Palestinian activists turn to TikTok amid Israeli anger over 'propaganda videos' – Arab News
RAMALLAH: Palestinian activists are turning to TikTok to rally against activities by Israel, which accused the social media platform of igniting the security situation in the Middle East in recent weeks.
Israel had successfully pushed Meta to block thousands of Palestinian accounts and content from its social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, in addition to limiting Palestinian content through Twitter and Snapchat. However, TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has rejected the Israeli allegations and refused to change its policies.
Thousands of Palestinian social media activists switched to TikTok during the past few weeks to enjoy online freedom and bypass Facebook’s restrictions.
Amer Hamdan, a Palestinian political activist, told Arab News that he recently switched from Facebook to Tiktok after suffering from restrictions imposed by the former, which he said flags the use of words including martyr, resistance and occupation.
Hamdan, who had 200,000 followers on his Facebook page, added that his account was closed because he published a picture of Khalil Al-Wazir, the Palestinian leader who Israel assassinated in Tunisia in 1988.
“Because Facebook is no longer the ideal platform for the Palestinians to spread their cause, the alternative is TikTok, which provides an adequate and sufficient space for the dissemination of media covering armed parades of Palestinian military groups and pictures of Palestinian resistance fighters with their weapons,” said Hamdan.
TikTok previously ranked third in Palestine — after Facebook and Instagram — in social media app usage. However, it jumped to second place during recent weeks, with Palestinian social media experts telling Arab News that though 3 million Palestinian accounts are on Facebook, more than 1 million Palestinians are on TikTok, with the number rapidly increasing.
Palestinian activists also see more technical flexibility while publishing on Tiktok compared to Facebook, with the platform allowing three-minute clips for all users, and 15-minute videos for users who have 1,000 followers or more.
“Within a year, TikTok will be the number one social media platform used by Palestinians,” Hamdan said.
Sam Bahour, an expert in business development affairs, said that social media is gaining “exceptional importance” for Palestinians by enabling them to communicate and bypass Israeli restrictions across the West Bank, Gaza Strip, as well worldwide through the diaspora.
Ahmed Al-Qadi, from a center that specializes in researching social media activities, told Arab News that after the violent events in the Palestinian territories last May and after Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and YouTube removed Palestinian content, people switched to TikTok.
On the other hand, Israeli political analyst Yoni Ben-Menachem told Arab News that TikTok is a “tool of dangerous influence” and incites violence through videos glorifying attacks against Israelis.
Ben-Menachem added that TikTok content targets young people, who are particularly vulnerable to misinformation and propaganda.
Last May, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with senior officials from ByteDance, demanding that the company block Palestinian content. But Gantz’s appeal was denied, with the company only promising to pay more attention to published content.
Young Palestinians have filmed Israeli incursions into Palestinian cities and towns, house demolitions, arrests, killings, settler attacks and racist treatment, with the content going viral on TikTok.
Despite the Israeli government’s anger, officials do not expect TikTok to take any action against Palestinian accounts, whether based in the West Bank and Gaza Strip or abroad.
“Maybe TikTok will close a few Palestinian accounts, but thousands of accounts that incite against Israel will remain active, and whoever loses his account can open a new account under a pseudonym,” said Ben-Menachem, adding: “TikTok has become the most dangerous means of incitement against Israel.”
AL-MUKALLA: A six-month-old UN-brokered ceasefire in Yemen’s war between Iran-backed Houthis and the Arab coalition ended on Sunday with no word from the rivals on whether it would be extended.
The US, UK, China, other world powers and the secretary-general of the Arab League have all urged Yemen’s government and the Iran-backed Houthis to extend the UN-brokered truce.
Despite mounting pressure, only the Yemeni government had earlier agreed to extend the truce.
The US ambassador to Yemen, Steven H. Fagin, expressed concern about the various Yemeni parties’ hesitation to express their support for extending the truce.
“I call on the parties not to squander the progress of the last six months and to prioritize the Yemeni people by accepting an extension and expansion of the truce,” Fagin said in a brief statement. 
On Sunday, the UK Ambassador to Yemen Richard Oppenheim reissued the same call to the Houthis and other Yemeni parties to follow the UN envoy’s suggestions for extending the truce.
“I encourage the Houthis to work with the UN to extend the Truce. It’s the only route that will provide an opportunity for them to deliver benefits for ordinary Yemenis” he said on Twitter. 
The UN-brokered truce, which began on April 2 and has been extended twice, has dramatically reduced violence in Yemen, allowed flights to leave Sanaa airport, and eliminated fuel shortages throughout the country by allowing dozens of fuel ships to reach the port of Hodeidah.
The only term of the truce that has not been implemented is the opening of roads in besieged Taiz, as the Houthis have refused to open at least one main road leading into and out of the city, which is the main demand of the Yemeni government.
As the UN Yemen envoy, Hans Grundberg, shuttled between Muscat, Riyadh, and Sanaa to persuade Yemeni leaders to renew the truce, foreign diplomats and humanitarian organizations in Yemen sent last-minute appeals to both sides on Sunday.
“China emphasizes its support for the special envoy and is willing to make unremitting efforts with the international community to resolve the Yemen issue,” the Chinese Embassy in Yemen said in a statement. 
The EU’s mission in Yemen also demanded that the Yemeni government and the Houthis accept the UN envoy’s proposal, renew the truce, and implement its provisions.
“Time to consolidate and develop a truce, including opening roads and agreeing on the payment of salaries, that has delivered and can bring more benefits to the #Yemeni people,” the mission said in a statement on Twitter.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Sunday urged the Houthis to “positively” comply with initiatives and efforts to renew the truce and work to alleviate suffering.
The latest UN proposal includes a six-month cease-fire while the Houthis open only minor roads in Taiz, paying public employees in their territories, while the Yemeni government covers any shortfall in payments, allowing more fuel ships to enter Hodeidah port, and opening new routes from Sanaa to Muscat, Doha, and Mumbai. 
Rashad Al-Alimi, president of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, expressed his government’s support for the UN Yemen envoy’s efforts to extend the truce.
During a meeting with the UN envoy in Riyadh on Sunday, the Yemeni leader stated that he is committed to supporting any peace initiative to end the war in Yemen and alleviate the suffering of Yemenis, and he urged mounting pressure on the Houthis and their Iranian backers to stop undermining peace efforts.
In Sanaa, the Houthis rejected calls to renew the truce on Saturday night, threatening to resume military operations, including strikes on oil companies in government-controlled areas.
RIYADH: The UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg expressed regret on Sunday that an agreement to extend and expand the truce in the country had not been reached.
“The truce that began on April.2, 2022 has offered a truly historic opportunity for Yemen. Building on the positive outcomes of the past six months, I submitted another proposal to the parties on Oct.1 to extend the truce for another six months, with additional elements,” Grundberg said in a statement.
The ceasefire has twice been renewed since April. 2 but expired on Sunday without being extended.
The proposal included the payment of civil servant salaries and pensions, the opening of specific roads in Taiz and other governorates, additional destinations for flights to and from Sanaa airport, unhindered entry of fuel ships into Hodeidah port, strengthening deescalation mechanisms, and a commitment to urgently release detainees, the envoy said.
It also included the initiation of negotiations for a ceasefire, the resumption of an inclusive political process, and economic issues.
The envoy said that the extended and expanded truce would provide additional critical benefits to Yemen’s population.
He thanked the Yemeni government for engaging positively with his proposal and said he will continue to work with both sides to find solutions.
“I am grateful for the constructive engagement at the leadership level from both sides over the past weeks. And I appreciate the position of the government of Yemen on engaging positively with my proposal. I will continue to work with both sides to try and find solutions,” Grundberg said.
The envoy urged the parties to maintain calm and refrain from provocations or any actions that could lead to an escalation of violence in the war-torn country.
“I urge them to fulfil their obligation to the Yemeni people to pursue every avenue for peace. Ultimately, Yemenis need an end to the conflict through an inclusive political process and a negotiated settlement. I will continue my relentless efforts to engage with the parties to quickly reach an agreement on a way forward,” he said.
AMMAN: Jordan’s King Abdullah II, accompanied by Queen Rania and Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah, will arrive in Oman on Tuesday for an official visit.
The king’s trip comes after an invitation from Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, Jordan News Agency reported.
During the two day visit, the two leaders will hold talks in Muscat about their deep bilateral ties as well as the most recent regional and international developments.
AMMAN: Jordan’s Director of the Public Security Directorate and the Qatari Ambassador to Jordan met on Sunday to discuss strengthening security and police cooperation, particularly in training, Petra News Agency reported.
Brig Gen Obaidullah Maaytah spoke with Sheikh Saud Bin Nasser Al-Thani about Jordan’s deep ties with Qatar, noting that the PSD was eager to support Qatar during the World Cup.
In turn, Al-Thani praised the PSD and emphasized the level of cooperation between Jordanian and Qatari police, urging continued efforts to expand bilateral cooperation.
CAIRO: The first edition of the Arab Climate Forum has opened in Egypt with the focus fixed firmly on sustainability issues.
Taking place in Cairo under the patronage and in the presence of Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal Al-Saud, president of both the Arab Gulf Program for Development (AGFUND) and the Arab Council for Childhood and Development, and Egyptian Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad, the conference is titled, “Together to Strengthen the Contribution of Civil Society to Climate Action and Sustainability.”
Prince Abdulaziz said: “Standing up bravely in the face of climate challenges and developing plans and solutions before the situation worsens is not a luxury or an option, but rather a historical responsibility that requires an alliance.
“One of the most important international efforts is to allocate the four branches of the Prince Talal International Prize for Human Development for the year 2021 to the theme of climate change, as the four winners are to be honored during COP27 (the 2022 UN Climate Change Conference),” he added.
The prince cited the sixth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which monitors the effects of climate change on people and ecosystems.
He highlighted alarming indicators, including that more than 40 percent of the world’s population lived in places and conditions that were, “highly vulnerable to climate change.”
Other key points, he noted, were that one-in-three people were exposed to potentially fatal heat stress, nearly half of the world’s population suffered from severe water scarcity at different times of the year, and climate change had reduced the growth of agricultural productivity in many countries.
Prince Abdulaziz said he was concerned that Arab countries were among the most vulnerable and affected regions in the world as a result of climate change, adding that taking effective action on the issue had become a moral commitment shared by everyone.
During her speech at the opening session, Fouad pointed out the need to pay attention to environmental and climate issues because of their impact on the Arab world and its youth in the first place.
She said that the contribution of Arab countries to greenhouse gas emissions did not exceed 5 percent of all global emissions.
The minister noted the importance of the forum in supporting the efforts of Arab nations to address the negative effects of climate change, in light of the unprecedented pace at which these countries suffered from its negative effects on all aspects of development.
Addressing the forum via Zoom, Najat M’jid, special representative of the UN secretary-general on violence against children, said: “There is a need for cooperation between north and south countries to address climate change and its impact on children, as well as to engage civil society in this regard.”
Haifa Abu-Ghazaleh, assistant secretary-general of the Arab League, said: “The issue of climate change is a high priority for the Arab League, and we pay all attention to discussing the repercussions of climate change on Arab societies.”
The first session of the forum was titled, “Climate Change in a Changing World.”
Forum activities — organized by the Arab League and the Arab Network for NGOs — in partnership with the Egyptian Ministry of Environment, AGFUND, and the Arab Council for Childhood and Development, will continue until Monday with the aim of contributing to supporting international and regional actions to combat climate change.
The event is part of preparations being made by Egypt to host COP27, which will be held in November in Sharm El-Sheikh.
It comes at a time when the risks posed by climate change from heatwaves, droughts, floods, and other extreme climate events are on the rise, causing cascading effects that are increasingly difficult to manage and exposing millions of people to acute food and water insecurity in many regions of the world.
The forum has been set up to develop a road map for civil society, in partnership with governments and the private sector, to move effectively along the path of adaptation to climate change and mobilize citizens in local communities to contribute effectively to reducing environmental degradation.
It also seeks to address inequalities associated with climate change and assess the negative effects of climate change in the light of international scientific reports and their impact on the implementation of UN sustainable development goals for 2030.
The agenda of the climate forum has been centered around the six topics of climate change and sustainability, climate change and its impact on the most vulnerable groups, encouraging innovation for the benefit of adaptation and mitigation, climate change and fragile economic activities, the integration of citizens and local communities in climate action, and the role of systemic change in green shift.


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