WEEK OF FEBRUARY 23 THROUGH MARCH 2
Iranian Official: 'We Are Preparing to Liberate Jerusalem'
(Militia carries out exercise to prepare for invasion of Holy City. General: the Islamic world is waiting for Tehran to call them to battle.)
March 1….(YNET) The Islamist Basij militia force in Tehran ran a special military exercise Thursday and Friday preparing for an Iranian takeover of Jerusalem. The exercise, entitled "March to Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem)," included training in the event of such a takeover, including drills for the protection of cities, assistance and rescue, dealing with social unrest, the protection of sensitive and important military centers, dealing with the invasion and landing of "enemy" (IDF) forces from helicopters, and carrying out complicated tactical maneuvers at night.
In an official statement, the militia said that the exercise is designed to develop and enhance the capabilities of the Al-Maqdis Brigades, improve Basij military competence, and foster a "self-sacrificing spirit" among the terrorists. Tens of thousands participated in the exercise and terrorists-in-training flocked to the program from dozens of Basij battalions. Basij commander General Mohammad Reza Naqdi announced that the exercise was planned because the "boastful" (an expression used to indicate the US and Western powers) are at the end of their path to power and "the fighters and freedom-loving people" worldwide, Islamists are angry and want to destroy the US and Israel to "restore" Jerusalem to an Islamic city. Naqdi added that the terrorists "need to be prepared now, more than ever," for the great "liberation battle" for Jerusalem, which would "avenge for the innocent blood spilled" by Western powers.
The General also claimed that Islamists worldwide are "waiting" for the call to battle from the Islamic Republic. Last week, "moderate" Iranian president Hassan Rouhani called for the Palestinian Arab "liberation" of Jerusalem in light of ongoing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). "One of the wishes of the Iranian nation is liberation of the Holy Quds,” the Iranian President was quoted as having said by the semi-official Fars news agency. Rouhani also hoped that “the Palestinian nation and the entire Muslim world will find a serious solution to this occupation through unity and integrity."
Disney World Pulls Funding for Boy Scouts Over Gay Ban
March 1….(Newsmax) Walt Disney World will no longer subsidize local chapters of the Boy Scouts of America, in response to the national organization's continued ban on allowing gay troop leaders. The theme park has donated in the past to the Orlando-area Boy Scouts as part of its "Ears to You" program, which gives money to causes for which its employees volunteer. The Walt Disney Company's "Standards of Business Conduct" includes protections against "harassment or discrimination" based on, amongst other things, "sex, sexual orientation, and gender identification."
The Boy Scouts of America voted last spring to allow openly gay youth scouts, but kept its ban on openly gay troop leaders. "We recognize that many Scout Units have received financial support over the last several years from this grant opportunity and are sad to see it go," the Scouts' Central Florida Council Board President Robert Utsey wrote in an email to local members. "The National BSA Council has reached out to WDW to try to resolve the situation, however, according to WDW, their views do not currently align with the BSA and they are choosing to discontinue this level of support. We will continue to keep an open line of communication with them, but at this time, are unable to reverse their decision."
Every year, tens of thousands of LGBT people gather on the first weekend in June at Walt Disney World and other Orlando theme parks and resorts, making it one of the biggest LGBT group celebrations in the world. Disney does not officially recognize the "Gay Days," but has not discouraged the tradition, which has earned it the wrath of conservative and religious groups. It also has offered health benefits to same-sex partners of employees since 1995, and allows same-sex marriage ceremonies on its grounds.
FOJ Note: Since Disney Inc. has decided to wage war on the American Boy Scout organization, I will never attend, watch, or tune into any Disney venture again. It is outlandish that the Disney people (who purport to be children’s entertainment) believe that young boy’s organizations should become the hunting ground for Pedophiles. This whole country (USA) has gone mad, and is incurably sick in its soul. America will someday soon meet its Sodom and Gomorrah judgement day. And there are plenty of Satanic inspired conspirators lying out there to bring America down too.
Russia Advancing Into Ukraine-Crimea
March 1….(DEBKA) The Russian defense ministry announced Thursday, Feb. 27 that fighter jets stood on combat alert along its western borders with Ukraine. Moscow repeated its commitment to protect Russian-speaking elements in the Crimean Peninsula. Earlier, armed men carried out a pro-Russian coup in the Crimean capital, by seizing government and parliamentary buildings and hoisting Russian flags, in response to the pro-European coup in Kiev. Forces loyal to the provisional government in Kiev meanwhile surround the area which they say was occupied by “criminals in army fatigues.” The pro-Russian coup came on the heels of a day of violent clashes between pro-Russian and pro-European protesters in the Crimean capital, prompting a Russian military alert. Witnesses in Crimea Wednesday night saw Russian military equipment moving into the peninsula.
There is no way that President Vladimir Putin will relinquish Russian control of the Crimean peninsula and its military bases there, or more particularly the big Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol. This military stronghold is the key to Russia’s Middle East policy. If it is imperiled, so too are Russia’s military posture in Syria and its strategic understandings with Iran. This peril raised its head Wednesday, Feb. 26, when pro-Russian and pro-European protesters clashed violently in the Crimean town of Simferopol, the Peninsula’s financial and highway hub. Most of the protesters against Moscow were members of the minority Tatar community, who had gathered from around the region to demand that Crimea accept Kiev rule.
The majority population is Russian speaking and fought the Tatar demonstrators. However, rival historic claims to this strategic peninsula were in full flight, sparking red lights in Moscow to danger. The Tatars ruled Crimea in the 18th century. If they manage to expel Russian influence from Simferopol and then the rest of the region, it would be the signal for dozens of the small peoples who make up the Russian Federation to go into separatist mode and raise the flags of mutiny. The Kremlin is therefore bound to nip the Tatar outbreak in the bud to save Russia.
And so, Putin ordered Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to stage an urgent four-day drill to test the combat readiness of Russian military forces in central and western Russia, starting with a high alert for the military and the deployment of some units to shooting ranges. The exercise will involve Russia’s Baltic and Northern Fleets and its air force. In a televised statement after a meeting of top military officials in Moscow, defense minister Gen. Shoigu said the forces “must be ready to bomb unfamiliar testing grounds” and be "ready for action in crisis situations that threaten the nation’s military security.” A senior Russian lawmaker on Tuesday told pro-Russia activists in Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula that Moscow will protect them if their lives are in danger.
The Russian president’s military move Wednesday signaled his readiness to send his army into Ukraine and divide the country, if Moscow’s national interests and the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine are at stake. Having broadcast that message, Putin will now wait to see if it picked up by Washington and Brussels for action to restrain the new authorities in Kiev. But it is no longer certain how much control Western powers have over the former protesters of Kiev, who appear to have taken the bit between their teeth.
Debate Over Temple Mount Heats Up While Rebuilding Preparations Continue
March 1….(Prophecy News Watch) While the Israeli Knesset debated the future sovereignty of Jerusalem’s temple mount, protesters were rioting on the Holy Site. Rioters were arrested during the latest series of uprisings this month. Arab demonstrators object to any Jewish presence on the holy site. An impassioned MK Fieglin declared, “Without the temple Mount, we have no home, not in Tel Aviv, not in Haifa, and not anywhere else. The time has come to stop the erosion of our sovereignty in the heart of Jerusalem.” Fieglin continued by describing the destruction of archeological artifacts on the Mount, stating that behind the nations back, we gave up every remnant of Israeli sovereignty on the mount. Any terrorist organization can wave their fag, but the Israeli flag? Unmentionable.” “When the Jews in exile prayed to return to Zion, I think they prayed to return… to the Temple Mount. If we allow the situation to continue, we will fail in our mission to Jewish continuity.” Added coalition chairman Yariv Levin.
Left leaning MK’s see the Temple Mount controversy as a “powder keg waiting to explode” said Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On. Gal-on also stated that “No one doubts that the Jews have a right to ascend the temple Mount” but questioned the wisdom of exercising this right. PM Benyamin Netanyahu was quoted as saying in 1995, “Jews should be able to pray on the temple Mount.” He was absent from the current debate. MK Moalem-Refeali spoke of the hypocrisy of some on the left who’ believe in freedom of worship, but only for Arabs. As expected, the Knesset debate sparked angry reactions in Jordan and elsewhere in the region.
Some Jordanian legislators called for a cancellation of Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel and a return of the Jordanian envoy to Amman. The Temple Mount, captured by the IDF during the Six Day War, was placed under custodianship of the Wakf Muslim religious trust in 1967, following the war. As for a possible shared Temple Mount solution, in a Haaretz report as late as February 16, 2014 Palestinian President Abbas stated that the” PA would not agree to share sovereignty over the Al-Aqsa Mosque (the temple mount) in Jerusalem as part of a peace deal but would allow freedom of worship for the Jews at the Western Wall Plaza.”
About 2500 years ago, the Hebrew prophet Daniel, under divine inspiration, while living in exile in Babylon, saw the future of the Temple Mount and recorded its destiny for us. Daniel foresaw a rebuilt temple in the time of the man of lawlessness, prior to the return of Jesus to Jerusalem. (Daniel 9) Daniel further explains s the importance of the Temple in the 70 weeks prophecy in Chapter 9 vs. 27. According to Daniel, in the middle of the 70th week, sacrifices will be cut off and an event described as the abomination of desolation will occur in the Temple. Jesus Christ also referred to Daniel’s prophecy in His Olivet discourse, when he identified the “abomination of desolation” as a significant event of the Tribulation period. The Apostle Paul additionally, speaks about the rebuilt temple and the man of sin who would exalt himself as God in the third temple. (II Thessalonians 2: 3, 4)
In fulfillment of prophecy, plans for rebuilding continue. On November 28, 2013, the Israel National News reported that "a Cohen, priest training program" is currently training priest to officiate in the coming Temple with at least 40 men with the correct lineage being trained in this program. According to Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, the Director of the Temple Institute, ”Traditional priestly garments have been made in various sizes to accommodate the trained priests.” Rabbi Ariel concluded by saying "All of this is in the hope that we will soon, please GOD, erect the third temple with our own hands, and be able to perform these priestly duties in the Temple courtyard".
According to the Christian Post, “rabbis have been visiting the temple mount in unprecedented numbers”. It is also reported that the temple items required for sacrifice and worship, and the hand hewn cornerstone have been prepared and are in fact, ready to be used. Of interest also, is the shift in the Israeli government toward a more right leaning, religious, and conservative base. This also, bodes well for the rebuilding. A recent survey revealed that 64 % of the population favors rebuilding the temple. Many wonder if the current peace negotiations will open the door for further progress towards the rebuilding of the Temple.
Syrian Christians Sign Treaty of Submission to Islamists
(Threatened by al-Qaeda-affiliated extremists, community in northern city of Raqqa chooses ‘dhimmitude’ over conversion or death)
March 1….(Times of Israel) Christian leaders in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, captured by an organization formerly affiliated with al-Qaeda, have signed a submission document this week banning them from practicing Christianity in public in return for protection by their Islamist rulers. The document, dated Sunday and disseminated through Islamist Twitter accounts, states that the Christian community in the province of Raqqa, captured last March by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), was recently given three options: to convert to Islam; to remain Christian but pledge submission to Islam; or to “face the sword.” They opted for the second of those choices, known as dhimmitude. According to classic Islamic law, Christians and Jews living under Muslim sovereignty must pay a tax known as jizya in return for the Muslim ruler’s protection, known as dhimma.
The Christians of Raqqa chose to sign the dhimma treaty over war, the document stated, receiving a commitment by local ISIS commander Ibrahim Al-Badri, also known as Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, not to be subjected to physical harm or religious targeting. In return, the Christians agreed to a list of conditions: to abstain from renovating churches or monasteries in Raqqa; not to display crosses or religious symbols in public or use loudspeakers in prayer; not to read scripture indoors loud enough for Muslims standing outside to hear; not to undertake subversive actions against Muslims; not to carry out any religious ceremonies outside the church; not to prevent any Christian wishing to convert to Islam from doing so; to respect Islam and Muslims and say nothing offensive about them; to pay the jizya tax worth four golden dinars for the rich, two for the average, and one for the poor, twice annually, for each adult Christian; to refrain from drinking alcohol in public; and to dress modestly.
Obama Pledges Declaration Of Palestinian State In 2014
Feb. 27….(Prophecy News Watch) A senior Palestinian negotiator told WND reporter Aaron Klien that the Palestinian Authority has received a pledge from the Obama administration that by the end of 2014, the administration will issue an official declaration presenting general highlights of a Palestinian state. Other sources are also reporting this leaked story.
According to the negotiator, the administration continues to work toward a preliminary outline of the deal by April. The current plan calls for a phased implementation of increased Palestinian authority during a three to five year period. Eastern sections of Jerusalem would come under PA control, although the exact territories have yet to be defined. Israel would be defined as “occupiers” in the Jordan Valley territory as well as in The West Bank, the negotiator stated.
US Secretary of State, John Kerry, is calling for an international administrative mandate to control Holy Sites in east Jerusalem. The mandate could include a coalition of the Vatican and Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Speculation over the role of the Vatican increased this week after a secretive meeting took place between the Jerusalem Municipality, The Prime Minister’s Office and senior Catholic officials. The Catholic delegation is reported to have pressed for control over the compound that houses the traditional "Hall of the Last Supper," with some rumors that such a move could be linked in anticipation of Pope Francis visit to Israel in May. It is expected that any proposal for a Palestinian state would be a temporary fix, lasting two to three years to allow for security arrangements to be ironed out between the Israeli’s and the Palestinians.
Recently, Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya ’alon characterized John Kerry’s pursuit of this deal as an “incomprehensible obsession”. Ya’alon has been harshly critical of Kerry’s” persistent effort’s to force Israel to surrender its land. Perhaps Kerry’s “obsession” is due to statements by PA President Mahmoud Abbas suggesting that he will not negotiate past the April 29th deadline, if a framework agreement is not achieved.
Currently, major sticking points between the Israeli’s and Palestinians are; borders, Jerusalem, return of Palestinian refugees, IDF presence in the West Bank, and the PA’s refusal to recognize Jewish statehood.
Nearly 3000 years ago, the prophet Joel under Divine inspiration recorded these words of warning for just such a time. “For behold in those days and at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all nations, and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of my people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up my land.” The Bible is very clear on this matter; the Lord will judge all nations who divide his land, Israel
Knesset Temple Mount Debate Tackles Jewish Prayer Rights
(Historic debate calls on government to give Jews equal prayer rights at holiest site in Judaism, and to implement Israeli sovereignty.)
Feb. 26….(Arutz) Tuesday night saw an historic Knesset debate on the issue of freedom of religion and Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site. The debate was the initiative of Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, a long-time campaigner for Jewish rights on the Temple Mount, where non-Muslim prayers are currently forbidden. "If you will go up with me to the Mount, I'll show you how the remnants of Solomon's Temple and the Temple of the Jews who returned by Babylon are wallowing in ashes," said Feiglin from the podium. He sarcastically added "maybe, Mr. Chairman, we'll invite the maintenance crew to dismantle the symbol of the nation," a reference to the destruction of artifacts on the site by the Jordanian Waqf (Islamic trust).
Feiglin attacked the discriminatory management of the holy site, which is under the de facto rule of the Waqf. Jews are often forbidden from entering and arrested for having religious or national symbols. "Behind the back of the people we have given up on any Israeli sovereignty on the Mount," remarked Feiglin. "Any terror organization can wave its flag there, the flag of Israel? Don't mention it even. And a verse of Psalms is pretext for an arrest. The police even recommend taking the kippah off your head." "When we run from the Mount we lose the legitimacy to our presence in Tel Aviv," argued Feiglin. "The Temple Mount is like the heart in the organs," said the MK, quoting poet Uri Tzvi Greenberg's famous line "whoever rules the Mount rules the country."
Feiglin called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to immediately apply Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount, and to halt the destruction of antiquities at the site by the Waqf. "I call on the government of Israel to stop the discrimination and embarrassment of Jews in entering the Mount and on the site," declared Feiglin. He further called on the government "to allow free access to all Jews to the Temple Mount from every gate, and prayer on the Mount, as required by it being part of the state of Israel, the Jewish state," which stipulates freedom of worship. Netanyahu supported Jewish rights to the Temple Mount in 1994
MK Shuli Muallem (Jewish Home) stepped in by reading a letter written by Netanyahu in 1994, before his first term as prime minister. In the letter Netanyahu wrote "the right of the Jewish people over its holy site, the Temple Mount, can not be questioned; I think that Jewish prayer rights at the site must be arranged, all the more so because we give freedom of religion to all religions in Jerusalem." Muallem added "when Jews can't go pray freely at the Temple Mount it is clear that the Temple Mount is not in our hands. From the debate today must come a declaration calling to allow every Jew to pray on the Temple Mount at any hour."
MK Miri Regev (Likud Beytenu) joined in, saying "everyone in the state of Israel will be able to go up and pray at their holy place." She called for the Temple Mount to be managed like the Cave of Machpelah in Hevron, where Jews and Muslims have rotating days to pray.
Leading up to the debate, riots broke out on the Temple Mount Tuesday morning, as Arabs threw rocks and firecrackers at police when they opened the Rambam Gate, the only entrance through which Jews are permitted to enter. As a result police reportedly closed the site to Jews. Rabbi Chaim Richman, International Director of the Temple Institute, argued that the riots were directly related to the Knesset debate, commenting "on the very day upon which the Israeli Knesset will be considering this very issue, we see before us today a stark reality check, and a lesson on who is really sovereign on the Temple Mount."
Response to the Knesset debate was also heard from Jordan's parliament, where Islamists in the opposition called on the government to freeze the 1994 peace treaty with Israel. Not all MKs agreed with Feiglin on Tuesday night that Jews should have equal rights to the Temple Mount, and that the holiest site in Judaism should be part of the Jewish state. MK Zehava Galon (Meretz) spoke in the debate, saying Jews have rights to the site, but that she "distinguishes between the right and exercising the right." The far-left MK accused Feiglin of having an agenda "to make provocation and derail the national process" of peace talks. She added that "sovereignty over the Temple Mount won't be attained by your provocations." Hareidi MK Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) added his voice to the opposition against Jewish prayer rights at the site, saying "you're trampling on the holiest place to the Jewish people." Hareidi Jews largely believe that Jews should not visit the Temple Mount at the present time due to the holiness of the site and the fact that most people are ritually impure (tamei) according to Jewish law (halakhah). Cohen sidetracked the debate into the law being worked out on hareidi IDF enlistment, saying "you're severely pursuing the holy yeshivas, defining one who studies Torah as a criminal, the yeshivas are the holiest place for the Jewish people. Jewish Home is instigating a fight, creating a commotion, creating the burden."
Israeli Air Force Strikes at Syria-Lebanon Border
Feb. 26….(DEBKA) Western military and intelligence sources report that Israeli Air Force strikes in Lebanon and Syria overnight Monday, Feb. 24 came on the heels of the first use in the three-year Syrian war of a Russian-made nuclear-capable Tochka (Point) surface missile, NATO-coded SS-21 Scarab, which carries a 480-kilo warhead with a range of 70 km. These missiles were fired earlier Monday in the Syrian-Hizballah battle for Yabroud. There was no information about the effect of the Israeli strikes.
According to Lebanese sources, however, the target was a cluster of five Hizballah bases or command posts in the Lebanese Beqaa Valley. Hizballah casualties were reported. That was one Lebanese version of the incident. In the absence of independent confirmation or official information, different sources offered a variety of alternative targets. Some sources named them as missile-launchers fired from Lebanon in support of the Hizballah-Syrian army battle for the strategic town of Yabroud, the last Syrian rebel stronghold in the Qalamoun Mts just across the Syrian border. This town, 80 kilometers north of Damascus, has held out against two months of vicious combat. A fourth version claims that the air strikes hit a convoy ferrying weapons from Hizballah’s Lebanese stores into Syria or, alternatively, convoys transporting missiles in the opposite direction, from Syria to Hizballah bases in Lebanon.
The Air Force went into action the day after Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz commented during a visit to the Golan that a close watch is being kept on the movements of Iranian weapons and ammo present in all the troubled sectors of the region. This is of extreme concern to Israel, he said. As he spoke, Syrian intelligence detonated a large car bomb at a military hospital near the Iraqi border treating Syrian rebel casualties. The attack cost 14 lives, including several wounded men. Debkafile’s military and intelligence sources estimate that Israel’s action has left two big question marks:
1. Was it a one-off, or the start of a series?
2. Will Hizballah or Syria hit back?
Up until now, any military actions Israel undertook in Syria and Lebanon were cloaked in secrecy and never admitted by the IDF, even when images emerged of the damage caused. This time, there are no images and even Lebanese security sources can’t agree on the targets that were hit. That is because the shoe is now on the other foot. The Iranian Al Qods Brigades chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani has ordered the Israeli air strikes to be kept under tight wraps.
Earlier this month, Soleimani was placed officially in charge of Iran’s military interventions in the battlefields of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian “resistance.” This was part of the distribution of tasks ordered by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to hold Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) chiefs back from sabotaging Iran’s nuclear negotiations with the six powers. Diplomacy was left in the province of President Hassan Rouhani, but his government was barred from interfering in Iran’s external military operations.
Khamenei’s solution for separating the two rival camps in Tehran has placed Israel and its armed forces face to face for the first time with the Iranian command center directly orchestrating its Arab adversaries. It is one of the ruthless Gen. Soleimani’s principles never to let any assault on Iran or its interests go unanswered. Israel may therefore expect retaliation for its air strikes, though not necessarily from Syria or Lebanon.
Israel Bombs Hezbollah Target on Syria-Lebanon Border
Feb. 26….(AP) Israel, bent on halting any transfer of weapons to Lebanon's Hezbollah, has bombarded a position of the powerful Shiite group on the Lebanese-Syrian border, Lebanese sources said on Tuesday. "Two Israeli raids hit a Hezbollah target on the border of Lebanon and Syria" on Monday night, a Lebanese security source told AFP.
Lebanon's National News Agency said the raids struck outside the border town of Nabi Sheet, a Hezbollah bastion where its fighters are suspected of maintaining a weapons store and training camp. There was no official comment on the raids from Hezbollah, the Lebanese government or Syria, although the army said there had been Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace.
Hezbollah is an arch-enemy of Israel, and has sent thousands of fighters across the border to aid Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime as it battles Sunni-led rebels. Syria has long provided arms and other aid to Hezbollah, and served as a conduit for Iranian military aid to the movement, which battled Israel to a bloody stalemate in a brief 2006 war.
Israeli officials from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu down refrained from commenting specifically on Monday night's reported raid although they confirmed a policy of interdiction of suspected arms deliveries to Hezbollah. "We are doing everything that is necessary in order to defend the security of Israel," Netanyahu said on Tuesday. "We will not say what we're doing or what we're not doing." The commander of Haifa naval base on Israel's northern coast told the Haaretz newspaper that Hezbollah was trying to procure sophisticated arms. "The major players in the arena are active and relevant. Hezbollah has not stopped for a second to try and get its hands on advanced weaponry," Brigadier General Eli Sharvit was quoted as saying. Hezbollah 'made itself target'.
Lebanon's Al-Akhbar newspaper, which is close to Hezbollah, said the raids took place inside Syria, adding that "the nature of the target is unclear." But a Lebanese army source told AFP: "The raids most likely took place on Lebanese territory, but we cannot be completely sure because the borders in that area are not well defined." Waddah Charara, a sociology professor and author of "The State of Hezbollah," said the raids would mark an important turning point if they took place inside Lebanon. "It would be the first Israeli strike against Hezbollah in Lebanon" since the 2006 war, Charara told AFP. He said Hezbollah had helped "legitimise these raids in Lebanon" by involving itself in the Syrian conflict.
Defense Chief Hagel: Cut Back on Size of US Military
Feb. 26….(NBC) Firing the opening salvo in a bloody budget battle, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recommended drastic cuts of billions of dollars that would take American military forces to its lowest level since before World War II. The cuts in military spending, forces and weapons programs address the stark reality of growing budget pressures at home while pointing to the improbability that the United States will engage in a large ground war. “As we end our combat mission in Afghanistan, this will be the first budget to fully reflect the transition the Defense Department is making after 13 years of war,” Hagel said in the Pentagon briefing room. The key components of the Pentagon proposal:
♦ The Army would be reduced to between 440,000 and 450,000, a 10 percent deeper cut than originally planned and the lowest level since 1940, when it had 267,000 active members. Hagel said the current troop level of 520,000 is bigger than necessary and “larger than we can afford to modernize and keep ready.”
His proposal came with a series of warnings to Congress that if sequestration-level cuts are reimposed in 2016, he will have to start chopping even deeper. That scenario would mean retiring the George Washington aircraft carrier, mothballing six additional cruisers, slowing the purchase of destroyers, eliminating the KC-10 tanker fleet, cutting flying hours, and slashing the Army’s troop level to 420,000. That much of a plunge would affect the military's capability to deploy into combat, said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "I'm telling you, 420 is too low," he said emphatically.
Survey: Christians Have Lost the Culture War
Feb. 25….(In The Days) The culture war may be lost and religious liberty might not be that far behind, according to a new survey from LifeWay Research. Seventy percent of senior pastors at Protestant churches say religious liberty is on the decline in the United States and 59 percent of Christians believe they are losing the culture war. Eleven percent considers that war already lost. The survey results are staggering, indicating grave concerns about the moral direction of the nation from both the pulpit and the pew. “Ten years ago we were talking about who would win the culture war and now we’re talking about how will Christian rights be protected after the culture war,” Ed Stetzer, the president of Life Way Research told me. “We’ve lost our home field advantage. There are going to be some things that are different.” Stetzer said it’s a big shift. “And it’s a shift I would not have guessed,” he told me.
Over the past few years, I’ve documented hundreds of instances of religious persecution in the United States. And the targets have been exclusively Christians. The military labeled evangelical Christians and Catholics as religious extremists. Christian organizations like Family Research Council and American Family Association were labeled by the military as domestic hate groups. Bibles were briefly banned from Walter Reed Medical Center.
The Internal Revenue Service targeted Christian ministries engaged in pro-life activities. The government demanded to know the content of one group’s prayers. A Wyoming church was ordered by government officials to turn over their membership roles. A Baptist newspaper in North Carolina was audited, as was America’s evangelist, Billy Graham.
The list of attacks on Christians goes on and on, from students ordered to stop praying in front of the Supreme Court to chaplains being told the could no longer pray in the name of Jesus. In recent days, the battleground has pitted gay rights groups against Christian-owned businesses who cater to the wedding industry. Christian bakers, florists and photographers have been hauled into court and brought up on state discrimination charges for declining to participate in same-sex weddings. And in every single instance, lower courts have ruled that gay rights trump religious rights.
So perhaps it should not be a surprise that 70 percent of pastors and 54 percent of Americans believe religious liberty is on the decline. Scott McConnell, vice president of Life Way Research, said the concern is widespread. “Half of Americans say that religious liberty is on the decline,” he said. “That’s a lot of people.”
Robert Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Tex., conceded that Christians are losing the culture war and they are losing ground every day. “The primary reason Christians are losing the culture wars is that pastors are AWOL when it comes to informing and energizing their congregations,” Jeffress told me. Unless Christians stand up and engage the political process, Jeffress said he fears there may come a day when religious liberty is extremely curtailed. “A religious leader once said, ‘my successor will see the tax exempt status removed from churches and his successor will go to jail,” Jeffress said. “That is probably on the horizon.”
But there are some pockets of resistance, like the town of Greenwood in the Mississippi Delta. Jim Phillips is the senior pastor of North Greenwood Baptist Church. He told me that Greenwood still has a “very high respect for the historical Judeo-Christian ethic.” “Every one of my son’s community college football games around the state last season began with a prayer on the loud speaker, in Jesus’ name,” he told me. “Will that eventually be challenged? I suspect so at some point.” But right now he said “pockets of religious boldness still exist.” Phillips said national trends, though, are disturbing. “Christians have slowly given away their impact on culture by becoming more and worldlier instead of confronting the culture to become more and more godly,” he said. So who is to blame for the loss? Phillips blames Christians. “Sadly, Christians have often wimped out and grown silent instead of being bolder for the Gospel,” he said. “Christians get subdued into thinking they’re not supposed to rise up.”
Jeffress agreed with that assessment and said the church must involve itself in the political process. “There are 50 to 80 million evangelicals in America,” he said. “Only half are registered to vote and only half of those voted in the last election.” Jeffress said it’s imperative for people of faith to engage the culture. “Every time we go to the voting booth we are casting a vote for righteousness or unrighteousness,” he said. Pastor Phillips also urged his fellow pastors to step up to the plate. “My calling is to keep leading the charge,” he said. “As a local pastor, my goal is to keep encouraging my church to seek to raise the bar and not lower it when it comes to confronting culture.”
Stetzer said he hopes the survey will spark a “fruitful national conversation about religious liberty concerns.” “The perception was that the culture war was once a winnable war,” Stetzer said. “But it’s switched from an offensive battle to a defensive battle.” Pastor Jeffress urged Christians to stand their ground. “We ought to do everything we can to push back against this encroachment on religious liberty and protect our right to spread the Gospel,” he said. I write about this very issue in my new book, “God Less America.” It will be published in May. But I’m reminded of a quote by President Ronald Reagan. “If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under,” Reagan once said.
A few years ago, A New York public school teacher was ordered to remove that quote from her classroom wall. She was told that it violated the US Constitution. I’m afraid we may be “gone under.”
The Artificiality of the Historical Palestinian Identity
Feb. 25….(Eli Hertz) The artificiality of a Palestinian identity is reflected in the attitudes and actions of neighboring Arab states that never established a Palestinian state or advocated one prior to the Six-Day War in 1967. What unites Palestinian Arabs has been their opposition to Jewish nationalism and the desire to stamp it out, not aspirations for their own state. Local patriotic feelings are generated only when a non-Islamic entity takes charge, such as Israel did in 1967 after the Six-Day War, and dissipates under Arab rule, as it was under the rule of Jordan prior to 1967.
Culturally, Palestinians are not distinct from other Arabs. The sole contributions Palestinians can take credit for are the invention of skyjacking for political purposes in the 1960s, and a special brand of suicidal terrorism that uses their own youth as delivery systems for bombing pizza parlors, discos, and public commuter buses. Ironically, before local Jews began calling themselves Israelis in 1948 (the name Israel was chosen for the newly established Jewish state), the term ‘Palestine’ applied almost exclusively to Jews and the institutions founded by new Jewish immigrants in the first half of the 20th century, before independence. Some examples include:
Princeton University professor of Semitic literature Philip Hitti (1886-1978), one of the greatest Arabic historians of the ninth century and author of ‘The History of the Arabs,’ testifying on behalf of the Arab cause, told the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine in 1946: “There is no ‘Palestine’ in history, absolutely not.”
Syria Attacks Border as US, Israel, Jordan Enlarge South Syrian Foothold
Feb. 24….(DEBKA) The Jordanian government Sunday, Feb. 23 vehemently denied reports that Syrian rebels were undergoing training by American and its own military instructors and being sent back to fight government forces. According to US intelligence sources, those training camps have been turning out 250 rebel fighters per course and some 1,000 trainees all told are already in action on Syria’s battlefields. The Syrian government journal Tishrin has repeatedly warned Jordan that it is “playing with fire.”
On Feb. 18, Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, quite openly visited injured Syrians at an IDF military field hospital on the Golan. They chatted with wounded rebel soldiers. But on the quiet, our sources report that they took a good look at Quneitra (pop: 10,000), which is located close to Israeli lines on the Syrian side of the enclave.
Debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report that a new Syrian rebel command center has been set up there, with the help of the US, Jordan and Israel. The CIA is investing great effort into restoring the combat capabilities of the disbanded Free Syrian Army and incorporating splinter militias likewise opposed to radical Islamist groups in a revived rebel fighting force under the command of Brig.Gen. Abdul-Illah al-Bashir. Based in the tiny Golan town of Quneitra, he has been given the grand title of “Chief of Staff of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army.” Gen. al-Bashir defected from the Syrian army in 2012. His main qualification for the new job is his membership of the Syrian Bedouin Al Nuaim tribe, which ranges through the Golan and southern Syria. When he defected, he was followed by army officers who are fellow tribesmen.
The rebel force shaping up in Quneitra therefore consists of many indigenous fighters and a large component of local Al Nuaim tribesmen. It is more likely than not that the new pro-American Syrian rebel force mustered under Israel’s nose is also guaranteed Israeli military insurance against a surprise attack or any hostile attempts to wipe it out. It stands to reason that this function was closely examined during the visit Israeli leaders paid to the Golan last week and is also the subject of intensive talks between Jerusalem and Washington.
But meanwhile Syrian President Bashar Assad is not standing idle. Exactly a week ago, Saturday night, Feb. 15, the Syrian army ambushed a group of trained Syrian rebels as they crossed in from Jordan. Middle East sources reported that many were killed and others took to their heels and fled. In the last two days, the Syrian army has moved in for an offensive on the environs of Quneitra to corner the new rebel command center. Two outlying villages, Rasm al-Hour and Rasm al-Sad, fell into the hands of government forces.
Clearly, the US-Israeli-Jordanian effort to establish a rebel-controlled border strip across the Syrian border will not be a cake walk. Furthermore, a bomb car which exploded Sunday at the town of Atmeh on the Syrian-Iraqi border targeted a rebel-run military field hospital. At least nine people were killed. This was another message from Damascus, this one picked up in Jerusalem that the field hospital set up on the Golan for injured Syrians is also in the sights of the Syrian army.
Rabbis to Knesset: Extend Sovereignty to Temple Mount
Feb. 24….(Jerusalem Post) Petition comes ahead of deliberation by lawmakers on policies regarding hotly contested Jerusalem holy site. A group of rabbis and yeshiva heads have submitted a petition to the Knesset demanding legislation to extend Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount. Riots broke out again on Friday on the Temple Mount in response to growing tension on the issue.
The petition comes ahead of Knesset deliberation on policies regarding the Temple Mount, due to begin in the middle of next week. The session will review a proposal by MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) to place the entire Temple Mount under Israeli supervision. The discussion follows rioting earlier this month on the Temple Mount after Friday Muslim prayers, when rocks were thrown at police. The violence came a day after police closed the holy site to Jews to avert another riot, following numerous anonymous threats of violence from Arabs should any Jews ascend the mount.
Jordanian ministers have expressed strong disapproval of any challenge to Jordan’s sovereignty over Jerusalem’s Muslim and Christian holy sites. The Jordanian parliament’s lower house even voted early in February to expel Israeli Ambassador Daniel Nevo and to recall the Jordanian Ambassador to Israel, Walid Obeidat.
President Shimon Peres assured Jordan this month that Israel would honor its agreements with Jordan and ensure that all worshipers could pray in their holy sites.
WEEK OF FEBRUARY 16 THROUGH FEBRUARY 22
The Coming Explosion of American Middle East Diplomacy
Feb. 21….(John Bolton/former US Ambassador to the UN) President Obama has three significant Middle East diplomatic initiatives underway, treating, respectively, Iran’s nuclear weapons program; Syria’s deadly, exhausting conflict; and the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Into these negotiations, Obama and his administration have poured enormous amounts of American prestige, time and effort. Although rarely considered collectively, these three efforts constitute a significant strategic package for a White House that all too often hardly bothers with foreign policy. These initiatives truly reflect Obama’s view of America’s international role: His is a world of rhetoric and talk, not power.
Thus, Iran has not feared US military strikes against its nuclear weapons program, and now, as a result of November’s interim agreement in Geneva, it does not even fear international economic sanctions. Neither the Bashar Assad regime nor Al Qaeda terrorists in Syria see any prospect of material US intervention. And the main pressure being applied in the Israeli-Palestinian matter is against Israel, heretofore Washington’s strongest regional ally. As described below, all three of Obama’s diplomatic maneuvers are based on errors and will almost certainly fail. And what will happen then? Failing on one is bad enough, but failing on all three will be devastating. And it is no answer to say that deals may yet be signed. Covering failure with a piece of paper changes nothing. The Iran interim agreement, for example, is not a partial success simply because its later collapse will be due merely to poor implementation. Without a real meeting of minds, there is no true deal, as Iran’s all-too-evident disdain already amply demonstrates.
The coming crash of US diplomacy is not idle speculation about a remote future. Our declining prestige is already apparent globally; when all three Middle East negotiations fail conclusively, America’s influence will fall further. Friends and adversaries alike are recalibrating their policies accordingly, particularly because the underlying causes of the three impending failures will spell trouble and misfortune elsewhere. Obama’s ongoing failures could have been avoided. A less ideological, more realistic and clear-eyed leader would comprehend American power and interests, knowing how to use the former to protect the latter, rather than making Obama’s basic mistakes.
Obama’s first error: misreading your adversary. There was never any chance Iran could be negotiated out of a nuclear weapons capability it has pursued for nearly 30 years. Efforts during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations demonstrated how Iran deftly uses negotiations to gain political legitimacy, buy time to continue work on its nuclear program and evade international punishment. Hassan Rouhani followed precisely this playbook as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator 10 years ago. He is doing so again today as Iran’s president.
The second error: not knowing who your adversaries are. Obama argued for three years that Russia shared his objective of a peaceful transition from the Assad regime in Syria to something else. This was never true. Moscow’s support for Assad (as well as Iran’s, directly and through Hezbollah) guaranteed he would only depart feet first. The US could either have aided Syria’s opposition or tackled the problem’s root cause: the mullahs’ regime in Tehran. Obama chose to do neither. His equivocation regarding Syria’s chemical weapons program has provoked giggles or dismay at White House weakness.
The third error: not knowing who your friends are. The Palestinians lack legitimate governing institutions capable of hard decisions, including making perilous concessions and compromises, and overcoming resistance by Hamas and other terrorists. Without such institutions, no long-term solution is possible. Negotiating with the Palestinian Authority has less substance than negotiating with a hologram. Perversely, however, Obama treats Israel as the problem.
Not apprehending these realities or foreseeing their consequences debilitates the United States, discourages its allies and emboldens its adversaries. The coming collapse of all three of Obama’s negotiations will convince foreign governments that his policies are dooming Washington’s Middle East influence to precipitous decline. And since appearance is reality in international politics, America’s ability to influence events, in Egypt for example, where the military government is already reverting to pre-Sadat days, purchasing arms from Russia, will sink further. Moreover, the opportunity costs of not focusing on threats elsewhere, such as China’s belligerent territorial claims in its coastal waters, are enormous.
Iran will emerge more powerful, verging on deliverable nuclear weapons, while still financing and arming terrorists worldwide. Assad seems likely to survive, which is bad enough by itself, but it will be compounded by the affirmation it affords Iranian and Russian strength. Israel will trust Washington even less than now, and ironically, Palestinians will be even more anti-American because Obama will not be able to deliver to them the Israeli concessions he predicted. Perhaps this prospect of massive strategic failure will awaken Obama and America as a whole, but that seems unlikely. Instead, the increasing danger is that only another 9/11, another disaster, will produce the necessary awakening. There is tragedy ahead for our country if we continue on Obama’s course.
Islamic Militants Hack to Death, Brutally Murder 106 Christians in Nigeria
Feb. 20….(Christian Post) Attacks by the Boko Haram on a Christian farming village in Nigeria on Saturday has left 106 residents dead. Nearly 100 militants from the Nigerian Islamic terrorist group are seeking to eradicate Christianity from the African country and instate Shariah law. Boko Haram terrorists overwhelmed the town, opened fire on and hacked to death male residents who had gathered in the town square. From there, they marched door to door, searching for men who had attempted to hide, brutally shooting or cutting the throats of their victims. They also took the life of a grandmother who had attempted to save her grandson's life. The local government chairman of nearby Madgali district, Maina Ularamu, told CNN that Boko Haram also looted the town's shops and businesses and "loaded all their spoils into vehicles owned by residents and fled into the bush." Dozens of terrified residents subsequently fled their village to Ularamu's district in Adamawa state. "All the dead bodies of the victims are still lying in the streets," resident Abubakar Usman told Reuters. "We fled without burying them, fearing the terrorists were still lurking in the bushes."
The Nigerian military left the area after nine of their soldiers were killed last week, leaving a region long-vulnerable to Boko Haram attacks even more exposed. They were reportedly not present throughout the five hour attack. The massacre followed on the heels of another attack on Saturday morning where Boko Haram stormed Doron Baga, a fishing village along Lake Chad. "They opened fire from all directions, forcing residents to jump into the lake in a bid to escape, and many drowned while others were gunned down," said Babagana Gwoni, a survivor of the attack, told CNN. The terrorist group ransacked the town's fish and food supplies and torched its homes before leaving the village.
Christians living in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa, the country's three north-eastern states, are particularly susceptible to violence, as the majority of Nigeria's Christians live in the south, while its Muslim population primarily resides in the north. In May 2013, the Nigerian government ordered emergency rule for all three states with the hopes of better cracking down on the terrorist organization. Yet it is questionable whether the law has mitigated the violence. Since May, more than 1,200 people have been killed from fighting related to Boko Haram and Fulani herdsman.
The ethnic Fulani herdsmen, some of whom come from outside the country, have been accused of colluding with Boko Haram, which also has ties to Al-Qaeda. The groups have used bombings, mass shootings and kidnappings in order to terrorize the Christian communities and drive them out of their homes.
Jordanian Sheikh: Israel Belongs to the Jews!
Feb. 20….(Israel Today) Sheikh Ahmed Aladoan of Amman, a member of Jordan’s well-known Adwan tribe, posted to Facebook this week that there is no such place as “Palestine,” and provided references from the Koran to back up his assertion. One of the Koranic verses provided states that Allah gave the Holy Land to the sons of Israel until the Day of Judgment (Surah Al-Ma’ida, verse 21), and the other (Surah Al-Shara’a, verse 59) says that the land was bequeathed to the Jews. The Sheikh turned to those who “distort the words of the Koran,” whom he labeled as liars, and questioned where they had even come up with the name “Palestine.” He insisted their claims to the Land of Israel were forfeit because “Allah is the protector of the Children of Israel.” And if that wasn’t enough, the Sheikh went on to turn the tables on the anti-Israel propaganda machine by accusing the Palestinians of killing children, the elderly and women, of using human shields, and of having not an ounce of mercy for even their own children.
The sheikh’s words caused a storm in the Arab media, and were picked up by the Israeli Embassy in Amman. The Arabic daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi further explained the sheikh’s position, noting that he supports the notion that Jordan is Palestine, and insists that Arabs living both in Jordan and the Palestinian Authority-controlled territories would almost all love to be Israeli citizens. The Adwan tribe issued a statement distancing itself from Sheikh Aladoan’s remarks. But the sheikh was not intimidated, and insisted he would continue to make his voice heard on these matters. Last year, Sheikh Aladoan visited Israel and spent time with the chief rabbi of Tsfat (Safed), Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu. The Sheikh informed Rabbi Eliyahu and his students that in the Koran, “there is no name ‘Palestine’ for this land, and therefore, the Arabs should not be fighting the Jews over control of this land.”
The Family Is Falling Apart, “State Polygamy’ Is Putting America in Danger
Feb. 20….(The Blaze) Journalist and author William Tucker warns in his new book “Marriage and Civilization: How Monogamy Made Us Human” that “state polygamy” is putting America at dire risk. Tucker defines this term as a societal phenomenon involving the increase of single women raising kids without fathers, while relying on the government to meet the children’s needs. With “state polygamy,” Tucker recently wrote for Human Events, lower-income women find themselves “free to pursue men on purely reproductive grounds, mating with men who are attractive or intelligent and otherwise have ‘good genes’ without having to worry about getting them to settle down as husbands.” The results, Tucker said, have been disastrous. “One of our political parties has discovered if they appeal directly to women and say government can do a better job taking care of you than an unemployed boyfriend, they’re able to peel off women from marriage and make them dependent,” he told TheBlaze.
Tucker noted the “war on women” phrase that’s been employed by Democrats against Republican opponents has been an effective campaign platform. “It appeals to unattached women who have sort of given up on men,” he continued. “The whole monogamous ideal is unraveling under this political strategy.” While vastly different from traditional polygamy, generally understood as one man taking multiple wives, state polygamy is leading to a social and political crisis, Tucker said. “I think the family formation is falling apart and what you learn is monogamy is a really fragile institution,” he said. “I think it plays a critical role in the development of humanity and civilizations.”
Tucker argues that Christianity has offered up a strict enforcement of monogamy, one that has been the foundation of Western culture. “The benefits are that there’s a boy for every girl and a girl for every boy. Everyone gets a chance to mate,” he said. “There’s an egalitarianism that creates a peaceful social contract.” He’s hoping people will realize that monogamy plays a major role in creating peace in society, and that men and women will rediscover the joy of falling in love and creating lives with one another. But at the moment, Tucker has his fears. “I think we’re headed in a wrong and dangerous direction now,” he said.
PA and Hamas Furious Over Israeli Plans to 'Impose Sovereignty' on Temple Mount
(Knesset is set this week to discuss a proposal to place the Temple Mount under Israeli sovereignty)
Feb. 18….(Jerusalem Post) The Palestinian Authority and Hamas warned Sunday of Israeli “plans” to impose Israeli sovereignty on the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. PA Minister for Religious Affairs Mahmoud al-Habbash said that there would be no sovereignty over the Aqsa Mosque and Islamic and Christian holy sites other than Palestinian sovereignty. “This is the full right of the Arab, including Muslims and Christians,” he said. Al-Habbash claimed that Israel has plans to “divide” the Aqsa Mosque. “These efforts won’t succeed,” he added. He was referring to routine visits by Jews to the Temple Mount and calls by some Israelis to impose Israeli sovereignty over the compound. The PA minister said that only Muslims were entitled to pray at the holy site.
The Knesset is set to hold a plenary discussion on Tuesday to discuss a proposal by MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) to place the Temple Mount under Israeli supervision. Another top PA official was quoted as warning Israel against the consequences of “desecrating the holy sites in Jerusalem.” Israel, he charged, is “playing with fire.” In the Gaza Strip, Hamas representative Yunis al-Astal accused Israel of plotting to “destroy” the Aqsa mosque in order to build the Third Temple.
Kerry Calls Climate Change A 'Weapon of Mass Destruction'
Feb. 17….(Newsmax) Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday issued a clarion call for nations to do to more to combat climate change, calling it "the world's largest weapon of mass destruction." In a keynote speech, one of a series planned in different countries throughout the year, Kerry sought to make both a moral and economic argument for greater urgency in cutting greenhouse gases. He warned that low-lying Asian nations and their rich ecosystems were particularly at peril from rising sea levels. Talking to a crowd of Indonesian agriculture, energy and marine students, he said the country and Southeast Asia were "on the frontlines of climate change." "It's not an exaggeration to say to you that the entire way of life that you live and love is at risk," Kerry said at a US-run cultural center in Jakarta, in a speech also fed live to hubs on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. He compared global warming to other threats such as terrorism or nuclear proliferation, in which countries must work together to make things safer, with the key being an informed energy policy. "We all have to approach this challenge together," he insisted, adding that "in a sense climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even the world's most fearsome weapon." Seeking to dismiss climate change skeptics, the top US diplomat said 97 percent of scientists agreed that global warming existed and was a direct result of human activity, and blasted those who differ. "We simply don't have time to let a few loud interest groups hijack the climate conversation," he said, referring to what he called "big companies" that "don't want to change and spend a lot of money" to act to reduce the risks. He later singled out big oil and coal concerns as the primary offenders. "We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific facts," Kerry told the audience. "Nor should we allow any room for those who think that the costs associated with doing the right thing outweigh the benefits."
Kerry sought to appeal to his young audience, adding: "Think about it this way: all 10 of the hottest years on record have actually happened since Google went online in 1998." He warned of the costs of doing nothing, saying scientists believed that by the end of the century the seas could have risen by a three feet. "Just one meter is enough to put half of Jakarta under water. Just one meter would displace hundreds of millions of people worldwide and threaten billions in economic activity," Kerry said.
Global warming could also have a devastating economic cost, he said, warning the acidification of the oceans could wipe out whole species, with some studies saying Indonesian fishermen could see their catches reduced by 40 percent. Kerry also referenced a recent World Bank report, which found that losses from flood damage at Asian ports alone could exceed $1 trillion annually. Along with the United States, Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, is one of the world's biggest carbon emitters, mostly because of rampant deforestation in Jakarta's case.
Kerry announced Saturday in Beijing that China and the United States, which together account for some 40 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, had agreed to share information on steps to combat climate change ahead of 2015 UN-led efforts to set reduction goals for after 2020. Traditionally the two have been on opposite ends of the bitter debate on how to tackle the problem, with China maintaining it is still a developing country and should not be held to any international regime on emissions reductions. Paris will host the 2015 UN climate change conference at which a new pact to cut global emissions applicable to all countries is due to be hammered out. The Paris talks are aimed at reaching a deal to succeed the 1997 Kyoto treaty, which the United States never ratified, maintaining any global pact must include China. The Kyoto protocol runs out in 2020.
FOJ Note: Where do we find such find such idiots for our national leaders? Obviously Mr. Kerry hasn’t spent much time in America lately, or else he would be freezing his buns off this winter! All we need is another big Socialist Tax imposed on us so we can bankrupt ourselves into oblivion by wasting all our money on a bogus problem!
Israel Uneasy over Russian Arms Flooding into Syria in the North, Egypt to the South
Feb. 17….(DEBKA) A new concern is preoccupying Israel’s strategists in recent weeks. On top of the al Qaeda fighting strength gathering around its borders, they are beginning to worry about the high momentum with which Russian President Vladimir Putin is capitalizing on America’s withdrawal from the Middle East. Moscow is working through military pacts with Syrian President Bashar Assad and Egyptian strongman and future president, Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to dramatically deepen its regional foothold. This and Putin's powerful personal backing for the two figures already have serious repercussions.
The Iran-Syrian-Hizballah alignment is making diplomatic gains. Tehran is stiffening its bargaining position and begrudging nuclear concessions in the current negotiations with the Six Powers. The knock-on effect on the Syrian crisis was clearly visible in Geneva on Saturday, Feb. 15, when the talks on a political settlement crashed before ending their third round.
In Beijing meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters Friday that Obama was concerned about the deterioration in the humanitarian situation in Syria and also by the fact that peace talks between the opposition and government had not produced a discussion of a transitional government as planned. President Barack Obama has asked “all of us to think about various options that may or may not exist for the Syrian crisis,” Kerry said. Have they been presented? He was asked. “No, they have not,” he said. The top US diplomat was perfectly aware, like everyone else, that Obama has no intention of conducting even the most minor US intervention in Syria war and has opted to leave a clear field in that doomed country to President Putin. This hands-off policy has not only given the Russian president free rein to advance his interests, but further empowered Syrian ruler Bashar Assad to exercise his will on his suffering people undisturbed.
One of Assad’s most prominent characteristics is his ability to be beholden to no one, even Moscow, which supplies all his war needs even more generously than Iran. Assad goes along with Putin only when it suits his agenda, but is never in his pocket. This was demonstrated in the breakdown of the Geneva conference, for which UN Mediator Lakhdar Brahimi was forced to apologize Saturday. Assad flatly refused to accept a transitional government in Damascus in defiance of the advice pressed on him by the Russian president. That fiasco also bankrupted the policies John Kerry managed for the Obama administration, which hinged heavily on Putin’s success in extracting from Assad enough flexibility to satisfy minimal US requirements. So Putin failed to deliver the goods and Assad continued to wage his hideous war, a double setback for Washington, because White House policy-makers failed to appreciate that Assad and Putin each had their own agendas which were not uniformly in sync.
A similar relationship may be evolving between Cairo and Damascus. This week, Egypt’s future president Defense Minister Gen. El-Sisi was in Moscow to sign a large transaction for the purchase of Russian arms. According to some estimates it is worth $2 billion; others put the figure as high as $3 billion. Advanced Russian missiles and warplanes, and most likely S-300 anti-missile batteries, will flow into the Egyptian army’s arsenals for its two interlinked wars on the Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed as a terrorist organization after its overthrow from power, and on the al Qaeda jihadists entrenched in Sinai. These terrorists are hand in glove with the Brotherhood for striking Egyptian military and government targets and also in close coordination with Al Qaeda elements in Libya.
Gen. El-Sisi currently treats Israel as a welcome ally, mainly because the Netanyahu government has agreed to overlook key clauses of the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty in order to give him a free hand in Sinai and supports his campaigns with deep intelligence cooperation. But the Egyptian strongman's is trip to Moscow last week took him a long step away from Washington and an important step closer to Moscow, with incalculable consequences. Debkafile’s military and intelligence sources draw certain disquieting parallels:
1. Although widely different in personality and leadership style, El-Sisis and Assad share the same lone rider instinct. They prepare their steps with meticulous care and advance planning for the sake of preserving their independence of action. Assad’s maneuvers net him all the hardware he needs to fight his war from Russia. El-Sisi has designed his first arms transaction with Moscow to put him on the road to the independent path he seeks on the world and Middle East stages.
2. The Egyptian ruler and his following hold to the political orientation briefly summed up as Nasserist. He knows that Egypt’s fundamental economic woes are incurable, and so he is investing effort in building a strong regime that will promote the Nasserist form of pan-Arab nationalism, with Egypt in the forefront. This policy may well bring Egypt into collision with the state of Israel, the national manifestation of the Jewish people. Therefore, in many ways, the Egyptian strongman is an enigma. Neither Washington nor Jerusalem can foresee exactly where he is heading.
WEEK OF FEBRUARY 9 THROUGH FEBRARY 16
Israel’s Gas Field Wealth – Russia’s Hook In The Jaw?
Feb. 15….(Prophecy In The News) Israel has had plenty of issues and enemies: Iran’s nuclear threats, the Palestinian crisis, the neighboring Syrian upheaval and growing regional instability. Now certain geological developments have begun allowing the Jewish state more than just military superiority in the Middle East: her economic prospects and political power are now on the rise, thanks to the vast fields of natural gas and oil discovered in the deep waters between Israel and Cyprus over the last five years.
Israel may be popping the champagne, but clearly her political foes and economic competitors are not. Chief among them may well be Russian President, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. These developments are expected to undermine Putin’s efforts to rebuild Russia’s influence in the Middle East, and weaken his current strong hand in Europe.
The New York Post’s Arthur Herman reports: “Those natural gas and oil fields, dubbed Tamar and Leviathan, promise Israel an unprecedented degree of energy independence and a lucrative export market to its Arab neighbors, including Egypt and Jordan. And they threaten to challenge Russian energy giant Gazprom’s dominance of the European gas market. That dominance has been one of the lynchpins of Putin’s power. Gazprom provided Europe almost one-quarter of its total natural gas needs last year, and that need is inevitably going to grow. Europeans know they pay Gazprom a significant premium for natural gas (more than 2¹/2 times what Americans pay for gas), even as Gazprom produces cheaply in Russia’s Soviet-era fields. They also know Russia’s not afraid to use its gas exports as blackmail, as when Putin severed the supply lines to Ukraine in 2009.Greens won’t let Europeans extract their own natural-gas reserves through fracking, so countries of the European Union have been resigned to letting Putin hold a whiphand over their energy needs, and their economies.”
Israel’s exports are most likely to be in the form of liquefied natural gas or LNG, which would be safer than using pipelines that terrorists can damage. This would be welcome news for the EU countries, which are then more likely to become better political and trade partners with Israel: all gained at Russia’s expense. The Daily Beast reports: “Within a few years, indeed, Israel hopes to be a major supplier of gas to Europe and also to its Arab neighbors Jordan and Egypt.”
New York Post’s Arthur Herman separately elaborates: “That has Gazprom, which gets 40 percent of its revenues from Europe, worried, and Putin, too. The Russian company has made offers to “help” Israel develop the Leviathan field (the Israelis chief partner now is Houston-based Noble Energy). Early last year Gazprom negotiated a contract to liquefy some of the gas coming from the Tamar field. But many experts wonder how much the Russians really want to help Israel’s emergence as an energy competitor.
Insiders agree the Tamar export deal is now all but dead, and an Australian challenger with major LNG expertise, Woodside Petroleum, has just agreed to take a 25 percent stake in Leviathan development. The Israeli government is still working out how much gas it wants to export, and what to reserve for home consumption. But for Gazprom the rebuff when the Israelis opted for Woodside is a harbinger of what’s to come: not just a lost contract on Leviathan, or even a challenge to its European market, but also a loss of influence in the Middle East. Exporting gas to Egypt, Jordan, and even the Palestinian Authority (Noble already has a contract with the Palestine Generating Power Co. to start in by 2017) will help smooth Israel’s relations with its neighbors, more bad news for a Russia that always prefers to fish in waters roiled by Middle East chaos, as the Russian warships now stationed off Syria should remind us.
Israel’s new gas bonanza offers a huge opportunity for US interests, by helping to secure peace in the Middle East and undercutting Putin’s imperial pretensions in Europe and the East Mediterranean.” So far Israel’s gain is Putin’s pain. It will be interesting to see how Russia proceeds based on Israel’s spate of blessings. As for Israel’s Arab enemies, the stakes around territorial rights are now likely to be heightened. Christopher Dickey reports in his Daily Beast analysis of 6th February: “Are these Gas Fields Israel’s Next Warzone?” Christopher examines the likelihood of wars stemming from the desire to control economic dominance in the Middle East to start on yet another front: the Levant Basin Province in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Hence Israel, Turkey, Russia and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah are reported to be rushing to enhance and increase their naval defense and war capabilities in the Eastern Mediterranean. War chest budgets run to as high as a billion dollars for Turkey to acquire advanced assault ships. Although the entire area is generally volatile, the hottest flashpoint at the moment is between Lebanon and Israel, which remain, formally, in a state of war. This enhances the spectacle of dispute over lines of demarcation between their 200-nautical-mile “exclusive economic zones.” In addition, territorial claims overlaps by about 860 square kilometers (332 square miles) occur in a potentially rich portion of the Levant Basin. Observers however downplay the Hezbollah threat, mainly due to lack of adequate resources, and various political sensitivities that include current Iranian priorities. This scenario places the advantage squarely in Israel’s favor under these circumstances, as they can proceed to allow mining and exploration to continue under Israel military surveillance and protection..
According to The Daily Beast, the area in question was roughly defined in 2010 by the US Geological Survey. It estimated that in this area there are some 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 1.6 billion barrels of oil, and possibly twice that much. The basin runs from near the Syrian port of Tartus (which is also where the Russians have their naval base), down the entire coast of Lebanon, Israel and Gaza, and out toward Cyprus. That oil and gas could be found there was not entirely a surprise, however political wrangling in the Middle East primarily between Israel and the Palestinians, prompted the pullout of British Company BG Group in 2007 and in 2008, BG shut its office in Israel. Since then, the whole operation has been on ice. However joint exploration initiatives between Noble Energy out of Texas, Delek Group and other Israeli companies, resulted in major gas finds in 2009 and 2010. That included the huge Tamar field, which started producing in 2013, and the enormous Leviathan field, estimated to hold 18 trillion cubic feet of gas. Gas findings are projected to meet Israel’s requirements for the next 150 years.
The prophet Ezekiel wrote: “‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, Gog (Many scholars are divided between the identity of Gog as being Russia or Turkey), chief prince of Meshek and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army.” (Ezekiel 38:3-4)
The Bible prophesies that, one day, God will ‘put a hook’ in Magog's jaw to draw it down into Israel, where it will plan to ‘plunder and loot’ an ‘unsuspecting people’. Are Israel’s newly discovered natural gas fields and possible future oil discoveries the ‘hook’ that draws this invading force into Israel? The idea of a hook almost suggests an action that gives it no choice. Would an Israeli attack on Iran force Russia to act and in the process look to take advantage of this vast resource wealth, one that will allow Gazprom to keep it's dominant control over the natural gas market in Europe and beyond. Iran (Persia) is also listed in Ezekiel’s scenario as a major player, thus linking such events may not be so far fetched. If this is the case, Russia and/or Turkey as well as Iran had better take warning in Ezekiel’s prophecy:
Former American NSA Chief: Israel Has No Right to Exist
Feb. 13….(Israel Today) A former head of America’s National Security Agency (NSA) said Israel was behind the American invasion of Iraq and that the Jewish state has no right to exist and will ultimately disappear. That according to Professor Yossi Shain, head of the Political Science Department at Tel Aviv University, who made the remark during a Knesset discussion on the various boycotts targeting Israel. Several government official continued to claim that there is no boycott of Israel, and that every time the media speaks of one, it only empowers the groups that are trying to instigate worldwide boycotts of the Jewish state. But representatives of academia who were present at the discussion, such as Prof. Shain, called on the nation to wake up and realize that this is a very real and serious problem.
In response to the government’s belief that there is no boycott problem, Prof. Shain argued that senior members of the American administration in Washington have already been infected with anti-Israel perceptions. “When I taught in Washington I once met a very senior US official - I don’t remember his name, but he was the head of the NSA, who told me that the US invasion of Iraq was because of Israel,” said Prof. Shain. The US official added that “Israel has no right to exist and that is what will happen in the end.” Prof. Shain said he responded to the American by “asking if he was feeling well.”
He want on to argue that the moment a major anti-Israel proposal passed through the UN or other international body without an American veto, a wave of anti-Israel action will be unleashed. And, as the above example demonstrates, the seeds of anti-Israel sentiment that will one day result in Washington no longer blocking anti-Israel motions have already been sown.
Iran Threatens to Unleash Hezbollah on Israel
(Saber-rattling comes as warships move off US coast)
Feb. 12….(WND) One of the most senior Iranian military officers has issued the latest in a series of threats over what Iran would do if the United States or Israel decides to bomb his country’s nuclear facilities. Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, senior military aide to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, said his country would unleash Lebanon’s Hezbollah on Israel should there be any military action against his country. “The Iranian nation and armed forces are ready for an all-out defense and protection of the country with all their power and they will respond to any aggression with reciprocal and inconceivable strikes,” Safavi said.
His comments come just days after Iran’s Northern Navy Fleet Admiral, Afshin Rezayee Haddad, said a “fleet” of Iranian warships is heading into the Atlantic Ocean to be stationed off the US East Coast. The move has raised concerns with US national security experts. They have warned that the US missile system would not be able to respond in time should warships stationed off the US coast launch a missile and explode a nuclear warhead at a high altitude over the US Such an explosion could create an electromagnetic pulse that could knock out the American electrical grid system. They also believe that if such a missile were launched, it would not be from an Iranian warship but from a commercial vessel sailing along the East Coast or in the Gulf of Mexico. “It shows they could put a weapon on a boat or freighter, and if Iran has ballistic missiles it could put it anywhere on the US coast,” said John Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations and currently a senior fellow at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute.
Haddad said that the warship deployment was in response to warships of the US Navy’s 5th Fleet being stationed in Bahrain, not far from Iran, and the near constant patrolling of US carrier task forces through the Strait of Hormuz which skirts Iranian territory. In addition, Iranian officials in recent days also have released videos of simulated attacks on Israel and the US carriers.
Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan warned that the Iranian armed forces would give an “inconceivable response” to any attack, adding that any threats from US or Israeli officials won’t stop the country from continuing its nuclear fuel production. This stream of bravado comes at a time when Iran is trying to convince the West that its nuclear facilities are for peaceful purposes as Iran and the US, along with its allies, meet to finalize an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program and lift Western sanctions. Last November, Iran and the P5+1 countries of the United Nations Security Council, the US, Russia, France, Great Britain and China plus Germany, agreed to a six-month Joint Plan of Action to lay the groundwork for the full resolution of the West’s decades old dispute with Iran over its nuclear energy program.
Iran also agreed to limit but not halt certain aspects of its nuclear activities, but will continue nuclear enrichment but only to a low level which Western nuclear experts agree could easily be reversed. These threats appear to be coming at the same time that Iran is celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution which resulted in the ouster of the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. He fled the country in 1979, bringing in the conservative clerics who continue to rule Iran to this day. Safavi downplayed any US or Israeli threats against Iran’s nuclear facilities. He suggested the start of war against Iran would mean the destruction of the “Zionist regime (Israel) by Hezbollah forces of Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah.” A reference to the Lebanese Hezbollah suggested that Iran maintains firm control over it. “The Iranian armed forces are an intertwined and coherent complex which can give a decisive response to any threat at any level and any place under the command of the Commander-in-Chief (Khamenei),” Dehqan said. “The enemy can never assess and think of the range of the response given by the powerful and mighty armed forces of the Islamic Iran,” Dehqan said.
On the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, Khamenei also dismissed any compromise with the US, saying Washington is pursuing a hypocritical approach toward Iran and has aimed at the nation’s independence. “The Iranian nation should pay attention to the recent negotiations and the rude remarks of the Americans so that everyone gets to know the enemy well,” Khamenei said. Such a comment could reflect a potential setback in any initiative by US President Barack Obama to develop a relationship with the Islamic republic.
Separately, there even have been rumors in recent days in Washington that Obama may consider paying a visit to Tehran, although US officials will not comment on that prospect. Despite peaceful overtures, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the military option remains on the table if Iran does not live up to its nuclear commitments under the agreement. Such a warning is what has prompted high-level Iranian officials to warn of repercussions. A commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, or IRGC, Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, recently warned that the “slightest” military move by the US will be met with Iran’s “harshest” response which, he said, will “recognize no boundary.” Such a comment has prompted further worries by Western security analysts that Iran may be referring to potential attacks on the US homeland.
PA Minister: We Demand Sovereignty Over Kotel
(Top PA official says that the PA is demanding sovereignty over the entire Old City of Jerusalem, including the Western Wall)
Feb. 11….(Arutz) A top Palestinian Authority official said that the PA was demanding sovereignty over all areas of Jerusalem Israel liberated in the Six Day War, including the Kotel (Western Wall). Speaking to Channel Ten, Mahmoud al-Habbash, Minister of Holy Places in the PA, said that “there will be no peace until the end of the Israeli occupation that began in 1967. Every piece of land that Israel conquered then belongs to the Palestinians.” That includes Jerusalem, “the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Western Wall.” Asked what would happen if Jews wished to pray at the Wall, al-Habbash said “they will be welcome, there will be no problem. There will be no limitations on freedom of religion and worship. Religious ceremonies are one thing, and politics are another.”
Under the Oslo Accords, Israelis are supposed to have access to several religious sites in PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria. In actuality, however, Jews are almost completely banned from these sites, including the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem and the Tomb of Joshua in Kifl Hares. Jews are rarely allowed to visit these sites, and then only under very strict security conditions. Several Jews, including Rabbi Hillel Lieberman, have been killed in area of Joseph's Tomb.
With that, Channel Ten quoted sources in the PA that most of the issues brought up in the negotiations being conducted by US Secretary of State John Kerry, including land swaps, have been resolved. But the Palestinians are insisting that all areas of Jerusalem liberated in the Six Day War, including the Jewish Quarter, the Kotel, and Jewish neighborhoods such as French Hill, Ramat Eshkol, and Har Homa be placed under PA sovereignty. Kerry has spent much time and effort in trying to come to a compromise on Jerusalem, but has so far failed, PA sources said.
Speaking to Channel Ten, the PA's Jerusalem Minister, Abu-Ala, said that the current round of negotiations was one of the most intense ever between Israel and the PA, thanks to the strenuous efforts of Kerry to get the two sides to agree to a negotiation framework. But he said that effort came with a risk. “Given the intensity with which the Americans are approaching this, there will probably be undesirable consequences if the talks fail.”
Iran is Spreading its War Wings, Eventually Targeting Israel
Feb. 11….(DEBKA) In a fundamental policy makeover, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) high command has resolved to deepen the Lebanese Hizballah’s intervention in the Syrian civil war, with wide repercussions on the stability of Lebanon and the Syrian and Lebanese borders with Israel. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s terrorist and intelligence arm, the Al Qods Brigades, was appointed to execute this policy of expanded regional intervention. Debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report that it embodies the latest decision by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to strictly separate Tehran’s approach to international nuclear diplomacy opposite the US from its intervention in regional conflicts, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians, and direct confrontation with Israel.
Henceforth, Iran’s tactics in nuclear diplomacy for the relief of sanctions, and in the negotiations resuming in Geneva, Monday, Feb. 10 for ending the Syria war, will be sealed off in a separate policy compartment from the Islamic Republic’s pursuit of its regional goals in the “war arenas” of Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah were notified of this change last week. It first surfaced in a call to arms by Hizballah’s second in command Sheikh Naim Qassem, which is reported to have drawn 5,000 new Shiite volunteers in its first push. The new intake will receive military training in crash courses for missions in Lebanon and a higher level of combat instruction for the Syrian battlefield.
Qassem announced in a pep speech in Beirut: "We will continue our work and remain in the field committed to our political stances. We will remain fighting where we are fighting. We are a resistance wherever we are: a resistance against Israel and its agents and a resistance fighting in Syria in defense of the resistance.” His meaning was clear. The organization would continue fighting in Syria while buttressing its positions in Lebanon and persevering in its “resistance against Israel and its agents.” That speech was also meant to raise the morale of Lebanon’s 3 million Shiites, who are down in the dumps as they facing bombing attacks by Al Qaeda-linked terrorists in reprisal for Hizballah’s military support for Bashar Assad, and see their young men being called up for more fighting. “Do not panic or be frightened of them or they will win,” Sheikh Qassam told them. “Our heads will remain high, as we combat the takfiris and those behind them. We will be victorious in the end.”
One outcome of Tehran’s new strategy, revealed here for the first time by debkafile’s intelligence sources - is that the formula Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zerif worked on during his Beirut visit in mid-January, to resolve Lebanon’s chaotic political scene, has gone by the board. He managed to bring Lebanon’s quarreling factions to agree on a national unity government with nine portfolios allotted to the Hizballah bloc, nine the opposition and six chosen by President Michel Suleiman. Hizballah was ordered by the hardline al Qods commander to revoke this deal. Khamenei’s step to appease his hard-line factions has therefore dashed the hopes of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry that nuclear diplomacy with Iran and sanctions relief would have a positive and stabilizing effect on other parts of the region. President Hassan Rouhani’s tactics for getting sanctions eased will not be allowed to interfere with Iran’s ambitions to foment discord and expand its grip on the rest of the region.
Christians Are World’s Most Oppressed Religious Group
Feb. 10….(CNSNews.com) Restrictions, harassment, and intimidation towards people who practice their religion increased in every major region of the world in 2012 except the Americas, with Christians the major target, says a new report by the Pew Research Center. Jews experienced six-year highs in the number of countries in which they were harassed by national, provincial or local governments,” the study found, but Christians continue to be the world’s most oppressed religious group, with persecution against them reported in 110 countries.
A recent report by the Christian group Open Doors noted that “North Korea remains the world’s most restrictive nation in which to practice Christianity,” followed by Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran and Yemen. More than “5.3 billion people (76% of the world’s population) live in countries with a high or very high level of restrictions on religion,” Pew noted, “up from 74% in 2011 and 68% as of mid-2007.” A fifth of the world's nations (20%) also experienced religious terrorism or sectarian violence in 2012, Pew researchers found, which was “up markedly from 2007 (9%).” President Obama expressed hope that the “Arab Spring” would give rise to greater religious freedom in North Africa and the Middle East, which has had the world’s highest level of hostility towards Christianity in every year since 2007, when Pew first began measuring it. However, the study finds that these regions actually experienced the largest increase in religious hostilities in 2012.
WEEK OF FEBRUARY 2 THROUGH FEBRUARY 8
Obama-Rice-Kerry All For Slicing Israel into Pieces
Feb. 7….(Arutz) US President Barack Obama on Thursday expressed his appreciation towards his Secretary of State’s peace efforts in the Middle East. Speaking at an interfaith breakfast in Washington, DC, Obama said, “I want to take this opportunity to thank Secretary Kerry for his extraordinary passion and principled diplomacy that he’s brought to the cause of peace in the Middle East. Thank you, John.” “As we support Israelis and Palestinians as they engage in direct talks, we’ve made clear that lasting peace will require freedom of worship and access to holy sites for all faiths,” he added. The expression of support for Kerry’s efforts comes after the top diplomat was heavily criticized by Israeli officials in recent days, over his threats that Israel will be boycotted if peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA) fail.
On Monday, Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice responded to the criticism and blasted Israel on Twitter. “Personal attacks in Israel directed at Sec Kerry totally unfounded and unacceptable. John Kerry’s record of support for Israel’s security and prosperity rock solid,” Rice wrote, adding, “POTUS and Sec Kerry remain committed to negotiations that can secure Israeli and Palestinian futures.” Her last tweet read, “US Govt [sic] has been clear and consistent that we reject efforts to boycott or delegitimize Israel.”
On Wednesday, Kerry’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki took Israel to task for criticizing his efforts to achieve peace. “Any rhetoric that is inaccurate and critical as this is unhelpful. These kind of attacks are unacceptable. They not only distort his record but they distract from the key issues at hand,” she said. “Peace isn’t a favor we’re doing for the Israelis and Palestinians, it’s something that the Israeli people and the Palestinian people want,” added Psaki. Kerry himself responded to the criticism on Wednesday, telling CNN that he was unfazed by it because, as he said, “I’ve been, attacked before by people using real bullets, not words, and I am not going to be intimidated.”
Rabbi: 'Divine Wrath of God' Will Fall on Kerry's Head
(Kerry has declared a war on God,’ write hard-line rabbis in letter) (Severe heavenly punishment' if he continues to threaten Israel if it doesn’t concede to Palestinian demands)
Feb. 7….(WND) US Secretary of State John Kerry is now being warned he’s risking the divine wrath of God if he continues plans for Israel that some feel is a war against the Almighty. “By the power of our Holy Torah, we admonish you to cease immediately all efforts to achieve these disastrous agreements, in order to avoid severe Heavenly punishment for everyone involved,” a group of Israeli rabbis wrote Kerry in a letter on Sunday.
According to Israel National News, rabbis from the Committee to Save the Land and People of Israel are warning Kerry about his “antagonism” of the Jewish state, sharply criticizing him for plans “to establish an Arab capital in Jerusalem for Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, and to have Israel withdraw to the 1949 Armistice lines.”
Over the weekend, Kerry threatened Israel with an international boycott if peace talks fail. “Your incessant efforts to expropriate integral parts of our Holy Land and hand them over to Abbas’ terrorist gang, amount to a declaration of war against the Creator and Ruler of the universe. For G-d awarded the entire Land of Israel to our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in order that they bequeath it, as an everlasting inheritance, to their descendants, the Jewish people, until the end of all time,” the rabbis’ letter opens.
The message was signed by Rabbi Gedalya Axelrod, emeritus head of the Haifa Rabbinical Court, Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, chairman of the Temple Institute, Rabbi Ben Tziyon Grossman of Migdal Haemek, Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpo, dean of the Institute for the Complete Code of Maimonides, and Rabbi Yigal Pizam, dean of Yeshivat Kiryat Shmuel. The rabbis slammed Kerry’s plan to immediately uproot “20 percent of the Jews now living productively in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan valley,” warning of the imminent security threat for Israelis, and reminding him how similar uprooting of Jewish residents in Gaza turned that region into a launching pad for Islamic rockets.
The letter says Kerry’s plan “would force tens of thousands of Jews to be evicted from their homes and livelihoods, devastating their lives financially, economically and psychologically, as happened to those expelled from the flourishing Gaza settlements, most of whom still suffer from the expulsion’s ruinous after-effects.” The message also recounted biblical history, as it declared to Kerry: “If you continue on this destructive path, you will ensure your everlasting disgrace in Jewish history for bringing calamity upon the Jewish people, like Nebuchadnezzar and Titus who destroyed, respectively, the first and second great Temples and the entire Holy City of Jerusalem, and who, by Heavenly punishment, brought eventual disaster upon themselves, too.”
This week’s letter with the threat of divine judgment is being noticed by Carl Gallups, author of “The Rabbi Who Found Messiah: The Story of Yitzhak Kaduri and His Prophecies of the Endtime.” “This is the same type of curse that was put on former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon,” Gallups told WND. Last month, Sharon died after spending nine years in a coma. During his tenure, he initiated a disengagement plan in which thousands of Jews were deported from Gaza and northern Samaria, turning the once-fertile region over to Hamas control. A “death curse” by a group of rabbis in Israel was issued against Sharon for the action. Sharon suffered a serious stroke Jan. 4, 2006, and was comatose until his death. “The only prophetic utterance of Kaduri concerning Ariel Sharon was that Messiah would not appear until Ariel Sharon had died,” said Gallups. “Within a little over two months after speaking these prophetic words, Sharon was in a coma and Kaduri himself died.”
Another Christian writer, Jim Bramlett, says divine punishment is possible or even likely for American political leaders if they stay on their current track. “I believe the rabbis are correct,” Bramlett said. “Kerry, Obama, et al will suffer God’s judgment for what they are doing or trying to do to Israel.”
Is There No Way Out?
Feb. 7….(Eli Hertz) The weight of the evidence of so many scholars, observers, pollsters and monitors make it almost impossible to mitigate, not to mention ignore the enormity of finding a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. When one grasps the duration of the conflict and its roots, when one fully faces the depth of animosity towards Israel and the antisemitism that permeates the Arab world from the political, religious and intellectual elites down to the grass roots, the sheer magnitude of the challenge for peacemakers becomes painfully apparent. When one admits the implications of Palestinian society’s behavior, the repetitive pattern of over 90 years of rejectionism on the diplomatic front and a penchant for terrorism against civilians, the ‘readiness’ of Arabs for co-existence and the chances of a breakthrough assume their true proportions.
The unwillingness to accept Israel as a legitimate non-Muslim political entity is epitomized by the Palestinians asymmetrical demands for the Right of Return of all Palestinian refugees to the Jewish state coupled with a demand that the West Bank and Gaza be cleansed of all Jews. So, where do we go from here? Is there no way out?
True peace cannot be based on a lie: There has never been ‘a cycle of violence’. Resorting to such neutral terminology requires the United States to acquiesce to and perpetuate a gross misrepresentation of reality. Putting Israel and its neighbors on the same footing totally ignores the asymmetry of the history of the conflict and something as fundamental as ‘cause and effect’. The truth is, one side has been the aggressor time-after-time. The Arabs have been the initiators of more than five major wars, political and economic boycotts and unbridled incitement. The Palestinians have launched wave-after-wave of terrorism against Israelis and other Jews and made hate the fuel that directs and runs their society. All this began before there was a State of Israel, before there was an ‘occupation’ and it continues unabated to this day.
In response to these onslaughts, Israel has not demanded reparations for the horrific causalities it has sustained in its fight for survival against repeated Arab aggression; it has only asked that it be allowed to live in peace with recognized and defendable borders and to develop according to its own Jewish ethos. This is hardly an excessive demand. Attempts to cajole the Arabs to seek compromise and failure to put a price on intransigence and intolerable behavior has only perpetuated the conflict; encouraged further bloodshed and hardened Arab demands. It’s time to call a spade a spade and demand some concrete ‘concessions’ from the Arabs, not just Israel.
American leaders need to have the courage to change course, to admit that without reciprocity and responsibility on the part of the entire Arab camp, there can be no genuine peace. It is time to demand that the Arab states own up to their complicity in the conflict and demonstrate in practice that they are dedicated to reconciliation and an end to the conflict. If the Arabs are serious about peace what is needed is deeds, not more words, beginning with an end to state-sponsored incitement and an end to using refugees as a weapon.
Minimizing the Conflict Doesn’t Work.
One of the historic flaws of past peace-making efforts is that they have been artificially limited in scope. Only a few decades ago attempts at ending the Arab Israeli conflict focused on bringing the Arab states to the negotiating table, assuming the Arab states could then dictate realities to the Palestinians. Then came Oslo. It took the opposite approach, assuming that the Palestinians hold the key to peace in the Middle East, that if an accommodation between Jews and Arabs in Israel, and the Territories can be reached, everything else will fall into place. Both paths artificially reduce the conflict to ‘manageable size’, while true peace hinges on a comprehensive settlement both in terms of the parties and the issues.
For a real peace to evolve, it must encompass the entire Arab world, not just Palestinians vs. Israel. Comprehensive means one cannot leave rejectionists and extremists, be they Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia or Hezbollah and Hamas, free to follow their own anti-Israel agendas and call it ‘peace.’ Moderate Arab states do not have to embrace Israel as a bosom buddy, but comprehensive peace does mean squarely facing a host of unsettled issues peacemakers prefer to turn a blind eye to as long as there is no open warfare. Among the substantive issues that can no longer be ignored:
· Arab countries of the Middle East, the ‘outer rim’ and close neighbors continue to arm themselves with weapons designed to destroy Israel, including weapons of mass destruction.
· The Arab world remains a global hub for antisemitism and a hotbed of vicious incitement and demonization of Israel. Even those with peace treaties with Israel continue to reject Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state or pursue polities that will ensure Israel remains a Jewish state.
· Arab countries presumably at peace with Israel have increasingly crossed the line between a ‘cold peace’ and unacceptable behavior. Using Palestinians as a ‘proxy,’ and encouraging Palestinian terrorism and impractical demands of Israel, can hardly pass for ‘peace.’
A comprehensive peace must avoid the pitfall of Oslo, Wye, Mitchell, Tenet, Zuni, Camp David II, and the Road Map, accords that suffered from the ultimate of anomalies. How does it work? Time-and-again the tough issues, the ‘land mines’ on the road to peace with the Palestinians, have been ‘conveniently overlooked.’ Every time an issue of substance has resurfaced, the parties have pass over the loaded ‘land mine’ to prevent an impasse that would bring down the peace process, carefully reburying these time bombs ‘down the road.’ Thus, the peace process ‘went forward,’ interim agreement after interim agreement, until all the land mines, such as Jerusalem and the Right of Return, came to rest, ready and waiting to explode ‘on the threshold of peace.’ The folly was assuming that the so-called momentum created by the ‘process’ would ultimately allow the parties to jump over these barriers in the last minute of the game at Camp David when Arafat and Barak came to hammer out a final status agreement in July 2000. That did not happen, could not happen, because objectively, in terms of substance, for seven years, the process of conflict resolution between Palestinians and Jews has been confined to small increments and a host of issues of marginal importance.
This has been the core essence of Oslo: the peace process’ most lasting legacy has been the creation of an illusion of ‘process’. The illusion of ‘progress’ has not merely left Washington and Jerusalem disappointed. It was responsible for raising the ‘Return’ expectations among Palestinians to a fever pitch. This mistake should not be repeated. Yet, today other forms of ‘removing the land mines and burying them further down the road’ continue to surface: One is the road map which makes a Palestinian state a forgone conclusion, independent of solving the refugee problem and final borders, one of the latest ‘creative solutions’ being floated in the marketplace of ideas. A road maps for further strife down the road, not reconciliation. The ten year Oslo experiment in limited Palestinian autonomy under the Palestinian Authority has produced but another Arab dictatorial polity rift with civil rights violations that is as much a danger to its people as its neighbors; an independent Palestinian state will create just the kind of rogue state that the United States is in the process of eliminating elsewhere.
Peace-makers must deal with the fundamentals, including the substantive issues that concern both Israelis and Palestinians and those that concern the Arab world as a whole. A world that has been left in abeyance or swept under the carpet. If these substantive issues cannot be solved, one must accept this reality, not call it peace.
· The barrier to peace is not borders or territory. It is the refusal of the Arabs to accept the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state and the right of Israel to resist solutions that are designed to compromise its ‘Jewish nature.’
· The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the core of a much larger conflict between Israel and the Arab world. One cannot settle for less than an integrated solution, one that spans the entire Arab world of which the Palestinians are only a part. The objective of peacemakers cannot be less than a genuine ‘just and lasting peace,’ not cosmetic stop-gap measure that require Israel to make concessions while leaving explosive issues ready to flare up in the future.
· Israel did not start this conflict nor does it perpetrate it, unless one accepts the premise that Jews have no right to be in their ancient homeland and should all go back to Poland and Baghdad. Incitement must end. Hatred can’t be left to fester while pretending to ‘cement a peace.’ Resolution of both Arab and Israeli refugee problem must be a pillar of any genuine peace process.
Israelis accept that there must be a compromise. They seek ‘accommodation’ although they are deeply divided over the extent of concessions and risk-taking Israel should agree to. Palestinians, on the other hand, do not seek accommodation but ‘justice,’ a quality which they frame in absolute terms, refusing to even consider that their adversaries, the Israelis, might also have ‘just rights’ that need to be addressed.
Arab states must accept a solution to the conflict that does not undermine Israel’s right to live as a Jewish state. Acceptance of Israel’s Jewishness requires the Arab states to play an active and positive role in resettling the Arab refugees they helped to create, resettling them within the vast area of the Middle East. What has stymied a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is the unwillingness of Arabs as a whole and Palestinians in particular to recognize the legitimacy of Jewish claims and rights, along side Arab claims and rights, a breakthrough without which there can be no talk of ending the conflict
Kerry 'Coordinating Boycott Blackmail Against Israel'
(Israeli leaders say nation will not negotiate with 'a gun pointed at its head')
Feb. 5….(WND) Secretary of State John Kerry has been coordinating with the European Union regarding its boycott of Israeli settlements, a senior Palestinian negotiator reconfirmed to WND Sunday. In August, that same Palestinian negotiator told WND the Obama administration is working behind the scenes in tandem with the European Union’s boycott of Israeli settlements, tying the seriousness of the EU’s future ban to the Jewish state’s actions during US-brokered talks with the Palestinians.
Kerry is facing heavy criticism from Israeli leaders here in response to comments he made that some say are supportive of the European boycott. Speaking at a security conference in Munich, Kerry seemed to warn that if negotiations to create a Palestinian state fail, Israel could face growing international boycotts. “You see for Israel there is an increasing deligitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it,” said Kerry. “There are talk of boycotts and other kinds of things. Are we all going to be better with all of that?” “The risks are very high for Israel,” Kerry continued. “People are talking about boycott. That will intensify in the case of failure. “Do they want a failure that then begs whatever may come in the form of a response from disappointed Palestinians and the Arab community?”
Israeli leaders took issue with Kerry’s statements and his failure to condemn what many here see as an anti-Semitic boycott. At a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem yesterday, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said Israel will not negotiate with “a gun pointed at its head,” especially regarding “matters which are most critical to our national interests.” “The things Kerry said are hurtful, they are unfair and they are intolerable,” Steinitz continued. Israeli Industry Minister Naftali Bennett said: “We expect of our friends in the world to stand by our side against the attempts to impose an anti-Semitic boycott on Israel and not to be their mouthpiece.” Adi Mintz, a senior official in the Settler’s Council, claimed Kerry was embarking on an “an anti-Semitic initiative.”
In response, the State Department issued a statement explaining that Kerry’s remarks were taken out of context, clarifying Kerry opposes boycotts against Israel. However, the senior negotiator speaking to WND yesterday reiterated comments he made in August in which he said he was told that the Obama administration has been coordinating the boycott threat with the EU as leverage to ensure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu goes along with the talks. “They agreed to a ‘good cop, bad cop’ attitude,” said the negotiator of the U.S.-EU relationship regarding the boycott.
In August, the EU published guidelines that deny EU funds in the form of grants, prizes and financial instruments from going toward any Jewish entities in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights or eastern Jerusalem. The guidelines further require any future Israeli-EU financial agreements to include a clause stipulating that the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are not actually part of Israel.
The senior Palestinian negotiator told WND at the time that the EU guidelines were published in full coordination with Kerry. The negotiator further claimed that if Israel does not collaborate with Palestinian talks being brokered by Kerry, the EU financial sanctions could become tougher. The threat has been communicated to Israeli officials, according to the Palestinian negotiator. Possible further boycotts being considered, the negotiator stated, include an official statement from EU that settlements are illegal; a full financial boycott; and sanctions on all trade, universities and Jewish entities in the settlements. Another possibility is an EU dictate requiring special visas for settlers. On the other hand, if Israel goes along with Kerry’s peace plan, the EU will reconsider its future settlement boycott, the Palestinian negotiator stated.
In August, a petition against the boycott was signed by 1,100 jurists, rabbis and diplomats and sent to EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Catherine Ashton and the European Union’s 28 foreign ministers. A translation of the appeal says the EU boycott is “based on misguided and legally flawed assumptions about the status of the Israeli settlements and the validity of the 1967 lines as Israel’s borders.” Continues the document: “The EU’s definition of Judea and Samaria as ‘Palestinian territories’ or ‘occupied territories’ is devoid of any legal or factual merit. The area was never defined as such [under international law] and therefore the EU’s continuous use of this terminology undermines the negotiations for a permanent peace deal. The EU’s perception of the Israeli settlements’ illegality stems from various different interpretations of international law.”
Selling Out Israel: The Obama-Kerry Plan
Feb. 5….(The American Thinker) Israel is being urged to give up major portions of the West Bank of the Jordan River to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). That outfit is now known in Western media as the Palestinian Authority (PA), but it comprises the major terrorist group Fatah. That's the Arabic word for conquest. And conquest of all of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea has been the goal of the PLO since its inception. Its founding charter calls for the destruction of Israel. And its logo shows a map of the region with no Israel indicated.
The goals of Fatah could not be clearer. And yet, successive US administrations have heeded the siren song of peace in our time in a futile attempt to persuade a terrorist group to mend its ways. It's as if our own State Department thinks a tiger can be turned into a tabby cat if only we feed it enough American cream. US taxpayers have been forced to spoon out billions in aid to the PLO since 1989, with no discernible move toward freedom or democracy by this rejectionist group. (A "rejectionist" is one who rejects any role in the Mideast for the Jewish state.)
Now, the Obama administration is fully engaged in applying pressure to the Israelis to give in and give way. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are committed to a so-called "two-state solution" to the Arab-Israeli conflict. (This is a conflict, by the way, that has been raging since at least the 1920s, when Arab riots against Jewish settlers in what was then called the Palestine Mandate, supervised by Great Britain, claimed hundreds of lives.) At issue today is an emerging Obama-Kerry technical fix that would presumably use drones and electronic sensors to monitor Israel's border security. Thus, this administration will pledge to "have Israel's back."
What in the record of President Obama's administration should give the Israelis confidence that he will truly "have their back"? As Moshe Ya'alon, a leading Israeli defense spokesman in Israel's parliament, the Knesset, noted, "sensors and drones are no substitute for the physical presence of Israel Defense Force soldiers. The Jordan Valley is vital to the security of Israel, and we cannot assent to third parties being there in our stead." President Obama's habit of grand pronouncements, followed up by less than grand actions, is catching up with him. Last summer, President Obama announced to the world that any use of chemical weapons by Syria's embattled ruler, Bashar al-Assad, constituted a "red line" that would demand US action. But when reports stated that Assad had used such weapons, and when the Obama administration loudly endorsed those reports, no action was forthcoming. Today, the administration blames Assad's forces for "foot-dragging" on its agreements to dismantle chemical weapons. Barely 1% of these have been destroyed.
Israelis have long memories. Back in 1967, they trusted to UN observers to "have their back," literally their back door, with a peacekeeping force in the Sinai desert. Egypt's dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser ordered those peacekeepers out of the Sinai and proceeded to blockade Israel's only port on the critical Gulf of Aqaba. That act of war precipitated the Six-Day War of June 1967. Israel has learned that when the fate of the Jewish people is at stake, as it is now, with Iran racing toward nuclear weapons, the Israelis cannot "outsource" their vital security. The US should not be trying to force Israel to make dangerous concessions to the PLO, or any others among their homicidal neighbors.
Susan Rice Lashes Out at Israeli Criticism of Kerry
FOJ Note: (This is the same Susan Rice, who blamed Benghazi on a misguided video clip, and knowingly lying all the while she made the claim.)
Feb. 5….(Times of Israel) White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice lashed out via her Twitter account Monday night at Israeli criticism of US Secretary of State John Kerry and his efforts toward brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Rice called personal attacks in Israel directed at the secretary “totally unfounded and unacceptable.” Kerry has come under fire by right-wing Israeli politicians for warning over the weekend that Israel faces the serious threat of a widespread boycott and delegitimization campaign. In a series of tweets, Rice wrote that “John Kerry’s record of support for Israel’s security and prosperity is rock solid.” She also said the US government “has been clear and consistent that we reject efforts to boycott or delegitimize Israel.”
Kerry has said he was utterly certain that the current status quo was “not sustainable. It’s illusionary. There’s a momentary prosperity. There’s a momentary peace.” Kerry’s statements were dismissed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, who said “immoral and unjustified” boycotts would only “push peace farther away.” Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home), Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely and Likud MK and deputy minister Ofir Akunis also issued statements condemning Kerry’s remarks. Justice Minister and chief Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni defended Kerry on Monday, saying, ”Some of those who speak harshly against the US secretary of state would lower their eyes in embarrassment if they knew what Kerry has done to prevent these threats and these boycotts.”
And Netanyahu, after speaking to Kerry on Sunday night, issued a statement saying Kerry had made clear once again “that he opposes boycotts against Israel. This is an important clarification. It maintains the traditional American policy against the Arab boycott of Israel, in which the US both opposed and acted against such boycotts.” Netanyahu added that, “We trust the United States will continue to actively oppose any boycotts against Israel. The peace process is delicate. There may be periods of misunderstandings and disagreements. The best way to clarify misunderstandings or express differences of opinion is by substantively discussing the issues and not by engaging in personal attacks.”
We Must Stand Up for Middle East's Persecuted Christians
Feb. 5….(Johnnie Moore) Christianity began in the East, not the West, yet today Christians in the East are enduring an all-out-assault by Islamic terrorists, while Christians in the West live their lives largely oblivious to it all. This has to change. This is no imaginary persecution; in Syria alone there have been reports of kidnappings, Christian communities intentionally displaced by militants and, worst of all, shootings and beheadings of Christians who refused to convert to Islam. In Egypt radicals have recently destroyed dozens of churches, and the once vibrant Christian population in Iraq has been decimated.
Christians in the West should stand up for those in the East out of regard for all they have given us over these thousands of years, if for no other reason. See, what most American Christians don’t realize is that the “Islamic World” was once the Christian world. Some of the most well-known and influential leaders in the early church hailed from North Africa and the Middle East, like the warring theologians Athanasius and Arius, and the apologist Tertullian. It was for the library in Alexandria that the preeminent Greek version of the Torah (the “Septuagint”) was commissioned.
Today, St. Augustine would be called a Tunisian, Origen would be Egyptian and the Apostle Paul, who was on the road to Damascus when he encountered Christ, would have told the story of his conversion while heading to “Syria.” It was also in the Syrian city of “Antioch” that Christians were first called “Christians,” and to this day there are as many Christian holy sites in that nation as anywhere else in the world.
When Jesus was born, and his life was threatened by the hysteria of King Herod, it was to Egypt that Joseph and Mary fled until Herod’s bloodlust subsided. If the famed Council of Nicaea were held today, the headline would read: “Christian theologians gather in Turkey to settle long-held dispute about Christ’s deity,” and the part of the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized could have very well flowed through modern-day Jordan , as opposed to Israel.
Christianity was once so entrenched in the modern Islamic world that for centuries the center for Christian scholarship was Baghdad, and the long-ruined city of Merv (not far from border of what is now Afghanistan) was not only the largest city of its time, it was also best known as the center of Bible translation. To this day, in nearly all of those places, there are Christian communities that have persevered through the ages, but now face the threat of extinction. They have endured conflict after conflict, schism after schism, and they have learned how to coexist with peace-loving Muslims who are themselves fighting against the same radicalism that has caused the burning and bombing of hundreds of churches around the Islamic world since the spark of Arab Spring. The trickling stream of Christianity runs in these places all the way to the era of Christ himself, but now, particularly in Syria, that stream is being dried up more quickly that most people realize.
Sadly, few Christians in the West have any idea this is going on, and I was once just like them. Then I was invited last September to observe a meeting convened by Jordan’s King Abdullah in his country’s capital, Amman. Several dozen leaders of the Christian congregations of the East attended the meeting; I listened as these Catholic cardinals, Orthodox patriarchs and Anglican and Coptic bishops described the plight of their people. No one was discussing their theological differences, because it was their churches that had been burned, their relatives who had been kidnapped and killed, and nearly every one of them told stories of consoling an inconsolable mother or child as they grieved the death of their last living loved one. I wept as I heard their stories, and I wondered why Christians around the world weren’t incensed by it all.
Ironically, that meeting in Jordan was not convened by Christians, but by Muslims who cared about the plight of their Christian neighbors. At one point, Jordan’s strong and kind king said that “it is a duty rather than a favor” to protect the Christians in the region, and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, a senior adviser to the king, acknowledged that “Christians were in this region before Muslims.” He said, “They are not strangers, nor colonialists, nor foreigners. They are natives of these lands and Arabs, just as Muslims are.” While I was deeply encouraged by the tone of these Islamic leaders, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “I wonder how many Christians in the West even care about those in the East?” In that moment, I decided I would be their advocate.
It was the Apostle Paul who once advised some friends in Greece to “pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people.” I hear Paul’s prayer again on the lips of those persecuted today, and I call upon Christians everywhere to pray for and be an advocate for those upon whose foundation so much of our faith has been built. Indeed, it isn’t a favor. It’s our duty.
Chief Palestinian Negotiator: We Were Here Before the Jews
(Saeb Erekat claims ancestry from Canaanites)
Feb. 4….(Israel Hayom) The Palestinians cannot and will not accept Israel as the Jewish state because they lived in the region long before the Jews, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said over the weekend. Speaking with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni at the Munich Security Conference, Erekat rejected the Israeli demand that the Palestinians recognize it as the Jewish homeland. "When you say, 'Accept Israel as a Jewish state,' you are asking me to change my narrative," he said. Erekat justified his claim by saying that his ancestors were the real descendants of the Canaanities and lived in the area for "5,500 years before Joshua Bin-Nun came and burned my hometown, Jericho."
The Jewish Presence in the Land Dates Back for Millennia
Feb. 4….(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat claimed at the Munich Security Conference on Jan. 31 that the Palestinians cannot accept Israel as the Jewish state because they lived in the region long before the Jews. In the context of the current debate over the Jordan Valley, Erekat claimed that his ancestors were the real descendants of the Canaanites and lived in the area for “5,500 years before Joshua Bin-Nun.” In effect, Erekat was promoting the well-known Palestinian narrative that they are the native population, while the Jews are latecomers who only arrived in the last hundred years. Since the Muslim Arab conquest of Palestine occurred only in 634CE, the credibility of this Palestinian claim is questionable, to say the least.
At the same time, there is documented proof of a Jewish presence in the land dating back millennia. In Jericho itself, the Shalom al Yisrael (Peace unto Israel) synagogue with its magnificent mosaic was discovered in the 1930s and dates back to the Byzantine period. Not far away is the Wadi Kelt synagogue which dates back to 75 BCE, from the time of the Hasmonean monarchy, making it the oldest synagogue to have been discovered.
According to Moshe Gil’s A History of Palestine 634-1099 published by Cambridge University Press, “The Jewish population in Palestine residing in the country at the time of the Muslim conquest consisted of the direct descendants of the generations of Jews who had lived there since the days of Joshua bin Nun, in other words, for some 2,000 years.” In the fifth century, “the Jews and the Samaritans virtually governed the land.”
Salo Wittmayer Baron, in A Social and Religious History of the Jews published by Columbia University Press, recounts how the Caliph ‘Umar I embarked on a career of world conquest in 634 in the first decade after Mohammed’s death. “‘Umar expelled the Jews of Khaibar, the largest and most intact non-Muslim group still remaining in northern Arabia.” According to Al-Bukhari, the most famous and authoritative compiler of Muslim traditions known as hadith, ‘Umar deported Khaibar Jews to Jericho. There is another tradition that most of the Jews of Khaybar settled in Jericho and in the surrounding area. “The Jews of Khaybar apparently spread out from Jericho along the Jordan Valley, reaching the Sanur Valley in northern Samaria.” Thus, the Jewish presence in the land can be documented as dating back for millennia, while the politically-motivated claims made up by Palestinian leaders in an attempt to refute the long-standing history of the Jews in the region lack any such proof.
Europe/America Ganging Up on Israel With Boycotts & Threats
(Sweden’s Nordea Bank and Denmark’s Danske Bank have both taken steps against Israeli banks involved in construction in the settlements. Danske bank, the largest in Denmark, recently said on its website that it was boycotting Bank Hapoalim for “legal and ethical” reasons. And Nordea Bank, the largest in Scandinavia, has asked for clarifications from Bank Leumi and Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank regarding their activities beyond the Green Line.)
Feb. 3….(YNET) American pressure to settle negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians has recently brought the word "boycott" to the front on countless occasions. But the boycott of Israel goes way back. During a speech at an Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) conference, Lapid delivered a stern warning regarding Israel-PA peace talks. "If the negotiations with the Palestinians stall or collapse and we enter the reality of a European boycott, even if it's extremely limited, the Israeli economy will falter and every Israeli citizen will feel the pain directly," he said. In his speech, Lapid drew from a list of organizations and individuals that are boycotting Israel, including the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the United Church of Canada and the American Studies Association.
Norway has also blocked its $820 billion pension fund from investing in two Israeli companies because of their construction activities in East Jerusalem. More and more countries, NGOs and companies have joined the 2005 “Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS," an initiative that calls for “the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era.”
In December, Vitens, the largest supplier of drinking water in the Netherlands, decided to end cooperation on projects with Israel's national water carrier Mekorot over its operations in West Bank settlements. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit back at Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday, over the top American diplomat's warning of further sanctions against Israel should the current peace talks with the Palestinians fail. "The attempts to boycott the State of Israel are not moral or justified," Netanyahu said. "Moreover, they will not achieve their purpose. Firstly, they only serve to make the Palestinians become more entrenched in their stance of refusal. Secondly, no pressure will make me abandon the State of Israel's vital interests, of which security of the civilian population is foremost." In other threatening news to the negotiations, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said in response Saturday that all "the advice givers" should know that Israel will not abandon its land because of economic threats. "We expect our friends around the world to stand beside us, against anti-Semitic boycott efforts targeting Israel, and not for them to be their amplifier," he said, in a clear barb. "Only security will bring economic stability, not a terrorist state next to Ben-Gurion Airport." Despite all the talk, where it really counts in the Foreign Ministry, the outlook is not entirely positive.
Closely following developments in Europe, the ministry has claimed that Israeli diplomacy has limited tools to deal with commercial firms that choose to sever ties with Israeli entities. "We cannot truly fight against the will to boycott us," said a Foreign Ministry official. Following the announcement of Danish bank Danskebank in regards to pulling out its investments in several companies, including Israeli firms, an inquiry conducted by the Israeli embassy in Copenhagen revealed that the Danish bank has no investments with any body related to Africa-Israel Investments Limited. "There is a boycott fashion in Europe against Israel, but we're still not talking about a trend," the Foreign Ministry official noted. "In any case, the boycott is a phenomenon that is derived from the real issue, which is the construction in the settlements. As long as Israel continues to build, this phenomenon will persist and it will be difficult to prevent it without handling this political issue. There is no way to explain to the Europeans why the settlements are good, and why they should buy products produced beyond the Green Line."
MK Nachman Shai (Labor) warned that Israel was facing an “economic tsunami” and that boycotts have “passed the point of no return.” “Together with other sanctions, the international community is starting a joint battle to pressure Israel.
US Intelligence: Iran Can Build Bomb at Will
Feb. 3….(WORTHY NEWS) Iran's ability to create missiles with nuclear warheads is currently more dependent on the "political will" of the country's leadership than on closing technological gaps, according to the annual American intelligence community's report presented to Congress on Wednesday. "Tehran has made technical progress in a number of areas, including uranium enrichment, nuclear reactors, and ballistic missiles, from which it could draw if it decided to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons," National Intelligence Director James Clapper wrote in testimony submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee. "These technical advancements strengthen our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons," he added. "This makes the central issue its political will to do so."
According to the report, Iran continued to develop its nuclear program during the year prior to signing the interim deal in Geneva with world powers. The Islamic republic continued "installing additional centrifuges at [its] Fuel Enrichment Plant, developing advanced centrifuge designs and stockpiling more low-enriched uranium." The report goes on to state that there is no consensus within the Iranian leadership on the issue of nuclear weapons. The intelligence bodies also noted that the Iranians agreed to the interim deal due to uncertainty over whether the nuclear program was worth the price being paid in economic sanctions, set to be eased by the Geneva agreement. "We judge that Iran is trying to balance conflicting objectives. It wants to improve its nuclear and missile capabilities while avoiding severe repercussions, such as a military strike or regime-threatening sanctions," the report says. But when it comes to the question of whether Iran will decide to build a nuclear bomb, the American intelligence community wrote in the report that it does not know the answer.
A chance for diplomacy
Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama used the opportunity of the State of the Union address on Tuesday evening to tell the two houses of Congress that he has no intention of approving legislation for further sanctions on Tehran while nuclear negotiations are still ongoing. "Let me be clear: If this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it," Obama said, "For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed. "If Iran's leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions, and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon," he added. Obama said that Iran had already begun to destroy its stockpiles of uranium enriched to a high level, and is not installing advanced centrifuges. He said, "The mistrust between our nations cannot be wished away. But these negotiations do not rely on trust; any long-term deal we agree to must be based on verifiable action."
US Withdrawal From Iraq Has Made it a Safe Haven for Al Qaedaa
Feb. 3….(Washington Free Beacon) The full withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in 2011 and spillover from the civil war in neighboring Syria has again presented al Qaeda with the prospect of erecting a safe haven in Iraq, experts said on Wednesday. The complete pullout of American forces created a vacuum that al Qaeda has now begun to fill, the experts said at the Heritage Foundation. Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s Shiite prime minister, has also exacerbated sectarian tensions by alienating Sunni politicians and citizens, they added. Douglas Streusand, professor and historian at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, said President Barack Obama’s administration must recognize the significance of Iraq as part of the region’s broader security. “A haven in Iraq would be of far greater importance to the al Qaeda network than Somalia, Sudan, or Afghanistan, both because of historical significance and because of resources potentially available to them,” he said. “This has happened on the watch of the current administration and the current administration has yet to demonstrate that it has either the will or the capacity to deal with it.”
Iraq has a much larger economy than other al Qaeda targets due to its oil resources, Streusand said. And al Qaeda insurgents, who he said espouse a “totalitarian Islamist” ideology, view Iraq as a crucial power center in their efforts to reestablish the historical Caliphate of Muslim rule in the Middle East. However, he said the Obama administration still does not understand the threat of al Qaeda or its goals. He called the group a “network with multiple nodes that cooperate and compete.”
The president again stated during his State of the Union address Tuesday night that al Qaeda’s core leadership is “on a path to defeat.” “If MARSOC [Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command] destroyed the al Qaeda core completely it would be a great victory,” Streusand said. “But it would not end the conflict in any great way, shape, or form.” “The affiliates are carrying on without the core and capable of operations beyond their regional bases,” he added. Iraq’s increasingly porous western border with Syria has enabled al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate to morph into the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), extending its influence in both countries.
World Bank Leaser: Replace Dollar with Super Currencyy
Feb. 3….(China Daily) The World Bank's former chief economist wants to replace the US dollar with a single global super-currency, saying it will create a more stable global financial system. "The dominance of the greenback is the root cause of global financial and economic crises," Justin Yifu Lin told Bruegel, a Brussels-based policy-research think tank. "The solution to this is to replace the national currency with a global currency." Lin, now a professor at Peking University and a leading adviser to the Chinese government, said expanding the basket of major reserve currencies, the dollar, the euro, the Japanese yen and pound sterling, will not address the consequences of a financial crisis. Internationalizing the Chinese currency is not the answer, either, he said.
Lin urged the international community, especially the US and European Union, to play a leading role in currency and infrastructure initiatives. To boost the global economy, he proposed the launch of a "global infrastructure initiative" to remove development bottlenecks in poor and developing countries, a measure he said would also offer opportunities for advanced economies. "China can only play a supporting role in realizing the plans," Lin said. "The urgent thing is for the US and Europe to endorse these plans. And I think the G20 is an ideal platform to discuss the ideas," he said, referring to the group of finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 major economies.
The concept of a global "super currency" tied to a basket of currencies has been periodically discussed by world leaders as well as endorsed by 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize-winner Joseph Stiglitz. A super currency could also be tied to a single currency, but the interconnectedness of world financial markets and concerns about the volatility that can occur as a result of the system being tied to one currency have made this idea less popular. Arguments in favor of a global currency resurfaced during October's US budget impasse, which forced the government to shut down. "It is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanized world," a Xinhua News Agency commentary said on Oct 14.
Why Europe Blames Israel for the Holocaust
Feb. 2….(YNET) The acclaimed British novelist Howard Jacobson opened his speech at the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem last October with piercing sarcasm: “The question is rhetorical. When will Jews be forgiven the Holocaust? Never.” However, there has been a shift in the underpinnings of anti-Semitism. Israel has become the collective Jew among the nations, as the late French historian Léon Poliakov said about the new metamorphosis of Jew-hatred. Jacobson was piggy-backing on the eye-popping insight of the Israel psychoanalyst Zvi Rex, who reportedly said: “The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.”
The anti-Semitic logic at work here is Europe’s pathologically guilt-filled response to the Holocaust, which, in short, is to shift the onus of blame to the Jews to cleanse one’s conscience. Two German-Jewish Marxist philosophers, Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, coined an esoteric sociological term for what unfolded in post-Shoah Germany: Guilt-defensiveness anti-Semitism.
On the one hand, Adorno and Horkheimer may come across as kitchen-sink psychology. On the other hand, the explanatory power behind anti-Semitic guilt animating hatred of Jews and Israel can provide a window into Europe’s peculiar obsession with the Jewish State.
Europe is largely consumed with imposing discipline and punishment on Israel. How else to explain the efforts by the German government and fellow EU member states to label products from the disputed territories? The EU refuses to apply the same label system to the scores of other territorial conflicts ranging from China/Tibet to Turkey/Cyprus to Morocco/ Western Sahara.
The origins of Europe’s disturbing preoccupation with Israel can be traced to the late 1960s. The Austrian Jewish writer and Auschwitz survivor Jean Amery recognized that “anti-Zionism contains anti-Semitism like a cloud contains a storm.” The German-Jewish author Henryk M. Broder perhaps best captured the toxic mix of pathological Holocaust guilt with the desire to dismantle Israel. In an article he wrote in the early 1980s he told his contemporary Germans: “You’re still your parents’ children. Your Jew today is the State of Israel.”
Sacha Stawski, an expert on anti-Semitism in the German media, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that “Israel-related anti-Semitism is probably the most common and most persistent form of anti-Semitism in all levels of society today.” Stawski, who is a German Jew and editor-in-chief of the media watchdog website Honestly Concerned, added: “Today it is no longer fashionable to hate Jews outright, but it is perfectly acceptable to debate about and to demonstrate against the very core of the Jewish state’s existence, in a way and with emotions unlike that about any other country.”
The social-psychological theory articulated by Adorno and Horkheimer might, just might, provide a macro-level grasp of a pan-European epidemic that is fixated on turning Israel into the world’s punching bag.
John Kerry Threatens Israel With Boycotts if Talks Fail
(Dept. Defense Minister responds to new
boycott threats by US Sec. of State Kerry:
Feb. 2….(Arutz) US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday threatened Israel that a failure in the peace talks would lead to global boycotts and delegitimization of the Jewish state. The warning comes as no surprise to those familiar with reports earlier in the month, which revealed that Kerry is orchestrating the European boycotts against Israel.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon responded to Kerry's threats of boycotts, saying "we respect Secretary of State Kerry but will not hold talks with a gun to our head. Friends don't put ultimatums on the security of the state of Israel." Speaking at a security council in Munchen, Germany, Kerry also mentioned Defense Secretary Moshe Ya'alon's comments calling Kerry "messianic" and "obsessive" in trying to force Israel to submit to a peace deal, which would include massive territorial withdrawals and an Arab capital in Jerusalem. "I'm a little surprised by the articles quoting statements on obsession or a fanatical effort to try and achieve peace," remarked Kerry. "We're just working hard, and I still am full of hope that our efforts will succeed and bring a peace agreement." At the same time that he rejected accusations of "fanaticism," Kerry stated "we're working hard, because the consequences of failure are unacceptable to us." Kerry's plan reportedly includes Israeli withdrawals along the 1949 Armistice lines. Danon declared in response "we will make decisions that guard the interests of the state of Israel. If we made choices based on the various forecasts of boycotts, we wouldn't be here today. In the past we saw that wherever the IDF wasn't present terror takes root."
Following the 2005 "Disengagement" plan that expelled all Jews from Gaza, the terror group Hamas took over the area and launched several waves of deadly attacks, resulting in two major counter-terrorism operations in 2009 and 2012. The ceasefire that was brokered by the Egyptians after the 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense was assessed as being dead by some security officials earlier this month following ongoing rocket barrages from Gaza.
This is not the first time the US Secretary of State has threatened Israeli security or interests in the event his country's "peace initiative" is not adopted by the Jewish state. Last November, Kerry threatened that Israel would face a "Third Intifada," or violent uprising, if talks did not end with a "Palestinian state" in Judea and Samaria.
Bullying Tactics by Kerry Are Aiding Israel’s Enemies, and Ours
Feb. 2….(DEBKA) US Secretary of State John Kerry is freely using scare tactics, such as a fresh Palestinian “intifada,’ international boycotts and isolation, to cow Israel into signing on the dotted line when the framework accord he has drawn up is submitted to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. At the Munich Security Conference Saturday, Feb. 1, “Mr. Interim agreement,” as he is known in diplomatic circles for his partial deals on Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s chemical arsenal, Kerry snapped back at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s claim to have brought Israel a period of relative calm, by calling it “an illusion.” Clearly, this was just a mild foretaste of the coercive tactics in store for Israel when the time comes round to approve a final accord with the Palestinians. “Boycotts of Israel are amoral and unjustified and will not achieve their aims,” said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Sunday, Feb. 2: "First of all, they cause the Palestinians to become entrenched behind their intransigent positions and push peace farther away, and secondly, no pressure will cause me to give way on Israel’s vital interests, first and foremost the security of its citizens."
His comments were quickly rejected by the State Department. The Secretary was merely describing the situation exactly as it is, said a spokesperson, and his record of dedication to Israel's security goes back three decades. However, debkafile’s sources note with comparable accuracy that since Kerry last year warned Israel of a new intifada, Palestinian terrorist strikes against Israeli targets have proliferated for the first time in years. It is a matter of record that Israel-Palestinian peacemaking has always had its flip side. The aftermath of a former framework accord, which actually got signed by both sides in Oslo, vividly illustrated the recurring cycle of one peace process after another breaking down under escalating Palestinian terrorist violence followed by expanded Jewish settlement.
In accordance with the Declaration of Principles on Interim (Palestinian) Self-Government signed in Oslo in 1993, Israel dissolved its military government in Palestinian areas in 1995 and turned over the seven main cities of Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarm, Qalqilya, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron, and virtually all the West Bank’s 1.4 million Palestinians, to Palestinian jurisdiction. Yet terrorist attacks never abated and, in 2000, the year Israel offered Yasser Arafat independence in the Gaza Strip and 92 percent of the West Bank with east Jerusalem its capital, the Palestinian leader declared open war on the Jewish state with his “Al Aqsa Intifada” and years of death and destruction by suicide bombings and burnt buses. So the charge of “occupation” does not exactly stand up even to the most cursory scrutiny, especially when the West Bank came under Israeli control in the first place as the result of a defensive war fought and won against multiple Arab armies.
In the electrically charged Middle East climate, Kerry’s threats quickly became self-fulfilling prophecies. His warning in Munich Saturday of an international boycott was followed the next day by news of Sweden’s Nordea Bank and Denmark’s Danske Bank, the largest banks in their respective countries, serving together over 16 million customers, actually blacklisting one of Israel’s three biggest banks, Bank Hapoalim, for maintaining branches “across the Green Line.” The other two, Leumi and Mizrahi-Tefahot, faced the “demand” to “immediately make public their operations in the West Bank,” as though they were kept secret and owed Scandinavia an accounting.
However, pushing the button for the escalation of Palestinian terrorism and the spread of boycott action by pro-Palestinian financial and academic institutions was in line, Debkafile’s sources report, with US-EU tactics for building up a volume of international and Israeli public high enough to scare Netanyahu into bowing to American dictates. The US Secretary appears confident that his bullying won’t go too far or cause Israel irreparable harm. But he may not have taken into account that in this neighborhood, there is always a volunteer ready to strike the match for blowing up a combustible situation, especially after the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas laid the kindling and Kerry and the European Union’s Catherine Ashton heaped on the fuel.
At the same time, Israel holds two powerful weapons for fighting back, provided it has the will to deploy and use them: the IDF has time and again proved its mettle against terrorism; and US Jewry coupled with American popular support could defeat BDS, the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign. There is no need of a grand announcement to launch a counter-BDS campaign. It is enough for American Jewish or other sympathetic banks and academic institutions to quietly make the punishment for boycotters fit the crime.
European bankers queuing in Tehran for post-sanctions business, while at the same time, boycotting Israeli banks doing business on the West Bank, should find themselves ostracized by American Jews. The Danish and Swedish banks which blacklisted Israel institutions should see the backs of American business partners. British manufacturers and exporters who refuse to take orders from Israeli customers should see their goods pilling up unsold in American stores.