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Portugal foreign minister calls on ‘all parties’ to de-escalate the situation in Jerusalem

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Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva: "Violence is the enemy of peace. We need all the moderates to try to take control of the situation and to avoid and combat any kind of violence."

Israel’s foreign ministry has issued a statement regarding the years-long land dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem. “Regrettably, the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian terror groups are presenting a real-estate dispute between private parties as a nationalistic cause in order to incite violence in Jerusalem. The PA and Palestinian terror groups will bear full responsibility for the violence emanating from their actions,’’ the statement said, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva (pictured) has called on all parties in Jerusalem to de-escalate the situation. ”I make an appeal to all parties in Jerusalem to de-escalate, to avoid any kind of violence.Violence is the enemy of peace. We need all the moderates to try to take control of the situation and to avoid and combat any kind of violence,’’ he said upon arrival at a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Brussels. Portugal is currently chairng the EU Council of Ministers.

The unrest continued in Jerusalem on Monday (10 May) with Arab riots on the Temple Mount and in the Old City. They hurled rocks and other objects at Israeli police who responded with stung grenades. In an effort to lower the flames in the city, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai had ordered earlier on Monday that Jewish worshipers be barred from entering the Temple Mount compound for the day.

“The Israel Police will continue to enable freedom of worship, but won’t allow disturbances,” the police said in a statement. On the last Friday evening of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan (7 May), Palestinians threw rocks and bottles at Israeli police officers on the Temple Mount following Muslim prayers. 17 police officers were hurt and half were hospitalized, with one taking a rock to the head. Video from the scene showed pitched battles, with Palestinians throwing chairs, shoes, rocks and bottles, and shooting fireworks, while chanting “Allahu Akbar”, and police responding with stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets.

Israel’s foreign ministry has issued a statement regarding the years-long land dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem. “Regrettably, the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian terror groups are presenting a real-estate dispute between private parties as a nationalistic cause in order to incite violence in Jerusalem. The PA and Palestinian terror groups will bear full responsibility for the violence emanating from their actions,’’ the statement said.

On Sunday (9 May), Israel’s Supreme Court decided – at the request of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, to postpone a hearing on the possible eviction of several Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem and will set a new date within 30 days in the decades-long legal case. What is the Sheikh Jarrah legal dispute ? Sheikh Jarrah is an Arab neighborhood that developed outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem in the 19th century. According to Israel’s Supreme Court, the land in question was purchased by the local Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities from its Arab owners in 1875, primarily because of the area’s religious significance in housing the tomb of “Simeon the Just”.

The property was registered in the Ottoman land registry as a trust under the name of rabbis Avraham Ashkenazi and Meir Auerbach. A small Jewish community lived there peacefully in co-existence with the local Arab community until 1948, when the War of Independence broke out. The Jewish owners had tried to register ownership of the property with the authorities of the British Mandate in 1946. When the War of Independence broke out in 1948, the Old City of Jerusalem and its surrounding area—including Sheikh Jarrah—was captured by Transjordan (now Jordan) and the Jewish families were forcibly evicted. Custodianship of the property was transferred to the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Properties.

In 1956, the Jordanian government leased the property to 28 families of Palestinian “refugees,” while maintaining ownership of the property. After the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel regained control of Jerusalem, it passed a law allowing Jews whose families were evicted by Jordanian or British authorities in the city prior to 1967 to reclaim their property, provided they could demonstrate proof of ownership and the existing residents were unable to provide such proof of purchase or legal transfer of title. In 1973, ownership of the property was registered by Sephardic Community Committee and the Knesset Israel Committee with Israeli authorities pursuant to the above law. Subsequently, in 2003, the owners sold the property to Nahalat Shimon an Israeli NGO that seeks to reclaim property for Jews evicted or forced to flee as a result of the 1948 War of Independence.

In 1982, the Jewish owners (Sephardic Community Committee and the Knesset Israel Committee) sued the Palestinian families residing in Sheikh Jarrah and demanded their eviction on the basis that they were squatters on the property. The Magistrate Court determined that the Palestinian families could not demonstrate their ownership of the property, but that they enjoyed Protected Tenant Status. As protected tenants, they would be able to continue living on the property as long as they paid rent and maintained the property. This arrangement was agreed upon mutually in agreement signed by the parties, in which the tenants recognized the trusts’ ownership in exchange for protected tenant status. Beginning in 1993, the trusts began proceedings against the residents based on their non-payment of rent and of illegal changes to the property.

Brussels

'America is back': Brussels upbeat on eve of Biden’s Europe trip

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US President Joe Biden’s (pictured) trip to Europe this week will signal that multilateralism has survived the Trump years, and set the stage for transatlantic cooperation on challenges from China and Russia to climate change, the chairman of EU summits said, Reuters.

"America is back," European Council President Charles Michel said, using the motto Biden has adopted after former President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of several multilateral institutions and at one point threatened to walk out of NATO.

"It means that we have again a very strong partner to promote the multilateral approach ... a big difference with the Trump administration," Michel told a group of reporters in Brussels late on Monday.

Michel and the chief of the European Union’s executive, Ursula von der Leyen, will meet Biden on 15 June. That will follow a summit of G7 rich democracies in Britain and a meeting of NATO nation leaders in Brussels on 14 June.

Michel said the idea that "multilateralism is back" was more than a slogan, it was a recognition that a global approach is needed to resolve issues, whether they be supply chains for COVID-19 vaccines or fairer corporate taxes in the digital age.

He said the three-day G7 meeting in Cornwall, England, could be an "important turning point" that shows serious political commitment behind governments' pledges to "build back better" following the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic.

It would also be an opportunity to address pressure felt by liberal democracies, said Michel, who expects a discussion at the G7 on the need for the West to take a more proactive approach to defending its values in the face of China's rise and Russian assertiveness.

Michel said he spoke for 90 minutes with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, telling him Moscow must change its behaviour if it wants better relations with the 27-nation EU.

The EU and Russia disagree on a wide range of issues including human rights, Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and Moscow’s treatment of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, and Michel said that relations between them had reached a low point.

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Belgium

Police break up Brussels anti-lockdown party

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Police fired water cannon and tear gas in a Brussels park on Saturday (1 May) to break up an anti-lockdown party of several hundred people designed to defy coronavirus social distancing rules. The crowd of mostly young people responded to a post on Facebook announcing the unauthorised party. It took place a month after police cleared 2,000 people who gathered in the same Bois de la Cambre park for la Boum (the party), an event that had begun as an April Fool's joke.

The follow-up Boum 2 event on 1 May, a traditional day for demonstrations, was held a week before the Belgian government allows cafe and bar terraces to open and lets groups of more than four people meet outside in a relaxation of COVID-19 rules.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo urged Belgians on Friday to stay united and not "fall into this trap". Facebook also took down the Boum 2 post on Thursday (29 April) after a request from Belgian prosecutors, who warned partygoers they risked being detained or fined.

A man is doused by a water cannon during clashes as people gather at the Bois de la Cambre/Ter Kamerenbos park for a party called "La Boum 2" in defiance of Belgium's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) social distancing measures and restrictions, in Brussels, Belgium May 1, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman
A man is doused by a water cannon during clashes as people gather at the Bois de la Cambre/Ter Kamerenbos park for a party called "La Boum 2" in defiance of Belgium's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) social distancing measures and restrictions, in Brussels, Belgium May 1, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman
A police officer detains a man during clashes as people gather at the Bois de la Cambre/Ter Kamerenbos park for a party called "La Boum 2" in defiance of Belgium's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) social distancing measures and restrictions, in Brussels, Belgium May 1, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Police said several hundred people still attended.

Emile Breuillot, a 23-year-old dental student, said he had come to see people enjoy themselves and to defend their rights to gather.

After a calm start with groups chanting "freedom", the police announced on social media that attendees were not observing public safety measures and that they would intervene. Many people were not wearing masks, a requirement anywhere in public in the Belgian capital.

Hundreds of people also marched in central Brussels and through the eastern city of Liege demanding a relaxation of coronavirus measures.

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Belgium

Pakistan urged to 'take responsibility' for 'genocide'

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A group of activists who demonstrated in Brussels want Pakistan to be held to account for the violent events of over five decades ago which, it is claimed, have so far gone unpunished, writes Martin Banks.

On 26 March 1971, Pakistani troops entered east Pakistan in order to put down a growing movement for Bangladeshi independence. A nine-month war of Independence followed, ending with Pakistan’s defeat and surrender on 16 December.

The level of casualties inflicted on the Bengali civilian population, and the issuing of a Fatwah by Pakistan encouraging their soldiers to treat Bengali women as “booty” of war, was such that as many as 3 million prople were killed, and up to 400,000 women, and young girls, suffered rape.

The events of 1971 are widely considered as genocide.

This week the Bengali community in Belgium came together with human rights activists to call on the European Union to recognise this fact.

Speaking at a gathering outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, President of European Association for the Defence of Minorities Dr. Manel Mselmi spoke to this website.

Dr Mselmi said: “The Bangledeshi Genocide reminds us that we are all human beings, and that we should respect each other’s cultural heritage, language and religion.

“Conflict based on linguistic and religious levels can never be solved by violence, war, persecution and torture, because at the end the oppressed people always seek to find freedom and dignity even though they lose their families and lands, they will always defend their values and identity.”

The activists called on the government of Pakistan to acknowledge and to take responsibility for its past actions. A letter, hand-delivered by Belgian human rights activist Andy Vermaut of the Alliance internationale pour la défense des droits et des libertés AIDL, addressed to European External Action Service High Representative Josep Borrell, called upon the European Commission “to utilize its considerable political leverage to pressure the government of Pakistan to acknowledge its responsibility for this genocidal atrocity”.

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