post the Oct. 7 attacks, he explained why many viewed them as a victory over a “criminal state who has been killing their people while receiving backing by the international community.”

“These people from a very young age have seen that they are not being heard by the media and that the plight of their brothers and sisters in Palestine and the Arab world are not being heard,” he said.

“Is it right? No, but it is understandable,” he stated. 

Morgan seized the moment to clarify his stance on Israel’s war on Gaza, which has been a subject of fervent online debates. He said his talk show has served as a platform for some of the strongest pro-Palestinian voices in recent weeks.

Morgan’s interviews have generated millions of streams, which translate into significant financial rewards. The Yousef interview now appears to be his most lucrative one with 20 million viewers, far outnumbering those with Andrew Tate, Kanye West and Cristiano Ronaldo.

He revealed: “Seeing thousands of children being killed in Gaza, it fills me with utter horror.

“I find it very easy to condemn Israel turning off the water … off the power. I think it’s ridiculous that Israel should have that much power over millions of people that are not a part of their country. I think it’s terrible what’s happening in the West Bank. I think that the stuff there is completely easy to condemn.

“But can I hand on heart condemn Israel for trying to destroy Hamas for what they did on Oct. 7? That is where I’m struggling to condemn it because I believe they are right in trying to destroy Hamas.”

Morgan sought an answer to his own moral quandary about what constitutes a proportionate response for Israel to eliminate Hamas, to which Yousef responded: “I would give the Palestinians what they deserve.”

Youssef, a medical doctor, proposed a solution likening extremism to viruses.

“If a patient comes to you with the flu and you are the doctor. How can you treat that patient?” he asks Morgan before offering his own answer. “You give them nutrition, fluids and rest so that the immunity of the body gets rid of the virus on its own.”

“But if I (start beating) that patient with the flu with a sledgehammer … you are weakening the body and making them worse.” 

Youssef said that Israel has not only weakened the Palestinian body by making it unable to combat radicalism, but has “openly boasted” that it provided it funding.

In a surprising agreement, Morgan opined that Netanyahu was “complicit in keeping Hamas in power.”

Youssef maintained that Israel was not willing to make peace, but was intent on the forced displacement of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

“It is not about (Israel PM Benjamin) Netanyahu. It is the policy of Israel not to give Palestinians their state. It’s always been there.”

He added: “Israel is a racist, apartheid country. It is projecting this shining example of secularism … so people can accept whatever they do. Because they look at Palestinians as lesser people. This is the whole point.”
 


Media watchdog condemns assassination attempt on Iraqi publisher

Media watchdog condemns assassination attempt on Iraqi publisher
Updated 27 February 2024
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Media watchdog condemns assassination attempt on Iraqi publisher

Media watchdog condemns assassination attempt on Iraqi publisher
  • Fakhri Karim was leaving a book fair with his wife when shots were fired by a group of unidentified individuals
  • Committee to Protect Journalists calls on officials to quickly pinpoint, punish those responsible

LONDON: Media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned an assassination attempt on prominent Iraqi publisher and politician Fakhri Karim.

Sherif Mansour, CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, said in a statement the assassination attempt “in a highly secure area of Baghdad sheds a bright light on the darkness Iraq and its journalists are increasingly facing.”

He also called on authorities to quickly pinpoint and punish those responsible.

A group of unidentified individuals — armed and masked — fired at least 17 shots at Karim’s car on Feb. 22 before fleeing in two trucks, according to reports from media outlets and statements on Facebook from his organization.

Karim, publisher and editor-in-chief of Al-Mada newspaper, was leaving a book fair hosted by the Al-Mada Foundation for Media, Culture, and Arts in Baghdad.

Karim and his wife, Ghada Al-Amily, were uninjured in the attack.

The incident occurred at about 9 p.m. in the Al-Qadisiyah district of Baghdad, a heavily guarded area that houses Iraqi government security agencies and officials close to the Green Zone, where foreign embassies are located.

In a Facebook statement on Feb. 23, Al-Mada called it a “cowardly assassination attempt” and called for a criminal investigation.

Iraq’s Interior Minister Abdul Amir Al-Shammari said that he had instructed a special security team to enhance security and intelligence operations in order to apprehend and prosecute those responsible for the crime.

Karim is a well-known politician and journalist who worked as an adviser to former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. He was a strong critic of former Iraqi dictator and President Saddam Hussein. His newspaper, Al-Mada, is considered one of the few remaining independent newspapers in Iraq.


Berlin mayor decries ‘antisemitism’ over Berlinale speeches on Palestine solidarity

Berlin mayor decries ‘antisemitism’ over Berlinale speeches on Palestine solidarity
Updated 27 February 2024
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Berlin mayor decries ‘antisemitism’ over Berlinale speeches on Palestine solidarity

Berlin mayor decries ‘antisemitism’ over Berlinale speeches on Palestine solidarity
  • Politically charged edition of film festival saw many artists, including many of Jewish heritage, expressing solidarity with Palestine
  • Mayor Kai Wegner called promotion of ‘antisemitism’ during festival an ‘intolerable relativization’
  • Israeli Yuval Abraham, co-director of winning documentary ‘No Other Land,’ said he received death threats after speech

LONDON: Berlin Mayor Kai Wegner has accused the Berlin Film Festival of promoting “antisemitism” following speeches expressing solidarity with Palestine during the closing ceremony on Saturday.

Wegner urged the state-backed festival management to “ensure that such incidents do not happen again.”

In a post on X, he said: “What happened yesterday at the Berlinale was an intolerable relativization. Anti-Semitism has no place in Berlin, and that also applies to the art scene.”

Although Wegner did not specify the particular aspect of the ceremony or the artists he took issue with, he emphasized Berlin’s commitment to freedom and its “firm” support for Israel.

A member of the Christian Democratic Union party, Wegner assumed office as mayor in April 2023. Throughout the recent crisis in the Middle East, he has consistently voiced support for Israel, attributing “full responsibility for the deep suffering in Israel and the Gaza Strip” to Hamas.

During the 10-day festival, numerous artists used the stage to express solidarity with Palestine, including Yuval Abraham, director of the documentary “No Other Land,” who called for a ceasefire as he received his award on Saturday.

Accompanied by Palestinian fellow co-director Basel Adra, he said: “In two days, we will go back to a land where we are not equal. I am living under a civilian law, and Basel is under military law. We live 30 minutes from one another, but I have voting rights, and Basel (does not have) voting rights. I am free to move where I want in this land. Basel is, like millions of Palestinians, locked in the occupied West Bank. This situation of apartheid between us, this inequality, it has to end. We need to call for a ceasefire.”

Abraham, an Israeli journalist, filmmaker, and activist based in Jerusalem, accused Israel of a “massacre” and criticized German arms sales to Israel.

Abraham later posted the Berlinale clip to X, saying that he had received multiple death threats following the broadcast of the speech by Israel’s Channel 11.

“Our film ‘No Other Land’ on occupied Masafer Yatta’s brutal expulsion won best documentary in Berlinale. Israel’s channel 11 aired this 30 second segment from my speech, insanely called it ‘anti semitic’ — and I’ve been receiving death threats since. I stand behind every word,” he said in a post on X.

Other filmmakers and jury members, including American Jewish director Eliza Hittman, also used the closing ceremony to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The festival also faced an attack by anonymous hackers, who accessed the official Berlinale Panorama Instagram account and shared a series of infographics about the war in Gaza.

The posts highlighted Germany’s involvement in the conflict, criticizing what they perceived as the country’s exaggerated historical guilt toward Jews.

“From our unresolved Nazi past to our genocidal present — we have always been on the wrong side of history. But it’s not too late to change our future,” read one of the posts.

The festival promptly removed the posts and announced plans to “file criminal charges against unknown persons” responsible for sharing “posts about the war in the Middle East.”

In a statement, the Berlinale management clarified that filmmakers’ statements were independent and “in no way represent” the opinions of the festival. They emphasized that statements should be accepted as long as they “respect the legal framework.”

On Monday, a governement spokeperson said German officials will investigate how Berlin film festival winners made “one-sided” comments condemning Israel’s war in Gaza at the awards gala.

Amid the widespread anger at the comments at the award ceremony, Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Ron Prosor, said on social media: “Once again, the German cultural scene showcases its bias by rolling out the red carpet exclusively for artists who promote the delegitimisation of Israel.”

At the film festival, “anti-Semitic and anti-Israel discourse was met with applause”, he added.

This year’s Berlinale marked the final edition under the leadership of Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek. The next edition will be led by former London Film Festival head Tricia Tuttle, who was present at the closing ceremony and received recognition from Rissenbeek.


Billboard Arabia launches exclusive studio session ‘Jalsat Billboard Arabia’

Billboard Arabia launches exclusive studio session ‘Jalsat Billboard Arabia’
Updated 27 February 2024
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Billboard Arabia launches exclusive studio session ‘Jalsat Billboard Arabia’

Billboard Arabia launches exclusive studio session ‘Jalsat Billboard Arabia’
  • Series combines Arabic songs, modern music culture and innovative melodies
  • The inaugural session showcases Ahmed Saad performing his chart-topping hits

RIYADH: Billboard Arabia has announced the debut of ‘Jalsat Billboard Arabia’. This exclusive studio session series combines Arabic songs, modern music culture and innovative melodies, offering fans of all ages an immersive audio-visual experience. 

‘Jalsat Billboard Arabia’ is a journey of discovery, where Arab artists seamlessly fuse their most popular songs with new musical arrangements and rhythms. This unique fusion aims to captivate fans, inviting them to reimagine how language and lyrics connect, along with the blend of different melodies, musical styles and cultural influences. Each session concludes with an exclusive interview, offering insights into the artists’ inspirations and creative process, and showcasing their artistry.  

‘Jalsat Billboard Arabia’ breaks the traditional mould by allowing artists to reinterpret their favourite songs in inventive ways. From acoustic and live percussion performances to blends of Latin, Arab, Khaleeji, and Afro-Caribbean inspired beats, each session is a celebration of musical diversity.

 

 

Ahmed Saad, who has been in the top ten of the Billboard Arabia Artist 100 since its launch, takes center stage in the first session, delivering a sensational performance of his most popular songs. Get ready to witness Saad like you have never seen him before, as he introduces a unique fusion of musical styles inspired by various cultures and backgrounds. Accompanied by talented musicians, his songs take on fresh and different meanings, creating new memories for music lovers.  

With the MENA region being one of the fastest growing music hubs globally, this announcement reflects Billboard Arabia’s strategic vision of providing a platform to spotlight established and emerging Arab artists, celebrate their creativity, and connect them with a wider audience. It also follows the launch of Billboard Arabia’s digital platform and flagship charts in December 2023, including the Billboard Arabia Artist 100 and the Billboard Arabia Hot 100 for Arabic music.  

‘Jalsat Billboard Arabia’ is now exclusively available on Billboard Arabia’s YouTube channel.  


‘Fascist Modi’ response by Google’s Gemini AI sparks diplomatic row

‘Fascist Modi’ response by Google’s Gemini AI sparks diplomatic row
Updated 26 February 2024
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‘Fascist Modi’ response by Google’s Gemini AI sparks diplomatic row

‘Fascist Modi’ response by Google’s Gemini AI sparks diplomatic row
  • Google AI model response said some of Modi’s policies were ‘characterized as fascist’ by experts
  • ‘Google’s response breached India’s law,” junior information tech minister said

LONDON: Google’s artificial intelligence model, Gemini, has sparked a diplomatic row with its response describing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government policies as “fascist.”

The controversy arose when Indian author and journalist Arnab Ray queried Gemini about Modi’s ideology, to which the bot responded that Modi was “accused of implementing policies some experts have characterized as fascist.”

This answer contrasted with responses to similar questions about former US President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who received more benign replies.

The controversial response sparked an immediate backlash in India, with accusations of bias and malice leveled against Google and its AI model.

Junior Information Technology Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar raised the issue, accusing Google of violating the country’s digital technology rules and various provisions of India’s criminal laws.

He emphasized that the unreliability of AI platforms could not be used as an excuse to exempt them from Indian laws.

“The Government has said this before — I repeat for attention of @GoogleIndia … Our Digital Nagriks (citizens) are NOT to be experimented on with ‘unreliable’ platforms/algos/model … ‘Sorry Unreliable’ does not exempt from the law,” he wrote on X.

Google responded by stating that it had addressed the problem and was working to improve the system, clarifying that “Gemini is built as a creativity and productivity tool and may not always be reliable.”

This incident comes after Google had to issue an apology and suspend some of Gemini’s tasks last week when the model depicted specific white figures, such as the US Founding Fathers, or groups like Nazi-era German soldiers, as people of color.

This move was seen by experts as an overcorrection to long-standing racial bias problems in AI, prompting fresh concerns about the issue.

In a similar incident earlier this month, social media platform X stated that the Indian government had ordered it to take down posts expressing support for farmers in north India demanding higher crop prices.

While complying with the orders, X expressed disagreement, citing concerns about curtailed freedom of expression.


Netflix-AFAC’s Women in Film training program deemed big success

Netflix-AFAC’s Women in Film training program deemed big success
Updated 26 February 2024
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Netflix-AFAC’s Women in Film training program deemed big success

Netflix-AFAC’s Women in Film training program deemed big success
  • ‘Truly inspiring’ initiative concluded with visit to production facility in Madrid
  • 37 women took part in project that aims to support development of industry

LONDON: The inaugural film industry training program launched by Netflix for young Arab women has garnered praise as a “truly inspiring” success.

In collaboration with the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, the Women in Film: Introduction to the Creative Process initiative concluded with a visit to Netflix’s production hub in Tres Cantos, Madrid, following a series of workshops across the Middle East region.

“The program was a great experience not only for the quality of information being taught, but also for meeting influential women from different areas in this industry and providing an interactive and fun experience,” said Maha Hani, a participant from Saudi Arabia, who was among 37 women recently concluding the initiative in Madrid.

“Seeing the drive and initiative by Netflix and AFAC to provide opportunities for great stories by talented women all over the world is truly inspiring,” she added.

The program began in November with three-day workshops held in Dubai, Jeddah, and Cairo, offering participants mentorship from established female directors in various aspects of filmmaking, including scriptwriting.

Participants visited Netflix’s content hub during the final leg, expanding their network through engagements with industry professionals and talks with prominent organizations and government bodies.

The participants also had the opportunity to have mentoring sessions with producer Emma Lustres (“Cell 211,” “Retribution”), and showrunner Gema R. Neira (“Nacho,” “High Seas,” “Farina”).

Netflix collaborated with AFAC to support aspiring female directors aged 21 to 27 as part of its broader commitment to promoting gender equality in the Arab cinema industry through its Because She Created initiatives.

Announced in August, the program welcomed candidates from the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Kuwait.

Rima Mismar, AFAC’s executive director, spoke of the organization’s ongoing commitment to breaking stereotypes and championing women’s voices across the Arab region.

She said: “We are extremely pleased with this renewed partnership with Netflix, through which we can build on this commitment and instill technical capacities in young women talents of the region.”

Nuha El Tayeb, Netflix’s content director for Turkey, the Middle East, and Africa, highlighted the program’s role in developing talents and supporting the growth of the industry’s next generation, adding: “We are proud of the impactful work we’re delivering with long-standing partners like AFAC, who have experience creating tangible opportunities for underrepresented voices and making the industry more inclusive and accessible.”