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CNN editor sacked after praising Hezbollah-linked Muslim cleric

July 12, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–The US news broadcaster CNN has fired its Middle East Editor Octavia Nasr  after she had said positive things about a Muslim cleric associated with Hezbollah. Nasr was forced to leave her position after calling Fadlallah a “giant” in a Twitter post following his death last weekend. CNN and Nasr had called the tweet an “error in judgment”, but an internal CNN memo leaked to the media a day after that statement said Nasr’s “credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward.”

Jewish groups had protested the tweet, noting Fadlallah’s role in founding Hezbollah, in praising deadly terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians, and in denying the Holocaust. However, the Anti-Defamation League, said it was satisfied with the statements of regret from Nasr and CNN and did not call for her firing.  Nasr explained in a blog post that she did not respect Fadlallah’s record, noting that as a Lebanese Christian, she had lost relatives to Hezbollah attacks while he was a leader of the organization in the 1980s. She added that he had pressed for women’s rights and had slammed Hezbollah’s closeness to Iran in recent years, a position that led the movement to marginalize the cleric.

“I used the words ‘respect’ and ‘sad’ because to me, as a Middle Eastern woman, Fadlallah took a contrarian and pioneering stand among Shia clerics on woman’s rights,” Nasr wrote. “He called for the abolition of the tribal system of ‘honor killing.’ He called the practice primitive and non-productive. He warned Muslim men that abuse of women was against Islam.”

Britain’s ambassador in Beirut, France Guy, also praised the late cleric. In her blog, which is part of the Foreign Office website, she wrote about the “passing of a decent man,” and that meeting with Fadlallah “you would leave his presence feeling a better person.” Guy went on to state: “The world needs more men like him willing to reach out across faiths, acknowledging the reality of the modern world and daring to confront old constraints.”

The British Foreign Office issued a statement saying that the ambassador had “expressed a personal view on Sheikh Sayyed Fadlallah, describing the man as she knew him. We welcomed his progressive views on women’s rights and interfaith dialogue, but also had profound disagreements – especially over his statements advocating attacks on Israel.”

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Preceding provided by world Jewish Congress.

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British trade union calls for boycott – Jerusalem Post, Israel

June 25, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–One of Britain’s largest labor unions votes for a boycott of Israel and for expelling Israel’si envoy in Britain, the ‘Jerusalem Post’ reports:

Jerusalem Post, Israel
25 June 2010

By Jonny Paul

One of Britain’s largest trade unions passed a motion at its annual conference in Bournemouth last week accusing Israel of lying over the Gaza flotilla incident and has called for a complete boycott of Israel and for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, it was confirmed on Thursday. The emergency motion was introduced on the third day of the annual conference of UNISON, the largest public sector union with around 1.4 million members. It said Israel was “brazenly lying” over the flotilla incident, as it “attempted to define it as an attempted lynch mob of its troops by passengers on the boats. “This is a further sign that Israel does not respond to words of condemnation, only action will have any effect,” the motion states.

One attendee said that the few Unison members who spoke against the motion were heckled. UNISON member Lilach Head, a care worker from Devon, spoke against the motion and was heckled. She said the atmosphere was intimidating and the vote was called before more people could speak against it. “Only three people were able to speak against the motion, there were six others waiting but then the vote was called. There was no hope,” she said.

The union will now support a full boycott of Israel – economic, cultural and sporting; it has joined the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign and will suspend ties with the Histadrut. In addition to these measures, UNISON is calling for Britain to expel the Israeli ambassador.

“Conference reaffirms the support for an economic, cultural and sporting boycott of Israel and call on Unison to join the scores of unions around the world who have endorsed the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Further to that as an immediate sanction for the illegal attack on the flotilla, we call on the government to expel the Israeli ambassador,” the motion states.

The union had already banned a organization that promotes Israeli-Palestinian trade union cooperation from having a stall at its conference.

UNISON’s deputy general secretary, Keith Sonnet, a pro-Palestinian activist and patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign – a fringe group that advocates a one-state solution and major player in the boycott and delegitimization campaign against Israel – wrote to Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI) saying the union was unable to offer the organization a stall because “we have no ongoing work with the TUFI, nor are we affiliated to the organization.”

“More than 2,000 delegates to UNISON’s national conference, representing our 1.4 million members, did indeed carry a motion condemning the Israeli attack on the Gaza freedom flotilla, in which nine people were reportedly killed,” a union spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

“The motion noted that the boats were carrying much needed humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza [and that] the passengers on the boats were civilians.”

Asked if the wording and the sentiments expressed in the motion were a fair and honest reflection of the views of the members, the spokesperson said: “Our 2,000 delegates were well aware of the words in the motion before it was carried. We have constantly called for an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza and have pushed the case for a peaceful settlement – including an end to the bombings, on both sides.”

Asked how the motion would be implemented, the spokesperson said: “Our international committee will be taking forward the actions called for in the motion when it meets in the next couple of weeks.”

“Again, this is making accusations before the facts have been established and an investigation into this tragic incident have been completed,” said Stephen Scott, director of TUFI. “The outrageous attack on their fellow trade unionists in the Histadrut, who have called for a lifting of the blockade restrictions and the resumption of final-status peace talks, is counterproductive.

The Israeli embassy in London said the motion was “misleading” and “dishonest” and an “outrageous attempt” by anti-Israel activists to manipulate the union to serve their agenda.

“We categorically reject this misleading and dishonest motion. This is yet another outrageous attempt by anti-Israel elements to manipulate a union into serving their agenda.

“At a time when public sector workers face unprecedented challenges to their jobs and conditions, it is bizarre that the union’s leadership is focusing an emergency meeting on an overseas situation of which they are so clearly ignorant and prejudiced,” the spokesman said.

The Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine (TULIP), a movement working to unite trade unions and non-governmental organizations to counter boycott calls of Israel, said the motion presented an “utterly one-sided view” and could have easily been written in Iran.

“UNISON continues to speak with two voices,” said TULIP spokesman Eric Lee. “On the one hand, the union’s official policy remains support for a two-state solution, which was reaffirmed by the union leadership – and the union has actually done some good work on the ground, promoting Jewish-Arab peace and reconciliation.

“However, this resolution was hastily drafted and even more hastily adopted; it contradicts the union’s own long-standing position and instead presents an utterly one-sided view of the conflict. It fact, it so demonizes Israel that it could easily have been written in Teheran,” Lee added.