British Muslims ramp up boycott of Israeli dates during Ramadan

Protesters hold a banner promoting the #CheckTheLabel boycott campaign of Israeli dates in the United Kingdom. (FOA)
Protesters hold a banner promoting the #CheckTheLabel boycott campaign of Israeli dates in the United Kingdom. (FOA)
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Updated 12 March 2024
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British Muslims ramp up boycott of Israeli dates during Ramadan

Protesters hold a banner promoting the #CheckTheLabel boycott campaign of Israeli dates in the United Kingdom. (FOA)
  • Advocacy group encouraging imams in local mosques to address the boycott in sermons during the holy month
  • HRW has documented the exploitation of Palestinian labor in the Israeli date industry

LONDON: British Muslims usually check supermarket labels to ensure their purchases are halal. This Ramadan, however, they are also checking to see where their dates are grown.

Muslims typically break their fast with the sweet fruit, following in the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad. This year, against the backdrop of the war in Gaza, British Muslims are keen to avoid buying Israeli dates.

The UK is reportedly the second-biggest importer of Israeli dates in Europe, and, in 2020, imported more than 3,000 tons of dates from Israel, worth about £7.5 million ($9.6 million), according to statistics released by Friends of Al-Aqsa.

For more than 14 years, FOA has led the #CheckTheLabel boycott campaign to raise awareness among consumers who are unknowingly buying Israeli dates.

The campaign has focused on Muslims during Ramadan — a time of surging Israeli date sales in Europe.

As part of its campaign, the advocacy group has encouraged imams in local mosques to address the boycott in their sermons during the holy month.

“Mosques are very important during Ramadan to push that message of unity and encourage people to be ethical consumers,” Shamiul Joarder of FOA said.

“The campaign is always received really well. No one wants to knowingly break their fast with Israeli dates, with produce that helps sustain the illegal occupation of stolen land,” he added.

Israel’s illegal occupation has forced many Palestinians to work under degrading conditions on settlement farms.

Human Rights Watch has documented the exploitation of Palestinian labor in the Israeli date industry, including children as young as 11 exposed to harmful pesticides and women enduring long hours in harsh conditions.

The boycott movement has gained momentum in the UK over the years, especially in the context of Israel’s brutal war on Gaza, which has killed more than 30,000 people since October 2023.

Abbas, a London-based Iraqi designer, told Arab News about the prevalence of Israeli dates in the UK.

“I’d always assumed they were produced in Arab countries,” the 21-year-old said, adding that social media in recent months had helped him become aware of the importance of checking labels.

Meanwhile, Joarder warned that Israeli exporters are hiding the origins of dates to “deliberately mislead” consumers.

“I stick to buying my dates from one company I know that is Saudi. That way, I don’t end up accidentally buying from Israeli brands,” Soha, a 52-year-old British Muslim, told Arab News.

Equally, there has been a push in the UK to promote Palestinian date consumption, which has been adversely affected by the growth of the Israeli date industry.

Islamic charity Penny Appeal has been selling dates ethically sourced from Jericho, which helps to provide a crucial livelihood to Palestinian farmers.

“We are certainly noticing that Muslim consumers are much more careful about buying dates. We receive calls and emails every day asking us to prove our dates are Palestinian,” Ahmad Bostan of Penny Appeal told Arab News.

Zaytoun, a UK-based social enterprise that supports producers in Palestine, said that the proliferation of affordable medjoul dates in the UK has prompted consumers to compare pricing.

“Farming and trading under occupation results in higher costs, and Palestinian growers lack the economies of scale that typically reduce production costs,” the organization, which reinvests 100 percent of its profits into its mission, told Arab News.

Despite this, Zaytoun has experienced an “overwhelming surge in support” for its Palestinian products, which are now featured in major UK retailers like Selfridges, Fenwicks and Whole Foods Market.

“Beyond the direct cultivation of dates, the date sector creates employment opportunities in related industries such as sorting, processing, packing, printing, packaging, refrigeration, haulage, logistics and more,” the organization said.

“By contributing to the growth of the date sector, consumers actively contribute to the broader economic development of Palestine, fostering resilience in the face of challenging conditions.”


China to continue to strengthen ties with Iran, state media says

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (AFP file photo)
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (AFP file photo)
Updated 8 sec ago
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China to continue to strengthen ties with Iran, state media says

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (AFP file photo)
  • “Iran has lost outstanding leaders and China has lost good friends and partners, said Wang, according to Xinhua news

BEIJING: China will continue to strengthen strategic cooperation with Iran, safeguard common interests, and make endeavors for regional and world peace, Chinese state media reported on Tuesday, citing comments from Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Wang made the remarks in talks on Tuesday with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mahdi Safari, while attending a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
“Iran has lost outstanding leaders and China has lost good friends and partners, said Wang, according to Xinhua news. “In this difficult time, China firmly stands by Iranian friends,” he said, referring to the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Sunday.

 


Ireland to announce recognition of Palestinian state on Wednesday, source says

Ireland to announce recognition of Palestinian state on Wednesday, source says
Updated 31 min 30 sec ago
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Ireland to announce recognition of Palestinian state on Wednesday, source says

Ireland to announce recognition of Palestinian state on Wednesday, source says
  • The Irish government has said recognition would complement peace efforts and support a two-state solution

DUBLIN: The Irish government is to announce the recognition of a Palestinian state on Wednesday, a move strongly opposed by Israel, a source familiar with the matter said.
European Union members Ireland, Spain, Slovenia and Malta have indicated in recent weeks that they plan to make the recognition, possibly in a coordinated announcement, arguing a two-state solution is essential for lasting peace in the region.
The efforts come as a mounting death toll in Gaza from Israel’s offensive to rout Hamas prompts calls globally for a ceasefire and lasting solution for peace in the region.
Since 1988, 139 out of 193 UN member states have recognized Palestinian statehood.
The Irish government has said recognition would complement peace efforts and support a two-state solution.
Israel’s foreign ministry on Tuesday warned against the move, saying in a post on social media platform X that recognition would “lead to more terrorism, instability in the region and jeopardize any prospects for peace.”
“Don’t be a pawn in the hands of Hamas,” the ministry said.
Hamas holds around 125 hostages seized during its cross-border rampage on Oct. 7, which killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies, and triggered the war. Gaza medical officials say more than 35,000 have been killed during the Israeli offensive.
The Irish government on Tuesday evening said the prime minister and foreign minister would speak to the media on Wednesday morning but did not say what the topic would be.


One dead, dozens injured as Singapore-bound flight hits turbulence

One dead, dozens injured as Singapore-bound flight hits turbulence
Updated 31 min 40 sec ago
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One dead, dozens injured as Singapore-bound flight hits turbulence

One dead, dozens injured as Singapore-bound flight hits turbulence
  • The airline said the aircraft was a Boeing 777-300ER with a total of 211 passengers and 18 crew on board

BANGKOK: A 73-year-old British man died and more than 70 people were injured Tuesday in what passengers described as a terrifying scene aboard a Singapore Airlines flight that hit severe turbulence, triggering an emergency landing in Bangkok.
An initial data analysis by the aviation tracking service Flightradar24 suggested the London-Singapore flight experienced more than one minute of extreme turbulence at around 11,300 meters (37,000 feet) over Myanmar, during which it violently rose and plunged several times.
Flight SQ321 had taken off from London’s Heathrow airport and “encountered sudden extreme turbulence” over Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Basin, according to Singapore Airlines.
The aircraft later affected a sharp, controlled descent and diverted to Bangkok.
Andrew Davies, a British passenger aboard the Boeing 777-300ER, told BBC Radio 5 that the plane “suddenly dropped” and there was “very little warning.”
“During the few seconds of the plane dropping, there was an awful screaming and what sounded like a thud,” he said, adding that he helped a woman who was “screaming in agony” with a “gash on her head.”
He described seeing people with head lacerations and bleeding ears: “I was covered in coffee. It was incredibly severe turbulence.”
Most of the injured passengers on the flight suffered blows to the head, said the director of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, Kittipong Kittikachorn, who confirmed the age and nationality of the deceased man.
Emergency vehicles raced onto the tarmac at the Thai capital’s main airport with lights flashing and sirens blaring after the plane touched down at 3:45 p.m. (0845 GMT).
“At 3:35 p.m. the airport received a distress call from the Singapore Airlines flight saying there were passengers on board injured by turbulence, and requesting an emergency landing,” Suvarnabhumi Airport said in a statement.
“The plane landed at the airport and the medical team was sent to treat all the injured.”
A large number of those aboard the plane — 131 passengers and 12 crew members — finally arrived in Singapore on a relief flight just after 5:00 am Wednesday, the airline said.
Another 79 passengers and six crew members remained in Bangkok, including those receiving medical care.
Singapore Prime Minister Lawrence Wong meanwhile sent his “deepest condolences” to the family and loved ones of the deceased, posting on Facebook that his country was “working closely with Thai authorities.”

Bangkok’s Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital said a total of 71 people had been sent for treatment, six of them severely injured.
“We deeply apologize for the traumatic experience that our passengers and crew members suffered on this flight. We are providing all necessary assistance during this difficult time,” Singapore Airlines said.
Of the passengers, 56 were Australians, 47 British and 41 Singaporeans, the airline said.
“In terms of exactly what happened, it’s too early to tell. But I think passengers are too casual on board commercial aircraft,” US-based aerospace safety expert Anthony Brickhouse told AFP.
“The moment the captain turns off the seatbelt sign, people literally unbuckle.”
Davies, the passenger, said that at the very moment a seatbelt sign came on, “the plane suddenly dropped.”
Allison Barker told the BBC her son Josh, who was aboard the plane, texted her that he was on “a crazy flight” that was making an emergency landing.
“It was terrifying,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on. We didn’t know whether he’d survived, it was so nerve-wracking. It was the longest two hours of my life.”

Singapore’s transport ministry said it would send investigators to Bangkok, while the city-state’s President Tharman Shanmugaratnam said “we must hope and pray” for the injured to recover.
The episode marks the latest drama involving a Boeing plane, after a fuselage panel blew out of an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX in January as well as two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019.
Boeing said it was “ready to support” Singapore Airlines.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the family who lost a loved one, and our thoughts are with the passengers and crew,” Boeing said on social media platform X.
Scientists have long warned that climate change is likely to increase so-called clear air turbulence, which is invisible to radar.
A 2023 study found the annual duration of clear air turbulence increased 17 percent from 1979 to 2020, with the most severe cases increasing over 50 percent.
 

 


Over 1 million claims related to toxic exposure granted under new veterans law, Biden announces

Over 1 million claims related to toxic exposure granted under new veterans law, Biden announces
Updated 22 May 2024
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Over 1 million claims related to toxic exposure granted under new veterans law, Biden announces

Over 1 million claims related to toxic exposure granted under new veterans law, Biden announces
  • In raw numbers, more than 1 million claims have been granted to veterans since Biden signed the so-called PACT Act into law in August 2022, the administration said Tuesday

NASHUA, N.H.: President Joe Biden, aiming to highlight his legislative accomplishments this election year, traveled to New Hampshire on Tuesday to discuss how he’s helped military veterans get benefits as a result of burn pit or other toxic exposure during their service.
“We can never fully thank you for all the sacrifices you’ve made,” Biden said to the veterans and their families gathered at a YMCA. “In America, we leave no veteran behind. That’s our motto.”
In raw numbers, more than 1 million claims have been granted to veterans since Biden signed the so-called PACT Act into law in August 2022, the administration said Tuesday. That amounts to about 888,000 veterans and survivors in all 50 states who have been able to receive disability benefits under the law.
That totals about $5.7 billion in benefits given to veterans and their survivors, according to the administration.
“The president, I think, has believed now for too long, too many veterans who got sick serving and fighting for our country had to fight the VA for their care, too,” Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough told reporters on Monday. PACT stands for “Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics.”
The PACT Act is relatively lower profile compared to the president’s other legislative accomplishments — such as a bipartisan infrastructure law and a sweeping tax, climate and health care package — but it is one that is deeply personal for Biden.
He has blamed burn pits for the brain cancer that killed his son, Beau, who served in Iraq, and has vowed repeatedly that he would get the PACT Act into law. Burn pits are where chemicals, tires, plastics, medical equipment and human waste were disposed of on military bases and were used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Before the law, the Department of Veterans Affairs denied 70 percent of disability claims that involved burn pit exposure. Now, the law requires the VA to assume that certain respiratory illnesses and cancers were related to burn pit or other toxic exposure without veterans having to prove the link.
Before Biden’s planned remarks, he went to a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Merrimack, New Hampshire. The president met there with Lisa Clark, an Air Force veteran who is receiving benefits through the PACT Act because her late husband, Senior Master Sergeant Carl Clark, was exposed to the chemical herbicide Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, marked the milestone by praising the veterans who advocated for the law.
“For far too long, our nation failed to honor its promises to our veterans exposed to toxins in military conflicts across the globe— until we fought like hell alongside veterans to finally get the PACT Act signed into law,” Tester, chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said.


Blinken says he’ll work with US Congress to respond to ICC move on Gaza

Blinken says he’ll work with US Congress to respond to ICC move on Gaza
Updated 22 May 2024
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Blinken says he’ll work with US Congress to respond to ICC move on Gaza

Blinken says he’ll work with US Congress to respond to ICC move on Gaza
  • The United States is not a member of the court, but has supported past prosecutions, including the ICC’s decision last year to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine

WASHINGTON: The Biden administration is willing to work with Congress to respond to the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s request for arrest warrants for Israeli leaders over the Gaza war, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday, amid Republican calls for US sanctions against court officials.
Speaking at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Blinken called the move “profoundly wrong-headed” and said it would complicate the prospects of reaching a hostage deal and a ceasefire in Israel’s conflict with the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said on Monday he had reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s defense chief and three Hamas leaders “bear criminal responsibility” for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Both President Joe Biden, a Democrat, and his political opponents have sharply criticized Khan’s announcement, arguing the court does not have jurisdiction over the Gaza conflict and raising concerns over process.
The United States is not a member of the court, but has supported past prosecutions, including the ICC’s decision last year to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine.
“We’ll be happy to work with Congress, with this committee, on an appropriate response” to the ICC move, Blinken said on Tuesday.
He did not say what a response to the ICC move might include.
In a later hearing, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told Blinken he hoped to work together with the administration to express the United States’ opposition to the ICC prosecutor.
“What I hope to happen is that we level sanctions against the ICC for this outrage, to not only help our friends in Israel but protect ourself over time,” said Graham.
Republican members of Congress have previously threatened legislation to impose sanctions on the ICC, but a measure cannot become law without support from President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats, who control the Senate.
In 2020, then-President Donald Trump’s administration accused the ICC of infringing on US national sovereignty when it authorized an investigation into war crimes committed in Afghanistan. The US targeted court staff, including then-prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, with asset freezes and travel bans.