Palestinians in South America criticize government reactions to Israel-Hamas violence

Palestinians search for survivors after an Israeli air strike on buildings in the refugee camp of Jabalia in the Gaza Strip on Oct. 9, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 09 October 2023

Palestinians in South America criticize government reactions to Israel-Hamas violence

  • Hamas condemned despite pro-Palestinian sympathies of Chilean, Brazilian, Argentinian presidents
  • However, Venezuela demands end to Israeli occupation

SAO PAULO: Living in countries whose presidents have expressed pro-Palestinian views, Palestinian communities in Chile, Brazil and Argentina have expressed disappointment with statements issued by these countries’ governments concerning the fighting between Hamas and Israel.

Most Latin American nations released statements condemning Saturday’s attack on Israel by Hamas from the Gaza Strip.

The exceptions were Venezuela, which demanded that Israel immediately halt the occupation of Palestinian territories, and Bolivia, which said it is following developments with concern and accused the UN of inaction.

In Colombia, the Foreign Ministry released a statement condemning violence against civilians and asking both parties to hold dialogue on a two-state solution.

But President Gustavo Petro has written several times on his X account about the historical violations of the Palestinians’ rights, and shared posts accusing Israel of “apartheid.”

Israeli Ambassador to Colombia Gali Dagan said he expected that a “friendly country” would strongly condemn “the terrorist attack against civilians in the State of Israel.”

Petro answered on X that “terrorism is to kill innocent children, either in Colombia or in Palestine,” and said both sides should negotiate peace.

In Chile, where an estimated 500,000 Palestinians and their descendants live — making up the largest community in the diaspora outside the Middle East — many community leaders were dissatisfied with the statement released by Foreign Minister Alberto van Klaveren on X.

“We are following with great concern the terrorist attack against Israel and express solidarity with the victims and their relatives,” van Klaveren said.

“We condemn the use of violence and demand its immediate stop. We keep our commitment to the peace process between Israel and Palestine.”

Palestinian-born Nicola Hadwa, a prominent Middle East analyst, told Arab News that Palestinians in Chile feel “betrayed,” adding: “That kind of declaration comes from political leaders who are subordinated to the US and Israel.”

Hadwa, who also worked as a football manager and was the first professional coach of the Palestinian national team in 2002, said: “Every day, the Israelis kill two or three young Palestinians and nobody talks about it in the media. When Palestine reacts, suddenly everybody is concerned.”

Chilean President Gabriel Boric’s administration seems to be coming under pressure from both sides.

While Palestinian Chileans criticized van Klaveren’s statement, Israelis — alongside the nation’s Jewish community — were offended by another of his posts.

“The use of force against civilians is never acceptable in armed conflicts, even in the exercise of legitimate defense,” he said.

“This is valid for Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the State of Israel, and any other actor that intervenes in the conflict.”

Israeli Ambassador to Chile Gil Artzyeli described as “unfortunate” the idea that Israel cannot defend itself from such an attack.

Since his electoral campaign, Boric has manifested his support for the Palestinian cause on several occasions.

In September 2022, he refused to receive Artzyeli’s credentials on the day they were scheduled to meet because a Palestinian child had been killed by Israeli forces. Last December, Boric announced that he would establish an embassy in Palestine.

A similar pro-Palestinian record is held by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who in his second tenure as Brazil’s president officially recognized the State of Palestine, leading other countries in Latin America to do the same.

In his speeches at the UN General Assembly, he always mentions Palestinian hardships, most recently on Sept. 19.

But his X post concerning the Hamas attack disappointed Palestinian Brazilians. “I was shocked by the terrorist attacks today against civilians in Israel, which caused numerous victims,” he said.

“I send my condolences to the victims’ relatives. I reaffirm my repudiation of terrorism in any of its forms.”

Sayid Tenorio, vice president of the Brazil-Palestine Institute, told Arab News: “I was surprised with the use of the term ‘terrorist.’ I don’t think he wrote it. His assistants did, and they seem to be people who are influenced by … pressure from the media.”

Tenorio emphasized that Lula has a “historic commitment to the Palestinian cause,” but in his team there are people who “at the same time defend the Palestinians’ rights and hesitate when it comes to the Palestinian resistance.”

Tenorio added: “I was disappointed but I don’t condemn Lula. I think it was a mistake, maybe an excess of precaution now that Brazil assumed the presidency of the UN Security Council.”

Ualid Rabah, who heads the Arab Palestinian Federation of Brazil, considered Lula’s statement to be “balanced” but also criticized the use of the term “terrorist.”

Rabah said: “In order to please the Zionists, he used that term for us, comparing us with the terrorists who attempted to stage a coup against him on Jan. 8.”

Rabah attributed such an error to the “Zionist gang which is part of the Brazilian left wing,” adding: “We know that word didn’t come from Lula’s mouth nor his heart. He has always been our friend, and we know how to forgive someone who makes a mistake. But we’d like him to apologize for such an injustice.”

Rabah accused the media of trying to make Palestinians “invisible,” adding: “We’re facing a media massacre. How can we be accused of terrorism by people who only want to defend the Israeli regime, run by a handful of fascists?”

In Argentina, where significant Jewish and Palestinian communities live, President Alberto Fernandez condemned “the brutal terrorist attack perpetrated by Hamas.”

He said he talked to Israeli President Isaac Herzog and repeated a couple of times that it was a “terrorist” act.

Argentinian Finance Minister Sergio Massa, who is running for president, also expressed solidarity with Israel and repudiated the “terrorist” aggression waged by Hamas.

During a presidential debate aired on Saturday night, Massa said he would include Hamas on Argentina’s list of terrorist organizations if he is elected.

Fernandez and his party have a record of expressing pro-Palestinian sentiment. In 2021, for instance, Argentina issued a statement condemning the “disproportionate use of force by Israeli security units to face protests against potential displacements of Palestinian families from their homes in the (Jerusalem) neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.” The statement was criticized by Israel and its ambassador to Argentina.

Despite that, many Palestinian Argentinians consider Fernandez and his colleagues to be hesitant when it comes to defending Palestinians’ rights.

“The Palestinian community in Argentina, and the Arabs as a whole, have always expressed how apathetic Fernandez and his government are when it comes to that issue,” said activist Fernando Isas. “Unfortunately, our criticism doesn’t reverberate in society as much as we wish.”

He said there is a “media blockage” in the country impeding people from knowing more about the Palestinian reality.

“Newspapers only talk about attacks ‘suffered’ by the Israelis,” he added. “We need to boost pictures and content on social media. That’s the only way to inform the people.”

Bangladesh proposes new digital platform to counter Israeli disinformation on Palestine

Updated 6 sec ago

Bangladesh proposes new digital platform to counter Israeli disinformation on Palestine

  • Israel’s ‘systematic misinformation campaigns’ aim to ‘cover its brutality and genocidal massacres’ in Gaza, OIC says
  • At least 88 journalists have been killed in Palestine since Israel’s onslaught on Gaza began in October 

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s state minister for information has proposed the Organization of Islamic Cooperation create a collaborative digital platform to combat Israel’s disinformation campaign against Palestine, as the Muslim grouping launches new plans to expose Tel Aviv’s war crimes. 

Information ministers of OIC member countries were in Turkiye over the weekend for an extraordinary session discussing Israel’s disinformation campaign and attacks on journalists in Gaza, where nearly 30,000 Palestinians have been killed since October. 

State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Mohammed Ali Arafat said Israel’s “despicable disinformation campaign” is an attempt to cover its blatant war crimes in Gaza, including the indiscriminate targeting of babies and children, as well as journalists and humanitarian workers. 

“The world has hardly seen the continued killing of journalists and the spreading of disinformation as is happening in Gaza. I believe fighting to contain and combat against such dissemination of misinformation needs collective effort,” Arafat told the participants. 

At least 88 journalists and media workers were among the tens of thousands of Palestinians killed in over four months since Israel began its onslaught on Gaza, according to the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists. 

“We need to create a collaborative digital platform to combat the spreading of such disinformation against Palestine. I request the OIC Secretariat to prepare a plan in this regard immediately,” Arafat said. 

Bangladesh is ready to support the OIC in establishing an information pool documenting Israeli war crimes that can be regularly shared with its member states, he added. 

“Muslim Ummah must work together to stop this massacre and let the world know the truth. Bangladesh supports and stands firm by our Palestinian brothers and sisters in this dire situation.” 

In a final communique, OIC information ministers condemned Israel’s “systematic misinformation campaigns” to “cover its brutality and genocidal massacres committed in the Gaza Strip.”

The 57-member organization also condemned Israel’s “systematic targeting of Palestinian journalists,” describing it as part of a campaign to “silence the voices of truth-tellers.” 

The OIC said they are determined to collectively “counter and expose attempts by the Israel colonial occupation to cover up the destruction” in the besieged enclave, as they mandate the group’s media monitoring unit to establish an action plan to “lay bare and counter” the Israeli disinformation campaign at the international level. 

US airman who set self on fire outside Israeli embassy dies: Pentagon

Police are deployed outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024.
Updated 9 min 19 sec ago

US airman who set self on fire outside Israeli embassy dies: Pentagon

WASHINGTON: An active member of the US Air Force has died after setting himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington over the weekend in protest of the war in Gaza, the Pentagon said Monday.
An Air Force spokeswoman said the unnamed man had “succumbed to his injuries and passed away last night. We will provide additional details 24 hours after next of kin notifications are complete.”

Russia seeks to imprison veteran rights advocate for nearly 3 years over Ukraine war criticism

Updated 26 February 2024

Russia seeks to imprison veteran rights advocate for nearly 3 years over Ukraine war criticism

  • The prosecution demanded that Oleg Orlov, 70, be convicted of “repeatedly discrediting” the Russian army

The Russian authorities on Monday sought a prison sentence of nearly three years for a veteran human rights advocate who spoke out against the war in Ukraine.
The prosecution demanded that Oleg Orlov, 70, be convicted of “repeatedly discrediting” the Russian army and sentenced to two years and 11 months in prison, in a retrial after he was earlier ordered to pay a fine. In a move that underscored how little tolerance President Vladimir Putin’s government has for criticism of its invasion of Ukraine, the prosecution appealed the fine, seeking a harsher punishment.
The charges against Orlov, co-chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning human rights group Memorial, came after he posted on Facebook an article he wrote denouncing the invasion of Ukraine. He has rejected the case against him as politically motivated.
A court in Moscow in October 2023 delivered a guilty verdict and fined Orlov 150,000 rubles (about $1,500 at the time), a significantly milder punishment compared to the lengthy prison terms some other Russians have received for criticizing the war.
Both the defense and the prosecution appealed the verdict, and a higher court voided the fine and sent the case back to the prosecutors. A new trial began earlier this month, another step in a yearslong, unrelenting crackdown on dissent in Russia that the Kremlin ratcheted up after sending troops into Ukraine in February 2022.
The hearing on Monday drew over 100 supporters and more than a dozen Western diplomats, Russian independent news site Mediazona reported. Orlov brought a book to the hearing — “The Trial” by Franz Kafka — reflecting his view of the trial as absurd. At a hearing on Thursday, Orlov read the novel and refused to engage in the proceedings.

The Taliban hold another public execution as thousands watch at a stadium in northern Afghanistan

Updated 26 February 2024

The Taliban hold another public execution as thousands watch at a stadium in northern Afghanistan

  • The execution took place in heavy snowfall in the city of Shibirghan
  • It was also the fifth public execution since the Taliban seized power of Afghanistan in August 2021

ISLAMABAD: The Taliban held a public execution on Monday of a man convicted of murder in northern Afghanistan as thousands watched at a sports stadium, the third such death sentence to be carried out in the past five days.
The execution took place in heavy snowfall in the city of Shibirghan, the capital of northern Jawzjan province, where the brother of the murdered man shot the convict five times with a rifle, according to an eyewitness . Security around the stadium was tight, said the witness, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
It was also the fifth public execution since the Taliban seized power of Afghanistan in August 2021 as the US and NATO troops were in the final weeks of their withdrawal from the country after two decades of war.
The development was ominous as the Taliban, despite initial promises of a more moderate rule, began carrying out severe punishments in public — executions, floggings and stonings — shortly after coming to power. The punishments are similar to those under their previous rule of Afghanistan in the late 1990s.
Taliban government officials were not immediately available for comment.
The statement said Monday’s death sentence was carried out following approval by three of the country’s highest courts and the Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada. The executed man, identified as Nazar Mohammad from the district of Bilcheragh in Faryab province, had killed Khal Mohammad, also from Faryab. The killing took place in Jawzjan.
On Thursday in the southeastern Ghazni province, the Taliban executed two men convicted of stabbing their victims to death. Relatives of the victims fired guns at the two men, also at a sports stadium as thousands of people watched.
Separate statements from the Taliban’s supreme court said a man and a woman convicted of adultery were flogged with 35 lashes each in northern Balkh province over the weekend. Two other people were lashed in eastern Laghman province, also over the weekend; they were given each 30 lashes for allegedly committing immoral acts.
The United Nations has strongly criticized the Taliban for carrying out public executions, lashings and stonings since seizing power, and called on the country’s rulers to halt such practices.

Anti-Muslim hate speech soars in India, research group says

Updated 26 February 2024

Anti-Muslim hate speech soars in India, research group says

  • Research group ‘India Hate Lab’ documents 668 hate speech incidents targeting Muslims in 2023
  • Rights groups have alleged mistreatment of Muslims under Modi, India’s prime minister since 2014

Anti-Muslim hate speech in India rose by 62 percent in the second half of 2023 compared to the first six months of the year, a Washington-based research group said on Monday, adding the Israel-Gaza war played a key role in the last three months.

India Hate Lab documented 668 hate speech incidents targeting Muslims in 2023, 255 of which occurred in the first half of the year while 413 took place in the last six months of 2023, the research group said in a report released Monday.

About 75 percent, or 498, of those incidents took place in states governed by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to the report. The states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh accounted for the most hate speech.

Between Oct. 7 — when Palestinian group Hamas attacked Israel, sparking the conflict in the Gaza Strip as Israel retaliated — and Dec. 31, there were 41 incidents of hate speech against Indian Muslims that mentioned the war, the report added. It accounted for about 20 percent of hate speech in the last three months of 2023.

The research group said it used the United Nations’ definition of hate speech — prejudiced or discriminatory language toward an individual or group based on attributes including religion, ethnicity, nationality, race or gender.

Rights groups have alleged mistreatment of Muslims under Modi, who became prime minister in 2014 and is widely expected to retain power after the 2024 elections.

They point to a 2019 citizenship law that the UN human rights office called “fundamentally discriminatory;” an anti-conversion legislation that challenges the constitutionally protected right to freedom of belief; and the 2019 revoking of Muslim majority Kashmir’s special status.

There has also been demolition of Muslim properties in the name of removing illegal construction and a ban on wearing the hijab in classrooms in Karnataka when the BJP was in power in that state.

Modi’s government denies the presence of minority abuse and says its policies aim to benefit all Indians. The Indian embassy in Washington and India’s foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

India Hate Lab said it tracked online activity of Hindu nationalist groups, verified videos of hate speech posted on social media and compiled data of isolated incidents reported by Indian media.