Arab cultural centers promote Palestinian cause in Latin America

Arab cultural centers promote Palestinian cause in Latin America
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Updated 28 November 2023
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Arab cultural centers promote Palestinian cause in Latin America

Arab cultural centers promote Palestinian cause in Latin America
  • They have been organizing cultural events, taking part in protests and disseminating info
  • ‘Both on the streets and on the internet, culture has been playing a central role in the movement for Palestine,’ Chilean professor tells Arab News

SAO PAULO: With an estimated 20 million people of Arab descent, Latin America has a number of institutions dedicated to the dissemination of Arab culture.

They have been playing a central role in disseminating information and organizing protests throughout the Gaza conflict.

The Palestinian cause is central to these cultural centers, not only because there are significant Palestinian communities in some Latin American countries, but also as part of a project to build solidarity with Palestine among Arabs and non-Arabs in the region.

In recent weeks, such institutions have been active in denouncing the plight of the Palestinian people and disseminating information about the history of Israeli occupation and violence. Some of them are also helping organize marches and pressuring their governments.

Arabic teacher Agustin Dib, founder of the Argentinian Club de la Cultura Arabe, told Arab News that in recent weeks it has been fully dedicated to spreading information about the plight of the Palestinians.

“Given the seriousness of the current situation, we’ve been using all our resources to inform people about what’s happening, and to put pressure on the government of Argentina for a decisive stance regarding the genocide of the Palestinians,” he said.

The club has a website and a large presence on social media, where it distributes content about the Arab world in Spanish, something not very common online.

While some cultural institutions are connected to mosques or churches, the club has been established as a completely autonomous entity.

It all began with a group of students of Arabic who met in Buenos Aires to read poetry by Arab authors such as the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.

These sessions, which had never happened before in Argentina’s capital, drew many people, and other events were promoted.

Although the club does not have a physical location and “doesn’t want to have one in the future,” many of its initiatives involve in-person participation, Dib said.

Among the initiatives are “green days,” when enthusiasts meet at a public park with their derbakes (Arabic drums) to play Arabic music and talk about culture.

Virtual Arabic-language classes have been a big hit since 2018, as have conferences and courses on Arab culture.

“We have followers in Argentina, Mexico, Spain, and even Brazil despite the linguistic difference,” Dib said.

The club has been working with other institutions over the years, including universities and Arab embassies. It is now planning to promote Arabic films.

“The dissemination of content that clarifies aspects of the Arab world traditionally seen with prejudice has been a relevant dimension of the club’s work,” Dib said.

Since the start of the Gaza conflict, the club has been publishing content to explain the Palestinian situation, tackling rising Islamophobia in Argentina, working with other organizations and promoting protests with thousands of participants in Buenos Aires.

In the city of Barranquilla, the Institute of Arab Culture of Colombia has been making similar efforts since the conflict began.

Odette Yidi, who founded the institute with her father in 2017, told Arab News that most pro-Palestinian cultural and political initiatives are being promoted by non-Arab Colombians.

“A few weeks ago, we helped create the Colombian Committee of Solidarity with Palestine, which gathers 300 members. Only five of them are Palestinian or Arab,” she said.

The institute, along with other groups, has been organizing talks about the Palestinian cause, as well as music concerts and demonstrations.

“We’ve been disseminating letters from Palestinian organizations about the (Israeli) attacks. I constantly give interviews to the press and lectures in schools, and always mention them,” Yidi said.

Earlier this year, the institute bought a sculpture about Colombian solidarity with Palestinians to be installed in a park in Barranquilla.

The official inauguration ceremony will gather cultural activists and the city’s authorities on Nov. 29.

The institute is also working to translate Arabic content about the conflict into Spanish, and is promoting Arabic classes and cultural activities.

“Our dream is to set up a museum totally dedicated to Arab countries and the diaspora, in which we can safely keep and show the memory of Arab immigration to Colombia,” Yidi said.

In Chile — which has the largest Palestinian community outside the Middle East, with an estimated 600,000 people — there are several Arab and Palestinian cultural centers and social clubs nationwide.

Most of them, such as the Arab Center in the city of Concepcion, traditionally commemorate important dates for the Palestinian people with special events.

In May, for instance, they normally organize events to commemorate the Nakba — the displacement and expulsion of several hundred thousand Palestinians from their homeland when Israel was created in 1948.

“This year, the Palestinian ambassador to Santiago came to attend our event about the Nakba,” Gustavo Diban, the center’s president, told Arab News.

The organization has been promoting demonstrations since the Gaza conflict began. On Oct. 13, the center and other entities organized a vigil in honor of the deceased in Palestine.

On Nov. 18, a march in Concepcion gathered pro-Palestinian activists from all over the region.

Ricardo Marzuca, a Palestinian-Chilean professor at the University of Chile, told Arab News that a pro-Palestinian umbrella organization was recently created and gathers 40 groups, several of them dedicated to cultural activities.

“Last week, artistic groups organized at the National Theater in Santiago a pro-Palestinian cultural intervention with theater, poetry and music,” he said.

“Both on the streets and on the internet, culture has been playing a central role in the movement for Palestine.”

The 20-year-old Institute of Arab Culture in Brazil, known by the Portuguese acronym Icarabe, also has a special relation with the Palestinian cause.

Every year, it organizes an exhibit of Arabic movies, including at least one Palestinian production.

“That’s part of our political concerns. I think those movies should have a wider dissemination in Brazil. Film distributors should acquire their rights,” Arthur Jafet, Icarabe’s national relations director and the curator of this year’s exhibit, told Arab News.

The exhibit was concluded before the start of the Gaza conflict, so Jafet decided to publish a list of Palestinian films that can help Brazilians understand the roots of the conflict.

Icarabe was founded with the goal of working as an independent organization, without support from embassies or religious institutions. Over the years, it has gained a reputation for promoting high-quality cultural initiatives.

“It’s not easy to fund an autonomous center like ours. We don’t sell anything, we only want to publicize Arab culture,” Icarabe’s President Murched Taha told Arab News.

The institute established a few years ago a special chair, in partnership with the Federal University of Sao Paulo, named after the late Palestinian-American academic, literary critic and political activist Edward Said. One of its focuses is to study Middle Eastern society and culture.

Icarabe also organizes a program about Arab and Islamic contributions to mankind, which always draws many participants.

Other cultural activities are being discussed by its directors, many of whom have been taking part in protests in Sao Paulo in October and November that have gathered thousands.


US Supreme Court agrees to hear Trump presidential immunity claim

US Supreme Court agrees to hear Trump presidential immunity claim
Updated 8 sec ago
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US Supreme Court agrees to hear Trump presidential immunity claim

US Supreme Court agrees to hear Trump presidential immunity claim
  • Trump’s claim to be immune from criminal liability for actions he took while in the White House is “unsupported by precedent, history

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court agreed on Wednesday to hear Donald Trump’s claim that as a former president he enjoys immunity from criminal prosecution, as the 2024 White House candidate faces dozens of state and federal charges.
The court scheduled arguments in the high-stakes case for the week of April 22 and said Trump’s trial on charges of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election would remain on hold for now.
Trump had been scheduled to go on trial for election interference on March 4 but the proceedings have been frozen as his presidential immunity claim wound its way through the courts.
The Supreme Court said it would address the question of “whether and if so to what extent does a former President enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.”
It will be among the most consequential election law cases to reach the court since it halted the Florida vote recount in 2000 with Republican George W. Bush narrowly leading Democrat Al Gore.
A three-judge appeals court panel ruled earlier this month that the 77-year-old Trump has no immunity from prosecution as a former president.
Trump’s claim to be immune from criminal liability for actions he took while in the White House is “unsupported by precedent, history or the text and structure of the Constitution,” the judges said in a unanimous opinion.
“We cannot accept that the office of the Presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter,” they said.
The ruling was a major legal setback for Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination and the first ex-president to be criminally indicted.
The appeals court put the immunity ruling on hold to give Trump the opportunity to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Special Counsel Jack Smith filed the election conspiracy case against Trump in August and had been pushing hard for the March start date for his trial.
Lawyers for the former president have sought repeatedly to delay the trial until after the November election, when Trump could potentially have all of the federal cases against him dropped if he wins the White House again.
Trump also faces 2020 election interference charges in Georgia, and has been indicted in Florida for allegedly mishandling classified information.
He was impeached twice by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives while in office — once for inciting an insurrection — but acquitted both times by the Senate.
The immunity case is one of two election-related cases before the Supreme Court.
The Colorado Supreme Court barred Trump in December from appearing on the Republican presidential primary ballot in the state because of his role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.
Trump appealed the Colorado ruling and the conservative-majority Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in early February.
Both conservative and liberal justices expressed concern during arguments about having individual states decide which candidates can be on the presidential ballot this November.


UK police ‘assessing’ alleged Islamophobic hate speech by MP Lee Anderson

UK police ‘assessing’ alleged Islamophobic hate speech by MP Lee Anderson
Updated 22 min 6 sec ago
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UK police ‘assessing’ alleged Islamophobic hate speech by MP Lee Anderson

UK police ‘assessing’ alleged Islamophobic hate speech by MP Lee Anderson
  • He was suspended by the Conservative Party after refusing to apologize for suggesting ‘Islamists’ have taken control of London and the city’s mayor
  • Several government ministers, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, have described Anderson’s remarks as “wrong” but stopped short of labeling them Islamophobic

LONDON: Police in the UK are “assessing” hate speech allegations made against MP Lee Anderson, after he suggested that “Islamists” had taken control of London and the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, Sky News reported on Wednesday.

Anderson was suspended by the ruling Conservative Party on Saturday after he refused to apologize for the remarks, which were branded racist by Khan and others.

Anderson defended himself again on Wednesday in an article for the Daily Express, in which he accused Khan of “playing the race card” and said the mayor had accused him of racism to gain “political advantage.” However, he admitted the words he used were “clumsy.”

The Metropolitan Police confirmed that they have received a complaint about alleged hate speech by an MP. “A report was made to police on Saturday, Feb. 24. Officers are assessing this report,” a spokesperson told Sky News.

While several government ministers, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, have described Anderson’s remarks as “wrong,” they have stopped short of labeling them Islamophobic.

On Tuesday, Downing Street said that Sunak does not believe Anderson is racist but that “the language he used was wrong and it’s obviously unacceptable to conflate all Muslims with Islamist extremism or the extreme ideology of Islamism.”

The spokesperson told Sky News that ministers had not been instructed to avoid using the term “Islamophobia,” which “conflates race with religion, does not address sectarianism within Islam and may inadvertently undermine freedom of speech. Anti-Muslim hatred is the more precise term, which better reflects UK hate-crime legislation.”

Anderson did not rule out the possibility that he might join rival political party Reform, which was founded by Nigel Farage.


Brazil urges ‘new globalization’ at G20 meet overshadowed by Ukraine

Brazil urges ‘new globalization’ at G20 meet overshadowed by Ukraine
Updated 58 min 18 sec ago
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Brazil urges ‘new globalization’ at G20 meet overshadowed by Ukraine

Brazil urges ‘new globalization’ at G20 meet overshadowed by Ukraine
  • FM Haddad: We need to create incentives to ensure international capital flows are no longer decided by immediate profit but by social and environmental principles
  • Founded in 1999, the G20 accounts for more than 80 percent of global GDP, three-quarters of world trade, and two-thirds of the world’s population

SAO PAULO: Brazil called for a “new globalization” to address poverty and climate change as finance ministers from the world’s top economies met Wednesday, but the Ukraine and Gaza wars risked overshadowing the plea.

“It is time to redefine globalization,” Brazilian Finance Minister Fernando Haddad told his counterparts from the Group of 20 leading economies, opening their first meeting of the year in Sao Paulo.
“We need to create incentives to ensure international capital flows are no longer decided by immediate profit but by social and environmental principles,” said Haddad, who gave his speech remotely after coming down with Covid-19.
The meeting, which follows one by foreign ministers in Rio de Janeiro last week, will lay the economic policy groundwork for the annual G20 leaders’ summit, to be held in Rio in November.
Brazilian officials said they were working on a compact final statement that would steer clear of divisive issues such as the Ukraine and Gaza wars.
“We know the world is going through a tense geopolitical moment,” said finance ministry executive secretary Dario Durigan.
But “there’s consensus on the economic issues,” he told journalists. “The whole world speaks the same economic language.”

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva wants to use the rotating G20 presidency this year to push issues like the fights against poverty and climate change, reducing the crushing debt burdens of low-income nations, and giving developing countries more say at institutions like the United Nations.
International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva called for bolder climate action, urging countries to accelerate emissions cuts, end fossil fuel subsidies — which reached an estimated $1.3 trillion worldwide last year — and massively mobilize climate financing.
“The climate crisis is already upon us, and we have to admit we have been a bit slow to address it,” she said at a panel discussion on the sidelines of the meeting.
Also on the agenda: increasing taxes on corporations and the super-rich.
“We need to ensure the billionaires of the world pay their fair share of taxes,” said Haddad.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire backed that call, telling journalists that Paris is pushing to “accelerate” international negotiations on a minimum tax on the ultra-wealthy.
However, Durigan said the issue was unlikely to make it into the final statement.

Even before the meeting opened, the conflict in Ukraine took center stage.
The Group of Seven countries — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, plus the European Union — held their own meeting on the sidelines to discuss shoring up Western support for Kyiv.
Officials said the meeting — attended remotely by Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko — focused on proposals to seize an estimated $397 billion in Russian assets frozen by the West.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Tuesday the issue was “urgent.”
But there were divisions among G7 members.
“I want to be very clear: We don’t have the legal basis for seizing the Russian assets now. We need to work further... The G7 must act abiding by the rule of law,” said France’s Le Maire.
Ukraine has warned it is in dire need of more military and financial assistance, with a fresh $60 billion US package stalled in Congress.
The war in Gaza was also a recurring theme, amid fears Israel’s offensive against Palestinian militant group Hamas could spiral into a wider war, with potentially catastrophic effects for the global economy.
Both conflicts could overshadow Brazil’s bid to use the G20 to amplify the voice of the global south.
“It’s a very tricky global context at the moment,” said Julia Thomson, an analyst at Eurasia Group.
“The international agenda will probably hinder part of Brazil’s ability to advance on some of the broader themes” of its G20 presidency, she told AFP.
Founded in 1999, the G20 accounts for more than 80 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), three-quarters of world trade, and two-thirds of the world’s population.
It has 21 members: 19 of the world’s biggest economies, plus the EU and, participating as a member for the first time this year, the African Union.
 


UK government increases security funding for Jewish community

UK government increases security funding for Jewish community
Updated 29 February 2024
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UK government increases security funding for Jewish community

UK government increases security funding for Jewish community
  • The funding will be used to increase security at a range of Jewish buildings across the country, including schools and synagogues, the government says

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday announced 54 million pounds ($68 million) of new funding to protect Jewish communities against antisemitism over the next four years.
Earlier this month Jewish advisory body the Community Security Trust (CST) said Britain recorded thousands of antisemitic incidents after the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas in October, making 2023 the worst year for UK antisemitism since its records began in 1984.
“It is shocking, and wrong, the prejudice, the racism we have seen in recent months,” Sunak said in a speech to the CST’s annual dinner, according to extracts released by his office.
“It is hatred, pure and simple. An assault on the Jewish people. We will fight this antisemitism with everything we’ve got.”
The government had already given the CST, which advises Britain’s estimated 280,000 Jews on security matters, 18 million pounds for 2024-25, taking the total funding up to 2028 to 70 million pounds.
The funding will be used to increase security at a range of Jewish buildings across the country, including schools and synagogues, the government said, providing measures such as security guards, closed-circuit TV (CCTV) and alarm systems.


Mitch McConnell to step down as Republican leader in US Senate

Mitch McConnell to step down as Republican leader in US Senate
Updated 29 February 2024
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Mitch McConnell to step down as Republican leader in US Senate

Mitch McConnell to step down as Republican leader in US Senate
  • McConnell, the leader of Republicans in the Senate since 2015, was instrumental in bringing Donald Trump to power in January 2017 before falling out with Trump over the former president’s baseless claims to have won the 2020 election

WASHINGTON: Mitch McConnell, the powerful US political tactician who has advanced conservative causes for years and been a strong defender of aid to Ukraine, announced abruptly Wednesday that he would leave his post as leader of the Republicans in the Senate later this year.

His speech to the chamber came as a surprise and prompted lawmakers from both parties to give him a standing ovation, though he did not say if he was giving up his seat from the state of Kentucky, which he has held since 1985.
“I stand before you today, Mr. President and my colleagues to say this will be my last term as Republican leader,” McConnell, 82, said as he signaled the end of his tenure as the longest-serving Senate leader in American history.
McConnell has been the largely unchallenged leader of Republicans in the Senate since 2015 and was in the front line of the party’s battles against the policies of Barack Obama from 2009-2017.
He was instrumental in bringing Donald Trump to power in January 2017 as the party underwent dramatic changes, before falling out with Trump over the former president’s baseless claims to have won the 2020 election.
In the Senate, McConnell waged a fierce fight to enact a right-wing agenda, notably with the appointment of three Supreme Court justices who led the tribunal to end the federal right to abortion in 2022.
“No Member of Congress has played a greater role in reshaping the federal judiciary than Mitch,” Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, a fellow Republican, said, predicting that “his legacy will endure for generations.”
For years McConnell relished his self-given monicker as the “Grim Reaper” — one who doomed the hopes of Democratic lawmakers.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer acknowledged that rift Wednesday, saying he and McConnell “rarely saw eye to eye.”
“But I am very proud that we both came together in the last few years to lead the Senate forward at critical moments when our country needed us,” Schumer added, pointing to pandemic-era aid and the certification of Biden’s election only hours after the January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol.

Tough political operator
A consummate backroom negotiator with a thick, rumbling southern drawl, McConnell also emerged as one of the most outspoken advocates of US military aid to Ukraine after the Russian invasion.
But he has had to grapple with a fractured, Trump-dominated party that came to shun cooperation and the traditional US leadership role on the international stage.
The isolationist shift was underlined in recent weeks as President Joe Biden’s request for $60 billion for Ukraine stalled in Congress as Republicans in the House demanded action first on an immigration crisis at the border with Mexico.
McConnell projected an image of quiet austerity that clashed with his reputation as a tough political operator and strategist.
Under the presidency of Biden, with whom he served in the Senate for years, McConnell also worked for the passage of bipartisan legislation on infrastructure and other issues backed by both parties.
Biden, 81, told reporters Wednesday he was “sorry” to hear his old Senate colleague was stepping down.
“He and I had trust, we had a great relationship, we fought like hell but he never never never misrepresented anything,” he said.
Last summer concerns arose about McConnell’s health, as several times he froze up while speaking in public and fell awkwardly silent.
In March he was hospitalized after he fell during a dinner and suffered a concussion and a broken rib, forcing him to leave his job for six weeks.
The incident reignited criticism that Congress is dominated by white men in their 70s and 80s who cannot bear to retire.
But McConnell had steadfastly refused to resign and rejected suggestions that he was no longer healthy enough to serve.