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Three Days in the Holy Land

September 20th, 2014

townhall.com
Harry R. Jackson, Jr., September 3, 2014

Jerusalem
Early in August, I flew from New York to Tel Aviv. I was a part of a faith oriented solidarity trip, with Christians United for Israel, focused on supporting Israel from a prayer and public policy perspective. In my mind this was a humanitarian trip — it was made up of a diverse group of 51 ministers representing all 50 states plus Washington, DC. We prayed earnestly for the peace of Jerusalem and Israel. Of special concern to everyone was the protection of women and children of all faiths and ethnicities.

The three day trip to Israel was worth every moment we invested. We got a chance to talk with Israeli citizens who were practicing Christians, Jews, and Muslims. We were also allowed to view regions targeted by rockets, conflict zones, and selected sacred sites.

The most surprising bit of information we gathered was that nearly one out of every five Israelis is of Arab descent. Nowhere was this diversity more evident to us than in Jerusalem. Arabs and other minorities live with the full rights of citizenship in Israel, unlike Muslim controlled lands surrounding them — where religious freedom is almost non- existent.

Three questions flooded my mind during the eleven hour non-stop flight to the Holy Land of Christians, Muslims, and Jews.

  1. Why has the Palestinian-Israeli conflict grown so violent?
  2. How do we get women and children out of harm’s way?
  3. What role (if any) should the US play?

How we got to this point

The old adage correctly says, “Timing is everything!” In my opinion the best way to trace the origins of the most recent problems in Israel is to look to the pages of our international papers.

Reuter’s news service reported, “The June 12 abduction of Gilad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah, and Naftali Fraenkel triggered an escalation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.” Unfortunately, this was not just a random act of violence. On July 11 Hussam Qawasmeh, a resident of the West Bank city of Hebron, confessed to serving as the “commander” in the kidnapping. This was proof that Hamas initiated the current conflict.

Protecting innocents

During our visit we got a chance to meet the father of Gilad Shaer and discuss his perspective of the high price of armed conflict. Fathers on our team wept as they identified with the devastating grief and the senseless loss of life.

We learned at other points of our trip that tunnels had been planned and constructed for massive strikes into Israel for years. It is also obvious, to even the most casual observer, that Hamas has committed itself to a strategy of protecting their rockets by endangering innocent people. Further, random rocket attacks on Israel will obviously kill or maim Christians, Jews, and Muslims of all ages.

Therefore, there is nothing that an outsider can do to minimize the senseless loss of human life in that conflict. The decision to spare its own people must come from the Palestinians themselves.

America’s Role

I was greatly encouraged by President Barack Obama’s declaration, during our trip, that Israel has a right to defend herself — despite the United Nation’s concerns about “proportionality” in this war.

It is clear that without US financial support the famed “Iron Dome” missile defense system would have never been developed by Israel. Although our nation has been Israel’s biggest financial and military ally in these difficult days, we seem to be sending a mixed message.

Unfortunately, the international community has sent aid money to the Palestinians that may have been diverted to military and terrorist purposes. There seems to often be too few controls on the money given to the Palestinians. The world can ill afford to “supply both sides” of such a morally charged conflict.

The US government should attempt to be a voice for peace and for saving the lives of the innocent. Let our money be aligned with our rhetoric. Our US media needs to do a better job of presenting the facts of the conflict in the Middle East, in general, and Israel in particular. Finally, US citizens should push our Congress and Senate to continue to stand with Israel.

Some much needed moral clarity

During the trip, I felt uncomfortable with the fact that our discussions in Israel were consumed with the ugly realties of war and terrorism. Nonetheless, who better than clergy persons to discuss morality of a confusing war.

Theological history tells us that Saint Augustine was the first man of the cloth to develop a clear theory on war and justice. Augustine believed that some wars were necessary to protect the lives of women and children.

Saint Thomas Aquinas revised and enumerated Augustine’s theory creating three criteria for a just war:

  1. War must be waged by a legitimate authority,
  2. The party to conflict must have a just cause,
  3. The party to conflict must have right intentions.

Israel seems to be managing the delicate balance of conducting a just war, thus, my prayers are for Israel’s protection, true freedom for the people caught in the crossfire in Gaza, and our American leadership. If we act justly perhaps future generations will not have the same level of conflict and confusion that we experience today.

 


Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

Michelle Malkin: Deport the Tsarnaev Sisters

September 18th, 2014

Jewish World Review
By Michelle Malkin, September 3, 2014

Ailina Tsarnaev, sister of the Boston Bomber

Ailina Tsarnaev, sister of the Boston Bomber

The Sisters Tsarnaev have been nothing but trouble. Double, bubbling trouble. While their Boston Marathon bomber brother Dzhokhar awaits trial this month for the bloody 2012 attacks that killed three and injured hundreds, his elder Chechen immigrant siblings Ailina and Bella remain on the loose in the U.S. after their own frequent run-ins with the law.

Last week, Ailina was arrested in Harlem after allegedly threatening “to blow up her live-in lover’s baby mama,” as the New York Post reported. Police charged Ailina, 23, with aggravated harassment and released her.

Will the legal system learn? Ailina’s time in America sends one clear message: No consequences. More trouble.

In 2013, she was released without bail in South Boston in connection with a three-year-old counterfeiting case. Prosecutors said she obstructed their investigation. They charged her with willfully lying to police in 2010. She skipped bail in 2011. Upon turning herself in last year after the Boston bombing, she told the court she was indigent, pregnant and a single mother with one other child. The case was dismissed. She has bounced between shelters and shabby apartments shared with sister Bella.

Bella, 25, is a high school dropout and also a single mother. She arrived in the U.S. with jihadi brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan and sister Ailina in 2003. The family received a plethora of immigration and welfare benefits. In December 2012, she was arrested and charged with marijuana possession and distribution. Both of her brothers were also tied to illegal drug activity. Now-dead brother Tamerlan (killed in the post-Boston Marathon bombing shootout) was posthumously implicated in a horrific 2011 triple-murder in Waltham, Mass., that authorities believe was drug-related.
The sisters have visited their jihadi cult celebrity sibling Dzhokhar in jail, where he reportedly “joked” about federal restrictions on the visits. The Tsarnaev clan’s callous attitude and moocher culture run in the family. Mother Zubeidat, who radicalized eldest son Tamerlan in Islam, fled the country after being charged with shoplifting from a Lord and Taylor department store in Natick, Mass., in June 2011. There is still an outstanding bench warrant for her arrest. She has continued to badmouth America from the comfort of her home in Russia, despite accepting years of tax-subsidized housing vouchers and other entitlements.

At least bitter, rabble-rousing Zubeidat and her husband, Anzor, had the minimal decency to remove themselves from our country. Jobless troublemakers Ailina and Bella seem to have no compunction about continuing to burden America, while offering nothing positive or constructive in return. Their parents exploited our fraud-ridden asylum system, thumbed their noses at the law and passed on a culture of entitlement and criminality to their children.

If our public officials still value America, what are these worthless women still doing on our soil? Entry into this country is a privilege, not a right. Nor should this privilege be irrevocable and interminable.

Oh, and last time I checked, Emma Lazarus’ poem did not read: “Give me your grifters, your shoplifters, your bloodthirsty Muslim bombers yearning to abuse freedom in the name of Allah.”

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Remarks at Counter-Terrorism Conference – 2014, and transcript

September 16th, 2014

SEPTEMBER 11, 2014

Here is a video of the remarks that Benjamin Netanyahu made to the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism Conference on September 11, 2014. The complete transcript is printed below the video frame.

Here is the full transcript of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism’s 14th International Conference on Counter-Terrorism, September 11th, 2014.

Thank you, Professor Reichman, for that introduction.

There’s no meaningful power without responsibility. Well, you could have it but it’s worthless or worse, it could be very dangerous. So all of us entrusted in power, with power, have responsibility and I’ll talk about that later – what our responsibilities entail at this moment.

But I’d like to say a few words before that not only to you, our host, Dr. Ganor, who I remember from our youth, and the many guests here from abroad, but most especially to Ambassador Shapiro of the United States of America. As you know, Ambassador Shapiro speaks perfect Hebrew, but I want to say a few words in English to you and to the people of the United States.

We remember that day thirteen years ago and we mourn with you on this day for the thousands who lost their lives in that horrific attack. All of Israel mourned on September 11th. In Gaza, they were dancing on the roofs. They were handing out candy. That’s the moral divide. We mourn; they celebrate the death of thousands of innocents. And then when the US took out Bin-Laden, I speaking for virtually the entire country congratulated President Obama. In Gaza, Hamas condemned the US and called Bin-Laden a “holy warrior”, a holy warrior of Islam. That’s the moral divide. We celebrate; they mourn the death of an arch-terrorist.

Now that moral divide has never been clearer than it is today because Hamas, like al-Qaeda and its affiliates al-Nusra or its new growth ISIS or Boko Haram, al-Shabab, Hezbollah supported by Iran – all are branches of the same poisonous tree. All present a clear and present danger to the peace and security of the world and to our common civilization.

I believe that the battle against these groups is indivisible and it’s important not to let any of these groups succeed anywhere because if they gain ground somewhere, they gain ground everywhere. And their setbacks are also felt everywhere. If they gain ground, if they were to succeed, they would return humanity to a primitive early medievalism. I say early medievalism because my father, my late father was a great historian of the Middle Ages and I’d be giving them too much compliment – early medievalism, primitive early medievalism where women are treated as chattel, as property and gays are stoned and minorities persecuted if they’re left alive at all.

And these groups must be fought, they must be rolled back and they must ultimately be defeated. That’s why Israel fully supports President Obama’s call for united actions against ISIS. All civilized countries should stand together in the fight against radical terrorism that sweeps across the Middle East, sweeps across the world. And we are playing our part in this continued effort. Some of the things are known; some things are less known. We have always viewed it as our common battle for our common future.

Now the fight against Islamist terrorism has created new alliances in the Middle East because many Sunni Arab states recognize that the threat of Iran’s aggression and its radical Shiite proxies pose a fundamental danger to them, as does fundamentalist Sunni terrorism. And as a result of this, these twin threats of radical Shi’ism using terrorist tactics, radical Sunnism using terrorist tactics – as a result of this, they’re reevaluating their relationship with Israel and they understand that Israel is not their enemy but their ally in the fight against this common enemy. And I believe this presents an opportunity for cooperation and perhaps an opportunity for peace.

I think it’s crucial not to let the fight against Sunni extremism make us forget the danger of Shiite extremism. They are two sides of the same coin. We don’t have to strengthen one to weaken the other. My policy is: Weaken both. And most importantly, don’t allow any of them to get weapons of mass destruction. And that’s why the arrangement that was achieved in Syria to disband and take out the chemical weapons and chemical materials was so important. And I think President Obama had a very important achievement there. We understand what it would mean that any of these sides would have weapons of mass destruction because all you have to imagine is what would have happened if on 9/11 al-Qaeda had nuclear weapons. You know they would have used them against New York and against Washington. It’s unassailable.

These groups have absolutely no moral or other impediment to their mad desires. Once they have massive power, they will unleash all their violence, all their ideological zeal, all their hatred, with weapons of mass death. And all you have to imagine is what would have happened if al-Qaeda today had access to chemical weapons in Syria. Well then, project that: What would happen if the terrorist regime in Iran will have weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons? They control themselves today. They’ve put up a good front. But they have tremendous, tremendous ambitions. Not for Iran; for Shi’ism from Iran. And those ambitions would be unleashed once they have nuclear weapons in their capacity. They must not have it.

Now the world powers are now negotiating with Iran and I hope they make a good deal because a bad deal should not be made. I’ll tell you what a good deal is: The one that was made in Syria, because what that deal said was take the chemical weapons and the materials, the chemicals themselves and the means to make the weapons, out of Syria. They didn’t say to Assad, “Keep them, store them and we’ll put an inspector. You know, we’ll lock it with a padlock and we’ll put an inspector next to it”, because at any point Assad could kick out the inspector – I’m not saying that’s Inspector Clouseau… a good inspector. But the whole idea of breakout is you throw away the inspector and you rush, once you unlock the storehouses, you rush to make the weapons. That’s what Iran is seeking. Iran is seeking to keep the enriched nuclear material, to keep the centrifuges, to keep the means to make nuclear weapons in short order – we’ll put a padlock on it and we’ll put an inspector, inspectors there. And then at a certain point when there are international crises that consume our attention, and you know these never happen these days, right? Kick out the inspectors, break the lock, you break out. Within weeks, a few months, they have nuclear weapons. That’s a bad deal.

And if Iran has nuclear weapons, you will see a tremendous pivot in the world. No, not in the Middle East – in the world. You will see things you never imagined could be possible, horrors that you couldn’t even contemplate, come to fruition. The ultimate terror: A terrorist regime with the weapons of the greatest terror of them all. We must not let that happen.

So we have no shortage of threats and they have come about as a result of the collapse of the old order. It collapsed about a hundred years ago. It collapsed rather in a way that has not happened in the last hundred years, the so-called Arab Spring, which has not materialized as some people had thought. I think it’s now clear that the forces of democracy have not come to the fore and if anything, what we’ve seen is old regimes collapse and Islamist forces come to the surface, old hatreds – Shiite against Shiite, but primarily Shiite against Sunni, Sunni against Sunni – all come bursting from subterranean layers of history and frustration. And they all have one common goal. The goal is we establish a new Islamist dominion, first in the Middle East and in their warped thinking, throughout the world. They all agree on that. They are not limited in their scope to a territory. They’re not limited to borders. They are basically… they may be pivoted in a state, they may be anchored in a particular place, but their goal is to take the entire world, to cleanse it of infidels – first their own people, Muslims, and then everyone else. Madness.

They all agree that they have to establish a caliphate. They all disagree who should be the caliph. That’s the nature of their disagreements. And they all use essentially the same tactic and that’s unbridled violence, fear – fear – terror. And the terror is first of all imposed on their own peoples. That’s the number one target before anyone else. If your people want to rise up against you as they did in Iran five years ago, you kill them. You send out your troopers to the streets, besiege and just shoot them on the sidewalks. You steal millions of votes, people protest – you shoot them. But it’s not enough to shoot them one time. You constantly shoot them or to be more precise, in Iran you hang them.

Anywhere between 1,000 to 2,000 people are annually executed, executed in Iran. I’m not talking about criminals; I’m not talking about people who have broken the law – people who have the temerity to have a different view, question the regime. And they’re hung in public squares and sometimes they’re hung from cranes. They don’t have enough scaffolds. And you see the same thing, the same thing – it doesn’t receive the same prominence – from ISIS, same technique. You take over a population. The first thing is, yes, you lop heads off in this tragic barbarism that we witness, but you also take people to the burial pits and you shoot them by the hundreds and thousands.

And we’ve just seen the same in Gaza. During the fighting, there was a lull. Gazans went out to look at their surroundings, started protesting at what Hamas did to them and Hamas had a very simple thing in response – they shot them. These aren’t the executions you heard about. These are the executions you didn’t hear about. And then towards the end of the fighting, just to make sure that everybody gets the message, as in Iran, as in Iraq today, so in Gaza – they take out 25 people from the jails, Fatah people who have been there for years, and they accuse them – listen to this – they accuse them that they are the ones who gave Israel real-time intelligence for our military actions. Kind of hard to do. I don’t know. Maybe we dug a tunnel underneath, came to their jail cells, received… That’s not funny. They take them out into the public squares and they put a bullet in their heads for everyone to see.

So the tactics are uniform. Terror first of all against your own people. There’s a larger imperative. We know this. We’ve seen this before. There’s a master race; now there’s a master faith. And that allows you to do anything to anyone, but first of all to your own people and then to everyone else. And what do you do to everyone else? For that you use new techniques. And the new techniques involve first of all taking over civilian populations, putting yourself inside civilian areas contravening the laws of war and the Geneva Convention; using your people as human shields, the same people you execute; and then firing indiscriminately at civilians. You hide behind civilians, you fire on civilians. And you fire rockets and missiles. And this creates a whole new set of problems. And these problems are born of the fact that it’s much harder to fight this kind of terror – much harder. It’s much easier to fight an army: tanks, artillery, command centers, open spaces. You destroy that, you destroy the army. End of war.

But these people, because they’re forcing you to face up to the moral limits that democracies obey, are basically forcing you to fight a new war and that new war requires two things. It’s requires the ability to have precision-guided munitions to be able to target the terrorists who are targeting you from inside civilians areas, but to try to limit the damage – what is called collateral damage or the incidental civilians casualties that accompany any war. Here they’re placed right in there, deliberately, by the terrorists. So you need precision weapons. You also need very precise intelligence. But the second thing – and that’s very, very expensive. I’m going to say that in Hebrew in a second. We have defense budget discussions. That’s very expensive. It’s much more expensive than dealing with tanks or artillery or regular armies.

And the second thing you have to do is defend yourself against the missiles that they pour on your own population, what we call the rear but in this case it’s the front because your cities are targeted. Well, we figured out, with the help of the United States for which we’re deeply grateful, we developed a system to protect ourselves against this terror, these terror attacks from the sky. And that too is very, very expensive.

So dealing with this new type of war actually is more difficult than dealing with the old type of war. But that’s the war that we’re facing. That’s the terror war that we now face. We face Islamist terrorists who take entire communities, cities, populations, hostage; who execute dissenters; who hide among civilians; and fire on civilians. That’s the new war. We have to make sure that they don’t have weapons of mass destruction because they have no inhibitions. But we also have to make sure that we have the capability to attack them and to defend against their attacks. And that requires weapons, defensive and offensive, but above all it requires, I believe, clarity and courage – clarity to understand they’re wrong, we’re right; they’re evil, we’re good. No moral relativism there at all. These people who lop off heads, trample human rights into the dust – are evil and they have to be resisted. Evil has to be resisted. And the second, it requires courage and responsibility. It requires courage because all the other qualities that we could bring to bear in the battle against terrorism are meaningless if you don’t have courage.

I think we have reservoirs of both, but I think that we have to also recognize that we are in a great historic juncture. I may surprise you when I tell you that I think militant Islam will be defeated. I think it will be, I think it will ultimately disappear from the stage of history because I think it’s a grand failure – it doesn’t know how to manage economies, it cannot offer the young people to which it appeals any kind of future. It can control their minds for now but ultimately the spread of information technology will obviate that, will give people choices. But this may take a long time. And we’ve been able to predict in the past that radical ideologies – which inflame the minds of millions – set their sights on minorities, usually starts with the Jews, it never ends with the Jews. They ultimately fail too. That happened in the last century. But before they failed, they took down tens of millions with them and a third of our own people. That will never happen again.

Clarity and courage, alliances as broad as we can make them with those who understand that we’re in a common battle, and courage to see this through, to roll back an ultimate victory. I’m confident that militant Islam will perish, but we must not allow anyone to perish with it before it goes down. That’s our task.

Now I’d like to say a few words in Hebrew.

[HEBREW]

I notice there aren’t any translations here so I will add one other thing. I think there’s a potential for a regional and international alliance against the forces of tyranny and terror that threaten all of us, but our experience, the experience of the Jewish people, has said that you always seek alliances because every nation needs alliances. A super-power like the United States of America needs alliances and certainly a small country like Israel needs alliances. But ultimately the only guarantor of our existence and the ability to form alliances depends on our internal strength. Nobody seeks your alliance if you are weak. You have to be able to protect yourself and if there’s one change that has been brought about in the history of the Jewish people since the establishment of the Jewish state, it’s our ability to defend ourselves, by ourselves, against any foe. That was and remains the basis of our policy.

Thank you very much.

Music Video: Israel, You’re Not Alone

September 16th, 2014

With the turmoil currently happening in Israel, Zac Waller was recently inspired by the words “Israel, you’re not alone.”

Feeling a challenge to release this song immediately, due to it’s timely theme, Zac recorded a few scratch tracks on his own and then took the song to Nashville, TN. Within just a few days, a fully recorded, mixed, and mastered song was produced by a top quality studio in country music’s capital of the world.

His faithful media team took their cameras to downtown Nashville and rural Franklin, TN, and in less than half a day (and less than 48 hours before Zac and team were scheduled to fly to Israel), filmed a beautiful music video.

Israel raises alarm over Islamist militants on its frontiers

September 13th, 2014

Reuters
By Luke Baker, Jerusalem,  September 2, 2014

U.N. vehicles drive in Syria near the border fence with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights September 2, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

U.N. vehicles drive in Syria near the border fence with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights September 2, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

Israel’s frontier with Syria, where militants have kidnapped 45 U.N. peacekeepers, has become a magnet for Islamist activity and Israel itself is now a target, the defense minister and security analysts said on Tuesday.

The Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda-linked group fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has established a major presence in the region, analysts said, and is poised to carry out attacks across the barren borderlands where Syria, Israel and Jordan converge.

Iran meanwhile is seeking to expand its influence in the region via its support for Assad and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, all of which are allied against the Sunni insurgency confronting Assad, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said.

“Iran’s fingerprints can be seen in Syria, including in the Golan Heights, in attempts to use terror squads against us,” Yaalon told an economic conference as he set out the combined threat from Islamist groups in Syria.

In their latest assault, Nusra Front fighters seized 45 Fijians serving as U.N. monitors in the demilitarized zone on the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria. It is demanding to be removed from global terrorism lists in exchange for their release.

“We now have Jabhat al-Nusra, which is basically al Qaeda, on the border with Israel, and Israel is a legitimate target for Muslim militants all over,” said Aviv Oreg, a retired Israeli intelligence officer and a specialist on al Qaeda.

Oreg said it was only “a matter of time” before the Islamist groups now engaged in fighting in Syria turn more of their attention towards Israel.

“I cannot tell you exactly when, but it’s very risky. It only needs one suicide bomber to cross the fence and attack an Israeli military patrol or a tractor full of farmers going to work in the fields…”

But while Israel may be growing alarmed, it is not clear that the Jewish state is a strategic priority for Nusra or other radical Sunni Muslim groups.

Their focus since 2011 has been the overthrow of Assad, a campaign that has bogged down from infighting in their ranks and Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah’s intervention on the side of Assad.

If Israel is attacked in any serious way, the retaliation would likely be intense, setting back the insurgency and opening the way for Assad’s forces to further reclaim the initiative.

Israel has bolstered its forces in the Golan Heights, a rugged plateau seized from Syria during the 1967 war, with armored patrols keeping a close eye across the frontier, sometimes passing within 300 meters (yards) of Nusra fighters.

The plateau, scattered with fruit farms, vineyards and rocky peaks, looks down across the plains of southwest Syria, where Nusra and other groups, including the secular, Western-backed rebel Free Syrian Army, can be seen battling Assad’s forces.

After three years of fighting, opposition forces control patches of territory to the west and south of Damascus, including a portion of the 375-km (225-mile) border with Jordan.

That has allowed thousands of foreign fighters from both the Arab world and Europe to cross into Syria, including an estimated 2,000 Jordanians. At least 10 Israeli Arabs have also gone to Syria, five of whom were later detained after returning home, according to Oreg.

RISKY CORNER

The frontier between Israel and Syria has been administered by the United Nations since 1974, a year after the last war between them. It consists of an area of separation, a narrow strip of land running about 70 km (45 miles) from Mount Hermon on the Lebanese border to the Yarmouk River with Jordan.

About 1,200 soldiers are involved in monitoring the separation zone, in what has been for most of the past 40 years one of the world’s quietest peacekeeping missions. That changed with the uprising against Assad, and the area is now precarious.

Stephane Cohen, the former chief liaison between the Israeli army and the U.N. peacekeeping force known as UNDOF, said the U.N.’s mandate was now meaningless.

With the Philippines, Ireland and other contributing nations set to withdraw from the mission, it was questionable whether the United Nations could continue monitoring the area.

“UNDOF is collapsing and the mandate has not been relevant for at least two years,” said Cohen, now a defense analyst with the Israel Project, a pro-Israel advocacy group.

“Eighty percent of the border area is now in the hands of (Syrian) opposition forces,” he said, adding that if more nations withdrew, the militant presence would only rise.

For now, Israel is merely remaining vigilant.

“We have to be very cautious about our retaliation policy,” said Oreg, emphasizing that the priority should be to keep careful tabs on the Nusra Front and other groups’ capabilities, while sharing any intelligence judiciously.

 

Kerry: “The Real Face of Islam is a Peaceful Religion”

September 12th, 2014

CNSNews.com
By Brittany M. Hughes, September 3, 2014

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. (AP Photo/Lucas Jackson, Pool)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. (AP Photo/Lucas Jackson, Pool)

One day after the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) released a video showing the brutal beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff–the second American journalist ISIS has decapitated on video–Secretary of State John Kerry gave a speech saying that Islam is a “peaceful religion based on the dignity of all human beings,” and that ISIS is not “the real face of Islam.”

“I want to take advantage of this podium and of this moment to underscore as powerfully as I know how, that the face of Islam is not the butchers who killed Steven Sotloff. That’s ISIL,” Kerry said at a ceremony honoring Shaarik Zafar, who was just appointed as the State Department’s special representative to Muslim communities.

“The face of Islam is not the nihilists who know only how to destroy, not to build,” he said. “It’s not masked cowards whose actions are an ugly insult to the peaceful religion that they violate every single day with their barbarity and whose fundamental principles they insult with their actions.”

“The real face of Islam is a peaceful religion based on the dignity of all human beings,” Kerry said. “It’s one where Muslim communities are leading the fight against poverty. It’s one where Muslim communities are providing basic healthcare and emergency assistance on the front lines of some of our most devastating humanitarian crises. And it is one where Muslim communities are advocating for universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the most basic freedom to practice one’s faith openly and freely.

“America’s faith communities, including American Muslims, are sources of strength for all of us. They’re an essential part of our national fabric, and we are committed to deepening our partnerships with them,” Kerry added.

Kerry condemned Sotloff’s murder, as well as the killing of American journalist James Foley in July. As with Sotloff’s murder, ISIS filmed Foley’s beheading along with the threat to continue killing Americans unless President Barack Obama ceased ordering airstrikes against ISIS.

Shaarik Zafar, the State Department's special representative to Muslim Communiites. (State Dept.)

Shaarik Zafar, the State Department’s special representative to Muslim Communities. (State Dept.)

The United States “used every single military, diplomatic, and intelligence tool” to prevent the murders, Kerry said.

“For so many who worked so long to bring Steven and other Americans home safely, this obviously was not how the story was meant to end. It’s a punch to the gut,” he said.

“And the United States government, I want you to know, has used every single military, diplomatic, and intelligence tool that we have, and we always will,” Kerry said. “Our special operations forces bravely risked a military operation in order to save these lives, and we have reached out diplomatically to everyone and anyone who might be able to help. That effort continues, and our prayers remain as they always are, with the families of all of the hostages who remain trapped in Syria today.”

Kerry also highlighted the State Department’s “mission” to “unite religious communities,” explaining that “it’s a delusion to think that anyone can just retreat to their own safe space.”

“Why now have we made this such a mission at the State Department? Why elevate our engagement at a time when world events to some people seem so hopelessly divided along sectarian lines? And the answer is really very simple: It’s a delusion to think that anyone can just retreat to their own safe space, not when people of all faiths are migrating and mingling as never before in history,” he said.

“The reality is that our faiths and our fates are inextricably linked. And that is profoundly why we must do this now, because they are linked.”

Israel commemorates 9/11 attacks

September 11th, 2014

The Jerusalem Post
By JPOST.COM Staff, September 11, 2014

Ceremonies in Israel and around the world commemorate the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

US ambassador Dan Shapiro speaking at the September 11 memorial in Jerusalem.. (photo credit:KKL-JNF)

US ambassador Dan Shapiro speaking at the September 11 memorial in Jerusalem. (photo credit:KKL-JNF)

People around Israel commemorated on Thursday the 13th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, in which al-Qaida terrorists killed almost 3,000 people in the US.

A memorial ceremony was held by the Jewish National Fund at the site of the 9/11 Living Memorial in Jerusalem. US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro spoke at the ceremony along with other ambassadors from around the world, as well as representatives of the Israeli families who lost their loved ones in the attacks.

During a counter-terrorism conference at the The Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya concluding on Thursday in commemoration of the day of the attacks, a minute of silence was held close to the actual time that the first plane hit the World Trade Center in New York.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke about Israel’s shared sorrow with the US over the attacks.

“We remember that day thirteen years ago and we mourn with you on this day for the thousands who lost their lives in that horrific attack,” Netanyahu said. “All of Israel mourns on September 11.”

In the US, politicians, dignitaries and victims’ relatives were getting ready for ceremonies in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on Thursday to commemorate the attacks.

In what has become an annual ritual, the names of the victims will be read aloud at a ceremony in lower Manhattan, punctuated by moments of silence to mark the times when each of the four hijacked airliners crashed and the World Trade Center’s twin towers fell.

President Barack Obama is due to speak at the Pentagon during a private ceremony for relatives of the people killed in the attack on the headquarters of the US Defense Department by the Islamist militant group.

In New York City, it is the first commemoration ceremony since the opening of the museum at the National September 11 Memorial, along with the adjoining repository for unidentified victims’ remains.

The area, by turns a smoldering grave and an off-limits construction site for more than a decade, now is increasingly reconnected with the surrounding streets as rebuilding at the site nears completion.

Larry and Rachel Meltzer arrived an hour before the ceremony’s start, carrying folding chairs and wearing badges that bore a picture of Larry’s brother, Stuart, who was a trader in one of the towers when he was killed.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been 13 years,” Meltzer said before heading through the security checkpoint. “As far as the pain, I never forget and it never diminishes.”

Although the reconstruction has been plagued by delays, two of the new skyscrapers built around the site of the fallen twin towers are now open, while 1 World Trade Center, the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere, is due to open later this year.

While lower Manhattan may look and feel different this year, the external threat to the United States represented by the September 11 attacks remains.

The United States and its allies see Islamic State, a group that began as an offshoot of al-Qaida, as an increasing danger. On Wednesday, Obama said he had ordered an aerial bombing campaign on the group, which has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria and released videos of beheadings of two American hostages.

The only ceremony open to the public is at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where one of the four hijacked airliners crashed.

Reuters contributed to this report.

1,800 international high school students kick off new school year in Israel

September 5th, 2014

The Jerusalem Post
By LIDAR GRAVE-LAZI, September 2, 2014

Students arrived as part of Education Ministry’s efforts to operate, finance education programs bringing Jewish teens from around the world to study in Israel.
Read the rest of this entry »

Inside an ISIL town: “Raqqa is being slaughtered silently”

September 4th, 2014

The Telegraph
By Ruth Sherlock, and Carol Malouf, August 12, 2014

With almost no journalists — local or foreign — allowed to operate inside the ISIL-controlled Syrian town of Raqqa, informants give a grim account of life under the jihadists’ rule.

A fighter from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stands near burning confiscated cigarettes in the city of Raqqa  Photo: REUTERS

A fighter from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stands near burning confiscated cigarettes in the city of Raqqa Photo: REUTERS

The first time the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant crucified one of their prisoners, it was Abu Ibrahim, who notified the world.

Trying to steady his trembling hands, his camera phone concealed in his sleeve, the 23-year-old filmed as the executioners tacked the victim to a post in the town’s central square.

Standing amid a cheering crowd in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the “capital” of the jihadist’s embryonic Islamic State, Abu Ibrahim knew that if he was found out, the next crucifixion would be his own.

Abu Ibrahim is one of a 16-strong group of activists who, since ISIL seized control of Raqqa a year ago, have risked life and limb to document the medieval practices that the extremist group has imposed on their city.

With almost no journalists — local or foreign — allowed to operate in Raqqa, the information posted on the group’s website is one of the few insights into secretive ISIL, now deemed the central threat both to neighbouring Middle Eastern countries and to the West.

As well as documenting, often with pictures and video, the public executions that have become common place in Raqqa, the activists try to reveal the locations of jihadists’ headquarters and training camps.

The group said they had also tried to help American hostage James Foley, whom ISIL brutally murdered last week, by posting information on where they believed he was being held.

As America considers whether to extend its air campaign against ISIL in Iraq to Syria, the publication of such operational details could prove lethal for the jihadists.

The actions have put Abu Ibrahim and his colleagues at the top of ISIL’s “most wanted” list in Raqqa.

“In the last three sermons at Friday prayers [ISIL] declared us the ‘enemies of the Lord’,” said Abu Ibrahim, who, as with all his colleagues, spoke using a pseudonym. “My God, I don’t know how we are hiding but we are managing.”

ISIL regularly runs house-to-house searches, trying to find the operators of the opposition website, whose campaign slogan is “Raqqa is being slaughtered silently.”

Living in safe houses dotted around the city, the activists coordinate with each other via the internet, using complicated encryptions to protect their conversations from ISIL’s hackers.

“When we hear of an event to report, we never move through the street together,” said 26-year-old Abu Mohammed, another member of the group.

“For a public execution, we coordinate so that each of us is filming from a different position: someone might be standing close to the event, hiding the phone in their pocket; another one of us will film from a nearby building, and another from a shop across the street.”

It is incredibly dangerous work and already the group has lost one of its own: Motaz Billah, a man in his twenties, was publicly shot in the back of the head after the jihadists found he had been criticising them in a private Facebook forum.

“Motaz was arrested. Three days later we received a message from his Facebook account telling us he would be killed,” said Abu Ibrahim. “On April 29 they published the pictures of his execution.”

Regardless, Motaz’ friends pressed on, reporting on the increasingly weird and brutal space that Raqqa has become.

It has become “flooded” with foreign jihadists: “There are many Europeans here. The men are bringing their women and children with them,” said Abu Ibrahim. “You see them everywhere in the city. There are a lot of Dutch women. It’s shocking.”

As ISIL works to populate its Islamic State, the group has lavished special privileges on foreign arrivals, giving them free accommodation in homes the group has forced local residents to give up.

The once quite cosmopolitan streets are unrecognisable: shops – their shutters emblazoned with the ISIL logo, are closed five times a day for prayer, and religious police prowl, admonishing women if the black material of their burka even hints at translucence.

As international attention turned to ISIL’s onslaught in neighbouring Iraq, life worsened for residents in Raqqa.

The laws are enforced with an iron will: dissent is quickly punished by death.

Abu Ibrahim recalled watching as, last month, the jihadists forced locals to stone to death Fadda Sayyid Ahmed, a young woman.

“We don’t know what her crime was,” said Abu Ibrahim. “They anaesthetised her before so that when the rocks hit she wouldn’t scream.”

Aside from the punishments, the quality of life is increasingly dire in the city.

Thousands of civilians have been wounded in Bashar al-Assads increasingly frequent bombardment of the city, the activists said, but there is no medicine to help them.

“Most of the doctors have fled. Those that stayed have nothing to treat the patients with,” said Abu Ibrahim.

“The people of Raqqa are tired: the regime, the Free Syrian Army rebels and the international community has given up on us.”

But still Abu Ibrahim and his friends keep reporting, in the hope that at some point, some day, someone will send help.

The Gaza Dome

September 2nd, 2014

The UN criticized Israel and the U.S. for not supplying an Iron Dome for Gaza. Here is a solution to answer Gazans’ complaint that they have no missile defense like Israel’s Iron Dome: Place a dome over Gaza. A massive, strong, translucent barrier would deflect all missiles, incoming and outgoing alike.


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