France Backs Palestinian State

Lawmakers in France’s lower house of Parliament voted Tuesday to recognize a Palestinian state. (Photo by Etienne Laurent/European Pressphoto Agency.)

DAN BILEFSKY and MAÏA de la BAUME, New York Times, December 2, 2014

PARIS — First it was the British and the Irish. Then the Swedes and the Spanish. And on Tuesday, the French, too, added their weight to the push for recognition of a Palestinian state.

The vote in the French lower house of Parliament favoring such a step was a largely symbolic move. But it was the fifth such gesture in two months, and arguably the most important, in what has amounted to a cascade of support for the Palestinian cause and a widening torrent of criticism of Israeli policy across Europe.

Though the vote is unlikely to affect France’s foreign policy, it nevertheless carries particular resonance coming from a country with the largest Muslim and Jewish populations in Europe.

As such, France itself has become something of a proxy playing field for the Arab-Israeli conflict, which this summer spilled over into the streets of cities around the country with sometimes violent protests during Israel’s military campaign against Hamas.

Similarly, the French vote, and the other moves, accompany a worrying rise in anti-Semitism in Europe that some have linked to intensifying antipathy toward Israel, as well as growing radicalism among young European Muslims who have been lured to jihad in Syria.

The nonbinding vote by the lower house of Parliament was the latest in a series of moves in Europe that have underlined growing frustration with Israeli policies.

Serge Cwajgenbaum, the secretary general of the European Jewish Congress, an organization in Brussels representing European Jews, played down the political consequences of the vote, calling it toothless. But he said it reflected a worrying attitude in some quarters of Europe that threatened to further undermine the faltering Middle East peace process.

Mr. Cwajgenbaum said he feared the vote was an effort by some on the French left to curry favor with Muslim voters.

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December 9, 2014
Talk: Middle Eastern Cross-Cultural Comparisons

UNA Dane Public Lecture Program
UNA-USA Dane County Chapter Meeting

Madison Central Public Library
Room 301
7:00 – 8:30 pm

Middle Eastern Cross-Cultural Comparisons
Department of Comparative Literature
University of Wisconsin

Dr. Mary N. Layoun is an expert on comparative study of modern cultures, literature and politics of the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean. She is the author of “Wedded to the Land? Gender, Boundaries, and Nationalism-in-Crisis”. “In Wedded to the Land”, she offers a critical commentary on the idea of nationalism in general and on specific attempts to formulate alternatives to the concept in particular. Narratives surrounding three geographically and temporally different national crises form the center of her study: Greek refugees’ displacement from Asia Minor into Greece in 1922, the 1974 right-wing Cypriot coup and subsequent Turkish invasion of Cyprus, and the Palestinian and PLO expulsion from Beirut following the Israeli invasion in 1982.” Dr. Layoun is the recipient of the UW Madison Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award.

UNRWA declares state of emergency in Gaza amid severe flooding

A photo released by UNRWA shows children in Gaza crossing a flooded street via a makeshift bridge. (UNRWA/Shareef Sarhan)

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an, 27/11/2014) — The UN’s Palestine refugee agency UNRWA on Thursday evening declared a state of emergency in Gaza City amid massive rains that have shut down normal life in parts of the besieged coastal enclave’s largest city.

A major storm over the past week has filled the streets of Gaza City with water and sewage, causing further misery for the more than 100,000 Palestinians left homeless — including nearly 30,000 still staying in emergency shelters — from Israel’s massive offensive over summer that also left nearly 2,200 dead.

UNRWA said in a statement that 63 schools across Gaza City and 43 schools across the Northern Gaza Strip governorate had been closed Thursday due to the flooding.

Hundreds of residents in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City had also been evacuated due to the rise of a “storm water lagoon” that had flooded many homes in the area.

“The flooding is exacerbating the already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza caused by blockade and the unprecedented destruction from the latest Israeli offensive,” the UN agency said in a post on its Facebook.

The agency, which is already massively stretched due to the summer’s conflict, said that it was “providing emergency fuel to supply back-up generators for pumping stations, portable pumps, municipalities, water, sanitation and health facilities.”

It is also preparing to provide shelter for those displaced the storm “should the need arise.”

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