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Booking.com to warn users reserving occupied West Bank properties | News

Israeli TV outlet says the website will add a safety guidance to bookings in the West Bank that will include the word occupied.

The online travel booking website Booking.com will start adding safety guidance to all reservations in the occupied West Bank across its platforms, an Israeli television outlet has reported.

The guidance will also refer to the West Bank as “occupied”, Channel 13’s Hatzinor programme claimed. Moreover, similar guidance is being debated for properties in occupied East Jerusalem, the programme added.

During the 1967 war, Israeli forces occupied all of historic Palestine and expelled 300,000 Palestinians from their homes. Illegal Jewish settlements continue to grow in the occupied West Bank.

However, many international companies continue to do business in the West Bank, despite a growing international trend towards more ethical business practices.

Booking.com, which removed a reference to Jerusalem as an “Israeli settlement” in 2018, will now add a label that says: “Visiting the area may be accompanied by an increased risk to safety and human rights or other risks to the local community and visitors.”

“Certain areas in the world affected by conflict may pose a greater risk to travelers, so we provide our customers with information to help make decisions and encourage them to check their government’s official travel guidelines as part of the decision-making process,” the company was quoted by Hatzinor as saying.

A view of the Israeli settlement of Efrat on the southern outskirts of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank [File: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP]

‘Illusory decision’

Booking.com’s move has led to criticism from the Israeli government.

Israel’s Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov said that no one had the right to determine for Israelis “what is the territory of the State of Israel and what is not”.

“From the moment I heard the report that Booking was introducing political and political considerations into their activities, I requested to urgently convene the management of the Ministry of Tourism, to determine steps to deal with the illusory decision, and to protect the tourism business in the entire State of Israel,” he added.

Consumer brands are facing increasing pressure to take a stand on Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.

In 2018, the San Francisco-based home-sharing platform Airbnb said that it was no longer going to list properties in the occupied West Bank, before later reversing its position in 2019.

Last year ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s said it was going to stop selling its products in the West Bank and East Jerusalem because it was “inconsistent with [Ben & Jerry’s] values”.

In June, Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever, sold its Israeli business to a local licensee, allowing it to circumvent the restriction on sales, in a move that was criticised by Ben & Jerry’s founders on Sunday.

At least 400,000 Israelis live in settlements that dot the occupied West Bank and range in size from tiny hamlets to large towns, in addition to 200,000 living in settlements in East Jerusalem.

The international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement seeks to end international support for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory, and advocates for freedom, justice, and equality for Palestinians, as well as for Israel to comply with international law.

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Why Republicans are elated by ‘triumph’ of Italy’s Giorgia Meloni | Politics News

Washington, DC – The election victory of Italy’s Giorgia Meloni this week has been met with cheers from US Republicans, who are heaping praise on the right-wing European leader despite concerns that she heads a political party with neo-fascist roots.

The affinity for Meloni in the United States, experts say, is part of a deepening connection between conservative populists on both sides of the Atlantic, which was previously seen with Republican activists’ embrace of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Increasingly, right-wing nationalists around the world are finding common ground in a battle against shared foes: immigration, progressive views on gender and sexuality, and people they loosely label as “globalists” and “elites”.

And this is precisely the message that succeeded in getting Meloni elected, said Lawrence Rosenthal, chair of the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

“She ran on anger at gender politics; she ran on the traditional family; she ran on things like protecting borders; she would talk about Western civilisation in precisely the same way that Orban does and much of the right-wing in this country does,” Rosenthal told Al Jazeera.

Rosenthal said the “great replacement theory”, the notion that global elites are trying to replace “native” populations in Western countries with immigrants, is at the heart of the grievances that unite these right-wing movements.

The theory is seen by many academics and social justice advocates as a conspiratorial push to stoke racial anxiety about non-white newcomers to Western countries.

“All the nationalist movements in individual countries have the same ‘other’ – that is to say that they all agree that immigrants are ‘the other’, and that’s what they’re against,” Rosenthal said. “So it’s possible to have solidarity across international lines on that score, because the enemy object is the same in all of them.”

Meloni’s views

Meloni, 45, is poised to become Italy’s next prime minister after her political party, Brothers of Italy, emerged as the biggest winner in a right-wing coalition that received the most votes in the country’s snap elections on Sunday.

Brothers of Italy – founded in 2012 – is the ideological successor of the far-right National Alliance, which emerged from the Italian Social Movement, a political party formed by former dictator Benito Mussolini’s supporters in the wake of World War II.

Meloni has denied that her party is fascist and condemned the anti-Jewish laws and suppression of democracy of the fascist era. However, a video of a young Meloni when she was an activist with the National Alliance shows her praising Mussolini as a “good politician” who acted for Italy.

Brothers of Italy’s logo – flames in the colours of the Italian flag – also mirrors that of the Italian Social Movement.

Yet despite the criticism, numerous Republicans hailed Meloni’s electoral success this week, sharing a viral video of the Italian politician arguing that national identity and the concept of family are under attack in an effort to turn people into “the perfect consumer”.

“The entire world is beginning to understand that the Woke Left does nothing but destroy,” far-right Congresswoman Lauren Boebert wrote on Twitter, suggesting that Meloni’s victory was a positive sign ahead of US midterm elections in November.

“Nov 8 is coming soon & the USA will fix our House and Senate! Let freedom reign!”

Senators Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also were among the Republican officials who expressed joy over Meloni’s win.

Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, one of the most influential right-wing commentators in the US, also lauded Meloni’s victory as a “revolution”, calling her “smart” and able to articulate what the majority of people are thinking.

Some experts say Meloni’s message about family, national identity and God has resonated with US conservatives because it is specifically tailored for them.

“Giorgia Meloni has invested a lot of effort into creating connections and respectability within the US-dominated ‘national conservatism’ and Christian fundamentalist networks,” Cas Mudde, an international affairs professor at the University of Georgia, told Al Jazeera in an email.

Earlier this year, Meloni delivered a speech filled with American references to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an annual gathering for US right-wing politicians and activists.

“That’s exactly what they want – a right-wing on a leash, irrelevant and trained as a monkey. But you know what? We’re not monkeys. We are not even rhinos; we won’t be part of their zoo,” said Meloni, invoking “RINOs“, or “Republicans In Name Only”, a term used to describe moderate US conservatives.

‘Triumph’ for far right

In that same speech, Meloni went on to claim that “everything” conservatives stand for is under attack, and that progressives are operating globally to “destroy our identities”. She also likened refugees arriving in Italy to migrants and asylum seekers at the US southern border.

“I see unbelievable things happening on the border between [the] United States and Mexico, and I think of our own Sicily,” she said.

“Thousands of migrants allowed to enter without permission, who end up crowding out the slums of our towns and cities. And they’re capping the salaries of our own workers, and in many instances engaging in crime.”

Rosenthal said right-wing Republicans are not looking to Meloni’s message for inspiration because they have already adopted anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies. Rather, “it’s an occasion to celebrate the ‘triumph of our side’ – from their point of view – internationally”, he said.

Rula Jebreal, a Palestinian-born Italian journalist who is currently a visiting professor at the University of Miami, warned that Meloni’s election will embolden far-right extremists in Italy, as well as in the rest of Europe and the US.

Jebreal, who has previously debated and clashed with Meloni publicly, said she and other critics of the Italian politician have received death threats since the election on Sunday. “I think these people feel inspired, emboldened,” she told Al Jazeera, referring to right-wing “extremists”.

“This movement is a global movement, and the people are organised,” Jebreal said.

Over the past decade, there have been active efforts to connect right-wing movements around the world. Notably, Steve Bannon, a former adviser to ex-President Donald Trump, launched an unsuccessful organisation called “The Movement” in 2018 to back anti-European Union populists in European Parliament elections.

The Trump ally had put special emphasis on right-wing parties in France and Italy.

“Italy is the beating heart of modern politics,” Bannon, who is currently facing a flurry of legal challenges and criminal charges in the US, told the Daily Beast at that time. “If it works there it can work everywhere.”



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IMF warns UK its budget cuts will ‘likely increase inequality’ | Business and Economy News

The IMF urged UK to consider providing more targeted support to families and businesses instead of sizable tax cuts.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has taken aim at new British financial plans that have roiled markets, warning that “large and untargeted fiscal packages” would likely increase inequality in the United Kingdom and could undermine monetary policy.

In its first comments on Tuesday on plans by the UK’s new finance minister Kwasi Kwarteng, which have sent the pound sterling and bonds into free fall, the IMF urged authorities to consider providing more targeted support to families and businesses instead of sizable tax cuts and sharply higher government spending.

“We are closely monitoring recent economic developments in the UK and are engaged with the authorities,” an IMF spokesperson said, in response to a query from the Reuters news agency after the British pound hit an all-time low amid spiking market concerns.

“Given elevated inflation pressures in many countries, including the UK, we do not recommend large and untargeted fiscal packages at this juncture, as it is important that fiscal policy does not work at cross purposes to monetary policy,” the spokesperson said in the IMF’s first public reaction.

Kwarteng, who on Friday unveiled a budget aimed at growing the economy by cutting taxes and sharply increasing government borrowing, responded to market mayhem by promising to roll out medium-term debt-cutting plans on November 23.

The global lender understands that the UK’s “sizable fiscal package” was intended to help residents deal with higher energy prices and to boost growth via tax cuts and supply measures, but the “nature of the UK measures will likely increase inequality,” the IMF said.

Kwarteng’s November 23 budget would provide an “early opportunity for the UK government to consider ways to provide support that is more targeted and reevaluate the tax measures, especially those that benefit high-income earners,” the spokesperson added.

The UK was forced to apply for an IMF loan of nearly $4bn during the 1976 financial crisis, with IMF negotiators insisting on deep cuts in public expenditure at the time.

IMF officials have warned repeatedly in recent months of the need to carefully calibrate fiscal and monetary policy as central bankers raise interest rates across the globe to get inflation under control.

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US defends arms sales to Pakistan following criticism from India | Conflict News

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has defended US military sales to Pakistan amid criticism from India, which says it is the target of a $450m F-16 fighter jet deal between Washington and Islamabad.

During a news conference in the United States capital on Tuesday, Blinken said that the military package approved earlier this month was for maintenance of Pakistan’s existing fleet.

“These are not new planes, new systems, new weapons. It’s sustaining what they have,” said Blinken, who spoke alongside India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

“Pakistan’s programme bolsters its capability to deal with terrorist threats emanating from Pakistan or from the region. It’s in no one’s interests that those threats be able to go forward with impunity,” he said.

Blinken met with Jaishankar a day after he held separate talks with his counterpart from Pakistan, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

“In our discussions … we talked about the importance of managing a responsible relationship with India,” Blinken said after that meeting on Monday, without elaborating.

The US has maintained strong ties to both India and Pakistan for decades, despite various points of tension between the nations.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said earlier this week that “the relationship we have with India stands on its own; the relationship we have with Pakistan stands on its own”.

While Jaishankar did not criticise Blinken publicly over the F-16 deal, the Indian foreign minister said during an event on Sunday that the US position was not “fooling anybody”.

“For someone to say, I’m doing this because it’s for counter-terrorism, when you’re talking of an aircraft like the capability of the F-16, everybody knows where they are deployed,” he said, referring to the fleet’s positioning against India.

“Very honestly, it’s a relationship that has neither ended up serving Pakistan well nor serving American interests well,” he added.

Pakistan’s military relies heavily on the US, but the relationship has strained in recent years, particularly during the war in Afghanistan.

For its part, India historically has bought military equipment from Moscow and has pressed the US to waive sanctions required under a 2017 law for any nation that buys “significant” military hardware from Russia.

Jaishankar said on Tuesday that India also has purchased arms from countries such as the US, France and Israel, while noting that India had the right to “exercise a choice which we believe is in our national interest” and was free to reject changes due to “geopolitical tensions”.

Over the last 30 years, the US has made strengthening its relationship with India a high priority as it seeks allies in the region to help counter the growing strength of China.

The US has stayed largely quiet on India’s continued relationship with Russia following the invasion of Ukraine, and was pleased when India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Russian President Vladimir Putin that it was “not a time for war”.

US President Joe Biden held talks with Modi in April as Washington sought more help to apply economic pressure on Moscow over the war.

Jaishankar has suggested that India is working behind the scenes and that it “weighed in” with Russia during negotiations to open grain shipments from the Black Sea, part of what Jaishankar called the country’s widening “international footprint”.

“There are many more regions where we will be intersecting with American interests. It is to our mutual benefit that this be a complementary process,” Jaishankar said.

Meanwhile, Blinken said during the news conference that India and the US should lean into “core values including respect for universal human rights, like freedom of religion and belief and freedom of expression, which makes our democracies stronger”.

In recent years, India has been accused of a range of human rights abuses, including curbs to religious freedoms, particularly against Muslims.

Jaishankar responded indirectly to Blinken’s comments on Tuesday that both India and the US were committed to democracy but “from their history, tradition and societal context”.

“India does not believe that the efficacy or indeed the quality of democracy should be decided by vote banks,” he said.



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