50,000 Gather at Western Wall for Traditional Priestly Blessing

By: Yori Yalon; Israel Hayom-israelhayom.com

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman ‎attends service led by ‎Chief ‎Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau, Chief Sephardi Rabbi ‎Yitzhak Yosef and Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel ‎Rabinovitch • Jerusalem Police on high alert as its troops secure event.

Jewish worshippers take part in a priestly blessing at the Western Wall, Wednesday |
 Photo: Reuters

Some 50,000 people took part in the traditional ‎Sukkot priestly blessing ceremony at the Western ‎Wall on Wednesday.‎

The ceremony was led by Israel’s chief rabbis, Chief ‎Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau and Chief Sephardi Rabbi ‎Yitzhak Yosef, and Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel ‎Rabinovitch. ‎

The blessing concluded with the chief rabbis ‎receiving the Sukkot pilgrims.‎

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman also ‎attended the service.‎

The Jerusalem District Police were on high alert ‎‎Wednesday, security for the event. Roads leading ‎‎into the city were partially closed and security ‎‎checks were set up to ensure worshippers’ safety.

Prime Minister Theresa May says she does not underestimate threat posed by those who promote anti-Semitism

Jewish Telegraphic Agency – jta.org

A recent poll that found nearly 40 percent of British Jews would leave the country if Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn came to power “sickens me,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said.

“I do not underestimate the threat posed by those who promote anti-Semitism, or hatred in any form. Nor the pernicious nature of what those people say and what they stand for,” May said Monday at a United Jewish Israel Appeal dinner in central London.

“But I do not believe those voices speak for the vast, overwhelming majority of people in our country. … And most importantly, I do not believe that those voices will ever win. We will not let them win,” she told the audience of 800.

The poll appeared earlier this month in the London-based Jewish Chronicle.

“If we are to stand up for the values that we share, then one of the things we need to do is give young Jewish people the confidence to be proud of their identity – as British, Jewish and Zionist, too,” May said.

She offered her support to the British Jewish community and to Israel.

“I have come here tonight as prime minister of our country to say that I stand with you,” May said. “I stand with Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. And I stand with the entire Jewish community in Britain.”

May alluded to the fact that the Labour Party adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism after delaying the vote, but only after adding a free-speech clause on Israel.

She stressed her government’s adoption of the full IHRA definition.

“Criticizing the actions of Israel is never – and can never be – an excuse for questioning Israel’s right to exist, any more than criticizing Britain’s actions could be an excuse for questioning our right to exist,” the prime minister said.

“And criticizing the government of Israel is never – and can never be – an excuse for hatred against the Jewish people, any more than criticizing the British government would be an excuse for hatred against the British people.”

Trump Closing Palestinian Mission in Pro-Israel Move

AP News; townhall.com

Trump closing Palestinian mission in pro-Israel move

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is closing the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mission in Washington, the latest U.S. blow against the Palestinians and an international court during the stalled Mideast peace process.

Some things to know:

THE GIST

The administration’s move to close the PLO office in Washington is not directly connected to the Trump White House’s opposition to the International Criminal Court, although the administration is trying to link them.

But the Trump administration is trotting out discussions about the two on the same day — Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year — in a move certain to inflame the White House’s already bitter relations with Palestinians.

On the one hand, the State Department announced Monday that the administration is closing the PLO office in Washington because the Palestinians aren’t directly negotiating any peace agreement with Israel. A provision in a U.S. law says the PLO mission must close if the peace process does not go forward.

Meanwhile, National Security Adviser John Bolton discussed the U.S. refusal to recognize the ICC, which the Palestinians are trying to get to prosecute Israel for war crimes. He said the U.S. would retaliate if the ICC tries to prosecute any Americans over conduct in Afghanistan.

The administration is trying to draw a connection between the two and pressure Palestinians to talk directly with Israel. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert called the two developments “consistent.”

“This is yet another affirmation of the Trump administration’s policy to collectively punish the Palestinian people,” Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said.

WHAT IT MEANS

It’s another strike at a half-century of U.S. policy toward the region. For decades, even amid close U.S.-Israeli ties, Washington had tried to position itself as a neutral party in the vexing Mideast conflict, willing to call out both sides when they take steps seen as contrary to the pursuit of peace.

Several U.S. presidents in both parties have tried to broker a peace accord without success. The two-state solution envisions an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, with the boundaries negotiated in talks between the parties.

The U.S. does not currently recognize the Palestinian territories as an independent state, though the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in 2012 to recognize Palestine as a “non-member observer state.”

Closing the PLO mission in Washington almost certainly will stiffen the Palestinians’ opposition to any Trump peace plan now being worked on by Trump’s Middle East point men, son-in-law Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt.

The Palestinian leadership has been openly hostile to any proposal from the administration, citing what it says is a pro-Israel bias.

YANKING AID

The State Department announced this month that the United States is ending its decades of funding for the U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees. A week earlier, the administration slashed bilateral U.S. aid for projects in the West Bank and Gaza.

The U.S. supplies nearly 30 percent of the total budget of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, and had been demanding reforms in the way it is run. The department said in a written statement the U.S. “will no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation.” The decision cuts nearly $300 million of planned support.

Those cuts came after the Trump administration announced it was cutting more than $200 million in bilateral aid to the Palestinians and spend the money for “high priority projects elsewhere.”

UNRWA was founded after the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation to serve some 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were uprooted from their homes. Today, it provides education and social services to over 5 million people across the region.

Hamas militants control Gaza, and the U.S. said the militants were endangering “lives of Gaza’s citizens and degrades an already dire humanitarian and economic situation.”

One issue the U.S. has had with support for the Palestinian Authority had been its stipends paid to the families of Palestinians killed, injured or jailed for attacks on Israel. Israel and the Trump administration, have repeatedly demanded that those payments from a so-called “martyrs’ fund” be halted because they encourage terrorism. PLO President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to do so.

The Palestine Liberation Organization quickly denounced the decision, calling it “the use of cheap blackmail as a political tool.”

US EMBASSY

Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign promised to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem. The consulate opened in May with a star-studded reception that included the president’s daughter, Ivanka and Kushner, as well as Israel’s top leaders.

Israel killed more than 60 Palestinians, including a 14-year-old girl, during protests that followed. It was the bloodiest day since a war between Hamas and Israel ended in 2014.

Israel said it is defending its border and accuses Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, of trying to carry out attacks under the cover of the protests.

WHAT THE PLO HAS SAID

PLO Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi called the U.S. policy “blackmail” that “once again seeks to punish the Palestinian people as a whole who are already victims of the ruthless Israeli military occupation.”

___

Associated Press Writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report.

Why U.S. Plans to Slash Aid to Palestinians Make Israel Uneasy

By Rick Gladstone, New York Times; wral.com

The United Nations agency that assists Palestinians who are classified as refugees has received more than $6 billion in American funding since its creation nearly seven decades ago, making the United States the agency’s single most important donor.

But over the past year, the Trump administration has made it increasingly clear that it regards the agency as part of the problem in resolving the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Beginning in January, the administration reduced funding for the agency, which in some ways functions as a quasi government. The cuts threw the agency into its worst financial crisis.

On Friday, the administration said it would stop all funding for the agency, calling it an “irredeemably flawed operation.” The disruption could further upend the lives of roughly 5.4 million Palestinians who rely on the agency’s services in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Here are questions and answers about the agency, officially known as the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA for short:

Q: What does UNRWA do?

A: Originally intended as a temporary relief provider, UNRWA was established in 1949 to assist more than 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. Its operations are almost entirely funded by voluntary contributions from U.N. member states.

UNRWA has greatly expanded over the years and now runs schools for more than a half-million children. It also provides health care, food, jobs, emergency loans, housing assistance and other services to Palestinian refugees.

Q:What are the risks if UNRWA can no longer operate?

A: Many diplomats and political experts say the funding disruption to UNRWA is dangerous, injecting new instability into the Middle East at a time when tensions are already rising between Israel and its neighbors, particularly in Gaza, the Palestinian enclave of 2 million, where UNRWA is an important lifeline for roughly half the population. Even Israeli officials, who have long held a mixed view of UNRWA, are nervous because Israel’s defense establishment has long warned that sudden cuts to UNRWA funding could be destabilizing.

Q: Why has the Palestinian refugee population multiplied?

A: This question is a source of long-standing dispute. The descendants of the original refugees are also regarded as refugees under UNRWA’s mandate, which obliges the agency to provide services “until there is a just and lasting solution to the political situation,” said Peter Mulrean, director of UNRWA’s New York office. This means UNRWA has now served four generations of Palestinians.

The agency also does not necessarily remove Palestinians who have acquired citizenship in a new country from the list of registered refugees, further swelling the population.

Q: Why is this regarded as such a problem?

A: The passing of refugee status from parents to children is seen by Israel as one reason resolving the Palestinian conflict is so difficult. Refugees have the right of return to their homeland, which in this case includes areas that are now part of Israel. The prospect that millions of Palestinians could someday resettle in Israel is seen by many Israelis and their supporters as impossible.

Critics of UNRWA also contend that it has evolved into a sprawling welfare bureaucracy that perpetuates a culture of dependency among the Palestinian population, making the refugee problem even more insurmountable. UNRWA officials respond that they are adhering to the agency’s mandate of helping refugees until a permanent solution is reached.

Q: These are not new issues. What changed when President Donald Trump took office?

A: The Trump administration indicated early that it would be far more sympathetic to Israel’s side of the conflict than the administration of President Barack Obama. Within his first year in office, Trump announced that he was moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the contested holy city that the Palestinians also want for their capital in a future independent state. The action infuriated Palestinian leaders, who said the United States had forfeited its role in helping to negotiate any peace agreement.

Trump and his aides, angered by the Palestinian response and by what they viewed as ingratitude for American largess, began signaling that they would reduce financial assistance. Administration officials, led by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, complained that other countries should contribute more to UNRWA. In January, the administration withheld more than half of a scheduled $120 million payment and left future payments for fiscal 2018 in doubt.

UNRWA officials, caught by surprise, said they had been led to believe that the United States would provide the same funding as the roughly $360 million provided in fiscal 2017. Suddenly they faced an enormous deficit in UNRWA’s $1.25 billion budget.

Q: How did UNRWA respond?

A: Pierre Krähenbühl, the commissioner-general of UNRWA, warned that without emergency infusions from other countries or an easing of the U.S. position, the agency would be forced to drastically cut services, including schooling. He began an urgent fundraising campaign.

Donations from European and Arab nations helped raise $238 million. But last month UNRWA cut more than 260 jobs and reduced mental health services in an austerity move, and said that the school year might be delayed.

On Aug. 16, Krähenbühl announced that UNRWA schools would open on time, but he said the agency still faced a $217 million shortfall that could shut down schools and other services before the end of the year.

Q: What will happen if the United States does not restore UNRWA funding?

A: On Friday, the Jordanian foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, said his country would host a fundraising event for UNRWA at the U.N. headquarters during the General Assembly session in September. At a meeting with Krähenbühl, Safadi said the event’s aim was to “close the gap and put in place a plan that will ensure UNRWA’s continued, ongoing funding for the coming years.”

The German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said his government had pledged to significantly increase its future contributions, from roughly $94 million this year to an unspecified larger amount, Reuters reported Friday. It quoted him as saying that “the loss of this organization could unleash an uncontrollable chain reaction.”

 

Institutionalizing AntiSemitism in UK’s Labour Party

By: Melanie Phillips; Jerusalem Post – jpost.com

The real task, therefore, is to start telling the British public that virtually everything they hear about Israel from the media and intelligentsia is a lie.

BRITISH LABOUR Party leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives to vote in local government elections in London on
BRITISH LABOUR Party leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives to vote in local government elections in London on May 3. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Britain’s Labour Party has a major problem with rampant antisemitism. It knows it has to deal with it.

So what has it done? Dug itself so much further into this particular hole that some in the party fear it has now dug its political grave.

On Tuesday, the party’s governing National Executive Committee (NEC) redefined antisemitism in such a way that it has legitimized it within its own ranks.

In its new code of conduct on antisemitism, it adopted a definition which significantly differed from the one created by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

The IHRA definition has been recognized around the world and adopted by the British government and numerous British official bodies. Yet in its new code, Labour twisted it by excising its application to attacks on Israel.

Labour’s code says: “In general terms, the expression of even contentious views in this area will not be treated as antisemitism unless accompanied by specific antisemitic content (such as the use of antisemitic tropes) or by other evidence of antisemitic intent.”
So Labour members can continue with impunity to call Israel a “Nazi” or “apartheid” state, smear its defense forces as “child-killers” or accuse British Jews supporting Israel of dual loyalty unless there is evidence of “antisemitic intent” – very difficult to prove – or “specific antisemitic content.”

This is a circular argument of Orwellian proportions. For the code defines antisemitism solely as bigotry against Jewish people or institutions. It does not define it as bigotry against the State of Israel.

But most antisemitism on the Left takes the form of obsessive and paranoid falsehoods, distortion and double standards directed at Israel’s behavior, with much of this onslaught echoing the tropes of medieval and Nazi Jew-hatred. This targeting of Israel as the collective Jew is the new antisemitism.

As such, the extraordinary fact is that in order to tackle antisemitism in its ranks Labour has now become a party of institutionalized antisemitism.

So bad is this situation it has even managed to bring together in unprecedented unity 68 rabbis, some of whom habitually refuse to share a platform with certain other rabbis, as signatories on the same letter of protest.

The issue now threatens to tear Labour apart. On Monday evening, the parliamentary Labour Party voted overwhelmingly to endorse the full IHRA definition – only for the NEC to overturn this the following day.

This provoked the veteran Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, whose relatives were murdered in the Holocaust, to call Labour’s far-left leader Jeremy Corbyn “an antisemite” to his face when she confronted him in the House of Commons.

The Israel-Palestine conflict, she said, had been “allowed to infect the party’s approach to growing antisemitism.” In adopting its new code, the NEC had chosen “to make the party a hostile environment for Jews.”

Astoundingly, the leadership has reacted by threatening to discipline Hodge for “bringing the party into disrepute.” So get this – a party that has institutionalized antisemitism is now accusing a Jewish protester that she has brought it into disrepute! You really couldn’t make this stuff up.

YET THERE’S something odd about this crisis. It’s all just about a form of words. Does anyone really believe that if the Labour leadership were to cave in and adopt the full IHRA definition, antisemitism in the party would then be properly addressed and go away?

After all, the fact that the full definition has been widely accepted has not prevented the usual calumnies and distortions in the way the British media have been misreporting the violence from Gaza.

It has not prevented the media failing to report the hundreds of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians and weeks of incendiary airborne devices setting fire to acres of Israeli farmland, while misrepresenting Israeli air strikes in response as aggression. It did not prevent an interviewer on BBC Radio’s Today program the other day berating an Israeli spokesman for killing children in Gaza.
The key point is the refusal to acknowledge that the campaign of irrational, mendacious and obsessive incitement against Israel is the new form of antisemitism.

Yet although Israel has been attacked in this way for years, virtually no one has called this out. The Anglo-Jewish community leadership ran a mile from it.

On TV in 2002, I was accused to my face of dual loyalty. At another time during that decade, I attended a debate at which one panelist said, with virtually no push-back, that British Jews now needed to choose between supporting Israel and remaining loyal British citizens. This antisemitic trope has now been commonplace for years.

The Jewish leadership has always been nervous about linking Israel with antisemitism, believing that Israel merely “complicated” the issue. But today, it is the issue.

Now British Jews find themselves caught up in an internal Labour Party war over it. The real agony for them is that the climate in Britain has deteriorated to such a point that Labour feels licensed to treat British Jews – as Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has said – with unprecedented contempt.

They plan a continuing campaign to get Labour to adopt the full IHRA definition. But that is to continue avoid confronting the elephant in the room.

This is the fact that so many on the progressive side of politics have swallowed the Big Lies about Israel. And that includes a dismaying number of British Jews themselves, who do things like recite kaddish for Hamas terrorists killed by Israel to prevent them murdering Israelis.

These Jews for Injustice against Jews who demonize and delegitimize the State of Israel provide cover for Labour’s new antisemitism. This stretches far beyond the Corbynite hard Left; it is in fact the default position for most of liberal and left-wing society.

The real task, therefore, is not to adopt the IHRA wording. It is to start telling the British public that virtually everything they hear about Israel from the media and intelligentsia is a lie; that anyone who supports Palestinianism is endorsing the most profound and demonic kind of antisemitism; and that Israel stands unambiguously for law, justice, truth and human rights, and that those who vilify it are themselves repudiating all these things.

Will British Jews finally step up to the plate and start saying all this? Unlikely. Why? It’s not just their timidity. They first need to start believing it themselves.

 

Hezbollah’s Indefinite Presence in Syria

By: Sirwan Kajjo; Gatestone Institute – gatestoneinstitute.org

  • After more than seven years of fighting alongside the Assad regime in Syria, the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah is highly unlikely to make an easy exit from the war-torn territory, no matter what supposed agreements are reached or promises made.
  • Hezbollah fighters are now in control of much of Syria’s border with Lebanon. In fact, the Shi’ite terrorist group is in charge of controlling the Lebanese side of the border, despite the presence of the Lebanese military, which is weak.
  • With no end in sight to Syria’s seven-year war, Hezbollah will undoubtedly continue its military expansion, causing more instability in an already volatile region.

After weeks of shuttle diplomacy allegedly carried out by Russia and Israel, Iranian forces and allied militias — including the so-called “military wing” of the Lebanon-based organization Hezbollah, all of which has been designated as a terrorist group by the US — reportedly began to withdraw from parts of southern Syria, near Israel’s border. According to other reports, however, many Hezbollah fighters, disguised as members of the Syrian army, have simply remained on their bases to escape being targeted by the Israel Air Force. Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Israel’s air force has carried out sporadic strikes against Iranian and Hezbollah bases and convoys across its neighbor on the north. After more than seven years of fighting alongside the Assad regime in Syria, the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah is highly unlikely to make an easy exit from the war-torn territory, no matter what supposed agreements are reached or promises made.

In a televised speech on “Quds Day” — which Iran has marked every year since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 — Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah addressed his supporters as follows:

“We are in Syria because we should be there. The Syrian leadership has asked us to be present there based on developments in the ground…. Gulf states and Israel must know that we will be happy when we return our men to Lebanon… we will be happy and we will feel victorious to complete our mission. So what keeps us in Syria is our duty and the Syrian leadership, but at the same time I would like to tell you even if the entire world decided to remove us from Syria, we will not leave.”

Nor does it seem that the Syrian regime is in a rush to tell Hezbollah to leave the country. In a recent interview with an Iranian state-run news channel, Syrian President Bashar Assad said, “Hezbollah is an essential element in this war — the battle is long and the need for these military forces will continue for a long time.”

Having helped defeat anti-regime rebel forces in the suburbs of Homs, Aleppo and Damascus, Hezbollah fighters are now in control of much of Syria’s border with Lebanon. In fact, the Shi’ite terrorist group is in charge of controlling the Lebanese side of the border, despite the presence of the Lebanese military, which is weak. The areas in which Hezbollah operates are of great importance to the group, which uses the mountainous terrain as a route to transport military equipment between Syria and Lebanon. So entrenched is Hezbollah in that region that it has managed to build multiple military bases within a small radius.

With those fronts of Lebanon and southern Syria already secured, Hezbollah fighters increasingly have moved to the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria to aid the Syrian military in its battle against Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists. Meanwhile, Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed militias – such as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) — are largely in control of strategic areas along Syria’s border with Iraq.

Not far from those frontiers, the U.S.-led coalition has been aiding Kurdish-led forces to push out ISIS from other parts of Deir Ezzor. The months-long campaign has liberated large strategic areas from ISIS. More than once, however, these two anti-ISIS campaigns have come head to head in Deir Ezzor, leaving the U.S. with no choice but to defend its local partners.

Once ISIS is completely defeated in these areas, Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed groups could be better positioned to wage attacks on U.S. interests there and elsewhere in Syria.

With no end in sight to Syria’s seven-year war, Hezbollah will undoubtedly continue its military expansion, causing more instability in an already volatile region.

Hezbollah soldiers on parade. (Image source: VOA video screenshot/Wikimedia Commons)

 

Islam’s Erasure of Christianity

By: Raymond Ibrahim; raymondibrahim.com

A recent article titled “Passages from the Bible discovered behind Qur’an manuscript” is a reminder that for centuries Islam has been literally and figuratively erasing Christianity.

The report tells of how an eighth century Koran was found to be written over a Christian book, possibly the Bible: “French scholar Dr Eléonore Cellard … noticed that, appearing faintly behind the Arabic script, were Coptic letters. She contacted Christie’s [an auction house], and they managed to identify the Coptic text as coming from the Old Testament’s Book of Deuteronomy—part of the Torah and the Christian Old Testament.”

What this means, and how Western scholars understand it, are two different things:  “This is a very important discovery for the history of the Qur’an and early Islam,” said Cellard.  “We have here a witness of cultural interactions between different religious communities.”   Christie’s specialist Romain Pingannaud concurs: “It shows the contact between communities in the first centuries of Islam.”

What is euphemistically referred to as “cultural interactions between different religious communities” and “the contact between communities in the first centuries of Islam” is a reference to the near cultural annihilation of Coptic Christian civilization by Islam on the former’s own homeland.  The closest the report gets to this simple fact is by saying:

Christie’s… believes that the manuscript is likely to have been produced in Egypt, which was home to the Coptic community, at the time of the Arab conquest. It said that the fragments “resonate with the historical reality of religious communities in the Near East and as such are an invaluable survival from the earliest centuries of Islam.”

For an accurate glimpse of this “historical reality,” one need only turn to John of Nikiu, a Coptic bishop and eyewitness of the seventh century Muslim invasion of his Egyptian homeland.  He recounts atrocity after atrocity perpetrated by the Muslims against the indigenous Christians, simply because the Muslim invaders deemed “the servants of Christ as enemies of Allah.”  His chronicle is so riddled with bloodshed that John simply concludes, “But let us now say no more, for it is impossible to describe the horrors the Muslims committed…”

Once the conquest was over, the “rightly guided caliphs”—Muhammad’s relatives and companions—forced the “milk camels [Egypt’s Christian population] to yield more milk” by squeezing them dry of their wealth and resources, write the Arab chroniclers.  Apocalyptic scenes permeate contemporary accounts concerning these times of wholesale extortion followed by starvation: “the dead were cast out into the streets and market-places, like fish which the water throws up on the land, because they found none to bury them; and some of the people devoured human flesh” from starvation, writes the chronicler Severus Ibn al-Muqaffa (d.987).

In short, and to quote nineteen century historian Alfred Butler, “that they [Egyptian Christians] abhorred the religion of Islam is proved by every page of their history.”

The Islamic takeover and financial bleeding of Egypt (documented in my new book, Sword and Scimitar) was always accompanied by a war on Egypt’s Christian heritage and nearly snuffed it out (as it did in other formerly Christian lands, from North Africa to Anatolia).[1] In the eleventh century, Fatimid caliph Hakim bi-amr Allah ordered the destruction of 30,000 churches, including Christendom’s most sacred church, that of the Sepulchre in Jerusalem.  Saladin, who overthrew the Fatimids, ordered mud smeared on Egypt’s churches, and their crosses broken off.  Then came nearly three centuries under the Mamluks, who were even more repressive than their predecessors.  Under their reign, Coptic ceased to be a living language, as the punishment for speaking it included the severing of one’s tongue.

Such is the “cultural interactions between different religious communities” that the scholars are fascinated over.

Erasing a Coptic language Bible and supplanting it with the Arabic Koran is a reminder of Islam’s enforced erasure of all Christian vestiges in Christianity’s ancient heartlands.   The more entrenched Islam became in Egypt, the more Coptic culture—from its language to its churches—slowly disappeared, or was rendered invisible through a number of edicts (commonly known as the Conditions of Omar).

Even the already circulating Christian coins that the caliphate appropriated had their crosses effaced so as not to resemble crosses.   Islam’s erasure of Christianity in its own homelands continues to this day, including in its war on churches, and in even more subtle ways—such as literally erasing Christianity from the history books.

Yet Christie’s specialist Romain Pingannaud’s claims that the recent eighth century Koran find is “quite extraordinary…  It’s fascinating, particularly because it’s the only example where you have an Arabic text on top of a non-Arabic text. And what’s even more fascinating is it is on top of passages from the Old Testament.”  The report elaborates by saying that such books (palimpsests) are “extremely rare … with only a handful having been previously recorded, none of which were copied above a Christian text.”

Erasing Christian books of their scriptures and supplanting them with the Arabic Koran was actually par for the course.  Dario Fernandez-Morera writes that one celebrated Muslim cleric held “that the sacred books of the defeated Christians must be burned to make them ‘disappear’—unless one can erase their content completely so one can then sell the blank pages to make a profit.  But if one cannot sell these erased pages, they must be burned” (The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise, 41).

Happily, and as this recent discovery of a Christian text under the Arabic Koran suggests, sooner or later, everything will be uncovered—including the eyes of Western people to Islam’s past and present.

————————–

[1] As Alfred Butler explained “[T]he burdens of the Christians grew heavier in proportion as their numbers lessened [that is, the more Christians converted to Islam, the more the burdens on the remaining few grew]. The wonder, therefore, is not that so many Copts yielded to the current which bore them with sweeping force over to Islam, but that so great a multitude of Christians stood firmly against the stream, nor have all the storms of thirteen centuries moved their faith from the rock of its foundation.”

As a teen, he boxed his way through Auschwitz…

…At, 92 he is one of the world’s oldest living journalists.

By: JTA Staff; jta.org

(JTA) — As a prisoner in Auschwitz, Noah Klieger narrowly escaped death through sheer audacity: Selected for the gas chamber on account of his pneumonia, Klieger managed to talk himself out of the sentence in a personal encounter with the Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. Later, he faked his way on to a boxing squad at Auschwitz that enjoyed better meal rations.

After liberation, he arrived in prestate Israel aboard the Exodus ship and fought in the 1948 War of Independence. Klieger went on to a storied career in journalism, authoring several books and a longtime column in the Israeli daily Yediot Acharonot.

 

A Full 97 Percent of Israeli Jews Host or Join a Seder

Jewish News Syndicate; jns.org

The reasons have heritage at the core: “That’s how my family behaved throughout the generations,” “that’s how I express my Jewish culture,” and “it makes me feel like I am taking part in history.”

A family seen during the Passover Seder on the first night of the holiday in Tzur Hadassah, Israel, on March 25, 2013. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash 90

According to a Jewish People Policy Institute survey of 3,000 respondents, 97 percent of Israelis Jews say they either host or participate in a Passover Seder, compared to the 2013 Pew Study’s finding of 70 percent of American Jews who participated in the Seder the prior year.

Continue reading “A Full 97 Percent of Israeli Jews Host or Join a Seder”

Hopeless in Gaza

By: Clifford D. May; defenddemocracy.org (The Washington Times)

Gaza has been an unhappy place for a long time but the situation is now reportedly growing desperate. Jobs are scarce, electricity is intermittent, drinking water is unsafe, and raw sewage released into the Mediterranean is washing up on Gaza’s white sandy beaches.

How did this happen? A one-paragraph history: Ruled by the Ottomans for centuries, then ruled by the British for decades, in 1948 the territory was taken over by Egypt. The Israelis seized it in 1967, the outcome of a defensive war in which Israel also took the West Bank from Jordan. In 2005, the Israelis withdrew from Gaza, thinking that might pave the way to a resolution of their conflict with the Palestinians. Instead, the two dominant Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, went to war with one another. After two years, Hamas emerged on top.

A front-page takeout in The New York Times this month gives voice to Gaza’s suffering masses. Accompanying photos, artfully composed, show a woman begging, shopkeepers behind bars for not paying their debts and patients in a hospital looking grim.

Jerusalem bureau chief David M. Halbfinger concludes that Hamas has “few options.” He adds: “The one it has resorted to three times — going to war with Israel, in hopes of generating international sympathy and relief in the aftermath — suddenly seems least attractive.”

Did you get that? The New York Times sees nothing alarming, certainly nothing to criticize, about Palestinians contemplating “going to war” against Israelis to improve their economic situation. Would the newspaper take the same attitude toward any other peoples anywhere else in the world?

Also notice what was not mentioned: that Hamas might contemplate giving up its goal of destroying Israel; that it might, as the saying goes, “Give peace a chance!” Not only did that option not occur to Mr. Halbfinger, it also apparently didn’t cross the minds of other “Gaza experts” to whom he turned. Nathan Thrall, an analyst for International Crisis Group, tells him simply: “Hamas itself has few ways to alleviate the crisis.”

Just for grins, imagine this: Hamas stops spending hundreds of millions of dollars (mostly drawn from foreign aid) building missiles to fire at Israeli cities, and digging tunnels to infiltrate terrorists into Israeli villages where they are to spray bullets at men, women and children, and drag others, as hostages, into the holes leading back to Gaza.

Further imagine: In response to such a suspension of hostilities, Israel stops building an underground anti-tunnel system with a price tag of roughly $1 billion. Israel offers to spend those funds to assist the people of Gaza instead.

With Israel’s cutting-edge technology, Gazans soon have all the clean drinking water they need, all the electricity they want, and a sewage system unlike any in the Middle East (outside Israel).

And were another war between Hamas and Israel to be seen as unlikely rather than inevitable, do you not think Gazawould become much more attractive to job-creating investors? I wonder if there are Syrians and Yemenis who wish they had such an alternative available to them as a way to relieve their (much more intense) deprivation.

OK, enough imagining. Most “Gaza experts” no doubt do regard such ideas as crazy or at least unrealistic. The “disarmament of Hamas appears to be nonnegotiable” write David Makovsky and Lia Weiner of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in a report published last month on Gaza’s “humanitarian situation.”

I could end this column here but there’s one more layer that ought to be peeled from the onion. Mahmoud Abbas is the Palestinian Authority president but he does not rule Gaza’s two million residents. He dares not even set foot in the territory. But rest assured he is doing everything he can — to make the crisis there worse.

Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and currently Israel’s deputy public diplomacy minister, wrote last week: “Abbas recently cut the salaries of Palestinian Authority officials in the Gaza Strip by 50 percent, and fired thousands more.

He has suspended welfare benefits to families in Gaza, generally cut budgets to the coastal enclave, and is again trying to limit the power supply, despite the winter cold, thus exacerbating Gazans’ suffering. Perhaps in his cruelest move yet, he has also suspended the delivery of vital medicines to Gaza, including for infants and children, and significantly reduced the funding for medical care for Gazans in Israel.”

Why would he do such things? Because, Mr. Oren explains, he wants Hamas to start another war with Israel — one that would end with Israel soundly defeating Hamas and expelling it from Gaza once and for all.

In the aftermath, Israel would “be accused of war crimes and Abbas himself would lead the charge, in an attempt to benefit twice: He would be hailed for having dealt Hamas a final blow, and would be revered for defending the Palestinians from the Zionists.”

To prevent this scenario from playing out, and to avoid letting Mr. Abbas “fight Hamas down to the very last Israeli soldier,” Mr. Oren argues that Israel should take significant steps to alleviate the crisis in Gaza — expecting nothing in return.

Less than a decade after Israel’s founding, Golda Meir, who would go onto to become Israel’s fourth prime minister, was famously quoted as saying: “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.” Hamas‘ parental affections have not evolved. As for the immiserated people of Gaza, perhaps they lack the courage to challenge Hamas. That would be the hopeful explanation.

Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a columnist for The Washington Times. Follow him on Twitter @CliffordDMay.

Follow the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Twitter @FDD. FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.