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It is high time for Europe to change its approach to Palestine | European Union

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The recent escalation in Israel-Palestine has once again turned the world’s attention to Israel’s 53-year-long occupation and its systemic violations of the most basic human rights of the Palestinian people. It also demonstrated clearly that the strategies the European Union has long been pursuing to try and end the conflict and further its interests in the Middle East are not working and may even be making matters worse.

On May 21, a fragile ceasefire brought 11 days of Israeli bombing raids on the besieged Gaza Strip and Hamas rocket fire on Israeli cities to an end, but there is little room for celebration – none of the underlying causes that led to this escalation has yet been addressed. To help prevent another devastating confrontation, European governments must radically change course. They should adopt a new approach grounded in international law and multilateralism and move to demand accountability from both sides.

Repeating old mantras of support for two states while demanding two fundamentally asymmetric sides to enter into direct negotiations will not lead to a breakthrough. Attempting to isolate Hamas, or embarking on yet another reconstruction effort in Gaza would also not provide a sustainable solution. Any effort that does not take into consideration the bigger picture of Israeli occupation and structural violence against millions of Palestinians are doomed to fail. Approaches that try to ease symptoms without curing the disease would provide neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians with more security and stability.

Therefore, any European effort towards Israel and Palestine should first address the occupation and the resultant state-sponsored discrimination that fuel conflict.

Responsibility for the recent crisis rests largely on the shoulders of Israel’s outgoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. During his 12 years in power, Netanyahu consistently pursued divisive policies that achieved little more than stoking nationalist sentiments and flaming ethnic and religious tensions in Israel. And last month, struggling in the polls after four inconclusive elections and under investigation for corruption, he decided to exploit the long-simmering tensions in Occupied East Jerusalem to reshuffle the political deck in a desperate attempt to stay in power. Instead of restraining violent settlers, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister deployed security forces to disperse unarmed Palestinians protesting against settlement expansion and other rights abuses in Sheikh Jarrah and the Al Aqsa Mosque – a move that was all but certain to pave the way for more conflict and violence.

And it did, with Hamas quickly entering the fray. Exploiting the meek reaction to this latest episode of Israeli aggression by Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Ramallah based Palestinian Authority (PA), Hamas used the crisis to present itself as the vanguard of Palestinian resistance. It started firing rockets on Israeli cities, drawing condemnation from the international community.

But Hamas rocket fire cannot be addressed in isolation. The group’s actions can only be understood and effectively addressed if they are contextualised against the backdrop of the dire humanitarian crisis affecting more than two million Palestinians living in Gaza today. Israel and Egypt’s years-old blockade on the Palestinian enclave and the international community’s indifference to it have undoubtedly brought us to this recent escalation.

While clearly controversial and ultimately self-defeating for the Palestinian cause, one cannot ignore why support for armed resistance is growing across occupied Palestine. To this day, efforts by the PA to resolve the conflict diplomatically provided meagre results, changing very little in the lives of Palestinians. Thus, more and more Palestinians are now viewing resistance – both armed and not – as their only way out.

Primary responsibility for this again falls on Netanyahu, who time and again thwarted diplomatic efforts, including the Oslo Accords, which he personally worked to dismantle since the mid-1990s.

Yet, one cannot ignore the responsibility of the United States and Europe either.

Decades of unquestioning US support and military aid – now standing at more than $3.8bn a year – has effectively inflated Israel’s sense of impunity rather than increasing its propensity to take risks for peace. Examples include the brazenness with which Israeli settler organisations attack unarmed Palestinian protesters and occupy Palestinian homes on live television and under military escort. Such actions stand as a testament to Israel’s apartheid-like system of ethnic discrimination recently highlighted by Human Rights Watch and a number of other Israeli and international organisations.

As tensions continue since the ceasefire announcement, there is an urgent need to confront this grim reality.

Netanyahu is now on his way out of office, but those who are geared up to replace him, like much of the Israeli establishment, cannot be credibly described as “partners for peace”. The international community, led by the EU, should acknowledge this fact and stop providing diplomatic cover for Israel’s divisive, destructive and illegal policies and actions against the Palestinians.

Decades of employing carrots to assuage Israeli concerns in the hope that a more secure and self-confident Israel would make concessions for peace has dismally failed. Today, there is a growing need to employ sticks with regards to Israeli violations of international law, similar to the pressure that has been used on the Palestinians to engender moderation and force a turn towards diplomacy.

The latest round of fighting should serve as a wake-up call for the EU. As daily violence continues in occupied Palestine, despite decades-long diplomatic efforts, the EU’s professed support for human rights and fundamental freedoms as indivisible components of its identity is being tested.

The continuing occupation is indeed a rude reminder of the failure of a 30-year peace process actively backed by the US and Europe. Billions in EU aid have been invested to support the development of state institutions in Palestine. This assistance has not advanced prospects for peace. Neither has it provided Europe with a recognisable diplomatic role in the US-dominated peace process. Similarly, while the EU collectively represents Israel’s first trading partner, Europe has been reluctant to translate this into political leverage, even when Israeli actions are routinely condemned by the EU. Meanwhile, individual member states have actively courted Israel, increasing bilateral trade, arms sales and high-tech cooperation, further undermining EU leverage and consensus on the conflict.

Against this backdrop, it is increasingly common to frame both EU aid to the Palestinians and growing trade with Israel as complicit in bankrolling the occupation. While this support helps to save lives, pay salaries and run basic services in occupied Palestine, it clearly cannot represent a substitute for political action towards ending the occupation. If serious about strategic autonomy, the EU needs to muster the courage to rediscover a political role on Israel-Palestine even if this implies breaking old taboos – i.e. reviewing the no-contact policy with Hamas or considering conditionality and even targeted sanctions vis-à-vis Israel and the settlements.

After decades of following the US lead in the Middle East, the time has come for Europe to carve out a degree of independence from Washington, particularly when it comes to Israel-Palestine. Continuing with a business-as-usual approach will not bring sustainable peace. It will instead merely delay the next inevitable conflagration, while further eroding EU and US credibility as well as that of the broader international rules-based system that both actors profess to support.

Only by reasserting the role of the United Nations and by ensuring that violations of international law are accounted for, will the next conflagration be avoided. Only by adopting true equidistance between Israel and the Palestinians and directly tackling the final status issues – settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, borders, and natural resources – will diplomacy finally produce results, as opposed to supporting a fanciful status quo that only serves as cover for Israel’s impunity and continued annexation of Palestinian lands.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Apple Daily could shut ‘in days’ after Hong Kong asset freeze | Freedom of the Press News

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Company adviser says action under security law means it cannot access some $50 million in funds to pay staff and vendors.

Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily will be forced to shut “in a matter of days” after authorities used the national security law imposed by China to freeze the company’s assets as it arrested the paper’s editor and four other directors, an adviser to jailed tycoon Jimmy Lai told Reuters on Monday.

Mark Simon, speaking by phone from the United States, said the company was no longer able to access its funds and would be holding a board meeting on Monday to discuss how to move forward.

“We thought we’d be able to make it to the end of the month,” Simon told the news agency. “It’s just getting harder and harder. It’s essentially a matter of days.”

His comments signal closure is imminent even after Apple Daily said on Sunday the freezing of its assets had left the newspaper with cash for “a few weeks” for normal operations.”

The news comes two days after editor Ryan Law, 47, and chief executive Cheung Kim-hung, 59, were denied bail after being charged under the security law with collusion with foreign forces.

Apple Daily’s editor-in-chief Ryan Law arrives back at the detention centre after he was remanded in custody on Saturday [Lam Yik/Reuters]

Three other senior executives were also arrested last Thursday when 500 police officers raided the newspaper’s offices in a case that has drawn condemnation from Western nations, human rights groups and the chief United Nations spokesperson for human rights.

The three have been released on bail.

Simon told Reuters it had become impossible to conduct banking operations.

“Vendors tried to put money into our accounts and were rejected. We can’t bank. Some vendors tried to do that as a favour. We just wanted to find out and it was rejected,” he said.

Speaking earlier to US news channel CNN, Simon said the company had about $50 million available, but was unable to access the funds.

The publisher has come under increasing pressure since its owner Jimmy Lai was arrested under the national security law last August, which marked the first time the company’s headquarters was raided. Lai, 73, is now jailed and facing trial under the national security law. In May, the authorities also froze some assets belonging to the longtime critic of Beijing has also had some of his assets frozen.

Three companies related to Apple Daily are also being prosecuted for collusion with a foreign country and authorities have frozen HK$18 million ($2.3 million) of their assets.

China imposed the national security law on Hong Kong last June saying it was necessary to restore “stability” to a territory that had been rocked by mass protests in 2019, some of which turned violent.

The broadly-worded law criminalises acts such as subversion, sedition, collusion with foreign forces and secession with possible life imprisonment, but critics have said it is being used to suppress legitimate political debate with dozens of pro-democracy politicians and activists among the more than 100 arrested since it was brought into force.





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Birmingham Classic: Ons Jabeur beats Daria Kasatkina to win first title

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Tunisian second seed Ons Jabeur defeated Russia’s Daria Kasatkina in straight sets to win her first singles title at the Birmingham Classic.

World number 24 Jabeur triumphed 7-5 6-4 against the fourth seed to become the first Arab woman to win a WTA title.

In Berlin, Russian qualifier Liudmila Samsonova stunned Swiss fifth seed Belinda Bencic to win her first title.

The 22-year-old world number 106 battled back from a set down to win 1-6 6-1 6-3 in her first final.

Victories for Jabeur and Samsonova mean there have now been 10 first-time singles winners on the women’s Tour this year.

Jabeur broke Kasatkina’s serve three times to prevail in the first set, before successive breaks at the start of the second put the 26-year-old in control at 4-0.

Two-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Kasatkina recovered to 4-3, but Jabeur held on to win a singles final at the third attempt.

It was a breakthrough week for Samsonova in Germany, during which she also defeated seventh seed Victoria Azarenka of Belaurus in the semi-final.

World number 12 Bencic won the first five games as she dominated the opening set, but Samsonova matched that feat in the second before completing her comeback with breaks in the first and ninth games in the deciding set.



Source – www.bbc.co.uk

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Birtukan Mideksa: Ethiopia’s electoral board chairperson

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Restless for change, Ms Birtukan moved back into politics, playing a key role in the formation of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) to present a united front against the EPRDF in the 2005 parliamentary election, which was widely seen as the most fiercely contested poll in Ethiopia’s history, with the opposition claiming that it had been robbed of victory.



Source – www.bbc.co.uk

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