Tag: Coptic Christians

MURDER OF SAUDI JOURNALIST DAMAGES RIYADH’S REPUTATION AND THREATENS M.E. “FAULT LINES”

Khashoggi Disliked Israel, But His Brutal Murder Puts Jerusalem in Tough Spot: Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, Oct. 23, 2018— Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was brutally murdered in Istanbul earlier this month, was not fond of Israel, to say the least.

What the Khashoggi Murder Means for the Middle East: James M. Dorsey, Algemeiner, Oct. 24, 2018— The death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on the premises of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul threatens to upend the fault lines across the Middle East, and severely disrupt the US-Saudi alliance that holds together many of those fault lines.

Egypt’s War on the Muslim Brotherhood: Dima Abumaria, The Media Line, October 18, 2018— Egyptian police released the 25-year-old son of former president Mohammed Morsi Wednesday after he spent less than 24 hours in detention on charges of joining an outlawed organization and publishing “fake news.”

Rumors Stoke Islamist Attacks on Egyptian Copts: Hany Ghoraba, IPT News, Oct. 9, 2018— Islamists and jihadists in Egypt have targeted the Egyptian Coptic minorities for decades with bombings and mob attacks on Coptic churches, businesses and homes.

On Topic Links

Canada Can’t Just Avoid the Regimes it Doesn’t Agree With, like Saudi Arabia: Dennis Horak, National Post, Oct. 24, 2018

The Ugly Terror Truth About Jamal Khashoggi: Daniel Greenfield, Breaking Israel News, Oct. 17, 2018

The Kingdom and the Power: Elliott Abrams, Weekly Standard, Oct. 20, 2018

Egyptian Christians, at Home and Abroad: Lofty Basta, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 26, 2018

 

                                        KHASHOGGI DISLIKED ISRAEL,

          BUT HIS BRUTAL MURDER PUTS JERUSALEM IN TOUGH SPOT                                                                                    Raphael Ahren

Times of Israel, Oct. 23, 2018

Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was brutally murdered in Istanbul earlier this month, was not fond of Israel, to say the least. “The Jews are without history in Palestine. Therefore, they invented the Wailing Wall, which is a Mamluk structure,” he tweeted in 2015. Khashoggi also opposed Saudi Arabia’s covert cooperation with Israel, arguing that Riyadh did not need it and that any ties with the Jewish state would unnecessarily tarnish his country’s reputation in the wider Arab world, according to Professor Joshua Teitelbaum, an expert on Saudi Arabia at Bar-Ilan University who knew Khashoggi well.

“He wasn’t a friend of Israel, but he had no problems meeting with and speaking to Israelis,” recalled Teitelbaum, who last saw the slain writer last year, when they had coffee on the sidelines of a conference on the Middle East in Washington.

In one of his last public appearances, Khashoggi, who had ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, confirmed that Riyadh had grown closer to Jerusalem. But he added that the kingdom had “backtracked on some of the more recent pro-Israeli positions it has taken,” according to Middle East Monitor, which hosted him at a conference in London less than a week before he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where he met his death.

Khashoggi’s cruel murder, and the regime’s amateurish attempts to cover it up, have caused immeasurable damage to the international prestige of Saudi Arabia and its de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The fact that the US and other Western countries are considering punishing Riyadh — Germany has already frozen scheduled deliveries of arms to the kingdom — casts a deep shadow not only over Israel’s clandestine relationship with the kingdom but also over international efforts to keep Iran in check.

For one thing, American and Israeli leaders hoped that MBS — as the crown prince is known — and his ostensible pro-Israel disposition could help force the Palestinians into concessions necessary for peace. Furthermore, the erosion of Riyadh’s international standing may negatively affect its role as one of the main regional powers standing up to Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons and other belligerent behavior. Mutual enmity toward Tehran, it is worth noting, brought Israel and Saudi Arabia closer in the first place.

“Israel is in a very difficult situation,” said Dan Shapiro, a former US ambassador to Israel. “It wants and needs Saudi Arabia to be a reliable anchor of this regional coalition to confront Iranian aggression, and it’s faced with a reality that the current Saudi leadership has been proven unable to fulfill that role.” No other Arab country could replace Saudi Arabia in the region’s anti-Iran coalition, but MBS has proven to be “extremely reckless, impulsive and untrustworthy,” added Shapiro, who today is a fellow at the Institute for National Security in Tel Aviv.

Khashoggi’s gruesome murder and the ongoing lies about it are only the last in series of bad decisions made by the crown prince, Shapiro said, which include bombing Yemen without concern for civilian casualties, imposing a siege on Qatar, detaining Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri, picking a fight with Canada over a Tweet about human rights, and rounding up dissidents. MBS “frequently acts on limited knowledge and poor judgment,” and the various scandals he has dragged his country into weaken the kingdom and undermine its relationship with its allies, Shapiro charged.

The US should not sever its relationship with the kingdom, as it plays a vital role in America’s efforts to rein in Iran, he said. However, “until there is a change of Saudi leadership, or at least a change in the style of Saudi leadership, the country’s ability to play that role is significantly weakened.” It remains to be seen how US President Donald Trump reacts as more and more details about Khashoggi’s killing come to light, though he seems determined not let the affair get in the way of what he said was $450 billion worth of Saudi investments. “But we’re going to get to the bottom of it,” he vowed Monday.

For Israel, the situation is somewhat trickier. On the one hand, it does not want to see Riyadh’s position in the region diminished in favor of Tehran, or Ankara. (Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is believed by some to be seeing the Khashoggi murder as an opportunity to replace Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Sunni Islamic world.) On the other hand, Israel should be careful not be regarded as Riyadh’s mouthpiece in the US and Europe, several analysts interviewed for this article warned.

“It would have significant negative reputational impact on Israel to be seen as the defender and as the explainer and as the advocate on of MBS after this brutal performance, which was followed by several weeks of lying — which actually still continues — about what happened in Istanbul,” Shapiro said. Rather, all that’s left for Jerusalem to do is quiet diplomacy in a bid to try sustain “whatever can be sustained” regarding security cooperation with Saudi Arabia, he added. But there can be no doubt that the Khashoggi affair “has weakened a central pillar of Israel’s strategic concept in the Middle East in a way that Israel can’t do very much to repair it. That’s the damage in having such an unreliable Saudi leadership as we currently unfortunately have.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

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          WHAT THE KHASHOGGI MURDER MEANS FOR THE MIDDLE EAST                                                                     James M. Dorsey                                                                                                                                      Algemeiner, Oct. 24, 2018

The death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on the premises of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul threatens to upend the fault lines across the Middle East, and severely disrupt the US-Saudi alliance that holds together many of those fault lines.

An investigation into Khashoggi’s fate mandated by members of the US Congress and a possible meeting between President Donald Trump and the journalist’s Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, could result in a US and European embargo on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which would also impact the kingdom’s brutal proxy war with Iran in Yemen, portray Saudi Arabia as a rogue state, and call into question US and Saudi allegations that Iran is the Middle East’s main state supporter of terrorism.

Those allegations were a key reason for the US withdrawal — with the backing of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel — from the 2015 international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear program, and for the re-imposition of crippling economic sanctions on Tehran. An investigation into the role of the Saudi leadership in the death of Khashoggi would also undermine the 15-month-old economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar, a country that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain accuse of supporting terrorism.

Furthermore, a condemnation and sanctioning of Saudi Arabia by the international community would complicate China’s and Russia’s efforts to avoid being sucked into the Saudi-Iranian rivalry. Those two countries will be at a crossroads if the Saudi government is proven to be responsible for Khashoggi’s death and the issue of sanctions is subsequently brought before the UN Security Council.

So far, both Russia and China have managed to maintain close ties to Riyadh despite their efforts to defeat US sanctions against Iran, and Russia’s alliance with Iran on behalf of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. A significantly weakened Saudi Arabia would also undermine Arab cover provided by the kingdom for Trump’s efforts to impose a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would favor Israel at the expense of the Palestinians. Finally, a conclusive determination that Saudi Arabia was responsible for Khashoggi’s death would likely spark renewed debate about the wisdom of the international community’s support for Arab autocracy, which has proven unashamedly brutal in its violation of human rights and disregard for international law and conventions.

Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman has suffered significant damage to his reputation, raising the question of his viability if Saudi Arabia is condemned internationally. This raises the follow-up question of the stability of the kingdom, which is a key tenant of US, Chinese, and Russian Middle East policy. The damage suffered by Prince Muhammad embarrasses UAE Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed, who, together with his aides and representatives in world capitals, has worked hard to project his Saudi counterpart as the kingdom’s future.

Saudi Arabia did itself few favors by initially flatly rejecting any responsibility for Khashoggi’s disappearance; asserting that claims that it was involved were fabrications by Turkey, Qatar, and the Muslim Brotherhood; seeking to defame Khashoggi’s fiancée and supporters; and refusing to fully cooperate with Turkish investigators. Saudi reluctance to cooperate, as well as the US investigation and Ms. Cengiz’s possible meeting with Trump, complicate apparent Turkish efforts to find a resolution of the escalating crisis that would allow Saudi Arabia to save face and salvage Turkey’s economic relationship with the kingdom.

Turkey, despite deep policy differences with Saudi Arabia over Qatar, Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood, has so far refrained from releasing the evidence it claims it has proving that Khashoggi was killed by Saudi agents inside the consulate. The release of gruesome details of the killing by anonymous Turkish officials appears designed to pressure Saudi Arabia into complying with Turkey’s demands and efforts at managing the crisis. The death of Jamal Khashoggi is reshaping the political map of the Middle East. He paid a horrendous price for sparking the earthquake that is now rumbling across the region.

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EGYPT’S WAR ON THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD                                                                        Dima Abumaria

                                                The Media Line, October 18, 2018

Egyptian police released the 25-year-old son of former president Mohammed Morsi Wednesday after he spent less than 24 hours in detention on charges of joining an outlawed organization and publishing “fake news.” Abdullah Morsi Mohammed Morsi, a graduate business student, posted a bail of 5,000 Egyptian pounds [about $280] according to a statement by Attorney General Nabil Sadek. “The Attorney General decided to release Abdullah until further investigations take place into the charges against him,” said Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maqsoud, a member of Morsi’s defense team.

Abdullah frequently posts updates on social media about his father’s condition at the Tora maximum security prison, about eight miles south of downtown Cairo, as the family seeks more visitation rights and better health care for the jailed Brotherhood leader. The London-based Arabi21 website published an interview with Abdullah just days before his arrest detailing the conditions of the family’s September visit at the prison.

Morsi is challenging a death sentence and 48 years in jail for five separate cases including espionage for Hamas, Hezbollah and Qatar as well as insulting Egypt’s judiciary. The charge of joining a terrorist group refers to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed in 2013. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, an Egyptian general who then became president, led a coalition to remove the elder Morsi from the presidential palace.

Egypt has been plagued by a violent insurgency since Sisi replaced Morsi. Egyptian officials have viewed the terrorist wave as part of a revenge campaign for the Brotherhood’s ousting. Since 2013, the Egyptian army has also waged a fierce counter-terrorism operation against a Sinai-based Islamic State-affiliated group. It has seen an upsurge in attacks on the Coptic Christian community, as well as security personnel and senior officials in the Nile Valley. Last month, Sisi emphasized the need for a “global war” against terrorism during his address at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“There is no doubt that the Arab region is one of the most vulnerable to the dangers of nation-state disintegration, and the ensuing creation of a fertile environment for terrorism and exacerbation of sectarian conflicts,” Sisi declared at the UN. Cairo has been working to contain Islamists throughout Egypt, making no distinction between their political and armed wings. “Anyone who has anything to do with the Islamic movement can expect to be questioned and other times detained based on their activity within the movement,” an Egyptian political observer close to the Sisi administration told The Media Line.

“Mohammed Morsi supported and promoted the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and beyond—especially in Syria by urging Muslims join a jihad against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Sisi ended that and is cleaning up the mess caused by Islamist political groups in Egypt,” the analyst added.

Ibrahim Haj Ibrahim, who heads the Political Science department at Birzeit University in Ramallah, believes the anti-terror rhetoric in Cairo is a core component of a Saudi-led effort, which includes Egypt and the UAE, to gain support for the ongoing boycott of Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood’s chief state backer in the region. “Saudi Arabia doesn’t want any other regional power, but itself,” Ibrahim told The Media Line. “Riyadh is doing the best it can to put the Muslim Brotherhood in the category of terrorism.”

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RUMORS STOKE ISLAMIST ATTACKS ON EGYPTIAN COPTS

Hany Ghoraba

IPT News, Oct. 9, 2018

Islamists and jihadists in Egypt have targeted the Egyptian Coptic minorities for decades with bombings and mob attacks on Coptic churches, businesses and homes. Many are sanctioned by fatwas from radical clerics, Salafist preachers and Muslim Brotherhood muftis.

The latest attack took place Sept. 1 in Dimshaw, a village in southern Egypt’s Minya governorate. A mob of nearly 1,000 Islamists and Muslim radicals attacked Christians who gathered in a home to pray. Several homes reportedly were looted and set on fire. The mob claimed that the Christians didn’t have a license, and a rumor spread that they are on the verge of building a new church. A Minya court released 21 of the 25 people arrested in the attack. Copts often take a passive approach to such crises. “Copts, by nature and by belief, are by far more accepting of death, fate, and all tragedies that befall them,” said Egyptian writer and political analyst Azza Sedky. “When one of them dies, they believe he or she has gone to a ‘better place.’ Acceptance is key.”

The 1956 Suez crisis generated xenophobia toward foreigners, driving many out of Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood stepped up activities around that time and “began to play [its] tricks and the antagonism [against religious minorities] intensified, especially in rural areas,” she said. Spreading rumors is a long-standing tactic for the Muslim Brotherhood. In 1947, for example, a Cairo police officer tried to stop an unlicensed Brotherhood political march. The protesters then spread a rumor that the officer tore a copy of the Quran, which triggered a riot in which he was killed. Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna blamed the slain police officer for not acting prudently.

A rumor spread by the Muslim Brotherhood in 1952 claimed that Copts in Suez were colluding with British occupation forces to kill Muslims. As a result, a mob stormed the city and burned several Copts alive, later throwing their bodies into a church which was then burned down. The “Suez Massacre” marked the beginning of a long series of assaults and killings of Copts based on rumors spread by Brotherhood and other Islamists. Rumors spread by Islamists claimed that Copts were importing arms from Israel and storing them in churches.

Since the June 2013 Revolution, Egypt’s Christians have been blamed for Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster, with Islamists leaders vowing that Christians will pay the price. They carried through on those threats in August 2013, immediately after the Egyptian army wiped out the Brotherhood’s Rabaa armed encampment. Islamists torched 66 Coptic owned buildings, including 49 churches.

Major attacks against Copts continued. A December 2016 bombing at Cairo’s St. Mark Church during Sunday Mass killed 29 people and injured 48 others. A twin bombing four months later targeted a Palm Sunday service the St. Mark Church in Alexandria and St. George Church in the Nile Delta City of Tanta north of Cairo. At least 45 people were killed and 126 injured. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi immediately ordered that the targeted churches be rebuilt or repaired, sending a message that the government will protect its citizens. Nevertheless, that message has not yet led to stricter enforcement of laws on assailants and radicals who incite violence.

A new church building law aimed at helping Copts may actually create harm, said Mohamed Abu Hamed, the deputy head of the Egyptian Parliament’s “Solidarity Committee,” which is designated to introduce laws and recommendations for social justice. The law should have applied to all places of worship, he said, but covers only church construction.

Attacks on Copts have decreased in recent years after efforts to round up Islamist leaders, and Egyptian police raids on terrorist cells. Copts, however, still represent a top target for Islamists who don’t believe that this minority should have the same rights and freedom to worship. The latest attack on Christians in Minya may indicate a return to a pattern of attacking Copts during prayers services. In July 2015, radicals attacked a house designated to the Copts as a church. Salafi radicals stoned those gathered, but fled when security forces arrived. They came back and threw Molotov cocktails at the gathered Copts.

For decades, local authorities approved “customary reconciliations” to resolve disputes, including those between Muslims and Christians. Community leaders, heads of families, tribe leaders and local authority figures meet to try to resolve conflicts without going to court. But they don’t always produce just outcomes, Abu Hamed said.

“Despite the existence of an old judicial system that dates back to the times of the pharaohs, authorities still utilize the so called ‘customary reconciliations’ instead of applying the laws which is a blatant breach of the constitution and rule of law. What makes it worse is that these meetings are attended by security authorities, political leaders and governors among others,” he said. “Some authority figures believe these meetings create a sort of equilibrium, or it provides them with political and social leverage. The second reason is they believe it is the easier way to contain matters in face of the Salafist groups and radicals.” On a similar note, Coptic Bishop Macarius rejected all forms of unofficial reconciliation.

Conditions for Copts are improving despite these troubles, Sedky said, noting that “Sisi was the first president to attend mass on Christmas Eve in Egypt,” a groundbreaking action countering Salafists who tell Egyptians not to shake hands with Copts. “However, as [with] everything else,” she said, “it will take generations to overcome an ingrained hatred that was left to flourish for years.”

The current atmosphere is still ripe for the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists to spew their poisonous ideologies, lies and rumors, Abu Hamed said. He blames a tepid effort from Al Azhar – Sunni Islam’s most prestigious institution – to reform religious curriculum; a significant Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi presence in key positions within state religious institutions; and Muslim Brotherhood control of mosques which spread hateful ideology despite a state ban…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

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On Topic Links

Canada Can’t Just Avoid the Regimes it Doesn’t Agree With, like Saudi Arabia: Dennis Horak, National Post, Oct. 24, 2018—As the Trudeau government undertakes its announced review of Saudi-Canada relations, it needs to look past the recent horrific news and find an approach that aims to be truly effective by advancing legitimate Canadian interests along with its values.

The Ugly Terror Truth About Jamal Khashoggi: Daniel Greenfield, Breaking Israel News, Oct. 17, 2018—In high school, Jamal Khashoggi had a good friend. His name was Osama bin Laden. “We were hoping to establish an Islamic state anywhere,” Khashoggi reminisced about their time together in the Muslim Brotherhood. “We believed that the first one would lead to another, and that would have a domino effect which could reverse the history of mankind.”

The Kingdom and the Power: Elliott Abrams, Weekly Standard, Oct. 20, 2018—While the details of Jamal Khashoggi’s death have not fully emerged, we know the essentials. He died at the hands of Saudi agents in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and the decision to kidnap or kill him must have been taken at the top of the Saudi political structure. Whether crown prince Mohammed bin Salman asked “will no one rid me of this meddlesome journalist” or specified the methods to be used, he is responsible for Khashoggi’s death.

Egyptian Christians, at Home and Abroad: Lofty Basta, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 26, 2018—Copts (Egyptian Christians) living in Egypt or in adoptive countries have common attributes – they are peace-loving, belong to strong large families with low divorce rates, have a lower mean age than the rest of civilized world, respect their elderly, value education and work, are always willing to help those in need, are courteous and use respectful non-obscene language.

 

HANUKKAH 5778: THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS

Hanukkah 5778: The Festival of Lights: Baruch Cohen, CIJR, Dec. 12, 2017— Hanukkah celebrates the victory of Hebraism over Hellenism, a mass uprising of the Jewish people against totalitarianism and anti-Semitic bigotry.

Egypt and Israel: Love Your Neighbor?: Ksenia Svetlova, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 23, 2017— Israeli and Egyptian flags merged one into another were at the center of the stage, the president of Israel and others spoke about true friendship, true alliance, true hope.

Why Did Islamic State Kill So Many Sufis in Sinai?: Denis MacEoin, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 10, 2017— The massive November 24 terrorist attack by Islamic State on a Sufi mosque in a town of little importance, Bir al-Abd, in northern Sinai, resounded across the world.

Egypt's Population Bomb: Ilan Berman, Al-Hurra Digital, Dec. 5, 2017— It's the most important Middle Eastern news story that no one is talking about.

 

On Topic Links

 

Sites of the Maccabees: Jewish Press, Dec. 12, 2017

A Look at Egypt-Russia Relations as Putin Visits Cairo: Fox News, Dec. 11, 2017

Whirlwind Putin Tour Highlights Moscow’s New Reach in Mideast: Neil Macfarquhar and Anne Barnard, New York Times, Dec. 11, 2017

Muslim Brotherhood Calls for Uprising Against US: Clarion Project, Dec. 11, 2017

                                               

 

HANUKKAH 5778: THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS

Baruch Cohen

CIJR, Dec. 12, 2017

 

Hanukkah celebrates the victory of Hebraism over Hellenism, a mass uprising of the Jewish people against totalitarianism and anti-Semitic bigotry. Hanukkah celebrates the first serious attempt in history to proclaim and assure the principle of religious liberty.

 

The primary aim of the Maccabees was to preserve their own identity and way of life, which was in danger of extermination, and to safeguard for Israel the possibility of continuing its traditional aim. It was a fight against an enemy seeking to destroy Judaism, and a victory against extinction. It was also a victory for humanism, light, and justice.

 

Chag Urim Sameach to all of CIJR’s friends and supporters, and to the entire House of Israel. Happy Hanukkah! Love and peace for the entire world.

 

(Baruch Cohen, who recently turned 98, has been CIJR’s Research Chairman for thirty years)

 

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EGYPT AND ISRAEL: LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR?

Ksenia Svetlova

Jerusalem Post, Nov. 23, 2017

 

Israeli and Egyptian flags merged one into another were at the center of the stage, the president of Israel and others spoke about true friendship, true alliance, true hope. The festive ceremony that marked 40 years since Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s visit to Israel was inspiring indeed. One small thing put a shade on an otherwise perfect event. Not even one guest from Egypt, apart from the honorable Ambassador Hazem Khayrat, was there to celebrate Sadat’s visit to Israel and the peace accord that followed. Not even one public event on that occasion took place in Cairo.

 

Sometimes the same events mean different things to different people. As the Israelis celebrate 40 years of peace – peace with some problems, but still peace – in Egypt many prefer to distance themselves from what the general public still perceives as unthinkable: normalization of relations with Israel. Many Egyptians feel that the part of the Camp David accords that was dedicated to the Palestinian issue was never fulfilled, and that the contacts with Israel should be reduced to the necessary minimum.

 

It’s important to stress that this necessary minimum includes military cooperation between the two frenemies. During the last few years, since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took power in 2013, relations had improved dramatically. The extremely dangerous situation in northern Sinai obliged the leaders of the two countries to work together against the Islamist insurgency on the peninsula.

 

They also agreed to close ranks on specific issues related to security in Gaza, such as the tunnels that were used to smuggle weapons from Egypt to Gaza and terrorists from Gaza to Egypt. Never before had an Israeli prime minister and an Egyptian president worked so closely with each other, never before could their military discuss issues so freely and work together against security threats. The representatives of the National Security Council who participated in one of the discussions on the issue at the Knesset actually said that they prefer the military aspect of relations to any other issue, noting the importance of security coordination between the two countries.

 

Does this mean that since military cooperation is going well, Israel can be satisfied with that and just let go of even a semblance of bilateral relations – diplomacy, commerce, culture etc.? It’s easy to wave off the discussion on normalization of relations with Egypt by stating that the peace with Egypt was always cold, while animosity toward the Jewish state was always the bon ton among the intellectuals and media. However, as it often happens in the Middle East, things can always get worse if unattended and in most cases, they will.

 

It seems that 40 years since the historical visit, the ice keeps piling on the already frosty relations between the two countries, which keep growing apart in all but one sense, the military. In any other aspect of relations, we witness a dangerous withdrawal from even modest successes of the past. Today there is no connection between the civil societies – the anti-normalization vibe in Egypt is still very powerful. No academic cooperation is taking place, no visits of prominent intellectual figures such as Saad ad-Din Ibrahim or Ali Salem occur. The Israeli ambassador to Egypt was absent for nine months and returned to the country only after enormous efforts and long negotiations.

 

Trade between the two countries is non-existent, and even the QIZ (special free trade zones established in collaboration with Israel) are on decline. The Israeli businessmen who used to travel to Egypt regularly fear instability, and the Egyptian companies shy away from direct cooperation with Israel, afraid of backlash from boycott supporters in their own country. The cooperation in natural gas production has become less promising as well, for the Egyptians have discovered their own enormous gas field. This discovery might jeopardize the already signed deals, but there is something more to it – the very negative attitude to this cooperation on the Egyptian street.

 

Tourism from Israel to Egypt has almost stopped due to security reasons and only the golden shores of southern Sinai experience a modest renaissance during the Jewish holidays. And there is of course the media. After some timeout in anti-Israeli attacks, it seems that more and more outlets are going back to what they know so well – conspiracy theories where Israel plays the major roles, blaming Israel for cooperation with ISIS and what not.

 

All of that means that the circle of Egyptians who are exposed to Israel and Israelis is shrinking alarmingly – no trade, no academic exchange, no tourism, no civil society cooperation. The only Egyptians who get to work with Israelis come from very specific circles in the army, while everybody else is oblivious to Israel-Egypt relations.

 

Certainly, a renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians that would end in signing a peace treaty between the sides could jump-start the relations not only between Jerusalem and Cairo, but also among Jerusalem and Amman, Riyadh, Abu-Dabi and other Arab capitals. This would change the existing equation between Israel and the Arab world and provide a positive background for normalization.

 

The question is what will happen if there will be no progress between Israel and the Palestinians in the near future. What if the current situation of no-peace/no-war continues for a few more years? How would it affect the state of relations between Israel and its partners in the Arab world, Egypt and Jordan? There is no doubt that a serious move toward true normalization can only be made when something happens in the Palestinian arena, but until this occurs Israel must do much more. For this it will need a functioning and independent Ministry of Foreign Affairs, some perseverance and possibly some aid from the country that at the time negotiated the peace between Israel and Egypt, the United States.

 

The key actors in foreign policy in DC should be aware that today the Israeli-Egyptian peace is being emptied of its real meaning, that the situation is deteriorating despite the close military cooperation, and that some of it has to do with statesmen’s indifference to other components of the peace – trade, culture, civil society, diplomacy. Israel and Egypt are too important to each other to just give up. Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat didn’t.

 

 

 

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WHY DID ISLAMIC STATE KILL SO MANY SUFIS IN SINAI?

Denis MacEoin

Gatestone Institute, Dec. 10, 2017

 

The massive November 24 terrorist attack by Islamic State on a Sufi mosque in a town of little importance, Bir al-Abd, in northern Sinai, resounded across the world. Despite the presence of members of the security services, the al-Rawda mosque also serves as the local headquarters of a prominent Sufi Brotherhood founded by the local al-Jarir clan, a branch of the powerful Al-Sawarkah tribe. The number of dead, somewhat over 300, were shockingly high, yet not higher than the tolls in two earlier Islamic State massacres. In 2014, IS fighters killed 700 men of the Shu'aytat tribe in Dayr al-Zur. "Over a three-day period, vengeful fighters shelled, beheaded, crucified and shot hundreds of members of the Shaitat tribe after they dared to rise up against the extremists." In 2016, a series of bombings in Karrada, a Shi'i district of Baghdad, took some 347 lives.

 

Islamic State — though defeated in Syria and Iraq — remains a major threat in many parts of the world. Its fighters returning to Europe have carried out attacks in Brussels and Paris, and yet others have been welcomed back by naïve government agencies who hope to make them into innocent citizens again by rewarding them with benefits and housing.

 

In a stunning list of attacks, CNN has identified Islamic State as a global threat: Since declaring itself a caliphate in June 2014, the self-proclaimed "State" has conducted or inspired over 140 terrorist attacks in 29 countries in addition to Iraq and Syria, where its carnage has taken a much deadlier toll. Those attacks have killed and wounded thousands of people.

 

The massacre at Bir al-Abed is not the first time Islamic State has attacked a Sufi shrine or mosque, nor is it the first time Sufi Muslims have been attacked by Salafi hardliners. Everything and everyone deemed by IS leaders to be "unIslamic" or "insufficiently Islamic" are eligible to be killed or demolished. Ancient sites in Syria; Shi'i Muslims, their mosques and shrines in Iraq; and Yazidis in northern Syria and Iraq have all been the objects of major attacks, in many ways echoing similar massacres by the Wahhabis of Arabia in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

 

It is easy to trace the recent attack to deep-seated Islamic intolerance, both scriptural and traditional. But the massacre in Sinai raises particular concerns missed by much of the media outside Egypt itself. Fundamentalist Muslims certainly do regard Sufis, Shi'is, Ahmadis, and believers in post-Islamic movements such as the Baha'is, or even followers of reformist trends of Islam as apostates worthy of death as much as they regard Hindus, Buddhists, Yazidis, Sikhs and others as targets for Muslim outrage.

 

Sufism, however, is more difficult to define, especially in Egypt. The Sufi form of Islam is not and has never been a sect that has broken away from the mainstream faith. Sufis believe in exactly the same things other Muslims believe. Its intellectuals and poets down the centuries have developed mystical and metaphysical ideas that have elevated Islam above its basic origins, producing some of the most outstanding thinkers in the religion. But many of these mystics have served as authorities on Islamic law, as judges, and as government officials.

 

From the 12th century, Sufis established growing numbers of religious brotherhoods that took Islamic practice in new directions. Sufis perform the daily prayers in mosques the same as all other Muslims. Sufis fast and go on pilgrimages just as anyone else. In the past, they would fight in jihad wars alongside (and even in advance of) others, often building their sacred centres on the borders. Most Sufis are Sunnis: there are very few Shi'i brotherhoods.

 

In due course, Sufism spread to every corner of the Muslim world, with particular concentrations across North Africa and the Indian sub-continent. The originally Moroccan Shadhili order remains influential as far as South Asia, the Indian Ocean, and Indonesia. One of its several branches is based in Yemen, with followers in Pakistan, India, and Myanmar. Another branch has followers in Egypt, Indonesia, Turkey, and the United States.

 

In 19th-century Egypt, virtually every Muslim belonged to one Sufi order or another. Clearly, it is not a negligible sect. In modern Egypt, 20% or more of the Muslim population belongs to a brotherhood, but Egyptians in general visit Sufi shrines on festivals, pray at the tombs of Sufi saints, and engage with Sufis without any great sense of difference, sharing mosques, schools, clubs, and more simply as fellow believers in Islam. According to Jonathan Brown, writing for the Carnegie Foundation: "Sufism should be seen as the default setting of Muslim religious life in Egypt"…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

                                                           

 

                                                                       

Contents

EGYPT'S POPULATION BOMB

Ilan Berman

Al-Hurra Digital, Dec. 5, 2017

 

It's the most important Middle Eastern news story that no one is talking about. Earlier this Fall, Egypt's state statistics agency, the Central Agency for Popular Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), formally released the findings of its 2016 national census. The results shed important new light on the challenges now confronting the government of president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi in Cairo.

 

The central conclusion of the CAPMAS survey is that Egypt's population is ballooning. Over the past three decades, the country's population has essentially doubled, rising from 48 million in 1986 to nearly 95 million at the end of last year. Moreover, the pace of this growth appears to be quickening. In the decade between 1986 and 1996, the census notes, Egypt's population grew by just over 11 million souls. In the subsequent decade (1996-2006), it grew by an analogous amount: nearly 13.5 million. But in the ten years since, it has accelerated, growing by some 22 million, and this surge shows no signs of slowing.

 

This growing cohort, moreover, is among the youngest in the Middle East. More than 1/3rd of all Egyptians (some 36 million souls) are below the age of 15, and one in five is between 15 and 24 years old. Those statistics make Egypt a charter member of the so-called "youth bulge" that dominates society and politics throughout the greater Middle East.

 

The implications, both for Egypt and for the region, are profound. The most immediate is economic. Back in 2013, a principal justification for the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government of Mohammed Morsi was its chronic failure to stabilize the country's ailing economy. The unspoken promise was that a new regime, headed by an "old guard" of seasoned warrior-statesmen with General Sisi at the helm, could and would do much better.

 

But nearly four years on, the Sisi government is struggling to keep the country's economic ship of state afloat. Efforts to pare down extensive existing subsidies on everything from foodstuffs to fuel (a core condition of the massive $12 billion bailout provided by the International Monetary Fund last Fall) have lagged over worries of sustained social unrest. The national rate of inflation, however, has nonetheless soared, peaking at more than 35 percent this summer – its highest point in decades. Most significantly, from a demographic perspective, the country's job market remains deeply inadequate. At just under 12 percent, the national unemployment rate in Egypt today is only marginally better than the 12.7 percent joblessness that prevailed while Morsi was in office. This statistic, in turn, is weighted heavily toward the country's most vulnerable national constituency. A 2016 study by the Brookings Institution found overall youth unemployment in Egypt to rank at a staggering 30 percent – with the country's most educated youngsters being the most disadvantaged.

 

This failure is not simply an economic problem. It also represents a distinct security threat, because the growing cohort of idle young Egyptians is optimal fodder for extremist groups. That's a dynamic that the Sisi government can ill-afford. Since assuming power in 2013, the new regime in Cairo has faced what is essentially a three-front counterterrorism fight. The first involves Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, the powerful Islamic State regional franchise that has ensconced itself in the Sinai (and which continues to pose a real danger to Egyptian security, as recent events have tragically demonstrated). The second is situated to Egypt's west, where the Islamic State has established a major (and expanding) foothold amid Libya's ongoing political disorder. The third and final front is domestic, posed by parts of the Muslim Brotherhood that have adopted a more radical, confrontational stance toward the Egyptian state since their ouster from political power in 2013.

 

Each of these problems could become significantly worse in the near future, if augmented by the growing cadre of young Egyptians without a tangible economic stake in the country's future. For its part, the Egyptian government is well aware of the destabilizing potential of the country's population boom. President Sisi himself has described the country's surging population as a potential threat to the state on a par with terrorism. And in recent weeks, authorities in Cairo have issued new recommendations and launched legislative initiatives relating to population control in an effort to mitigate the problem in the years ahead.

 

What isn't in evidence yet, however, is a national strategy designed to cope with the current challenge – one that meaningfully engages and occupies the country's growing, youthful citizenry. And without one, Egypt's population boom could become a population bomb in the not-so-distant future, with dire consequences for the state and for the larger region.

 

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Sites of the Maccabees: Jewish Press, Dec. 12, 2017

A Look at Egypt-Russia Relations as Putin Visits Cairo: Fox News, Dec. 11, 2017—Relations between Russia and Egypt have rapidly grown over the past three years, with Presidents Vladimir Putin and Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi forging a multi-faceted relationship that features economic, military and political cooperation.

Whirlwind Putin Tour Highlights Moscow’s New Reach in Mideast: Neil Macfarquhar and Anne Barnard, New York Times, Dec. 11, 2017 —President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia undertook a whirlwind tour to his new allies in the Middle East on Monday, underscoring the extension of Russia’s influence in the region and the continuing shrinkage of the United States’ role.

Muslim Brotherhood Calls for Uprising Against US: Clarion Project, Dec. 11, 2017—The Muslim Brotherhood is launching today a solidarity call with all Palestinian factions and Islamic movements to ignite an uprising throughout the Islamic world against the Zionist occupation and the American administration in support of the occupation and against the rights and freedoms of the peoples.

 

 

AMID 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF SADAT VISIT, EGYPT-ISRAEL RELATIONS IMPROVING, DESPITE ONGOING ANTISEMITISM

Sadat's Visit, the Peace Process and the Future of Israeli-Arab Relations: Charles Bybelezer, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 20, 2017 — Exactly forty years ago, on November 20, 1977, then-Egyptian president Anwar Sadat addressed the Israeli parliament in what is considered a watershed moment in the Jewish state's history.

Israeli Attitudes Towards Egypt 40 Years After Sadat’s Visit: Prof. Efraim Karsh, BESA, Nov. 19, 2017— Forty years ago this month, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat landed at Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport for a two-day visit to Jerusalem, at the official invitation of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.

Series of Attacks in Egypt Targeting Coptic Christians Forces Churches to Close: Perry Chiaramonte, Fox News, Nov. 2, 2017 — Egypt has been one of the worst places for Christian persecution in recent months.

‘Journalist’ Ayat Oraby: Mainstream or Extreme?: Samantha Rose Mandeles, American Spectator, Nov. 14, 2017— On October 20, 54 Egyptian policemen were killed in a firefight with “militants” in the desert, 80 miles from Cairo.

 

On Topic Links

 

Video: Raymond Ibrahim on Egyptian President Sisi and Coptic Christians: Raymond Ibrahim, Youtube, Oct. 20, 2017

Sadat and Begin – the Peacemakers: Dr. Martin Kramer, BESA, Nov. 19, 2017

40 Years Since Egypt’s Pres. Anwar Sadat Came to Jerusalem, Israel: Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, Nov. 19, 2017

Sadat and Me in Jerusalem 40 Years Ago: Lenny Ben-David, JCPA, Nov. 20, 2017

                                                           

 

 

SADAT'S VISIT, THE PEACE PROCESS AND

THE FUTURE OF ISRAELI-ARAB RELATIONS

                          Charles Bybelezer

Jerusalem Post, Nov. 20, 2017

 

Exactly forty years ago, on November 20, 1977, then-Egyptian president Anwar Sadat addressed the Israeli parliament in what is considered a watershed moment in the Jewish state's history. His call for peace with Israel turned on its head the conflict with the Arab world which to that point had played out in four major wars—in 1948, 1956, 1967 and just a few years earlier, in 1973. In all of these conflagrations, Egypt played a leading role as the region's most populous and important country and thus the torch-bearer of Arab nationalism, the predominant political system in the Middle East at the time.

 

In his speech to Israeli lawmakers, Sadat "declare[d] to the whole world that we [Egyptians] accept to live with you in permanent peace based on justice." Months later, on March 16, 1979, Sadat and then-Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin shook hands on the White House lawn after signing a formal treaty brokered by former US president Jimmy Carter.

 

The enormity of the event cannot be overstated both because since that time, Israel's southern border has remained relatively quiet, effectively removing an existential threat, thereby allowing Jerusalem to reallocate resources away from defense and towards building a prosperous country. It also paved the way for the signing of the 1994 peace agreement with Jordan, which secured Israel's eastern flank.

 

According to Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, "Sadat's visit was probably the most important moment up to that point in Israel's short existence. Out of the blue," he told The Media Line, "the president of Egypt decided to come to Jerusalem and very quickly did so—it was like a dream, we could not believe it was happening. The leader of the biggest Arab country with whom we fought only wars comes and says he wants peace."

 

Itzhak Levanon, another former top Israeli envoy to Cairo, described the feeling in Israel at the time as if "the Messiah was coming." He highlighted to The Media Line the risk that Sadat was taking, "as he faced a lot of antagonism within Egypt [and ultimately was assassinated by Islamic extremists in 1981]. There were two ministers who resigned and the Muslim Brotherhood was against the move. Most of the public sphere was also very critical of him. "So from the beginning there was a dichotomy between the two peoples," Levanon elaborated, a reality which in his estimation accounts for the "cold" peace that currently persists.

 

Despite the absence of meaningful co-existence, today there appears to be a renewed thawing in ties between the Jewish state and the Arab world, driven by a confluence of interests, primarily the shared desire to curb Shiite Iran's expansionism. Hence, the context and timing of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman's comments over the weekend, in which he urged the heads of Sunni Muslim states to publicly visit Israel. "I call on the leaders of the region to follow in [former] president Sadat's steps by coming to Jerusalem and opening a new page.… Sadat was courageous [and] stood against the tide [thereby] pav[ing] the way for [others to] recognize the importance of the strategic relationship with the state of Israel," Liberman wrote.

 

His statements came after IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot last week gave a much-publicized interview to the Saudi Elaph newspaper, in which he asserted that "[Israel is] ready to exchange experiences with Saudi Arabia and other moderate Arab countries [as well as] intelligence information to confront Iran." For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long trumpeted that Jerusalem is on the precipice of a "new era" in its relations with Arab states.

 

This apparent rapprochement is occurring on the backdrop of efforts by US President Donald Trump to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, with multiple reports claiming that White House point men Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt have started devising the parameters of a comprehensive deal that will incorporate regional countries into the mix. And herein, according to many analysts, lies the key to Israel's ability to unlock the full potential of prospective ties with the Arab world; namely, that so-called "normalization" can only occur when the Palestinian issue is resolved.

 

Sadat himself emphasized during his visit to Israel that peace with Egypt could not be separated from the fate of the Palestinians. "In the absence of a just solution to the Palestinian problem, never will there be that durable…peace upon which the entire world insists," he affirmed. To this end, the subsequent agreement with Israel gave birth to the "Palestinian autonomy talks" that aimed to resolve the status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which had come under Israeli control in the 1967 war. The Framework for Peace in the Middle East, a section of the 1978 Camp David Accords, called for elections in the territories and the formation of a Palestinian "self-governing authority" within one year…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

                                                                       

 

Contents

 ISRAELI ATTITUDES TOWARDS EGYPT 40 YEARS AFTER SADAT’S VISIT

Prof. Efraim Karsh

BESA, Nov. 19, 2017

 

Forty years ago this month, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat landed at Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport for a two-day visit to Jerusalem, at the official invitation of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The entire world held its breath. Here was the leader of the largest and most populous Arab state, which had spearheaded repeated pan-Arab attempts to destroy Israel, visiting the contested capital of the Arab world’s foremost nemesis in an apparent acquiescence in the legitimacy of the Jewish State’s existence and its right to peaceful coexistence with its Arab neighbors. So profound was the general disbelief that the Israeli chief-of-staff, Lt. Gen. Mordechai Gur, warned the government that the visit was an Egyptian deceptive ploy, on the heels of the Egyptian-Syrian surprise attack of October 1973.

 

The visit proved to be the most important single political event in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, culminating in the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of March 1979 and the attendant shattering of the Arab world’s uniform rejection of Jewish statehood. And while Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak, held a far more restrictive view of the agreement, the Israeli-Egyptian peace has successfully weathered many regional crises (from the 1982 Lebanon war, to the “al-Aqsa Intifada,” to the 2014 Gaza conflict), paving the road to the October 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty and the yet-to-be-completed Israeli-Palestinian peace process launched with the September 1993 Oslo Accord.

 

But how do Israelis view this momentous event from a forty-year vantage point? Do they appreciate its full historic significance and the impact it has had on their lives? Do they consider the price of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty worth paying? A recent survey held by Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) shows a rather mixed picture. While 81% of respondents viewed the agreement as conducive to Israel’s national security, 51% deemed the concessions made for its attainment (notably the evacuation of the oil-rich Sinai Peninsula and the demolition of the Yamit town) to have been excessive, compared to 46% of respondents who considered them commensurate with the agreement’s mammoth gains.

 

This apparent contradiction seems to be a corollary of Israelis’ keen awareness of Mubarak’s lukewarm perception of peace. While one can only speculate about Sadat’s own ultimate intentions – he was assassinated in October 1981 by an Islamist zealot – for Mubarak, peace was of no value in and of itself but was rather the price Cairo had to pay for such substantial benefits as US economic and military aid. As a result, Mubarak reduced interaction with Israel to the lowest possible level, while simultaneously transforming the Egyptian army into a formidable modern force and fostering a culture of virulent anti-Semitism in Egypt, a culture whose premises he himself evidently shared.

 

Though President Abdel Fattah Sisi has taken a different route, bringing Israeli-Egyptian relations to unprecedented heights, most Israelis seem to acknowledge the instrumental nature of the Egyptian perception of peace. Consequently, only 14% of the BESA survey regarded Egypt’s attitude to Israel as friendly (of whom 37% thought Israel “overpaid” for the agreement), while 68% viewed it as lukewarm and another 18% as hostile (of whom 44% and 68% respectively deemed the concessions made for the agreement as excessive).

 

Not surprisingly, perhaps, support for the agreement was found to be strongest among center-left voters, though it was actually the rightwing Likud Party that made this historic breakthrough. Ninety-two percent of Hamahane Hatzioni and Yesh Atid voters, as well as 88% of Meretz voters, believed the agreement to have enhanced Israel’s national security as opposed to 82% of Likud voters, 82% of Habayit Hayehudi’s voters, and 67% of Israel Beitenu voters. Support for the agreement within the ultraorthodox community was even lower, with 64% of Shas voters and 68% of Yahadut Hatorah voters viewing the agreement as conducive to Israel’s national security.

 

Likewise, the survey exposed the ambiguous attitude of Israel’s Arab citizens to the agreement, or indeed to possible Israeli reconciliation with the neighboring Arab states. While only 68% of Israeli Arabs viewed the agreement as conducive to Israel’s national security, compared to 83% of their Jewish compatriots, 17% of them deemed the price paid for its attainment to have been too low (compared to 1% of Israeli Jews). In other words, Israeli Arabs are more inclined than their Jewish counterparts (with the salient exception of Meretz voters) to have their state pay a higher price for a less favorable international agreement affecting its national security. This inclination is markedly higher among voters for the Joint Arab Party (compared to those voting for Jewish parties), with 22% of them considering the price too low.

 

The gap between Israeli Arabs and Jews notwithstanding, both communities are equally skeptical about the prospects for a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement, with over 80% of respondents agreeing that there are currently no leaders of Sadat’s and Begin’s stature on either side of the divide who are capable of effecting a similarly momentous breakthrough. Hardly a heart-warming prognosis after nearly four decades of Egyptian-Israeli peace.

                                                                       

 

Contents

SERIES OF ATTACKS IN EGYPT TARGETING

COPTIC CHRISTIANS FORCES CHURCHES TO CLOSE

Perry Chiaramonte

Fox News, Nov. 2, 2017

 

Egypt has been one of the worst places for Christian persecution in recent months. A series of attacks targeting Christians and forced closure of churches have caused Egypt’s Christian population to call on authorities for help. The Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese said authorities sealed off two churches in the southern province, citing harassment and attacks by extremists. A third was closed because of fear of attacks. The statement was issued late Saturday.

 

It said clashes broke out Friday when ultraconservative Muslims tried to attack one of the churches, adding that a Coptic woman was wounded. Later that day, the mob attacked Christian homes, the statement said. “We have kept quiet for two weeks … but the situation has worsened. It seems as if prayer is a crime the Copts should be punished for,” the statement said, referring to the repeated closure of the churches. The diocese urged authorities to end discrimination against Christians and “not to succumb to the fundamentalists.”

 

Minya Governor Essam Badawi denied the churches were closed for security reasons, saying they were “unlicensed houses” that lacked the documentation needed to “perform religious rites.” However, he confirmed there were two attacks on the houses of worship and that 15 people were arrested. He said police are searching for 11 other suspects. He said 21 churches in Minya are still open for services.

 

According to the International Christian Concern, a separate clash broke out on October 27, when a Muslim mob formed in the village of Exbat, following noontime prayer services and attacked St. George’s Church and other buildings owned by Christians. Security officials responded, thereby, closing the church.

 

“Following the Friday prayer, many Muslims gathered into a mob and began to attack us,” Sobhi, a Christian resident in Ezbat Zakaria, said in a statement to ICC, which was provided to Fox News. “They threw stones at our homes resulting in breaking the doors and windows of some houses, injuring a Coptic woman … they set three stables owned by Copts on fire. They then headed to the church (the building services) and tried to attack it, but the security guards who were assigned confronted them and prevented them from approaching the church.”

 

Egypt’s Coptic Christians, who make up around 10 percent of the population, long have been a target of Islamic extremists. Attacks on churches by Muslim mobs increased since the 2013 military coup that ousted an Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi. Christians overwhelmingly supported the army chief-turned-president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, and extremists have used such support as a pretext to increase attacks against them.

 

The recent closures of the churches underscore the recent problems the Coptic Christian community has faced. Historically, most attacks on the Coptic community occurred in northern parts of the country, including the Sinai Peninsula. “Once again, Christians in Egypt are suffering for no other reason than their faith. As this event illustrates, Egypt’s Christians are not safe whether they are at home or at church,” Claire Evans, regional manager for ICC said in a statement provided to Fox News. “Closing the church does nothing to protect Christians. In fact, the mob wanted to close the church and deny the Christians the ability to exercise their right to religious practice.”

 

Christians in northern Sinai have been fleeing in droves in recent years because of the militant threats, and the community —  that before 2011 numbered up to 5,000 —  now has dwindled to less than 1,000, according to The Associated Press. There are no official statistics on the number of Christians in cities or across the country. The displacement underscores what many human rights activists have said about the failure of the Egyptian government in providing the minimum level of security to the Christians in this volatile region of northern Sinai, where the military has been battling for years against militants.

 

Also, local authorities often have refused to permit the construction of churches, fearing blowback from ultraconservative Muslims. That has led Christians to set up unauthorized houses of worship, which are sometimes attacked by Muslim mobs. Last August, parliament passed a law that for the first time spelled out rules on building churches, a step many Christians had hoped would speed construction. But critics fear that only the restrictions will be implemented.

 

 

Contents

‘JOURNALIST’ AYAT ORABY: MAINSTREAM OR EXTREME?

Samantha Rose Mandeles

American Spectator, Nov. 14, 2017

 

On October 20, 54 Egyptian policemen were killed in a firefight with “militants” in the desert, 80 miles from Cairo. Local media reported the police were attacked by the Hasm Movement, a terrorist organization that the Egyptian government claims is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

Governments around the world offered statements of sympathy to the Egyptian government over one of deadliest attacks against Egyptian security forces in many years. The U.S. State Department announced that it “condemns the terrorist attack,” “[offers] profound condolences,” and “stands with Egypt at this difficult time, as we continue to work together to fight the scourge of terrorism.”

 

But among some Islamist activists in America, there was jubilation. In a Facebook post, written on October 20, New York-based journalist Ayat Oraby applauded the killings, accusing the deceased soldiers and police of insolence and cowardice. In another post about one of the murdered soldiers, Oraby expressed “Joy at the death of that criminal!” Oraby accused the deceased soldiers of having previously been paid by Egyptian General (and now President) Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to murder unarmed Muslims during the infamous Rabaa massacre in 2013, during which supporters of the deposed Muslim Brotherhood President, Mohamed Morsi, clashed with Egyptian police and military.

 

Oraby is a prominent figure. She serves as the editor-in-chief of Noon Al-Niswa, the “first Arab American Women’s magazine.” In 2013, Noon Al-Niswa held an event to celebrate its first printed issue after being an exclusively online publication. According to another Arabic-language online publication, the event was attended by self-styled “human rights activist” Linda Sarsour, former Deputy Secretary of Energy Randa Fahmy Hudome and New Jersey state senator Barbara Buono.

 

In her capacity as an editor, Oraby has won the Shirley Chisholm Award in journalism (awarded by New Jersey Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver), and been invited to speak on college campuses all over North America, including at Concordia University, University of Toronto, and Montclair State University. At her Montclair State talk, Oraby was billed as an “Activist, Journalist, Broadcaster & Advocate for Arab women.” What sort of activism does Oraby practice? In a 2016 Arabic-language video on her Facebook account denouncing Egypt’s Coptic Christian population, she declared that “the Crescent must always be on top of the Cross” and urged her audience to “Boycott the Christians economically.”

 

Oraby’s Facebook posts, meanwhile, include virulent anti-Semitism. She claims that Israel has taken over the Middle East, and that Egypt’s former president Gamal Abdel Nasser was “a Jew” and an “American Intelligence agent.” The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has a long history of commenting on hate speech issues. But when we asked CAIR’s national office and its New York branch to comment on Oraby’s extremism, they refused.

 

CAIR was founded and remains run by Muslim Brotherhood members. Its refusal to condemn this anti-Semitic, anti-Christian and pro-terror rhetoric is explained by Oraby’s own history of involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood. Oraby’s Twitter profile lists her as a member of the Egyptian Revolutionary Council (ERC), a Turkey-based organization that supports Egypt’s ousted Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohammed Morsi. Although Oraby claims she is “not with Muslim Brotherhood,” Oraby’s membership in the ERC indicates otherwise.  When ERC first formed, at least one Egyptian English-language paper announced, “MB supporters launch revolutionary council.” Another Arabic-language paper describes Oraby as an “active member of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

 

Furthermore, Oraby has lobbied Congress alongside MB activists who endorse the boycott of Copts, later showing up in a photo with them displaying the four-fingered Muslim Brotherhood gesture. Oraby has praised Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sayyid Qutb as an “intellectual” and a “martyr.” And, both of her Facebook profiles feature pictures of Muhammad Morsi as the cover photo. She even captioned her personal page’s photo of Morsi with the declaration, “We still consider you to be the legitimate president of Egypt.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Video: Raymond Ibrahim on Egyptian President Sisi and Coptic Christians: Raymond Ibrahim, Youtube, Oct. 20, 2017—In the video that follows, I discuss the situation of the Christian Copts of Egypt in the context of that nation’s president. The clip is from this year’s annual Coptic Solidarity conference held last June in Washington D.C.

Sadat and Begin – the Peacemakers: Dr. Martin Kramer, BESA, Nov. 19, 2017—It is now thirty-eight years since the signing of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, most famously evoked by the three-way handshake on the White House lawn that changed the Middle East.

40 Years Since Egypt’s Pres. Anwar Sadat Came to Jerusalem, Israel: Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, Nov. 19, 2017—The Israeli government on Sunday marked the fortieth anniversary of the historic visit by an Egyptian leader that marked the start of a new era of peace in the Middle East.

Sadat and Me in Jerusalem 40 Years Ago: Lenny Ben-David, JCPA, Nov. 20, 2017—Forty years ago, I worked in Washington as the Director of Research at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. My work focused on arguing against the Carter Administration’s push for an international peace conference in Geneva that would include the Soviet Union and radical Arab states and opposing American arms sales to Egypt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

EGYPT STRUGGLES TO CONTAIN ISLAMIST VIOLENCE & PROTECT ITS CHRISTIANS

Coptic Christians: Islamic State’s ‘Favorite Prey’: Samuel Tadros, New York Times, May 26, 2017 — “At this rate Copts will be extinct in 100 years.”

‘The Real Bomb Is in Islam’s Books’: Raymond Ibrahim, Frontpage, May 3, 2017— During his visit to Egypt last week, “Pope Francis visited al-Azhar University

In Egypt, Pride Above Economy?: Michael Rubin, Commentary, Apr. 25, 2017 — It’s one of the ironies of Middle Eastern studies and Western media that the Israel-Palestinian conflict tends to get outsize coverage in comparison to so many other matters more pertinent to local Arabs.

Nasser’s Legacy on the 50th Anniversary of the 1967 War: Dr. Michael Sharnoff, BESA, May 21, 2017— Cairo was the political capital of the Middle East in the 1950s and 1960s.

 

On Topic Links

 

Memorial Day: Remembering America’s Fallen Heroes: Jeff Dunetz, Jewish Press, May 29, 2017

Trump on Egypt Attack: ‘Bloodletting of Christians Must End’: Times of Israel, May 27, 2017

"Drip-Drip" Genocide: Muslim Persecution of Christians, February, 2017: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, May 28, 2017

Sinai Bedouin Aligning with Egypt Against ISIS: Yoni Ben Menachem, JCPA, May 4, 2017

 

 

 

COPTIC CHRISTIANS: ISLAMIC STATE’S ‘FAVORITE PREY’

Samuel Tadros

New York Times, May 26, 2017

 

“At this rate Copts will be extinct in 100 years. They will die, leave, convert or get killed,” a friend wrote on Facebook as news broke of the latest bloody attack on Egypt’s Coptic Christians. Less than two months ago, while attending church in Cairo on Palm Sunday, my friend told me she’d mused to herself that it was a blessing her daughter wasn’t with her: If there was a bombing, at least her child would survive. Forty-five Copts were murdered that day by the Islamic State in churches in Alexandria and Tanta. Such are the thoughts of Coptic parents in Egypt these days.

 

The terrorists chose today’s target well. The Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor, which I visited a decade ago, is very hard to reach. One hundred and ten miles on the Cairo Luxor desert road, you make a right-hand turn and for the next 17 miles drive on an unpaved road. The single lane forces cars to drive slowly, and, as the only route leading to the monastery, the victims were guaranteed to be Copts. Friday is a day off in Egypt, and church groups regularly take trips there. Outside of a few policemen stationed out front, there is little security presence. The terrorists waited on the road like game hunters. Coming their way were three buses, one with Sunday school children. Only three of them survived. Their victims were asked to recite the Islamic declaration of faith before being shot.

 

In the past few months, the Islamic State has made its intentions toward Copts well known. “Our favorite prey” they called my co-religionists in a February video. Their barbaric attacks have left more than 100 Copts dead in the last few months alone. The Northern Sinai is now “Christianfrei,” or free of Christians. Many serious questions will be asked in the next few days. How has the Islamic State been able to build such an extensive network inside mainland Egypt? Is the Islamic State moving its operations to Egypt as it faces pressure in Iraq and Syria? And why has Egypt repeatedly failed to prevent these attacks?

 

All of these questions are important and require thoughtful deliberation by the Egyptian regime and its allies around the world. But these are not the questions on the minds of my Coptic friends at home. They have far more intimate concerns: Am I putting my children’s lives at risk by remaining here? Should we leave? And what country will take us? In February 2014, I met the head of the Jewish community in Egypt, Magda Haroun. Today, she told me, there are 15 Jews left in the country, out of a population that once stood at nearly 100,000. Ms. Haroun said she was afraid the Copts would soon follow.

 

At the time I thought the prospect was overblown. There are millions of Copts in Egypt. Where would all of them possibly go? Surely some will remain, I reasoned. But I had left the country myself in 2009 — and so have hundreds of thousands of Copts. Even before the recent wave of attacks, Copts have been packing their bags and bidding 2,000 years of history farewell. As more find permanent homes in the West, more are able to bring relatives over. Ms. Haroun was right.

 

The Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor — where one of the giants of the modern Coptic church, Father Matthew the Poor, was ordained in 1948 — is the only remaining monastery of 35 that once existed in the area. Copts had always been tied to Egypt, their very name derived from the Greek word for the country, Aigýptios. Despite waves of persecution at the hands of everyone from Roman and Byzantine emperors, Arab and Muslim governors and Egypt’s modern presidents, they have refused to leave. Their country once gave refuge to the young Jesus. Where will they now find sanctuary?

 

In 1954 an Egyptian movie called “Hassan, Marcus and Cohen” was produced. The comedy’s title represented characters from Islam, Christianity and Judaism. In 2008, a new movie, “Hassan and Marcus” hit theaters. It warned of the growing sectarian strife between Egypt’s Christians and Muslims. Fifty years from now, it seems likely that the sequel will just be “Hasan.”

 

 

Contents                

‘THE REAL BOMB IS IN ISLAM’S BOOKS’

Raymond Ibrahim

Frontpage, May 3, 2017

 

During his visit to Egypt last week, “Pope Francis visited al-Azhar University, a globally respected institution for Sunni Islamic learning,” and “met with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the imam of the government-run Al-Azhar mosque and an Islamic philosophy professor.”  This has been reported by several media and with much fanfare.

 

The problem is that Sheikh Tayeb, once voted “world’s most influential Muslim,” and Al Azhar, the important madrassa he heads, are part of the problem, not the solution.  Tayeb is a  renowned master of exhibiting one face to fellow Muslims in Egypt—one that supports the death penalty for “apostates,” calls for the totality of Sharia-rule, refuses to denounce ISIS of being un-Islamic, denounces all art as immoral, and rejects the very concept of reforming Islam—and another face to non-Muslims.

 

Consider, for instance, the words of Islam al-Behery—a popular Egyptian Muslim reformer who frequently runs afoul of Islamists in Egypt who accuse him of blasphemy and apostasy from Islam.  The day after the suicide bombings of two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, the Muslim scholar was interviewed by phone on a popular Egyptian television program (Amr Adib’s kul youm, or “Every Day”).  He spent most of his time on the air blasting Al Azhar and Ahmed al-Tayeb—at one point going so far as to say that “70-80 percent of all terror in the last 5 years is a product of Al Azhar.”

 

The reformer knows what he speaks of; in 2015, al- Behery’s televised calls to reform Islam so irked Al Azhar that the venerable Islamic institution accused him of “blaspheming” against Islam, which led to his imprisonment. Now Behery says that, ever since President Sisi implored Al Azhar to make reforms to how Islam is being taught in Egypt three years ago, the authoritative madrassa “has not reformed a single thing,” only offered words.  “If they were sincere about one thing, they would have protected hundreds, indeed thousands of lives from being killed in just Egypt alone, said al-Behery.

 

By way of examples, the scholar of Islam pointed out that Al Azhar still uses books in its curriculum which teach things like “whoever kills an infidel, his blood is safeguarded, for the blood of an infidel and believer [Muslim] are not equal.”  Similarly, he pointed to how Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb claims that ISIS members are not infidels, only deluded Muslims; but those whom they kill—such as the bombed Christians—are infidels, the worst label in Islam’s lexicon.

 

Debating Behery was an Al Azhar spokesman who naturally rejected the reformer’s accusations against the Islamic madrassa, adding that the source of problems in Egypt is not the medieval institution, but rather “new” ideas that came to Egypt from 20th century “radicals” like Hasan al-Bana and Sayyid Qutb, founding leaders/ideologues of the Muslim Brotherhood. Behery’s response was refreshing; those many Western analysts who follow the same line of thinking—that “radicalism” only came after thinkers like Bana, Qutb, Mawdudi (in Pakistan) or Wahhab (in Arabia) came on the scene—would do well to listen.  After saying that “blaming radicalism on these men is very delusional,” the reformer correctly added:

 

The man who kills himself [Islamic suicide bomber] today doesn’t kill himself because of the words of Hasan al-Bana or Sayyid al-Qutb, or anyone else.  He kills himself because of what the consensus of the ulema, and the four schools of jurisprudence, have all agreed to.  Hasan al-Bana did not create these ideas [of jihad against infidels and apostates, destroying churches, etc.]; they’ve been around for many, many centuries….   I am talking about Islam [now], not how it is being taught in schools. By way of example, Behery said if anyone today walks into any Egyptian mosque or bookstore and ask for a book that contains the rulings of the four schools of jurisprudence, “everything that is happening today will be found in them; killing the people of the book [Christians and Jews] is obligatory.  Let’s not start kidding each other and blaming such thoughts on Hassan al-Bana!”  Moreover, Behery said:

 

There is a short distance between what is written in all these old books and what happened yesterday [Coptic church bombings]—the real bomb is in the books, which repeatedly call the People of the Book “infidels,” which teach that the whole world is infidel…  Hassan al-Bana and Sayyid al-Qutb are not the source of the terror, rather they are followers of these books.  Spare me with the term Qutbism which has caused the nation to suffer terrorism for 50 years.

 

Behery does not blame Al Azhar for the existence of these books; rather he, like many reformers, wants the Islamic institution to break tradition, denounce the rulings of the four schools of law as the products of fallible mortals, and reform them in ways compatible to the modern world.  He said that, whereas Egypt’s former grand imam, Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi (d. 2010), had “without even being asked removed all the old books and placed just one introductory book, when al-Tayeb [who days ago embraced Pope Francis] came, he got rid of that book and brought all the old books back, which are full of slaughter and bloodshed.”  In short, Behery called on the Egyptian government—and here the Vatican would do well to listen—not to rely on Al Azhar to make any reforms, since if anything it has taken Egypt backwards.

 

                                                                       

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IN EGYPT, PRIDE ABOVE ECONOMY?

Michael Rubin

Commentary, Apr. 25, 2017

 

It’s one of the ironies of Middle Eastern studies and Western media that the Israel-Palestinian conflict tends to get outsize coverage in comparison to so many other matters more pertinent to local Arabs. Consider border disputes: From Morocco across the region to Iran, the only neighbors who do not have border disputes are Israel and Egypt, Israel and Jordan, Algeria and Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar and, ever since accepting international arbitration, Bahrain, and Qatar.

 

Intra-Arab border disputes can be as intractable as those involving Israel and can be far more violent. Consider, for example, the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait or the constant Syrian infringement on Lebanese sovereignty that played out to devastating effect during the 1975-1992 civil war and, arguably, to the present day. While Iran is not Arab, the war between it and Iraq sparked by a border dispute ended up killing hundreds of thousands.

 

Egypt is the largest Arab country; one out of every five Arabs—perhaps even more—live in Egypt. In November 2016, as part of an International Monetary Fund package of reforms, Egypt floated its currency and, overnight, the Egyptian currency lost more than half of its value compared to the U.S. dollar, more than doubling the cost of imported goods. To be fair, Egypt had no choice. It was hemorrhaging money as a result of subsidies and should have reformed its currency three or four decades ago. Politically, Egyptians are also exhausted. The last decade has seen the Arab Spring, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and their subsequent ouster in what many in the West call a coup and Egyptians call a revolution. Recent Islamic State attacks on Egyptian churches raise the specter of growing terrorism. Domestic problems seem so great that Egyptians concentrate on just getting by.

 

So, with so many huge issues with which to deal, what motivates Egyptians? Last year, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi agreed to transfer to uninhabited islands—Tiran and Sanafir—back to Saudi Arabia, thus ending a decades-long dispute between the two countries. Enter Egyptian nationalism and pride: Egyptians took to the streets twice last April to protest the “selling” of Egyptian land to the Saudis, even though ample documentation existed that the islands were Saudi all along: The Saudis invited an Egyptian garrison on the islands in the 1950s against the backdrop of the Arab-Israel dispute, but government hostility between Egypt and Saudi Arabia on one hand and Israel on the other has largely faded and the garrisons are long gone.

 

Sisi probably erred in announcing the islands’ return against the backdrop of receiving a multibillion dollar aid package from Riyadh, but such unfortunate optics do not change the historical facts. Still, nationalism can be a potent tool, and Egyptians were willing to pick a fight with one of their closest Arab allies no matter that Egypt at best was holding an empty hand and Saudi Arabia had a full house. While an Egyptian court had stayed the transfer in January, an upper court blocked that stay earlier this month to allow the transfer to go through, but that decision was immediately appealed. The courts should now issue a final ruling in June.

 

Egypt has many problems but Tiran and Sanafir should not be among them. Sisi is on the right track in trying to resolve long-standing diplomatic disputes. That his opposition seeks to resurrect these disputes to whip up public opposition, however, shows just how difficult substantive reform can be in a society for decades shaped by incitement.

                                               

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NASSER’S LEGACY ON THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE 1967 WAR

Dr. Michael Sharnoff

BESA, May 21, 2017

 

Cairo was the political capital of the Middle East in the 1950s and 1960s. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser was the most charismatic ruler in the region, and he tried to become the undisputed leader of the Arab world. In his 1954 memoir, The Philosophy of the Revolution, Nasser revealed his vision of Egypt as a unique geostrategic influence in the African, Arab, and Islamic world. He believed Egypt was destined to play a pivotal role in Arab affairs.

 

Initially, Nasser was concerned primarily with consolidating power and expelling the British from Egypt. After stabilizing his rule by suppressing communists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, he championed pan-Arabism as a strategic tactic to unify the Arab world under his command. Pan-Arabism was a secular ideology that advocated Arab unity, freedom from foreign control, and the liberation of Palestine – a euphemism for a Palestinian state built on Israel’s ruins.

 

Nasser’s political star rose after he nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956 and subsequently survived a direct assault from the UK, France, and Israel. He graced international venues as a hero of the Nonaligned Movement, rubbing shoulders with established anti-imperialist leaders like Tito of Yugoslavia, Nehru of India, Nkrumah of Ghana, and Sukarno of Indonesia. No major world leader could dispute Nasser’s growing popularity and legitimacy.

 

Through his spokesperson Muhammad Heikal, editor of Egypt’s state-run newspaper al-Ahram, Nasser adopted a brilliant strategic communications campaign to shape and influence public opinion. Cairo became the Arab capital of influence. Nasser’s policies were cautiously observed by Israel, neighboring Arab states, and the Western powers, as well as the Soviet Union. In the era of Cold War rivalry, Nasser adroitly played off the two rival superpowers to maximize his country’s economic, political, and military stature while offering minimal concessions.

 

Nasser’s Egypt demonstrated how a developing country with a large population could persevere in the face of tremendous economic, political, and military challenges. Despite the expectations of Western and Soviet intelligence officials, the regime did not collapse. Egypt lost the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip after the 1967 War, but Nasser managed to turn that stunning military defeat into a political victory. He employed skillful diplomacy at the UN to appease Moscow and the West in order to rebuild Egypt’s military and sustain his own unique leadership status in the Arab world.

 

Nasser remained defiant. Egypt endured, despite losing territory and suffering from a depressed economy due to a collapse in tourism and the closure of the Suez Canal. After the war, Egypt lost $30 million a month to lost Canal revenues and an additional $1.5 million in tourism each week. (The Canal remained closed until 1975, when Israel withdrew its troops from the east bank as part of US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy and the second Egyptian-Israeli disengagement agreement).

 

After Nasser’s untimely death in 1970, other Arab leaders like Qaddafi, Assad, and Saddam tried to replicate his successes – but none had the charisma or mandate to shape public opinion and extract concessions from Washington and Moscow. Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood, long suppressed under Nasser, gradually resurfaced, capitalizing on the political and ideological vacuum. Those movements argued that Muslims had become weak because Nasser, Qaddafi, Saddam, and Assad were not true believers. They had failed to implement sharia (Islamic law), aligned with kuffar (infidel) Western or Russian powers, and abandoned the pursuit of the liberation of Palestine. They had become apostates, unfit to rule, and should be replaced with Islamic governance.

 

The solution to secular pan-Arabism, in their view, was Islam. They promoted Islam as the only ideology with the capacity to satisfy Muslim aspirations. Secularism, nationalism, liberalism, socialism, and communism were foreign concepts incompatible with Muslims. The Muslim Brotherhood expanded its influence through social services and redoubled its devotion to the eventual construction of an Islamic state governed by sharia. Extremist Islamist movements like al-Qaeda and ISIS continue to seek to achieve these goals by engaging in terrorism against the West and committing genocide against non-conforming Muslims and ethnic and religious minorities.

 

The removal of Saddam and subsequent violence and instability of the 2003 Iraq War, the 2011 uprisings in the Arab world, and the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) accelerated the expansion of these non-state Islamist actors, as well as Iran. In this “new” Middle East, these players compete for influence while Egyptian and Arab leaders grapple with instability, insurgency, civil war, and failed states.

 

Egypt’s declining influence shows no sign of reversing itself in the near future. In 2017, there is no Arab leader remotely resembling Nasser in terms of prestige. As the 50th anniversary of the 1967 War approaches, many Egyptians from that generation might reflect with nostalgia on a bygone era when Egypt dominated Middle Eastern affairs.

 

The ultimate lesson of the 1967 War is the total shift of power and influence from Egypt to non-state Islamist actors and Iran. Egypt can barely contend with the scores of domestic challenges it faces, let alone project influence beyond its borders. Cairo struggles to contain an Islamist insurgency in Sinai, protect its Christian population, sustain its economy, and provide meaningful twenty-first century skills and jobs to its youth to prevent brain drain and radicalization.

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Memorial Day: Remembering America’s Fallen Heroes: Jeff Dunetz, Jewish Press, May 29, 2017—The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion…

Trump on Egypt Attack: ‘Bloodletting of Christians Must End’: Times of Israel, May 27, 2017— US President Donald Trump on Friday decried an attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt that left at least 28 dead, calling on allies to band together to defeat terrorism.

"Drip-Drip" Genocide: Muslim Persecution of Christians, February, 2017: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, May 28, 2017— The Islamic State is at it again.

Sinai Bedouin Aligning with Egypt Against ISIS: Yoni Ben Menachem, JCPA, May 4, 2017— In its battle against ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula, one of the main difficulties facing the Egyptian army has been the absence of accurate, real-time intelligence on the location of ISIS forces, experts on the war on terror agree. But it seems this problem is about to be resolved due to a series of missteps by the ISIS branch in Sinai involving the Bedouin Tarabin tribe, the largest tribe in Sinai.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EGYPT’S CHRISTIANS SLAUGHTERED BY I.S.; MEANWHILE, CAIRO & U.S. RESET RELATIONS

 

 

44 Dead Christians: Islam’s Latest Victims: Raymond Ibrahim, Frontpage, Apr. 10, 2017— Egypt’s Christians started Holy Week celebrations by being blown up yesterday. 

Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox are Proud to be Slain by ISIL for their Christianity. That is Awesome: Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Post, Apr. 11, 2017 — It is an awful thing — a blasphemous thing, a sacrilegious thing — to massacre people at prayer, as ISIL did on Palm Sunday in Egypt, killing more than 40 Coptic Orthodox at two churches, including the cathedral in Alexandria.

Fighting Terror, Appeasing Autocrats: Max Boot, Commentary, Apr. 10, 2017 — Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s visit to President Trump signals the restoration of the close U.S.-Egyptian relations that have been a key pillar of U.S. policy toward the Middle East for four and half decades.

Can Trump Cut a Deal With Egypt?: Eric Trager, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 30, 2017 — The relationship between Egypt and the U.S. will look sunnier on Monday…

               

On Topic Links

 

Egypt Terror Ensnares Israel as Sinai Border Crossing Closed: Fox News, Apr. 10, 2017

A Day After Attack, Grief Turns to Anger for Egypt’s Christian Minority: Maria Abi-Habib and Dahlia Kholaif, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 10, 2017

Palm Sunday Bombing Underscores Depth of Egypt's Anti-Christian Bigotry: John Rossomando, IPT, Apr. 12, 2017

After White House Visit, Egyptian President Sisi Said to Be ‘Very Optimistic’ About Trump Administration: Barney Breen-Portnoy, Algemeiner, Apr. 7, 2017

 

44 DEAD CHRISTIANS: ISLAM’S LATEST VICTIMS

                                                 Raymond Ibrahim                                                                                                                    Frontpage, Apr. 10, 2017

 

Egypt’s Christians started Holy Week celebrations by being blown up yesterday.  Two Coptic Christian Orthodox churches packed with worshippers for Palm Sunday mass were attacked by Islamic suicide bombers; a total of 44 were killed and 126 wounded and mutilated. Horrific scenes of carnage—limbs and blood splattered on altars and pews—are being reported from both churches.   Twenty-seven people—initial reports indicate mostly children—were killed in St. George’s in Tanta, north Egypt.  “Where is the government?” yelled an angry Christian there to AP reporters. “There is no government! There was a clear lapse in security, which must be tightened from now on to save lives.”

 

Less than two hours later, 17 people were killed in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, which—since the original church building founded by the Evangelist Mark in the first century was burned to the ground during the 7th  century Muslim invasions of Egypt—has been the historic seat of Coptic Christendom.  Pope Tawadros, who was present—and apparently targeted—evaded the carnage.

 

In death toll and severity, Sunday’s bombings surpass what was formerly considered the deadliest church attack in Egypt: less than four months ago, on Sunday, December 11, 2016, an Islamic suicide bomber entered the St. Peter Cathedral in Cairo during mass, detonated himself and killed at least 27 worshippers—mostly women and children—and wounded nearly 70.  Descriptions of scenes from that bombing are virtually identical to those coming from Egypt now: “I found bodies, many of them women, lying on the pews. It was a horrible scene.  I saw a headless woman being carried away.  Everyone was in a state of shock. We were scooping up people’s flesh off the floor.  There were children. What have they done to deserve this? I wish I had died with them instead of seeing these scenes.” 

 

Before the December 11 attack, the deadliest church bombing occurred on January 1, 2011.  Then, while ushering in the New Year, 23 Christians were blown to bits. The Islamic state claims both December 11’s and yesterday’s bombings. (Because there was no “Islamic State” around in 2011, only generic “Islamics” can claim that one.)  This uptick in Christian persecution is believed to be in response to a video recently released by the Islamic State in Sinai.  In it, masked militants promised 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—in a bit of classic Muslim projection—as the “infidels who are empowering the West against Muslim nations.”

 

It should be remembered that for every successful church bomb attack in Egypt, there are numerous failed or “too-insignificant-to-report” ones.   Thus, in the week before yesterday’s bombings, an explosive device was found by St. George’s in Tanta and dismantled in time.  Before that, another bomb was found planted at the Collège Saint Marc, an all-boys school in downtown Alexandria.  Similarly, a couple of weeks before December 11’s church bombing, a man hurled an improvised explosive at another church in Samalout.  Had that bomb detonated—it too was dismantled in time—casualties would likely have been very high, as the church was packed with thousands of worshippers congregating for a special holiday service.  In a separate December incident, Islamic slogans and messages of hate—including “you will die Christians”—were painted on the floor of yet another church, that of the Virgin Mary in Damietta.

 

Yesterday’s church bombings also follow a spate of murderous hate crimes against Christians throughout Egypt in recent weeks and month—crimes that saw Copts burned alive and slaughtered on busy streets and in broad daylight and displaced from the Sinai.  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!”…

 

In response to yesterday’s church bombings, President Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency, adding in a statement that such attacks will only strengthen the resolve of Egyptians against “evil forces.” For his part, President Trump tweeted that he is “so sad to hear of the terrorist attack” but that he has “great confidence” that Sisi “will handle the situation properly.”  Sisi further said in his statement that “Egyptians have foiled plots and efforts by countries and fascist, terrorist organizations that tried to control Egypt.”

 

But what of what happens right inside of Egypt?  Is Sisi “handl[ing] the situation properly” there?  Whether those terrorizing Coptic Christians are truly card-holding members of ISIS or are mere sympathizers, the fact is they are all homegrown in Egypt—all taught to hate “infidels” in the mosques and schools of Egypt.

 

Sisi himself openly acknowledged this in 2015 when he stood before Egypt’s Islamic clerics of Al Azhar and implored them to do something about how Islam is taught to Muslims.  Among other things, Sisi said that the “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the centuries” are  “antagonizing the entire world” and that Egypt (or the Islamic world in its entirety) “is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”

 

Just how seriously his words were taken was revealed last November when Egypt’s highest Islamic authority, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb—who appeared sitting in the front row during Sisi’s 2015 speech—defended Al Azhar’s reliance on that very same “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas … sacralized over the centuries” which many reformers are eager to see eliminated from Egypt’s curriculum because they support the most “radical” expressions of Islam—including killing apostates, burning infidels, persecuting Christians and destroying churches. 

 

Egypt’s Grand Imam went so far as to flippantly dismiss the call to reform as quixotic at best: When they [Sisi and reformers] say that Al Azhar must change the religious discourse, change the religious discourse, this too is, I mean, I don’t know—a new windmill that just appeared, this “change religious discourse”—what change religious discourse?  Al Azhar doesn’t change religious discourse—Al Azhar proclaims the true religious discourse, which we learned from our elders. And the law that the elders of Islam, the ulema, bequeathed to Muslims preaches hate for “infidels”—which, in Egypt, means Christians.  This is Egypt’s ultimate problem, not, to quote Sisi, foreign “countries and fascist, terrorist organizations,” which are symptoms of the problem.                                                                           

 

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EGYPT’S COPTIC ORTHODOX ARE PROUD TO BE

SLAIN BY ISIL FOR THEIR CHRISTIANITY. THAT IS AWESOME

Father Raymond J. de Souza                                                                         

National Post, Apr. 11, 2017

 

It is an awful thing — a blasphemous thing, a sacrilegious thing — to massacre people at prayer, as ISIL did on Palm Sunday in Egypt, killing more than 40 Coptic Orthodox at two churches, including the cathedral in Alexandria. It is an awesome thing — literally rendering us full of awe — to behold the death of those killed while most fully Christian, singing God’s praises and giving witness to Him.

 

This is not the first jihadist massacre of Christians in Egypt; not so many years ago there will killings of Christians leaving Christmas Mass. I try not to let the lack of novelty diminish the hot and righteous anger that ought greet such assaults, but this time was different. By the time I heard the news — I spend less time following the travails of the world on Sundays — I was also able to hear the response of the Coptic Church. I bow my head before their great faith. “With great pride, the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church, the Church of Martyrs, bade her sons farewell, who were martyred today Sunday April 9, 2017, during the liturgy of Palm Sunday,” the official statement read. “They were carrying the palm leaves, praying and celebrating the commemoration of the entry of Christ, the King of Peace, to the city of Jerusalem.”

 

“The souls of the martyrs have been slain by the hands of the enemies of humanity, the enemies of peace and the carrier of tools of destruction. But now, with all the Church, they are offering their prayers to the Just Judge who sees, hears and writes a book of remembrance.” They have “great pride” that their own are counted among the number of the martyrs! What amazing grace. It was not their choice to be killed because they were Christians. It is their choice to receive that martyrdom precisely as Christians, strengthened, not diminished, in their faith. It is an inspiration, just as those Coptic Christians beheaded on the beach two years ago whispered the name of Jesus as the jihadists drew their knives against their necks.

 

“We have seen the photos. It is very heartbreaking,” said Bishop Makar of Sharquia about his fellow Orthodox murdered on Palm Sunday. “The deacons are standing for prayer, starting the liturgy on earth to be ended in heaven. I was one of them long ago; I used to stand with them, chanting hymns together. They continue now in heaven. Life with Christ starts on earth but it is completed in heaven.” For Orthodox and Catholics, the purpose of the liturgy is not only to listen to God and speak to Him, but more than that. The liturgy of heaven — the saints gathered around the crucified and risen Jesus — somehow breaks into this world. At the earthly liturgy we are already beholding what shall be. To be martyred like those deacons chanting, or the French priest murdered at the altar last summer, is to move directly from the antechamber of heaven to the great throne room.

 

The funerals were led by His Holiness Pope Tawadros II who was at the cathedral of Alexandria when the bombing took place there, but was not hurt. As leader of the 10-million Coptic Orthodox in Egypt, it may have been that ISIL planned to assassinate him. Alexandria is one of principal seats of ancient Christianity where, one might note, Christians have been worshipping since before Islam existed. When each coffin was brought in to the funeral, the congregation interrupted their sobs with thunderous applause. They recognized in their dead the principal mystery of this Holy Week: that the Cross of Christ ends not in the tomb, but with the promised glory of the resurrection.

 

On Palm Sunday, Christians wave palm branches, recalling the triumphal entry of Jesus — just days before His arrest and crucifixion — into Jerusalem, the holy city. The palm branch then was waved in homage, as for a king. In Christian iconography the palm branch has since become a symbol of martyrdom; martyred saints are often depicted carrying it. And so the Copts were, unwittingly, hailing the martyrs in their own midst. In every Catholic Church in the world on Palm Sunday, from the hermit priest at his solitary altar to the Holy Father in St. Peter’s Square, Psalm 22 was proclaimed. It begins with the cry that no doubt filled the churches in Egypt as the bombs exploded: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

 

The psalm is a prayer of great desperation, even a cry of dereliction. But it concludes with a confession of faith: “I will proclaim Your name to my brethren, in the midst of the assembly I will praise You.” That is what the Christians of Egypt did on Sunday, at the beginning of Holy Week. They proclaim God’s praises in the assembly and before the entire world.                                                                                   

 

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FIGHTING TERROR, APPEASING AUTOCRATS                                                                             

Max Boot                                                                                                                               

Commentary, Apr. 10, 2017

 

A week ago, President Trump rolled out the red carpet for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who was persona non grata in the Obama White House because of his human-rights violations. There is no evidence that Trump even brought up the human-rights issue. Instead he extended unwavering praise, saying, “We agree on so many things. I just want to let everybody know in case there was any doubt that we are very much behind President el-Sisi. He’s done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation. We are very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt. The United States has, believe me, backing, and we have strong backing.”

 

It was widely noted that Trump enthusiastically shook Sisi’s hand after having previously refused to shake hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a photo-op. Body language spoke volumes. The reason for Trump’s embrace of the Egyptian president is obvious: He sees Sisi as a good guy because he overthrew a Muslim Broterhood regime and is actively repressing the Brothers. In the war against “radical Islamic terrorism,” there is no doubt which side Sisi is on. But while Sisi’s zeal in persecuting jihadists is undoubted, his skill and success are very much open to doubt. That was evident on Sunday when ISIS suicide bombers killed at least 44 people at two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt. This is only the latest such attack; a previous bombing at a Christian church in December killed at least 28.

 

The situation in the Sinai, where the Egyptian ISIS affiliate is based, is even worse. As Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy noted: “ISIS in Sinai has used advanced weapons to shoot down Egyptian military helicopters, destroy an M60 battle tank, and sink an Egyptian patrol boat off the coast of El-Arish. It also claimed responsibility for the October 2015 bombing of a Russian passenger jet in which 224 civilians were killed. U.S. government officials estimate that approximately 2,000 Egyptian soldiers have been killed in Sinai since the operation began – a shocking figure, considering that estimates typically put ISIS in Sinai’s membership at 1,000-1,500.”

 

Why isn’t Sisi being more successful? A lot of the problem, Trager argues, is that Egypt’s military is still locked in a conventional warfare mindset, similar to the U.S. military in Vietnam or in the early stages of the Iraq War. Thus, the Egyptian generals neglect the kind of more subtle, less heavy-handed counterinsurgency approaches that are usually the most effective. Sisi’s widespread repression doesn’t help. Not only is he locking up large numbers of Muslim Brothers, but he is also targeting liberal civil-society activists and anyone else suspected of disloyalty to his regime. That could wind up costing his regime the kind of popular support it needs to effectively gather intelligence against the terrorists.

 

Meanwhile Sisi is mismanaging the economy. As Robert Kagan and Michelle Dunne, co-chairs of the bipartisan Working Group on Egypt, observed, while Sisi has made some positive moves such as floating Egypt’s currency and reducing energy subsidies, “he has failed to take badly needed steps to train the burgeoning labor force and to encourage job creation in the private sector. According to official statistics, Egypt’s misery index in February was 45 percent: 33 percent core inflation plus 12 percent unemployment. Unemployment among Egyptians under 30 is much higher. Instead, Sissi has funneled billions into the vast business empire of the Egyptian military. Mega-construction projects such as the $8 billion Suez Canal expansion and the $45 billion new desert capital city keep the generals happy — and Sissi coup-proof.”

 

In short, Sisi is hardly a model ally, even if his rule is preferable to that of the Muslim Brotherhood. There is a real danger, in fact, that, just like Hosni Mubarak, he is presiding over a repressive, dysfunctional regime that will create more terrorism than it eliminates. As a major Sisi backer, the U.S. will find itself in the crosshairs of Egyptian radicals. Given that the current head of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is an Egyptian physician who was radicalized under the Mubarak regime, we know what that kind of blowback might look like. there is a case for giving Sisi a bear-hug and then, once he has confidence in the United States, pressuring him to ease up on human-rights violation, to refine his blunderbuss conventional campaign against terrorism, and to take badly needed steps for economic growth. Perhaps that is Trump’s strategy. But Sisi, who receives $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid, is more likely getting the message that Washington has given him a blank check for repression. That will not serve U.S. interests well.                            

 

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CAN TRUMP CUT A DEAL WITH EGYPT?                                                                                         

Eric Trager                                                                                                   

Wall Street Journal, Mar. 30, 2017

 

The relationship between Egypt and the U.S. will look sunnier on Monday, when President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi visits President Trump in Washington. Under the Obama administration, Mr. Sisi’s authoritarianism made him persona non grata. The key question: Can Mr. Trump translate the warm welcome into a “good deal” for America? This isn’t the first U.S.-Egypt “reset.” Upon taking office, President Obama courted Mr. Sisi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, who had resented the Bush administration’s “freedom agenda.” Mr. Obama emphasized convergence with Egypt on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, while playing down human-rights concerns.

 

Mr. Obama’s priorities shifted, however, once Mr. Mubarak was overthrown in 2011. The White House backed Egypt’s democratic transition and cooperated with the Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi, who won the 2012 presidential election. The following year, after mass protests in Egypt, the military, led by Mr. Sisi, ousted Mr. Morsi and oversaw a deadly crackdown on Morsi supporters. The Obama White House responded by withholding weapons shipments. Cairo interpreted this as U.S. support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt soon declared a terrorist organization. Weapons shipments resumed in 2015, but Cairo’s distrust of Washington persisted. Meanwhile, Egypt deepened its ties to Russia through arms deals and joint military exercises.

 

Now Mr. Sisi will encounter a friendlier White House. Mr. Trump is skeptical of democracy promotion and won’t press Egypt on political reform. Officials in the Trump administration have praised Mr. Sisi’s 2014 speech urging Muslim clerics to combat extremism. And they share his view that the Brotherhood is a terrorist organization.

 

Warmer relations could improve intelligence sharing and strategic cooperation. At the very least, Cairo should consult with Washington regarding Russia’s reported deployment of troops in western Egypt. Perhaps support for Mr. Sisi would dampen the anti-Americanism in Egypt’s media. If Mr. Trump insists, maybe Mr. Sisi will release Aya Hegazy, a U.S. citizen who has been arbitrarily detained since 2014. Still, both countries’ domestic politics pose challenges. Egyptian officials have requested more U.S. military and economic aid. Egypt also wants Washington to renew cash-flow financing, which enables it to sign more expensive weapons contracts. But Mr. Trump vows to cut foreign aid.

 

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump ought to prioritize Egypt’s counterterrorism efforts. Egypt’s military was built to fight land wars, and its brass refuses to focus aid on counterterrorism. Cairo may try to win this debate by playing to Mr. Trump’s pledge to create jobs: Buying weapons systems ultimately helps employment in the defense industry. Mr. Trump’s best chance to cut a “good deal” with Mr. Sisi may be on Monday, when the Egyptian leader receives the Washington welcome he has long desired. But if Mr. Sisi pockets that victory without conceding anything on his country’s deepening relationship with Russia, prosecution of Americans, or aid priorities, Mr. Trump will have wasted Washington’s best hand in years.

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Egypt Terror Ensnares Israel as Sinai Border Crossing Closed: Fox News, Apr. 10, 2017—Warnings of an "imminent" terror attack forced Israel to close its Taba border crossing to the Sinai peninsula Monday, one day after terrorists in Egypt bombed two Christian churches, killing dozens of worshippers on Palm Sunday.

A Day After Attack, Grief Turns to Anger for Egypt’s Christian Minority: Maria Abi-Habib and Dahlia Kholaif, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 10, 2017—As family and friends gathered Monday to bury a university student killed in the suicide attack on worshipers here on Palm Sunday, grief boiled over into anger over the government’s inability to protect Egypt’s Christian minority.

Palm Sunday Bombing Underscores Depth of Egypt's Anti-Christian Bigotry: John Rossomando, IPT, Apr. 12, 2017—Suicide bombings of two Coptic churches in Egypt Sunday by ISIS terrorists should not be viewed in isolation. The bombings killed 44 people and injured 100 more, and mark the deadliest in a series of attacks targeting the country's Christian minority.

After White House Visit, Egyptian President Sisi Said to Be ‘Very Optimistic’ About Trump Administration: Barney Breen-Portnoy, Algemeiner, Apr. 7, 2017—Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is “very optimistic” about the Trump administration, a lobbyist who took part in a Washington, DC meeting with the leader this week told The Algemeiner on Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WEST INDIFFERENT TO ISLAMIST PERSECUTION OF EGYPT’S CHRISTIANS

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.

               

On Topic Links

 

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

 

 

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.” 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.

                                                                           

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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. 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.]

           

 

Contents 

   

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. 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.]

                                                                                   

 

Contents

 

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. 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!

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WESTERN LEADERS IN DENIAL OF ISLAMIST THREAT AS TERROR WAVE STRIKES EUROPE & MIDDLE EAST

 

Merkel Government Still in Denial: Vijeta Uniyal, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 20, 2016 — Monday's terrorist attack on a Berlin Christmas market killed at least 12 people and injured 50 others.

Jordan’s Image as a Stable Oasis Takes a Hit After Karak Attack: Ben Lynfield, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 20, 2016 — Jordan’s King Abdullah visited King Hussein Medical Center in Amman on Sunday to check on the condition of security forces and civilians injured in the attack in southern Jordan that killed seven officers…

Turkey Gripped by Terror as Russian Ambassador Killed in Ankara: Barın Kayaoğlu, Al-Monitor, Dec. 19, 2016 — A suicide bomber struck a bus full of Turkish army conscripts on leave in the central Anatolian town of Kayseri on Dec. 17, killing 13 and wounding more than 50.

Resurgent Terror in Egypt: Yoni Ben Menachem, JCPA, Dec. 18, 2016— The suicide bombing at the Coptic church in central Cairo on December 11, 2016

 

On Topic Links

 

Turkey, Russia and an Assassination: The Swirling Crises, Explained: Max Fisher, New York Times, Dec. 19, 2016 

Egypt’s Deadliest Church Attack: Raymond Ibrahim, Breaking Israel News, Dec. 13, 2016

The Fall of Aleppo Is a Huge Gift to ISIS : Michael Weiss & Hassan Hassan, Daily Beast, Dec. 18, 2016

Hezbollah vs. ISIS. vs. Israel: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 12, 2016

 

 

MERKEL GOVERNMENT STILL IN DENIAL

Vijeta Uniyal

Gatestone Institute, Dec. 20, 2016

 

Monday's terrorist attack on a Berlin Christmas market killed at least 12 people and injured 50 others. Islamic State took responsibility for the truck-ramming attack, as recommend by the al-Qaeda magazine, Inspire, and similar to the July 14 attack in the French city of Nice, and countless car-rammings in Israel. Now Europeans feel what Israelis live with every day.

 

Earlier this year, Germany was hit by a series of ISIS-inspired attacks and failed terror plots. Despite that almost all the perpetrators were recent Syrian or Afghan migrants, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in the middle of a re-election bid, has stuck to her claim that there is "no connection" between terror attacks in the country and uncontrolled mass migration from Arab and Muslim lands.

 

Ahead of an election year, Merkel and her coalition partners also want to avoid another mass sexual attack — in Cologne. Adding insult to injury, the Mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, is planning to put on a big show this coming New Year's Eve in the city's main square. After an elaborate year-long cover up, the city will be lighting up the crime scene as part of a multi-media show. "The City of Cologne has announced plans for a spectacular multi-media show in the area immediately surrounding the famous Gothic cathedral, close to the main train station," state-run broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.

 

"Cologne will send good images to the world," says the city's mayor. The taxpayer-funded spectacle has been named "Time Drifts Cologne." The "light artist" running the show, Philipp Geist, considers last year's crime scene "a fantastic place for an art installation." Of an estimated two thousand exclusively Muslim men who raped, assaulted and robbed more than 1200 women, almost all the attackers have managed to walk free. Ralf Jäger, Interior Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, admitted recently that "most of the cases will remain unsolved."

 

An estimated 1,800 police officers will be on duty in Cologne on New Year's Eve, compared to just 140 last year. Barricades have been erected in the city center to check the flow of the crowd. The city's historic cathedral and adjoining area have been placed under a crush barrier. Police will man observation posts and fly helicopters to monitor the crowd, and deploy mounted police and six armoured vehicles for riot-control. "No expense will be spared," assured the mayor. In an important election year, the government wants to defend the city to the last taxpayer dime.

 

Even before it can face any real onslaught, however, Merkel's fortification is showing some serious cracks. Just days ahead of the News Year's Eve, the police union in the eastern German state of Thuringia has issued an open letter describing the crumbling law-and-order situation amid the rising migrant crime. "[You] are abandoning us completely helpless to a superior force," says the desperate note addressed to the Interior Minister of Thuringia. The union claims that politicians have been repeatedly briefed on the deteriorating conditions under which police have been working. "But what changes? Nothing. One instead gets a sense of uninterest."

 

Unwilling to acknowledge the breakdown of law and order in face of the rising migrant crime wave, the German media and politicians are going after the messenger. Their latest target is the head of German Police Union, Rainer Wendt. Wendt's crime, after a series of rape crimes this December, was to speak the obvious truth. "The criminals are using open borders," he said. Ralf Stegner, deputy leader of Social Democratic Party (SPD) and a fervent supporter of Merkel's "Refugees Welcome" policy, denounced Wendt's statement as "politically disgusting and stupid as one can get." …

 

The Merkel government can turn the center of Cologne into an impenetrable fortress for a day or two, but the threat is not going away. The problem lies in the Ruhr region that encircles Cologne. "Have foreign clans turned Ruhr region into a No-Go-Area?" asks the leading German newspaper, Die Welt, just days ahead of News Year's Eve. Meanwhile, representatives of Arab community were reported telling the police in Ruhr, "The police will not win a war with us because we are too many."

 

Chancellor Merkel, Germany's ruling elites and the media can continue putting a happy face on uncontrolled mass-migration from Arab and Muslim lands, or suppress news reporting on rising migrant crime, as much as they want, but they cannot wish away the country's deteriorating law-and-order situation. As the desperate plea of the police union shows, the Merkel government has decided to ignore the plight of law enforcement, at least for now. It should be evident to even a casual observer that her government still does not care about the victims of its own failed "refugee" policy: Germany appears to be heading toward another rough year.                                                               

 

Contents                                                                                                                                               

                            

  JORDAN’S IMAGE AS A STABLE OASIS TAKES

A HIT AFTER KARAK ATTACK                                                                             

Ben Lynfield                                                                             

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 20, 2016

 

Jordan’s King Abdullah visited King Hussein Medical Center in Amman on Sunday to check on the condition of security forces and civilians injured in the attack in southern Jordan that killed seven officers, two Jordanian civilians and one tourist from Canada. Another casualty of the attack, the bloodiest and most audacious in recent years, is Jordan’s self-image as an oasis of stability amid the turmoil swirling around it, notably the civil wars and devastation in Iraq and Syria.

 

The attack, in addition to its human toll, is threatening at many levels. It reached its bloody conclusion at Karak castle, a popular tourist site that became the venue for an hours-long standoff between Jordanian security forces and the gunmen. This is a powerful symbolic blow to Jordan, and the fallout for the kingdom’s already faltering tourism industry will be substantial.

 

Another cause for concern is the geographical scope of the attack. It started when gunmen opened fire on police in Qatraneh, nearly thirty kilometers north of Karak. Gunmen then drove to Karak and went on a shooting spree aimed at officers patrolling the town before holing up in the castle. This means that not only were the security forces unable to detect plans for the attack, they were unable to prevent it from spreading. “There is a lapse in the field security here,” said Daoud Kuttab, a columnist for the Jordan Times. “But the public is extremely supportive of the regime and that shows how isolated are the individuals who carry out these acts.”

 

Still, it must be cause for concern for authorities that the attack took place in an area of Jordan that has traditionally been a bastion of support for the Hashemite monarchy. “If this was an Islamic State attack, it shows that there are holes in the intelligence system since they managed to penetrate the stronghold of the regime,” said Oded Eran, former ambassador to Jordan and a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies.

 

A not insignificant number – estimates range from hundreds to 2,000 – of Jordanians have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight with Islamic State and other radical Sunni groups, and a spate of attacks over the last nine months indicates that there is a spillover of radicalism into Jordan as well as homegrown extremism. Last month, three US military trainers were shot dead at a southern Jordanian base. According to Reuters, they were shot when their car failed to stop at the base’s gate by a Jordanian soldier in an incident in which Washington did not rule out political motives.

 

On June 21, an ISIS attack killed seven Jordanian soldiers at a Syrian-Jordanian border checkpoint. Two weeks earlier, an attack on a Jordanian intelligence post in Baqa refugee camp killed five members of the security forces. In March, seven members of a jihadist cell in the northern town of Irbid were killed in a clash that left one soldier dead.

 

Still, the violence, while worrying, is not seen by Israeli analysts interviewed by The Jerusalem Post as threatening the monarchy. “There is nothing in these attacks to suggest that the fundamental stability of the regime is in danger or that there is a serious deterioration of the legitimacy of the regime in the eyes of the population,” said Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, a specialist on Arab politics at Tel Aviv University’s Dayan Center. “The monarchy at this point is sufficiently rooted in the society as a symbol of Jordanian identity and has made sure to cultivate the loyalties of key sectors of society. There are often rumblings in those sectors but fundamentally the key sectors that make up the elite – civilian and military – view the monarchy as a bulwark against radicalism and chaos that they see breaking out all around them,” he added.

 

Eran put it this way: “The regime is stable because when you are in Jordan, when you watch television and see the atrocities in Aleppo you think twice, three times, four times before you want to get into that situation. The population is close to the destruction in Iraq and Syria and doesn’t want to rock the boat.” Moreover, there is no organized opposition beyond parliament, which the regime monitors, Eran said. “There isn’t any leader or any contender with charisma to attract support. The regime doesn’t face any movement that captures the imagination of people.”

 

Eran contrasts the situation in Jordan with that of Egypt, where Islamic State has a territorial foothold in Sinai. “There is nothing like that in Jordan, there is no danger to the regime. Even if tomorrow morning something happens to the monarch, there will be change but there will be no power or any force that takes over from the current regime.”

 

Still, King Abdullah is on the hot seat with no easy solutions for important issues. Youth unemployment is soaring at about 30% and poverty is widespread. The 630,000 registered Syrian refugees and a similar number of unregistered ones strain the economy and take jobs from Jordanian citizens. The government prides itself on having been able to hold parliamentary elections in September but turnout was low and the legislature lacks legitimacy and power. Sunday’s attack adds to the sense that the former oasis is increasingly becoming a deeply troubled country.

 

Within this setting, Israel should maintain the close security cooperation with Jordan and help Amman grapple with its Syrian refugees, says Maddy-Weitzman. “We should be extending humanitarian aid, assistance without a footprint, to help with the refugees, whatever Jordan thinks would be helpful, be it medical supplies [or] vital humanitarian aid.” At the same time, Maddy- Weitzman advocates “being extremely sensitive to Jordanian concerns on Jerusalem, the holy sites and the peace process and taking a more proactive approach on the Palestinian issue.”

                                                           

Contents

 

TURKEY GRIPPED BY TERROR AS RUSSIAN

AMBASSADOR KILLED IN ANKARA

Barın Kayaoğlu

Al-Monitor, Dec. 19, 2016

 

A suicide bomber struck a bus full of Turkish army conscripts on leave in the central Anatolian town of Kayseri on Dec. 17, killing 13 and wounding more than 50. The attack, allegedly perpetrated by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), comes in the wake of the dual suicide bombings on Dec. 10 that targeted riot police outside a soccer game in Istanbul. TAK claimed responsibility for the Istanbul attack that killed 36 officers and eight civilians.

 

While these tragic events have worsened tensions in Turkey, many observers emphasized the symbolic value of attacking unarmed troops from the 1st Commando Brigade. Some media outlets referred to the brigade, also known as “Kayseri Hava Indirme” (Kayseri Airborne), as “the PKK’s nightmare” for its role in fighting the militant Kurdish group. Kayseri Airborne’s sister unit, the Hakkari Mountain and Commando Brigade on the Iraqi border, also serves as a vanguard in the front lines of the Turkish state’s decadeslong struggle against the PKK.

 

Meanwhile, many Turkish media outlets underscored that the Kayseri attacker had received “military training” and snuck into Turkey from the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, controlled by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which the Turks accuse of aiding the PKK. The English edition of the Sabah newspaper, which is close to the Turkish government, specifically emphasized how the bomber had received training at camps run by the PYD. Today’s front page of pro-government Yeni Akit ran the sensational headline “The swamp in Qandil should be drained,” referring to the PKK’s various bases in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan.

 

Turkish news outlets, however, overlooked a critical aspect of the story. Groups such as the PYD, PKK and TAK often emphasize the retaliatory nature of attacks like the ones in Istanbul and Kayseri. As several Al-Monitor writers have pointed out in recent months (including Kadri Gursel, who is currently in pretrial detention for his journalistic work), militant Kurdish groups often attack “softer” targets in western Turkey instead of directly confronting security forces. The PKK and TAK legitimize their attacks against civilians or security forces in western Turkey as a way to avenge the Turkish government’s heavy-handed operations in the country’s predominantly Kurdish southeast. In turn, the government’s vengeful responses after PKK and TAK strikes worsen the vicious cycle of violence in Turkey.

 

In other news, as this article went to publication, reports came in that Andrei Karlov, Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, had been shot and killed by a Turkish police officer at an art opening in the Turkish capital Ankara. Observers as diverse as Iranian-American scholar Trita Parsi, neoconservative pundit Bill Kristol and Al-Monitor’s own Laura Rozen compared the episode to the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in June 1914, an event that triggered World War I. The attacks in Istanbul, Kayseri and now Ankara prove that without a Christmas (or New Year) miracle, 2017 is poised to be even more unpleasant than 2016 for Turks. At the moment, Turkey looks helpless.

 

                                                           

Contents

 

RESURGENT TERROR IN EGYPT                                                                           

Yoni Ben Menachem                                                     

JCPA, Dec. 18, 2016

           

The suicide bombing at the Coptic church in central Cairo on December 11, 2016, which killed 25 and wounded 50, and the terror attack a few days earlier on the road to the Giza pyramids that killed six police officers, reflect two fateful developments: the Muslim Brotherhood’s recovery from the blows inflicted by the Sisi government, and the slackening of the government’s security efforts and possibly its fatigue from fighting terror.

 

There is growing public criticism of the security failures that allowed these attacks. Egyptian authorities have already announced that they are considering new plans for augmenting the military and security laws that pertain to the war on terror. The public has reacted to the attacks with fury. Even the newspaper, Al-Ahram, which is the government’s official mouthpiece, has published articles on the security failures and the need for enhanced measures such as installing cameras in crowded places and using sniffer dogs. A December 13, 2016, article in Al-Ahram by writer Masoud al-Hanawi called on the Egyptian government to learn from Israel and Turkey about how to wage all-out war on terror and strike it with an iron fist.

 

The Muslim Brotherhood appears to be recuperating from the assassination a few months ago of Muhammad Kamal, who headed its military wing, by Egyptian security forces in a raid on the Cairo apartment, where he was hiding.

 

On December 13, 2016, the Islamic State issued an official announcement that it was behind the bombing of the Coptic Church. Egyptian security officials, however, believe the attack was a joint operation of the Islamic State and the Muslim Brotherhood. Although the Muslim Brotherhood office in London issued a statement condemning the attack, the Egyptian authorities claim the condemnation was made out of fear of Western countries’ reactions.

 

Some of the Facebook pages of Muslim Brotherhood leaders who fled to Qatar expressed elation over the attack. Earlier, an organization known as Hassam released a statement pinning the blame for the attack on police officers who, it said, had set an ambush on the road to the pyramids in Giza. According to Egyptian security officials, this organization is part of the Muslim Brotherhood. In recent months, its members have perpetrated a string of terror attacks against the police and against a judge in one of the trials of the previous president, Mohamed Morsi. They also tried to assassinate Dr. Ali Gomaa, the former mufti of Egypt.

 

This is not the first time radical Muslims have struck at the delicate social fabric between Egyptian Muslims and Christians of the Coptic community, which forms about 10 percent of the population.  In January 2011, a car-bomb attack on the Al-Qiddissin Coptic Church in Alexandria killed 21. The newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported on December 13, 2011, that since Sisi became president, there have been 130 attacks on Coptic churches and property in Egypt. These appear to be radical Muslims’ acts of vengeance for the Coptic Church’s support for Sisi’s government, which has outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood. Muslim Brotherhood members accuse the Coptic Christians of abetting the overthrow of former President Morsi’s government.

 

Official statements by the Egyptian Interior Ministry and reports in the Egyptian media indicate that the attack on the Coptic church was carried out by a cell whose creation was initiated by Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Qatar, which gives political refuge to the movement’s operatives, and by Muhammad Kamal’s successor as head of the military wing, with help from the Islamic State branch in northern Sinai. Egyptian security officials’ investigation indicates that Kamal’s successor is 32-year-old Mohab Mostafa el-Sayed Kassem, whose codename in the Muslim Brotherhood is “the Doctor.” It was the Doctor who recruited Mahmoud Shafiq, who carried out the attack on the Coptic Church with a suicide vest, and the other members of the cell.

 

The Doctor has been able to evade the Egyptian security. However, it appears from the interrogation of four members of the cell who were quickly captured that he went to Qatar a few months ago. There he seems to have met with some of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders who fled from Egypt, the most prominent among them is Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. It was in Doha that the attack was planned – as retribution for the Copts’ support for Sisi’s government and also in an effort to damage Christmas tourism in Egypt. The Doctor returned to Cairo via the Sinai Peninsula, where he received military training from Ansar Beit al-Makdis, the Islamic State branch. He then recruited the other members of the cell including the suicide bomber.

 

President Sisi’s government now faces a new challenge of waging a war on terror. The Muslim Brotherhood, having failed to organize mass anti-government demonstrations on November 11, 2016, against the backdrop of the country’s difficult economic situation, appears more determined than ever to overthrow Sisi and destabilize the country by resuming terror attacks. Recently a Cairo court annulled the death sentence that had been meted out to Morsi.  This was seen as Sisi’s signal to the Muslim Brotherhood that he was prepared for reconciliation. The movement, however, hastened to issue a statement a few days later that it rejected any possibility of mending fences with Sisi’s government.

 

During the funeral of those killed in the attack on the Coptic Church, Sisi called on the government and parliament to make changes in legislation that would enable a tougher struggle against terror. He denied that there had been a security failure. Members of parliament, however, are already calling for electromagnetic gates to be installed at the entrances to the country’s churches. The government emphasizes the fact that the terror endangers both Muslims and Christians. The parliament, for its part, is already considering changes in the constitution that would enable the military’s legal system to try civilians suspected of involvement in terror. President Sisi’s challenge is to stop the new radical-Islamic wave of terror while it is still only beginning.

 

Contents       

    

On Topic Links

 

Turkey, Russia and an Assassination: The Swirling Crises, Explained: Max Fisher, New York Times, Dec. 19, 2016  —Turkey and Russia, whose up-and-down relationship has helped shape the Syrian war and its related crises, shared a new trauma on Monday after an off-duty Turkish police officer assassinated Russia’s ambassador.

Egypt’s Deadliest Church Attack: Raymond Ibrahim, Breaking Israel News, Dec. 13, 2016 —The worst attack on Egypt’s Christian minority in recent years occurred yesterday, Sunday, December 11, 2016. St. Peter Cathedral in Cairo, packed with worshippers celebrating Sunday mass, was bombed; at least 27 churchgoers, mostly women and children, were killed and 65 severely wounded. As many of the wounded are in critical condition, the death toll is expected to rise.

The Fall of Aleppo Is a Huge Gift to ISIS : Michael Weiss & Hassan Hassan, Daily Beast, Dec. 18, 2016—Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the “Caliph Ibrahim” of the so-called Islamic State, had an excellent week last week. The fall of Aleppo to a consortium of Iranian-built militias backed by Russian airpower and special forces constitutes not only a loud victory for Damascus but also a quieter one for ISIS, or the Islamic State, which mounted a surprise attack that retook the ancient city of Palmyra.

Hezbollah vs. ISIS. vs. Israel: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 12, 2016 —Two incidents in recent weeks showcase the complexity of the challenges facing Israel on its northern front. In the first, an air strike killed four members of the Islamic State-affiliated Khalid Ibn al-Walid Army after a patrol of the Golani reconnaissance unit in the southern Golan Heights was targeted by the organization. Israeli aircraft then targeted a facility used by the group in the Wadi Sirhan area.

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Merkley: THE COPTIC POPE VISITS JERUSALEM.

 

 

 

On  November 28, 2015, Tawadros II, the 118th Coptic Pope, the leader of the worldwide body of Egyptian Orthodox Christians, travelled with a delegation of other Coptic clerics from Cairo to Jerusalem in order  to preside over the funeral for Anba Abraham, the Coptic Orthodox Metropolitan Archbishop of Jerusalem and the Near East  since 1992.

 

This was the first time since the end of the Six Day War in June, 1967, that the head of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church has set foot in Jerusalem. Spokesmen for the Coptic Orthodox Church insisted that this was “an exceptional situation” and was not significant of any coming change of the church’s stance on Jerusalem and the Palestinian cause.

 

Friends of Israel have being trying hard to turn this event into a “gesture” suggestive of a new chapter of reconciliation between the Coptic Church and the State of Israel – perhaps, ultimately, between the people of Egypt and the people of Israel. However, more than pinch of skepticism is needed here.

 

***Who Are the Copts?

 

The word “Copt” is a corruption of the Greek egyptos:  it refers to native Egyptian people who claim, with some plausibility, to trace to a missionary journey of St. Mark that took place during the reign of Emperor Nero (54 to 68 AD.) The language in which the Copts worship is the ancient language of the Pharaohs, while the world around them speaks Arabic, the language of the 7th century conquerors.

 

There is no reason to belittle their leader’s title of Pope – that is, the Father of  the church community – which is every bit as venerable as the claim to the same title by the Bishop of Rome.

 

It is generally reckoned that about 10% of Egyptians are Christian. The World Council of Churches calculates that the actual Coptic population living in Israel and the Palestine Authority is about 2,500.

 

Following the Council of Chalcedon (451), called to resolve differences over the nature of the relation between and among the Three Persons of the Trinity, the Copts turned their backs on the upstart theological princes of Rome and Constantinople and stayed with the Pre-Chalcedonian  Camp, where we find the other main churches indigenous to the Arab world. The unexpectedly rapid conquest of the Christian world by the Muslims in the 7th and 8th centuries was made possible by these divisions among the Christian kingdoms of the time.

 

In our own time, Copts  have experienced growing persecution at the hands of the Muslim majority of Egypt, who, with the co-operation of  ill-disposed academics and  poorly-informed journalists in our part of the world, have given currency to the myth that Christianity is a Western religion, imposed on the indigenous Muslims of the Middle East.

 

***Christian Communities and the Arab Spring That Wasn’t.

 

We can no longer pretend that the answer to the problems of the Middle East is democracy. We have already seen the fruits of democracy in Muslim nations like Iraq, where, since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Christians have been brutally persecuted to the point that perhaps one-third of them have fled their homeland; and in Afghanistan, where a decade after the West overthrew the Taliban, committing billions of dollars and thousands of lives, the last public church has been destroyed, even as Christians suffer under blasphemy and apostasy laws enforced by the government installed and maintained by the West.

 

For nearly a half-century prior to this moment, November 28, 2015, Coptic Popes   had banned visits to  Jerusalem by members of the Coptic flock–  as a gesture of solidarity with the side that lost the Six Day war, and with it, custody of the Holy City. Apart from this larger issue, there are bad feelings between the Coptic leaders and the Israeli government on account of the latter’s recognition of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s title to a monastery of its own which was built many centuries ago on the roof of the Holy Sepulcher and which today is surrounded by a virtual village of transplanted Ethiopian people looking to be found by the Lord in the End of Times as closed as possible to the site of His Resurrection – as close, that is, as is possible given the possession of the Sepulchre itself by the syndicate of Roman Catholic  Greek Orthodox and Armenians who have custody of the Sepulchre itself.

 

The Coptic Pope’s ban has been far from airtight, however:  during Easter celebrations last year, some 5,000 Copts made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem; most of these, however, are residents of countries other than Egypt. It is the dream of every Copt to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem before one’s death, and for centuries the Copts did.

 

The painful truth is that most Christians of the Arab world have no desire to break ranks with Muslims against the Jews. For these Christians, contempt for Jews is founded in theology. For two millennia, these churches have taught that God’s rejection of the Jews follows from their collective act of “deicide.”  The evident consequences of this evil act include the destruction of their Second Temple, the end of their communities in the Holy Land and the Diaspora.

 

It should be noted that this paradigm of lethal hatred of Christians by Jews is promoted without any attention being given to the fact that Israel is today the only state in the region where Christian numbers are increasing, and where the Christian portion of the whole population has held steadily for half a century.

 

***“First, the Saturday People, Then the Sunday People.”

 

Just as surely as the extirpation of the Jews was prepared and then accomplished after 1949 by all the Arab regimes that had been humiliated by Israel’s survival, so today  extirpation of all  Christians from the region remains the declared goal of all branches of Muslim opinion.  The spirit of this campaign has found expression over recent years in a motto, “First, the Saturday People, then the Sunday People” (which, being translated means, Kill the Jews first, then the Christians) which appears on walls everywhere in the Middle East, and is even found in the Arab quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem. (See my essay, “After Saturday Comes Sunday, Bayview Review, December 21, 2011.)

 

Given this threat of liquidation closing in on both Jews and Christians living in the Middle East, solidarity of Christians with Jews everywhere ought to be advancing. Instead, ever since the early days of the Arab Spring, the principal spokesmen for all the local churches have been competing with one another to prove which is the most hostile to Zionism.

 

Particularly difficult for Christian friends of Israel to stomach has been the fact that as Muslim mobs were descending upon the dwindling Coptic Christian minority of Egypt, burning churches and despoiling church-goers, official spokesmen for that church were  trying to persuade us that this was all the work of the Masons and the Jews. The Coptic Pope, Shenouda III, denounced Western churches for following the guidance of Nostra Aetate and seeking “reconciliation” with the irredeemable Jews. He reminded his  countrymen that the Jews were “Christ-killers … because the New Testament says they are.”

 

The incumbent Pope’s visit to Jerusalem has been denounced by both secular and Christian Egyptians for weakening the resistance front against normalization with Israel. One senior Coptic voice, speaking in Arabic to Russia Today, suggests  that, in light of the close relationship between the late Archbishop Abraham and Pope Tawadros II,  the visit is  an ” ordinary” matter.

 

This does not indicate a change in the church’s stance on the Palestinian cause and which represents the majority of Egyptian Christians. In fact, this visit supports the Palestinian cause and several Palestinian officials actually keep inviting Arabs to visit Jerusalem.

 

No doubt,  Islamists will use the visit to further incite animus and hatred against the Copts wherever they can be reached – including here in Canada;  and Egypt’s deeply anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli political class are already condemning the Pope’s visit. But there is every reason to believe that in time for the Easter season of 2016 Copts everywhere will be assuming  that they have now a green light for what has previously, in principle, been impermissible.

 

***The New Political Situation of  the  Copts in Egypt.

 

But perhaps the most important factor at work here is the new political situation in Egypt. During the brief tenure of President Mohamed Morsi (June 2012-July 2013), the Islamists declared open season upon the infidel Copts; entire villages of  Christians were laid low and throughout the land  their homes, businesses and churches were torched and violated. Subsequently, Egypt’s Christians conspicuously supported Morsi’s ouster.

 

Since becoming President, Sisi has made repeated calls for greater religious tolerance and reform in Islamic discourse. “We talk a lot about the importance of reforming religious discourse,” said President Sisi in a televised speech to Islamic scholars in December 2015, but “In our schools, institutes and universities, do we teach and practice respect for the other?….God did not create the world for the ‘ummah’ [nation of Islam] to be alone. [He didn’t create it] for one community, but for communities. [He didn’t create it] for one religion, but for religions.

 

This last thought is, of course, ultimate blasphemy  in Muslim eyes.

 

President Sis has shown great boldness in declaring solidarity with the Copts against what he regards as the enemies of Egypt’s peace. Most recently, together with Muslim cabinet members, prominent media personalities and public figures, President Sisi attended the Christmas services at Cairo’s St. Mark Cathedral, the seat of the Coptic Orthodox Church —  something absolutely  unprecedented in the history of the Egyptian Republic. There and then he offered a public apology for what the Copts have suffered in the months before he overthrew President Morsi. “We have been late in restoring and fixing what has been burned, “ he proclaimed. “ Everything will be fixed. … Please accept our apologies for what happened.”

 

Now there is ein mensch.

WHILE ANTISEMITISM PERSISTS IN TURKEY & EGYPT, A COPTIC POPE MAKES HISTORIC PILGRIMAGE TO ISRAEL

Jew-Hating Turkish President ‘Mas-Kom-Ya’ Erdogan Extols Hitler’s Presidency: Andrew G. Bostom, Breitbart, Jan. 4, 2016 — Upon returning from a visit to Saudi Arabia late on Thursday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cited a striking example to illustrate his quest for consolidation of executive powers.

Russian Imperialism Meets Illusions of Ottoman Grandeur: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 31, 2015 — In a 2012 speech, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, then foreign minister, predicted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's days in power were numbered and that he would depart "within months or weeks."

Experts say Hamas and ISIS Cooperating to Fight Their New Common Enemy: Egypt: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 17, 2016— Hamas and Islamic State in Sinai have been cooperating in the smuggling of weapons, demonstrating that while Hamas is a nationalist Islamist movement, it also has common roots from which to build a functioning relationship with jihadists.

The Coptic Pope Goes to Jerusalem: Samuel Tadros, Weekly Standard, Nov. 27, 2016 — In a move that has sent shockwaves throughout Egypt, the Coptic Pope, Tawadros II, travelled to Jerusalem Thursday at the head of a distinguished delegation of bishops from the Coptic Church.

 

On Topic Links

 

Just What the Middle East Needs: Turkey’s Getting an Aircraft Carrier: Thomas Seibert, Daily Beast, Jan. 5, 2016

Is Turkey Heading to Partition?: Kadri Gursel, Al-Monitor, Jan. 4, 2016

Gunmen Fire at Bus Carrying Israeli Tourists in Egypt: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 7, 2015

Saving Gazans or Saving Gaza’s Terrorist Tunnels?: Lenny Ben-David, JCPA, Dec. 29, 2015

 

 

                       JEW-HATING TURKISH PRESIDENT ‘MAS-KOM-YA’

                       ERDOGAN EXTOLS HITLER’S PRESIDENCY

Andrew G. Bostom

Breitbart, Jan. 4, 2016

 

Upon returning from a visit to Saudi Arabia late on Thursday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cited a striking example to illustrate his quest for consolidation of executive powers. Per a recording broadcast by the Dogan news agency, Erdogan invoked Adolf Hitler’s Germany as an effective presidential system, stating, “There are already examples in the world. You can see it when you look at Hitler’s Germany.”

 

Clumsily attempting to explain away Erdogan’s unambiguous remarks, a senior Turkish official claimed the good President intended to highlight Nazi Germany as an example of “how not to implement” such a system, averring, “There are good and poor examples of presidential systems and the important thing is to put checks and balances in place.” Citing Hitler is sadly concordant with the current Turkish President’s well-established animus towards Jews—rooted in Islam’s conspiratorial Jew-hating canon within Turkey and beyond.

 

For example, Erdogan’s religiously-inspired Jew-hatred did not pass unnoticed by Gabby Levy, an Israeli ambassador to Turkey, as recorded in a WikiLeaks cable from October, 2009, sent by the US embassy in Ankara, Turkey. Levy’s views were validated by US ambassador James Jeffrey in “C O N F I D E N T I A L ANKARA 001549. SUBJECT: ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TRACES HIS PROBLEMS TO ERDOGAN. REF: ANKARA 1532. Classified By: AMB James F. Jeffrey.” Here are relevant extracts from Ambassador’s Jeffrey’s 2009 cable:

 

    Levy dismissed political calculation as a motivator for Erdogan’s hostility, arguing the prime minister’s party had not gained a single point in the polls from his bashing of Israel. Instead, Levy attributed Erdogan’s harshness to deep-seated emotion: “He’s a fundamentalist. He hates us religiously and his hatred is spreading.” [US ambassador Jeffrey’s observations] Our discussions with contacts both inside and outside of the Turkish government on Turkey’s deteriorating relations with Israel tend to confirm Levy’s thesis that Erdogan simply hates Israel…

 

As I have detailed in the past, Erdogan wrote, directed, and played the leading role in a theatrical play titled Maskomya, staged throughout Turkey during the 1970s. He was serving as president of the Istanbul Youth Group of Erbakan’s National Salvation Party at the time. “Mas-Kom-Ya” is a compound acronym for “Masons-Communists-Yahudi” — “Jews” — and the play focused on the evil nature of these three, whose common denominator was Judaism. When Valley of the Wolves was released in Turkey in 2006, it became the most expensive film ever made in Turkey. The film included a “cinematic motif” which featured an American Jewish doctor dismembering Iraqis allegedly murdered by American soldiers in order to harvest their organs for Jewish markets. At the time, then-Prime Minister Erdogan not only failed to condemn the film, he justified its production and popularity. His wife, Emine, also attended a gala screening of the film and sat next to the movie’s star.

 

Erdogan’s perfidious tribute to Hitler’s executive attributes is compounded by his morally cretinous equation of Jews/the Jewish State of Israel with the Nazis and Hitler, across two decades. As Istanbul mayor, during a June 1997 celebration of the mass murderous 1453 jihad conquest of then Byzantine Constantinople, Erdogan declared: “The Jews have begun to crush the Muslims of Palestine, in the name of Zionism. Today, the image of the Jews is no different from that of the Nazis.” Nearly 20 years later, addressing an August 2014 rally prior to his election as President of Turkey, Erdogan intoned, “Just like Hitler tried to create a pure Aryan race in Germany, the State of Israel is pursuing the same goals right now.”

 

Yet in June, 2006, despite Erdogan’s (and his coterie’s) already well-established public record of visceral Islamic Jew-hatred, the Anti-Defamation League [ADL] awarded, and Erdogan personally accepted, the ADL’s “Courage to Care Award.” Then-Prime Minister Erdogan even had the temerity to claim in his acceptance speech, “Antisemitism has no place in Turkey. It is alien to our country.” Erdogan’s mendacious hypocrisy notwithstanding, 69% of Turks share his intense level (i.e., affirming ≥ 6/11 antisemitic stereotypes) of Jew-hatred according to the ADL’s own 2014 “Global 100: A Survey of Attitudes Toward Jews in Over 100 Countries Around the World.”

 

The Islamic revival movement of Erdogan’s mentor Erbakan, which spawned the current ruling AKP party, has always employed a virulently Jew-hating discourse, hinging on canonical themes from Islam. Thus central to this hatred are frequent quotations from the Koran and hadith [traditions of Islam’s prophet Muhammad and the early Muslim community], nurtured by early Islam’s basic animus towards Judaism. For example, Milli Gazete, mouthpiece of the traditionalist Islamic revival, published articles in February and April of 2005 rehashing toxic amalgams of ahistorical drivel and virulently Jew-hating and anti-non-Muslim “dhimmi” (per Koran 9:29). The articles used Koranic motifs, including these prototypical comments based upon Koran 2:61/3:112, which stamp eternal humiliation on the Jews for numerous transgressions, including “prophet killing”:

 

    In fact no amount of pages or lines would be sufficient to explain the Koranic chapters and our Lord Prophet’s [Muhammad’s] words that tell us of the betrayals of the Jews… The prophets sent to them, such as Zachariah and Isaiah, were murdered by the Jews…

 

Also in April 2005, a Turkish jihadist organization monthly, Aylik, published 18 pages of antisemitic material produced by those claiming responsibility for the November 15, 2003, dual synagogue bombings in Istanbul. “Why Antisemitism?,” an article written by Cumali Dalkilic, combined traditional Koranic Jew-hating motifs with Nazi Jew-hatred and Holocaust denial. Another article’s title, “The Tschifits Castle,” repeats the very pejorative if commonplace Turkish Muslim characterization of Jews, “Tschifit,” which translates as “filthy Jews“—a debasing term for Jews whose usage was recorded by the European travelers Carsten Niebuhr, in 1794, and Abdolonyme Ubicini, in 1856, based upon their visits to Ottoman Turkey.

 

Nine years later, AKP lawmaker Cuma Icten lauded as a “magnificent speech” Imam Sait Yaz’s July 2014 sermon in Diyarbakir, broadcast on Oda TV, punctuated by these comments, redolent with Koranic themes:     “The most rabid and savage enemies of Islam on Earth are the Jews. Who says this? Allah says this [Koran 5:82]… The Jews and the Christians will never accept you unless you submit to their religion [Koran 2:120]. These Jews spoil all the agreements on Earth [2:100-101; 5:13] and have murdered [Koran 2:61/3:112]  17 of their own prophets… And I declare here: All Jews who have taken up arms to murder Muslims must be killed, and Israel must be wiped off the map! And it will be wiped out with Allah’s help!”

 

Moreover, it is well past time to dispel the corrosive myth of an alleged half millennium of Ottoman Turkish comity towards the dhimmi Jewish communities it ruled under the Sharia. This false narrative, as I detail in The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, has been perpetuated and projected on to the comportment of the modern era Turkish Republic by Turkey’s oppressed dhimmi Jewish community, and mimicked in the behaviors of major Jewish organizations outside Turkey, notably the ADL. Courageous historian Rifat Bali, a Jew who still resides in Turkey, condemned these local and international Jewish communal attitudes and [in]actions, after the November 15, 2003 Istanbul synagogue bombings: “…all seemed determined to ignore…[rather than] to confront face to face the anti-Semitism which is incorporated in the political Islamic movement…[i.e., which currently governs Turkey].”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                

                                                                       

 

Contents

   

RUSSIAN IMPERIALISM MEETS ILLUSIONS OF OTTOMAN GRANDEUR                                                     

Burak Bekdil                                                                                                                    

Gatestone Institute, Dec. 31, 2015

 

In a 2012 speech, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, then foreign minister, predicted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's days in power were numbered and that he would depart "within months or weeks." Almost three and a half years have passed, with Assad still in power, and Davutoglu keeps on making one passionate speech after another about the fate of Syria.

 

Turkey's failure to devise a credible policy on Syria has made the country's leaders nervous. Both Davutoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have lately resorted to more aggressive, but less convincing, rhetoric on Syria. The new rhetoric features many aspects of a Sunni Islamist thinking blended with illusions of Ottoman grandeur. On December 22, Davutoglu said, "Syrian soil is not, and will not be, part of Russia's imperialistic goals." That was a relief to know! All the same, Davutoglu could have been more direct and honest if he said that: "Syrian soil will not be part of Russia's imperialistic goals because we want it to be part of Turkey's pro-Sunni, neo-Ottoman imperialistic goals."

 

It is obvious that Davutoglu's concern is not about a neighboring territory becoming a theater of war before it serves any foreign nation's imperialistic goals. His concern, rather, is that neighboring soil will become a theater of war and serve a pro-Shiite's imperialist goals. Hardly surprising. "What," Davutoglu asked Russia, "is the basis of your presence in Syria?" The Russians could unconvincingly reply to this unconvincing question: "Fighting terror, in general, and ISIL in particular." But then Davutoglu claims that the Russian military hits more "moderates" (read: merely jihadist killers, not to be mixed with jihadist barbarians who behead people and cheerfully release their videos). Translation: more Islamist targets and fewer ISIL targets.

 

A legitimate question to ask the Turkish prime minister might be: What is the basis of "moderate" Islamists' presence in Syria — especially when we know that a clear majority of the "moderate" fighters are not even Syrians. According to Turkish police records, they are mainly Chinese Uighurs, several Europeans and even one from Trinidad and Tobago. Could the basis be the religious bond? Could Prime Minister Davutoglu have politely reminded the Russians that the "moderate" fighters are Muslim whereas Russia is not? But then, one should ask, using Davutoglu's logic, "What is the basis of the U.S.-led Western coalition's airstrikes in Syria?" Since when are the Americans, British, Germans and French Muslims?

 

In Turkish thinking, there is just one difference between non-Muslim Russia's presence in Syria and non-Muslim allies' presence: The non-Muslim Russians seriously threaten the advancement of our pro-Sunni sectarian war in the Levant, whereas the non-Muslim allies can be instrumental in favor of it. Hence Turkey's selective objection to some of the non-Muslim players in Syria.

 

Earlier in 2015, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he found it difficult to understand what Russia was doing in Syria, since "it does not even border Syria." By that logic, Turkey should not be "doing anything" in the Palestinian territories, Somalia, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan or any of the non-bordering lands into which its neo-Ottoman impulses have pushed it over the past several years. By the same logic, also, Turkey should be objecting to any allied (non-Muslim) intervention in Syria, or to any Qatari or Saudi (non-bordering) intervention in the Syrian theater.

 

In the unrealistic imperial Turkish psyche, only Turkey and the countries that pursue regional ambitions convergent with Turkey's can have any legitimate right to design or re-design the former Ottoman lands.

Such self-righteous and assertive thinking can hardly comply with international law. The Turks and their imperial ambitions have already been declared unwelcome in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Nor would such ambitions be welcomed in any former Ottoman land to Turkey's west. But if, as Turkey's Islamists are programmed to believe, "historical and geographical bonds" give a foreign nation the right to design a polity in another nation, what better justification could the Russians have had for their post-imperial designs in Crimea?

 

When they have a moment of distraction from their wars against Western values, the West, Israel, Jews or infidels, the Sunni and Shiite Islamists in the Middle East fight subtle-looking (but less subtle than they think) and cunning (but less cunning than they think) wars and proxy wars, and accuse each other of pursuing sectarian policies. Turkey's rulers are no exception.   

                                                                                   

Contents

                           

                                                          EXPERTS SAY HAMAS AND ISIS COOPERATING TO FIGHT

                                    THEIR NEW COMMON ENEMY: EGYPT

Ariel Ben Solomon

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 17, 2015

 

Hamas and Islamic State in Sinai have been cooperating in the smuggling of weapons, demonstrating that while Hamas is a nationalist Islamist movement, it also has common roots from which to build a functioning relationship with jihadists. “Over the past two years, IS Sinai helped Hamas move weapons from Iran and Libya through the peninsula, taking a generous cut from each shipment,” according to a Washington Institute for Near East Policy report on Tuesday by Ehud Yaari, a Lafer international fellow at the think tank.

 

Yaari, a Middle East commentator for Channel 2, points to a secret visit by Islamic State in Sinai’s military leader, Shadi al-Menai, to Gaza this month to hold talks with Hamas’s military wing. Both Hamas and Islamic State trace their origins to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, founded by Sheikh Hassan al-Banna. Hamas is a direct offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and until its official founding in 1987, it ran its activities through the Islamic Association founded in the mid-1970s and headed by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. It was the first intifada that led the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza to embark “upon a direct and violent confrontation with Israel,” as explained in detail by Anat Kurz and Nahman Tal in a 1977 article for the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies titled, “Hamas: Radical Islam in a National Struggle.” “The operational turn was marked by an organizational change – the establishment of Hamas,” they wrote.

 

While all Islamist movements, including Islamic State and al-Qaida, are offshoots from the more pragmatic Muslim Brotherhood, they have no patience and use violence to seek immediate results to achieve their goals. Despite some shared goals between Salafist jihadists and Hamas, such as wanting to establish a caliphate to rule the world, they go about it in different ways. Islamic State, for example, totally rejects the modern concept of nationalism, while Hamas, and its mother movement the Muslim Brotherhood, accept the reality in order to build its power base in each state over time.

 

In addition, “Hamas rejects the Salafi jihadist concept of declaring Muslims as apostates (takfir), if they fail to follow the strict Salafi interpretation, and the declaration of jihad against irreligious Muslim rulers,” says Prof. Meir Litvak, the director for the Alliance Center of Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University in a journal article “‘Martyrdom is Life’: Jihad and Martyrdom in the Ideology of Hamas.” Litvak, an expert on Hamas, told The Jerusalem Post that while Hamas and Islamic State have ideological differences, they have a common enemy now, which is the Egyptian government. “Hamas needs the Salafi jihadists to break the Egyptian siege on Gaza. The Salafists need Hamas’s technical know-how to produce short-range rockets and other weapons,” he said. “Hence, they ignore their ideological differences for the time being and cooperate.”

 

Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, told the Post, “Hamas has always been part of the global jihad movement, despite persistent claims that it is a nationalist terrorist group with strictly nationalist aims.” Hamas and al-Qaida trained together in Sudan during the early 1990s and the two terrorist groups maintained close ties for more than a decade, said Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the US Department of the Treasury. Furthermore, Hamas also cooperates with other Shi’ite terrorist supporters and is plugged into the Iran-sponsored terrorist network, he commented.

 

The Gaza-based group’s “deep ties to Hezbollah have yielded finance and operational gains over the years,” added Schanzer. “It is further instructive to note that illicit channels of finance are often shared by multiple actors." In this case, Islamic State and Hamas appear to be sharing the same channels for weapons smuggling and perhaps other financial means. “In some cases, this is simply a marriage of convenience. In others, it is a deeper strategic cooperation,” continued Schanzer, adding that in the case of these two terrorist groups, the shared disdain for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government could be an indication of the latter.                                                                       

 

Contents                       

                      THE COPTIC POPE GOES TO JERUSALEM

Samuel Tadros

Weekly Standard, Nov. 27, 2015

 

In a move that has sent shockwaves throughout Egypt, the Coptic Pope, Tawadros II, travelled to Jerusalem Thursday at the head of a distinguished delegation of bishops from the Coptic Church. The short flight from Cairo to Tel Aviv can be measured in minutes; the psychological distance stretches back decades. It is the dream of every Copt to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem before one’s death, and for centuries the Copts did. In the process, the Coptic community acquired a dozen churches and several monasteries in the Holy Land as well as partial rights to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. After the six-day war in June 1967, it became impossible to make the pilgrimage with Egypt and Israel at war.

 

Those who held hopes that the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1979 would open the gates of Jerusalem to Coptic pilgrims were quickly disappointed as the late Pope Shenouda III (1971-2012) quickly made his decision known: No Copt would be allowed to travel to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage. Copts would only enter Jerusalem with Muslims, he declared. The decision was purely political, with the man once described as Egypt’s most astute politician reasoning that if Copts went to Israel for the pilgrimage, the rest of the Arab world would see them as traitors. Many sins could be forgiven in the Arab world, he presumably reasoned, but visiting Israel is not one of them…

 

For thirty plus years, Pope Shenouda held firm. Nonetheless, the lure of visiting Jerusalem continued to have its hold on the hearts and minds of Copts, and some decided to ignore the Pope’s ban and make the pilgrimage. The situation became embarrassing to a Pope known for his stubbornness. In the 1990s as the hopes of peace between Israel and the Palestinians encouraged more Copts to make the journey, the Pope decided to enforce his ban by prohibiting those travelling from receiving communion. Was redemption not possible? Well, one way was presented; those making the pilgrimage would then publish an apology in Egypt’s leading newspaper asking forgiveness from the Pope. Only then would they be allowed to take communion. The formula soon turned into a farce when tourism companies included the fee for the newspaper apology as part of the travel package to Israel.

 

Since his ascension as Pope in 2012, Pope Tawadros has tried to ease the tension. While officially maintaining his predecessor’s position, he has allowed Copts abroad to make the journey. And without making any public fuss about it, removed the ban on communion for those who defy the church’s position inside Egypt. It became obvious to church observers that his heart was not fully behind Pope Shenouda’s ban. In all cases, even under his predecessor, the Coptic Church had regularly sent monks and priests to Israel to maintain its property there. The church also ordains a Metropolitan, the second highest position in the church hierarchy after the Pope, based in Jerusalem and responsible for a wide diocese stretching from Israel to the Gulf.

 

Metropolitan Abraham’s death … is what brought the Pope to Jerusalem, where he will head the funeral service. The Church has already attempted to portray the visit as exceptional—that is, very different from pilgrimage, but it is unlikely anyone will buy that. Islamists will use the visit to further incite animus and hatred against the Copts. And Egypt’s deeply anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli political class will condemn the Pope’s visit.

 

Why did the Pope decide to go to Jerusalem? He must have known that he will pay a heavy political price for his decision. But since his ascension to the Papacy, Tawadros has shown that once he is convinced of the soundness of a decision, he ignores its political costs. No matter what his calculus might have been, there is no turning back now. Next April when it is time for pilgrimage, thousands of Copts will make the journey no matter what the Church says officially. Pope Tawadros’ short trip may not be as historical as Sadat’s 1977 visit to Israel, but for Egypt’s Copts it may prove to be no less significant.

 

On Topic

 

Just What the Middle East Needs: Turkey’s Getting an Aircraft Carrier: Thomas Seibert, Daily Beast, Jan. 5, 2016—Turkey is getting ready to widen the reach of its military considerably by building a multipurpose aircraft carrier with “trans-continental” capabilities.

Is Turkey Heading to Partition?: Kadri Gursel, Al-Monitor, Jan. 4, 2016—“Red lines” have been a fixture in Ankara’s policies toward the Kurds for decades. Blurring or shifting, thinning or thickening, decreasing or increasing, myriad red lines were drawn as Ankara grappled with the painful consequences of the Kurdish problem and sought to keep it under control instead of resolving it. The more the problem became regionalized, the more the red lines crossed borders.

Gunmen Fire at Bus Carrying Israeli Tourists in Egypt: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 7, 2015—Gunmen opened fire on Israeli Arab tourists as they boarded a bus in Cairo on Thursday but there were no casualties, security sources said, while the Interior Ministry said the attack was directed at security forces.

Saving Gazans or Saving Gaza’s Terrorist Tunnels?: Lenny Ben-David, JCPA, Dec. 29, 2015—Fourteen Gaza tunnel diggers were rescued on December 28, 2015 after their smuggling tunnel collapsed, purportedly because of Egyptian flooding of the extensive tunnel system in Gaza.

 

 

 

 

                  

 

 

 

RELATIONS WITH ISRAEL IMPROVING, BUT EGYPT REMAINS A BASTION OF ANTISEMITISM & RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication.

 

Egyptian Historian: Drop the Palestinians, Normalize With Israel: Ari Soffer, Arutz Sheva, June 1, 2015— A prominent Egyptian historian took to national television last week to make an unusually open and robust case for Egypt to "drop the Palestinian cause and normalize relations with Israel."

Egypt's Religious Freedom Farce: Oren Kessler, National Interest, May 21, 2015 — President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt presents himself as an Islamic reformer.

Egyptian Bishop: Security Services Complicit in Anti-Christian Violence: Raymond Ibrahim, Coptic Solidarity, May 4, 2015 — In a 25-minute interview on Arabic satellite TV with Dr. Mona Roman, Coptic Christian Bishop Agathon fully exposed the plight of his Christian flock in Minya, Egypt—a region that has a large Coptic minority that is steadily under attack.

The Last Seven Jews in Egypt: Mina Thabet, Real Clear World, May 15, 2015 — Egyptian Jews are having to face the ugly truth that their community appears bound to vanish.

 

On Topic Links

 

Israel and Egypt Grow Closer, but Anti-Semitism Remains Part of the Equation: Sean Savage, JNS, June 8, 2015

Egypt Dismisses Human Rights Report as Politicized, Biased: Jerusalem Post, June 9, 2015

Why I Am Suing Al Jazeera: An Open Letter From Mohamed Fahmy: Egyptian Streets, June 3, 2015

Turkey: Muslim Brothers' Protector: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, June 9, 2015

 

                                               

EGYPTIAN HISTORIAN:

DROP THE PALESTINIANS, NORMALIZE WITH ISRAEL

Ari Soffer                                                                                                            

Arutz Sheva, June 1, 2015

 

A prominent Egyptian historian took to national television last week to make an unusually open and robust case for Egypt to "drop the Palestinian cause and normalize relations with Israel." In a lengthy interview with Egypt's Mehwar TV on May 28 – segments of which were translated by MEMRI – historian Maged Farag insisted it was time for Egyptians to leave "the old ideology and cultural heritage on which we were raised" – namely, rabid anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism – in favor of a more rational focus on Egypt's own national interests.

 

"What I'm saying is that we should pay attention to the interests of our country," he told his interviewer. "There are no such things as eternal enmity or eternal love. There are only eternal interests. We should identify our country's interest. Churchill once said that he was ready to cooperate with the Devil in the interest of his country. As a man who knows a little bit about history and about international relations, I believe that it is in our interest to maintain normal relations with Israel."

 

Noting that in practice there already is close cooperation on security, political and other issues between the two countries' respective governments, Farag asserted: "The state is not the problem. The problem lies with the people, who still live the old ideology and the cultural heritage on which we were raised. Our generation was raised upon hatred and upon these people being barbaric…" Indeed, despite Israel and Egypt successfully maintaining an official peace treaty since 1979, popular sentiment inside Egypt is still largely – though not exclusively – anti-Israel. Anti-Semitism is also rife in the country, which is the most populous Arab state in the world.  Egypt was home to around 80,000 Jews in 1948, but expelled most of them and seized their property as part of a wider campaign of ethnic-cleansing carried out by Arab states in "revenge" for the defeat of Arab armies by the nascent State of Israel in 1948.

 

Key to that outdated mentality was Egypt's continued support for the "Palestinian cause," Farag posited. Since Egypt had achieved a just peace with the State of Israel, there was no rational or logical reason for it to maintain any hostility towards the Jewish state, he said – particularly when the Palestinians themselves "have no interest" in actually ending the conflict, short of annihilating Israel altogether. "For over 70 years, the Palestinian cause has brought upon Egypt and the Egyptians nothing but harm, destruction, and expense. We have been preoccupied all our lives with the Palestinian cause. "The Palestinian cause is Palestinian," he continued. "Egypt's problem has been resolved."

 

Referring to the Sinai Peninsula – which Israel captured during the 1967 Six Day War, and handed over to Egypt as part of their 1979 peace treaty – he added: "The occupied land has been liberated. End of story, as far as I'm concerned. Let us now live and care about the interests of my country." "Am I supposed to shackle myself to the Palestinian cause? Let the (Palestinians) resolve it… We have tried to help them many times." "They don't think it is in their interest," he said of the Palestinians themselves. "They don't want to resolve their own problem."

 

Farag also brushed off criticism of a recent visit he paid to Israel, during which he posted pictures of himself at famous Muslim, Christian and Jewish sites, as well as other Israeli attractions. He retorted that he was "not afraid" of openly visiting a neighboring country, and noted that many other Egyptians work and have relations with Israel and Israelis, but simply don't admit to it. "I still don't understand what the big deal is. I met many Egyptians there, and many Egyptians have visited Israel. I don't understand why my visit there made people so angry," he said.

 

Farag also busted a common Egyptian myth that a large sign exists outside of Israel's Knesset declaring the country's attempt to expand "from the Nile to the Euphrates." "This is not true. There is no such thing," he informed viewers. "We all know that this is not true, but people keep saying this to heat up the hostility."

 

His vision for Israeli-Egyptian relations is one of total cooperation – citing by way of example the relationship between Germany and France, who until the latter half of the twentieth century had been at war on and off for hundreds of years. "Normal relations require, first of all, cultural exchange," he explained. "I must not fear the other. So long as I fear the other, nothing good can develop. We should not fear (Israel). We should visit there. There should be tourist exchange, and economic exchange. There are Israeli companies that specialize in modern drip irrigation. They have very advanced irrigation technology. We have a water problem. We have a shortage of water. Why can't we take advantage of their technology, of their thought, and of the results of their research?”

 

"They used this technology to cultivate the desert, so why can't we use it here? Why can't I benefit from someone who used to be my enemy? I'm not looking to force him to become my friend. I want him as a partner in developing agriculture and industry in Egypt." Challenged by his interviewer as to how Egyptian schools should teach about the numerous wars between Israel and Egypt, he stated simply: "We should teach that there were wars in '48, '56, '67, and '73, and that these wars came to an end, that we signed a peace treaty, and we should set our eyes on the future. That's it.  Israel exists, whether we like it or not, and it will continue to exist, whether we like it or not. So let's just accept this."                                        

 

                                                                       

Contents                                                                                                

   

EGYPT'S RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FARCE                     

Oren Kessler                                                                                                                                  

National Interest, May 21, 2015

 

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt presents himself as an Islamic reformer. He has challenged the sheikhs of Al-Azhar University—Sunni Islam’s preeminent religious institution—to promote moderation, and took the bold step (by Egyptian standards) of wishing worshippers a merry Christmas in Cairo’s Coptic cathedral. The moves are commendable, but do little to alter an unfortunate reality: while Egypt’s penal code prohibits “insulting heavenly religions or those following it,” the law is enforced for just one faith: Sunni Islam.

 

Egypt takes religion seriously. By law, Egyptians are only allowed to practice one of the three recognized monotheistic religions: Islam (implicitly Sunni Islam—the faith of the overwhelming majority), Christianity (representing some ten percent of the population) and Judaism (today, Egypt has exactly seven Jews, down from 75,000 in 1947). Still, Egyptians may only practice the creed they’re born into—the government does not recognize Muslim conversions to Christianity, and conversion from either faith to Judaism is nonexistent—unless the target faith is Islam.

 

The latest annual report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, issued earlier this month, found that while the majority of Egypt’s blasphemy charges were levied against members of the Sunni majority, the bulk of prison sentences were doled out to Christians, followed by Shiite Muslims and atheists.

 

In June 2014, shortly after Sisi’s election, a court in Luxor sentenced four Christians to up to six years in prison for posting photos to Facebook deemed insulting to Islam. The same month, a journalist (a Muslim who had begun practicing Christianity in an unrecognized conversion) was given five years in jail for supposedly offending Islam by reporting on anti-Christian violence in Upper Egypt (some of the charges were later dropped, but he remains imprisoned). The punishments for these alleged verbal slights against Islam come as mob attacks against Coptic churches regularly go unpunished.

 

Meanwhile, slander of the Jewish faith and its adherents is a fixture of contemporary Egyptian life. Anecdotal and statistical evidence puts Egypt in the running for the world’s most anti-Semitic nation: with 98 percent of the public expressing unfavorable opinions of Jews, it exceeds even the accomplished records of its Arab neighbors. The story of Egyptian Judeophobia is a long one, but today, Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are mainstays of Cairo book kiosks, and foreign journalists are beaten and sexually assaulted on imaginary charges of being Jewish. Mainstream, otherwise liberal actors appear in grotesque Judeophobic entertainment, and Sisi’s election nearly a year ago has done nothing to slow the flow of anti-Jewish calumnies on public and private television.

 

Jews and Christians, however, at least enjoy the nominal right to live according to their beliefs. Woe to anyone who follows neither of the three state-approved faiths: atheism remains grounds for ostracism, and members of Egypt’s Shia community are treated like lepers. Late last year, the Religious Endowments Ministry launched a campaign to warn imams of the “growing threat” of the Baha’i creed, lest citizens fall prey to “deviant thoughts that destroy the minds of young people.” Baha'is—at most a few thousands out of the country’s 82 million people—“threaten Islam specifically and Egyptian society in general,” the ministry said, which last month expanded the campaign to counter atheism and Shia Islam.

 

Egypt is, by any measure, a conservative country. A comprehensive Pew poll conducted in 2013 found three-quarters of the country’s Muslims want to live under sharia, while an earlier survey found eight in ten endorse stoning adulterers and maiming thieves. Nearly nine in ten favor the death penalty for apostasy from Islam. Views among Christians, while less austere, are also less than liberal. Marriage is only through the Church, while divorce requires permission from the Coptic Pope and is exceedingly rare. Even when granted, divorced parties are almost always prevented from remarrying.

 

Egypt’s Sunni Muslims need not worry—the country’s demographics ensure their faith will forever exert a stronger cultural pull than any other. Still, it’s bad enough that Egypt gives its citizens three religions to choose from. A government claiming to uphold religious diversity must do more to protect those choosing the unpopular creed or none at all. One of best gauges of a country’s freedom is the security the majority affords minorities. For Sisi’s Egypt to credibly claim the mantle of religious pluralism, it must extend that protection equally.                

                    

Contents                                                                                     

   

EGYPTIAN BISHOP:

SECURITY SERVICES COMPLICIT IN ANTI-CHRISTIAN VIOLENCE                                                 

Raymond Ibrahim

Coptic Solidarity, May 4, 2015

 

In a 25-minute interview on Arabic satellite TV with Dr. Mona Roman, Coptic Christian Bishop Agathon fully exposed the plight of his Christian flock in Minya, Egypt—a region that has a large Coptic minority that is steadily under attack. While several important points were made, most notable was that the Egyptian State itself is often behind the persecution of and discrimination against Christians.

 

According to the frustrated-sounding bishop, local governmental authorities—including the State Security apparatus—are not just ignoring the attacks on Copts, but are often the very ones behind them. For example, when the Copts were having a serious council meeting with government officials about the possibility of building a church, one of the authorities actually contacted the Islamic sheikhs of the village asking whether they "stand with the Coptic church or with the State?" If the latter, each Muslim household was instructed to send one family member to protest against the proposed building of a church—so that security can then point to the mob and, as usual, just tell the Copts, "Sorry, no can do."

 

Other times, State Security is complicit: Male and female Christian minors—currently 21 from just Minya alone said the Coptic leader—are habitually abducted by surrounding Muslims. At the moment, the youngest Christian girl abducted had just started elementary school. Whenever any of these attacks occur, Copts, working with the church, prepare bundles of documents, including photos and other verifications, incriminating the culprits. These then are placed into the hands of top officials, to make sure they don't get "lost" or "misplaced" by underlings. The bishop named many of these top people—at no small risk to himself—and said he even put such proofs and documents into the hands of the Director of Intelligence himself. "Absolutely nothing was done," said the despondent Christian.

 

He discussed the difficulties that Copts encounter whenever they want to build a church—due to their dearth, some of the current churches serve tens of thousands of Christians—or even make simple repairs. By way of example, he explained how the Virgin Mary Church in Safaniya village has no bathrooms or running water. Christians "tried time and time again to get approval to build bathrooms, to no avail." The bishop lamented how elderly and sick people sometimes urinate on themselves during service, while mothers must change their crying babies' diapers right on the pews. In response, authorities told the bishop to "Go and ask the Muslims of your region if they will approve the building of a church, or bathroom, or anything—and if they do, so will we."

 

It should be noted that Islamic law specifically bans the construction or repair of churches. Clearly frustrated, the bishop added: "We as Copts are human beings. And envy takes us when we see our Muslim brothers build mosques where they will, how they will, at any place and at any time. And the State helps them! But as for us, we cannot build anything and that which is already open is being closed…. We, the Copts, are citizens with rights; and we see Muslims get whatever they want, while we are always prevented."

 

The Coptic bishop also said that sometimes Christians are punished whenever they go and "bother" authorities about their treatment. For example, when a Coptic delegation went to make a formal complaint, one of them was immediately kidnapped. His kidnappers demanded and received 120,000 Egyptian pounds for his release. Police were notified—even told where the exchange of money for hostage was to take place—but did absolutely nothing. The bishop referred to this incident as a "punishment" while Dr. Roman, the Coptic hostess, called Minya, Egypt a "State of Retribution" against those Copts who dare refuse to suffer quietly," adding, "Al-Minya is apparently not an Egyptian province; it is governed by ISIS."

 

Finally, Bishop Agathon made clear the despondency he and the average Christian in Egypt feel, repeatedly saying that, no matter which official they talk to, "nothing will change." If anything, the plight of Egypt's Christians has gone "from bad to worse," said the bishop: "We hear beautiful words but no solution." Dr. Roman concluded by imploring Egyptian President Sisi, saying: "I've said it before: President Sisi is very meticulous and aware of the nation's issues. Why, then, is it that the Coptic plight in Minya is being ignored? Why is he turning a blind eye toward it?" Bishop Agathon concluded by saying that "Copts are between a state anvil and aggressor hammers," meaning that, the state serves only to keep its Christian citizens in place while Islamic radicals pound away at them.                                  

                                                                       

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THE LAST SEVEN JEWS IN EGYPT                                                                                         

Mina Thabet                                              

Real Clear World, May 15, 2015

 

Egyptian Jews are having to face the ugly truth that their community appears bound to vanish. As recently as 1947, Egypt's Jewish community numbered up to 80,000. Today, by most accounts, there are just seven Egyptian Jews left, most of whom are elderly women in need of daily medical care. The last time I met Nadia Haroun, one of the last survivors of Egypt's Jewish community, was in November 2013. I remember that day because I met her at the same time as her older sister Magda, the community's leader.

Jews represent the oldest religious community in Egypt, which has faced a wave of propaganda, defamation and hate speech over the years. That legacy is still felt today through stereotypes and slurs that persist in everyday language. I was criticized for writing an article in Arabic entitled, "We are sorry, Jews." Some wondered how a Christian could defend Jews, who some blame for taking part in the crucifixion of Jesus. Ironically, many of those critics are Muslims extremists, some of whom themselves discriminate against Christians.

 

Unfortunately, Egyptian history is full of violations of the essential rights of minorities and vulnerable groups. On Nov. 2, 1945, anti-British, anti-Zionist (and anti-Jewish) demonstrations took place in Cairo on the occasion of the 28th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. A synagogue was burned down, 27 Torah scrolls were desecrated, and among the buildings damaged or destroyed were a soup kitchen, a home for the elderly, a shelter for poor transients, the Jewish hospital, the quarters of the Art Society and several Jewish public buildings.

 

After the 1948 war, a hostile environment against Jews worsened, as they were suspected of acting as a "fifth column" for Israel. After the 1952 coup, Jews were subject to detention, deportation and sequestration. In the mid-1950s, then-President Gamal Abdel Nasser initiated his policy of nationalization, which had a devastating impact on the Jewish community, as it controlled a broad sector of the Egyptian economy. American diplomats noted that sequestration decisions were filed against 539 Jews by name and 105 companies, in addition to Jews covered in the sequential orders filed against British and French nationals.

 

In November 1956, the regime modified its citizenship and nationality laws in order to keep Jews and other minorities from becoming Egyptian citizens. The situation became more complicated at the end of November, when at least 500 Egyptian and stateless Jews had been expelled from Egypt, not including a considerable number of Jewish citizens from Britain and France. Most of the them were heads of families, and they were ordered to leave the country within days. In most cases, the individual served with a deportation order was responsible for supporting his family, so all members of the family would have to leave the country. This measure led to the mass migration of Jews, who nearly vanished from Egypt.

 

A small number of Jewish families stayed in Egypt, among them leftist activist Chehata Haroun and his family. According to Haroun's daughter, Magda, when her father tried to fly her older sister to Paris for medical treatment, Egyptian authorities would only approve an exit visa with no return, so his daughter died without treatment and he never left the country. When he died in 2001, his family had to bring in a French rabbi to perform the ritual prayer for him, because there was no rabbi in Egypt. The same happened with Nadia, who died in March 2014. I had the honor of attending her funeral. Egyptian state officials did not attend, even though they typically attend funerals of Al-Azhar sheikhs or bishops from the Coptic Church. Nadia left her older sister Magda alone to carry the burden of Egypt's Jewish community.

 

On the first anniversary of Nadia's death, Magda went to her older sister's grave along with her current Christian husband and her Muslim daughters from a previous marriage to perform their rites. She found that a group of youth had desecrated her sister's grave. They also insulted her and Judaism. I can't imagine how Magda felt about that. It's very hard for anyone to see their beloved insulted in life and death, just because they had a different religion.

 

Despite the fact that Egypt has some of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the world, they have been left vulnerable to desecration and vandalism. Cemeteries are not the only neglected part of Jewish legacy in Egypt. According to Magda, there are about 12 Jewish synagogues in Cairo and Alexandria left without maintenance. The majority were closed because there is no one left to pray there. There are also registers belonging to Egypt's Jewish community, which are part of history that need to be digitalized and safeguarded. The original written Torah also needs to be restored and kept in a museum, along with other parts of this dying community's heritage.

 

Magda once told me about her deepest fear – that after she is gone, what remains of Egypt's Jewish heritage will be lost. I remember her comments at her sister's funeral. She looked in my eye and said, "'It's your history, Mina.' Then she turned to one of her friends and said, 'It's your history, Mohamed.'"

 

About six decades of propaganda and hate speech finally led to the end of this country's Jewish community. The same hate speech led to the forced evictions of the Baha'i from Sohag in 2009. The same hate speech led to the brutal murder of four Shia men in June 2013. The same hate speech led to a swell of sectarian violence against Christians, with dozens of churches burned down, and dozens more Christian homes and stores looted since 2011.

 

Hate speech and lack of equal protection under the law inside create a hostile environment for minorities. Since 2011, at least 40 incidents of sectarian violence have occurred in Egypt. Most of these followed hate speech, which incited the perpetrators to commit the attacks. Since 2011, sectarian violence has taken the lives of at least 100 Egyptians, where the absence of accountability and protection for vulnerable groups has become all too common. We should learn from our mistakes. We should start preserving our Jewish heritage and restore our synagogues. We should face down hate speech and discrimination. We should stop sectarian violence and bring its perpetrators to justice.

 

 

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On Topic

 

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