Christians Fear for Their Lives in the Middle East: Micah Halpern, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 27, 2017— Christians fear for their lives in certain parts of the Middle East. Islamic State (ISIS) has called them its primary target – its “favorite prey.”
A New Genocide for Egypt’s Christians?: Raymond Ibrahim, Frontpage, Mar. 2, 2017— Yet another murderous wave is taking Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority by storm, leading to yet another exodus from their homes.
Hungary’s Ugly State-Sponsored Holocaust Revisionism: James Kirchick, Tablet, Mar. 13, 2017 — A stone’s throw from Budapest’s majestic Gothic revival parliament building, Freedom Square teems with monuments attesting to Hungary’s turbulent 20th century.
The Holocaust’s Great Escape: Matthew Shaer, Smithsonian, Mar. 2017— Shortly after dawn one January day in 1944, a German military truck departed the center of Vilnius, in what is today Lithuania, and rattled southwest toward the fog-laced towns that ringed the city.
Christian Groups Launch TV Series Defending Israel: Benjamin Glatt, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 7, 2017
Persecuted Christians Suffer “Worst Year Yet,” Mostly Under Islam: Raymond Ibrahim, Frontpage, Mar. 30, 2017
In Rediscovered Telegram, Himmler Offers Jerusalem’s Mufti Help Against ‘Jewish Intruders’: Sue Surkes, Times of Israel, Mar. 30, 2017
‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’ Review: Maladaptation of the Species: Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 30, 2017
Jerusalem Post, Feb. 27, 2017
Christians fear for their lives in certain parts of the Middle East. Islamic State (ISIS) has called them its primary target – its “favorite prey.” And still, the plight and the tragedy of Middle East Christians go relatively unnoticed by the larger Christian and Western world.
The Christian community in Egypt numbers about nine million. It is the largest Christian community in the Middle East – and ISIS has hit it hard. Most Christians in Egypt are Copts, they have their own pope and their own tradition and they do not genuflect to Rome. They date themselves back to St. Mark in Alexandria during the period of Roman Emperor Claudius at about the year 42 CE, just after the death of Jesus. Copts call themselves “Christians of Egypt.” They are arguably the oldest Christian community in the world.
In December about 30 Egyptian Copts, mostly women and children, were massacred and many more were wounded, in their church, by ISIS. Other than AP and Reuters only a handful of media in the world covered the terrorist attacks by running the wire releases. Even fewer made more than casual mention of the atrocities against and persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
The events befalling the Christian community in Egypt are not simply newsworthy, they are an essential tool with which to elucidate the fragile status of a minority community in the Middle East – Christians among Muslims. These persecutions are important tools in measuring the activities of Arab governments and their responses to the challenge. Jews standing up and calling attention to the plight of Christians living under Muslim regime and being murdered by ISIS while worldwide Christian leadership remains silent smacks of only a slight touch of irony.
We need to prevent the oppression of minorities, and we know the importance of defending those who cannot defend themselves. And while there are those in the Arabic world who say that Jews are exaggerating these atrocities only to make these Muslim regimes look bad, I say poppycock. When extremist groups like ISIS are freely murdering it becomes big news in Israel. The most obvious reason is because Israel may be next, because Israel – as the world should know – is on the front line.
Over the past few weeks ISIS has produced and posted a “hit list” of Christians it intends to murder. So far ISIS has murdered seven people; one was beheaded, another was burned alive. A father and son, members of the Hana family, were dumped on the side of the road after ISIS shot the father dead and burned his son alive. The symbolism should not be lost. In Islam the symbol of dumping a dead body on the side of the road outside a town, in this case the town was al-Arish, is very telling. It means the victims are seen by the murderers an unfit for human burial and instead worthy only of being thrown to the dogs to be mauled and eaten. The victims are seen by the murderers as subhuman. And that is the way ISIS views all Christians, but most of all, the Christians of the Middle East.
Many Christians are fleeing the Sinai where these attacks have taken place. They have seen the writing on the wall and heard the promise of future threats. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi condemned the recent attacks, much in the same way that he condemned the December massacre. But that’s all he’s done – little else has happened and the Christians rightfully fear for their lives. Despite the AP and Reuters coverage of the persecutions the massacres of Christians in the Middle East has barely made a blip on the radar of the Western news media.
Sisi is reacting much the way Western media is reacting. The Copts are not a part of the mainstream; they don’t belong. Their tradition, their practice looks nothing like Western Christianity. There are no significant populations and affiliations outside of Egypt to take up the battle cry and defend them. Libya and Sudan have small Coptic communities, but they’re not going to make waves and risk their relative safety to help out in Egypt. Western Catholic and Protestant groups are not connected to these Christians who are part of the Eastern Church, sometimes referred to as the National Churches. That leaves Israel and Jews around the world.
Defense of Egypt’s Christian community is not purely selfless. We have, as they say, skin in the game. We must call attention to the plight of the Christians under ISIS and other oppressors in order to make certain that moderate regimes in the region remain stable. Egypt must protect the Christians and destroy ISIS because otherwise ISIS will destabilize the entire country and the region. ISIS is recruiting members to help oppress the Christians. Protecting Christians will protect the region. Ultimately, it will protect Israel, too.
Frontpage, Mar. 2, 2017
Yet another murderous wave is taking Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority by storm, leading to yet another exodus from their homes. Last week in al-Arish, Sinai, Islamic State affiliates killed a 65-year-old Christian man by shooting him in the head; they then abducted and tortured his 45-year-old son, before burning him alive and dumping his charred remains near a schoolyard. Perhaps because of its sensationalist nature—burning a human alive—this story was reported by some Western media. Yet the atrocities hardly begin or end there. Below is a list of Christians murdered in al-Arish in recent days and weeks:
January 30: A 35-year-old Christian was in his small shop working with his wife and young son when three masked men walked in, opened fire on him, instantly killing the Copt. The murderers then sat around his table, eating chips and drinking soda, while the body lay in a pool of blood before the terrified wife and child.
February 13: A 57-year-old Christian laborer was shot and killed as he tried to fight off masked men trying to kidnap his young son from off a crowded street in broad daylight. After murdering the father, they seized his young son and took him to an unknown location (where, per precedent, he is likely being tortured, possibly already killed, if a hefty ransom was not already paid). February 16: A 45-year-old Christian schoolteacher was moonlighting at his shoe shop with his wife, when masked men walked in the crowded shop and shot him dead. February 17: A 40-year-old medical doctor was killed by masked men who, after forcing him to stop his car, opened fire on and killed him. He too leaves a widow and two children.
It is likely that more Christians have been slain recently in Sinai; because they are being killed in quick succession, it is not clear if ongoing reports are documenting the same or new incidences. For instance, a recent February 24 report says “On Thursday [February 23], a [Christian] plumber in the city was shot dead in front of his wife and children at their home…. A day earlier [February 22], gunmen killed another [Christian] man before his pregnant wife, then calmly drank a bottle of Pepsi before taking off, witnesses told aid workers in Ismailia.” Is the February 22 Pepsi drinking incident the same as the one reported above as occurring on January 30, or a different one?
This recent uptick in Christian persecution is believed to be in response to a video earlier released by the Islamic State in Sinai. In it, masked militants promise more attacks on the “worshipers of the cross,” a reference to the Copts of Egypt, whom they also referred to as their “favorite prey” and the “infidels who are empowering the West against Muslim nations.”
As a result of the recent slayings and threats of more to come, at least 300 Christians living in al-Arish have fled their homes, with nothing but their clothes on their backs and their children in their hands. Most have congregated in a Coptic church compound in neighboring Ismailia by the Suez Canal. (Note: Donations that go directly to the dislocated Christians of al-Arish can be made here).
In a video of these destitute Copts, one man can be heard saying “They are burning us alive! They seek to exterminate Christians altogether! Where’s the [Egyptian] military?” Another woman yells at the camera, “Tell the whole world, look—we’ve left our homes, and why? Because they kill our children, they kill our women, they kill our innocent people! Why! Our children are terrified to go to schools. Why? Why all this injustice! Why doesn’t the president move and do something for us? We can’t even answer our doors without being terrified!”
For his part, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered military and security forces to “completely eradicate terrorism” in North Sinai. Such a response might be reassuring to al-Arish’s Christians—if it wasn’t also dejavu. Back in 2012, and in response to what Islamists perceived as widespread Christian support for Sisi’s military coup of then president Morsi—Copts in Sinai were heavily plummeted: one priest, Fr. Mina Cherubim, was shot dead in front of his church; a 65-year- old Christian trader was beheaded; several other Christians, including youths, were kidnapped, held for ransom, and later executed when the exorbitant ransoms could not be met. Two churches were attacked, one burned. Just as now, hundreds of Christians fled their homes; and, just as now, Sisi vowed to root out the jihadi nests in Sinai…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Tablet, Mar. 13, 2017
A stone’s throw from Budapest’s majestic Gothic revival parliament building, Freedom Square teems with monuments attesting to Hungary’s turbulent 20th century. Dominating the north side of the plaza is a giant obelisk constructed by the Soviet Union and dedicated to the city’s Red Army liberators. A few paces south one finds a statue of Imre Nagy, the executed hero of Hungary’s 1956 anti-Soviet revolt, standing on a bridge looking forlornly on parliament. At the southern end of the square, outside a Calvinist church, stares a bust of Admiral Miklós Horthy, the authoritarian regent under whose reign Hungary passed the first anti-Semitic law of 20th-century Europe in 1920, allied with the Axis powers, and deported some half-million Jews to Auschwitz in the largest and swiftest mass transfer of the Final Solution. In the middle of it all, a bronzed Ronald Reagan walks briskly toward the nearby U.S. embassy. With its abundant memorials, this one plaza commemorates the grand sweep of Europe’s most influential 20th-century ideologies: communism, nationalism, fascism, and democracy.
On the Sunday morning of July 20, 2014, police cordoned off Freedom Square while construction workers put the finishing touches on an addition to this urban tableau already brimming with historical tributes: the Memorial to the Victims of the German Occupation. From the moment its construction was announced, following an opaque artistic competition lacking public consultation, it had been the subject of heated dispute. Beginning with its very title, which labels the unimpeded movement of German soldiers onto friendly territory an “occupation,” the memorial absolves Hungarians of complicity in the Holocaust. Depicting the Archangel Gabriel (described in the plans as “the man of God, symbol of Hungary”) under attack from a sharp-clawed German imperial eagle, it portrays the Hungarian nation as a collective victim of Nazi predation. This distortion of history obscures both the specifically anti-Jewish nature of the Holocaust and the Hungarian state’s active collaboration in mass murder. Randolph Braham, professor emeritus at the City University of New York and himself a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, writes about the role played by Hungarian authorities in the crime: “With Horthy still at the helm and providing the symbol of national sovereignty, the approximately 200,000 Hungarian policemen, gendarmes, civil servants, and ‘patriotic’ volunteers had collaborated in the anti-Jewish drive with a routine and efficiency that impressed even the relatively few SS who had served as ‘advisers.’ ” So able and willing were the Nazis’ Hungarian accomplices that Adolf Eichmann, the SS official in charge of deporting the country’s Jews to the death camps, managed to oversee the gruesome task with just 200 Germans at his command.
Had the nationalist government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán not spent the previous four years conducting a campaign of historical distortion regarding the country’s Holocaust history, one might be more charitable about its motives for constructing this monument. Through a set of government-sponsored historical institutes, publicly funded documentaries, revisions to school curricula, bestowal of state honors to extreme right-wing figures, and erections of public monuments and museum exhibitions, the Orbán administration has disseminated a narrative that minimizes Hungarian culpability in the extermination of some half-million Jews and rehabilitates Horthy’s reputation from that of opportunistic Nazi ally to selfless defender of national independence.
Opposition to this revisionist crusade reached a critical phase in January 2014, around the same time that plans for the occupation memorial were unveiled. After the director of a government-subsidized historical center phlegmatically referred to the 1941 deportations of Jews living under Hungarian authority as a “police action against aliens,” outraged leaders of the Hungarian Jewish community announced they would cease cooperation with the government on activities marking the 70th-anniversary Holocaust Remembrance Year. Orbán decided to postpone work on the monument until after national elections in April, at which point consultations on its design would resume. But just two days after his party, Fidesz, secured a landslide victory, Orbán reneged on his promise and workers returned to the construction site, which by then had to be patrolled by police to keep protesters at bay. In an open letter to Orbán, 30 members of the U.S. Congress stated that while “Hungary is an important ally and partner of the United States,” it should “build an appropriate memorial that tells the entire Hungarian story of the Nazi Occupation, not one that whitewashes the truth.” Orbán was unmoved. The Hungarian government completed its controversial memorial in the dead of night, slipping the bronze angel and eagle into the square disguised in metal foil.
Budapest’s Memorial to the Victims of the German Occupation is distinguished not only by its revisionist message but also its vulgar design. Holocaust memorials tend to be solemn and subtly allegorical. Around the corner from the iconic Brandenburg Gate, Berlin’s more accurately named Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe—2,711 black concrete stelae arranged in a mazelike pattern on a sloping plaza—immediately unsettles visitors with its figurative representation of the Holocaust’s unfathomable depth. Elsewhere in Budapest, “Shoes on the Danube Bank” displays 60 pairs of iron footwear fastened to the river’s stone embankment, marking the last standing place of Jews who, every day during the 1944-1945 winter, were ordered to take off their shoes before being shot by Arrow Cross militiamen, the Nazis’ Hungarian accomplices…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Smithsonian, Mar. 2017
Shortly after dawn one January day in 1944, a German military truck departed the center of Vilnius, in what is today Lithuania, and rattled southwest toward the fog-laced towns that ringed the city. Near the village of Ponar, the vehicle came to a halt, and a pale 18-year-old named Motke Zeidel, chained at the ankles, was led from the cargo hold.
Zeidel had spent the previous two years in German-occupied Vilnius, in the city’s walled-off Jewish ghetto. He’d watched as the Nazis sent first hundreds and then thousands of Jews by train or truck or on foot to a camp in the forest. A small number of people managed to flee the camp, and they returned with tales of what they’d seen: rows of men and women machine-gunned down at close range. Mothers pleading for the lives of their children. Deep earthen pits piled high with corpses. And a name: Ponar.
Now Zeidel himself had arrived in the forest. Nazi guards led him through a pair of gates and past a sign: “Entrance Strictly Forbidden. Danger to life. Mines.” Ahead, through the gaps in the pines, he saw massive depressions in the ground covered with fresh earth—the burial pits. “This is it,” he said to himself. “This is the end.”
The Nazi killing site at Ponar is today known to scholars as one of the first examples of the “Holocaust by bullets”—the mass shootings that claimed the lives of upwards of two million Jews across Eastern Europe. Unlike the infamous gas chambers at places like Auschwitz, these murders were carried out at close range, with rifles and machine guns. Significantly, the killings at Ponar marked the transition to the Final Solution, the Nazi policy under which Jews would no longer be imprisoned in labor camps or expelled from Europe but exterminated. Zeidel braced for the crack of a rifle. It never came. Opening his eyes, he found himself standing face to face with a Nazi guard, who told him that beginning immediately, he must work with other Jewish prisoners to cut down the pine trees around the camp and transport the lumber to the pits. “What for?” Zeidel later recalled wondering. “We didn’t know what for.”
A week later, he and other members of the crew received a visit from the camp’s Sturmbannführer, or commander, a 30-year-old dandy who wore boots polished shiny as mirrors, white gloves that reached up to his elbows, and smelled strongly of perfume. Zeidel remembered what the commandant told them: “Just about 90,000 people were killed here, lying in mass graves.” But, the Sturmbannführer explained, “there must not be any trace” of what had happened at Ponar, lest Nazi command be linked to the mass murder of civilians. All the bodies would have to be exhumed and burned. The wood collected by Zeidel and his fellow prisoners would form the pyres.
By late January, roughly 80 prisoners, known to historians as the Burning Brigade, were living in the camp, in a subterranean wood-walled bunker they’d built themselves. Four were women, who washed laundry in large metal vats and prepared meals, typically a chunk of ice and dirt and potato melted down to stew. The men were divided into groups. The weaker men maintained the pyres that smoldered through the night, filling the air with the heavy smell of burning flesh. The strongest hauled bodies from the earth with bent and hooked iron poles. One prisoner, a Russian named Yuri Farber, later recalled that they could identify the year of death based on the corpse’s level of undress: People who were murdered in 1941 were dressed in their outer clothing. In 1942 and 1943, however, came the so-called “winter aid campaign” to “voluntarily” give up warm clothing for the German Army. Beginning in 1942, people were herded in and forced to undress to their underwear.
Double-sided ramps were built inside the pits. One crew hauled stretchers filled with corpses up the ramp, and another crew pushed the bodies onto the pyre. In a week, the Burning Brigade might dispose of 3,500 bodies or more. Later, the guards forced prisoners to sift through the ashes with strainers, looking for bone fragments, which would then be pounded down into powder.
All told, historians have documented at least 80,000 people shot at Ponar between 1941 and 1944, and many believe the true number is greater still. Ninety percent of those killed were Jews. That the Nazis charged a brigade of prisoners to disinter and dispose of the bodies, in the most sickening of circumstances, only amplifies the horror. “From the moment when they made us bring up the corpses, and we understood that we wouldn’t get out of there alive, we reflected on what we could do,” Zeidel remembered. And so the prisoners turned to one thought: escape.
Richard Freund, an American archaeologist at the University of Hartford, in Connecticut, specializes in Jewish history, modern and ancient. He has been traversing the globe for almost three decades, working at sites as varied as Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, and at Sobibor, a Nazi extermination camp in eastern Poland. Unusually for a man in his profession, he rarely puts trowel to earth. Instead, Freund, who is rumpled and stout, with eyes that seem locked in a perpetual squint, practices what he calls “noninvasive archaeology,” which uses ground-penetrating radar and other types of computerized electronic technology to discover and describe structures hidden underground…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!
Christian Groups Launch TV Series Defending Israel: Benjamin Glatt, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 7, 2017—A partnership of Christians groups have collaborated to create a series called “Why Israel Matters,” which intends to set the record straight on Israel and the Jewish state. Christians in Defense of Israel (CIDI), Liberty Counsel and the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) produced the 13-part original series that demonstrates the crucial importance of the Jewish state to Christians, to the United States and to the world in general. The first episode, which debuted February 28, can be seen online on TBN.
Persecuted Christians Suffer “Worst Year Yet,” Mostly Under Islam: Raymond Ibrahim, Frontpage, Mar. 30, 2017—The persecution of Christians around the world, but especially in the Muslim world, has reached an all-time high—with 2016 being the “worst year yet,” according to Open Doors, which recently released its annual ranking of the top 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution.
In Rediscovered Telegram, Himmler Offers Jerusalem’s Mufti Help Against ‘Jewish Intruders’: Sue Surkes, Times of Israel, Mar. 30, 2017 —A telegram from Heinrich Himmler to the grand mufti of Jerusalem has been found in the archives of Israel’s National Library.
‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’ Review: Maladaptation of the Species: Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 30, 2017—A single sequence can define the essence of a movie, or hint at what the movie might have been. In “The Zookeeper’s Wife” it’s the Luftwaffe’s bombing of the Warsaw zoo in September 1939, when Hitler’s forces have just invaded Poland.