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Palestinians Must Find New Path from Israeli Rule After War, Top Official Says

Hussein Al-Sheikh, Secretary General of the Executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), speaks during an interview with Reuters, in Ramallah in the West Bank December 16, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Immediately after Israel’s war in Gaza ends, all Palestinian factions including Hamas must take a serious look at the failure of their policies to achieve freedom for their people, a top Palestinian Authority official said.

Hussein al-Sheikh, 63, said war in Gaza after the Oct. 7 attacks on southern Israel meant Hamas should make a “serious and honest assessment and reconsider all its policies and all its methods” once fighting subsides.

Sheikh, the general secretary of President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Liberation Organization, is seen by some as a potential successor. His comments were the first time a senior PLO leader has talked publicly about Hamas tactics since the Oct. 7 attacks.

Sheikh also acknowledged the political path under Oslo peace accords was faltering and as it currently stands would not achieve the ambition of the Palestinian people for the establishment of a Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders.

Sheikh and Abbas met senior White House aide Jake Sullivan in Ramallah on Friday. The Palestinians told him a new international effort was needed to persuade Israel of a comprehensive solution that includes the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem, Sheikh told Reuters.

“There must be a single Palestinian government governing the Palestinian homeland,” Sheikh told Reuters on Saturday in a rare interview in sleek offices adorned with portraits of Abbas and his predecessor Yasser Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Despite offering welcome verbal backing for a Palestinian state in the meetings, Sheikh said, Washington had not proposed concrete mechanisms or political initiatives. He reiterated a call by Abbas for an international peace conference to forge a new route.

A senior U.S. official said this week the idea of a conference had been discussed with partners, but the proposal was still at a preliminary stage.

LEGITIMATE REPRESENTATIVE

U.S. President Joe Biden has sent a series of top officials to the West Bank to meet Abbas and Sheikh, seeking to revamp the moribund Palestinian Authority to take charge of Gaza once the war is over and unify the administration of the enclave and the West Bank.

Visiting U.S. officials have discussed the need for reforms to combat corruption, hand over broader executive powers to the prime minister and introduce new blood into the Palestinian Authority.

Despite the U.S. efforts, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday that he would not allow the Palestinian Authority to run Gaza after the war and suggested Israel would occupy it instead.

Sheikh said the Palestinian Authority was the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and would be ready to take control of Gaza after the war.

However, he recognized that the unpopular Palestinian Authority, which many Palestinians see as corrupt, undemocratic and out of touch, needed to reassess its role. Hamas by contrast has grown in popularity since the attacks, both in Gaza and the West Bank, a Palestinian poll showed this week.

Referring to Hamas, which has fought five wars against Israel since 2008, Sheikh said “it is not acceptable for some to believe that their method and approach in managing the conflict with Israel was the ideal and the best.

“After all this (killing) and after everything that’s happening, isn’t it worth making a serious, honest and responsible assessment to protect our people and our Palestinian cause?

“Isn’t it worth discussing how to manage this conflict with the Israeli occupation?”

Sheikh said 60% of Gaza was destroyed and it would cost $40 billion to rebuild over decades.

The 1993 Oslo peace accords with Israel were partially successful, he said, in that they gave Palestinians an identity and led to the repatriation of two million refugees to the West Bank and Gaza from countries they fled to during the 1948 and 1967 wars with Israel.

He said the PA has been weakened by Israel’s military raids and expansion of settlements.

Abbas promoted Sheikh last year. His new role effectively makes him the second most powerful man in the PLO, an umbrella for non-Islamist Palestinian factions that does not include Hamas.

He is deeply unpopular among Palestinians partly thanks to his liaison role with the Israeli military. Opinion polls give him about 3% support.

In response to a request for comment, Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said Sheikh was “on the side of the Israeli civil administration, and him attacking the Palestinian resistance isn’t surprising”.

Sheikh said it was his job to work with Israel to reduce the suffering of Palestinians.

The post Palestinians Must Find New Path from Israeli Rule After War, Top Official Says first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Israel Not Budging After Eurovision Disapproval of Song Commemorating October 7

Eden Alene, winner of the reality show “The Next Star to Eurovision,” during finals in Neve Ilan studio near Jerusalem on Feb. 4, 2020. Photo: Shlomi Cohen/Flash90.

Israeli Culture Minister Miki Zohar sent the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) a letter on Thursday urging them to approve Israel’s submission to the Eurovision song competition, after the EBU called it “too political.”

“As you know, the State of Israel is experiencing one of the most difficult and complex periods since its establishment. We lost our loved ones, and there are women, men and children who are still held captive by a terrorist organization,” Zohar said.

Israeli media reported that the broadcasting union would not approve the song, called “October Rain,” after a number of countries even issued threats to boycott the event if Israel participates. The EBU issued a statement saying “We are currently in the process of carefully examining the lyrics of the song – a process that is confidential between the EBU and the Public Broadcasting Corporation until a final decision is made. To all broadcasters, they have until March 11th to officially submit their songs. If a song does not meet the criteria for any reason, the corporation will be given the opportunity to submit a new song or new lyrics, according to the contest rules.”

“The song that Israel sent to the Eurovision Song Contest was chosen by a professional committee made up of well-known names in the local music and entertainment industry,” Zohar added. “It is a moving song, discussing renewal and revival from a very fragile reality of loss and destruction, and describes the current public mood in Israel these days. We see now most clearly because our lives – as one, united society – manage to overcome even the greatest suffering. This is not a political song.”

Despite the news that the song by Israeli singer Eden Golan would not be approved, The CEO of KAN, Israel’s national broadcasting service, and the body that approves the song, Golan Yokhpaz, said “We will not change the words or the song, even at the cost of Israel not participating in Eurovision this year.” Adding “The Israel Broadcasting Corporation (KAN) is in dialogue with the EBU regarding the song that will represent Israel at Eurovision.”

Zohar said later in a television interview “The songwriters, KAN, and the singer will have to make the decisions at the end of the day… I do think that Israel should participate in Eurovision because it is important for us at this time to be represented there, and to express ourselves throughout Europe.”

Speaking to the EBU, he said, “We trust that you will continue in your important task of keeping the competition free from any attempt at political manipulation.”

The post Israel Not Budging After Eurovision Disapproval of Song Commemorating October 7 first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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UN Representative to the Palestinians Claims Israelis Are ‘Colonialists’ with ‘Fake Identities’

UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine Francesca Albanese, October 27, 2022 (Photo: Screenshot)

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur to the Occupied Palestinian Territories referred to Israelis as “colonialists” who have “fake identities” while quoting another Twitter/X account on Wednesday, raising questions about the impartiality of the international body.

Francesca Albanese responded to a long post by Alon Mizrahi, a far-left activist, arguing that the reason many Western nations support Israel is that they are colonial projects. 

She highlighted the following quote from Mizrahi: “free Palestine scares them [Westerners] bcs it is the ghost of their own sins, rediscovered as a living, breathing human. The current political structures of colonial projects cannot afford it, so they try to uproot it. Bcs it is a fight between all colonialists and their fake identities.”

” free Palestine scares them bcs it is the ghost of their own sins, rediscovered as a living, breathing human. The current political structures of colonial projects cannot afford it, so they try to uproot it. Bcs it is a fight between all colonialists and their fake identities..” https://t.co/N1wkOPgKJs

— Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur oPt (@FranceskAlbs) February 21, 2024

The original post claimed that “All colonial powers work together to guarantee the supremacy of made-up identities over genuine, native ones. Because if this model breaks anywhere, it will collapse everywhere.”

Mizrahi argued that “A Palestinian state would be a major, major moral blow to white, Western colonialism.”

The tweet was met with immediate condemnation.

David Friedman, who served as the US Ambassador to Israel from 2017 to 2021 under former President Donald Trump wrote that her tweet was “Exhibit A why the UN is a failure and why we no longer belong in that bastion of hypocrisy and corruption.”

An account documenting Hamas’ October 7 atrocities asked, “If Israel is indeed a ‘colonialist project’ Where should all the Israelis go if this project should be dismantled?”

The perception of UN bias against Israel has also been boosted by the fact that, in 2023, Israel was condemned twice as often as all other countries combined.

It is not the first time Albanese has made comments that raise eyebrows. Earlier this month, in response to French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron calling the October 7 attack “largest anti-Semitic massacre of the 21st century,” she said “No, Mr. Macron. The victims of October 7 were not killed because of their Judaism, but in response to Israel’s oppression.”

Following backlash, she wrote that she opposes “all racism, including anti-Semitism, a global threat. But explaining these crimes as anti-Semitism obscures their true cause.”

Hamas’ founding charter, in a section about the “universality” of its cause, reads: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

Albanese has also argued that Israel should make peace with Hamas, saying that “It needs to make peace with Hamas in order to not be threatened by Hamas.” 

When asked about what people do not understand about Hamas, she added, “If someone violates your right to self-determination, you are entitled to embrace resistance.”

The post UN Representative to the Palestinians Claims Israelis Are ‘Colonialists’ with ‘Fake Identities’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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‘He Has Something to Say to Us Today’: Museum of Jewish History Set to Honor Legacy of ‘The Great Artist’ Arthur Szyk

Arthur Szyk, self portrait

The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City is celebrating the 130th birthday of  the Polish-Jewish artist Arthur Szyk with a special lecture series hosted by the world’s leading expert on his work.

Titled, “Commemorating Arthur Szyk’s 130th Birthday,” the lecture series will include four 90-minutes sessions led by award winning author Irvin Ungar, a former rabbi who has studied Szyk for over 30 years, publishing three books about him and hosting exhibitions of his art at museums throughout the world. Among art historians, Ungar’s scholarship and curation is credited with single-handedly fostering a “Szyk renaissance.”

Born in 1894 in the city of Łódź during the Russian Partition of Poland, Szyk, though his life ended prematurely in 1951, lived through a violent and epochal moment in history — an age of revolution, world war, and genocide. His works, from sketches of the Boxer Rebellion he drew at the age of six to his depiction of Hitler as Pharaoh — and later, Hitler as Anti-Christ — were expressive commentaries on troubled times.

After Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939, Szyk fled to England and then America, where he earned a reputation as a “soldier in art” for portraying the Nazis and Axis leaders as primal mad men and using irradiating imagery to alert the world to the plight of the Jewish people under Nazi occupation, an issue that affected him personally. In 1940, his mother, Eugenia, was murdered in the Chełmno extermination camp, just 30 miles from the city in which he grew up. Many more relatives, as well as those of his wife, were murdered during the Holocaust.

Arthur Szyk, Anti-Christ, 1942

Szyk’s contemporaries widely acclaimed his work, both for its creativity and social consciousness. In 1949, he published “Do Not Forgive Them, O Lord, For They Do Know What They Do!,” an anti-racist drawing condemning the bigotry that Black soldiers who fought fascism abroad faced in the segregated American south. In the piece, a soldier is on his knees and bound by rope while two hooded Klansmen holding shotguns watch him from a distance. His humanism once prompted allegations that he was a member of the Communist Party, charges which were entirely unfounded.

Today, Szyk is best known in the Jewish world for what is regarded as his magnum opus, The Haggadah, an “illuminated manuscript” which tells the story of Passover Seder in a series of watercolor illustrations. It was thoroughly anti-Nazi, linking the oppression of Jews in Nazi Germany with the enslavement of Jews in Egypt and, ultimately, their Exodus.

There is much more to learn about Szyk, Irvin Ungar told The Algemeiner on Thursday during a phone interview, including his tireless advocacy on behalf of the Zionist movement and the establishment of the State of Israel, as well as his “prolific” production of illustrations for modern editions of classic books such as Canterbury Tales and Anderson’s Fairy Tales.

“My job has been how to bring all these various aspects and dimensions of Arthur Szyk together and to present an unbelievably talented and creative artists who excelled in book illustration, religious art, and political art,” Ungar said. “He was excellent in all three. It’s very rare to find any artist who can excel in all three areas with the great degree of skill and craftsmanship which he did.”

Szyk, an “artist of and for the Jewish people and for the world,” transcended his time, Ungar added, and continues to speak to ours. Rising antisemitism, illiberalism on the far-right and far-left, and great power conflict were the major themes of his art and make him an invaluable resource for comprehending a world in peril.

“He has something to say to us today,” Ungar emphasized. “He had something to say about United Nations in 1947 and 1948. It applies today. He had something to say about antisemitism being the great softener of his democracy at that time, and that would also apply to our day. You can find numerous of his artwork and think ‘That was created for today,’ and that in my mind is why his artwork is eternal.”

Commemorating Arthur Szyk’s 130th Birthday, begins on Monday, February 26, at 7 PM. Ungar will give two more lectures in March before concluding the series on April 8 with an exploration of The Haggadah.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post ‘He Has Something to Say to Us Today’: Museum of Jewish History Set to Honor Legacy of ‘The Great Artist’ Arthur Szyk first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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