US authors urge PEN America to take stronger stance on Israel’s killing of Palestinians in Gaza

US authors urge PEN America to take stronger stance on Israel’s killing of Palestinians in Gaza
Over 500 writers and literary professionals signed an open letter to PEN condeming it for remaining “silent” about the “Palestinian journalists, writers and poets murdered by Israel.” (AFP/file)
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Updated 13 February 2024
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US authors urge PEN America to take stronger stance on Israel’s killing of Palestinians in Gaza

US authors urge PEN America to take stronger stance on Israel’s killing of Palestinians in Gaza
  • 500 literary figures call on the freedom-of-speech group to respond to ‘extraordinary threat that Israel’s genocide of Palestinians represents for the lives of writers’
  • The organization subsequently expressed ‘hope’ that a ceasefire will be reached, but some writers find this response to be unsatisfactory

LONDON: Several authors in the US have criticized PEN America, a nongovernmental organization that advocates for freedom of expression, for its stance on the war in Gaza, after the organization expressed “hope” that a ceasefire would be reached in the embattled Palestinian enclave.

It comes after more than 500 writers and literary professionals signed a strongly-worded open letter to the organization urging it to respond to “the extraordinary threat that Israel’s genocide of Palestinians represents for the lives of writers in Palestine and to freedom of expression everywhere.”

The letter, dated Feb. 3, condemned PEN America for remaining “silent” about the “Palestinian journalists, writers and poets murdered by Israel” other than in “press releases buried on its website.”

PEN America issued a statement on Feb. 7, saying it was “anguished about the direct impact of the current conflict between Israel and Hamas on writers, artists, culture.”

It added: “We hope that the multinational negotiations now under way will lead to a mutually agreed upon ceasefire, ending deadly airstrikes, and that a resolution can be reached that will save lives in the region, preserve rich and varied cultures, and pave the way toward a lasting peace that enables freedom and creativity for all.”

But some of the writers found this response unsatisfactory.

In a message posted on social media platform X, novelist Eman Quotah wrote: “Don’t ‘hope’ for a ceasefire, PEN America, CALL for one like other PEN Centers have done.”

The signatories of the Feb. 3 letter said PEN America “should disband” if it “cannot live up to its mission of protecting, platforming and amplifying those writers made most marginalized by nefarious forces.”

They demanded that the organization “wakes up from its own silent, tepid, neither-here-nor-there self-congratulatory middle of the road” and do the “bare minimum” by taking “an actual stand against an actual genocide.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists has said that 85 journalists and media workers, 78 of them Palestinians, are confirmed to have died in Gaza since Oct. 7, when Israel launched its bombing campaign in the territory in retaliation for deadly Hamas attacks in southern Israel.

The onslaught has also killed several poets and writers, including Refaat Alareer, often referred to as “the voice of Gaza.”


WEF warns of political risk, says global economy is brightening

WEF warns of political risk, says global economy is brightening
Updated 8 sec ago
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WEF warns of political risk, says global economy is brightening

WEF warns of political risk, says global economy is brightening
  • Cautioned optimism underscores challenges for businesses and policymakers
  • MENA region expected to improve despite regional political tensions

LONDON: The World Economic Forum said on Wednesday that the global economy is poised to improve or remain stable this year, but it also warned of potential dangers stemming from geopolitical and domestic tensions.

“The latest Chief Economists Outlook points to welcome but tentative signs of improvement in the global economic climate,” said Saadia Zahidi, managing director of the WEF.

“This underscores the increasingly complex landscape that leaders are navigating. There is an urgent need for policymaking that not only looks to revive the engines of the global economy but also seeks to put in place the foundations of more inclusive, sustainable and resilient growth.”

The report highlighted that while the proportion of economists who feel optimistic about the economic outlook nearly doubled from the previous survey conducted in January, 97 percent of respondents anticipate that geopolitics will contribute to global economic volatility this year.

Furthermore, 83 percent said domestic politics would be a source of volatility in 2024, a year when nearly half the world’s population will be voting.

Experts predicted a positive outlook for the US and Asian economies, driven by decreasing inflation and robust markets.

The Middle East and North Africa region is also expected to experience moderate growth, with slight improvements since the previous survey, despite unstable political developments due to the ongoing Gaza conflict.

Despite escalating challenges for businesses and policymakers, the report identified technological transformation, artificial intelligence, and the green and energy transitions as key contributors to global growth, also driven by looser or unchanged fiscal and monetary policies.

“Despite some brightening of the near-term growth outlook, the latest results point to growing challenges for businesses and policymakers,” the WEF said in a press release.

“However, the views on the long-term prospects for the global economy are encouraging, with many policy opportunities to boost growth across high and low-income economies.”


UAE’s Anwar Gargash urges peaceful resolution amid ‘monstrous’ Gaza violence

UAE’s Anwar Gargash urges peaceful resolution amid ‘monstrous’ Gaza violence
Updated 29 May 2024
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UAE’s Anwar Gargash urges peaceful resolution amid ‘monstrous’ Gaza violence

UAE’s Anwar Gargash urges peaceful resolution amid ‘monstrous’ Gaza violence
  • Advisor to the UAE president says Arab peace initiative underway
  • Israel’s ‘criminal government’ does not reflect ‘values’ of Judaism

DUBAI: Dr. Anwar Gargash, diplomatic advisor to the UAE president, says the violence in Gaza has reached “monstrous levels” and called on the international community to find a peaceful solution to the carnage.

Speaking on the final day of the Arab Media Forum in Dubai on Wednesday, Gargash expressed shock at the scale of the violence in Gaza.

“The targeting of innocents have taken on monstrous levels. We have witnessed wars in Palestine before but never at such a level of monstrosity,” he said. “The region cannot sustain further escalations.”

Gargash reaffirmed that neighboring Arab countries support the Palestinian cause.

“We believe in the cause, our conscience simply will not permit us to abandon our support to Palestine especially in light of the ugliness we see today coming out of Gaza and most recently from Rafah.

“The current right-wing, criminal government in Israel does not equate (to) Jewish values.”

Gargash highlighted the UAE’s continued support for Gaza and said the displacement of Palestinians from “spot to spot” must end.

“Israel is undermining itself with its current policies and actions. We support the establishment of the Palestinian state. We need a clear roadmap to guarantee its independent establishment. If both sides wish to live in peace this is the only way to go.”

He mentioned an ongoing Arab initiative aimed at fostering peace, warning that states must take control of the situation to prevent further chaos.

“While the global conscience has been awakened, we cannot wait for the world,” he noted. “Active steps and initiatives must be taken now or else this will remain a pipe dream.”

Participating in a panel discussion, the Emirati diplomat also accused the international community of double standards.

“Look at the difference of approach between Ukraine and Palestine. Mind you, both are still going through war. The old approaches must go, the current system is not working anymore to solve anything. We need to find new ways and cooperation for a better outcome.”

He urged Arab states to unite and collaborate beyond politics, and added that the UAE was committed to expanding regional ties and mending relations with Iran.

“For the past 12 to 15 years with all the events that happened in the Arab world, we saw it give way to radical ideologies, rise of militias, vacuum powers filled in with outside influences, and ideologies that sprung about opposing healthy nationalism.

“We continue to deal with these problems. We need a better cooperation between Arab states, a willingness to change old, sick module, for the collective betterment of the region.”


‘All Eyes on Rafah’ image garners millions of shares in latest social media solidarity campaign

‘All Eyes on Rafah’ image garners millions of shares in latest social media solidarity campaign
Updated 29 May 2024
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‘All Eyes on Rafah’ image garners millions of shares in latest social media solidarity campaign

‘All Eyes on Rafah’ image garners millions of shares in latest social media solidarity campaign
  • Slogan stems from WHO director’s comments urging people to pay attention to Rafah following Netanyahu’s evacuation plan
  • Post is believed to be first example of AI-generated viral activist artwork

LONDON: The image “All Eyes on Rafah” has garnered millions of shares in the latest social media solidarity campaign, drawing widespread attention to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza.

The post renewed advocacy efforts following a deadly Israeli airstrike on the city in southern Gaza.

According to Forbes, the slogan appears to have originated from a comment by Rik Peeperkorn, director of the World Health Organization’s Office of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

In February, Peeperkorn used the phrase to shift attention toward Rafah after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered an evacuation plan for the city ahead of planned attacks targeting what Netanyahu claims are the last remaining strongholds of the militant group Hamas.

By Wednesday morning, the post had surpassed 40 million shares on Instagram, with the hashtag #AllEyesonRafah trending across social media platforms.

The image, believed to be one of the first examples of AI-generated viral activist artwork, depicts tents in a camp arranged to spell out “All Eyes on Rafah.”

The phrase is intended to highlight the plight of Rafah, where local authorities reported the loss of at least 45 civilian lives following an Israeli airstrike on Sunday, which Netanyahu described on Monday as a “tragic mistake.”

Israel has faced international scrutiny for the attack, which is part of a broader offensive by the Israeli army in and around Rafah.

The decision has been widely condemned by world leaders who have urged Israel to halt its invasion in an area where about 1.4 million displaced Palestinians from elsewhere in the Gaza Strip had sought shelter.

Last Friday, the International Court of Justice ordered an immediate halt to the offensive, a position rejected by Israel.

In an opinion piece in The Jewish Chronicle on Wednesday, journalist Josh Kaplan described the post as “another vapid, lazy way to say ‘I care,’” arguing that the slogan “is one in the long canon of feel good posts that achieve very little but make the sharer feel, even just for a second, like they’re doing something to help.”

Kaplan wrote: “I understand that there is outrage at the way Israel is conducting its war. The images coming out of Gaza often feel indefensible. But what does sharing an AI image that looks nothing like Gaza actually do?”

He added: “To learn about the conflict and to formulate an opinion that maintains dignity for all sides is something that cannot be accomplished by sharing an Instagram post. All it does is make Israelis, who will have to be involved in any future peace process, feel, yet again, that the world doesn’t care about their suffering.”


US presses TikTok, Meta and X to crack down on antisemitic posts

US presses TikTok, Meta and X to crack down on antisemitic posts
Updated 29 May 2024
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US presses TikTok, Meta and X to crack down on antisemitic posts

US presses TikTok, Meta and X to crack down on antisemitic posts
  • Bloomberg News reports that US special envoy requested big tech to designate a policy team member to address the issue, publicly report trends
  • Deborah Lipstadt also asked to differentiate between criticism of the Israeli government and hatred directed at Jews

LONDON: The Biden administration is urging big technology companies to ramp up efforts to curb antisemitic content on their platforms, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday.
Representatives from companies including Alphabet, Meta, Microsoft, TikTok and X met on Thursday with US special envoy Deborah Lipstadt to monitor and combat antisemitism.
Lipstadt requested that each company designate a policy team member to address the issue and conduct training for key personal to identify antisemitism and publicly report trends in anti-Jewish content.
“We welcomed this convening and were pleased to come together to share facts about the ongoing steps TikTok takes on this important issue and to continue to learn from experts in the room,” a TikTok spokesperson said.
Alphabet, Microsoft, Meta and X did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.
Countries around the world have seen a rise in antisemitism following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on southern Israel and subsequent bombardment of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military.
The companies have not yet agreed to voluntary moves, but the administration is hopeful they will act soon, Lipstadt told Bloomberg News.
The administration is also requesting staff training in order to help identify more implicit antisemitic messages on online platforms and to differentiate between criticism of the Israeli government and hatred directed at Jews, Lipstadt added.


Nigel Farage grilled on UK TV following comments denounced as Islamophobic

Nigel Farage grilled on UK TV following comments denounced as Islamophobic
Updated 29 May 2024
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Nigel Farage grilled on UK TV following comments denounced as Islamophobic

Nigel Farage grilled on UK TV following comments denounced as Islamophobic
  • Good Morning Britain presenter Richard Madeley challenges former leader of right-wing parties UKIP and Reform UK over controversial comments about Muslims
  • Farage said on Sunday that the growing number of Muslims in Britain do not subscribe to country’s traditional values

LONDON: Good Morning Britain presenter Richard Madeley clashed with Nigel Farage during a live TV interview with the former politician about comments he made on Sunday that prompted allegations of Islamophobia.

The former leader of the right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP) and Reform UK, and honorary president of the latter, sparked controversy when he said there is a “growing number of young people in this country who do not subscribe to British values” and “loathe much of what we stand for.” He specifically referenced the Muslim community.

Madeley challenged Farage by citing a 2018 survey conducted by IPSOS Mori and said: “They found, absolutely conclusively, that Muslims in the UK attach more importance on being British than the general population.

“Eighty-five percent feel they truly belong to Britain, 55 percent feel that their national identity as British is very important to them, and that compares to 44 percent of the general population. So I’m bound to ask, what on earth were you talking about there?”

Farage responded by citing another survey, and argued that his comments on Sunday, during an interview with Sky News, were taken out of context. He claimed 23 percent of 18-to-24-year-old Muslims in Britain believe jihad is a good thing.

“Now that of course is not a British value in any way at all and it’s a very disturbing trend that’s particularly prevalent among the young,” he said, adding that it was “undoubtedly true” that there is an increasing number of young people in Britain who “not only don’t subscribe to our values, they openly support Hamas.”

Madeley and co-presenter Charlotte Hawkins pointed out that the poll Farage referenced was heavily criticized because of its methodology.

“You also said in the interview that you could take someone to a particular street in Oldham and there would be nobody there who speaks English,” Madeley said.

“Well again, that’s just not true; the Office of National Statistics say that only 0.7 percent of people in Oldham don’t speak English. That’s less than one in a hundred.”

Several MPs have condemned Farage’s comments. The minister of state for Northern Ireland, Steve Baker, described the remarks as “ignorant and offensive.”

Meanwhile, BBC News presenter Geeta Guru-Murthy issued an on-air apology on Tuesday after saying earlier in the day that Farage was using his “customary inflammatory language.”

Guru-Murthy, who was speaking after the broadcast of a clip of Farage speaking at a Reform UK event in Dover, said she acknowledged that her comment “didn’t meet the BBC’s editorial standards on impartiality.”