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Saudi Arabia Seeks Top Spot on U.N. Human Rights Council

May 28th, 2015

The Washington Free Beacon
By Adam Kredo, May 20, 2015

The execution square in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia / AP

The execution square in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia / AP

Move comes amid rise in beheadings, amputations

Saudi Arabia is making a bid to head the United Nations’ Human Rights Council (HRC) just days after it posted a slew of new job openings for executioners who would help carry out beheadings amid a massive uptick in state-sanctioned killings in the country.

Saudi Arabia, which has come under increasing criticism from human rights groups for an uptick in the number of executions in the country, has been a member of the U.N.’s top human rights body since 2014, along with Russia, China, and Cuba.

It is now making a bid to assume lead control over the HRC after 2016, when the presidency rotates to a new nation.

While the HRC has often been dismissed for hosting nations with some of the worst human rights records in the world, its importance in the coming year could be critical to how the international community deals with atrocities in Syria and other Middle Eastern nations.

U.N. Watch, a nonprofit group that monitors the international body, disclosed Saudi Arabia’s intentions in a recent report and urged the United States to fight against it, describing the move as “the final nail in the coffin for the credibility” of the HRC.

“We urge U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and EU foreign minister Federica Mogherini to denounce this despicable act of cynicism by a regime that beheads people in the town square, systematically oppresses women, Christians, and gays, and jails innocent bloggers like Raif Badawi for the crime of challenging the rulers’ radical brand of Wahabbist Islam,” Hillel Neuer, the group’s executive director, said in a recent statement.

Neuer compared the possible ascension of Saudi Arabia to the top slot to electing “a pyromaniac as the town fire chief.”

Germany currently heads the HRC, but its term ends in 2016. Elections will be held in early December 2015 for the 2016 term, according to a U.N. official.

The presidency will then rotate to a member of the U.N.’s Asian bloc, which includes Bangladesh, China, the United Arab Emirates, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, the Maldives, Pakistan, South Korea, Qatar, and Vietnam.

Human rights experts say that Saudi Arabia is not fit to lead the body, particularly amid a rise in executions under the newly crowned King Salman.

On Monday, Suadi Arabia put out advertisements seeking eight new state executioners. These individuals would be responsible for beheading criminals and “performing amputations for those convicted of lesser crimes,” according to Fox News.

David Weinberg, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and lead author of recent report on Saudi human rights abuses, said the autocratic nation would make of mockery of the HRC.

“It’s sadly ironic Saudi Arabia wants to be elected president of the human rights council when its citizens aren’t granted enough civil rights to even have a president or an elected prime minister but are instead ruled by a hereditary autocrat,” Weinberg said.

“That Riyadh wants to head the human rights council when back home it chops off the heads of foreigners and its own citizens in the streets—at a pace nearly three times as fast as last year so that the government is now seeking to hire more willing executioners, rather than transitioning them into retirement,” he added.

Rates of human trafficking are high in Saudia Arabia. The kingdom is currently designated by the United States as a “country of particular concern” regarding religious persecution.

The country also has come under fire in recent months for sentencing a blogger to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for essays critical of the government.

“Saudi Arabia has already used its position at the Human Rights Council to whitewash the crimes of allied but abusive regimes in places like Bahrain and Egypt, and it no doubt will seek to do further harm to the very concept of human rights in other ways as well,” Weinberg said.

Like U.N. Watch’s Neuer, Weinberg urged the United States to “head off this worrisome development at the U.N.”

“To the extent to which the [Obama] administration cares about international governance, it must support an Asian democracy for this position that strives to respect human rights—such as Japan, South Korea, or India—rather than a repressive autocracy like the Saudi state,” he said.

When asked to comment about these reports, a State Department official told the Free Beacon that “as far as we know there are not yet any announced candidates for the 2016 Human Rights Council presidency.”

Israel: Seeing is believing — video

May 22nd, 2015

Treat yourself to an uplifting, six-minute virtual tour of the Apple of God’s eye. Gorgeous scenery, an abundance of smiles, and snappy music await you in the video below. See Israel’s seas, cities, harbors, architecture, archaeology, art, culture, technology, people, skies, sports, and varied wildlife. You’ll sky- and scuba-dive… no passport, parachute, or snorkel necessary. Such a rainbow of cultures and traditions, you may need to catch your breath before watching it again.

Israelis Help Others; Palestinians Don’t Even Help Themselves

May 22nd, 2015

Cherson and Molschky blog
By: Rachel Molschky, May 11, 2015

Israeli humanitarian efforts juxtaposed Palestinian terror efforts…

Al-Qassam Brigades showing Gaza tunnel post-operation (Photo Source: Reuters)

Al-Qassam Brigades showing Gaza tunnel post-operation (Photo Source: Reuters)

Israeli humanitarian efforts finally got a little attention in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake. While some acknowledged it, unfortunately, it was glossed over by others, while the hardcore haters said, “Yeah, but…” That “but” was followed by crazy stories of ulterior motives (like the old anti-Semitic canard of organ harvesting, baby trafficking, or that it was purely a publicity stunt?!) or sob stories of how Israelis are helping the earthquake survivors but won’t help those “poor” Gazans.

The truth is, Israelis do help Gazans. During Operation Protective Edge, for example, the IDF set up field hospitals and treated Gazan casualties, and Israeli hospitals treat even the relatives of Hamas leaders who vow to destroy the Jewish State and celebrate the “victory” of any dead Jew, from babies to elderly Holocaust survivors, murdered by Arab ‘martyrs’.

Israel has also decided to double the amount of water delivered to the Palestinian territories, despite only receiving payment from the Palestinian Authority for less than 10 percent of the water usage. Palestinians are also wasting their water; up to 33 percent is wasted due to leakage, and their own policies prevent them from having more water. Still, Israel is providing more water to help them.

Furthermore, the IDF facilitates the transfer of goods into Gaza, like cement which is intended for building new homes.

Here’s the kicker: that cement is not used to build new homes. Building terror tunnels to kill more Jews takes priority over their own well-being. That violence is valued higher than taking care of themselves, despite their cries to the world that their living conditions are poor. If they are in such dire need, why are they not using the cement transferred into Gaza via the efforts of those “evil” Israeli soldiers, to help themselves?

Last Fall, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas requested $4 billion to “rebuild” Gaza after the war and wound up with $5.4 billion in pledges from donors who apparently felt sorry for the people who started the war with their barrage of rocket attacks, kidnappings and murders of Israeli civilians.

The help is there, if they want it. Thousands upon thousands of truckloads of goods are getting to Gaza. In the first three months of this year, nearly 17,000 truckloads of goods entered Gaza, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. On March 19 alone, 1000 tons of cement arrived, paid for by Qatar, the biggest donor among those who pledged financial support to rebuild Hamas’ playground.

But the reconstruction is slow-going, and the UN, as usual, blames Israel. Arutz Sheva reported in late April that Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations’ new Middle East peace envoy, wants Israel to lift its naval blockade of Gaza.

“We in the United Nations, along with our partners in the international community, have a responsibility to ensure that Gaza is not just being reconstructed… but that the blockade which stops access to construction materials, to movement of people, goods… is lifted,” Mladenov stated.

The naval blockage is preventing a Gaza port from becoming an Iranian port where Iran could send terror supplies to Hamas. These supplies would then be used against Israel, making this blockade one for self-preservation.

And what’s the use in blaming the blockade when Gazans are not using the goods they’re receiving on the ground via the trucks? In March, Qatar donors admitted that most of the cement allocated for reconstructing homes was actually being sold on the black market. The president of the Qatari National Committee for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip was fed up with this but impressed with Israel’s efforts to rebuild Gaza. This is coming from Qatar, the main financial backer of Hamas.

The money, the goods, none of it has a thing to do with any “humanitarian” need, unless “humanitarian” is code word for “terror against Jews.” Gazans are not building houses; they’re building terror tunnels. They do not want to improve their living conditions; they want to kill Jews and destroy Israel. That would be humanitarian in the eyes of Hamas.

Israelis who live near the Gaza border have warned that Hamas is preparing for another war. “The reports that Hamas is getting stronger militarily, and the fact that the group is continuing to dig attack tunnels toward Gaza border communities, come as no surprise to any resident from the area,” Yael, a member of Kibbutz Nirim, told Israel Hayom. “All the residents know which path we’re headed down, everyone sees what Hamas is doing on the other side of the fence, and it’s doing it flagrantly, right there before our, and the military’s, eyes, showing its preparations for the next round of fighting.”

This should come as no surprise to anyone, yet the victimization continues, along with the demonization of Israel. It really does get old.

Concerns Of Muslim Immigration Surge Into Western World Come Into Focus

May 19th, 2015

Breitbart
by Alex Swoyer, May 7, 2015

The Muslim immigration warnings offered by Dutch politician Geert Wilders—who was in the facility in Garland, Texas, that was attacked by terrorists last weekend—seem to be coming true.

Wilders, who has asked his own parliament to hold an exhibition on the Muhammed cartoons from the Garland, Texas event, has warned frequently that high levels of Muslim immigration without assimilation to the Western world—Europe and the United States of America—are dangerous to the culture and values of the West.

Wilders, a featured speaker at the Garland event, has been on a terror hit list since 2010 for proposing to place a tax on the Hijab worn by Muslim women in the Netherlands. He has also been vocal about stopping all Muslim immigration into the Netherlands.

“Take a walk down the street and see where this is going,” Wilders, referring to growing Muslim immigration into his country, previously said. “You no longer feel like you are living in your own country. There is a battle going on and we have to defend ourselves. Before you know it there will be more mosques than churches!”

Wilders’ warning rings true not just in the Netherlands, but in the United States as well.

Immigrants from the Middle East are currently the fastest growing immigration demographic coming into the U.S., a recent report from the Center for Immigration Studies shows. America in just three years imported more immigrants from the Middle East than from Mexico and Central America combined.

In that three years, there has been a 13 percent growth in the number of immigrants from Middle Eastern countries. And according to the Conservative Review, the immigrant population from the Middle East will double in fifteen years and triple by 2050.

In fact, the United Nations is currently planning to settle roughly one million refugees – mostly Muslims – in western countries, Fox News reports.

Senior Editor of Conservative Review Daniel Horowitz argues against the increasing number of refugees. “We should only grant refugee status to those we can absolutely determine will be an asset to our country. It’s not our job or responsibility to incur risk when it is unclear which refugees have proclivities towards Islamic extremism,” Horowitz wrote.

A report derived from information from the 9/11 Commission and the Center for Immigration Studies validates Horowitz’s concerns. The study revealed that, out of 94 foreign-born terrorists operating inside the United States, 59 of them committed immigration fraud before or during terrorist activity.

Census data reveals roughly 100,000 Muslim immigrants are admitted to the United States each year. Immigrants who enter the U.S. legally are entitled to welfare, U.S. jobs and to vote.

Horowitz warns that the increasing Muslim population, coupled with President Obama’s unwillingness to identify Islamic extremism, creates a national security threat.

“With immigration and our legal ports of entry representing the front lines in the war on terror, in conjunction with this president’s unwillingness to recognize the threat from Islamic extremism, our homeland security has already been shut down for years,” said Horowitz.

The Pew Research Center also studied the impact of a growing Muslim population. Pew noted that by 2050, Muslims would outnumber Jews and nearly equal the number of Christians across the world.

The Washington Post reported that immigration from Africa is a contributing factor to the increased Muslim immigrant population: “The number of African-born residents in the United States has doubled every decade since the 1970s, with the greater Washington region remaining among the most popular areas for them to live, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Wednesday.”

The large number of Muslim immigrants has already impacted public schools and communities throughout America. Due to the large number of immigrants from the Middle East, the Department of Justice required a school in Michigan accommodate the growing Arab immigrant student population by hiring more Arab teachers.

Minnesota, like Michigan, has also had to accommodate the growing Muslim population within its community.

Somali refugees in Minnesota demanded the local government provide a special food zone free of pork to comply with their faith. In fact, Somali use of the state’s public food assistance program has doubled over the past five years.

Additionally, the Minneapolis School District has had to hire instructors to teach in both English and Somali since the Somali student enrollment increased 70 percent since 2011.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a moderate Muslim reformer, came to America from Somalia. She recently warned in an op-ed in Time Magazine that she worries about the attitudes of the majority of Muslim immigrants coming to the United States, typically from the three countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iraq.

Ali writes that many “people in these countries hold views that most Americans would regard as extreme.”

For example, she notes that a number of Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Iraqis believe conversion away from Islam should be punished by death.

“More than 80 percent of Pakistanis and two thirds of Bangladeshis and Iraqis regard sharia law as the revealed word of God. Only tiny fractions would be comfortable if their daughters married Christians,” she warns. “Only a minority regards honor killings of women as never justified.”

She also notes that roughly 25 percent of Bangladeshis believe suicide bombings defending Islam are justified.

“People with views such as these pose a threat to us all, not because those who hold them will all turn to terrorism. Most will not. But such attitudes imply a readiness to turn a blind eye to the use of violence and intimidation tactics against, say, apostates and dissidents – and a clear aversion to the hard-won achievements of Western feminists and campaigners for minority rights,” wrote Hirsi Ali.

In addition to the immigration from the African Continent, the nation’s student visas program also contributes to the growing number of Islamic immigrants. “Nearly 81,000 subjects of the Saudi kingdom are studying in the U.S. this school year, up from about 5,000 in 2000-01,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

Several national security leaders in recent interviews with Breitbart News have said that they believe the reason why there’s such a problem with the high levels of Muslim immigration to the United States is because people aren’t assimilating to American culture like previous waves of immigration throughout this country’s history did.

“What we need to do is make sure everyone coming into the United States understands who we are and that we are founded on Judeo-Christian values, that there is one rule of law and that’s what’s on the books and it’s not Sharia and we need to make sure we don’t engage in the same kind of mistakes in Europe where they did not engage in assimilation,” former House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), now retired from Congress, said in an interview with Breitbart News last September.

“They [the southern border and insecure visa system] are all potential avenues for terrorists to get into the U.S.,” Hoekstra added.

I think you missed two of the biggest ones out there which are very very difficult to control and one is social media-what’s happening on social media, where they can cross the border and we’ll never know it. The other one is influence or people with ties to Europe or America who have been actively involved in the fight in Syria or Iraq and then coming back.

Will we be able to identify who they are when they’ve been radicalized and what will be the consequences when they come back? My belief should be that if we don’t have the legal capability we ought to develop the legal capability that if people who have fought with radical Jihadist groups overseas are coming back into the United States their citizenship should be revoked and they shouldn’t have access and the capability to come back.

Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative filmmaker, said in a previous interview with Breitbart News that America isn’t serving as the melting pot it once was for immigrants—and that’s what leads to this high level of concern with regards to assimilation.

“I do think what makes immigration different today is that immigrants came in the past who embodied the spirit of 1776-a spirit to build this country,” D’Souza said last September.

Now we’re getting some immigrants who far from wanting to pull the bandwagon, just want to sit in the bandwagon-and that’s a big change-not to mention people who actually want to do harm to the country. Look if our government can monitor our every phone call and our every email and our every motion, you can be very sure they have the technology to spot every single person coming across the border. The problem is they don’t want to.

The issue—as a national security matter, an immigration matter, and a big picture question about the sovereignty of the United States and the nation’s identity—is quickly spilling over into the 2016 presidential primaries, especially on the Republican side.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a GOP presidential candidate, introduced legislation that would likely increase Muslim immigration to the United States. His legislation creates an uncapped green card program for the foreign students and triples the H-1B visa program for foreign workers.

Meanwhile, one of his likely biggest competitors for the GOP nomination, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, has been outspoken about the threat of the growing Muslim immigration.

“They want to use our freedoms to undermine that freedom in the first place,” Jindal said in a past interview with the Family Research Council’s Washington Watch where he discussed Muslim immigrants.

“This is a place where you have freedom of self-determination, freedom of religious liberty, freedom of speech. This is an amazing place and we’re a majority Christian country,” Jindal said.

Jindal added that he is sure to be called a “racist” for his comments by the “politically correct crowd.”

Few candidates or potential candidates have zeroed in on the issue yet, but with terrorism and national security concerns on the rise—heading into an election season where immigration is a top-tier issue according to every honest pollster—this is likely to burst onto the scene as a major 2016 front burner issue.

Israel’s aid team to Nepal among the largest

May 17th, 2015

The Times of Israel
By Times of Israel staff, April 29, 2015

Field hospital begins work; nearly 2,000 Israelis evacuated since Saturday; just one Israeli remains unaccounted for.

Israeli soldiers establish a field hospital together with Nepalese army, in Nepal, following the deadly earthquake. on April 29, 2015. (Photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)

Israeli soldiers establish a field hospital together with Nepalese army, in Nepal, following the deadly earthquake. on April 29, 2015. (Photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)

Israel’s aid team to the earthquake-battered Himalayan nation of Nepal is one of the largest in manpower of any international aid mission.

Over 250 doctors and rescue personnel were part of an IDF delegation that landed Tuesday in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, in the wake of Saturday’s magnitude-7.8 earthquake that devastated large swaths of the mountainous country, killing at least 5,000 and leaving some 8,000 wounded and tens of thousands seeking shelter and food.

The Israeli group set up a field hospital with 60 beds that began operations on Wednesday in coordination with the local army hospital.

Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and the Nepalese Army’s chief of staff visited the field hospital to attend its opening ceremony.

Dozens of Israeli backpackers are stranded in far-flung areas of the country, especially in the Gosainkunda lakes area. The Foreign Ministry says only one Israeli, Or Asraf, remains unaccounted for of the 2,000 who were in the country when the quake hit Saturday. A report Wednesday afternoon on Channel 2 suggested that Asraf was seen alive and well an hour after the quake, but the information was second-hand and not confirmed. Israeli rescue teams hope to finish locating and extracting the last of the stranded backpackers by the end of the day Wednesday.

Asraf was moderately wounded fighting with the IDF in last summer’s Gaza war. After recovering from his injuries and completing his army service, he went backpacking in Nepal, a popular destination for post-army Israelis, and was slated to return to Israel in July.

Israel’s aid convoy to the quake-stricken nation is the largest ever sent by the IDF overseas. Israel has deployed field hospitals to Haiti, the Philippines and Japan in recent years following natural disasters.

According to figures reported by CNN, Israel’s total official aid delegation, not counting several private aid groups, numbers 260 people, more than all the other aid efforts examined by CNN combined. The next-largest delegation registered by CNN, from the United Kingdom, numbers 68 people, followed by China’s 62, the US’s 54 and South Korea’s 40. Taiwan sent 20 personnel, Italy 15 and France 11.

The CNN figures did not include India, however, which sent a National Disaster Response Force numbering 450 people, according to the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

 

Israeli soldiers establish a field hospital together with Nepalese army, in Nepal, following the deadly earthquake. on April 29, 2015. Photo by IDF Spokesperson.

Israeli soldiers establish a field hospital together with Nepalese army, in Nepal, following the deadly earthquake. on April 29, 2015. Photo by IDF Spokesperson.

In aid money, Israel performs rather less well. Leading the pack with funds intended to provide for emergency supplies and help sustain local rescue efforts came the United States with $10 million, followed by the UK with $5 million, Canada with $4.1m, Australia and Norway with $3.9 million each and the EU with $3.25m. Israel did not send money.

Israel is also a leading country in its efforts to rescue its stranded countrymen.

Some 2,000 Israelis were in Nepal when the quake struck Saturday. The vast majority have been rescued, with the remaining number estimated in the dozens and just one Israeli unaccounted for. Four planes were sent to airlift Israelis out, along with helicopters and jeeps rented for the effort, while a combination of IDF, insurance company-sponsored rescue teams and various volunteer groups helped reach nearly all the Israelis stranded in remote parts of the mountainous country.

In contrast, of 1,400 French citizens in the country when the quake struck, 676 remain unaccounted for. Some 550 Australians were in Nepal on Saturday; over 300 have not yet been located by authorities. Of 4,000 Chinese citizens, 683 are still unaccounted for.

Criticism Follows Israeli Aid to Nepal

May 15th, 2015

Bloomberg View
By Daniel Gordis, May 4, 2015

The IDF will see you now. Photographer: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

The IDF will see you now. Photographer: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

When a devastating earthquake struck Nepal on April 25, the Israel Defense Forces quickly assembled and sent one of the largest aid teams of any country. Its field hospital included 60 beds and an obstetrics department. A recent count noted that the Israeli physicians had conducted 33 surgeries, delivered five babies and were assisting in Nepalese hospitals, as well.

Reaching out to countries in need is a long-standing Israeli tradition. Emergency teams went to Turkey after an earthquake in 1999, and again in 2011, even though Turkey initially declined twice because of eroding relations between the two countries. Israel sent a large team to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, and in March 2011, it was the first country to set up a field hospital in Japan after the tsunami. Similar relief efforts were conducted in Mexico (1985), Armenia (1988), Greece (1999), Egypt (2004) and Kenya (2006).

And though Syria has been at war with Israel since the Jewish state declared independence in 1948, Israeli physicians have been treating victims of the Syrian civil war for years, sometimes in field hospitals and at times in Israel’s major hospitals. Israel has even been sending aid into Syria proper.

Israeli humanitarian aid, however, is unique in that it invariably evokes cynicism. Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch (an organization so hostile to Israel that even its founder rebuked it in disgust and later left the organization), tweeted “Easier to address a far-away humanitarian disaster than the nearby one of Israel’s making in Gaza. End the blockade!”

Israelis, too, have joined the pile-on. Haaretz, Israel’s hard-left-leaning paper of record, couldn’t help but point out that “once again, Israel is shining during a disaster thousands of miles away. But the people down the coast are another thing.” (Haaretz didn’t mention that Gaza’s Hamas government is sworn on destroying Israel, and unleashed a war against Israel’s citizens this past summer.) Another Haaretz column insisted that “Disaster relief feeds the illusion that we can somehow be clever, creative and cooperative enough to make the world absolve us of everything else that is wrong with what we do.”

Some Israelis, though, have had enough and are beginning to push back. In what started out as a Facebook post that eventually went viral and become a blog entry on the Times of Israel website, Haviv Rettig Gur wrote:

If I hear one more time that Israel’s field hospital in Nepal is somehow connected to the conflict with the Palestinians, I’m going to permanently block the person saying so on the grounds that they’re stupid. Here’s the thing: Israel is an entire … country, with all the complicated impulses and competing agendas of any human society. … The IDF doesn’t go to Nepal to avoid the Palestinian issue. It goes because Israelis have honed emergency medicine into an art form, and because the IDF has never quite shed its founding culture of adventurousness, and, above all, because there are people out there who desperately need help.

He’s right. When Golda Meir (who would have turned 117 this week) was foreign minister, she assembled her staff in 1959 to state unequivocally that aiding others is part of the very essence of Zionism. She said:

It has fallen to me to carry out Dr. Theodor Herzl’s vision. Each year, more and more African states are gaining national independence. Like us, their freedom was won only after years of struggle. … And like us, nobody handed them their sovereignty on a silver platter. … Israel’s nation-building experience is uniquely placed to lend a helping hand to the new African states. … We are going to send out to the new African states scores, even hundreds, thousands of Israeli experts of every sort — technologists, scientists, doctors, engineers, teachers, agronomists, irrigation experts. They will all have but one task — to unselfishly share their know-how with the African people.

She said that long before the Palestinian issue had arisen, long before Israel had an international reputation about which to worry. She said it because it was true. Whatever else one may think of Israel’s foreign policy, Haviv Rettig Gur is right: There are times that Israel does things — like sending aid abroad — simply because it is the right thing to do.

Christians Struggle to Maintain Legacy versus ISIS

May 9th, 2015

Arutz Sheva, www.israelnationalnews.com
By Gedalyah Reback, April 7, 2015

Decimated by 12 years of war in Iraq and Syria, Christians find refuge in Kurdistan and in a new militia.


 

Amid the ISIS assault on Iraq, minorities have borne the brunt. One of those groups is Iraq’s Christians, who before the 2003 US invasion were spread throughout the country with a sizeable community in the northwest.

The majority of Iraqi Christians come from the Syriac, Assyrian and Chaldean churches with affiliations mainly to the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. Most other denominations have had a presence in Iraq, but have never overtaken these Churches, which are among the oldest in the world.

But many of those Christian areas have been in the crosshairs of last year’s sweeping military advances by ISIS.

“In all towns and villages where ISIS rules, the Christian population has disappeared,” says Julie Lenarz, Executive Director of the Human Security Centre.

“Qaraqosh, a historic Assyrian city, was home to the largest Christian population in Iraq with approximately 50,000 members. Now the city is virtually devoid of its Christian population.”

This is not the first time a Muslim conquest has produced trouble for Christians there. In the early 1500s, the infamous Tamerlane swept through the area and beheaded an estimated 70,000 Christians in Tikrit and 90,000 in Baghdad. With that perspective, ISIS has not represented such a catastrophe – yet.

“When ISIS took control of Mosul, roughly 20,000 Christians initially stayed, but after the group issued an ultimatum – convert, flee or die – the remaining Christians had no other choice but to leave as well.”

“As well as attacks on Christians, there have also been attacks on Christian sites of worship, with deep historical value, particularly to the Assyrian community.”

Just last month, ISIS destroyed the Mar Behnam Monastery near the town of Beth Khdeda near the Kurdish border. The monastery had been built in the 4th century to memorialize a Christian martyr. This past Easter Sunday, ISIS also destroyed a church in the Syrian Kurdish (Rojava) city of al-Hasakah. The destruction of Christian heritage, both ancient and modern, is just bricks and mortar. Iraq and Syria over the last 12 years represent merely the latest iterations of existential threats to the Middle Eastern Christian rites.

“Less than 1% of the global Christian population lives in the Middle East and, as a result of discrimination, persecution and war, the proportion of Christians in the region has dropped from around 20% at the start of the 20th century to around 5% today. What we are witnessing now is only the latest phase of something that has been going for many decades.”

Christianity has been literally decimated by the onslaught in Iraq starting in 2003, then the Syrian Civil War which forced many resettled Iraqi refugees to return to northern Iraq in time for the current assault by ISIS.

“The number of Christians in Iraq has fallen from approximately 1.5 million prior to the US-led intervention in 2003 to 350,000-450,000 (data is unreliable and some estimate as low as 150,000). Many Christians had originally fled to Syria, but the civil war forced them to return to Iraq.”

“However, Christianity will not be eradicated in the Middle East,” says Lenarz. Judging by the moves many of them have made, Christians will remain in the region.

“Kurdistan currently host over 100,000 Christian refugees from other parts of the country and Lebanon has announced it will take in an additional 5000 Christian refugees.”

Perhaps under the radar of Western media, a large portion of the community has escaped to other parts of the Arab World. Many have gone to the Persian Gulf, where the economy and even the culture is far more open.

“The Gulf states, where religious minorities can practice their faith in relative freedom, have seen their Christian population surge from basically nothing a century ago to 10-13 percent and the trend is believed to continue.”

Most Christians hail from the Nineveh region in northern Iraq on the border between the Kurdish region and the rest of Iraq. Nineveh was once the capital of the historic Assyrian Empire, now the epicentre of an embattled Christian culture.

Yet, there are apparently silver linings in the storm clouds that are the region’s sectarianism.

“In the Nineveh Province of northern Iraq – a traditionally Christian part of the country where over 30,000 members of the community were forced to flee from ISIS – a Christian militia has been established which goes by the name of Nineveh Plains Protection Units (NPU).”

“It is approximately 4,000 men strong, is allied to the Iraqi Government and the Kurdish Peshmerga, receives funds from the Assyrian diaspora abroad and training from a private American security company.”

The Assyrian International News Agency reports that number might be as high as 5,500. Dr. Duraid Tobiya Zoma, an Assyrian and former adviser to the Governor of occupied Mosul, has said that to end Christians’ marginalization in the unified Iraq in the future that Assyrians “are requesting an autonomous region for Assyrians in the Nineveh Plain to protect them as the indigenous people, who are being extremely affected by ISIS.”

Despite attempts to organize the community to defend itself, the signs of a shifting future are already clear. This past Sunday’s Easter was one of emptiness for the community in a way not experienced in centuries.

“For the first time in 1600 years, no Christmas and Easter masses were celebrated in Mosul.”

Franklin Graham Warns Holocaust Might Be Repeated With Influx of Muslims in US and Europe Who Hate Christians and Jews

May 2nd, 2015

Christian Post
By Stoyan Zaimov, April 17, 2015

Jews from all over the world place small placards in front of the main railway building at the former Nazi death camp of Birkenau (Auschwitz II) in Oswiecim, southern Poland, May 2, 2011. Thousands of mainly Jewish people participated in the 17th annual "March of the Living," a Holocaust commemoration.

Jews from all over the world place small placards in front of the main railway building at the former Nazi death camp of Birkenau (Auschwitz II) in Oswiecim, southern Poland, May 2, 2011. Thousands of mainly Jewish people participated in the 17th annual “March of the Living,” a Holocaust commemoration.

The Rev. Franklin Graham warned on Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday that another holocaust might become a reality, pointing to the influx of Muslim immigrants into Europe and the United States, who he said are “bringing their hatred of Jews and Christians with them.”

“Could the holocaust be repeated? I’m afraid so. Anti-Semitism is at the highest levels since the late 1930s. This is coming from the influx of Muslim immigrants to Europe, the United States, and other Western countries over the past few decades, and they are bringing their hatred of Jews — and Christians — with them,” Graham wrote in a Facebook message.

“This is a poison. Muslims have been on TV in Europe spouting ‘Hitler should have finished the job!’ Have we learned anything from history?” he asked.

Muslim immigrants have at times expressed anti-Semitic views in TV segments, such as a group of teenage Turkish Muslim immigrants to the Netherlands who in March 2013 said on Dutch TV that Hitler “should have killed all Jews.”

Holocaust Remembrance Day was marked around the world on Thursday, remembering the 6 million Jews who lost their lives under the Nazi Regime during World War II.

Earlier in the day, Israel came to a standstill when marking 70 years since the end of the war, Haaretz reported.

President Reuben Rivlin participated in a ceremony at Kibbutz Givat Mordechai, and said: “Alongside the murdered, I think of you, the Holocaust survivors who are still among us, many of you displaced children who war and destruction tore from your families.”

He continued: “On this day, the painful questions arise. Do we have the means to raise our children with the heavy burden of memory, but free of the threat of horror? Can we commit them to memory in such a way that we can grow from them? Will it be possible to transform the memory of the Holocaust among the next generation into a power that builds, into national responsibility, creativity and vision?”

Graham has warned of rising anti-Semitism in the U.S. and Europe before, and back in March praised the release of the film “Return of the Hiding Place,” about a student resistance movement against Nazi concentration camps.

“This release is very timely and has modern-day application as anti-Semitism is rearing its head again in many parts of Europe and the United States,” Graham said.

The 70-year anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland was also marked in January, with speakers at the event warning of growing anti-Semitism.

“Once again young Jewish boys are afraid to wear yarmulkes [skullcaps] on the streets of Paris, Budapest, London and even Berlin,” said Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress.

“We survivors do not want our past to be our children’s future,” added Roman Kent, who was born in 1929.

On Independence Day, Former Defense Minister Says Israel Becoming More Independent Each Year

May 1st, 2015
Moshe Arens, Israel's former defense minister, said Israel becomes more independent with each passing year. PHOTO: Wikipedia.

Moshe Arens, Israel’s former defense minister, said Israel becomes more independent with each passing year. PHOTO: Wikipedia.

The Algemeiner
By David Daoud, April 22, 2015

Moshe Arens, Israel’s former Defense Minister, said that with every year that passes, the State of Israel becomes more independent than the previous years. His comments were made in an interview with Israel’s Walla news on Wednesday.

Though he admitted that Israel — just like all other countries in the world — is not entirely independent, because of the increased interconnectedness of the world’s nations as a result of globalization, he said that, “When I look at Israel in 2015 and compare it to the State of Israel when I served in senior positions in public service, I have no doubt that we have become more independent.” Arens added that Israel is “stronger militarily” than it was in the past, and therefore “less dependent on external security assistance.”

Despite emphasizing Israel’s increased independence, Arens had no illusions about the country’s dependence on the global community, particularly its relationship with the United States. He said, “this does not mean that we have achieved total independence — aid from the United States is still very important.” However, he added that, “there was a time when without American aid, which amounts to some $3 billion a year, it would have been very difficult to keep up the defense budget.” By contrast, now, “if for some reason this aid would stop — which I do not think will happen — Israel would be hurt, but it would be able to bear it.”

Arens also noted that, almost counterintuitively, “aid received over the years has made us more independent,” because it allowed Israel to “create infrastructure that allows us to continue towards increased independence in more and more domains.”

He did note his regret that Israel had chosen to cancel the Lavi project — a late 1980′s plan by Israel Aircraft Industries to develop a 4th generation multirole fighter that would have replaced Israel’s use of American aircraft. Arens’ regret comes from the fact that, “regarding fighter jets, we still have a certain degree of dependency on the United States, even though it’s shrinking.”

He added, however, that even when it came to the Lavi, “the Americans gave us, at the time, assistance to the tune of a quarter billion dollars, for the specific purpose of developing the aircraft, despite the fact that it would reduce our dependence on them in this area.”

Arens — who also served as Israel’s ambassador to Washington — believes that Israel can eventually reduce it military dependence on the United States. “I’m all for reducing aid because, alongside its important contributions to us, it also has negative side-effects. Aid comes with a preference for purchasing weapons systems from the United States, when there are often alternative Israeli products that we do not buy because of the commitments we have made to the Americans. So, in this sense, with all of the positives of the assistance, it also has negative side-effects.”

Israelis warned to steer clear of more than 40 countries

April 9th, 2015

Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA.org)
March 24, 2015

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Counter Terrorism Bureau in its spring travel warnings called on Israelis to stay away from more than 40 countries.

Recent terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists in Belgium, Canada, Australia, France and Denmark raise concerns over additional attacks against Western targets, including Israeli and Jewish targets, by veterans of the fighting in Syria and Iraq who are affiliated with Global Jihad, including Islamic State, and by local elements inspired by the terrorist organizations, the bureau said in a statement.

The bureau warned Israelis to avoid visits to Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Yemen and Saudi Arabia — it is illegal for Israelis to travel to those countries — as well as Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Burkina-Faso, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Pakistan and Togo, due to concrete threats. Any Israelis in those countries now were advised to leave immediately.

“The global terrorist campaign by Iran and Hezbollah continues to threaten Israeli and Jewish targets around the world, especially tourists and Jewish symbols (rabbis, community leaders, Chabad houses),” the bureau said.

The bureau also said there are high concrete threats regarding travel to Algeria, Djibouti, Mauritania and Tunisia, and basic concrete threats regarding travel to Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. There are continuing potential threats regarding travel to Azerbaijan, Turkey, Morocco, Oman, Kenya and Nigeria, according to the bureau, which recommends that the Israeli public avoid non-essential visits to these countries.

There are very high concrete threats regarding travel to southern Thailand, the southern Philippines island of Mindanao, Chechnya, the northern India state of Jammu and Kashmir, the Sinai Peninsula and northern Nigeria. A severe travel warning remains in effect for the Sinai Peninsula, according to the bureau.

The bureau said there also is a high concrete threat regarding travel to eastern Senegal.

The warnings were issued ahead of the spring holidays in Israel, including Passover and Independence Days, when many Israelis travel abroad. The warnings are based on “solid and reliable information, which reflect tangible threats, and which are based on the intelligence picture for the given period,” the bureau said.


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