Monday, February 26, 2024

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Palestinian prisoner writes book in Israeli prison, nominated for award

While in prison, Palestinian author Basim Khandaqji's book, "A Mask, the Colour of the Sky," written during the author's ongoing Israeli prison sentence, was nominated for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) last month.Khandaqji, born in Nablus, was arrested in 2004 on charges of terrorist activity at the age of 21. He was convicted with three cumulative life sentences for planning and participating in a suicide bombing at Carmel Market, Tel Aviv.While in prison, Khandaqji completed his education, studying political science at Al-Quds University. What is A Mask, the Colour of the Sky about?Khandaqji's book describes the story of a young archeologist named Nur from the Ramallah refugee camp who adopts an Israeli identification card to join an archeology expedition in the West Bank.The protagonist assumes the guise of a Jew to try and understand the Zionist mentality.  The book depicts the struggle Nur goes through in his attempt to navigate between the two parts of his life. View of a drill for prison guards at the Israeli Prison Authorities, Gilboa Prison, near Israel Valley. December 5, 2022. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)What is the International Prize for Arabic FictionThe IPAF began in 2007, is funded by Abu Dhabi's Culture and Tourism Ministry, and is mentored by the Booker Prize Foundation in London.The IPAF, also known as "the Arabic Booker," is the most prestigious prize in literature in the Arab world. The prize recognizes excellence in Arabic writing and encourages higher-quality literature, as mentioned on the prize's website. It also works on an international level through the translation and publication of winning and shortlisted novels in other major languages.In 2020, a group of Arab authors called for the boycott of the IPAF due to it being funded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in protest of Abu Dhabi's warming relationship with Israel.However, despite the protests, the UAE decided to continue creating cultural ties with Israel and signed a cooperation agreement with the Israel Film Fund, as well as the removal of a visa requirement when traveling between Israel and Abu Dhabi.Implications of the nominationThis nomination is unique since one of the nominees is being held "behind the walls of an Israeli jail," according to Yasir Suleiman, chair of the event's board.Yasir adds that "the shortlisted works dig deep into the past to excavate the present."In an interview, the author's brother, Youssef Khandaqji, said that "[Basim] based his (shortlisted) novel on his reading of research and studies about Palestinian history, including eyewitness accounts of some of the prisoners inside and outside prisons, especially the Palestinians living inside Israel.""The narratives [...] are characterized by in-depth fictional digging in history, in such a way that the recent and distant past intertwine with the present and the future," says Nabil Suleiman, chairperson of the 2024 judging panelMr. Khandaqji's nomination for the IPAF already grants him a prize of $10,000, and if he wins, he can win a prize of $50,000.As was previously reported by The Jerusalem Post, the distribution of writings from inside prison walls is considered an independent crime. In response to Khandaqji's book nomination, the Israel Prison Service stated that "we do not recognize the book or the identity of its author. If it decided that a terrorist should be rewarded with a prize, it would be impossible to receive it," according to a KAN News reporter.Hannah Brown contributed to this report.

Iran’s Khamenei on Gaza: Islam will overcome ‘crooked’ Western civilization

In a meeting in the Khuzestan province of Iran, on the southern boundary of the country, bordering Iraq and the Gulf states, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei called western civilization “crooked” and said “the right culture and correct logic of Islam will overcome it,” Iranian state media reported.Just before, in the same speech, the Ayatollah said, “This is the real face of western culture and civilization and liberal democracy, which on the outside are ironed politicians with smiles on their faces, but on the inside, it is a rabid dog and a bloodthirsty wolf.”The Ayatollah discussed the war in Gaza, while condemning what he described as western hypocrisy. He said, “Westerners, who make noise and uproar for the execution of a criminal, face the slaughter of 30,000 innocent people in Gaza, and the United States brazenly vetoes the resolution to stop bombing Gaza for the umpteenth time.”  In another part of his speech, the Ayatollah praised the people of Gaza, saying, “The resistance forces' standing and the enemy's dismay from their destruction, as well as the patience of the people of Gaza in the face of bombings and calamities, show a strong religious faith.” Iran's response to the October 7 massacre Following the October 7 massacre, Ayatollah Khamenei praised Hamas, stating in a speech, “We kiss the foreheads and arms of those who planned the attack on the Zionist regime."Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (credit: AFP PHOTO)In late December, General Ramezan Sharif, the spokesperson of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), took credit for the massacre, stating these were "acts of revenge" for the killing of the "Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani by the US and the Zionists,” according to Iran’s state-sponsored news agency ISNA. Sharif retracted his claim after it was met with severe criticism. In an interview with NBC in early February, Iranian ambassador to the UN, Amir Saeid Iravani, said referring to Palestinians, "We're sending arms, we're training them and empowering them." The Iranian regime is a well known state sponsor of terrorist organizations across the Middle East, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis, among others. In addition to funding the terror operations, they also provide training and intelligence for these organizations. 

IRGC chief claims Iran’s security is due to foiling Israeli ‘espionage services’

In a speech on Saturday, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Commander-in-Chief Hossein Salami claimed that the Iranian regime's security is based on its capabilities of foiling Israeli "espionage services." In his remarks, Salami reiterated the regime's position that the security of Muslims worldwide, as well as Palestinians, hinges on the eradication of the State of Israel. Iran's security He stated, "Undoubtedly, the stable security and rare peace of Islamic Iran today in the context of the storm of plots of the domination system and Zionism and major battles with the espionage services of the enemies of the revolution."In his statement, he also emphasized the Iranian regime's steadfast commitment to Palestinian militant groups such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, with the possibility of the northern front opening between Israel and Hezbollah.  Salami is known for fiery rhetoric targeting Israel and the US, and he is vastly responsible for coordinating Iran's militias and proxy forces throughout the Middle East, such as Hezbollah and other Shiite militant groups, including those that have attacked US forces.Connections to Soleimani Following the assassination of Qassem Soleimani in early 2020 by an American drone strike, Salami spoke at his funeral and promised to avenge his death by retaliation against the US.  Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Commander-in-Chief Major General Hossein Salami participates in a commemoration of Arbaeen in Tehran, Iran September 6, 2023. (credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)In December, Salami was quoted by Islamic Republic state media and stated that the "collapse of the fake Israeli regime" was imminent and that the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war created new antipathy to Israel, citing the rising pro-Palestinian demonstrations around the globe.Tensions have been on the rise between Iran and Israel, as Iran continues to militarily and financially support its proxies and militias, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, with Israel retaliating to such threats in the region, such as Israel's involvement in attacks on Iranian gas pipelines last week.  

Oil spill caused by Houthi attack on ship in Gulf of Aden raises environmental concerns

Damage caused by a Houthi attack on a cargo vessel, the Rubymar, has created a 29-kilometer-long oil slick in the Gulf of Aden, raising environmental concerns.  The British-registered and Lebanese-operated ship was attacked on February 18 while sailing through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said.  The Rubymar is a bulk carrier that was sailing with a Belize flag, and is owned by Golden Adventure Shipping. The missile attack forced the crew to abandon the ship, which had been en route to Bulgaria after leaving Khorfakkan in the United Arab Emirates. It was transporting more than 41,000 tons of fertilizer, CENTCOM said in a statement. Djibouti port officials said 24 crew members were on board: 11 Syrians, six Egyptians, three Indians, and four Filipinos, according to a New York Times report. Greek-flagged bulk cargo vessel Sea Champion is docked to the port of Aden, Yemen to which it arrived after being attacked in the Red Sea in what appears to have been a mistaken missile strike by Houthi militia, February 21, 2024. (credit: FAWAZ SALMAN/REUTERS)The ship is taking on water and leaking oil. CENTCOM warned that the ship's cargo “could spill into the Red Sea and worsen this environmental disaster.”International coalition formed to respond to attacksA coalition warship responded to the distress call following the attack, and the crew was taken to a port by a merchant vessel in the area, a Central Command statement said. Since the Houthis began their attacks in November, a coalition of countries including the US and the UK have used naval forces to defend vessels and retaliate against attacks, although the attacks have persisted.  This attack on the Rubymar has been the most serious Houthi attack on ships in the Red Sea to date since the terrorist organization began its attacks in November. At least one missile struck the ship on Monday night after being fired from a Houthi-controlled part of Yemen, the US military said.In a second incident in hours, a Greece-flagged, US-owned bulk carrier was attacked on Monday by missiles in two separate attempts, with no injuries to the crew although one window onboard was damaged, Greek shipping ministry sources told Reuters.The Houthis claim that they have been targeting ships in an effort to pressure Israel to stop the war in Gaza, although many of the ships they have targeted are unrelated to countries involved in the war. 

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