Video of Israeli soldier burning Qur’an sparks outrage

According to Israeli broadcaster Kan, the soldier posted the footage on his personal Instagram account a few days ago. (Screenshot)
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Updated 23 May 2024

Video of Israeli soldier burning Qur’an sparks outrage

  • Israeli authorities launch investigation into incident

LONDON: A video of an Israeli soldier burning a Qur’an has emerged on social media, sparking a wave of criticism.

The video, shared by Israeli Army Radio on Thursday, shows the soldier standing in the ruins of a mosque in East Rafah, Gaza, throwing the Qur’an with its pages open into a fire.

According to Israeli broadcaster Kan, the soldier posted the footage on his personal Instagram account a few days ago.

The incident was condemned by Israeli authorities, who announced the launch of an investigation.

“The soldier’s behavior is not in line with the IDF’s values,” the Israeli army said in a statement.

“The IDF respects all religions and condemns such behavior. An IDF investigation has been opened regarding the incident.”

Palestinian writer and activist Adham Abu Selmiya criticized the act on social media, warning that similar actions have often gone unpunished.

“This is not an isolated incident. The Israeli army has destroyed and bombed over 200 mosques in Gaza in the ongoing genocide, with countless videos of soldiers bragging about these acts,” he said on X.

“This is not limited to Gaza! Settlers in the West Bank have burned Qur’ans in Hebron, facing no repercussions from the Israeli government.”

Another user criticized the conduct, expressing frustration over the lack of condemnation from the international community and Israel’s allies.

“This is the conduct and the morals of Israeli warfare that’s backed by the democratic West,” the post read.

Since the launch of the war on Gaza, Israeli soldiers have posted videos documenting acts of looting, burning, and destruction of homes, assaulting detainees and writing hate graffiti on the walls of houses.

The Israeli army has not announced measures against these soldiers, only stating that their actions “contravene the army’s values.”

In a similar incident in March, an Israeli soldier appeared to have posted a video of himself tearing apart a copy of the Qur’an in a mosque in Gaza.

Some experts have said that the desecration of religious and private places in Gaza is part of a policy of humiliation carried out by Israeli soldiers.

Russian-US journalist Gessen sentenced to 8 years jail in absentia

Updated 58 min 41 sec ago

Russian-US journalist Gessen sentenced to 8 years jail in absentia

  • Masha Gessen is accused of spreading false information about the Russian military’s killing of civilians in Ukraine

MOSCOW: A Russian-American journalist who has accused the Russian army of carrying out crimes in Ukraine was sentenced in absentia to eight years jail by a Moscow court on Monday.
Masha Gessen, a regular contributor to the New Yorker, was declared wanted in Russia last year after alleging its military killed civilians in the Ukrainian city of Bucha in March 2022, an accusation the Kremlin denies.
The court sentenced Gessen to eight years jail for “knowingly spreading false information about the use of the Russian army,” according to a statement from the Moscow city court service.
Shortly after launching its offensive in Ukraine, Russia made independent reporting on the conflict illegal and outlawed criticism of its armed forces.
Gessen, who now lives in the United States, is a prominent LGBTQ activist and long-time critic of President Vladimir Putin, penning a scathing biography of the Russian leader in 2012.
A Moscow court also on Monday sentenced a former municipal deputy to seven and a half years in absentia for allegedly spreading “fakes” about the Russian army.
Elena Kotenochkina, who has fled Russia, was convicted after speaking out in defense of fellow deputy Alexei Gorinov, jailed for seven years after proposing a minute’s silence for the victims of the conflict in Ukraine during a council meeting.

DAZN and beIN Sports acquire Ligue 1 TV rights

Updated 15 July 2024

DAZN and beIN Sports acquire Ligue 1 TV rights

  • British DAZN and Qatari beIN reportedly paid approximately 700 million euros per year for both domestic and international TV rights
  • Deal valid for next two seasons

PARIS: British platform DAZN and Qatari channel beIN Sports have acquired the TV rights to French football’s top-flight Ligue 1 for at least the next two seasons, a source close to the negotiations told AFP on Sunday.
The financial commitment is reported to be close to 500 million euros ($544 million) annually for domestic broadcast rights, while international rights will fetch a further 160 million euros plus 40 million for the second-division Ligue 2.
There remain a number of details to hammer out before the agreement, which is due to run for the period 2024-2029, is made official — including an exit clause for DAZN and France’s Professional Football League (LFP) in two years’ time.
The division of matches between the sports streaming platform and the Qatari channel is also yet to be finalized, although DAZN is expected to broadcast eight of the nine matches in each round, while beIN would get the primetime game.
The larger picture of the agreement was validated by the chairmen of Ligue 1’s clubs during an LFP board meeting on Sunday.
“Despite an incredible amount of work by (LFP chair) Vincent Labrune and several other chairmen, including myself, we were at an impasse, given the urgency of the situation,” Jean-Pierre Caillot, chairman of Reims and chair of the Ligue 1 board, told AFP.
“We had to find the best solution for the clubs in terms of exposure and cash flow. Finding and securing this agreement with DAZN and beIN Sports is the solution that, after several hours of discussions, the Ligue 1 chairmen were virtually unanimously in favor of.
“It’s obviously not the result we’d imagined at the outset, but it means that the future is not compromised,” added Caillot.
The clubs will earn a total of 700 million euros per annum to share between themselves. However, that amount is a far cry from the initial one billion euros the LFP hoped to attract for domestic rights alone when the rights were put out to tender last autumn.
The 2024-25 Ligue 1 season will begin on August 16.

UN urges release of detained Libyan journalist

Ahmed Sanussi. (Photo/Facebook)
Updated 14 July 2024

UN urges release of detained Libyan journalist

  • The crackdown on journalism fosters a climate of fear and undermines the necessary environment for democratic transition in Libya
  • Libya has been wracked by division and unrest since the 2011 NATO-backed overthrow of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and remains divided between two rival administrations

TRIPOLI: The United Nations mission in Libya on Saturday called for the “immediate” release of a prominent journalist arrested this week, warning against a “crackdown” on media freedoms in the war-torn country.
Ahmed Sanussi, chief editor of Libyan financial news website Sada who has long covered corruption in the hydrocarbon-rich country, was arrested in his Tripoli home after returning from Tunisia, his family said.
The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said it was “deeply concerned about the arbitrary arrest and detention of journalist Ahmed Sanussi on July 11 in Tripoli.”
In a message on social media platform X, UNSMIL called for his “immediate release.”
“The crackdown on journalism fosters a climate of fear and undermines the necessary environment for democratic transition in Libya,” it said.
Libya has been wracked by division and unrest since the 2011 NATO-backed overthrow of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and remains divided between two rival administrations.
The UN mission highlighted the need for a “thriving civic space where Libyans can engage in open and safe debate and dialogue by exercising their right to freedom of expression.”
“All Libyan authorities must protect journalists and media professionals.”
Sanussi’s latest reporting on corruption implicated Economy Ministry Mohamad Ali Houej.
Authorities in Libya did not comment on the arrest, which was also condemned by Western governments.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) deemed it “unacceptable that authorities have not disclosed where he is being held or the reason for his arrest.”
The Netherlands’ ambassador in Libya, Joost Klarenbeek, said on X he was “deeply concerned,” adding that “any acts of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance or ill-treatment must be thoroughly investigated.”
CPJ’s MENA program coordinator, Yeganeh Rezaian, said Libyan “authorities must release Sanussi immediately and unconditionally and ensure his safe return home.”


Meta bans ‘watermelon cupcake’ in internal Gaza row

Updated 13 July 2024

Meta bans ‘watermelon cupcake’ in internal Gaza row

  • Meta’s Muslim club was told to avoid ‘disruptive’ themed cupcakes at internal company event
  • ‘Censorship hangs on absurdity,’ Meta data scientist denounced before being laid off

LONDON: Meta has banned the sale of watermelon-themed cupcakes due to the fruit’s association with Gaza, sparking an internal censorship controversy.

The incident began in late May when Saima Akhter, a Meta data scientist in the New York office, accused the company of blocking her plan to sell the themed cupcakes at a company event.

“I am deeply concerned and tired of the exorbitant internal censorship at Meta that is now hinging on absurdity,” Akhter wrote on Instagram after the company halted the idea.

Akhter explained that management called the offering “disruptive” and suggested the Muslim workers’ club offer “traditional Muslim sweets” instead.

According to Wired, which first reported the news, the dispute involved at least three Meta staff members, with Akhter being the only employee to publicly denounce the episode.

Akhter revealed she was fired by Meta two weeks later, allegedly for copying an internal document listing grievances of Muslim staff regarding the company’s handling of Palestinian content and the Gaza conflict.

Sources indicate she is one of at least four pro-Palestinian employees let go since Oct. 7 for various internal policy violations.

This episode highlights growing discontent among Muslim and Arab workers at tech companies over perceived bias and censorship.

Watermelon, due to its colors resembling the Palestinian flag, has become a symbol of Palestinian resistance and, recently, the Gaza protests.

In response to potential internal conflicts following the Oct 7 attack, Meta, like other tech companies, restricted discussions about the war, which has resulted in over 38,000 Palestinian and more than 1,500 Israeli deaths since October.

Maxine Williams, Meta’s diversity chief, stated in a memo that the company introduced new policies “to limit discussions around topics that have historically led to disruptions in the workplace, regardless of the importance of those topics.”

Tunisian judge imposes media ban on a candidate for presidential election

Updated 12 July 2024

Tunisian judge imposes media ban on a candidate for presidential election

  • Opposition party said decision is ‘obstructions to challenging President Kais Saied’

LONDON: A Tunisian judge barred a potential presidential candidate from appearing in the media or traveling around the country on Friday, the latest politician to face what their parties have called obstructions to challenging President Kais Saied.
Abd Ellatif Mekki’s party called the measures an attempt to exclude a serious candidate from the campaign for elections on Oct. 6.
Opposition parties have accused Saied’s government of exerting pressure on the judiciary to track down the president’s rivals and pave the way for him to win a second term.
They say imprisoned politicians must be released and the media allowed to operate without pressure from the government.
Saied’s supporters deny allegations that opposition politicians have been targeted for political reasons. They say that running for elections is not a reason to stop prosecutions against people accused of crimes such as money laundering and corruption.
Two political leaders, Abir Moussi and Ghazi Chaouachi, have been imprisoned since last year.
Last week, police arrested another candidate, Lotfi Mraihi, on suspicion of money laundering. He said in a video that he has faced restrictions and harassment since announcing his candidacy.
Other potential candidates, including Safi Saeed, Mondher Znaidi and Nizar Chaari, are facing prosecution for alleged crimes such as fraud and money laundering.
Mekki’s lawyer, Monia Bouali, told Reuters, “The judge decided to impose a travel ban on Mekki and prevent him from appearing in the media and social media and ordered him to stay (in) Wardia area,” referring to a neighborhood in the capital, where Mekki lives.

Court officials were not immediately available to comment on the decision.
“Mekki is clearly targeted to obstruct his campaign to collect signatures from citizens and to contact them,” said Ahmed Naffati, a prominent official in Mekki’s party, told Reuters.
Days after Mekki announced his candidacy this month, a court spokesman said Mekki was suspected of having participated in the murder of a businessman who died in prison years ago.

Mekki said he had nothing to do with this case, and that filing a case against him after he announced his intention to run showed he was targeted.
Saied, who was elected president in 2019, has not officially announced his candidacy but is expected to do so soon. Last year he said he would not hand over power to what he called non-patriots.
In 2021, Saied dissolved parliament and began ruling by decree in a move that the opposition described as a coup. Saied said his steps were legal and necessary to end years of rampant corruption.