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

  • 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.


Le Pen’s National Rally seen leading vote in French snap elections — polls

Updated 46 sec ago
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Le Pen’s National Rally seen leading vote in French snap elections — polls

  • The simulation of the national popular vote does not allow for a direct forecast of the balance of power in France’s next National Assembly, as the election on June 30 and July 7 is held as a two-round majority vote in each district

PARIS: Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally is seen leading the race ahead of France’s parliamentary elections, three polls showed on Thursday, ahead of the leftwing Popular Front and President Emmanuel Macron’s centrists.
Pollster IFOP in a survey for broadcasting group TF1 and Le Figaro said the National Rally (RN) would secure 34 percent of the vote, while the Popular Front would reach 29 percent and Macron’s Together bloc would get 22 percent.
Another poll by Harris Interactive — conducted for RTL radio, M6 TV and Challenges Magazine — put the RN at 33 percent, while the left was seen at 26 percent and Macron’s camp at 21 percent.
A third poll published on Thursday, by OpinionWay on behalf of CNews TV, Europe 1 radio and the Journal du Dimanche paper, also put the RN in the lead with 35 percent of the votes, ahead of the Popular Front which had 27 percent and Macron’s camp which had 20 percent.
The simulation of the national popular vote does not allow for a direct forecast of the balance of power in France’s next National Assembly, as the election on June 30 and July 7 is held as a two-round majority vote in each district.
The Harris poll, however, made rough seat projections and forecast 235 to 280 seats for RN and its allies, which would fall short of the 289 needed for an absolute majority but make it by far the largest bloc.


New York moves to limit ‘addictive’ social media feeds for kids

Updated 11 min 29 sec ago
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New York moves to limit ‘addictive’ social media feeds for kids

  • The bill marks the latest attempt by a state to regulate social media as part of concerns over how children interact with the platforms

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday signed a bill that would allow parents to block their children from getting social media posts suggested by a platform’s algorithm, a move to limit feeds critics argue are addictive.
Under the legislation, feeds on apps like TikTok and Instagram would be limited for people under age 18 to posts from accounts they follow, rather than content suggested by an automated algorithm. It would also block platforms from sending minors notifications on suggested posts between midnight and 6 a.m.
Both provisions could be turned off if a minor gets what the bill defines as “verifiable parental consent.”
The law does not take effect immediately. State Attorney General Letitia James is now tasked with crafting rules to determine mechanisms for verifying a user’s age and parental consent. After the rules are finalized, social media companies will have 180 days to implement the regulations.
“We can protect our kids. We can tell the companies that you are not allowed to do this, you don’t have a right to do this, that parents should have say over their children’s lives and their health, not you,” Hochul, a Democrat, said at a bill signing ceremony in Manhattan.
The signing is the first step in what is expected to be a drawn out process of rule making, and a probable lawsuit from social media companies to block the law.
NetChoice, a tech industry trade group that includes X and Meta, has criticized the legislation as unconstitutional.
“This is an assault on free speech and the open Internet by the State of New York,” Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of NetChoice, said in a statement. “New York has created a way for the government to track what sites people visit and their online activity by forcing websites to censor all content unless visitors provide an ID to verify their age.”
Most of the biggest social media platforms send users a steady stream of suggested videos, photographs and other content, using a computer to try and predict what will keep users entertained and engaged for as long as possible. The algorithms use a variety of factors to curate that content, including what a user has clicked on before and interests of other people with similar preferences.
The bill marks the latest attempt by a state to regulate social media as part of concerns over how children interact with the platforms.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom this week announced plans to work with the Legislature on a bill to restrict smartphone usage for students during the school day, though he didn’t provide exact details on what the proposal would include. Newsom in 2019 signed a bill allowing school districts to limit or ban smartphones while at school.
There hasn’t been broad legislation on the subject at the federal level but it is a common point of discussion in Washington. This week the US surgeon general called on Congress to put warning labels on social media platforms similar to those on cigarettes, citing mental health dangers for children using the sites.
Some tech companies, with pressure mounting, have decided to set up parental controls on their platforms. Last year, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, created tools that allowed parents to set time limits on the apps for children.
The New York legislation, debuted last October, had faced major pushback in the Legislature from the tech industry.
“Social media platforms manipulate what our children see online to keep them on the platforms as long as possible,” said James, a Democrat who pushed for the bill. “The more time young people spend on social media, the more they are at risk of developing serious mental health concerns.”


Trump says foreign college graduates should automatically get green cards

Updated 26 min 37 sec ago
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Trump says foreign college graduates should automatically get green cards

  • A green card, also known as a permanent resident card, allows individuals to live and work permanently in the United States and is a path to citizenship

WASHINGTON: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Thursday suggested that people who graduate from college in the United States should “automatically” get a green card to be able to stay in the country.
“You graduate from a college, I think you should get automatically as part of your diploma a green card to be able to stay in this country and that includes junior colleges too,” Trump said on the All-In podcast hosted by tech investors.
A green card, also known as a permanent resident card, allows individuals to live and work permanently in the United States and is a path to citizenship..
Trump, who made a hard-line stance on immigration a centerpiece of his administration and has vowed a wide-ranging crackdown if reelected, has lambasted President Joe Biden’s efforts to curb the record number of migrants crossing into the US illegally.
“Anybody graduates from a college you go in there for two years or four years if you graduate or you get a doctorate degree from a college you should be able to stay in this country,” Trump said.
It was not clear if Trump was referring to all foreigners, including those who came to the United States illegally or overstayed their visas, or only those people on student visas.
US lawmakers from both parties in the past have proposed legislation that would make it easier for certain college graduates to remain in the country.

 


Hundreds in Paris protest ‘anti-Semitic’ gang rape

Updated 36 min 2 sec ago
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Hundreds in Paris protest ‘anti-Semitic’ gang rape

  • The rape was filmed by one boy and another threatened to kill the girl if she told authorities about her ordeal, police sources said

PARIS: Several hundred people protested against anti-Semitism and “rape culture” in Paris on Thursday after the gang rape of a 12-year-old Jewish girl at the weekend sparked nationwide outrage.
Various anti-racist, rights and feminist groups had called for the demonstration following Saturday’s gang rape.
Dominique Sopo, president of anti-racist group SOS Racisme, said it was “an anti-Semitic crime that chills our blood.”
Anne-Cecile Mailfert, the president of the Women’s Foundation, said the incident reflected a rise in anti-Semitism since the start of the Gaza war.
But it also highlighted “a rape culture to which young people are more likely to subscribe,” having been “bottle-fed pornography,” she added.
Ner Sfez, a 24-year-old Jewish woman, said she had come to protest a crime “at the intersection of sexism and anti-Semitism.”
Hundreds had already protested on Wednesday in Paris and Lyon in central-eastern France after the incident was reported in the news.
The Jewish girl told police three boys aged between 12 and 13 approached her in a park near her home in the northwestern Paris suburb of Courbevoie on Saturday evening, police sources said.
She was dragged into a shed where the suspects beat her and “forced” her to have sex “while uttering death threats and anti-Semitic remarks,” one police source told AFP.
The rape was filmed by one boy and another threatened to kill the girl if she told authorities about her ordeal, police sources said.
Two boys, both aged 13, were charged on Tuesday with gang rape, anti-Semitic insults and violence, and issuing death threats. They have been taken into custody.
A third boy, 12, was charged with anti-Semitic insults and violence and issuing death threats, but not with rape. He was allowed to return home.
France has the largest Jewish community of any country outside Israel and the United States.
At Thursday’s protest, Arie Alimi, a lawyer known for tackling police brutality and the vice president of the French Human Rights League, said anti-Semitism, racism and sexism were “everywhere.”
In the run-up to snap parliamentary polls on June 30 and July 7, he urged voters to prevent the far right from seizing power and “installing a racist, anti-Semitic and sexist policy.”
But he also said he was sad to hear “anti-Semitic remarks from a part of those who say they are on the left.”
President Emmanuel Macron called the parliamentary elections after the far right thrashed his centrist alliance in European polls.
His surprise move has seen part of the right ally itself with the far right and the left form a new alliance, with both sides accusing the other of being anti-Semitic.


Crowd in Pakistan kills man accused of burning Qur’an: police

Security personnel stand guard in Peshawar on January 30, 2023. (AFP file photo)
Updated 44 min 47 sec ago
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Crowd in Pakistan kills man accused of burning Qur’an: police

  • Blasphemy is a highly sensitive subject in majority Muslim Pakistan, where even accusations without evidence can stir up anger among crowds and spark outbreaks of violence

PESHAWAR: A Pakistani man accused of desecrating the Qur'an was slain and burned Thursday by a crowd that removed him from a police station where he had been detained for his protection, authorities said.
“On the evening of the 20th, locals in the Madian area detained a man, alleging he had burned the Qur'an. The police intervened, rescued him, and took him to the local police station,” a police source in Swat told AFP, noting the man was not from the area.
But the crowd, urged on by local mosques, converged on the police station and pelted it with stones.
“To disperse the angry mob, police fired warning shots into the air, which further incited the crowd. The mob overpowered the police, dragged the man out, and beat him to death with sticks,” the source said.
Later, some people poured oil on his body and set it ablaze, the source added.
A local official confirmed the incident, saying: “After killing the man, the enraged protesters started stoning the police, forcing them to abandon the station.
The situation in the area remained tense, with protesters blocking the main road, according to the official.
Blasphemy is a highly sensitive subject in majority Muslim Pakistan, where even accusations without evidence can stir up anger among crowds and spark outbreaks of violence.
In late May, a Christian accused of burning pages of the Qur'an was also lynched by a mob in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab region, before succumbing to his injuries in early June, according to police.
Also in Punjab, in February 2023, a crowd beat to death a Muslim accused of having desecrated the holy book.