Journalists denounce Israel’s ‘obnoxious’ attempts to control Indian media

Journalists denounce Israel’s ‘obnoxious’ attempts to control Indian media
Members of the media gather at the Supreme Court in New Delhi on November 9, 2019. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 05 November 2023

Journalists denounce Israel’s ‘obnoxious’ attempts to control Indian media

Journalists denounce Israel’s ‘obnoxious’ attempts to control Indian media
  • Israeli ambassador’s comments mobilize online trolls against Frontline magazine
  • Envoy’s behavior is ‘unprecedented, unwarranted and unacceptable,’ journalists say

NEW DELHI: Israel is attempting to control the Indian media narrative on Palestine, journalists have warned, as they denounced a public attack by Tel Aviv’s envoy on one of India’s most prominent magazines.

Concerns over efforts to influence Indian journalists and their coverage of Israel’s deadly onslaught on Gaza began to emerge last month, when groups of reporters from India suddenly started to fly to Tel Aviv, sharing footage showing them embedded with Israeli troops.

Those that Arab News spoke to have declined to comment on whether they were sponsored by the Israeli government but admitted they were facilitated by its security forces and obtained free visas.

Since the beginning of Israel’s daily bombardment of the Palestinian enclave in retaliation for an Oct. 7 attack by the Gaza-based militant group Hamas, the Israeli ambassador in New Delhi has hosted regular briefings for Indian journalists and this week made a public statement widely seen as an attempt to interfere in their reporting.

In a letter dated Oct. 31, which he shared on social media on the same day, the envoy, Naor Gilon, accused Frontline, an English-language fortnightly published by The Hindu Group, of “importing fake news into the mainstream media.”

The ambassador’s comments came after the magazine, which is famous for in-depth reporting, published a story on the situation in Gaza that featured comments from both Israeli sources and a Hamas spokesperson.

Gilon wrote that interviewing Hamas was “shameful” and raised “serious doubt about journalistic standards and ethical considerations” and that he hoped that The Hindu “reflects on this incident and takes measures to ensure that future interviews are conducted with the rigor and integrity that your readers deserve.”

The authenticity of the letter was confirmed by Frontline editor Vaishna Roy, to whose email address it was sent.

Roy said she was very surprised by “the tone and the tenor” of the letter.

“There is a certain anger, which one doesn’t expect from a diplomatic position, an important position, as the ambassador to a country. There’s lack of restraint and (there is) a personal attack, which surprised me,” she told Arab News.

“We interviewed two Israeli voices and one former PLO spokesperson, and we interviewed the Hamas head of international relations ... As an editor I thought it is important to give both sides a hear.”

Although sent to Roy, the letter was addressed to Suresh Nambath, editor of The Hindu daily, which is owned by the same media group.

“Typically, one writes a letter to the editor, and we would publish it with our response. The ambassador sent it to my email ID but did not address me. When I pointed it out, he did not respond. Instead, the ambassador published the same letter online,” Roy said.

Multiple responses to the ambassador’s post, which Arab News reviewed, contained harassment and threats against the Frontline editor.

“It is unprecedented and it’s not a good omen. We’re seeing a sudden rise in a certain kind of propaganda, which refuses to admit a single voice of dissent,” Roy said.

“They are trying to control the narrative ... The reason why he went to social media is because he knew it would immediately set the troll army on me. And that is exactly what happened.”

Sanjay Kapoor, editor of the English-language political magazine Hardnews, said he saw the same trend, which has also been facilitated by uncritical consumption of Western narratives in India.

“Our media follows the Western media. Many a time, they even carry reports that are contrary to our foreign policy. Many would believe that is a sign or a symbol of independent journalism, but that’s not true,” he told Arab News.

“The Western powers and Israel are trying to control the narrative and ensure that the Palestinian point of view never comes out.”

But despite this, a foreign official’s direct intervention in editorial matters has been seen as taking these efforts to yet another level — bordering encroachment.

“This is unwarranted and unacceptable to the Indian media,” said Umakant Lakhera, former president of the Press Club of India.

“The Israeli ambassador in India has no business, no right, to dictate terms and conditions to Indian media, and to preach the protocol of the ethics of journalism.”

He found the ambassador’s comments also “unethical” as they came from a representative of a state whose security forces have killed at least 31 Palestinian journalists in the past three weeks.

“Why have they been killed? Because they are giving the ground reality, they are reporting the ground situation,” Lakhera said.

The Israeli ambassador’s letter against Frontline’s editor and further activity on social media were not, however, the only recent incidents that made journalists raise their eyebrows.

“The same gentleman recently made an extraordinary claim that there was such enormous normal support for Israel in India after Oct. 7 that he could muster the whole contingent of Indians for the IDF,” said Anand K. Sahay, columnist and former editor of the Deccan Herald daily.

“Nevertheless, it is not a question of this ambassador alone. Israel’s ambassador to the UN has gone so far as to accuse the secretary-general of supporting terrorism,” Sahay told Arab News, referring to the Israeli UN representative’s call for the resignation of the organization’s chief, Antonio Guterres, who said that the Hamas attack “did not happen in vacuum.

“With America’s help, Israel has pretty much behaved like a terrorist state itself.”

Sahay hopes that as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “losing popularity day by day in his own country,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will distance himself from him and his “outright militarist” government.

“If he does so, no ambassador of Israel in New Delhi will in the future be so impertinent as to go around lecturing the media in this obnoxious way,” he said.

South Korea empowers nurses as doctors’ strike continues

South Korea empowers nurses as doctors’ strike continues
Updated 58 min 51 sec ago

South Korea empowers nurses as doctors’ strike continues

South Korea empowers nurses as doctors’ strike continues
  • Major hospitals struggling to provide services after thousands of junior medics handed in their resignation
  • Nurses will now be allowed to perform some medical procedures previously reserved for doctors

SEOUL: South Korea granted nurses new powers and legal protections Tuesday and launched an investigation into a patient’s death, as hospital chaos caused by striking trainee doctors entered a second week.
Major hospitals are struggling to provide services after thousands of junior medics handed in their resignation and stopped working last week to protest against government plans to sharply increase medical school admissions in the face of a rapidly aging society.
The government said Tuesday it would launch an investigation after a patient died of a cardiac arrest in an ambulance after struggling to find a hospital.
Emergency services contacted seven different hospitals but “were told there were no trainee doctors,” the daily JoongAng Ilbo reported.
“The government is conducting an on-site probe with related agencies into the death,” Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong said.
The mass work stoppage has also resulted in cancelations and postponements of surgeries for cancer patients and C-sections for pregnant women, with the government raising its public health alert to the highest level over the fallout.
Nurses will now be allowed to perform some medical procedures previously reserved for doctors, and offered immunity from any potential lawsuits linked to their new scope of work, Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo said.
“This pilot program will legally protect the nurses who are filling the medical vacuum created by trainee doctors’ walkouts at hospitals,” Park said.
The government said it needed to protect nurses as there were currently some “grey area” as to what medical treatments could be performed by which staff, at a time when nurses were “shouldering the workload” due to the strike.
The administrations of each hospital can work with nurses to decide which tasks they can perform.
The government has set a Thursday ultimatum for doctors to return to work, saying that legal action — including prosecution and the suspension of medical licenses — will be taken against those who refuse.
“We urge the trainee doctors to return to medical fields as soon as possible,” Park said.
Kim Sung-ju, the head of Korean Cancer Patients Rights Council, said that delays in chemotherapy and surgeries were happening in all university hospitals near the Seoul metropolitan area.
“We will thoroughly investigate all potential legal grounds and hold those responsible accountable if those with severe illnesses suffer severe damage,” Kim said.
Doctors are restricted from strikes by South Korean law, but the medics have said they have no option but to stop working to show their fierce opposition to the government’s plan.
Seoul says it has one of the lowest doctor-to-population ratios among developed countries, and the government is pushing hard to admit 2,000 more students to medical schools annually, starting next year.
Junior doctors say the reforms are the final straw in a profession where they already struggle with tough working conditions. They also argue that the over-reliance on trainees in the current health care system is not reasonable or fair.
But President Yoon Suk Yeol said Tuesday that “medical reform cannot be subject to negotiation or compromise.”
“No reasons can justify acts that hold lives and health of the people hostage,” he said at a meeting.
Polls suggest up to 75 percent of the South Korean public supports the increase in medical school admissions.

Biden hopes ceasefire, hostage deal to pause Israel-Hamas war can take effect by next Monday

Biden hopes ceasefire, hostage deal to pause Israel-Hamas war can take effect by next Monday
Updated 27 February 2024

Biden hopes ceasefire, hostage deal to pause Israel-Hamas war can take effect by next Monday

Biden hopes ceasefire, hostage deal to pause Israel-Hamas war can take effect by next Monday
  • Negotiations are underway for a ceasefire between Israel, Hamas to allow for release of hostages in Gaza 
  • Israel has killed over 29,000 Palestinians since October 7, according to Gaza Health Ministry figures

NEW YORK: President Joe Biden said Monday that he hopes a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that would pause hostilities and allow for remaining hostages to be released can take effect by early next week.
Asked when he thought a ceasefire could begin, Biden said: “Well I hope by the beginning of the weekend. The end of the weekend. My national security adviser tells me that we’re close. We’re close. We’re not done yet. My hope is by next Monday we’ll have a ceasefire.”
Biden commented in New York after taping an appearance on NBC’s “Late Night With Seth Meyers.”
Negotiations are underway for a weekslong ceasefire between Israel and Hamas to allow for the release of hostages being held in Gaza by the militant group in return for Israel releasing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. The proposed six-week pause in fighting would also include allowing hundreds of trucks to deliver desperately needed aid into Gaza every day.
Negotiators face an unofficial deadline of the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan around March 10, a period that often sees heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
Meanwhile, Israel has failed to comply with an order by the United Nations’ top court to provide urgently needed aid to desperate people in the Gaza Strip, Human Rights Watch said Monday, a month after a landmark ruling in The Hague ordered Israel to moderate its war.
In a preliminary response to a South African petition accusing Israel of genocide, the UN’s top court ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in the tiny Palestinian enclave. It stopped short of ordering an end to the military offensive that has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe.
Israel denies the charges against it, saying it is fighting in self-defense.
Nearly five months into the war, preparations are underway for Israel to expand its ground operation into Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost town along the border with Egypt, where 1.4 million Palestinians have sought safety.
Early Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the army had presented to the War Cabinet its operational plan for Rafah as well as plans to evacuate civilians from the battle zones. It gave no further details.
The situation in Rafah has sparked global concern. Israel’s allies have warned that it must protect civilians in its battle against the Hamas militant group.
Also Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh submitted his government’s resignation, and President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to appoint technocrats in line with US demands for internal reform. The US has called for a revitalized Palestinian Authority to govern postwar Gaza ahead of eventual statehood — a scenario rejected by Israel.
In its Jan. 26 ruling, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to follow six provisional measures, including taking “immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance” to Gaza.
Israel also must submit a report on what it is doing to adhere to the measures within a month. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said late Monday that it has filed such a report. It declined to share it or discuss its contents.
Israel said 245 trucks of aid entered Gaza on Sunday. That’s less than half the amount that entered daily before the war.
Human Rights Watch, citing UN figures, noted a 30 percent drop in the daily average number of aid trucks entering Gaza in the weeks following the court’s ruling. It said that between Jan. 27 and Feb. 21, the daily average of trucks entering was 93, compared to 147 trucks a day in the three weeks before the ruling. The daily average dropped to 57, between Feb. 9 and 21, the figures showed.
The rights group said Israel was not adequately facilitating fuel deliveries to hard-hit northern Gaza and blamed Israel for blocking aid from reaching the north, where the World Food Program said last week it was forced to suspend aid deliveries.
“The Israeli government has simply ignored the court’s ruling, and in some ways even intensified its repression,” said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch.
The Association of International Development Agencies, a coalition of over 70 humanitarian organizations working in Gaza and the West Bank, said almost no aid had reached areas in Gaza north of Rafah since the court’s ruling.
Israel denies it is restricting the entry of aid and has instead blamed humanitarian organizations operating in Gaza, saying large aid shipments sit idle on the Palestinian side of the main crossing. The UN says it can’t always reach the crossing because it is at times too dangerous.
In some cases, crowds of desperate Palestinians have surrounded delivery trucks and stripped them of supplies. The UN has called on Israel to open more crossings, including in the north, and to improve the process.
Netanyahu’s office said that the War Cabinet had approved a plan to deliver humanitarian aid safely into Gaza in a way that would “prevent the cases of looting.” It did not disclose further details.
The war, launched after Hamas-led militants rampaged across southern Israel, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking roughly 250 people hostage, has caused vast devastation in Gaza.
Nearly 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry which does not distinguish in its count between fighters and noncombatants. Israel says it has killed 10,000 militants, without providing evidence.
Fighting has flattened large swaths of Gaza’s urban landscape, displacing about 80 percent of the territory’s 2.3 million people, who have crammed into increasingly smaller spaces looking for elusive safety.
The crisis has pushed a quarter of the population toward starvation and raised fears of imminent famine, especially in the northern part of Gaza, the first focus of Israel’s ground invasion. Starving residents have been forced to eat animal fodder and search for food in demolished buildings.
“I wish death for the children because I cannot get them bread. I cannot feed them. I cannot feed my own children!” Naim Abouseido yelled as he waited for aid in Gaza City. “What did we do to deserve this?”
Bushra Khalidi with UK aid organization Oxfam told The Associated Press that it had verified reports that children have died of starvation in the north in recent weeks, which she said indicated aid was not being scaled up despite the court ruling.
Aid groups say deliveries also continue to be hobbled by security issues. The French aid groups Médecins du Monde and Doctors Without Borders each said that their facilities were struck by Israeli forces in the weeks following the court order.

Most UN Security Council members demand Taliban rescind decrees oppressing women, girls

Most UN Security Council members demand Taliban rescind decrees oppressing women, girls
Updated 27 February 2024

Most UN Security Council members demand Taliban rescind decrees oppressing women, girls

Most UN Security Council members demand Taliban rescind decrees oppressing women, girls
  • 11 of 15 council members insist on Afghan women’s equal participation in public, political, economic and social life
  • The Taliban government has not been recognized by any country in the world since the group seized power in 2021

UNITED NATIONS: More than two-thirds of the UN Security Council’s members demanded Monday that the Taliban rescind all policies and decrees oppressing and discriminating against women and girls, including banning girls education above the sixth grade and women’s right to work and move freely.

A statement by 11 of the 15 council members condemned the Taliban’s repression of women and girls since they took power in August 2021, and again insisted on their equal participation in public, political, economic, cultural and social life — especially at all decision-making levels seeking to advance international engagement with Afghanistan’s de facto rulers.

Guyana’s UN Ambassador Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett read the statement, surrounding by ambassadors of the 10 other countries, before a closed council meeting on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ conference with more than 25 envoys to Afghanistan on Feb. 18-19 in Qatar’s capital, Doha.

Afghan civil society representatives, including women, participated in the Doha meeting, which the council members welcomed. The Taliban refused to attend, its Foreign Ministry saying in a statement that its participation would be “beneficial” only if it was the sole and official representative for the country at the talks.

While the Taliban did not attend the meetings, UN political chief Rosemary DiCarlo did meet with Taliban officials based in Doha, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. DiCarlo also briefed council members at Monday’s closed meeting.

The Taliban have not been recognized by any country, and the UN envoy for Afghanistan last year warned the de facto rulers that international recognition as the country’s legitimate government will remain “nearly impossible” unless they lift the restrictions on women.

The 11 council nations supporting the statement — Ecuador, France, Guyana, Japan, Malta, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, South Korea, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States – underscored that there can only be sustainable peace in Afghanistan if its political process is inclusive and the human rights of all Afghans are respected including women and girls.

Four Security Council nations didn’t sign on to the statement – Russia, China, Mozambique and Algeria.

Secretary-General Guterres told reporters in Doha that among participants — also including representatives of the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization — there was “total consensus” on requirements for Afghanistan to be integrated into the international community.

To reach this “endgame,” he said, Afghanistan must not be “the hotbed of terrorist activities that impact other countries,” its institutions must include diverse groups including Uzbeks, Tajiks, Pashtuns and Hazaras, and human rights must be respected especially the rights of women and girls.

Guterres said to a certain extent there is currently “a kind of situation of the chicken and the egg.”

“On one hand, Afghanistan remains with a government that is not recognized internationally and, in many aspects, not integrated in the global institutions and in the global economy,” he said. “And on the other hand, there is in the international community a perception that inclusivity has not improved; that the situation of women and girls and human rights in general has in fact deteriorated in recent times.”

The secretary-general said one objective of the meeting with the envoys was “to overcome this deadlock” and develop a roadmap in which the international community’s concerns and the Taliban’s concerns are “taken into account simultaneously.”

A Security Council resolution asked Guterres to appoint a UN envoy after consultations with all parties, member states, the Taliban and others.

Guterres said the participants decided he should initiate consultations “to see if there are conditions to create a UN envoy that might be able not only to have a coordinating role in relation to the engagements that are taking place but that can also work effectively with the de facto authorities of Afghanistan.”

“I will initiate immediately those consultations,” the UN chief said.

Biden faces protest vote over Gaza in Michigan primary contest

Biden faces protest vote over Gaza in Michigan primary contest
Updated 27 February 2024

Biden faces protest vote over Gaza in Michigan primary contest

Biden faces protest vote over Gaza in Michigan primary contest
  • A similar write-in campaign calling for a ceasefire during the New Hampshire primary went nowhere, but Michigan has a significantly larger Muslim and Arab population
  • Israel killed 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry

DEARBORN, United States: The US state of Michigan votes Tuesday in a presidential primary that is expected to be another ticker-tape parade for Republican Donald Trump — but could deliver Democratic leader Joe Biden a bloody nose over the war in Gaza.
Biden faces no serious opposition to being nominated to run for a second term in the White House.
But as the civilian death toll mounts in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, he has seen support erode among Muslims and Arab Americans, a bloc crucial to his narrow 2020 victory over Trump in Michigan.
Activists in the key midwestern battleground — where Biden’s winning margin four years ago was a mere 150,000 votes — want Michigan residents to vote “uncommitted” in protest, pressuring the president to back off from his Israel support and call for an immediate ceasefire.
“President Biden has funded the bombs falling on the family members of people right here in Michigan — people who voted for him, who now feel completely betrayed,” said Layla Elabed of the “Listen to Michigan” campaign.
The group aims to amass 10,000 “uncommitted” voters to deliver a “powerful, unequivocal message” that funding and supporting the war is “at odds with the values of the Democratic Party.”
Biden is cruising to the Democratic nomination, with his main would-be rival, Minnesota congressman Dean Phillips, polling in single digits.
But activists deny that the “uncommitted” campaign is merely symbolic, given their importance in an election decided on small margins.
“Ten thousand votes is about the same as Donald Trump’s margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016,” Elabed said.
The war started when Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, resulting in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.
But concern has mounted amid the high civilian death toll in Israel’s retaliatory campaign, now at almost 30,000, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

White House officials have portrayed Biden as frustrated with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Still, US weapons have continued to flow to Israel, even as efforts continue to broker a second pause in fighting.
Biden has asked Congress for billions of dollars in additional military aid and his government has vetoed multiple UN Security Council calls for a ceasefire.
A similar write-in campaign calling for a ceasefire during the New Hampshire primary went nowhere, but Michigan has a significantly larger Muslim and Arab population.
“With every day that passes, every minute that the president fails to do the right thing, the belief that I and so many others have invested in him dwindles,” Abdullah Hammoud, the mayor of the heavily Arab American Detroit suburb of Dearborn, wrote in The New York Times last week.
“With every American-made bomb that Israel’s right-wing government drops on Gaza, a stark numbness coats everything, restricting any space for belief to grow.”
On the Republican side, Trump has swept the early voting states and Michigan is not expected to interrupt his march to the nomination.
His sole remaining challenger, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, lost her home state of South Carolina to Trump at the weekend but has refused to quit, saying she doesn’t believe Trump can defeat Biden.
Haley suffered another blow Sunday when the wealthy Koch family network said it was halting its donations to her campaign.
Both parties hold votes on Tuesday, although Republicans have adopted a complex hybrid system that wraps up the contest four days later via caucus-style gatherings in each of the state’s 13 congressional districts.
More than two-thirds of the Republican delegates — the individuals appointed by each state to back candidates at the party’s summer nominating convention — will be awarded on March 2.


Letter containing white powder sent to Donald Trump Jr.’s home

Letter containing white powder sent to Donald Trump Jr.’s home
Updated 27 February 2024

Letter containing white powder sent to Donald Trump Jr.’s home

Letter containing white powder sent to Donald Trump Jr.’s home
  • Trump Jr. opened the letter, which also contained a death threat, in his home office, and emergency responders wearing hazmat suits responded

MIAMI: Emergency crews responded Monday after a letter containing an unidentified white powder was sent to the Florida home of Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of former President and GOP front-runner Donald Trump.
A person familiar with the matter said that results on the substance were inconclusive, but officials do not believe it was deadly. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to confirm details of the letter, which were first reported by The Daily Beast.
Trump Jr. opened the letter, which also contained a death threat, in his home office, and emergency responders wearing hazmat suits responded.
Jupiter police said the investigation is being handled by the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, which didn’t immediately have any details to release.
Trump Jr. is one of his father’s top campaign surrogates, frequently headlining events and appearing in interviews on his behalf.
It’s the second time white powder has been sent to the former president’s oldest son. In 2018, his then-wife, Vanessa, was taken to a New York City hospital after she opened an envelope addressed to her husband that contained an unidentified white powder. Police later said the substance wasn’t dangerous.
In March 2016, police detectives and FBI agents investigated a threatening letter sent to the Manhattan apartment of Donald Trump Jr.’s brother Eric that also contained a white powder that turned out to be harmless.
Envelopes containing white powder were also sent twice in 2016 to Trump Tower, which served as Trump’s campaign headquarters.
Hoax attacks using white powder play on fears that date to 2001, when letters containing deadly anthrax were mailed to news organizations and the offices of two US senators. Those letters killed five people.