Posts Tagged ‘ Europe ’

Israeli PM wants Baltics to help change view of Israel

August 24, 2018

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting Friday with three Baltic prime ministers in his quest to counterbalance European criticism of Israel’s actions in the occupied Palestinian territories and to increase pressure on Iran.

Netanyahu will hold talks with Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, Estonia’s Juri Ratas and Maris Kucinskis of Latvia. He started the day by meeting Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite. A day earlier, he said that Israel was “often mistreated by the EU,” adding there were “many distortions.” Netanyahu, however, welcomed the decision by major international airlines to end their direct flights to Iran’s capital, Tehran, in September after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran and began restoring U.S. sanctions.

Skvernelis said in an interview with the Baltic News Service that after a meeting Thursday with Netanyahu, “I believe Lithuania really has a better understanding of Israel and that understanding could be spread among other EU countries. ”

“We need to better listen, hear them out and understand their position. We definitely lack a direct dialogue,” he said. “But we have to admit that today Israel is not only waging war and defending its independence, the lives of its people, but is also fighting in a wider context, if we speak about terrorism and potential expansion of IS fighters to Europe,” Skvernelis said.

Netanyahu arrived Thursday in Vilnius is on a four-day visit, the first to Lithuania by an Israeli prime minister.

Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen contributed to this report.

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UK Labor leader under fire over Palestinian wreath-laying

August 13, 2018

LONDON (AP) — British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is facing allegations of enabling anti-Semitism, acknowledged Monday that he was present at a wreath-laying to Palestinians allegedly linked to the murder of 11 Israelis at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

But the Labor Party leader said “I don’t think I was actually involved” in laying the wreath. The left-wing politician — a longtime critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians — has been facing mounting criticism since the Daily Mail published photos of Corbyn holding a wreath in a Tunis cemetery in 2014, near what the newspaper said were graves of Black September members. The Palestinian militant group carried out the kidnapping and massacre at the Munich games. Several members were later killed by Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency.

Corbyn has previously said he was at the cemetery to commemorate the victims of a 1985 Israeli air attack on Palestinian Liberation Organization offices in Tunis. On Monday, he acknowledged a wreath had also been laid to “those that were killed in Paris in 1992.” PLO official Atef Bseiso, whom Israel has accused of helping to plan the Munich Olympic attack, was gunned down outside a Paris hotel that year.

“I was present when it was laid. I don’t think I was actually involved in it,” Corbyn told reporters. “I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who has died in every terrorist incident everywhere because we have to end it.”

The statement is unlikely to quell criticism from Jewish groups and Labor members who say Corbyn has allowed anti-Semitism to spread in the party. “Being ‘present’ is the same as being involved. … Where is the apology?” tweeted Labor lawmaker Luciana Berger.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted that “the laying of a wreath by Jeremy Corbyn on the graves of the terrorist who perpetrated the Munich massacre and his comparison of Israel to the Nazis deserves unequivocal condemnation from everyone — left, right and everything in between.”

Corbyn responded on Twitter that Netanyahu’s “claims about my actions and words are false.” The Labour Party said Corbyn “did not lay any wreath at the graves of those alleged to have been linked to the Black September organization or the 1972 Munich killings.”

Corbyn has been accused of failing to expel party members who express anti-Semitic views and has received personal criticism for past statements, including a 2010 speech in which he compared Israel’s blockade of Gaza to Nazi Germany’s sieges of Leningrad and Stalingrad during World War II.

The dispute recently boiled over after the party proposed adopting a definition of anti-Semitism that differed from the one approved by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Labour’s version omits some of the alliance’s language around criticism of Israel. The alliance’s definition says it is anti-Semitic to compare contemporary Israeli policies to the policies of the Nazis, a view Labour did not endorse.

Corbyn said Labour was consulting with Jewish groups on the party’s definition of anti-Semitism. He said it was important to ensure “you can discuss and debate the relations between Israel and Palestine, the future of the peace process and, yes, make criticisms of the actions of the Israeli government in the bombing of Gaza and other places.”

“But you can never make those criticisms using anti-Semitic language or anti-Semitic intentions, and that is what we are absolutely clear on,” Corbyn said.

European leaders, Canada back the airstrikes against Syria

April 14, 2018

Many European leaders and the prime minister of Canada voiced support and understanding Saturday for the U.S.-led air strikes against Syria, but warned against allowing the seven-year conflict to escalate.

“Canada stands with our friends in this necessary response and we condemn in strongest possible terms” the use of chemical weapons in Syria. – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“It has always been Bulgaria’s position that no cause justifies the killing of innocent people, including children; that the use of chemical weapons is a war crime and the strike on Syrian targets was a response to a war crime.” Bulgarian government statement. Bulgaria currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

“Strikes by US, France and UK make it clear that Syrian regime together with Russia & Iran cannot continue this human tragedy, at least not without cost. The EU will stand with our allies on the side of justice.” – Tweet by European Council President Donald Tusk.

“What has occurred in Syria in recent days goes far beyond the constant violation of cease fires. The response to these atrocities is legitimate and proportionate.” – Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

“The people martyred by chemicals is a certain amount but the people martyred by conventional weapons is much, much more.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed support for the airstrikes but added that more must be done to hold the Syrian regime accountable for the hundreds of thousands it has killed using conventional weapons.

“We support the fact that our U.S., UK and French allies took on responsibility in this way as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. The military strike was necessary and appropriate in order to preserve the effectiveness of the international ban on the use of chemical weapons and to warn the Syrian regime against further violations.” – German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“This was a limited and targeted action to strike the capacity of building or diffusing chemical arms. It cannot and should not be the start of an escalation.” – Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni.

“The international community has the responsibility to identify and hold accountable those responsible of any attack with chemical weapons. This was not the first time that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons against civilians but it must be the last.” – European Union Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

“Belgium strongly condemns all use of chemical weapons which are a blatant violation of international law. Belgium therefore understands the military action in Syria of our American, French and British partners who have targeted identified production facilities.” – Belgian government statement.

Norway demands Israel explain seizure of boat bound for Gaza

July 31, 2018

Norway has asked Israel to explain the legal grounds for detaining a Norwegian-flagged fishing boat seized while activists tried to sail with aid to the Gaza Strip, Norway’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

The ministry said its diplomats in Israel had been providing consular assistance to five Norwegians who were among the 22 passengers and crew detained onboard the vessel Kaarstein on Sunday. Two Israelis on board were quickly released.

“We have asked the Israeli authorities to clarify the circumstances around the seizure of the vessel and the legal basis for the intervention,” the spokesman for the Norwegian foreign affairs ministry in Oslo said. A spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

Torstein Dahle, head of the group Ship to Gaza Norway which organised the shipment, said it was the first Norwegian aid vessel to attempt to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

The captain had been struck on the head by Israeli soldiers who ordered him to sail for Israel, but no one was seriously hurt, Dahle said.

“This is a peaceful boat; it’s impossible that it can threaten Israel’s security,” he said.

The Gaza Strip is controlled by the Islamist militant group Hamas, which has fought three wars against Israel in the decade since taking power there.

Israel, citing security concerns that include fears of Hamas weapons smuggling, maintains a naval blockade of Gaza, and along with Egypt also restricts imports by land.

The territory is home to 2 million Palestinians, mainly the stateless descendants of people who fled or were driven out of what is now Israel at its founding in 1948. Under the blockade, Gaza has suffered an economic crisis creating what the World Bank describes as a “collapse in humanitarian conditions” including access to clean water, medicine and electricity.

Numerous activist ships have been prevented from reaching Gaza in recent years. An Israeli raid on a Turkish flotilla in 2010, in which ten activists were killed, caused a serious rupture in relations between Israel and Turkey, one of Israel’s few friends in the Middle East.

Audun Lysbakken, leader of Norway’s opposition Socialist Left party, called on the foreign ministry to protest against what he described as Israel “hijacking” the Norwegian boat in international waters.

Among those detained is Mikkel Gruner, a Danish citizen who lives in Norway and is the Socialist Left representative in the municipal council of the Norwegian city of Bergen. Lysbakken said the activists had legal rights to protest against Israel’s blockade, demanding the release of Gruner and the others.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180731-norway-demands-israel-explain-seizure-of-boat-bound-for-gaza/.

2 Italian artists leave Israel after arrest over mural

July 30, 2018

JERUSALEM (AP) — Two Italian artists, arrested over the weekend for painting a large mural of a formerly imprisoned teenage Palestinian protester on Israel’s West Bank separation barrier, left Israel on Monday, their lawyer said.

The two artists — Jorit Agoch and Salvatore De Luise — were arrested on Saturday in the West Bank city of Bethlehem after spending days creating the mural depicting Ahed Tamimi, a prominent Palestinian protester imprisoned by Israel for eight months for slapping two soldiers.

They were caught in the act and, along with a Palestinian, arrested for vandalism, according to police, who said they tried to flee the scene. The artists were held in two separate detention facilities and on Sunday, Israel canceled their visas and ordered them to leave the country within three days.

Their lawyer, Azmi Masalha, told The Associated Press that Israeli authorities did not pursue any criminal charges. Beyond ordering their departure, Israel barred them from entering the country again for 10 years.

A spokeswoman for Israel’s immigration authority did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Tamimi, 17, was arrested in December after she slapped two Israeli soldiers outside her family home. Her mother filmed the incident and posted it on Facebook, where it went viral and, for many, instantly turned Tamimi into a symbol of resistance to Israel’s half-century-old military rule over the Palestinians.

In Israel, she is seen by many either as a provocateur, an irritation or a threat to the military’s deterrence policy. Tamimi’s case has drawn international attention and she received a hero’s welcome when she was released from prison on Sunday.

The lawyer, Masalha, said the artists drew the mural in a sign of “solidarity” with Tamimi. Masalha said he viewed with suspicion the artists’ arrest when there are countless works of graffiti on the separation barrier and questioned the timing so close to Tamimi’s release.

“They were arrested on the fourth day of carrying out this graffiti painting despite the fact that there is an observation tower of the military there and they were under this observation point from the first day and it’s interesting as to why this incident occurred on the fourth day,” he said.

Masalha said diplomatic officials from Italy were involved in securing the artists’ release. Three recent posts on an Instagram account believed to be Agoch’s had a photo of the mural in progress, a photo of an Israeli police vehicle and a black and white handwritten note reading: “Free thank all of you.”

The two artists left Israel on a Monday morning flight to Naples, Italy.

Netanyahu greets Hungary’s Orban as ‘true friend of Israel’

July 19, 2018

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday welcomed Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, calling him a “true friend of Israel” despite the outcry over the visiting leader’s past remarks that have been interpreted as anti-Semitic.

Orban and Netanyahu held a joint press conference in Jerusalem following the Hungarian premier’s arrival in Israel the day before. The four-time Hungarian prime minister drew criticism last year for praising Miklos Horthy — Hungary’s World War II-era ruler who introduced anti-Semitic laws and collaborated with the Nazis — and employing tropes that were anti-Semitic in tone against billionaire philanthropist George Soros during his re-election campaign.

Orban evoked anti-Semitic language in denouncing Soros, saying that Hungary’s enemies “do not believe in work, but speculate with money; they have no homeland, but feel that the whole world is theirs.”

Despite global Jewish condemnation of those remarks, Netanyahu praised Orban for combatting anti-Semitism and thanked him for Hungary’s pro-Israel stance. Netanyahu said the two leaders shared an understanding “that the threat of radical Islam is a real one. It could endanger Europe. It could endanger the world. It certainly endangers us and our Arab neighbors.”

Orban has cast himself as champion of a Christian Europe and adopted an aggressive stance to halt the flow of African and Muslim migrants through Hungary. The populist, right-wing politician campaigned earlier this year for re-election on a staunchly anti-migrant platform.

Orban chalked up his country’s strong bilateral ties with Israel to the two leaders’ “excellent personal ties” and “because the two countries have patriots as leaders.” Netanyahu visited Hungary last year — the first visit by an Israeli premier since the 1980s — and was warmly received by Orban. During the trip, Orban said the European Union’s ties with Israel were “not rational enough,” criticizing its stipulation that closer ties would follow resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Israeli premier has taken flak in Israel for embracing Orban amid the Hungarian leader’s increasing authoritarianism, as well as for striking a deal with Poland over a controversial Holocaust speech law. Critics of the compromise with Poland contend Netanyahu appeared to capitulate to the claim that Poles were only victims of the Nazis. Historians say anti-Semitism was prevalent in pre-war Poland and that some Poles collaborated with the Nazis in the Holocaust.

Opposition lawmaker Yair Lapid, whose father was a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, scorned Netanyahu ahead of his meeting with Orban. “After he disrespected the memory of Holocaust victims in the agreement with Poland, today Netanyahu will pay honors to Hungarian Prime Minister Orban, who hailed and praised the anti-Semitic ruler who collaborated with the Nazis in destroying the Jews of Hungary,” Lapid wrote on Twitter. “Shame!”

Lapid and fellow opposition politician Tamar Zandberg, head of the Meretz party, called for a boycott of Orban’s visit. “Netanyahu has a thing with anti-Semitic leaders around the world, from Hungary and Poland, to the head of the Philippines, (Rodrigo) Duterte, who compared himself to Hitler, and instead of suffering condemnation, was invited as well for a state visit with the prime minister of Israel,” Zandberg wrote on Facebook.

Protesters were later expected to demonstrate at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, during Orban’s visit there. Amnesty International in Israel organized a protest against Orban’s visit to the memorial, rejecting “restraint toward the words of praise for anti-Semitism, for racism and anti-democratic persecution.”

Ireland to discuss bill banning Israel settlement produce

June 28, 2018

Ireland’s parliament will discuss a bill promoting a ban on Israeli settlement goods next month, after a postponement in January, reported Haaretz.

In a tweet posted yesterday, Irish Senator Frances Black announced “on July 11th, my bill to ban illegal #SettlementGoods is in the Seanad”.

Black added: “We’re close to a historic move for justice in #Palestine, but I need your help! Plz take 2m to ask your TDs & Senators to support the bill.”

The senator also posted a video urging Irish citizens to tell their lawmakers to back the initiative to boycott produce made in Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Haaretz notes that “the discussion at the Irish senate regarding the bill was postponed in January after Ireland’s Ambassador to Israel, Alison Kelly, was summoned for a talk at the Foreign Ministry to clarify the legislative initiative at the demand of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Read: Ireland’s book of condolence for Palestinians killed in Gaza blocked by pro-Israel groups

Kelly told Netanyahu that the Irish government actually opposed the bill, and subsequently informed Rodica Radian-Gordon, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s deputy director-general for Western Europe, “that the bill was not a Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement-linked initiative”.

At the time, slamming the bill, Netanyahu said its sole purpose was to “support the BDS movement and hurt the State of Israel”. The Prime Minister’s Office stated that the bill “backed those who wish to boycott Israel and completely opposes the guiding principles of free trade and justice”.

As recalled by Haaretz, “a group of Israeli activists, among whom were former Knesset members, lawyers, former ambassadors, artists and academics, penned a letter asking Irish lawmakers to support the bill” in January.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180628-ireland-to-discuss-bill-banning-israel-settlement-produce/.

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