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LONDON: British school history books have been withdrawn following accusations of pro-Israel bias. This is the second time that the textbooks, published by education company Pearson, have been removed.  On the first occasion, in 2019, they were withdrawn after pro-Israel groups claimed the books favored Palestine. Pearson made changes to the textbooks after suggestions by…

LONDON: British school history books have been withdrawn following accusations of pro-Israel bias.

This is the second time that the textbooks, published by education company Pearson, have been removed. 

On the first occasion, in 2019, they were withdrawn after pro-Israel groups claimed the books favored Palestine.

Pearson made changes to the textbooks after suggestions by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and UK Lawyers for Israel.

The controversy surrounds the textbooks “Conflict in the Middle East c1945-1995,” published in 2016, and “The Middle East: Conflict, Crisis and Change 1917-2012,” published in 2017. 

In 2019, the Zionist Federation called for their retraction and Pearson commissioned Parallel Histories, an organization that helps students understand conflicts from various viewpoints, to examine their quality and accuracy. 

Michael Davies, a former history teacher and founder of Parallel Histories, said its report found “no overall bias.”

But the Board of Deputies of British Jews and UK Lawyers for Israel continued to object to the textbooks, claiming that they were “seriously biased against Israel.” Pearson removed the textbooks while consulting with pro-Israel groups over the changes. 

In one case, UK Lawyers for Israel opposed the description of the Deir Yassin massacre in 1948 as “one of the worst atrocities of the war.”

It was also disappointed by the omission of what it claimed was a “massive improvement” in the living standards of Palestinians in the occupied territories under Israeli rule.

Following consultations, the revised textbooks were reintroduced in 2020, but they have been retracted once again following complaints from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (Bricup).

The committee worked with Prof. John Chalcraft, who teaches Middle East history and politics at the London School of Economics, and Prof. James Dickins from the Arabic faculty at the University of Leeds, to compare the latest editions of the textbooks with the copies they replaced.

Chalcraft and Dickins produced a report listing almost 300 revisions to the textbooks, finding that the vast majority of the edits favor the pro-Israel perspective.

“The revisions have consistently underplayed and explained Jewish and Israeli violence, while amplifying and leaving unexplained Arab and Palestinian violence,” the report said.

“They have extended or left intact accounts of Jewish and Israeli suffering, while downplaying and editing accounts of Arab and Palestinian suffering.”

Chalcraft said this period of history must be studied at British schools, adding: “It’s so clearly linked to the present and it’s vital to educate people through balanced material.”

Chalcraft and Dickins said they went to great lengths to be objective when comparing the two editions, with the former adding: “I’m a credible researcher and educator on the issue of Israel and Palestine, and well qualified to comment on their history.”

Chalcraft said while the original version “reasonably describes Jewish settlers as those who live in new settlements built on the West Bank and Gaza,” the updated text defines them as Jews returned to villages from which they were expelled in 1948. 

“This definition is a nonsense in regards to the overwhelming majority of Jewish settlers who were not expelled in 1948,” he added.

“In the original book there’s a photo of children wading through sewage in Gaza, and in the new version it just says ‘children in Gaza’.”

Pearson said it is reviewing the textbooks once again. “We will gather a wider range of views, and we will take action if there is more work to do to get that balance right,” a spokesperson said.

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Virus rule extension endangers Euro 2020 final at Wembley

TOKYO: Japanese medical experts said on Friday that banning spectators at the Olympics was the least risky option for holding the Games, even as they appeared resigned to the possibility of fans in venues during the COVID-19 pandemic.The government and Tokyo 2020 organizers have for months held off deciding whether domestic spectators will be allowed…

TOKYO: Japanese medical experts said on Friday that banning spectators at the Olympics was the least risky option for holding the Games, even as they appeared resigned to the possibility of fans in venues during the COVID-19 pandemic.The government and Tokyo 2020 organizers have for months held off deciding whether domestic spectators will be allowed — overseas fans are already banned — underscoring their desire to salvage the event amid deep public opposition.Japan has avoided the kind of explosive coronavirus outbreaks that crippled many other countries. But the vaccine roll-out has been slow and the medical system pushed to the brink in parts of the country. The government’s drive to hold the Games has been criticized by hospitals and doctors’ unions.“There is a risk the movement of people and opportunities to interact during the Olympics will spread infections and strain the medical system,” the experts, led by top health adviser Shigeru Omi, said in a report issued on Friday.They said that holding the Games without spectators was the “least risky” option and the desirable one.Yet Omi’s experts have already floated the possibility that venues could hold up to 10,000 fans in areas where “quasi-emergency” measures, such as shorter restaurant hours, have been lifted. That has heightened the perception the Games may well be held with spectators.The final decision is expected at a meeting set for Monday between organizers, including Tokyo 2020 and the International Olympic Committee, and representatives from the national and Tokyo governments.The president of Tokyo 2020, Seiko Hashimoto, said that while she accepted the Olympics would be safer without spectators, organizers were still looking for ways to have fans safely in venues, like other events.“Given that other sports events are being held with spectators, I think it’s also Tokyo 2020’s job to continue to look for ways to understand and lessen the risk of infections at the Olympics until we’ve exhausted all the possibilities,” she told a news conference following the release of Omi’s report.The Games were delayed last year as the pandemic raged. Cancellation would be costly for organizers, the Tokyo government, sponsors and insurers.Some 41 percent of people want the Games canceled, according to a Jiji news poll released on Friday. If the Games go ahead, 64 percent of the public want them without spectators, the poll found.Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government decided on Thursday to end emergency coronavirus curbs in nine prefectures including Tokyo while keeping some “quasi-emergency” restrictions.Tokyo is scheduled to be under such restrictions until July 11. The current state of emergency, the third since April last year, expires on June 20.The lifting of previous emergencies has been followed by increased infections and strains on hospitals.Organizers should be prepared to act swiftly to ban spectators or declare another state of emergency if needed, the experts said. If spectators are allowed, rules should be strict, such as limiting fans to local residents, the experts said.Omi, a former World Health Organization official, has become increasingly outspoken about the risks from the event. He told parliament this month it was “not normal” to hold the Games during a pandemic.Other Japanese health experts and medical organization have been much more vocal, calling for the Games to be canceled outright.One of the signatories of Omi’s recommendations, Kyoto University professor Hiroshi Nishiura, said he believed canceling the Games would be best, but the decision was for the government and organizers.“If the epidemic situation worsened, no spectators and canceling the Games in the middle (of the event) should be debated,” he told Reuters.The country has recorded more than 776,000 cases and over 14,200 deaths, while just 15 percent of its population has had at least one COVID-19 vaccination.

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UN proposal seeks arms embargo and democracy in Myanmar

DHAKA: Bangladeshi authorities have conditionally cleared the country’s first coronavirus vaccine for clinical trials, which the producer expects to complete in the next few months.The vaccine, Bangavax, is a new generation mRNA vaccine that, like the Pfizer and Moderna ones, teaches our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside our…

DHAKA: Bangladeshi authorities have conditionally cleared the country’s first coronavirus vaccine for clinical trials, which the producer expects to complete in the next few months.The vaccine, Bangavax, is a new generation mRNA vaccine that, like the Pfizer and Moderna ones, teaches our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. Developed by Dhaka-based Globe Biotech Ltd. (GBL), the vaccine was approved for production by the country’s drug regulator in late December.On Wednesday, the Bangladesh Medical Research Council (BMRC) approved clinical trials of Bangavax under the condition that “before starting any human trial, the vaccine producing company needs to conduct an animal trial on monkeys or chimpanzees,” BMRC director Prof. Dr Ruhul Amin said.GBL has been waiting for the trial approval since January.“It’s a lengthy process,” Amin said. “However, we are doing our best to facilitate the trials of Bangavax.”Dr. Mohammed Mohiuddin, head of quality at GBL, said that while the company is now waiting for the BMRC’s written recommendations, it is preparing to start the trials.“It will take us eight to nine months to complete the whole process,” he said. “Since we are using pure mRNA technology in Bangavax and no virus is used in this process, we are supposedly not required to make an animal trial.” He said that GBL was in touch with organizations abroad as there is no institution conducting animal trials in Bangladesh.“To run an animal trial, some foreign companies are asking for a G2G — government to government contract. We hope the government should extend help to us in this case,” Dr. Mohiuddin said.As Bangavax is estimated to cost $10-$15, several dollars cheaper than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it may help Bangladesh with its immunization drive, in which only 2.6 percent of the country’s 166 million people has been vaccinated so far, mainly due to a shortage of COVID-19 jabs.

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Dr. Mohammed Mushtuq Husain, an adviser at the state-run Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said if Bangavax trials prove successful they would position Bangladesh ‘ahead in the vaccine race amid this global crisis period.’

GBL says it has the capacity to produce 10 million doses a month, and its lab tests on mice suggest that one dose would suffice.“We are expecting that it will be a single dose vaccine as we found about 100 percent efficacy rate during lab trial on mice,” Dr. Mohiuddin said.Dr. Mohammad Mushtuq Husain, an adviser at the state-run Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said if Bangavax trials prove successful they would position Bangladesh “ahead in the vaccine race amid this global crisis period.”“They (GBL) should be provided with necessary administrative and financial support as and when required. But the highest level of precaution is a must at every stage of the trials,” he said.“If we become successful in this endeavor, Bangladesh may consider exporting vaccine to other developing countries after meeting local demand.”

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Kuwait to allow vaccinated foreigners entry from August

LONDON: Iran-backed militias in Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) employ assassinations, kidnappings and other forms of violence in order to protect the income they derive from widespread and deep-rooted corruption in Iraq, a panel of experts said on Thursday.At an online event hosted by British think tank Chatham House and attended by Arab News, Mohammad…

LONDON: Iran-backed militias in Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) employ assassinations, kidnappings and other forms of violence in order to protect the income they derive from widespread and deep-rooted corruption in Iraq, a panel of experts said on Thursday.At an online event hosted by British think tank Chatham House and attended by Arab News, Mohammad Al-Hakim, senior advisor on economic reform to Iraq’s prime minister, said the country’s corruption crisis extends back to the days of Saddam Hussein’s rule, but is now systemic, politically sanctioned and backed by the threat of violence by Iran-backed groups.“There’s a deep problem with the structure of the Iraqi state. This is very much a legacy that needs to be addressed,” Al-Hakim said. “The Iraqi state system has been deteriorating over 50 years.”Iraq ranks in the bottom 20 countries in the world in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.Government employees from the bottom to the top of Iraqi governance are engaging in systematic corruption, said Al-Hakim.At the highest levels of the Iraqi state, civil servants have developed relationships with politicians that they use to line their own pockets and make money for their political allies.Maya Gebeily, Middle East correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said one of the underpinnings of this system is the PMF, which operates as a “cartel,” using violence to suppress any opposition or attempt to upturn the status quo.“It’s important to think about this corruption as a cartel. There are players in the cartel who agree with each other on how to divvy up the spoils that are coming in either from tariffs, from a specific project, or into the ministry,” she added.“That’s why there are no ‘turf wars’ … because everyone is benefitting from this system. As soon as the bodies start showing up, that means an economic loss.”But that has not deterred the militias from violence, Gebeily said. They just do not use it against each other.“What they’re doing is using violence against anybody who’s trying to root out corruption. Researchers, activists and others who’ve been extremely vocal about corruption have been kidnapped, murdered or otherwise harassed,” she said.Law-abiding officials have been physically threatened, beaten up or had their families attacked when they refused to be complicit in corruption.“Armed groups use violence as an enforcement mechanism to make sure their economic interests are secured,” said Gebeily.“Let’s say you want to import cigarettes. Cigarettes are extremely lucrative to import, so you need an extremely powerful group — and the one I discovered was importing them was Kata’ib Hezbollah — to be involved in that import.”Iraq’s most powerful armed militia, Kata’ib Hezbollah has directly attacked US forces in the country.It is also widely believed to be behind a string of assassinations and kidnappings, including that of Hisham Al-Hashimi, a journalist who described the Iran-backed group as “the strongest and most dangerous group in the so-called Islamic resistance.”Renad Mansour, director of the Iraq Initiative at Chatham House, said: “If we’re talking about power and where it lies in the Iraqi state, you only need look at the attempt by the prime minister to arrest Qasem Muslih, the leader of a brigade in the PMF, and why the prime minister was unable to keep someone who he accused of having a role in assassinations in jail.”Mansour added: “Actually, these aren’t just militias. They have more connectivity to Iraq’s Parliament, to Iraq’s judiciary, than the prime minister does. They’re effectively connected to power in a more central way than the traditional and formal heads of state.”This reveals the true and farcical nature of power in Iraq, Mansour said. “Those sitting on top of the system struggle with access to the state that they’re meant to be head of,” he added.“Those apparently sitting outside the state actually have more connectivity to the essence, the power, the core of the state.”

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