Activist slashes painting of British author of Jewish homeland declaration

Activist slashes painting of British author of Jewish homeland declaration
A combination of image grabs taken from a video released by a protest group called Palestine Action on Mar. 8, 2024 shows an activist spraying red paint and then slashing a painting of Lord Arthur James Balfour at Trinity College in Cambridge. (AFP)
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Updated 08 March 2024
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Activist slashes painting of British author of Jewish homeland declaration

Activist slashes painting of British author of Jewish homeland declaration
  • A video posted on social media by the Palestine Action protest group showed a woman spraying red paint over the life-size portrait before cutting it repeatedly with a knife
  • It was the first time a major power had publicly expressed support for a Jewish homeland

LONDON: A pro-Palestinian activist slashed a painting of the early 20th-century British foreign minister Arthur Balfour at Cambridge University on Friday, saying his 1917 declaration was the reason the Palestinians had lost their homeland to Israel.
A video posted on social media by the Palestine Action protest group showed a woman spraying red paint over the life-size portrait before cutting it repeatedly with a knife — the latest in a flurry of protests prompted by the Israel-Hamas war.
Balfour’s declaration, made as Ottoman rule was crumbling in the Middle East and Britain a global power, said London would “view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” and work toward it — albeit without prejudicing “the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities.”
It was the first time a major power had publicly expressed support for a Jewish homeland, gave a boost to the growing worldwide Zionist movement — and shaped what was to become interim British “mandate” rule of Palestine from 1918 onward.
Palestinians have long demanded that Britain apologize for the 67-word statement.
British oversight of Palestine ended traumatically in 1947-48 with war between Jews and Arabs, the declaration of the State of Israel and the exodus of some 750,000 Palestinians who were forced out or fled.
“Balfour’s declaration began the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by promising the land away — which the British never had the right to do,” Palestine Action said in a caption accompanying the clip.
Last week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called for tougher policing of protests in light of an increase in hate speech.
His government has particularly alleged threatening behavior by some of those attending a wave of protests against the thousands of civilian deaths and the humanitarian crisis caused by Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip.
Sunak said people had the right to protest, but could not use support for Gaza’s Palestinians to justify backing Hamas, the armed movement that rules Gaza, which Britain considers a terrorist group.
More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s military since Oct. 7, when Palestinian militants led by Hamas killed 1,200 people in southern Israel and abducted 253, by Israeli counts.
Cambridge’s Trinity College said it regretted the damage, and that support was available for college members.


Biden pushes Gaza ceasefire deal in Eid message

Biden pushes Gaza ceasefire deal in Eid message
Updated 36 sec ago
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Biden pushes Gaza ceasefire deal in Eid message

Biden pushes Gaza ceasefire deal in Eid message
  • The US has been pressing Israel and Hamas to formally accept the ceasefire deal greenlighted by Security Council members last week

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden used his Eid Al-Adha message to Muslims to advocate a US-backed ceasefire deal in Gaza, saying Sunday it was the best way to help civilians suffering the “horrors of war between Hamas and Israel.”
“Too many innocent people have been killed, including thousands of children. Families have fled their homes and seen their communities destroyed. Their pain is immense,” Biden said in a statement.
“I strongly believe that the three-phase ceasefire proposal Israel has made to Hamas and that the UN Security Council has endorsed is the best way to end the violence in Gaza and ultimately end the war,” he added.
The United States has been pressing Israel and Hamas to formally accept the ceasefire deal greenlighted by Security Council members last week, which would allow an initial six-week pause to fighting.
Eid Al-Adha, which marks the prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son to God, saw a rare day of relative calm in Gaza after Israel announced a “tactical pause” in fighting near Rafah to facilitate aid deliveries.
The president highlighted American efforts to “advocate for the rights of other Muslim communities” facing persecution, including the Rohingya in Myanmar and the Uyghurs in China.
He said “we’re also working to bring a peaceful resolution to the horrific conflict in Sudan,” which has been gripped by fighting between the country’s army and a rival paramilitary group since April 2023.
On the domestic front, Biden’s message Sunday also promised a crackdown on Islamophobia in a direct appeal to American Muslims, a key voting demographic in the Democrat’s reelection bid against Republican rival Donald Trump.
“My Administration is creating a national strategy to counter Islamophobia and related forms of bias and discrimination, which affect not only Muslims, but also Arab, Sikh, and South Asian Americans,” Biden said.
 


Nuclear arms more prominent amid geopolitical tensions: researchers

Nuclear arms more prominent amid geopolitical tensions: researchers
Updated 17 June 2024
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Nuclear arms more prominent amid geopolitical tensions: researchers

Nuclear arms more prominent amid geopolitical tensions: researchers
  • The nine countries are the United States, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel

STOCKHOLM: The role of atomic weapons has become more prominent and nuclear states are modernizing arsenals as geopolitical relations deteriorate, researchers said Monday, urging world leaders to “step back and reflect.”
Diplomatic efforts to control nuclear arms also suffered major setbacks amid strained international relations over the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in its annual yearbook.
“We have not seen nuclear weapons playing such a prominent role in international relations since the Cold War,” Wilfred Wan, director of SIPRI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programme, said in a statement.
The research institute noted that in February 2023 Russia announced it was suspending participation in the 2010 New START treaty — “the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty limiting Russian and US strategic nuclear forces.”
SIPRI also noted that Russia carried out tactical nuclear weapon drills close to the Ukrainian border in May.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has upped his nuclear rhetoric since the Ukraine conflict began, warning in his address to the nation in February there was a “real” risk of nuclear war.
In addition, an informal agreement between the United States and Iran reached in June 2023 was upended after the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October, SIPRI said.

According to SIPRI, the world’s nine nuclear-armed states also “continued to modernize their nuclear arsenals and several deployed new nuclear-armed or nuclear-capable weapon systems in 2023.”
The nine countries are the United States, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel.
In January, of the estimated 12,121 nuclear warheads around the world about 9,585 were in stockpiles for potential use, according to SIPRI.
Around 2,100 were kept in a state of “high operational alert” on ballistic missiles.
Nearly all of these warheads belong to Russia and the United States — which together possess almost 90 percent of all nuclear weapons — but China was for the first time believed to have some warheads on high operational alert.
“While the global total of nuclear warheads continues to fall as Cold War-era weapons are gradually dismantled, regrettably we continue to see year-on-year increases in the number of operational nuclear warheads,” SIPRI director Dan Smith said.
He added that this trend would likely continue and “probably accelerate” in the coming years, describing it as “extremely concerning.”
Researchers also stressed the “continuing deterioration of global security over the past year,” as the impact from the wars in Ukraine and Gaza could be seen in “almost every aspect” of issues relating to armaments and international security.
“We are now in one of the most dangerous periods in human history,” Smith said, urging the world’s great powers to “step back and reflect. Preferably together.”
 

 


Indian suspect in plot to kill Sikh separatist extradited to US

Indian suspect in plot to kill Sikh separatist extradited to US
Updated 18 min 4 sec ago
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Indian suspect in plot to kill Sikh separatist extradited to US

Indian suspect in plot to kill Sikh separatist extradited to US
  • Pannun told Reuters on Sunday that while the extradition was a welcome step, “Nikhil Gupta is just a foot soldier.” He alleged that those who hired Gupta were senior members of the Indian government who act on the direction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi

WASHINGTON: An Indian man suspected by the US of involvement in an unsuccessful plot to kill a Sikh separatist on American soil has been extradited to the United States from the Czech Republic, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons website and a source familiar with the matter.
Nikhil Gupta has been accused by US federal prosecutors of plotting with an Indian government official to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a US resident who advocated for a sovereign Sikh state in northern India.
Gupta traveled to Prague from India last June and was arrested by Czech authorities. Last month, a Czech court rejected his petition to avoid being sent to the US, clearing the way for the Czech justice minister to extradite him.
An inmate search by name on the Bureau of Prisons website showed on Sunday that Gupta, 52, is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn, a federal administrative detention facility. A source familiar with the matter, who did not want to be identified, separately confirmed Gupta’s extradition and his detention in Brooklyn.
A US Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment. Gupta’s US-based lawyer, attorney Jeffrey Chabrowe, had no immediate comment. There was also no immediate comment from Czech authorities.
The discovery of assassination plots against Sikh separatists in the US and Canada has tested relations with India, seen by Western nations as a counter to China’s rising global influence. India’s government denies involvement in the plots.
Canada said in September its intelligence agencies were pursuing allegations linking India’s government to the murder of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June 2023 in Canada.
In November, US authorities said an Indian government official had directed the plot in the attempted murder of Pannun, who is a US and Canadian citizen. Gupta is accused of involvement in that plot.
Pannun told Reuters on Sunday that while the extradition was a welcome step, “Nikhil Gupta is just a foot soldier.” He alleged that those who hired Gupta were senior members of the Indian government who act on the direction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
India’s government has dissociated itself from the plot against Pannun, saying it was against government policy. It has said it would formally investigate security concerns raised by Washington.
New Delhi has long complained about Sikh separatist groups outside India, viewing them as security threats. The groups have kept alive the movement for Khalistan, or the demand for an independent Sikh state to be carved out of India.
Last month, Washington said it was satisfied so far with India’s moves to ensure accountability in the alleged plots, but added that many steps still needed to be taken. 

 


Austrian minister defies coalition ally to back EU nature restoration law

Austrian minister defies coalition ally to back EU nature restoration law
Updated 17 June 2024
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Austrian minister defies coalition ally to back EU nature restoration law

Austrian minister defies coalition ally to back EU nature restoration law
  • Gewessler’s announcement angered Chancellor Karl Nehammer’s conservative People’s Party (OVP), which opposes the law

VIENNA: Austria’s environment minister, Leonore Gewessler of the Greens, defied her conservative coalition partners on Sunday by pledging to cast Austria’s vote in favor of adopting a European nature restoration law, potentially tipping the balance in Brussels.
European Union countries’ environment ministers will discuss the bloc’s flagship policy to restore damaged nature at a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday and potentially hold a final vote on whether to enact it.
The law would be among the EU’s biggest environmental policies, requiring member states to introduce measures restoring nature on a fifth of their land and sea by 2030.
“The time for decisiveness has come. I will vote in favor of the EU Nature Restoration Law on Monday,” she told a news conference called at short notice.
EU countries had planned to approve the policy in March but called off the vote after Hungary unexpectedly withdrew its support, wiping out the slim majority in favor.
Austria’s change of position would give the policy enough support to become law if no other countries switch.
Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Finland and Poland have previously said they will not support the policy but without Austria they would be one country short of being able to block it.
“This law is on a knife-edge. A majority at the European level is in no way certain,” Gewessler said, adding that some countries were hesitating to support it.
Gewessler’s announcement angered Chancellor Karl Nehammer’s conservative People’s Party (OVP), which opposes the law. It controls the Agriculture Ministry and says that since that ministry is partly responsible for this issue, Gewessler needs its backing.
The OVP minister for EU and constitutional affairs, Karoline Edtstadler, said that if Gewessler voted in favor without the Agriculture Ministry’s approval it would be unconstitutional.
“That must and will have legal consequences,” Edtstadler said on X.


Senegalese eye elegance for Eid at half the price

Senegalese eye elegance for Eid at half the price
Updated 17 June 2024
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Senegalese eye elegance for Eid at half the price

Senegalese eye elegance for Eid at half the price
  • People used to be ashamed to wear second-hand clothes for fear of being mocked or denigrated

DAKAR: In a second-hand shop in the suburbs of Senegal’s capital, Seynabou Sarr was inundated with orders days before West Africa’s largest Muslim festival.
Sarr, 30, constantly answers calls while showing customers second-hand boubous — a traditional robe worn by both men and women at religious or ceremonial occasions.
Tabaski — marked by most Senegalese on Monday — is celebrated with great pomp but can put families under pressure over the need to spend on food and new clothes.
Wearing the same outfit two years running is frowned upon.
“People used to be ashamed to wear second-hand clothes for fear of being mocked or denigrated,” Sarr, also known as Nabou, said.
“But increasingly, many are becoming aware of their benefits.”
For Tabaski — the West African name for Eid — customers want boubous made from luxury fabrics adorned with pearls and embroidery — but not with a luxury price tag.
When new, some boubous can cost up to 250,000 CFA francs ($405), a small fortune in a country with a median monthly salary of 54,000 ($88).
But at the boutique, finding one for as little as 90,000 CFA francs or less is possible.
Nabou launched her business online in 2018 before opening the shop in 2022. She now has more than 80,000 followers on TikTok.
Abdou Fall has opted for a second-hand tunic — an elegant three-piece with beautiful embroidery around the neck this year.
He bought it for 60,000 CFA francs, but it would have cost 130,000.
“It was not in my plans to buy a boubou this year as I already had a lot to do with other expenses,” he said.
“But the price was so affordable that I thought I would not deprive myself.”
Another customer, Matar Sarr, says that with a little money, “you can look as good as everyone else.”
“Who can tell that it is not new? Nobody,” Sarr said.
In Senegal, second-hand success is often less due to environmental concerns and more to financial motives.
Khady Djiba is looking for a wedding dress for her sister.
She examines the quality of the fabrics, runs her hand over the seams, lingers over the beading, and finally chooses a tunic with a long train adorned with glittering pearls.
New, the dress would be out of reach, but for 75,000 CFA francs, Djiba can buy it from Nabou.
It has a few flaws, but with a couple of alterations and dry cleaning, it will be as good as new.
“It’s a good deal,” she said, smiling.