Tag: persecuted christians

CHRISTIANS PLAY VITAL ROLE IN MAINTAINING SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL & FIGHTING ANTISEMITISM

What We Thought of the Rev. Billy Graham: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, Feb. 23, 2018— Perhaps the saddest thing about the death of the Rev. Billy Graham on Feb. 21, at the age of 99, was the fact that virtually every obituary gave prominent mention to what was arguably his worst moment.

Mike Pence’s Faith, Israel and Middle East Policy: Ron Kampeas, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 24, 2018— When Mike Pence moved to Washington earlier this year, he and his wife took with them a framed phrase they had for years hung over their fireplace in their Indiana home, and then over the fireplace in the governor’s mansion in that state.

Restoring Persecuted Middle East Christians’ Faith in America: Johny Messo, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 21, 2018— Without urgent action on the part of the United States, Christianity in biblically historic lands, such as Iraq, Syria and Turkey, will be clinically dead before the year 2030.

Dealing with the Devil: Pope Francis, Erdogan, and Jerusalem: Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Times of Israel, Feb. 18, 2018— The sudden explosion of hostilities between Iran and Israel points to the seemingly permanent instability of the Middle East – which makes the recent 50-minute meeting between Pope Francis and Turkish President Erdogan all the more disturbing.

 

On Topic Links

 

Jewish Leaders Mourn the Passing of Reverend Billy Graham, Friend of Israel: Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, Breaking Israel News, Feb. 21, 2018

Infidel Women: Spoils of War: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 17, 2018

Closing Down Christianity at its Source: Paul Merkley, Bayview Review, Dec. 21, 2018

America’s 20 Most Influential Pro-Israel Evangelical Christians: Eliana Rudee, Breaking Israel News, Dec. 24, 2017

 

WHAT WE THOUGHT OF THE REV. BILLY GRAHAM

Jonathan S. Tobin

JNS, Feb. 23, 2018

Perhaps the saddest thing about the death of the Rev. Billy Graham on Feb. 21, at the age of 99, was the fact that virtually every obituary gave prominent mention to what was arguably his worst moment. Graham was a giant of American evangelism, whose worldwide fame as a preacher eclipsed that of any American religious figure of the 20th century. But it was impossible to do an assessment of a life full of achievements without also talking about the fact that he was caught on tape expressing antisemitic sentiments while speaking with former President Richard Nixon.

 

The comments — in which he spoke of his negative feelings about his many Jewish friends and his belief that a Jewish “stranglehold” on the media was destroying the country — were indeed despicable. Graham said those words in 1972, not knowing that Nixon’s taping system would preserve them for eternity. When former Nixon aide H.R. Haldeman first revealed them in 1994, few believed the kindly churchman was capable of speaking in that fashion. Years later, when the Nixon library released the tapes in 2002, there was no denying what he said. Graham publicly apologized and asked the Jewish community for forgiveness. The real damage here was not so much the hurt feelings that the comments caused as much as the way it confirmed the negative opinions that so many in the community already held about Evangelical Christians.

 

The profound distrust among liberal American Jews bordering on contempt for Evangelicals in general and Christian conservatives in particular is so pervasive as to be unremarkable. That it often crosses over into religious prejudice is something few in the American Jewish community — which tends to think of religious bias as something only done to them, rather than what they can possibly do to others — think actually occurs. Most Jews also rarely consider the vital role these same Christians play in maintaining support for Israel and opposing antisemitism.

 

While his message of faith inspired countless numbers of people who flocked to hear his sermons at his “crusades,” Graham was not a profound religious philosopher. His homespun, God-centered philosophy and strict views about sex was not the sort of things most liberal Jews contemplated with respect. So in that sense, Jewish opinion about Graham, which was often negative even before the public learned of his conversation with Nixon, illustrates both the difficult nature of the relationship between Jews and Evangelicals, as well as the need to rise above negative attitudes that are rooted in the prejudices of the past, rather than on the needs and realities of the present. The salient point about Graham is not so much what he was taped telling the president, but that in his public life he was an important friend of the Jewish people, even though most Jews often dismissed him as the epitome of a “holly roller” who hated Jews.

 

Graham was an early and impassioned supporter of Israel. A much-publicized tour of the country in 1960 helped galvanize support for the Jewish state among Evangelicals at a time when sympathy for Zionism in this country was far greater among liberals than among conservatives, who were Graham’s base of supporters. He was willing to stand with Israel when it was both popular and unpopular, publicly urging it not to endanger its security and even producing a film about it that’s still popular among Christian audiences. He was also an early and influential supporter of the cause of freedom for Soviet Jewry.

 

There will be those who will look back on his antisemitic remarks as “proof” that Evangelicals are not sincere about their love for Israel and their friendship for the Jews. But such reasoning ought to be rejected by thinking people. As George Will pointed out in a not particularly sympathetic appreciation of Graham in The Washington Post, the famous preacher’s predilection for fawning over world leaders (including Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, as viewers of Netflix’s series “The Crown” learned) may have been the real reason for his comments to Nixon. One can, as he put it, “acquit him of anti-Semitism only by convicting him of toadying.”

 

But there was more to the man than that gaffe or any other foolish statements uttered in several decades in the limelight. Born in North Carolina in 1918 and the grandson of two Confederate soldiers, Graham was a product of an era in the American South in which antisemitism and racial bigotry were commonplace. But Graham was able to transcend those prejudices to become an opponent of segregation, as well as a very public supporter of Jewish causes.

 

His willingness to embrace Israel is significant because the world in which he made his mark as an international religious celebrity was not one in which Jews were widely accepted. Nor was his advocacy for Zionism rooted in dispensationalist beliefs about Jews being converted and bringing on the end of days. Unlike some Evangelicals — and in spite of the fact that conversions were a prominent part of his ministry — Graham opposed proselytizing Jews, reminding Christians that seeking to impose faith on those who resisted such overtures was wrong.

 

Seen in that context, a Jewish rejection of Graham and the tens of millions of other Evangelicals not only makes no sense, but also is deeply self-destructive. Why continue to question the good intentions of people who not only think well of Israel, but also donate generously to charities that help Jews (as Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has proved) and who only vote for candidates that support Israel with a single-minded mindset that most Jews reject.

 

In remembering Billy Graham, Jews can acknowledge his flaws, but they must also understand how much good he did not just for his own flock of believers, but for them as well. At a time when Israel remains beset by hatred and many are urging boycotts rooted in antisemitic animosity, friends like Billy Graham — and all the many other evangelicals who followed in his footsteps in support of Israel — should be embraced, rather than disdained. To do otherwise says more about our own prejudices against Christians than it does about the shortcomings of Evangelicals.                                                                                                

Contents

   

MIKE PENCE’S FAITH, ISRAEL AND MIDDLE EAST POLICY

Ron Kampeas

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 24, 2018

When Mike Pence moved to Washington earlier this year, he and his wife took with them a framed phrase they had for years hung over their fireplace in their Indiana home, and then over the fireplace in the governor’s mansion in that state. Now it hangs over the mantle at the vice president’s residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington D.C. The words, from the Book of Jeremiah, read: “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope, and a future.”

 

The “you” is the people of Israel, and Pence, an evangelical Christian, makes that clear when he addresses pro-Israel audiences. “They’re words to which my family has repaired to as generations of Americans have done so throughout our history, and the people of Israel through all their storied history have clung,” Pence said last August at the annual conference of Christians United for Israel. Pence took that message to Israel this week on a trip ostensibly aimed in part at reviving the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace. He is seen as a key Trump administration figure when it comes to Israel policy and reportedly helped nudge the president to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

 

Pence’s first visit to Israel as vice president led some to ask to what degree are his views — and the administration’s policies — shaped by the brand of evangelical Christianity that invests his faith? Pence, a convert to evangelical Christianity from Roman Catholicism, has spooked some liberals with his insistence on rooting his pro-Israel bona fides in faith as much as realpolitik considerations of the United States’ national security. Their fear is that a messianic outlook might run riot over one of the most delicate dilemmas facing successive US governments, namely stability in the Middle East.

 

“Trump has handed Israel policy to Evangelicals,” The Forward’s Jane Eisner wrote last week in an editorial as Pence headed to Israel. “That’s terrifying.” Like many liberals, she worries that policy will be driven by evangelical beliefs that certain conditions — like Jewish control over the West Bank and sovereignty in Jerusalem — fulfill biblical prophecies.

 

Republicans and conservatives say that it is reductive to believe that Pence shapes his views solely according to the tenets of his faith. “They always highlight the fact that he’s an evangelical, as if that’s a pejorative when in fact [Pence and other evangelicals] are motivated first and foremost by shared values with Israel,” said Matt Brooks, the director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, who has known Pence for years. “And not just by the shared values, but the important efforts of collectively standing up to threats of Iran, pushing back on ISIS, and on radical Islam, or whether it’s being a critical democratic foundation in a very dangerous place. There are so many places where US and Israel’s interests intersect.”

 

Pence began his speech to the Knesset by outlining the shared values Brooks described. “We stand with Israel because your cause is our cause, your values are our values, and your fight is our fight,” he said. “We stand with Israel because we believe in right over wrong, in good over evil and in liberty over tyranny.” But he quickly pivoted to depict support of Israel as both biblical (Deuteronomy 30:4, to be exact) and rooted in an American strain of Christianity. “Down through the generations, the American people became fierce advocates of the Jewish people’s aspiration to return to the land of your forefathers, to claim your own new birth of freedom in your beloved homeland,” he said to applause. “The Jewish people held fast to a promise through all the ages, written so long ago, that ‘even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens,’ from there He would gather and bring you back to the land which your fathers possessed.”

 

Pastor John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, described a natural trajectory for evangelical supporters of Israel from biblical belief to the more practical modern reasons for supporting the state. “The promises of the Hebrew Bible are the foundation of Christian Zionism, but our motivations for supporting Israel do not end there,” he told JTA in an email. “We see in Israel a democracy that shares Western values and is a force for stability in the Middle East. While standing with Israel is a Biblical mandate, it is also a moral imperative and in the national security interests of the US. I am confident that all three of these considerations inform the Vice President’s approach to the Middle East and I believe that is perfectly appropriate.”

 

Pence has since the outset of his political career made it clear that his support for Israel is first grounded in biblical precepts. “My support for Israel stems largely from my personal faith,” he told Congressional Quarterly in 2002, a year after he was first elected to Congress. “God promises Abraham, ‘those who bless you, I will bless, and those who curse you, I will curse.’” Sarah Posner, a journalist who for years has tracked evangelicals, said Pence’s faith seemed to be preeminent in his consideration of Israel. “I don’t think he is thinking about that in terms of shared democracy or not shared democracy, he’s thinking about it providential terms, that these missions are God’s plans for Israel,” said Posner, a reporting fellow at The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund…

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

Contents

RESTORING PERSECUTED MIDDLE EAST CHRISTIANS’ FAITH IN AMERICA

Johny Messo

Gatestone Institute, Jan. 21, 2018

Without urgent action on the part of the United States, Christianity in biblically historic lands, such as Iraq, Syria and Turkey, will be clinically dead before the year 2030. The current administration in Washington has expressed, in words, that this situation cannot be tolerated. It is time now for deeds, as well, to reverse the previous administrations’ virtual abandonment of Christians in the Middle East to the fate of persecution at the hands of Islamists.

 

In September 2007, then-Senator Obama wrote a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, expressing “concern for Iraq’s Christian and other non-Muslim religious minorities, including Catholic Chaldeans, Syriac Orthodox, Assyrian, Armenian and Protestant Christians, as well as smaller Yazidi and Sabean Mandaean communities.” Obama warned: “These communities appear to be targeted by Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish militants… And according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, ‘violence against members of Iraq’s Christian community occurs throughout the country’… Such violence bespeaks a humanitarian crisis of grave proportions. The severe violations of religious freedom faced by members of these indigenous communities, and their potential extinction from their ancient homeland, is deeply alarming… and demand an urgent response from our government.”

 

In spite of Senator Obama’s having addressed the growing threat to Christians and other ethno-religious minorities in Iraq, their situation would only deteriorate during the eight years of his presidency. While President George W. Bush may have opened the gates of hell for Iraq’s Christians, President Obama not only widened them, but unleashed the demons on Syria. The following give some idea of this downward spiral: Before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, after earlier underreported exoduses of Christians from the country, there were 1.4 million Christians in Iraq, making up 5.4% of its overall population of 26 million. Today, 15 years later, Iraq’s Christian population stands at less than 250,000, a drop of 82%, and a mere 0.65% of Iraq’s general and much larger population of 38 million. In 2011, there were 1.8 – 2 million Christians in Syria, who made up 8% of the country’s total population of 23 million. Today, less than seven years later, no more than 500,000 Christians, out of a total population of 18.2 million can be found in their war-torn homeland — a drop of more than 72%.

 

The classical Christian populations in the Middle East consist of Copts, Greeks, Armenians and Arameans — the latter being the indigenous people of Southeast Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. As a stateless Semitic people, who live in a global diaspora, the Arameans include the traditionally Aramaic-speaking churches of the Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholics, Chaldeans, Nestorians (also known as Assyrians), Maronites, Melkite Orthodox and Melkite Catholics. Their incessant pleas and cries for help from the international community seem to have fallen on deaf ears for more than a decade; these Middle Eastern Christians feel abandoned and betrayed by both the United Nations and America. Statements emerging from the Trump administration, however, have given rise to new hope. Addressing the “In Defense of Christians” summit in Washington at the end of October, Vice President Mike Pence delivered a message that “help is on the way.” Declaring that the U.N. “has too often failed to help the most vulnerable communities… [and] too often denies their funding requests,” Pence promised that “from this day forward, America will provide support directly to persecuted [Christian] communities through USAID.”…

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

                                                           

                                                                       

 

Contents

DEALING WITH THE DEVIL: POPE FRANCIS, ERDOGAN, AND JERUSALEM

Rabbi Abraham Cooper

Times of Israel, Feb. 18, 2018

The sudden explosion of hostilities between Iran and Israel points to the seemingly permanent instability of the Middle East – which makes the recent 50-minute meeting between Pope Francis and Turkish President Erdogan all the more disturbing. Why would the Pope appear so relaxed, collegial and accepting of one of the most volatile leaders of our day? Why did he let stand Erdogan’s claim that the two of them see eye to eye about Jerusalem?

 

Ostensibly, this new strange alliance grew out of President Trump’s recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Neither of these two leaders is a friend of Donald Trump.  But Erdogan is a supporter of Hamas and a frequent demonizer of the Jewish State. Pope Francis is not. Trump’s Jerusalem announcement simply does not suffice to explain this new apparent geopolitical partnership. The US President made clear that the final map of Jerusalem would be left to Israel and the Palestinians to figure out. He did not recognize Israeli sovereignty over any part of the city. Indeed, the reaction of the Arab world was generally muted. Calls for another Intifada fell on deaf ears. So why would the Pope, in effect, encourage a leader who constantly strives to ignite the flickering embers of Palestinian violence in the crucible of faiths that is Jerusalem?

 

Does the Pontiff believe that weakening Israel’s control of the holy places, in place since 1967, would strengthen Christendom? In all those decades, Israel has been a protector of religious freedoms. It is her police who are called in by disputing Christian denominations to restore peace when physical violence breaks out between factions. In 2018, the Church bells ring throughout the Holy City and the Vatican’s flag flies atop its properties across all sectors of Jerusalem, something that was impossible to conceive of when the Ottoman Empire was in charge. And while the Ottomans were not particularly into religious fanaticism, Erdogan has been pushing Turkey– once the role model of a Muslim secular state– down the road towards extreme Islamization.  Does this pope believe that Christian interests will be safer with an Islamist state with which Israel’s enemies want to replace Israel?

 

Hard to believe when the Pope daily reads reports on the fate of the shrinking presence of threatened Christian minorities in many Arab and Muslim countries, where Christians face discrimination, persecution, and even death. Could it be about taxes? Israel has attempted to tax the property of churches that is not used for religious purposes, and Rome is not happy about that. But Israel is hardly alone. The same conflict has taken place in Italy, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, and Montreal. In fact, taxation in the United States of church-owned property that does not serve a religious function is the rule, not the exception.

 

Getting cozy with the tyrannical Erdogan is a strange way to jockey for a tax break for the Vatican. Perhaps the Pope was blind-sided by the wily Turkish leader.  No. Even before their meeting, Erdogan announced that the two of them were of a common mind regarding Jerusalem. If the Pope was walking into a trap, he could have politely but firmly used the meeting to create some distance between the two. This never happened. The ugliest possibility is that the Vatican has signaled a shift from its policies of the last decades. There are conservative elements in the Vatican who are unhappy over the rapprochement with the Jews that was engineered by the last few popes. These forces would lose no sleep if the current occupant of the Throne of St. Peter will jeopardize that relationship.

 

There are those in the Church hierarchy who would argue that the Vatican stands more to gain by currying favor with Muslims. Let Jewish concerns be damned; Israel won’t turn around and persecute the Christian faithful, while Muslims, they fear, are more likely to do just that.  It is difficult to fathom, however, that any Church leader could think that such an approach would do anything but hasten and seal Christian dhimmitude in a Middle East. Sometimes, even the inscrutable ways of G-d make more sense than the decisions of those who speak in His name. Aquinas, Maimonides, and Ibn Rushd together would not be able to make sense out of the Pope’s dangerous Middle East move. Getting in bed with the Erdogan will not serve the Divine. It will only strengthen the devil.

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!

 

 

Contents

On Topic Links

 

Jewish Leaders Mourn the Passing of Reverend Billy Graham, Friend of Israel: Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, Breaking Israel News, Feb. 21, 2018—Reverend Billy Graham, a powerful advocate of Israel and one of the most influential Evangelical leaders of the era, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 99. In a career that spanned six decades and reached all corners of the world, his message of faith was listened too by over 215 million followers. Recently, Newsmax voted Reverend Graham one of the most influential Evangelicals in America, praising him for his influence that crossed all boundaries.

Infidel Women: Spoils of War: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 17, 2018—One aspect of radical Islamist aggression that is overlooked – or purposely ignored – by Western liberals is that non-Muslim women tend to be its greatest victims. According to a recent Open Doors study, “Christian women are among the most violated in the world, in maybe a way that we haven’t seen before.” The study revealed that six women are raped every day simply for being Christian.

Closing Down Christianity at its Source: Paul Merkley, Bayview Review, Dec. 21, 2018—The Muslim campaign to extirpate Christianity has been inaugurated at the place of the birth of Jesus– and no one seems to have noticed. The Mayor of Bethlehem, has decreed that, in protest of President Trump’s recent declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, it is necessary for him to close down Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. The result has been catastrophic for Bethlehem’s Christmas trade.

America’s 20 Most Influential Pro-Israel Evangelical Christians: Eliana Rudee, Breaking Israel News, Dec. 24, 2017—Newsmax has recently published its 100 Most Influential Evangelicals in America list, ranking pastors, teachers, politicians, athletes, and entertainers “from all walks of life whose faith leads them to live differently and to help others in a variety of ways.” Breaking Israel News wondered: How many of these prominent Christians use their influence to support Israel through investment and advocacy? Below, find BIN’s exclusive list of the top 20 pro-Israel Christians in America.

 

 

                                                              

 

 

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.

 

                                                                       

Contents   

                       

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.

                                               

Contents                                                                                                                  

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.                                                                           

 

Contents   

                     

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.                                                                                   

 

Contents                                                                                                       

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.                            

 

Contents

                                                                        

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MIDDLE EAST CHRISTIANS, ALLIES OF ISRAEL & WEST, SEEK REFUGE FROM PERSECUTION

Trump Helps Persecuted Christians and Protects America with One Move: Raymond Ibrahim, Frontpage, Feb. 2, 2017— During a recent interview with CBN, President Trump was asked if he thinks America should prioritize persecuted Christians as refugees. 

Assyrian Statehood: Preventing a Rupture in Kurdish-American Relations: Bradley Martin, JNS, Feb. 9, 2017— Assyrian autonomy would do more than rectify a centuries-old injustice.

The True Face of Christendom: Earl Cox, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 12, 2017— With anti-Semitic incidents on the rise in America and Europe, it is imperative that Israel knows who her true friends are.

Christian Realism and Christian Zionism: Paul Merkley, Bayview Review, Jan. 24, 2017 — Back in the  early 1940s, when the World Zionist Organization as was seeking credible Christian support for the cause of creating a Jewish State…

 

On Topic Links

 

Canada Heading Towards Blasphemy Law: Raheel Raza, Clarion Project, Feb. 13, 2017

‘Filming the Camps: From Hollywood to Nuremberg’ Review: Documenting Atrocities: Mark Yost, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 15, 2017

The West's Real Bigotry: Rejecting Persecuted Christians: Uzay Bulut, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 5, 2017

United Church of Christ Indoctrinates Children to Hate: Abraham Cooper and Dexter van Zile, Huffington Post, Dec. 15, 2017

 

TRUMP HELPS PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS

AND PROTECTS AMERICA WITH ONE MOVE                                                  

Raymond Ibrahim

                      Frontpage, Feb. 2, 2017

                       

During a recent interview with CBN, President Trump was asked if he thinks America should prioritize persecuted Christians as refugees.  He responded: Yes.  Yes, they’ve been horribly treated.  If you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, or at least very, very tough, to get into the United States.  If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible and the reason that was so unfair — everybody was persecuted, in all fairness — but they were chopping off the heads of everybody but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair. So we are going to help them.

 

This is a far different response than that given by Barrack Hussein Obama back in November 2015.  Then, as president, he lashed out against the idea of giving preference to Christian refugees, describing it as “shameful”: “That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion,” Obama had added.

 

While Obama was making such lofty admonishments, his administration was quietly discriminating against Mideast Christians in a myriad of ways—including, as Trump pointed out, by aggressively accepting Muslim refugees over Christian ones.  Despite the U.S. government’s own acknowledgement that ISIS was committing genocide against Christians in Syria—and not against fellow Sunni Muslims—the Obama administration took in 5,435 Muslims, almost all of which were Sunni, but only 28 Christians.  Considering that Christians are 10 percent of Syria’s population, to be on an equal ratio with Muslims entering America, at least 500 Christians should’ve been granted asylum, not 28.

 

But questions of equality aside, the idea of prioritizing Christian refugees over Muslims (which I argued for back in 2015) is not only more humane; it brings benefits to America as well. Consider the facts:

 

Unlike Muslims, Christian minorities are being singled out and persecuted simply because of their despised religious identity.  From a humanitarian point of view—and humanitarianism is the reason being cited for accepting millions of refugees—Christians should receive top priority simply because they are the most persecuted group in the Middle East.  Even before the Islamic State was formed, Christians were and continue to be targeted by Muslims—Muslim individuals, Muslim mobs, and Muslim regimes, from Muslim countries of all races (Arab, African, Asian)—and for the same reason: Christians are infidel number one.  (See Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians for hundreds of anecdotes before the rise of ISIS as well as the Muslim doctrines that create such hate and contempt for Christians.)

 

Conversely, Muslim refugees—as opposed to the many ISIS and other jihadi sympathizers posing as “refugees”—are not fleeing religious persecution (as mentioned, 99% of Muslim refugees accepted into the U.S. are, like ISIS, Sunnis), but chaos created by the violent and supremacist teachings of their own religion.  Hence why when large numbers of Muslims enter Western nations—in Germany, Sweden, France, the UK—tension, crimes, rapes, and terrorism soar.

 

Indeed, what more proof is needed than the fact that so-called Muslim “refugees” are throwing Christians overboard during their boat voyages across the Mediterranean to Europe?  Or that Muslim majority refugee centers in Europe are essentially microcosms of Muslim majority nations: there, Christian minorities continue to be persecuted.  One report found that 88% of the 231 Christian refugees interviewed in Germany have suffered religiously motivated persecution in the form of insults, death threats, and sexual assaults. Some were pressured to convert to Islam.  “I really didn’t know that after coming to Germany I would be harassed because of my faith in the very same way as back in Iran,” one Christian refugee said. 

 

Is persecuting religious minorities the behavior of people who are in need of refugee status in America?   Or is this behavior yet another reminder that it is non-Muslims from the Middle East who are truly in need of sanctuary?

 

The U.S. should further prioritize Christian refugees because U.S. foreign policies are directly responsible for exacerbating their persecution.  Christians did not flee from Bashar Assad’s Syria, or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, or Muamar Gaddafi’s Libya.  Their systematic persecution—to the point of genocide—began only after the U.S. interfered in those nations under the pretext of “democracy.”  All they did is unleash the jihadi forces that the dictators had long kept suppressed. Now the Islamic State is deeply embedded in all three nations, enslaving, raping, and slaughtering countless Christian “infidels” and other minorities…

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

 

Contents

 

                                               

ASSYRIAN STATEHOOD:

PREVENTING A RUPTURE IN KURDISH-AMERICAN RELATIONS                                                           

Bradley Martin

JNS, Feb. 9, 2017

 

Assyrian autonomy would do more than rectify a centuries-old injustice. It could also be the key to preventing irreversible damage to relations between the U.S. and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban against seven Muslim-majority countries has been met with a growing backlash in the Middle East. In response to Trump’s executive order, the Iraqi parliament voted to support reciprocal restrictions, barring Americans from entering Iraq unless Washington reverses its decision. This leaves Iraqi Kurds in a very precarious position.

 

“The KRG must now decide whether to help unify Iraq or go to war with Iraq,” said retired Lt. Col. Sargis Sangari, an expert on Assyrian Christians and CEO of the Near East Center for Strategic Engagement. “The Kurds may now feel compelled to implement their own travel ban against U.S. citizens, since their Muslim brethren would interpret such opposition as both a betrayal and an unpardonable offense against their religion.” Any refusal by the KRG to implement such a ban would put the Kurds at odds with the federal government in Baghdad. It would also prove damaging to Kurdish aspirations for independence, since the KRG cannot afford to enter negotiations while opposing the travel bans imposed by Iran and Iraq against American citizens.

 

By supporting Assyrian statehood, the KRG would send a clear message that it stands firmly with the U.S. and Western values. The three countries would share an unbreakable bond based on shared morals and economic prosperity. Assyrians are indigenous to Mesopotamia, and their history spans more than 6,700 years. When the Assyrian Empire came to an end in 612 B.C.E, the Assyrians would go on to become the first nation to convert to Christianity. The Assyrian language, a dialect of Aramaic, is likely what Jesus would have spoken during his lifetime.

 

Prior to the Islamic conquest of the Middle East, the Assyrian Church had an estimated 80 million adherents. Today, the Assyrian population throughout the world has been reduced to a little more than 4 million. Continuous murder, rape and forcible conversions to Islam have resulted in as much as 95 percent of this ancient community being forced to live outside (their) native region.

 

Until 2003, the Assyrian-Christian population numbered 1.5 million in Iraq. By the end of 2015, that number had been reduced to an estimated 150,000. This constitutes a 90-percent reduction of the Assyrian Christian population in their ancestral homeland. This genocide of Assyrians continues today, with the Islamic State terror group committing mass murder, forced conversions, rape and the destruction of Christian holy sites under its dominion. “If a new Assyrian state becomes a reality, Assyrians from all over the world would go back,” said Sangari. “The majority of talented, Western-educated Assyrians would probably go back as well.”

 

American Assyrians who return to their homeland would represent a link to the U.S., which the KRG could cultivate by supporting the foundation of this new Assyrian state. President Trump recently stated that persecuted Christians in the Middle East would be given priority as refugees. If the KRG were to aid in the rebuilding of the Assyrian national homeland, this would represent a goodwill gesture that would reverberate to Washington and send a powerful message that the genocide of Christians in the region will not be tolerated.

 

Western-educated Assyrians would serve as a significant boon to the region. Coupled with oil production, a sophisticated economy would emerge for everyone’s benefit. Kurdish statehood is therefore contingent on the rebirth of an Assyrian state. Although KRG President Massud Barzani recently stated that a declaration of Kurdish independence was imminent, the problem is that the KRG remains deeply divided. There is no guarantee that the two factions that make up the Kurdish Peshmerga forces will remain unified, since both militias remain deeply partisan. This division, compounded by potential conflicts with Iran and Iraq, does not bode well for the continued survival of a Kurdish state. Rather than a blessing, oil wealth would be a regional curse as it is used to fund further military campaigns.

 

If the KRG supported the rebirth of an Assyrian state, it would have a reliable and powerful ally in the region. A new U.S.-backed alliance between Kurdistan, Assyria and Israel that enshrines Western principles of freedom and democracy would create an oasis of peace and prosperity in an area of the world that desperately needs it.

 

Bradley Martin is a CIJR Student Intern and Deputy Editor

 

Contents

 

THE TRUE FACE OF CHRISTENDOM

Earl Cox

Jerusalem Post, Feb. 12, 2017

 

With anti-Semitic incidents on the rise in America and Europe, it is imperative that Israel knows who her true friends are. It’s sad and disturbing that anti-Semitism in the West originated with the early church fathers. How could this be? Jews and Christians share a common heritage: both are people of the Book; both our Scriptures confirm the Jews as G-d’s chosen people, whom He loves, and to whom He promised the land of Israel by everlasting covenant to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their descendants.

 

Christian Scripture talks about dividing the sheep from the goats. These foundations of the faith should be no-brainers. Yet a deep divide emerged in Christendom beginning with the First Century church fathers. Its two main issues were the authority and interpretation of the Bible, and God’s love and plan for Israel. It’s an anomaly that the cultural/political church has a history of anti-Semitism—especially mainstream denominations such as Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists and others.

 

Cultural, politicized Christianity has spawned “politically correct” positions that conflict with biblical truth. For example, the false doctrine of replacement theology teaches that the church has “replaced” Judaism, that Jews have no future in G-d’s plan, or sovereignty over Israel and Jerusalem; thus all G-d’s promises and blessings have become the church’s exclusive domain. Nothing could be further than the truth. Replacement theologians squirmed in 1948 when the Lord returned the captivity of Zion and Israel was reborn in a day!

 

Here’s a sampling of how poisonous anti-Semitism infiltrated the early church: Justin Martyr, who called Gentile believers the “new” Israel, wrote: “The Jewish Scriptures are no longer yours, they are now ours.” Irenaeus: “The Jews are now disinherited from the grace of God.” Tertullian: “God has rejected the Jews in favor of the Christians.” Eusebius: “The promises of the Hebrew Scriptures are now for the Christians and not the Jews—but the curses are for the Jews.” The Emperor Constantine exhorted separation from the “despicable” Jews. Jerome stooped to degrading terms, later borrowed by the Nazis and Muslims. Augustine’s sermon “Against the Jews” deeply impacted Martin Luther, who advocated setting fire to Jewish synagogues and schools, destroying Jewish homes and prayer books, forbidding rabbis to teach, and confiscating Jews’ cash and treasures. Despite his faith, Luther’s writings inspired the horrors of the Holocaust.

 

Over time, some denominations unabashedly began to subordinate the Bible to political views, as liberal mainstream seminaries taught false doctrines such as replacement and liberation theologies. In the latter, Jesus is seen as liberator of the poor and oppressed. In this worldview, Palestinian suicide bombers blow themselves up only because they’ve been oppressed and historically wronged—remove or restrain their Israeli oppressors and they’ll live in peace—despite being brainwashed from cradle to grave to hate and kill Israelis and other “infidels.” From bitter roots grow poisonous trees.

 

Last year, the Presbyterian Church USA called for BDS based on Israel’s “human rights abuses” and “militarized violence” against Palestinians, without condemning Palestinian terrorism. For these leaders, BDS is justified due to Israel’s alleged violation of Palestinian human rights. Yet they fail to address the PA or Hamas’s violation of human rights of their own people, or Israel’s legitimate need for self-defense. In 2016, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on the United State to end aid to Israel and “enable an independent Palestinian state.” It also adopted a resolution calling for divestment from Israel, so as not to “profit from human rights abuses.” ELCA group Isaiah 58 promotes a book recommending Islamic sharia law as the remedy for Israeli “occupation.”

 

Though liberal seminaries are seedbeds for anti-Semitism, most evangelical Christians study the Bible free of political interference. After all, Christian support for Israel is Biblical, not political. Evangelicals are the largest consistently pro-Israel block in the United States. A Pew Research Center poll found that 82 percent of white evangelicals believe God gave Israel to the Jewish people, compared to less than half as many Jewish or Catholic Americans. The true face of Christendom is the tens of millions of evangelicals who demonstrate their love for Israel with no hidden agendas, believe G-d gave Israel to the Jewish people, respect and obey the Bible as the ultimate written authority, and know that G-d always keeps His promises. How can any true Christian love Christ but not love His family and His land?

                                                                           

Contents

 

CHRISTIAN REALISM AND CHRISTIAN ZIONISM

Paul Merkley

Bayview Review, Jan. 24, 2017

 

Back in the  early 1940s, when the World Zionist Organization as was seeking credible Christian support for the cause of creating a Jewish State, they settled upon Reinhold Niebuhr, the principal spokesman for the Christian Council for Palestine, and later for the American Christian Palestine Committee.

 

There was great advantage for the Zionist cause in the fact that, in a time when theology still played a modest (although clearly failing) part in academic discussion, Niebuhr was the only American theologian who was widely read throughout the English-speaking world. He commanded a large audience not only of Christians but also of secular intellectuals. Niebuhr was the acknowledged leading light of Christian Realism- the movement that emerged slowly and painfully out of resistance to the appeasement which took hold of all the journals of Christian opinion in the late 1930s. By 1945, he was widely recognized, inside church ranks and even more outside church ranks, as an exceptionally realistic commentator on world affairs.

 

Niebuhr’s prominence in the Christian pro-Zionist camp does not mark him as a Christian Zionist however. A Christian Zionist is one who believes that his support of the people of Israel in their ongoing struggles traces follows from a claim put upon himself by Biblical prophecy. To Niebuhr, the notion of predictive prophecy was all superstition, and accordingly he had no patience for the idea that working for the Restoration of the Jews was a task commanded by Scripture. This attitude was consistent with his theology: when it came to matters of the Creed, in typically liberal fashion, he swept away the miracles, the raising from the dead, and the life everlasting. He shared this mindset with all but perhaps one or two of the leaders of the Christian Council for Palestine and American Christian Palestine Committee.

 

There were two strings to the Liberal-Christian Pro-Zionist Christian argument for Partition of the Mandate and support for the State of Israel. The first string was that it was a requirement of justice in light of the perilous state in which the Hitler war had left the Jewish people. Appearing before the body which the UN had appointed to consider the case for Partition, Niebuhr said “The Jews have a right to a homeland.  They are a nation, scattered among the nations of the world.  They have no place where they are not exposed to the perils of minority status.” As for the complaint that this solution would work some injustice for the Arabs of the region, Niebuhr said:  “The Arabs have a vast hinterland in the Middle East, and the fact that the Jews have nowhere to go, establishes the relative justice of their claims and their cause…. Arab sovereignty over a portion of a debated territory must undoubtedly be sacrificed for the sake of establishing a world homeland for the Jews.”

 

The second string to the Liberal argument was that the Jewish people would establish in the Middle East a bridgehead for the values of European civilization, beginning a process of rolling back what Niebuhr described as the “feudal realities” left by centuries of Islam. This second argument does not resonate favorably in liberal circles today. The moment of Israel’s creation, however, belongs to the hour when Western intellectuals were reviewing the strengths of our Christian civilization in the light of the recent escape from Nazism and the prospect of a long struggle against the Soviet Communist Empire.

 

Before another generation had gone by, academics and elites of opinion had got themselves persuaded that the first duty of the inquiring mind is to despise what one belongs to: it was becoming impossible in academic circles to say a kind word for “civilization” and downright heresy to say a kind word for the Christian legacy. At the end of this process, the intellectual consensus was that the democratic State of Israel was an engine of imperialism, the oppressor of Third World peoples, the proxy of the bloody Crusaders.

 

Reinhold Niebuhr stood out among his generation of Christian intellectuals because he was such a discriminating critic of the thoughtless generalities that were current among his Christian academic contemporaries. Since the bottom line to these generalities was reckoned as “liberalism,” a new word had to be invented to catch what distinguished him from the others. The word “Neo-Orthodox” was recruited. This word is quite misleading, however. Niebuhr’s own theology was far from orthodox. He recited the Apostles Creed every Sunday along with everyone else, but in private conversation he confessed that he had no commitment to the reality of the Deity of Jesus or the Resurrection from the dead. With reference to our interests here: he refused to acknowledge any predictive character in any part of the Bible – including the Major and Minor Prophets. Thus, Niebuhr refused to credit any argument made in favour of the Zionist cause that was built upon confidence in the predictive capacity of Scripture.

 

During the years leading to the Partition Debate, Niebuhr did everything he could to avoid being associated with people who called themselves Christian Zionists. The arguments that he made in those days in support of the Partition and the creation of the State were both idealistic and realistic – never theological. At the same time, however, Niebuhr never lost his commitment to defense of Israel, and partly for that reason became alienated from the main body of liberal Christians who shifted to the anti-Israel camp in the wake of the 1967 War and who effectively eased him out of the pages of the liberal Christian journals of opinion – including the journal which he himself had founded, Christianity and Crisis.

 

Never in WCC documents today do we find the least hint that Israel came into existence in response to the decision of the world’s parliament, taken on November 29, 1947, and that, therefore, the dilemma of the other side follows from its steadfast and illegal rejection of the legitimacy of this decision. Ecumenical Christian organizations became steadily less enthusiastic about “legitimacy” and increasingly infatuated throughout the 1960s with “Liberation theology.”  Today, WCC documents ring with denunciations of “colonialism,” “cultural imperialism” and “oppression.”…

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

 

Paul Merkley is a CIJR Academic Fellow

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!

 

Contents           

On Topic Links

 

Canada Heading Towards Blasphemy Law: Raheel Raza, Clarion Project, Feb. 13, 2017—On December 5, 2016, Canadian MP Iqra Khalid proposed a bill against Islamophobia (Motion 103). She began her statement in parliament by saying, “Mr. Speaker, I am a young, brown, Muslim, Canadian woman …”

‘Filming the Camps: From Hollywood to Nuremberg’ Review: Documenting Atrocities: Mark Yost, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 15, 2017 — To most people, the evidence—detailed Nazi records, the crematoriums and barracks, personal testaments, and film of the Allied liberation of the death camps—is overwhelming enough to silence any Holocaust denier.

The West's Real Bigotry: Rejecting Persecuted Christians: Uzay Bulut, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 5, 2017—Finally, after years of apathy and inaction, Washington is extending a much-needed helping hand to Middle Eastern Christians. U.S. President Donald Trump recently announced that persecuted Christians will be given priority when it comes to applying for refugee status in the United States.

United Church of Christ Indoctrinates Children to Hate: Abraham Cooper and Dexter van Zile, Huffington Post, Dec. 15, 2017—Until relatively recently it was estimated that some 300,000 child soldiers have served various masters, mostly in Africa and Asia. While the number has decreased, the exploitation of children in the name of a cause continues apace. Offenders rely on indoctrination, as well as direct recruitment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

SAUDI-IRAN PROXY WAR, AND OBAMA’S FECKLESSNESS, DESTABILIZES YEMEN, SYRIA, & BEYOND

Saudi-Egyptian Tensions: Rifts Within the “Camp of Stability” Serve Iran’s Interests: Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman, BESA, Dec. 4, 2016 On July 31, 2015, the dominant player in Saudi Arabia today, Defense Minister (and the King's son) Muhammad Bin Salman, met Egyptian president Abd al-Fattah Sisi…

Iran and the Houthis of Yemen: Joseph Puder, Frontpage, Nov. 29, 2016 — Arab News has reported on November 23, 2016 that Yemen’s Houthi rebels and supporters of the former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh are responsible for the killing of 9,646 civilians. 

How the Iranian-Saudi Proxy Struggle Tore Apart the Middle East: Max Fisher, New York Times, Nov. 19, 2016— Behind much of the Middle East’s chaos — the wars in Syria and Yemen, the political upheaval in Iraq and Lebanon and Bahrain — there is another conflict.

Western Leaders: Pressure Saudis to Give Christians Religious Rights: Hilal Khashan, The Hill, Nov. 1, 2016Bloomberg recently listed Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 42nd on its list of 50 Most Influential movers and shakers in finance.

 

On Topic Links

 

Saudi Arabia's Flawed "Vision 2030": Hilal Khashan, Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2017

Yemen is a Horror Show That Obama Used to Call a Success: Benny Avni, New York Post, Oct. 11, 2016

How Iranian Weapons are Ending Up in Yemen: Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Washington Post, Nov. 30, 2016

Iranian Missiles in Houthi Hands Threaten Freedom of Navigation in Red Sea: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, JCPA, Oct. 13, 2016

 

SAUDI-EGYPTIAN TENSIONS: RIFTS WITHIN

THE “CAMP OF STABILITY” SERVE IRAN’S INTERESTS

Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman                                                             

BESA, Dec. 4, 2016

 

On July 31, 2015, the dominant player in Saudi Arabia today, Defense Minister (and the King's son) Muhammad Bin Salman, met Egyptian president Abd al-Fattah Sisi and signed the Cairo Declaration, which pledged closer ties. On April 9, 2016, the Egyptian government declared – against strong opposition at home – that the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir would be restored to Saudi sovereignty.

 

This burgeoning relationship appears to have soured. On November 7, 2016, the Saudi authorities let it be known that they are indefinitely halting oil shipments that were to have been provided under a US$23 billion aid package agreed to during King Salman's visit to Cairo in April. This signaled in no uncertain terms that a dangerous rift has emerged between the two pillars of the "Camp of Stability" in the region.

 

Though the two countries have common enemies, important strategic differences have come to the fore, mainly on two points of regional policy. On Yemen, the Saudis – who, together with the Emiratis, have been fighting a long and bloody war to dislodge Iranian-backed Houthi forces – are bitter about the underwhelming Egyptian response to their calls for help. From their perspective, a Shiite stronghold in Yemen, heavily armed and actively supported by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), is a dagger pointed directly at the Hijaz and the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina. It is, in other words, an existential threat.

 

For the first time, the Saudis have engaged in active fighting in a neighboring state, with significant losses, rather than letting the US do their fighting for them. (The Obama administration, while willing to respond locally to a Houthi attack on US naval assets, has been careful to steer clear of the Yemeni conflict.) It is thus not surprising that Riyadh expects, and resents its failure to obtain, more effective support from the largest standing army in the region, beyond a limited involvement by the Egyptian Navy.

 

The Egyptians, in turn, raise an eyebrow at Saudi policy in Syria. They see Assad not as an Iranian agent busy murdering his own people, which is how he is viewed by Riyadh and most other Gulf states (including Qatar, whose policies are a source of serious concern in Cairo), but as an element of stability. He is a "devil we know," and his survival is preferable to the rise of an Islamic State or Muslim Brotherhood regime (which, for Sisi, would be as bad or worse). In the Egyptian view, the alternative to Assad’s rump state will not be a peaceful Syria but an even worse slaughterhouse than it is already. Saudi policies are thus causing growing concern in Cairo: not least because they coincide with the course set by Erdoğan, who remains a virulent opponent of Sisi's.

 

Quick to fish in these murky waters were the Russians, who endorse the Egyptian point of view. They are highly suspicious of the Saudis, primarily because the Saudi-produced glut in the oil markets is threatening Russia's economic future. This position explains Russia’s strategic embrace of Egypt, as well as of Sisi's surrogate in Libya, General Hiftar, who recently paid his second visit to Moscow in recent months. Military links between Egypt and Russia are tightening. While Cairo cannot afford to shed its dependence on American military aid, its developing relationship with Moscow is part of a general drift away from the firm US alliance that has marked Egyptian relations with the Obama administration since 2013.

 

The danger, not only for Israel, is that the Saudi-Egyptian rift will play into Iranian hands in Yemen, in Syria, and on other frontiers. The IRGC is vocal about Tehran’s revolutionary ambitions and the growing spread of its influence across the region. They now see one of their enemy camps cleaved in half. Moreover, the decline in Saudi aid to Egypt comes at a delicate moment. Sisi has devalued the Egyptian pound as part of the measures required for its IMF loan. Tensions are growing over shortages from baby formula to sugar. The potential consequences cannot be overstated. If Egypt were to sink into social and political chaos, the implications for the Mediterranean and beyond are unthinkable.

 

It should thus be a top priority for the incoming Trump administration (as neither side, unfortunately, has much trust in the outgoing administration) to work hard to patch up this rift. Each side must respond to the legitimate concerns of the other and restore coherence to the forces of stability as they face a mounting Iranian challenge.                                          

 

Contents                                                                                                                                                                        

IRAN AND THE HOUTHIS OF YEMEN                                                                                               

Joseph Puder                                                                                                       

Frontpage, Nov. 29, 2016

 

Arab News has reported on November 23, 2016 that Yemen’s Houthi rebels and supporters of the former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh are responsible for the killing of 9,646 civilians. 8,146 of them men, 597 women, and 903 children, from January 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016 in 16 Yemeni provinces.  According to Shami Al-Daheri, a military analyst and strategic expert, the Houthis are being led by Iran and follow Tehran’s orders.  “They are moving in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria following Tehran’s orders.  If the country sees there is pressure on its supporters in Iraq, it issues orders to the Houthis in Yemen to carry out more criminal acts in order to divert attention and ease pressure on its proxies in these countries.”

 

The brutality of the Iran led campaign in Syria, and U.S. voices calling for some form of intervention, might have prompted Tehran to give the Houthis a green light to attack American naval ships. The Houthis fired three missiles at the U.S. Navy ship USS Mason last month, in all probability following Tehran’s orders. In retaliation, U.S. Navy destroyer USS Nitze launched Tomahawk cruise missiles, destroying three coastal radar sites in areas of Yemen controlled by the Houthis.  These radar installations were active during previous attacks, and attempted attacks on ships navigating the Red Sea. The USS Mason did not sustain any damage.  U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the top American commander in the Middle East, said that he suspected Iran’s Shiite Islamic Republic to be behind the twice launched missiles by the Houthi rebels against U.S. ships in the Red Sea.

 

Al-Arabiya TV (August 16, 2016) claimed that Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) said that missiles made in Tehran were also recently used in Yemen by Houthi militias in cross border attacks against Saudi Arabia.  The Saudis it seems, were able to intercept the Iranian manufactured Zelzal-3 rockets, also delivered to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Assad regime forces in Syria.  The rockets were fired into the Saudi border city of Najran, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.  The Saudi-led coalition has been targeting the Houthis in an effort to restore the internationally-recognized Yemeni president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

 

The conflict in Yemen has its recent roots in the failure of the political transition that was supposed to bring a measure of stability to Yemen following an uprising in November, 2011 (The Year of the Arab Spring) that forced its longtime authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to hand over power to his deputy, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.  President Hadi had to deal with a variety of problems, including attacks by al-Qaeda, a separatist movement in the South, the loyalty of many of the army officers to the former President Saleh, as well as, unemployment, corruption, and food insecurity.

 

The Zaidi-Shiite Houthi minority captured Yemen’s capital Sanaa on September 21, 2014. They were helped by the Islamic Republic of Iran, who have provided the rebel Houthis with arms, training, and money.  As fellow Shiite-Muslims, the Houthis became another Iranian proxy harnessed to destabilize the Sunni-led Arab Gulf states, and Saudi Arabia.  Since 2004, the Houthis have fought the central government of Yemen from their stronghold of Saadah in northern Yemen.  The Houthis are named after Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, who headed the insurgency in 2004 and was subsequently killed by Yemeni army forces.  The Houthis, who are allied with Ali Abdullah Saleh, against Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, the legitimate President of Yemen, have the support of many army units and control most of the north, including the capital, Sanaa.

 

The Houthis launched a series of military rebellions against Ali Abdullah Saleh in the previous decade. Recently, sensing the new president’s (Hadi) weakness, they took control of their Northern heartland of Saadah province and neighboring areas.  Disillusioned by the transition of power and Hadi’s weakness, many Yemenis, including Sunnis, supported the Houthi onslaught.  In January, 2015, the Houthis surrounded the Presidential palace in Sanaa, placing President Hadi and his cabinet under virtual house arrest. The following month, President Hadi managed to escape to the Southern port city of Aden…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link

 

Contents

 

 

HOW THE IRANIAN-SAUDI PROXY STRUGGLE

TORE APART THE MIDDLE EAST                        

Max Fisher

New York Times, Nov. 19, 2016

 

Behind much of the Middle East’s chaos — the wars in Syria and Yemen, the political upheaval in Iraq and Lebanon and Bahrain — there is another conflict. Saudi Arabia and Iran are waging a struggle for dominance that has turned much of the Middle East into their battlefield. Rather than fighting directly, they wield and in that way worsen the region’s direst problems: dictatorship, militia violence and religious extremism.

 

The history of their rivalry tracks — and helps to explain — the Middle East’s disintegration, particularly the Sunni-Shiite sectarianism both powers have found useful to cultivate. It is a story in which the United States has been a supporting but constant player, most recently by backing the Saudi war in Yemen, which kills hundreds of civilians. These dynamics, scholars warn, point toward a future of civil wars, divided societies and unstable governments.

 

1979: A threatening revolution: Saudi Arabia, a young country pieced together only in the 1930s, has built its legitimacy on religion. By promoting its stewardship of the holy sites at Mecca and Medina, it could justify its royal family’s grip on power. Iran’s revolution, in 1979, threatened that legitimacy. Iranians toppled their authoritarian government, installing Islamists who claimed to represent “a revolution for the entire Islamic world,” said Kenneth M. Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

 

The revolutionaries encouraged all Muslims, especially Saudis, to overthrow their rulers as well. But because Iran is mostly Shiite, they “had the greatest influence with, and tended to reach out to, Shia groups,” Dr. Pollack said. Some Saudi Shiites, who make up about 10 percent of the population, protested in solidarity or even set up offices in Tehran — stoking Saudi fears of internal unrest and separatism. This was the opening shot in the sectarianization of their rivalry, which would encompass the whole region. “The Saudis have looked at Iran as a domestic threat from the get-go, from 1979,” Dr. Gause said. Seeing the threat as intolerable, they began looking for a way to strike back.

 

1980-88: The first proxy war: They found that way the next year, when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Iran, hoping to seize oil-rich territory. Saudi Arabia, Dr. Pollack said, “backed the Iraqis to the hilt because they want the Iranian revolution stopped.” The war, over eight years of trench warfare and chemical weapons attacks, killed perhaps a million people. It set a pattern of Iranian-Saudi struggle through proxies, and of sucking in the United States, whose policy is to maintain access to the vast oil and gas reserves that lie between the rivals.

 

The conflict’s toll exhausted Iran’s zeal for sowing revolution abroad, but gave it a new mission: to overturn the Saudi-led, American-backed regional order that Tehran saw as an existential threat. That sense of insecurity would later drive Iran’s meddling abroad, said Marc Lynch, a political scientist at George Washington University, and perhaps its missile and nuclear programs.

 

1989-2002: Setting up a powder keg: The 1990s provided a pause in the regional rivalry, but also set up the conditions that would allow it to later explode in such force. Saudi Arabia, wishing to contain Iran’s reach to the region’s minority Shiite populations, sought to harden Sunni-Shiite rifts. Government programs promoted “anti-Shia incitement in schools, Islamic universities, and the media,” Toby Matthiesen, an Oxford University scholar, wrote in a brief for the Carnegie Endowment. These policies, Dr. Matthiesen warned, cultivated sectarian fears and sometimes violence that would later feed into the ideology of the Islamic State.

 

In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, a Saudi ally. The United States, after expelling the Iraqis, established military bases in the region to defend its allies from Iraq. This further tilted the regional power balance against Iran, which saw the American forces as a threat. Iraq’s humiliating defeat also spurred many of its citizens to rise up, particularly in poorer communities that happened to be Shiite Arab. In response, Dr. Gause said, “Saddam’s regime became explicitly sectarian,” widening Sunni-Shiite divides to deter future uprisings. That allowed Iran, still worried about Iraq, to cultivate allies among Iraq’s increasingly disenfranchised Shiites, including militias that had risen up. Though it was not obvious at the time, Iraq had become a powder keg, one that would ignite when its government was toppled a decade later.

 

2003-04: The Iraqi vacuum opens: The 2003 American-led invasion, by toppling an Iraqi government that had been hostile to both Saudi Arabia and Iran, upended the region’s power balance. Iran, convinced that the United States and Saudi Arabia would install a pliant Iraqi government — and remembering the horrors they had inflicted on Iran in the 1980s — raced to fill the postwar vacuum. Its leverage with Shiite groups, which are Iraq’s largest demographic group, allowed it to influence Baghdad politics. Iran also wielded Shiite militias to control Iraqi streets and undermine the American-led occupation. But sectarian violence took on its own inevitable momentum, hastening the country’s slide into civil war.

 

Saudi Arabia sought to match Iran’s reach but, after years of oppressing its own Shiite population, struggled to make inroads with those in Iraq. “The problem for the Saudis is that their natural allies in Iraq,” Dr. Gause said, referring to Sunni groups that were increasingly turning to jihadism, “wanted to kill them.” This was the first sign that Saudi Arabia’s strategy for containing Iran, by fostering sectarianism and aligning itself with the region’s Sunni majority, had backfired. As Sunni governments collapsed and Sunni militias turned to jihadism, Riyadh would be left with few reliable proxies. As their competition in Iraq heated up, Saudi Arabia and Iran sought to counterbalance each other through another weak state: Lebanon.

 

2005-10: A new kind of proxy war: Lebanon provided the perfect opening: a frail democracy recovering from civil war, with parties and lingering militias primarily organized by religion. Iran and Saudi Arabia exploited those dynamics, waging a new kind of proxy struggle “not on conventional military battlefields,” Dr. Gause said, but “within the domestic politics of weakened institutional structures.” Iran, for instance, supported Hezbollah, the Shiite militia and political movement, which it had earlier cultivated to use against Israel. Riyadh, in turn, funneled money to political allies such as the Sunni prime minister, Rafik Hariri. By competing along Lebanon’s religious lines, they helped drive the Lebanese government’s frequent breakdowns, as parties relied on foreign backers who wanted to oppose one another more than build a functioning state…

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

 

Contents

WESTERN LEADERS:

PRESSURE SAUDIS TO GIVE CHRISTIANS RELIGIOUS RIGHTS

                                           Hilal Khashan

                                           The Hill, Nov. 1, 2016

 

Bloomberg recently listed Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 42nd on its list of 50 Most Influential movers and shakers in finance. An Oct. 15 New York Times profile called him the "most dynamic royal" in Saudi Arabia, "a man who is trying to overturn tradition." Unfortunately, he's not trying hard enough.

 

Prince Mohammed, 31, is the public face behind Saudi Vision 2030, a 15-year plan of regulatory, budget, and policy reforms unveiled in April. It is designed to build a "prosperous and sustainable economic future" for the kingdom by reducing dependence on oil exports and implementing a privatization program that will supposedly create a sovereign wealth fund of more than $2 trillion, the world's largest.

 

Acutely aware of its growing need for Western capital investment and technology, the kingdom has shown small signs of reducing its horrendous violations of political and civil liberties, such as granting women limited suffrage, and improving government transparency. The Saudis are today even willing acknowledge the role their kingdom played in creating Al-Qaeda and other Islamist currents. "We did not own up to it after 9/11 because we feared you would abandon or treat us as the enemy," one senior Saudi official told Politico. "And we were in denial."

 

But there is one area where no reform appears to be in the offing. As the kingdom embarks on a revolutionary project to reduce its dependence on oil and increase direct foreign investment, it does not seem to appreciate the importance of religious tolerance in a society trying to open its economy to the world. In recent weeks, the Saudi authorities deported 27 Lebanese Christians for the crime of conducting non-Islamic prayers, the kingdom's religious police ordered a clothing outlet to cover the U.K. flag on the logo of British International School uniforms because it displays the Christian cross, and a video surfaced of a leading Saudi cleric calling on God to grant mujahideen (jihadists) in Syria and Iraq "victory over the godless Rafidah (Shia Muslims) … the treacherous Jews, and over the spiteful Christians" in a sermon at the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

 

As William McCants of the Brookings Institution recently told Politifact, "official Saudi textbooks teach that Christians are seeking to destroy the religion and must be hated as a consequence." Despite the fact that 1.5 to 2 million Christians, mostly Filipino and other southeast Asian expatriates, live and work in the kingdom, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that does not allow the building of churches or even the open practice of Christian religious rites. Most expatriates live in loneliness away from their families and loved ones. Restrictions on their freedom to worship compounds this isolation.

 

The Saudis can take advantage of poor Christian workers (and those of other faiths) because their remittance dependent governments lack negotiating leverage. While there is little that labor-intensive Asian societies can do to pressure Riyadh to extend full religious rights to Christian workers, there is a lot that the West can do. So long as the Saudis depend on Western capital investment and advanced technology, the United States is uniquely positioned to press for greater religious freedoms for Christians and other non-Muslims.

 

While it may be unrealistic to expect this from the White House, the U.S. Congress has shown greater willingness to challenge Saudi Arabia as of late. The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which would strip away the "sovereign immunity" of foreign governments against terrorism lawsuits, has passed both houses of Congress, with the Senate overriding President Obama's veto last month. Another bipartisan bill was introduced earlier this month to block the recently-proposed sale of Abrams tanks and other military equipment to the kingdom until its human rights record improves.

 

It's time for the United States and other Western governments to tell the Saudis that business-as-usual relations cannot continue unless their kingdom puts in place the building blocks of religious tolerance and pluralism. Saudi officials may bitterly object, but those who are fighting for real reform inside the kingdom need this ultimatum to win out over hardliners.

 

Contents         

  

On Topic Links

 

Saudi Arabia's Flawed "Vision 2030": Hilal Khashan, Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2017—The dramatic drop in oil prices has depleted Saudi Arabia's cash reserves by a whopping US$150 billion and driven the ruling family to contrive hastily a financial rescue plan. On April 25, 2016, Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman announced the "Vision 2030" plan to revolutionize the Saudi economy by ending its dependency on oil.

Yemen is a Horror Show That Obama Used to Call a Success: Benny Avni, New York Post, Oct. 11, 2016—Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries, has become a battlefield for the Mideast’s most vicious rivalries. That’s bad for Yemenis, bad for the region and bad for us.

How Iranian Weapons are Ending Up in Yemen: Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Washington Post, Nov. 30, 2016—Weapon shipments intercepted in the Arabian sea by Australian, French and U.S. warships this year contained large quantities of Russian and Iranian weapons, some of which had markings similar to munitions recovered from Houthi fighters in Yemen, according to a new report released by an independent research group Wednesday.

Iranian Missiles in Houthi Hands Threaten Freedom of Navigation in Red Sea: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, JCPA, Oct. 13, 2016—Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have been waging war against the Yemeni army and the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen for several years. Since the beginning of October 2016, the conflict has assumed a new naval and international dimension that could endanger civilian freedom of navigation in the Red Sea’s Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which serves as a gateway for oil tankers headed to Europe through the Suez Canal.

 

 

 

Bradley Martin: Israel Is the Last Hope for Christians in the Middle East

 

 

“If Christianity [in the Middle East] survives, it will not be because of any interest taken by Christians in our part of the world, but rather because the State of Israel, the people of Israel, and conscientious Jews everywhere are dedicated to saving it,” said Dr. Paul Merkley, Professor of History at Carleton University, last week in a panel discussion at Toronto’s Beth Radom synagogue.

 

The academic conference, titled “Christian Genocide in the Middle East: Why is the World Silent?” was co-sponsored by the… the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

“In 1910, it’s estimated that Christians were 14% of the Middle Eastern population” said Dr. Frederick Krantz, Director of CIJR. “Today, they are under 4% and rapidly declining.”

 

Other figures were highlighted throughout the conference, such as how in Iraq alone, there were 1.5 million Christians until 2003. Today, that number is estimated at 275,000 with the strong likelihood that there won’t be any more of a community left within five years.

 

Much of the present-day persecution was tied to the Islamic State. National Executive Director of ICEJ Canada, Donna Holbrook, showed graphic images of the genocide of Christians currently taking place in Iraq.

 

“This mother was killed, but not before the terrorists made her watch them kill her baby,” said Holbrook, showing a horrific image of an Iraqi Christian woman murdered by ISIS terrorists.

 

Lt. Col. Sargis Sangari, Chief Executive Officer of the Near East Center for Strategic Engagement, who recently returned from Iraq, weighed in on the atrocities being committed by ISIS against Assyrian Christians. Sangari showed footage from a summer school program, whose children lost a year of schooling due to the ISIS invasion.

 

“ISIS. They are all beasts! They didn’t leave us anything in this country!” said a young Assyrian boy at the school, overwhelmed with tears as he recounted being expelled from his home. His mother was dying of cancer as a result of ISIS bombing his neighborhood.

 

While in Iraq, Sangari worked to promote unity of effort and commonality of purpose between the churches, political parties and Christian militias in Iraq, in a first-of-its kind document signed by representatives of these groups and blessed by church leaders. The agreement affirmed the signatories to work as partners to retake their historical homeland in the Nineveh Plain.

Apart from criticizing the silence of Western governments and churches in the face of this genocide, Israel was highlighted as the last hope for Christians in the region.

 

“There is a powerful irony in the fact that the last hope for Christians in the Middle East is in Israel,” said Carleton history professor Merkley. “Israel is the only polity within the entire Middle East where Christian numbers are increasing.” Merkley went on to praise the Jewish State for providing protection and aid to Ethiopian and Somalian Christians taking refuge in Israel, noting that Christians are to be found in every aspect of Israeli society such as the private sector, the government, the military, and even the Supreme Court.

 

Merkley also condemned UNESCO for their recent resolution denying Jewish and Christian ties to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, describing it as “utterly insane.” The panel affirmed that the Judeo-Christian values that tied Israel and Christians in the region together were under attack.

 

“It’s not the denial of genocide that is being perpetrated,” said Sangari, “but the denial of the existence of evil.…  The good is represented by the Chosen People, the Jewish people, and the principles and ideals which are an integral part of their inheritance.” Sangari would later say that it was precisely the strong commitment to these Judeo-Christian values that led to the ongoing genocide of Assyrian Christians by ISIS.

 

Sangari cited biblical texts to illustrate that the Assyrian Christians and the Jewish people were “bound together by a common inheritance of good.” Examples included Genesis 11:31, which states that Abraham came from Ur of Kaśdim, which is ancient Assyria. The Book of Jonah details how God sent the Prophet Jonah to the Ninevites to prophesy against their wickedness. Assyrian Christians to this day commemorate that event with an annual three-day fast to praise God for their deliverance from evil.

 

Sangari also cited Isaiah 19:23-25, which details how there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria with God blessing the three nations: “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”

 

Sangari advocates closer ties between Israel, Assyrian Christians, and Egyptian Copts. Apart from being a refuge for Christians within its borders, Israel was looked upon as a model for how to resolve the continuing decline of Christians throughout the Middle East.

 

An audience member asked the panel how practical such a solution could be for Assyrian and other Christians in the Nineveh Plain, considering the demographic disadvantage Christians face in the region when compared to the overwhelming Muslim majority in Iraq and throughout the region. Sangari dismissed this concern, saying that while he was in Iraq, he was privy to a force consisting of a 20,000-man Yazidi-Christian-Assyrian capability that stretches from the Nineveh Plain to the Sinjar Mountains.

 

On that note, the panel closed with Merkley quoting Luma Simms, Associate Fellow at the Philos Project.

 

“Let it always be said: In the dark age of ISIS, when desolation and despair covered the Arab world, Israel was the house of light. Like the prophet, Jonah whom God commanded to go to Nineveh and offer redemption to the Assyrians, may Israel go and redeem Assyria — redeem the Nineveh plains once again.”

 

Article Reprinted From American Spectator with Author's Permission

 

(Bradley Martin is Deputy Editor for the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research

and Fellow of the Haym Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought)

 

WHILE TRUMP’S WIN WILL IMPROVE U.S.-ISRAEL RELATIONS, POST-CLINTON DEM’S TURN FURTHER AGAINST JEWISH STATE

 

Canadian Institute for Jewish Research & Beth Radom Congregation Present: “Christian Genocide in the Middle East: Why is the World Silent?” Academic conference moderated by Prof. Frederick Krantz (Concordia U.; CIJR Director). Featuring: Prof. Paul Merkley (Prof. emeritus, Carleton U.), Donna Holbrook (National Executive Director, ICEJ Canada), Christine Williams (award-winning journalist, author and Public Affairs & Media Consultant, ICEJ Canada), Lieutenant Colonel Sargis Sangari (Chief Executive Officer, Near East Center for Strategic Engagement LLC).

 

Free Admission. SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2016. 1-4PM

Location: Beth Radom,18 Reiner Road, North York, ON, M3H 2K9

 

Israel and the 10 Commandments of a Trump Presidency: Yoram Ettinger, Algemeiner, Nov. 16, 2016— The outcome of the November 8, 2016, US election was predicted by those who doubted the accuracy of the polling samples.

Hillary’s Loss Accelerates the Democrats’ Turn Against Israel: Seth Mandel, New York Post, Nov. 14, 2016— Israel’s supporters were hoping Hillary Clinton could forestall the Democratic Party’s seemingly inevitable turn against the Jewish state.

Can Iraq’s Christians Finally Go Home?: Mindy Belz, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 27, 2016  — Noura Diyha wrestled a phone from her pocket to show me a photo of herself at age 3.

Yaffa Eliach, Historian Who Captured Faces of the Holocaust, Dies at 79: Joseph Berger, New York Times, Nov. 9, 2016—Yaffa Eliach, who as a 4-year-old survived the Nazi massacres of Jews in her Lithuanian town, and went on to document their daily life in a kaleidoscopic book and a haunting, three-story canyon of photographs at

 

On Topic Links

 

Obama Lobbies Against Obliteration by Trump: Maureen Dowd, New York Times, Nov. 12, 2016

In Post-Arab Spring Egypt, Muslim Attacks on Christians are Rising: Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, Nov. 13, 2016

Mideast Christians Facing Islamic State Genocide Hopeful Trump Will ‘Secure Peace’: Edwin Mora, Breitbart, Nov. 15, 2016

Turkey Targets Oldest Syriac Orthodox Monastery: Robert Jones, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 16, 2016

 

 

ISRAEL AND THE 10 COMMANDMENTS OF A TRUMP PRESIDENCY

Yoram Ettinger                                                              

Algemeiner, Nov. 16, 2016

 

The outcome of the November 8, 2016, US election was predicted by those who doubted the accuracy of the polling samples. In fact, it is doubtful that credible samples can be currently formulated, due to the fluctuating ground of the social, economic, political, demographic and ethnic environment in the 435 congressional districts, the 50 states and the many county lines in the US.

 

The outcome of the November races for the White House, 34 Senate seats, 435 House seats, 12 governorships and all state legislatures spotlights the reasserted profile of the flyover areas of relatively small-town-America, the blue-collar and six-pack-Joe and lunch-pail-Mable America (“Reagan Democrats”), the moderate “Blue Dog” and conservative America, the national and homeland security hawks and the evangelical constituency, which was not significantly registered in prior election cycles.

 

The November 8, 2016 election was a victory of the anti-establishment and politically incorrect folks over the politically correct media, academia, political, business and foreign policy establishments. The term “alt-right,” which nobody had heard of until the unexpected emergence and rise of Donald Trump in the US…

 

What impact will the Trump victory have on US-Israel relations? Just like all Western democracies and other allies of the US, Israel is mostly concerned with the US posture of deterrence, which has played a critical role in restraining global radicalism and reassuring free societies. However, the US power-projection has been significantly eroded during the Obama administration, generating tailwinds for rogue regimes and headwinds for America’s allies, as has been strikingly demonstrated in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East at large. It has fueled global turbulence, instability and Islamic terrorism, which is asserting itself in Europe and increasingly on the US mainland.

 

The Trump presidency is expected to reboot the US posture of deterrence by reversing the recent draconian cuts in the US defense budget and the size of the US armed forces – in the face of intensifying clear and present terrorism, conventional and nuclear threats to the US and its allies — and to replenish the rapidly depleted and aging US military stockpiles; compensate for the declining purchase power of the US dollar; restore the size of the armed forces, and reassess the July 2015 agreement with Iran. The latter has caused all pro-US Arab countries to downgrade their confidence in the US posture of deterrence and seek closer ties with Russia.

 

The track record of President-elect Trump, Vice President-elect Pence, and their foreign policy and national security advisers, suggest that US-Israel relations are expected to experience less tension and substantial enhancement, driven by the 400-year-old foundation of Judeo-Christian values of liberty and justice, as well as long and short-term mutual interests and threats, Israel’s unique and increasing contributions to the US commercial and defense industries and to scientific, technological, irrigation, agricultural, space and military US concerns.

 

President and Vice President-elect Trump and Pence, and most of their advisers on US-Israel relations and foreign policy, are prone to adhere to the following “10 commandments:” 1. Jewish sovereignty over the land of Israel is a derivative of a unique historical right – which was enshrined by the early pilgrims and the US Founding Fathers — rather than a compensation for the Holocaust; 2. Israel is a most effective, unconditional geo-strategic ally of the US, willing to flex its muscles, extending the strategic hand of the US, while employing its own – not American — soldiers, performing within the framework of a two-way-street, mutually beneficial, win-win US-Israel relationship;

 

3. The scope of US geo-strategic interests, and therefore US-Israel relations, dramatically transcends the Palestinian issue; 4. Irrespective of the Arab talk — but based on the Arab walk — the Palestinian issue is not a core cause of Middle East turbulence, nor a centerpiece of Arab policy-making, nor a trigger of anti-US Islamic terrorism, nor the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict;

 

5. Based on the intra-Arab Palestinian track record (stabbing the backs of their Arab hosts), the relationships between the Palestinian Authority and anti-US regimes and terror organizations, the anti-US incitement on the Palestinian street, Palestinian hate-education, and the strategic implications of the raging anti-US Arab tsunami, a Palestinian state would be a strategic liability, undermining regional stability and vital US interests in the Middle East;

 

6. The Trump team’s order of priorities will minimize the US involvement in the mediation/negotiation process of the Palestinian issue. The Trump team is aware that the US has introduced numerous Israel-Arab peace initiatives, none of which succeeded. The only two successful peace initiatives, Israel-Egypt and Israel-Jordan, were initiated – and directly negotiated — by the parties involved. The US involvement has always radicalized Arab expectations by further pressure on Israel, thus radicalizing Arab positions, which undermines the prospects of peace.

 

7. The Trump/Pence state of mind does not consider Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria an obstacle to peace nor a violation of international law. 8. The Trump/Pence team recognizes that the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria are critically required for Israel’s existence, as demonstrated by a map submitted to President Johnson by former chairman of the Joint-Chiefs-of-Staff, General Earl Wheeler: “The minimum requirements for Israel’s defense include most of the West Bank.”

9. The Trump/Pence team is aware that Jerusalem is the ancient capital of the Jewish state – not an international city — and therefore should be the site of the US Embassy in Israel. The refusal to relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem has undermined the US posture of deterrence, and has strayed from the legacy of the US Founding Fathers, who considered Jerusalem a cornerstone of their moral and cultural worldview, as reflected by the 18 Jerusalems and 32 Salems (the original Biblical name of Jerusalem) on the US map.

 

10. Trump’s anti-establishment worldview is also targeting the State Department, which has been systematically wrong on Middle East issues, including its 1948 recommendation not to recognize the establishment of Israel, and its current insistence that Jerusalem is an international city. Therefore Foggy Bottom will not lead — but follow — the Middle East policy of the Trump administration, which will not subordinate the US unilateral action to multilateralism and the UN…                                                         

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

 

Contents                                                                                                                                                                      

HILLARY’S LOSS ACCELERATES                                                                          

THE DEMOCRATS’ TURN AGAINST ISRAEL                                                                                        

Seth Mandel                                                                                                          

New York Post, Nov. 14, 2016

 

Israel’s supporters were hoping Hillary Clinton could forestall the Democratic Party’s seemingly inevitable turn against the Jewish state. Clinton’s loss last week means we’re officially après Hillary — and must prepare for the flood. This could be the last US presidential election that Israelis don’t have to watch with existential dread.

 

At least, the first signs of a post-Clinton Democratic Party aren’t good. Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, a fiery critic of Israel, is the front-runner to be the next Democratic National Committee chairman. As Scott Johnson detailed in The Weekly Standard when Ellison was on the verge of winning his House seat in 2006, before his congressional career Ellison had worked with Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam and even defended Farrakhan against accusations of anti-Semitism.

 

Ellison has left Farrakhan far behind, but his Israel criticism remains scathing. As the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported, Ellison “has organized letters urging pressure on Israel, and was an advocate of drawing lessons from the UN Goldstone Report following the 2009 Gaza War.” Even Richard Goldstone, the author of the infamously anti-Israel report, wound up essentially disowning it.

 

On a trip to Israel last summer, Ellison posted a photo of a sign in Hebron declaring Israel to be an apartheid state and land thief. He has also called for Israel to end the blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip — despite the fact that Gaza-based terrorists have launched over 11,000 rocket attacks on Israeli civilians since Israel withdrew from the strip in 2005. Amid the 2014 war to stop those attacks, Israel discovered that Hamas had built a vast system of underground tunnels from Gaza to Israel in preparation for mass terror attacks.

 

Yet Ellison is far from a lone voice among Democrats; indeed, he’s co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. In his quest for the party chairmanship, Ellison has the backing of soon-to-be Democratic Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer — who prides himself on his pro-Israel bona fides and is now using his credibility on the issue to elevate Ellison. (Retiring Sen. Harry Reid offered his own endorsement over the weekend.) Schumer might just be bowing to the new reality. According to the Pew Research Center, Democrats sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians by a 43-29 margin — but that’s far closer than just a few years ago.

 

And among liberal Democrats, it flips: Liberals prefer the Palestinians by a 40-33 margin. We saw this play out over the summer, as Bernie Sanders challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Sanders had massive support among young liberals, who are increasingly hostile to Israel. Hillary won the nomination, but the message was clear: The future of the Democratic Party clearly belongs to those backing Sanders.

 

Diving into the numbers only paints a bleaker picture. In their book “Our Separate Ways: The Struggle for the Future of the US-Israel Alliance,” Dana Allin and Steven Simon (the latter a former Mideast adviser to President Obama) argue demographics will pull the two countries apart. Hispanics, who accounted for more than 50 percent of US population growth between 2000 and 2014, according to Pew, vote overwhelmingly Democratic, as do African-Americans. Allin and Simon predict that minorities will see more in common with the Palestinians than with Israel (the daft comparisons between Jim Crow and Israel’s treatment of Palestinians get ever more common), and Democratic priorities will reflect that. “And,” the authors write, touching on what really worries the pro-Israel community, “it will inflame the left-right divide in America.”

 

Democrats are in the minority now, but won’t be forever, and will obviously field a presidential candidate in 2020. What happens then? “In the absence of active demonization by” Obama, says one official at a pro-Israel organization, “I think we’re still a cycle or two away from Democrats turning on Israel” full force. But, he notes, the future isn’t bright — and “progressives are lost, of course.” Israeli officials are used to being able to count on bipartisan support in Congress, and they didn’t seem too worried no matter which way the US presidential election went this year. It might be the last time they have that luxury.            

 

Contents           

             

CAN IRAQ’S CHRISTIANS FINALLY GO HOME?                                                                                      

Mindy Belz                                                                                      

Wall Street Journal, Oct. 27, 2016

 

Noura Diyha wrestled a phone from her pocket to show me a photo of herself at age 3. She’s wearing a bonnet and riding a tricycle on a grass lawn. Some 14 years later, Noura is one of nearly 1 million internally displaced people in Iraqi Kurdistan. Her family fled from the mostly Christian village of Batnaya in August 2014, when Islamic State militants captured territory throughout northern Iraq. She now lives in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. As coalition forces—Iraqi government forces, allied militias and Kurdish soldiers, backed by U.S. air and on-the-ground support—advance toward Mosul and retake villages like Batnaya, Noura’s family hopes to return home soon. Yet even success on the battlefield won’t guarantee a safe return for exiled Christians and other religious minorities.

 

ISIS fighters dug in at Noura’s town and came under heavy fire on Oct. 20. They used rocket launchers and suicide bombers against coalition ground troops, but the village was retaken earlier this week. Coalition forces, aided by U.S. airstrikes and mortar rounds, covered significant ground and retook dozens of other villages controlled by ISIS. Nearing Mosul’s city limits, the armies face intense resistance. For Noura and thousands of others, these are days of waiting, only now with the possibility of returning home. “A military defeat of Daesh [ISIS] is only the first step,” says Father Emanuel Youkhana, an Assyrian priest who heads an Iraqi relief organization. “We must deal with root causes that allowed Daesh to arise and take this territory, in order to permit all Iraqi people to return home.”

 

Turkey, a NATO member, now stands in the way of the Christians’ return. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inserted thousands of Turkish forces into Nineveh months ago, and he insists they participate in the fight against ISIS. Mr. Erdogan told an Arab news channel this month, “only Sunni Arabs, Turkomens, and Sunni Kurds” should remain in the Mosul region once it is liberated. Under martial law in his own country, Mr. Erdogan has closed churches and detained Christian clergy.

 

Father Youkhana and others fear Turkey seeks to re-establish its own empire out of the crumbling ISIS caliphate, one similar to the Ottoman empire—the same government that killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenian and Assyrian Christians in genocides a century ago. Iraq opposes Mr. Erdogan’s overtures. “The Turkish insistence on its presence inside Iraqi territories has no justification,” said Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at a recent press conference in Baghdad. Iraq’s Parliament called the Turkish troops “hostile occupying forces.”

 

Yet the Obama administration is pressuring Baghdad to accept a role for Turkey. Given the strength of Turkish influence, and Christians’ lack of political clout, this is likely to finish the Christians’ right to return. This despite the fact that Christians have lived in this part of the world since the first century. I’ve walked through church ruins in Nineveh that archaeologists estimate were constructed in the second or third century. “I believe we stand at a crossroads for the future of Christianity—and pluralism—in the Middle East,” said Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus at an event this month in New York City. “Either Christianity will survive and offer a witness of forgiveness, charity and mercy, or it will disappear, impoverishing the region religiously, ethnically and culturally.”

 

Mr. Anderson’s organization compiled a 300-page report at the request of the State Department documenting ISIS genocide of Christians in Iraq. Besides the toxic level of displacement, the report contains graphic detail confirming that at least 1,100 Christians have been murdered by Islamic militants in Iraq since 2003, though the number is almost certainly higher now. Yet U.S. officials seem to be ignoring these findings, even though the report pushed Washington to legally declare ISIS’s actions a “genocide.”

 

Exile is at the heart of the Christian message. The Old Testament Jews wandered in the wilderness and the savior Jesus Christ “had no place to lay his head.” His apostle Paul wrote four of his New Testament epistles from prison. The Christians in Iraq know this is their story, too. Yet being vanquished forever from this heartland is a terrible fate to contemplate…

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

             

YAFFA ELIACH, HISTORIAN WHO CAPTURED FACES

OF THE HOLOCAUST, DIES AT 79                                                                           Joseph Berger                                                                           New York Times, Nov. 12, 2016

 

Yaffa Eliach, who as a 4-year-old survived the Nazi massacres of Jews in her Lithuanian town, and went on to document their daily life in a kaleidoscopic book and a haunting, three-story canyon of photographs at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, died on Tuesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 79. Her death, after a long illness, was confirmed by Thea Wieseltier, a family friend.

 

After a childhood that might have throttled a person of lesser spine, Professor Eliach (pronounced EL-ee-akh) dedicated herself to the study and memorialization of the Holocaust and its victims. Starting in 1969, she did so as a professor of history and literature in the department of Judaic studies at Brooklyn College, and by founding the pioneering Center for Holocaust Studies at the Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn. Though modest in scale, its collection of taped interviews, diaries, letters, photographs and artifacts became a model for dozens of such centers. Her mission, she said many times, was to document the victims’ lives, not just their deaths, to give them back their grace and humanity. She determined to do so as a member of President Jimmy Carter’s Commission on the Holocaust during a visit to the death camps, where she realized that the victims were portrayed only as bulging-eyed skeletons in ragged striped uniforms, not as the vital people they once were.

 

Professor Eliach decided to recreate the shtetl she had known in Lithuania — Eisiskes, known in Yiddish as Eishyshok — where 3,500 Jews, almost the entire Jewish population, were killed, by collecting photographs of its inhabitants. Starting with a nucleus of family photos she and her older brother had squirreled away in hiding, she spent 15 years traveling to all 50 states and many countries searching for photographs, diaries and letters of other shtetl residents. In Israel, she knocked on 42 doors of an apartment building to track down one family and unearthed a cache of material buried in cans under a palm tree. In Australia, she told a radio station that she was searching for a family known as “the Mice” and was fortunate to get a tip from a caller. She hired security guards to help her gather materials in a former synagogue in a rough section of Detroit. And in several cases she resorted to a kind of bribery — medication, a color TV, four jogging suits — to persuade families to part with precious photographs temporarily so that she could reproduce them. She spent more than $600,000 of her own money and loans, then supported the project with a Guggenheim fellowship.

 

Professor Eliach ultimately collected 6,000 photographs of townspeople posing at bar mitzvahs, graduations and weddings, and in family groups — accounting for 92 percent of the village’s slaughtered Jews. Some 1,500 were selected for the Holocaust museum’s “Tower of Faces,” sometimes called a “Tower of Life,” where photographs are arranged in a narrow, soaring chasm that visitors walk through. The faces render the lives of so many ordinary Jews intimate and vibrant. By 2016, 40 million people had visited the museum since its opening in 1993. Professor Eliach assembled hundreds of the photographs and oral histories into an 818-page book, “There Once Was a World: A 900-Year Chronicle of the Shtetl of Eishyshok,” published by Little, Brown & Company in 1998. It was a nonfiction finalist for the National Book Award and joined her earlier book, “Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust,” as among her major contributions.

 

Menachem Z. Rosensaft, a leader in organizations of survivors’ children, said that Professor Eliach had made the Holocaust a subject both “accessible and kosher” for Orthodox Jews after years in which it had “presented far too many theological problems,” like how God could allow such things to happen.

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

 

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!

 

On Topic Links

 

Obama Lobbies Against Obliteration by Trump: Maureen Dowd, New York Times, Nov. 12, 2016 —You know how desperate President Obama is — as he contemplates all his accomplishments going down the drain at the hands of a man he has total contempt for — when he is willing to do something so against his nature.

In Post-Arab Spring Egypt, Muslim Attacks on Christians are Rising: Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, Nov. 13, 2016 — The Christian and Muslim villagers grew up together, played on the same soccer fields as kids, and attended the same schools in this riverside hamlet.

the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, died on Tuesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 79.

Mideast Christians Facing Islamic State Genocide Hopeful Trump Will ‘Secure Peace’: Edwin Mora, Breitbart, Nov. 15, 2016—Leaders from the minority Christian community in the Middle East have commended President-elect Donald Trump on his victory last week, saying they are hopeful the new American leader will strengthen and support the ethno-religious minority groups in Iraq and Syria victimized by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).

Turkey Targets Oldest Syriac Orthodox Monastery: Robert Jones, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 16, 2016—The European Commission has recently issued its 2016 Turkey Progress Report, which contains serious criticism of the country's increasingly grave human rights record.

 

 

 

 

AS BATTLE OF MOSUL RAGES, POST-I.S. IRAQ — POLITICALLY & TERRITORIALLY DIVIDED, TAKES SHAPE

 

The End of Mosul Battle is the Beginning of the Battle for Iraq: Abdulla Hawez, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 13, 2016 — Two weeks after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi officially announced the much-awaited Mosul offensive…

Eyewitness Accounts From Persecuted Iraqi Christians: Lela Gilbert, Algemeiner, Nov. 15, 2016 — It is painful to recall the events of late summer 2014, when the Islamic State killed or expelled thousands of Christians from their historic homeland Iraq’s Nineveh Plains.

Why Kurdistan Is a Pillar of Hope in a Turbulent Middle East: Sasha Toperich, Huffington Post, Aug. 15, 2016  — It is known to the world that the Kurdistan region in Iraq is facing daunting problems as it combats the largest global terrorist threat, the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS.

What Happens After ISIS Falls?: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 9, 2016— On July 4, 2014, a black-turbaned cleric named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took to the pulpit of the Grand Mosque in the Iraqi city of Mosul and proclaimed the founding of a new caliphate.

 

On Topic Links

 

Iran and Turkey Jostling for Power in Iraq: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 5, 2016

ISIS Is Massacring Mosul Civilians as Troops Advance, U.N. Says: Nick Cumming-Bruce, New York Times, Nov. 11, 2016

Battle for Mosul Resets Ties Between Kurds and Baghdad: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 3, 2016

Seeking Clues to ISIS Strategy in Corpses and Cellphones Left in Kirkuk: Michael R. Gordon, New York Times, Oct. 29, 2016

 

THE END OF MOSUL BATTLE IS THE BEGINNING

OF THE BATTLE FOR IRAQ

Abdulla Hawez

Jerusalem Post, Nov. 13, 2016

 

Two weeks after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi officially announced the much-awaited Mosul offensive, Iraqi elite Counter-Terrorism Service troops have reportedly entered the outskirts of Mosul, for the first time since the city fell to Islamic State (ISIS) in summer 2014. Mosul will be liberated, be it in weeks or months; the actual battle for the future of Iraq will then intensify.

 

The future of Iraq in its current form is far from certain. Despite regaining most of the territory lost to ISIS, the authority of the Iraqi government is waning as the militias, often uncontrollable, are flourishing. These militias are a state within a state as they have their own administrative body and political leadership that is tied to Iran. And they are increasingly gaining financial independence. These militias have been frequently accused of revenge killing against Sunnis and have clashed, although in limited fashion, with the Kurdish Peshmerga. Increasing reliance on these militias in the newly liberated areas, mostly Sunni areas, will further worsen the already bad relations between Baghdad and the minority Sunni community.

 

Furthermore, as these militias get closer to the Kurdish borders in the north, more clashes are expected with the Peshmerga. These militias have also been involved in kidnappings for ransom and identity-based killing. At times, especially when they are not on the front lines, they have been fighting each other as well. In each area, each militia is mostly controlled by a specific tribe or tribes and they have been fighting in some areas, such as Diyala and Basra.

 

Meanwhile Kurds in the north have been regaining most of what they consider Kurdistan. In Nineveh they are starting to dig trenches and build permanent outposts of what they call the natural borders of Kurdistan with Iraq. In Kirkuk they are in control of the city, as Peshmerga took advantage of a golden opportunity in 2014 when Iraqi security forces deserted the city. After ISIS, the issue of the contested territories will resurface as the Iraqi government will not let these territories go, if for no other reason than popular pressure.

 

Here the picture will get even more complicated as the minorities also want their share, particularly in Nineveh. These minorities have all completely lost trust in the Sunni Arabs who they claim betrayed them when ISIS overran their areas. Backed by the Kurds, Christians, who have their own militias, though small, want self-rule n the Nineveh Plain. Ideally, they want to join the Kurdistan region, while keeping their self-rule. Yazidis in Sinjar want to become a province within Kurdistan, again with self-rule. Meanwhile, backed by Turkey, Turkmen, especially Sunni Turkmen, will push for a region of their own in Tel Afar just east of Sinjar.

 

What complicates the case of Sinjar and Tal Afar further is the regional dimension, as the PKK, labeled terrorists by Turkey, have a strong presence in Sinjar. While the Shi’ite militias will have a role in Tal Afar through the Shi’ite Turkmen, backed by Iran, who make up around 40 percent of the city. Whole Shi’ite militias, known as popular mobilization forces or PMF, have been advancing in southwestern Mosul, less than 20 km. from Tel Afar. Turkey has started deploying troops to the southeastern city of Slopi, not so far from Tal Afar and Sinjar.

 

As Erdogan threatens to take action if the PMF enter Tal Afar or if the PKK make Sinjar “another Qandil,” Turkey’s intervention in Syria makes it a likely scenario, especially since Turkey always has a base in Bashiq, just northeast Mosul. The PMF plan, as reported by The Guardian, will be securing a route to Syria as part of Iran’s plan to build a land corridor to the Mediterranean, but that all depends on whether Turkey will intervene.

 

As everyone is eyeing parts of the cake in Iraq, Sunni Arabs, who have lost most, will not sit by idly. Both Shi’ites in south and central Iraq and Kurds in the north have been expanding. Sunnis consider many of these areas theirs. The Sunnis have been building their own militias, some pro-government and others pro-Turkey. With the end of the battle for Mosul, Sunnis will actively seek to build a region or regions of their own, likely hoping to include areas controlled by the Iraqi government and Shi’ite militias, or those controlled by the Kurds and other minorities as in the case of Nineveh. That makes violent confrontations more likely.

 

As Iraq is going through a tough economic crisis, rebuilding the liberated territories is probably the biggest challenge for the Iraqi government in terms of regaining the trust of the Sunnis. But as that will requires tens of billions of dollars, it is unlikely Iraqi government will be able to rebuild these areas. Poverty, homelessness and political isolation will likely anger Sunnis further, and thus the Iraqi government’s few remaining bridges with them will also be destroyed.

 

In addition to all the above, there have been other developments. Public libraries are in decline. Just days after the Mosul offensive began, the Iraqi Parliament passed a bill by majority Shi’ite bloc but backed by many Sunni lawmakers, banning sale, production or exportation of alcohol, this in a country known for its social and religious mosaic. A day after the bill passed, Mahmoud al-Hassan, a lawmaker from the majority Shi’ite bloc, called on people to kill those who fail to implement this law; days after his statement, a Christian man who owned a liquor shop was killed in the southern city of Basra. There is also increasing pressure on dress codes in the universities.

 

In short here is what post ISIS-Iraq is going to look like: the country will be territorially as much as politically divided into regions, not just three but probably six. Kurds solidify their gains and formalize the borders with Iraq. Militias will flourish further and civil liberties, except in Kurdistan, will decline further. Iraq will become proto-states within a state.                                                                 

 

Contents                                                                                                                                              

   

EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS FROM PERSECUTED IRAQI CHRISTIANS                                                                   

Lela Gilbert                                                                                                            

Algemeiner, Nov. 15, 2016

 

It is painful to recall the events of late summer 2014, when the Islamic State killed or expelled thousands of Christians from their historic homeland Iraq’s Nineveh Plains. Most of them fled to Erbil, Kurdistan. Later that year, I was fortunate enough to visit the displaced survivors. By then, massive efforts had begun to provide them with basic needs – food, water, blankets, winterization of shelters and medical supplies.

 

Most of those Christians languished in churches, abandoned buildings and tent cities. As weeks turned to months, it became clear that fragile hopes of returning to their ISIS-occupied cities, towns and villages would not soon be fulfilled. What would they do? Should these Christians wait in Kurdistan until they could safely return home? Or should they try to seek a new life in an adopted country? Some, who were driven out of their homes on more than one occasion over recent years, continue to dream of starting over in distant lands, far removed from the fears that still haunt them. Unfortunately, that remains a difficult course with many obstacles. But others yearn to return to their homes and churches in their ancestral Christian heartland. This, too, is a huge challenge. But now, at last, they are finally sensing a surge of hope.

 

Today a coalition of Iraqi military forces, supported by United States air power and advisors, is aggressively seeking the destruction of ISIS. Its goal is to liberate the Nineveh Plains one village and town at a time. And its No. 1 target is Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. It isn’t an easy operation, to put it mildly. The liberation of the Christian town of Bartella is illustrative of the critical challenges that lie ahead. But a lifesaving miracle in Kirkuk proves that there is hope, even when dangers seem insurmountable. “Bartella is liberated, but not free,” Father Behnam told me during a recent FaceTime conversation. He is a Syriac Catholic priest from Bartella who is presently living in Erbil.

 

International media sources are widely reporting the liberation of Bartella as a positive indication of the Islamic State’s impending eviction from Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. Videos of Bartella’s once-silenced church bells have chimed joyfully on social media across the world. Meanwhile, hopeful news reports describe the surging anticipation of Iraq’s Christians: Will they soon be able to return to their ancestral homes and churches?

 

The hopes are real, but the perspective from the ground is sobering. The handful of displaced Bartella residents who have managed to reenter their town, escorted by Iraqi soldiers, are apprehensive. And this includes Behnam. Large portions of Bartella are utterly trashed; ruined beyond repair. ISIS has savagely plundered innumerable private residences, demolishing them with explosives. Meanwhile, the safety of those who manage to briefly visit, like Behnam, cannot be guaranteed. ISIS may have departed, but building after building has been left booby-trapped with mines, suitcase bombs and other assorted deadly devices.

 

“ISIS has excellent technology,” Behnam told me. “They mined everything. Even Bibles.” Behnam learned about such tactics when he was able to visit the Orthodox Church of St. George, which was the spiritual home to a sizeable portion of Bartella’s Christian community. The church’s interior is demolished. ISIS vandalized Bibles and New Testaments from the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. Terrorists ripped or cut them apart, used them to fuel the flames of their arson, and otherwise desecrated them.

 

In several Bartella churches, statuary was beheaded and crushed. Frescoes were defaced. ISIS mottos, such as “Enduring and Expanding,” were spray-painted across sanctuary walls, along with stenciled ISIS flags. But perhaps most disturbing at St. George’s was a noose, hanging ominously in the courtyard, just inside the entryway. It bears mute witness to the demise of a Christian welcome center, which was ruthlessly transformed into an execution site. Countless innocent ISIS victims were murdered there.

 

Meanwhile, who is 100 percent sure that ISIS has been driven entirely out of Bartella? Behnam described the oldest section of town, where enormous basements are dug beneath timeworn houses. “No one has dared to enter those underground areas, “ he told me. “And ISIS may well be hiding there.” The Los Angeles Times quoted an Iraqi soldier who was deployed in the recent battle. “’A militant comes in from one building, takes a tunnel and emerges from another several doors down. How can we clean this place up?’ he asked, the frustration in his voice evident. That’s reason enough to cast doubt on the present situation. But Iraqi Christians also face long-range challenges.

 

Although the troops that liberated Bartella were uniformed as Iraqi soldiers, the flags they displayed told a somewhat different story. “There were more Shia flags than Iraqi flags,” Behnam said. “Flags honoring Hussein. Or Ali. These were clearly Shia militias.” Charmaine Hedding of Shai Fund, a nonprofit relief organization working in Kurdistan, told me that the Christian community’s problems extend beyond ISIS. “Iraq’s Christians are caught in the crossfire of a dangerous power struggle,” she explained. “Their villages and towns are located in disputed territories. “The Kurds hope to annex the region,” she continued. “But Christians haven’t forgotten that the Peshmerga withdrew their forces just hours before ISIS invaded in 2014. At the same time, Baghdad’s Iraqi forces also want to assert control over that same region.”

 

And that’s not to mention the territory-hungry Turks. Or the Sunnis who once turned a blind eye to the Islamic State’s horrors. I asked Behnam how he’d felt when he entered Bartella a few days before. He paused. “I felt insecure,” he finally replied. “And I was so disappointed. I kept thinking, ‘What can we do?’” I asked, “So what would make it possible for Iraq’s Christians to return to their ancestral homes?” He thought for a moment, then shook his head. “It would require massive reconstruction. And very complicated security arrangements.” Clearly discouraged, he shook his head again and concluded, “And who will help us?”

 

Behnam’s story illustrates the enormously complex efforts necessary to fully expel ISIS terrorists and to begin reconstruction. Another story reminds us that God is an “ever-present help in time of need.” It took place in Kirkuk, Iraq – an Iraqi city that was previously thought to have been “liberated” from ISIS. Unfortunately, some ISIS fighters had remained hidden in Kirkuk after their fellow terrorists were either killed or expelled. That made it possible – when coalition forces pushed successfully ahead toward Mosul – for the terrorist group to make a sudden comeback, staging a diversionary assault on Kirkuk…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]       

 

Contents           

             

WHY KURDISTAN IS A PILLAR OF HOPE IN A TURBULENT MIDDLE EAST                                                          

Sasha Toperich             

Huffington Post, Aug. 15, 2016

 

It is known to the world that the Kurdistan region in Iraq is facing daunting problems as it combats the largest global terrorist threat, the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS. The courage of the Peshmerga, the Kurdistan army that halted ISIS’ advancement two years ago, and which keeps counting victories over this vicious terrorist group, has entered world history. Add to that the fact that these brave men and women are fighting with old weapons, unlike ISIS fighters, who confiscated modern and heavy weaponry from the Iraqi army that the U.S. provided.

 

Fearing the threat of ISIS and political instability, investors and foreign companies left Kurdistan, which had a sizable impact on the region’s economic development. In addition, since February 2014, the Iraqi central government stopped paying its financial obligations to Kurdistan, all while more than two million refugees and internally displaced people of all ethnicities and nationalities found refuge in the Kurdistan region, fleeing ISIS.

 

To address these challenges, the government in Erbil has launched a set of reforms to create a more efficient administration and to diversify the economy, which is still heavily dependent on oil and gas exports. The liberation of Mosul is expected to send between 500,000 and 1,000,000 additional refugees to the Kurdistan region, and will undoubtedly have abysmal effects on its fragile economy. The international community will need to commit to long-term aid and financial assistance, which will be crucial to defeating ISIS not only militarily, but also their entire ideology.

 

The fear is that if basic living conditions for refugees are not created and sustained, additional resentment might develop and new terror groups could emerge. The process of finding permanent homes for refugees will be slow at best, as ISIS destroyed numerous villages and placed landmines in others. Those mines are placed within buildings, which make them almost impossible to neutralize, and are planted there with the sole reason of potentially killing more people who try to dismantle them in an effort to inhabit the villages. Just a few days ago, Peshmerga Colonel Peshkaft Zuher Khalid was killed while attempting to dismantle a mine left by ISIS in Tulaband village. He was 34 years old and left three sons and a daughter behind.

 

Talks about a post-ISIS future for the Mosul area are already well underway, and Masoud Barzani, the Kurdistan region president, already supported requests by Yezidis, Christians, Shabaks, Kakais, Armenians and Assyrians, for independent administration and self-rule of Nineveh province. The liberation of Mosul will be a huge leap forward for the Kurdistan region. After ISIS is repelled further from its borders, investors are expected to start coming back. Plenty are already eyeing ways to enter or re-enter projects and foreign ministers, ambassadors and other officials are meeting daily with Kurdistan government officials. And rightly so, as opportunities for cooperation are plenty.

 

Kurdistan, formerly known as the “breadbasket of Iraq,” has 1.5 million hectares of irrigated lands and 70 percent of the grain production in Kurdistan is organic. In addition, Kurdistan annually produces 1.6 million tons of wheat, of which it only uses 650,000 tons, leaving one million tons available for export. Yet Iraq is not buying wheat from the Kurdistan region and is importing it from Iran and Turkey. Furthermore, the region’s fruit production is also substantial. The Barwar Bella region alone (Duhok province) produces more than 28,000 tons of apples, and Halabja produces over 50,000 tons of pomegranates on an annual basis. Opportunities for U.S. businesses are plenty in the agricultural sector, where technology is needed for further growth. Now is the time to start exploring these opportunities through the union of farmers in Kurdistan and connecting to the existing agriculture private sector for exploring joint business opportunities…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents           

             

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER ISIS FALLS?                                              

Yaroslav Trofimov

Wall Street Journal, Sept. 9, 2016

 

On July 4, 2014, a black-turbaned cleric named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took to the pulpit of the Grand Mosque in the Iraqi city of Mosul and proclaimed the founding of a new caliphate. Already in control of eastern Syria and western Iraq, this so-called Islamic State had global ambitions, Mr. Baghdadi declared. The self-appointed caliph vowed to restore “dignity, might, rights and leadership” to his fellow Sunni Muslims everywhere.

 

That audacious sermon from the heart of Iraq’s second-largest city was the culmination of a jihadist blitzkrieg that had seized most of the Sunni Arab parts of Iraq in previous weeks. It was also, it turned out, the high point of Islamic State’s bid to conquer the world. Islamic State now seems likely to fall as swiftly as it rose. In the past two years, the group has gone to war with everyone from al Qaeda to Iran’s Shiite theocracy to the U.S. and Russia. It has launched attacks in the West and elsewhere—or, at any rate, claimed credit for them—with rising frequency, even as it has suffered a series of battlefield defeats and surrendered one city after another.

 

Islamic State has lost significant territory over the past year, and further setbacks in the year ahead may bring an end to the grand ambitions of the self-styled caliphate. It is easy to think that Islamic State is still on the march. It isn’t. Over the past year, the territory under its control—once roughly the size of the U.K.—has shrunk rapidly in both Iraq and Syria. Islamic State has lost the Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra and the northern Syrian countryside bordering on Turkey. Its militants in Libya were ousted in recent weeks from their headquarters in Sirte. In coming months, the group will face a battle that it is unlikely to win for its two most important remaining centers—Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

 

It may be tempting fate to ask the question, but it must be asked all the same: What happens once Islamic State falls? The future of the Middle East may well depend on who fills the void that it leaves behind both on the ground and, perhaps more important, in the imagination of jihadists around the world. As we mark the 15th anniversary this weekend of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, one likely consequence of the demise of ISIS (as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is often known) will be to revive its ideological rival, al Qaeda, which opposed Mr. Baghdadi’s ambitions from the start. Al Qaeda may yet unleash a fresh wave of terrorist attacks in the West and elsewhere—as may the remnants of Islamic State, eager to show that they still matter.

 

“Simply having ISIS go away doesn’t mean that the jihadist problem goes away,” said Daniel Benjamin of Dartmouth College, who served as the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator during the Obama administration. “Eliminating the caliphate will be an achievement—but more likely, it will be just the end of the beginning rather than the beginning of the end.” What made Islamic State unique—and, until recently, so appealing to many young, disaffected Muslims—is that it managed to create an actual state in Syria and Iraq. In Mosul last year, food prices were lower than in Baghdad and the streets were kept clean, even as the group drove out the city’s Christians and Shiites, banned women’s beauty salons, forbade men from shaving their beards and threw gay men from rooftops. Unlike Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s, it was also a place in the heart of the Middle East to which adepts from around the world could migrate relatively easily, by way of Turkey’s porous borders…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

 

 

 

On Topic Links

 

Iran and Turkey Jostling for Power in Iraq: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 5, 2016—The most intriguing aspect of the Mosul campaign, however, has been the differing and often opposing agendas of the various components of the attacking force. These, with surprising rapidity, have now have come to the fore.

ISIS Is Massacring Mosul Civilians as Troops Advance, U.N. Says: Nick Cumming-Bruce, New York Times, Nov. 11, 2016—Islamic State militants have summarily killed scores of civilians in the Iraqi city of Mosul in recent days, sometimes using children as executioners, and have used chemical agents against Iraqi and Kurdish troops, United Nations officials said on Friday.

Battle for Mosul Resets Ties Between Kurds and Baghdad: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 3, 2016—Residents of the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq have grown accustomed to an unusual sight as the battle for Mosul unfolded in recent weeks: columns of Iraqi armor on their roads.

Seeking Clues to ISIS Strategy in Corpses and Cellphones Left in Kirkuk: Michael R. Gordon, New York Times, Oct. 29, 2016—Eighty-four bodies of Islamic State fighters were piled high at the Kirkuk hospital morgue, as the pathologists went through the gruesome work of gathering intelligence on the group’s sudden counterattack on the city.

 

 

 

 

IN IRAQ, COMPLEX ANTI-I.S. ALLIANCE EMERGES; MEANWHILE, PERSECUTED MINORITIES SEEK REFUGE FROM ISLAMISTS

Which Iraq will Triumph in Mosul?: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 23, 2016— On October 20 the Kurdish peshmerga launched an operation to liberate the town of Bashiqa.

Turkey's Dangerous Moves in Iraq: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 11, 2016— In a span of five years Turkey has had serious political and military tensions with several countries in its vicinity …

Who Will Rule Nineveh After ISIS?: Hassan Mneimneh, Real Clear World, Oct. 24, 2016 — In an ideal world, the ousting of a militant group that has openly committed genocide and engaged in ethnic and religious cleansing ought to be followed by an affirmation of national unity.

The US Must Support a Safe Haven for Persecuted Mideast Christians: Mario Bramnick, Jewish Press, Oct. 25— Great suffering is occurring in Iraq and Syria.

 

On Topic Links

 

Turkey Barges Into the Mosul Fight: New York Times, Oct. 24, 2016

Disunity as Kurds, Turks, Shia, and Sunnis Fight over Mosul: Jonathan Spyer, The Australian, Oct. 8, 2016

Iraqi Christians Narrowly Escape ISIS: Danny Gold, Daily Beast, Oct. 24, 2016

What Happens After Mosul Falls Will Set the New Status Quo for Region: Matthew Fisher, National Post, Oct. 17, 2016

 

WHICH IRAQ WILL TRIUMPH IN MOSUL?

Seth J. Frantzman                                                                             

Jerusalem Post, Oct. 23, 2016

 

On October 20 the Kurdish peshmerga launched an operation to liberate the town of Bashiqa. They sought to flank the town and surround it and some villages nearby.  But the offensive was slowed by tough ISIS resistance and what Kurds said was a lack of enough coordination and air support from the American-led coalition.  By nightfall there had been casualties and the operation paused for a day. Bulldozers went to the front and carved out new frontline positions. Farther southeast on October 21 the Iraqi army’s elite counter-terror Golden Division was hammering ISIS in Bakhdida and Bartella, two Christian towns that are 12 kilometers from Mosul.  The Iraqi 9th armored division was also involved in trying to take Bakhdida, but the operation was moving slowly.

 

There is a momentary feeling of a unique alliance in Iraq as Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi, mostly Shia, Arabs from the regular army fight side by side against ISIS.  But the alliance is complex.  Kurds were surprised to see Iraqi flags fluttering from humvees and trucks moving to the front in early October after the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government allowed Iraqi army transit through the region to get to the front.  People wondered why Kurds have fought and died for two years for these frontlines, while the Iraqis now are being transported to them with ease. They wonder whether the American-led coalition wants to use Kurds to fight ISIS but will not stand by Kurdistan when the war is over.

 

There is a belief among many in the Kurdish region that Iraq is like a shackle weighing down people’s hopes and dreams.  One lawyer told me he has difficulty traveling abroad on an Iraqi passport. “It’s the worst passport except for the Somali one.” What benefits does the Kurdish region get from being part of a state that often feels like a failure. No one wants to come on tourism to “Iraq”, but they would come to “Kurdistan.”  Oil revenues and state budget have been cut to the Kurdish region by the central government and the Kurd sought to export oil on their own. Trade comes from Turkey, not via Baghdad. New malls glisten in Kurdistan and there is an open, liberal atmosphere. But in Baghdad the parliament passed a ban alcohol sales and importation, reverting to conservative ways.

 

As the offensive to defeat ISIS creeps toward Mosul it appears essential that the cooperation taking place today between Sunni tribal leaders, Kurds and Shia can present an opportunity for a different Iraq to triumph in Mosul.  A Sunni Arab sheikh,and Iraq parliament member who lives in Erbil named Ahmed al-Jarba visited the frontline on October 22 was upbeat that this united Iraq might triumph. “There is good cooperation between Peshmerga and the Iraqi army, including the Sunni tribes that we could not predict before.  I want to assure people of Mosul that they will be liberated.”  He said that unlike in Ramadi or Fallujah where Sunni civilians suffered, the residents of Mosul will not be harmed by the offensive. Kurdish fighters on the ground said they were also hopeful. “We have good relations with the Iraqis stationed here,” a local officer said as dust from an Iraqi tank driving toward the front from Gwer blanketed them.

 

There are many signs of cooperation.  Christian militias are fighting side by side with the Iraqi army to liberate Christian towns in Nineveh which border Mosul. Even the Shia militia Hashd al-Sha’abi has put out a video showing Christian churches reoccupied with their parishoners. Kurds have worked hard to rescue members of the Shabak minority whose inhabit more than 50 villages that are being liberated from ISIS. Yazidis have gained refuge in the Kurdish region. For a moment it seems like this grand alliance is something unique and special.  But none of these forces are united.  Christians have three different militias, one close to the Kurdish government and one closer to Baghdad, Iraqi tanks fly Shia flags, Kurds have Kurdish flags.

 

Some Shia Shabak minorities support Baghdad, whereas Sunnis prefer Kurdish rule. Many groups want their own autonomous areas, with Assyrian Christians, Yazidis, and Sunni Arabs all talking about more rights after the threat ISIS posed.  And don’t forget the Turks whose have revived old Ottoman-era connections to Mosul and want a role protecting the Turkmen minority. Unity in separateness might be a good term for what has happened in Iraq. Unity against a common enemy.

 

The question many are asking is whether this can be maintained after the conflict with ISIS ends. The Kurdish economy was badly affect(ed) by the war.  Tourism and development projects were put on hold. Men postponed studies to defend their land.  Security has been upped throughout the country with checkpoints on the roads and constant need to track down potential threats.

 

The international community has been supportive of the Kurds, with the US funding the Peshmerga directly and training and working closely with Kurdish units alongside other coalition countries. When the war is over will that aid and support dry up.  The US administration of Barack Obama has been pressing for the Mosul offensive to be finished by the time his term ends. That leaves a new US administration without the “problem” of fighting ISIS in Iraq, but if that administration is not committed to its Kurdish allies and prefers to revert to old form of only dealing with Baghdad, it will find that the same problems that existed before 2014 will return.                                     

 

Contents                                                                                                           

                                                             

TURKEY'S DANGEROUS MOVES IN IRAQ                                                                                                  

Burak Bekdil                                                                                                       

Gatestone Institute, Oct. 11, 2016

 

In a span of five years Turkey has had serious political and military tensions with several countries in its vicinity: Israel, Syria, Russia, Jordan, Egypt, Cyprus and Greece. Most recently, Iraq has also joined the club of hostilities surrounding Turkey. Despite the Iraqi government's vehement requests that Turkey withdraw its troops in Iraq, Ankara shrugs it off and says it will maintain its military presence in the neighboring country for "Iraq's stability." What a nice neighborly gesture! Behind the Turkish indifference lies sectarian concerns and ambitions.

 

On October 1, Turkey's parliament extended the mandate of Turkish troops deployed in Iraqi territory by one more year. The troops are stationed near Bashiqa in northern Iraq — as unwanted guests. That sparked a row with Baghdad and may further complicate the cold sectarian war between the Sunnis in the region, supported by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and their Shiite enemies, supported by Iran and the Shiite-controlled government in Baghdad.

 

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi renewed the call for the withdrawal of Turkish soldiers from his country and warned that Turkey's military adventurism could trigger another war in the Middle East. He said: "We do not want to enter into a military confrontation with Turkey … The Turkish insistence on [its] presence inside Iraqi territories has no justification." The Iraqi parliament said in a statement: "The Iraqi government must consider Turkish troops as hostile occupying forces." Baghdad has also requested an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to discuss the issue. The UNSC should "shoulder its responsibility and adopt a resolution to end to the Turkish troops' violation of Iraq's sovereignty," said Ahmad Jamal, spokesman for the Iraqi Foreign Ministry.

 

The Turkish move does not annoy only Iraq, but also its Western allies. Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman for the US-led coalition of 65 countries that fight the Islamic State (ISIS), said that Turkish troops in Iraq are not acting as part of the alliance. Dorrian said that Turkey is operating "on its own" in Iraq. He added that the coalition position is that every unit "should be here with the coordination or and with the permission of the government of Iraq."

 

By October 9, things started to get more annoying. Iraq's Ambassador to Turkey, Hisham Alawi, said: "If we do not reach some result, the Iraqi government will be forced to consider other options, and by doing so, Iraq would be practicing its right to defend its sovereignty and Iraq's interests." Ankara remains defiant. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that Turkish troops would remain in Iraq. Turkey's pretext is that its troops are in Iraq to "fight ISIS." That does not convince anyone. Turkey's intention is largely sectarian (read: pro-Sunni) and Yildirim admitted that in a not-so-subtle way when he said that the Turkish troops were in Iraq also "to make sure that no change to the region's 'demographic structure' is imposed by force."

 

Turkey fears that the aftermath of a planned assault on Mosul, Iraq's second largest city and ISIS's Iraqi stronghold, could see a heavy Shiite and Kurdish dominance in the Mosul area. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said: "Involving Shiite militias in the operation [against IS] will not bring peace to Mosul. On the contrary, it will increase problems." Unsurprisingly Turkey's pro-Sunni Islamists want Sunni dominance in a foreign country. This is not the first time they passionately do so.

 

The problem is that Turkey's sectarian ambitions come at a time when the coalition is preparing a heavy offensive on ISIS-controlled Mosul. Turkey's primary concern is not to drive ISIS out of Mosul but to make it a "Sunni-controlled city" after ISIS has been pushed out. And this ambition jeopardizes the planned assault on ISIS.

 

Iraqis think that the offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS is unlikely to begin as long as Turkish troops remain in Iraq. "I think that as long as these Turkish troops remain around Mosul, the operation to control the city will not start, or there must be a new agreement for the Turkish force not to take part in the offensive," said Iraqi lawmaker Abdelaziz Hasan, also a member of the defense and security committee at the Iraqi parliament.

 

Turkey's sectarian ambitions in neighboring Syria have ended up in total failure and bloodshed. Now Ankara wants to try another sectarian adventure in another neighboring and near-failed state, under the pretext of "bringing stability." Yildirim said that Turkey "bears responsibility for stability in Iraq." That is simply funny. You cannot bring stability to a country that looks more like a battleground of multiple religious wars than a country with just a few hundred troops.                                           

 

Contents                                                                                                                                                                                  

                                                              

WHO WILL RULE NINEVEH AFTER ISIS?

Hassan Mneimneh                                                                                      

Real Clear World, Oct. 24, 2016

 

In an ideal world, the ousting of a militant group that has openly committed genocide and engaged in ethnic and religious cleansing ought to be followed by an affirmation of national unity. This sadly is not the case in Iraq’s war-torn Nineveh province.

 

Many communities victimized by the Islamic State group are now pondering their fate and their place in the Iraq that will follow the liberation of Nineveh, the last Iraqi province held by the terrorist organization. Yazidis, Christians, and Shiite Turkmen generally agree that new administrative arrangements should offer each group a degree of autonomy while recognizing their primacy on the territory they claim. Three questions remain open, however, once the discussion moves from the general to the specific: What would be the geographic extent of the territory? What administrative shape will it take, and how much autonomy might it possess? Finally, which government would claim its allegiance — the central government in Baghdad, or the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil?

 

Nineveh is the heartland of historical Northern Mesopotamia. Its ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural diversity is the product of centuries of conquests, trade, migration, displacement, and fusion. Competing narratives highlighting the entitlement of the many communities of the region were built upon history remembered, discovered, and imagined, and have co-existed throughout the past century. The recent sequence of tragedies afflicting the region, however, has polarized the narratives and nudged them toward calls for separation.

 

The Yazidi self-image is one of fierce independence and defiance. Yet it has also been one of proud Iraqi patriotism. A sense of betrayal haunts many in the Yazidi community as a result of the deplorably inadequate reaction from their fellow Iraqis (as well as the rest of the world) toward the abject genocide, enslavement, and rape committed against them by ISIS. Yazidi anger also extends to Kurdish Peshmerga forces amid disputed accusations of abandonment in the course of the ISIS attack. The support accorded by Yazidi militants to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK — the Kurdish secessionist militia operating in southeastern Turkey — reflects a reluctance to align solely with the Kurdish government in Erbil. The grassroots militants’ balancing act between the PKK and the Peshmerga is mirrored at a higher level by an attempt on the part of prominent Yazidi political and cultural figures to maintain parallel relations with Baghdad and Erbil. A yet to be delineated Yazidi-dominated province with the town of Sinjar as its capital is anticipated; and while the KRG would endeavor to strengthen its influence in Sinjar over time, the initial arrangement will likely shape the province as a Baghdad dependency.

 

Baghdad can also be confident of the allegiance of a Shiite-Turkmen-majority province that has been proposed with the city of Tal Afar as its capital. True to its claim of not discriminating on the basis of ethnic background, the Islamic State subjected Shiite Turkmen to the same treatment it meted out to Shiite Arabs: decimation of the population, obliteration of religious shrines, and dispossession of all property. Having taken refuge in the Iraqi Shia heartland, many Turkmen militants are back in Nineveh as part of the Popular Mobilization Units, or PMUs, which are dominated by Iranian-backed Shiite militias. While the participation of the PMUs in the battle of Mosul is controversial and opposed by many Sunni political and tribal leaders, Tal Afar and adjoining areas have already been assigned to these Shiite forces as their area of operations in the anti-ISIS effort. The putative province that will emerge in the aftermath of the battle will be an unprecedented Shiite administrative entity away from the contiguous Shia provinces in central and southern Iraq. The religious character of this territory, in contrast to an ethnic Turkmen one, may be enhanced through its extension to include the Shabak minority, a Kurdish-speaking Shiite heterodox sect. This province can be expected to be a significant asset for Baghdad in its efforts to complicate the demands for the creation of a Sunni federal region. It should also help the central government curb any KRG irredentism in the soon-to-be former Nineveh province.

 

Erbil can be expected to mount a vigorous defense of its interests in trying to adjust the claims and desires for a Christian enclave. While comprising a number of sects who observe different rites and stem from different historical and ethnic backgrounds, the Christians of Iraq are united in being a vulnerable population that has suffered severe attrition since the fall of Saddam Hussein. The Christians of Mosul, dispossessed and expelled from the city as an act of “grace” by ISIS, exemplify the existential plight faced by all Iraqi Christians. There seems to be little place to accommodate Christians amid the competing claims of stronger parties. This applies in particular to the Nineveh Plain region, east of Mosul, with its slim Christian plurality. Kurdish leaders, who claim this territory as being within their purview, would be willing to recognize a special Christian status within Nineveh so long as its inhabitants declare their loyalty to Erbil, and not Baghdad. Indeed, both Erbil and Baghdad are well positioned through Christian allies and proxies for an impending competition.

 

The aspirations of the Nineveh minorities are elements in the tug of war between Baghdad and Erbil, expected to flare up as the battle of Mosul unfolds. The agency shaping the trajectory of events, however, is not limited to Baghdad, Erbil, and the embattled communities. Iraqi Sunnis remain a distinct majority in the province. The disarray that has been inflicted on them may have muted the expression of their interests, but the price of ignoring these interests would be the seeding of certain future conflicts over Nineveh. This would be terrible news for nearly everyone involved, and welcome news for a wounded Islamic State.                                                                                

 

Contents           

                                                     

THE US MUST SUPPORT A SAFE HAVEN FOR                                                              

PERSECUTED MIDEAST CHRISTIANS                                                                                      

Mario Bramnick                                                                                                   

Jewish Press, Oct. 25, 2016

 

Great suffering is occurring in Iraq and Syria. The region is ravaged by terror. Millions have been forced from their homes. Hundreds of thousands have been killed. And Christians and other ethno-religious minorities have suffered genocide at the hands of ISIS. The decision to completely withdraw US troops from Iraq left a power vacuum that was filled by terror groups bent on destroying Western civilization.

 

Now, ISIS is targeting Iraqi Christians specifically because they are Christian, because they stand in the way of the terror organization’s goal of establishing a pure Islamic caliphate in the Middle East and beyond. In March, the US House of Representatives voted unanimously to declare that the Islamic State’s slaughter of Christians in Iraq and Syria amounted to genocide, and, under extreme pressure, Secretary of State John Kerry joined Congress in this declaration.

 

Yet, while the State Department has brought thousands of Muslim refugees into the country, the plight of Christians had been intentionally overlooked. Out of 10,000 Syrians refugees permitted into the US, only 56 were Christian — though Christians make up 10 percent of Syria’s population.

 

We must protect our Christian-Arab brothers and sisters suffering from this terrible genocide in Muslim countries. As Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), has said, “It’s time for the church to help create a firewall of protection against the persecution of Arab Christians.”

 

Solutions are already being proposed for this effort. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) introduced a resolution that provides American support for the establishment of a safe haven province in the Nineveh Plains region of Northern Iraq. “This genocide has been recognized by the full weight and moral authority of the United States and many international entities, and it provides a gateway for further policy considerations,” Fortenberry said when introducing the resolution. “One next step must be the resecuritization and revitalization of the Nineveh Plain, allowing the repatriation of those who had to flee.”

 

The Nineveh safe haven would provide protection for religious minorities, allowing them to rebuild their homes and restore their cultures without fear of death, torture or destruction. Robert Nicholson, executive director of the Philos Project, which promotes positive Christian engagement in the Middle East, said, “As indigenous people, they have a right to stay. They need protection, especially in places where they were targeted for genocidal elimination. The Iraqi government and the Kurdish Regional Government have recognized the need for the Nineveh Plain Province. It’s time for United States to do the same.”

 

A protected, semi-autonomous region would also help decentralize the Iraqi government, which is crucial to maintaining stability in a post-Islamic State power vacuum. “If we don’t decentralize, the country will disintegrate,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abad said in April 2015. “To me, there are no limitations to decentralization.” As Christian refugees look to return to their abandoned homes in Iraq, they need security guarantees. The province proposed in Nineveh would be a solid foothold in the preservation and restoration of Christianity in the Middle East. As Christians, we support the Fortenberry resolution, H. Con. Res. 152, and hope all Americans will join us in doing so as well.

 

[Mario Bramnick is president of the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition (HILC)—Ed.]

 

Contents                       

           

On Topic Links

 

 

Turkey Barges Into the Mosul Fight: New York Times, Oct. 24, 2016—It’s been clear from the start that the American and Iraqi-led battle to retake Mosul from the Islamic State presented a logistical and strategic puzzle — even a possible nightmare — in which the interests of multiple countries and sectarian groups had to be reconciled and their roles carefully coordinated.

Disunity as Kurds, Turks, Shia, and Sunnis Fight over Mosul: Jonathan Spyer, The Australian, Oct. 8, 2016—Mosul in early autumn looks peaceful from the Bashiqa ridge. The first positions of the Iraqi Kurdish army, the Peshmerga, are here, 12km from the city.

Iraqi Christians Narrowly Escape ISIS: Danny Gold, Daily Beast, Oct. 24, 2016—Monaly Najeeb and the other young women were hiding under their beds when they heard the ISIS fighters enter their house. Machine gun fire had woken them up around 4 a.m. that morning, and they had spent hours huddling in fear, trying to keep quiet and silently praying that the militants wouldn’t enter their house as firefights continued right outside their door.

What Happens After Mosul Falls Will Set the New Status Quo for Region: Matthew Fisher, National Post, Oct. 17, 2016—Initial reports from the battlefield Monday indicate the encirclement of ISIL-held Mosul by Iraqi and Kurdish forces is going according to a careful plan more than two years in the making.