Arab Parties Back Benny Gantz as Israeli Leader, to End Netanyahu’s Grip

Arab Parties Back Benny Gantz as Israeli Leader, to End Netanyahu’s Grip
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HONG KONG — The Hong Kong police arrested two 13-year-olds on the fringes of antigovernment demonstrations over the weekend, including a girl accused of burning a Chinese national flag, the authorities said on Sunday.
The arrests on Saturday appear to be further signals that the local police are taking an increasingly hard line against the pro-democracy demonstrators who have roiled the city for three and a half months.
Protesters have taken to destroying symbols of Chinese state authority, including flags, in recent months, but the latest arrest comes less than two weeks before Oct. 1, the foremost political holiday in the Chinese calendar and one which Beijing takes pains to ensure is celebrated without incident.
The arrests came amid another weekend of protests across the city, and vandalism at several subway stations and shopping malls. Protesters at a mall in northern Hong Kong stomped on and painted a Chinese flag, and heckled businesses that they perceived to be friendly to Beijing.
The two minors were arrested on Saturday during a long day of street clashes in which protesters threw bricks and firebombs and the police fired multiple rounds of tear gas in Yuen Long, a satellite town near Hong Kong’s border with the Chinese mainland.
The police said protesters had at one point on Saturday used “hard objects” to attack an officer who was conducting an arrest and attempted to steal his revolver. Television footage from Yuen Long also showed protesters assaulting at least two unarmed men.
A group of masked protesters was seen burning a Chinese flag in broad daylight on Saturday during a police-approved march through the Tuen Mun district of northwestern Hong Kong, a few miles from Yuen Long. The police later said that a 13-year-old girl had been arrested that night on suspicion of “desecrating the national flag” in Tuen Mun.
She was held in detention overnight and released on bail by Sunday afternoon.
On Sunday, local television news stations broadcast protesters stomping on a Chinese flag and spraying it with black paint before dumping it in a river during a pro-democracy rally at a shopping mall in the Sha Tin neighborhood in northern Hong Kong.
A local ordinance says that people convicted of desecrating the Chinese flag in Hong Kong by “publicly and willfully burning, mutilating, scrawling on, defiling or trampling on it” face a fine of nearly $6,400 and imprisonment for up to three years.
Under Hong Kong law, children are defined as being under 14 years of age. Those 10 or older can be found guilty of committing crimes, but no one younger than 14 can be sentenced to prison.
The Oct. 1 holiday will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China under the Communist Party. Beijing does not want anything to mar the occasion, but the protesters plan to do just that. They have called for a day of protests to pressure the local government to meet their demands for political reforms, police accountability and universal suffrage.
The protesters are also venting anger with what they see as the steady erosion of the freedoms that Hong Kongers enjoy under a “one country, two systems” arrangement that has governed the former British colony since its return to Chinese control in 1997.
At a National Day reception on Sunday, Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, pledged that her government would do its best to stop the “continuous violence” that has gripped the city over the past few months.
“As long as everyone is united and strives to become stronger, I believe that with the strong support of the central government, Hong Kong will surely welcome a better tomorrow,” Mrs. Lam said at the reception, which was hosted by the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, a pro-Beijing group.
Also on Sunday, the police said that they had also arrested a 13-year-old boy on Saturday in the Tseung Kwan O neighborhood of eastern Hong Kong. The boy was arrested on suspicion of unlawful assembly and of possessing “instruments fit for unlawful purposes.”
In a statement, the police said the boy had been carrying spray-paint and “laser guns,” the authorities’ term for the laser pens that many protesters have used this summer to annoy officers.
Edith Leung, an officer in one of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy political parties, posted a video on Facebook that she said showed the boy being led away by police. The footage shows police leading away a boy — who wears a white T-shirt black shorts and sneakers — as bystanders shout “Corrupt cops!”
Ryan Ho, 20, a university student who attended a protest in Hong Kong on Sunday, said that in his experience, Hong Kong police officers tend to "snatch” a disproportionate number of younger people, especially secondary school students, while making arrests at protests.
“It just so happens that they are more vulnerable and less resistant,” he said.
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Ruth Pineda stood with her back to the mirror, the strap of her tank top tucked under her arm, revealing a new tattoo: a heart. Inside were three dolphins jumping over the sea at sunset.
“The big dolphin is me — the mom — and the two little ones are my sons,” she said.
With her tattoo complete after a three-hour session, Ms. Pineda studied the artwork etched into her skin with equal parts admiration and disbelief. The tattoo is her first, and a statement the 43-year-old schoolteacher has wanted to make for nearly 20 years, but never quite felt she could.
For decades, tattoos weren’t just unfashionable in religiously conservative Honduras. They were taboo, with a malevolent history as an identifying feature of deadly gangs like Mara Salvatrucha, better known as MS-13, and the 18th Street gang, or Barrio 18.
Those gangs are two of the primary sources of the pervasive violence in the country that has sent so many migrants fleeing north.
Various tattooed signs and symbols indicated a gang member’s rank within his organization or what crimes he had committed. Other gang-related tattoos included images of the Virgin of Guadalupe; spider webs; three dots; barbed wire; and yin-yang symbols.
In the early 2000s, amid rising lawlessness across the country, the government of then-president Ricardo Maduro passed legislation that came down hard on criminal activity, banning any “illicit association” to gangs. Tattoos became a major police target, interpreted as proof that someone belonged to the likes of MS-13 or 18th Street.
To evade official scrutiny and incarceration, members stopped getting tattoos. Any they did get were inked in inconspicuous places.
But in recent years, tattoos have become more commonplace, slowly migrating from the underbelly of society to the bellies of ordinary citizens (and their arms, legs and backs), aided by their ubiquitous exposure in global pop culture.
“Things are changing now,” said Ms. Pineda, the schoolteacher. “More and more people are getting tattoos.”
In the capital, Tegucigalpa, it is easy these days to spot people with benign body art, depicting characters from their favorite books, quotes in elaborate cursive or animals crawling slyly across their flesh.
“People started seeing tattoos as a fashion trend to follow,” said Mei Lan Quan, one of the first female tattoo artists in Tegucigalpa.
Public figures, like soccer players and singers, started appearing on TV and in magazines with visible tattoos, and foreign visitors brought the tattoo culture with them. The reality television show, “Miami Ink,” popular here, made a big impression.
“It opened up a lot of minds here,” Ms. Quan said, referring to the show.
By claiming tattoos for themselves, everyday citizens are helping to normalize this form of creative expression. And their appeal is growing, tattoo artists say.
When Ms. Quan, who is known by her artist name, Elephanta Tattoo, opened her first shop in 2011, she had only five or six customers per week. Now, she tattoos six or seven people on a busy Saturday.
Her male clients tend to get illustrations of wolves, tigers and eagles. Women prefer infinity symbols, arrows, flowers, quotes or dates.
Most first-timers used to start off small, said Juan Carlos Pulido, a tattoo artist known as Fonty. But recently he has noticed that people are bolder at the outset, requesting large tattoos in more visible locations — forearms, calves and hands.
“People are getting bigger pieces than they did in the past,” he said.
Mr. Pulido, a 38-year-old from Nicaragua, has been living in Honduras for two-and-a-half years. He has tattoos covering most of his arms. When he first arrived, he said he almost never left them exposed. He lived in a gang-controlled area and was aware he could be linked to criminal activity.
Now, he feels more confident walking around with his arms uncovered.
“People are starting to see the difference of the artistic tattoos and the gang-related tattoos,” Mr. Pulido said.
For some, tattoos are a connection to a family separated by migration.
Jesus Martinez, a 27-year-old cook working in a small pizzeria in the capital, has an illustration of his mother’s headshot from her days as a model tattooed on the inside of his right forearm, stretching from his wrist to his elbow.
“It’s a way of introducing my mom to people,” Mr. Martinez said. She left for the United States when he was 2, and he didn’t see her again until he was 12. Now, they message by text every day. She still lives in the United States, and called for a video chat when he was getting his tattoo.
People do stare at him, Mr. Martinez conceded, because the stigma of tattoos hasn’t entirely gone away. But that doesn’t stop him from wearing a shortsleeve shirt.
His co-worker, Allison Lagos, 21, said she no longer harbored a prejudice against tattooed people as dangerous.
“Before working here, I was a little afraid of people with tattoos,” she said.
Despite these changing views, flaunting tattoos can still be a problem in the eyes of law enforcement and private security in stores.
Mr. Pulido said he has been stopped by the police and questioned about his tattoos. Ms. Quan added that she knew many people who had experienced similar run-ins.
“Society still has a long way to go,” Ms. Quan said.
In 2016, a famous Honduran musician, Ramsés Barrientos, made local headlines when he described the “harassment and discrimination” he had faced while shopping in a supermarket, where he was followed around by security.
“We still live in a country where tattooed people are frowned upon and judged,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
In addition to the remaining social disapproval, some Christians, especially members of older generations, view tattoos as a sin.
“In the eyes of God, it’s not proper to get a tattoo,” said Glenda Suazo, 49, an evangelical Christian who works in the Ministry of Health.
And yet even she isn’t immune to the allure of tattoos.
“Right now I have been having an internal struggle,” Ms. Suazo admitted. She pulled out her phone and pulled up photos of her dog, Puky, a cocker spaniel who died last August at age 15. She started to cry.
“I had Puky since she was 45 days old,” she said. “I’ve thought that I’d like to get a tattoo of her paw print.”
JERUSALEM — After 27 years of sitting out decisions on who should lead Israel, Arab lawmakers said on Sunday that they would recommend that Benny Gantz, the centrist former army chief, be given the first chance to form a government over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a watershed assertion of political power.
Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Arab Joint List, wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed published on Sunday that the alliance’s 13 incoming lawmakers — the third-largest faction in the newly elected Parliament — had decided to recommend Mr. Gantz because it would “create the majority needed to prevent another term for Mr. Netanyahu.”
“It should be the end of his political career,” Mr. Odeh wrote.
The Arab lawmakers’ recommendation, which members of the Joint List were to deliver to President Reuven Rivlin in a face-to-face meeting Sunday evening, reflected Arab citizens’ impatience to integrate more fully into Israeli society and to have their concerns be given greater weight by Israeli lawmakers.
It was also a striking act of comeuppance for Mr. Netanyahu, who for years had rallied his right-wing supporters by inflaming anti-Arab sentiments. Before the Sept. 17 election, he accused Arab politicians of trying to steal the election and at one point accused them of wanting to “destroy us all.”
Israeli Arabs “have chosen to reject Benjamin Netanyahu, his politics of fear and hate, and the inequality and division he advanced for the past decade,” Mr. Odeh wrote in an Op-Ed for The Times.
Still, Mr. Odeh wrote that the Joint List would not enter a government led by Mr. Gantz because he had not agreed to embrace its entire “equality agenda”: fighting violent crime in Arab cities, changing housing and planning laws to treat Arab and Jewish neighborhoods the same, improving Arabs’ access to hospitals, increasing pensions, preventing violence against women, incorporating Arab villages that lack water and electricity, resuming peace talks with the Palestinians and repealing the law passed last year that declared Israel the nation-state only of the Jewish people.
The last time that Arab lawmakers recommended a prime minister was in 1992, when two Arab parties with a total of five seats in Parliament recommended Yitzhak Rabin, though they did not join his government.
“We have decided to demonstrate that Arab Palestinian citizens can no longer be rejected or ignored,” Mr. Odeh wrote.
In the 1992 election, Mr. Rabin initially held a narrow majority in the 120-seat Knesset even without the Arab parties’ support, though he came to rely on it a year later after Shas, an ultra-Orthodox party, quit the government when Mr. Rabin signed the Oslo peace accords.
Mr. Odeh wrote that the decision to support Mr. Gantz was meant as “a clear message that the only future for this country is a shared future, and there is no shared future without the full and equal participation of Palestinian citizens.”
Mr. Gantz narrowly edged the prime minister in the national election on Tuesday. Afterward, both candidates called for unity, but differed on how to achieve it.
The former army chief appears to lack a 61-seat majority even with the Arab Joint List’s support. He emerged from the election with 57 seats, including those of allies on the left and the Joint List, compared with 55 seats for Mr. Netanyahu and his right-wing allies.
Avigdor Liberman, leader of the secular, right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, which won eight seats, is in the position to be a kingmaker, but said on Sunday that he would not recommend any candidate. He said that Mr. Odeh and the Joint List were not merely political opponents, but “the enemies” and belonged in the “Parliament in Ramallah,” not in the Knesset.
Mr. Rivlin began hearing the recommendations of each major party Sunday evening and was to finish on Monday, before entrusting the task of forming a government to whichever candidate he believes has the best chance of being successful.
In remarks at the start of that process, Mr. Rivlin said that the Israeli public wanted a unity government including both Mr. Gantz’s Blue and White party and Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud.