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14 Oct

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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Resolution denies importance of site in Jerusalem’s Old City to Jews by referring to it only under Muslim name, politicians say

Ultra-Orthodox Jews look towards Temple Mount

Ultra-Orthodox Jews look towards Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The site has been a flashpoint between Muslims and rightwing Jews, particularly in recent years. Photograph: Abir Sultan/EPA

The United Nations cultural and heritage body, Unesco, has condemned Israel’s “escalating aggressions” regarding the holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount, prompting a furious reaction from Israeli politicians.

A resolution passed on Thursday denied the importance of the site to the Jewish faith by referring to it and the al-Aqsa mosque only by their Muslim names, the politicians said.

The site has been a flashpoint between Muslims and rightwing Jews over the past two years in particular, although tensions in the vicinity stretch back decades.

The resolution was backed by 24 countries, with six opposing it and 26 abstaining. The US, UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Lithuania and Estonia voted against the resolution; Russia and China were among those backing it.

While affirming the importance of the Old City to all three monotheistic faiths – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – the resolution failed to acknowledge Jewish connections to Temple Mount/al-Haram al-Sharif, Israel said.

The al-Aqsa mosque – the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina – and the iconic Dome of the Rock stand on a plaza on the eastern edge of the Old City, and are under the control of an Islamic trust called the Waqf.

The Western Wall, below the concourse, is regarded as the holiest spot in Judaism as the last remnant of the temple that once stood there. Jews can visit the plaza above the wall, but are forbidden by law from praying, reciting religious texts or entering Muslim holy sites there.

The resolution said Muslims’ freedom of worship was being curtailed by “escalating aggressions and illegal measures”. It deplored the “continuous storming of al-Aqsa mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif by the Israeli rightwing extremists and uniformed forces … [and] forceful entering by so-called ‘Israeli Antiquities’ officials”.

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John Kerry flies to Lausanne to meet Russian foreign minister but diplomats have low expectations

US Secretary of State John Kerry disembarks from his aircraft

The US secretary of state, John Kerry. Photograph: STR/AP

The Obama administration is conducting a final review of its Syria policy as it enters its last hundred days, but the rethink is not expected to lead to any radical changes or significant military interventions that could bring US and Russian forces into head-on confrontation.

The secretary of state, John Kerry, will travel to Lausanne in Switzerland on Saturday to meet the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and their counterparts from the Middle East. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are expected to attend. Iran’s participation is in doubt, possibly as a result of the dire state of its relations with Saudi Arabia.

Kerry will brief the UK, French and German governments in London on Sunday, on his way back from Switzerland.

The ministers go into the Lausanne meeting with low expectations, diplomats said. The best of the likely outcomes would be a humanitarian pause in the bombing of eastern Aleppo for two or three days to allow some basic humanitarian supplies to reach the embattled rebel-held districts, home to 275,000 people.

The US state department said Kerry would also use the meeting in Lausanne for side meetings on the mounting civilian death toll from the conflict in Yemen, and in particular the Saudi investigation into the coalition bombing of a funeral hall in Sana’a on Saturday. Human Rights Watch said the bomb used in the airstrike, which killed more than 140 people, was made in the US.

Officials in Washington are downbeat about the chances that such short truces in Syria, even if agreed, will ever be implemented. One European diplomat said Moscow was in no mood for compromise because it felt a military victory was possible.

“They don’t care whatever we say about humanitarian law. Obviously they believe that they can win, that the Syrians can win on the ground. They believe Aleppo can fall,” the diplomat said.

Lavrov said he wanted a smaller meeting in Lausanne to allow for “businesslike” discussions among countries with direct influence on the course of the conflict, rather than the much larger forum of the International Syria Support Group.

Kerry’s flight to Switzerland comes only 12 days after he called an end to bilateral talks with Russia on the Syrian conflict. The state department said it never excluded the possibility of meeting Lavrov in multilateral settings but nevertheless Kerry arrives in Lausanne with little leverage, having admitted to Syrian opposition leaders and allied diplomats that he lost the argument inside the administration for a tougher position towards Russia and its Syrian government ally.

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Florida’s disenfranchised: voices of the 1.7 million not allowed to vote – video

Nearly 6 million Americans cannot vote due to felony disenfranchisement. In Florida, 1.7 million people are disenfranchised, or 10.4% of the state’s total population. The Guardian takes a closer look at the consequences, and the fight to regain the right to vote, in the midst of a heated election season

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Opinion

It seems women don’t get heard until their stories are corroborated by men, or so many of them speak out that the world has to sit up and take notice

hen I first reported the story of Jill Harth’s sexual assault accusation back in July, I didn’t get a single interview request to talk about it. The radio show I’d already been booked to go on engaged me only briefly, during an hour-long interview, on the matter of a woman accusing the Republican nominee of grabbing her crotch in a child’s bedroom at his Mar-a-Lago estate, before changing the subject.

Even Democratic opposition organizations had made a calculation early in the campaign that it wasn’t strategic to get into personal matters with Trump. Because he had said so many damning things out in the open, it hardly seemed necessary to skewer his personal life.

Harth’s story is a complicated one and her character, like the characters of most living, breathing women, is also complex. But her accusation against Trump was always plausible. She has stood by it for 20 years. Now, finally, Harth’s account and those of women like her are not just gaining traction. They have been placed center stage in the campaign.

Trump addressed crowds on Thursday calling the most recent allegations “slander and libels … part of a concerted, coordinated, and vicious attack”, while Michelle Obama made a powerful speech on what’s at stake this election. If we don’t vote against Trump, she said at a campaign event in Manchester, New Hampshire, “we’re telling our sons that it’s OK to humiliate women”. It’s not just the sexual assault allegations, she explained, though they cannot be marginalized. It’s about Trump’s entire world view. “What’s more, strong men,” Obama said, “men who are truly role models, don’t need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful”.

Women know this. Americans know this. Why then did it take Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault on video for the country to take the claims seriously?

This is an issue that’s come up before this year, and not just on the presidential campaign trail. We didn’t need one woman to come forward against Bill Cosby in order to get society’s attention – we didn’t even need 10 of them to. We needed male comedian Hannibal Buress to make a joke about it. For a lone woman to be heard she seems to require special status. Numerous women have now come out to accuse Roger Ailes, former Fox boss – and current Trump surrogate – of sexual harassment. But they were only empowered to do so after one of the country’s most famous female anchors file

It’s to be expected then, that what it actually took for the country to take Harth and other women’s stories of sexual assault seriously was not their own complaints, or a female reporter airing them: it was Trump himself bragging about sexual assault on video. Similarly, Trump himself talking to Howard Stern about walking into the dressing rooms of pageant contestants was what it took for us to start listening to women’s reports of that kind of behavior.

As Obama put it in her speech today, this isn’t about politics, “it’s about basic human decency”. And we should be appalled to look back and see there are obvious patterns in the stories alleging sexual assault by Trump. We have two accounts of sexual assault perpetrated in the midst of a supposed tour of Mar-a-Lago; two accounts of women alleging he kissed them on the lips without permission as a form of introducing himself; and we have multiple accounts of him barging into the dressing rooms of naked beauty pageant contestants – one of the women reporting these incidents was apparently 15 years old at the time.
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With the Access Hollywood and Howard Stern tapes, we now have audio of Trump saying that he does all of these things. And we should be ashamed that what it took for allegations of abuse to be believed was two men joking about their sexual misdeeds, and for that to be broadcast far and wide. We’ve learned that women’s accounts are not enough.

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