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Israel’s arrests are ‘re-energizing the Palestinian movement’ | Israel-Palestine conflict News



It is not the first time that Israel has detained or arrested Palestinian activists. But the mass arrests undertaken since a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas – agreed upon to end the recent cycle of violence – may backfire.

The detentions of Palestinian activists and journalists this time around are re-energizing a long-simmering peaceful resistance and launching a new generation of Palestinian icons fighting to protect their homes, as well as advocating self-determination.

In a statement, Israeli police said it launched “operation law and order” to bring rioters to justice and to “maintain public peace”. It added so far, “2,142 detainees have been registered”.

Palestinians, however, said Israeli police arrested those who had been peacefully protesting with the unstated but obvious aim to crush the momentum of their movement, which has picked up pace over the last month.

The Israeli police might have proved the Palestinians right as they arrested Muna al-Kurd. The 23-year-old activist had been highlighting an Israeli court’s order that her family, and several others, be forcibly evicted from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah – a neighbourhood in the heart of East Jerusalem. Her twin brother, Mohammed al-Kurd, was also summoned and questioned by police.

Their arrests came a day after a journalist for Al Jazeera Media Network, Givara Budeiri, was briefly detained while reporting from Sheikh Jarrah.

While the siblings were later released, their arrests will only add impetus to their struggle. Their story mirrors the tale of dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and is getting much more prominence now.

Muna and Mohammed were barely 11 years old in 2009 when Jewish settlers moved into their home in Sheikh Jarrah and took over half of it as per another court order back then.

Her father had been forced out of his ancestral home in Haifa in 1948 and was resettled in Sheikh Jarrah in 1956 by Jordan and the United Nations’ refugee agency in exchange for giving up his refugee status.

Muna and Mohammed not only inherited generational trauma but were forced to share their home with strangers. They had been campaigning against the Israeli settlements since they were children, filming tensions between Palestinians and settlers, and interviewed often by international filmmakers.

But in March this year, as the court ordered their eviction from the other half of their home, the siblings put up a fiercer fight on social media. They are seen to be behind #SaveSheikhJarrah that has been trending on Twitter.

A video clip of Muna challenging a Jewish settler, reprimanding him for “stealing” her home, went viral online while Mohammed was interviewed by several American broadcasters, among other international networks.

Asked in an interview about whether he supports “violent” protests taking place in support of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, Mohammed succinctly asked a question in return: “Do you support the violent dispossession of me and my family?” That clip went viral, too, hitting a chord with Palestinians at home and in the diaspora.

Muna and Mohammed are examples of a new generation of influencers in Palestinian society with a large following on social media. They effectively used the medium to organise dissent and spread their message to both local and international audiences.

Anwar Mhajne, assistant professor at the Department of Political Science at Stonewall College, said the sophistication of the siblings’ activism in utilising social media, their young age, and persistence to fight for the Palestinian cause has mobilised momentum among more activists, who also have hundreds of thousands of followers.

“Muna and Mohammed al-Kurd have been at the forefront of spreading awareness of the threat of expulsion that Palestinian families face in Sheikh Jarrah,” Mhajne told Al Jazeera. “Social media users rallied to the support of the siblings following the release of a video posted by their friend showing Muna being detained from her home in the presence of her father.”

Outside the police station, a dozen peaceful protesters were threatened with stun grenades  by the police force.

“The Arabic hashtag #الحرية_لمنى_الكرد, which translates to freedom for Muna al-Kurd, as well as #FreeMunaElKurd, have been widely circulated online as thousands reacted to the arrest of the prominent activist,” Mhajne added.

The internet, and effective use of social media, has enabled Palestinians all over the world to transcend geographical separations and make themselves heard. But for those inside Israel and the occupied territories, expressing your opinion is still full of risk for Palestinians.

“They are an easy target for harassment by Israeli security forces and extremists,” said Mhajne, but, “their public visibility and a significant following on social media make it more challenging for the state to suppress their voices.”

Muna al-Kurd, 23, has long been an advocate highlighting the plight of Sheikh Jarrah’s residents [Ibrahim Husseini/Al Jazeera]

According to legal experts, 65 Israeli laws discriminate against Palestinians. Several of these are designed to discourage them from protesting or organising as activists on the ground.

“All sorts of meetings of more than a few people, all organising, all demonstrations, or any raising of Palestinian or party flags, has been banned in the occupied territories since 1967,” said Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian-American historian and professor of Modern Middle Eastern History at Columbia University.

“These acts are considered ‘terrorism’ and are punishable by imprisonment and fines via a system of military injustice where the judges and prosecutors are from the occupation army, and conviction is virtually automatic.”

A renaissance

Fadi Quran, a West Bank-based community organiser and a campaigns director at a nonprofit organisation called Avaaz, said while arrests seek to shift the energy on the street from “proactive action to a space of defensiveness and fear”, they are also adding credibility to some of the youth leaders.

“Palestinian youth activism is having a renaissance as this generation feels a deep sense of agency,” said Quran. “The recent events have only added to the momentum and growth, and that’s why Israel’s security forces are going into overdrive to try and kill this energy through mass arrests, as well as increased use of violence.”

It remains to be seen how much success the young Palestinian generation will have in achieving its goals. But as their popularity increases, both inside Palestine and in the West, it is clear Israel’s arrests campaign may have scored an own-goal.

It would be hard for Israeli forces to convince the world that Muna or Mohammed al-Kurd or the Al Jazeera journalist it assaulted and detained carried out or promoted violence.

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The scrappy Hong Kong tabloid that refused to bow to Beijing | Freedom of the Press News




Hong Kong, China – The last edition of the Apple Daily, the small scrappy Hong Kong tabloid that emerged as a champion of democracy and outspoken critic of China, has rolled off the presses, four days after the newspaper celebrated its 26th anniversary.

The paper had been raided by police twice during the past 10 months on suspicion of violating the National Security Law that was imposed by Beijing almost a year ago. Since the first raid last August, founder Jimmy Lai, 73, has been in jail awaiting trial under the law.

Last week’s raid saw five top executives, including its chief editor, arrested for alleged security offences as 500 police officers swooped in on Apple’s headquarters, with another staffer – the head editorial writer – apprehended on Wednesday morning.

The final nail in the coffin, however, was Hong Kong authorities’ freeze on the bank accounts of the media group that owns the paper. The move made it impossible for the paper to pay its staff and vendors, even as readers snapped up copies to show their support.

The decision was based on “employee safety and manpower considerations”, Apple Daily said as it announced its closure on Wednesday.
“Here we say goodbye. Take care of yourselves.”

Staff members of Apple Daily and its publisher Next Digital clap out the final edition of a paper that began publishing in 1995 and became a thorn in Beijing’s side [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” framework meant to guarantee rights and liberties absent in the mainland. For most of the past 20 years, the territory has remained a bastion of press freedom in a country where media is muzzled.

“The demise of Apple Daily negates ‘one country, two systems’ and sets the stage for ‘one country, one system,’” said Willy Lam, a longtime commentator on Chinese politics and a veteran newspaper editor.

Bold, brash

Founded just two years before the handover, Apple Daily was at once a gamble and a leap of faith.

“The paper wanted to have some impact not just on Hong Kong but also to support the liberalisation of China,” Lam told Al Jazeera. “But as China has become less open to Western values, the paper has focused on defending Hong Kong values and holding Beijing to account.”

In its inaugural editorial, Apple Daily said it aimed to be a paper for the Hong Kong people.

Lai, its founder and funder, a devout Catholic who had made a fortune in the fashion business, named the paper after the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden in the Old Testament. Its rhyming couplet jingle – “An Apple a day, no liars can hold sway” – caught the attention of Hong Kong readers used to more staid offerings.

It was loud. It was bold, It was flashy.

The paper grabbed attention when it splashed a surreptitiously shot photo of Deng Xiaoping – China’s then-paramount leader died in February at the age of 92 – on his deathbed on the front page.

Brashness was its selling point.

Its reporters frequently skewered public officials and needled the comfortable.

“It speaks truth to power and finds a way to do profitably,” said Lokman Tsui, assistant professor of journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Jimmy Lai, standing by one of the printing presses in 2009, created a hugely popular paper that supported democracy, was unafraid to speak truth to power and critical of the Communist Party in Beijing [File: Alex Hofford/EPA]
Apple Daily’s founder and funder, Jimmy Lai, was arrested in August under the national security law and the paper’s headquarters raided. He has now been jailed [File: Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

The paper catered to high brow and low. Colourful spreads of scantily-clad female models appeared in the same section of the paper as erudite columns featuring quotes in Latin and Classical Chinese. With a couple of exceptions, its ranks of columnists were the who’s who of the territory’s pro-democracy circle.

Giving people what they want

Launched at the dawn of the internet age, the daily was quick to adapt to the digital world. Its website pioneered animated news – a mix of stills, short clips and clever graphics with narration dripping with sour sarcasm. Its lifestyle channel on YouTube built a fervent following.

A decade in, the paper’s circulation peaked at 500,000 in a city of approximately six million people with a dozen dailies.

Apple Daily’s brand of advocacy journalism would soon make the paper a thorn in the side of the Chinese Communist Party. But to Lai, a rags-to-riches maverick millionaire now named Public Enemy No. 1 by Beijing, it was all about giving his customers what they would buy, even down to protest poster inserts.

In the summer of 2019, amid popular opposition to legislation that would send Hong Kong residents for trial in mainland China, the paper shorthanded “extradition to China” into the homophonic colloquial Cantonese expression of seeing someone to the grave. The expression immediately caught on and became a rallying cry in the protest movement.

“At times, we might have gone overboard but everything we did fell within the bounds of the law,” said Robert Chan, 45, who has covered mainland China for the paper for the past three years.

That is until the passage of the security law, which punishes what the authorities deem subversion, sedition, collusion with foreign forces and secession with possible life sentences.

Prosecutors have used Lai’s frequent meetings with US officials in recent years, from the then-vice president on down, as “evidence” of his alleged “collusion with foreign powers”.

Staff from Apple Daily and its publisher Next Digital work on the final edition of their newspaper on June 23. In its first-ever editorial, the paper said it wanted to be a publication of the Hong Kong people. It printed a million copies of its final edition [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

Early last month, rumours started to circulate that Beijing wanted to see the paper be shuttered in time for the Communist Party’s centenary celebrations on July 1.

Technology reporter for a decade, Alex Tang, 37, said like most of his colleagues he had become conditioned to taking unsubstantiated gossip with a grain of salt – until the second raid and the company asset freeze.

During the past few days, some of the 800 reporters at the paper were frustrated by the lack of a definitive answer on the last publishing date and severance.

“Management said they’d hang on till the bitter end, and they’ve kept their word,” said Tang. “The company has done its best.”

Apple Daily will live on as a website on the self-governing island of Taiwan, where it ceased paper publication last month.

But in Hong Kong, China news reporter Chan said he will mourn the loss of far more than his livelihood.

“With the paper gone, so would the values it represents: pursuit of freedom and democracy,” he said.

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‘Real and present danger’: Sydney imposes new COVID curbs | Coronavirus pandemic News




Restrictions cover an estimated five million people after Delta variant-linked cases, as neighbouring New Zealand raises alert level.

People in Sydney, Australia’s biggest city, have been ordered not to leave the metropolitan area, as authorities scramble to contain a number of new coronavirus cases of the Delta variant – a development that has prompted neighbouring New Zealand to raise its alert level following possible exposure from a tourist from Australia.

New South Wales (NSW) State Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the stricter curbs – affecting about five million people who live and work in the city – on Wednesday.

“Clearly this is an evolving situation,” Berejiklian said at a news conference.

The new rules took effect at 4pm Sydney time (06:00 GMT) and will remain in force for a week.

“Given what has occurred the NSW government will be taking action today to limit the spread of what is a very contagious variant of COVID.”

NSW health minister Brad Hazzard described the situation as “a very real and present danger” for the city as a cluster first identified in the beach surburb of Bondi grew to 21 cases with eight confirmed on Wednesday morning.

Most of the newly confirmed cases were traced to a single event, where a mass gathering was held on Tuesday.

“This is a new and more dangerous version of the virus,” Hazzard said during the news conference.

The new restrictions include a limit on household visitors to five people, including children, Berejiklian said.

Mask wearing, which had already been reinstated on Friday, will be extended with people required to wear masks in all indoor settings outside the home and at organised outdoor events. The measures also include capacity limits on public transport and in gym classes, while singing at indoor venues, including places of worship, will not be allowed.

Authorities are also urging people to come forward for testing.

“If we adhere to the health orders today, we will have a good chance on getting on top of this outbreak,” Berejiklian told reporters.

New Zealand on alert


As of Wednesday, Australia had recorded more than 30,300 cases and 910 deaths.

The country has been among the world’s most successful in containing the pandemic, allowing it to reopen its border to New Zealand.

But the new cases are testing the travel bubble between the neighbours.

On Wednesday, New Zealand raised its pandemic alert level in Wellington to level two, which is one level short of a lockdown.

Earlier, an Australian tourist who visited the capital city over the weekend tested positive for COVID when they returned to Sydney.

“These are precautionary measures which will remain in place while we contact trace and test all of those we need to,” New Zealand’s COVID response minister Chris Hipkins said.

Under the elevated alert level, offices, schools and businesses are still allowed to open, but people are required to follow social distancing rules.

Gatherings of more than 100 people are banned, including weddings and other parties.

New Zealand has a population of five million people, and has recorded a total of 2,720 cases and 26 deaths. The country has posted a 98.2 percent recovery rate.

In Australia itself, Queensland and Victoria have both closed their borders to people from many parts of Sydney as a result of the new cases.

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River Nile dam: Egypt new African allies




Recent years have seen a dramatic re-engagement with Africa, especially the Nile Basin countries.

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