Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was born April 28, 1937 and died December 30, 2006. He was the fifth President of Iraq, holding that position from July 16, 1979 until 9 April 2003. He was one of the leading members of the revolutionary Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, and afterward, the Baghdad-based Ba’ath Party and its regional organization Ba’ath Party, Iraq Region, which advocated ba’athism, an ideological marriage of Arab nationalism with Arab socialism. (Patricia Ramos, july 2013)
"The national security of America and the security of the world could be attained if the American leaders [..] become rational, if America disengages itself from its evil alliance with Zionism, which has been scheming to exploit the world and plunge it in blood and darkness, by using America and some Western countries. What the American peoples need mostly is someone who tells them the truth, courageously and honestly as it is.
They don’t need fanfares and cheerleaders, if they want to take a lesson from the (sept. 11) event so as to reach a real awakening, in spite of the enormity of the event that hit America.
But the world, including the rulers of America, should say all this to the American peoples, so as to have the courage to tell the truth and act according to what is right and not what to is wrong and unjust, to undertake their responsibilities in fairness and justice, and by recourse to reason..."
Saddam Hussein, INA 15-9-2002
"The despot thinks he is just as God... What a nadir and mean fate!
The despot, as represented in this age, in our day, imagines he can enslave the people..
But they were born free. They were freed by God’s will through prophets and messengers, to be slaves only to Him and not to anyone of the people." Saddam Hussein, Iraq Daily 4-3-2003
A person with a God Complex may refuse to admit the possibility of their error or failure, even in the face of irrefutable evidence, intractable problems or difficult or impossible tasks.
The person is also highly dogmatic in their views, meaning the person speaks of their personal opinions as though they are unquestionably correct.
Someone with a god complex may exhibit no regard for the conventions and demands of society, and may request special consideration or privileges.
"That is the issue that will continue in this country... It is the eternal struggle between these two principles -- right and wrong -- throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time, and will ever continue to struggle.
The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings." Abraham Lincoln (October 15, 1858 Debate at Alton, Illinois)
"Happy day, when, all appetites controlled, all poisons subdued, all matter subjected, mind, all conquering mind, shall live and move the monarch of the world. Glorious consummation! Hail fall of Fury! Reign of Reason, all hail!" Abraham Lincoln (February 22, 1842 Temperance Address)
"...To be a human being among human beings, and remain one forever, no matter what misfortunes befall, not to become depressed, and not to falter - this is what life is, herein lies its task." Fyodor Dostoevsky (to his brother Mikhail, Dec. 22, 1849)
“All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly.
“Do not therefore do injustice to yourselves. Remember one day you will meet Allah and answer your deeds. So beware, do not astray from the path of righteousness after I am gone." Prophet Muhammad, Last Sermon
According to the Qur’an, arrogance is a sin
"You will surely find the most intense of the people in animosity toward the believers [to be] the Jews and those who associate others with Allah ; and you will find the nearest of them in affection to the believers those who say, "We are Christians." That is because [..] they are not arrogant." Quran Al-Maidah, 5-82
“Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you can not retain.”
(Persian poet & humanist, born in Shiraz, Iran, c. 1210)
"Holism is the most fundamental discovery of 20th century science. It is a discovery of every science from astrophysics to quantum physics to environmental science to psychology to anthropology.
It is the discovery that the entire universe is an integral whole, and that the basic organizational principle of the universe is the field principle: the universe consists of fields within fields, levels of wholeness and integration that mirror in fundamental ways, and integrate with, the ultimate, cosmic whole...." "For many thinkers and religious teachers throughout this history, holism was the dominant thought, and the harmony that it implies has most often been understood to encompass cosmic, civilizational, and personal dimensions. Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Lord Krishna, Lao Tzu, and Confucius all give us visions of transformative harmony, a transformative harmony that derives from a deep relation to the holism of the cosmos."
About political holism
Political holism is based on the recognition that "we" are all members of a single whole. There's no "they," even though "we" are not all alike. Because "we" are all part of the whole, and therefore interdependent, we benefit from cooperating with each other. Political holism is a way of thinking about human cultures and nations as interdependent. Political holists search for solutions other than war to settle international disagreements. Their model of the world is one in which cooperation and negotiation, even with the enemy, even with the weak, promotes political stability more than warfare.
In an overpopulated world with planet-wide environmental problems, the development of weapons of mass destruction has rendered war obsolete as an effective means to resolve disputes.
Political dualists consider political holists unpatriotic for questioning the necessity to defeat "them." In times of impending war, political dualists tend to measure patriotism by the intensity of one's hostility to the country's immediate enemy. Naturally, they would view as disloyalty any suggestion that the enemy is not evil, any call for cooperation with the enemy, any criticism of one's own country.
To political dualists, cooperation with the enemy means capitulation, relinquishment of the nation's position of dominance. At its extreme, political dualism is essentially tribalism. (Betty Craige, 16-8-1997)
Desmond Tutu & Ubuntu
"A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed."
"We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World.
When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity." (Ubuntu info)
David Schenker, a director at the Washington Institute for Near East policy, is to be assigned the top Middle East post at the State Department, as part of the ongoing shakeup ordered by President Donald Trump.
DEBKAfile’s Washington sources report that Schenker, a friend of Israel [..], is a former senior adviser to Donald Rumsfeld, when he served as defense secretary in the George W. Bush administration.
He is the second non-diplomat to receive a high State Department appointment since Trump entered the White House. As assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, he will follow Andrew Peek, a former military intelligence officer, who was named deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran.
Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have been conducting a quiet revolution in the department to replace the professional diplomats who led former administration policies for appeasing Iran, promoting certain Arab and Muslim circles and antagonizing Israel.
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a spin-off the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is an influential beltway think tank whose members have advocated a host of hawkish, “pro-Israel” policies over the years.
It is considered a core member of the “Israel lobby,” a constellation of policy and advocacy groups devoted to pushing an Israel-centric U.S. agenda in the Middle East. Many of WINEP’s current and former scholars have been closely associated with neoconservatism, and the organization has generally been supportive of the “war on terror” policies pushed by groups such as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Right Web)
Russia, Iran and the Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah – have reinforced the regime. The European Union's decision to lift the arms embargo will not immediately reverse momentum in favor of the rebels, but it is an important first move away from the ambivalence that has characterized western policy toward the Syrian conflict for too long.
Until now, the EU and the US have done relatively little to suggest they really want the opposition to win...
In fact, more than a year ago, the EU and US essentially delegated the task of arming the opposition to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, states inclined, respectively, toward Salafism and the Muslim Brotherhood. Consequently, many Islamist militias have ascended in Syria, some of which are affiliated with al-Qaida. The end of the embargo paves the way for Europe to start providing weapons to vetted, non-Islamist rebel forces. Well resourced, these units will attract more followers, inflicting more damage on regime forces and acting as a serious counterweight to Islamist militias.
When Assad is eventually vanquished, the changed dynamic on the ground will better enable non-Islamist units to compete in the fight for Syria's future.
It's true that adding any more arms to the Syrian arena may, in the short-term, help the opposition needlessly kill more people. It's also true that some of these weapons could wind up in the hands of Islamists....
But anything short of Assad's defeat would be a setback not only for Syrians, but for Washington and its European allies.
Less than a year into Bush's term, the 9/11 incident and the anthrax mailings put the country into a state of hysterical fear. The neocon advisers capitalized on that hysteria by claiming that Saddam Hussein had connections to Islamic terrorism and the 9/11 attack. Also, they claimed he was developing nuclear and biological weapons for attacking the US and its allies. The only way to end the terrorist threat, the Bush administration said, was war against Saddam.
It is now known that a cabal of neocons, operating in the "Office of Special Plans" under the direction of Douglas Feith, had fabricated intelligence for consumption by Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush. The intelligence they fabricated was completely wrong.
Saddam had no nuclear weapons, no biological weapons, no uranium from Niger, no connection to al Qaeda and no connection with the terrorists who attacked the US on 9/11. Neocons with hands-on involvement in the cooking of intelligence ['fake news'] included William Luti, Abram Shulsky and David Schenker.
President Donald Trump took aim at the media and author Micheal Wolff in a Saturday evening tweet.
" So much Fake News is being reported. They don’t even try to get it right, or correct it when they are wrong. They promote the Fake Book of a mentally deranged author, who knowingly writes false information. The Mainstream Media is crazed that WE won the election!"
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 13, 2018
Trump has repeatedly derided Wolff’s book which portrays him as a chaotic leader in a White House full of aides who do not respect him or trust in his ability to his job. The book also includes incendiary quotes from former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon targeting Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump.
Wolff’s book has ignited a firestorm of media speculation that Trump is mentally unstable and unfit for office. The president responded to this speculation soon after the books publication by declaring he was “a very stable genius.”
Trump is a man at war. He’s a man in search of American Gothic. He wants to turn back the clock. Before it’s too late.
So yes, Trump did say, “Why are we having all these people from shit-hole countries come here?”
He denies the slur, but either way, there’s OMG delirium from sensitive Liberals and even a few ever so touchy Conservatives.
All of whom find only flaws in Trump but perfection in themselves…like Senator Dick Durbin putting on airs and feasting on Trump’s apparent snafu.
What’s the UN if not exactly that – a hellhole that near unanimously votes against the only Democracy in the Middle East, Israel, every Monday and Thursday?
Where exactly did Trump go wrong except for putting too much salt on the truth? Democrats want to swarm America out of existence. That is no secret anymore. Democrats want to rule through the votes they see coming from those millions of infiltrators. Democrats want our Jewish/Christian values expunged. No wonder of all the other nations of the world, Trump favors Israel. We think alike.
Democrats won’t be satisfied until America becomes a hellhole like the rest of the world. Only a month ago, 128 nations at the UN voted to disgrace the United States for siding with Israel as regards Trump’s Jerusalem Declaration.
Does anybody really want those shit-holes coming here?
Breaking with Zionism can be a life-shattering experience.
In Israel, the Jewish-Israeli society is by and large Zionist – in degrees varying from the so-called ‘liberal-Zionist’ to the fundamentalist Zionist. There is not really, necessarily, much of a difference when one speaks of this breaking experience in one faction or the other. The thing with Zionism is, that its adherents basically see it as a kind of ‘essence of life’.
Raanan Gissin, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s top adviser and spokesman (2001-2006), says that Sharon — a secular Jew — has long been calling for more Jewish text study in the secular schools... Teaching Jewish heritage isn’t only about building identity; at the risk of sounding racist, its about ensuring the survival of the tribe.” (Interview 2001)
The Zionist indoctrination teaches that it’s about ‘our very existence’. The ‘us’ is generally considered to be ‘the Jewish nation’ or ‘the Jewish people’, and hence the individual is seen as a small part in this.
As the survival of the whole also encompasses the individual, any breaking with Zionism is considered a kind of societal treachery, which endangers the strength and even survival of the ‘whole’.
Narratives challenging the factual veracity of the ‘survival’ notion, like pointing out the thriving Jewish existence elsewhere, is rather meaningless for Zionists.
Under the Zionist meta-narrative, this is all temporary. Jewish thriving is temporary, and simply awaits a point in time wherein the gentiles will again ‘turn on the Jews’, because that’s what happens “in each and every generation”, as the Passover chant goes.
And the Zionist answer to this supposedly perilous, eternal state of affairs, is a Jewish nation-state. So in the bigger paradigm, Zionists simply see the solution – the Jewish nation-state, as a survivalist solution.
They are therefore not inclined to see any ‘problems’ ensuing from it, such as human rights violations and challenging of international law, as more than mere obstacles or challenges facing this ‘special case’ – Israel...
In other words, Zionism renders the supposed values of ‘liberalism’ meaningless. It may well be that ‘liberal Zionists’ consider liberal values to be their highest goal, but when it comes down to the competition between Zionism and liberalism, Zionists will go Zionist...
Zionism renders the supposed values of ‘liberalism’ meaningless
So when a break occurs, it is a break that will inevitably lead one to reconsider the totality of the indoctrination and set of values one was brought up with.
The breaking with Zionism becomes a core breaking by oneself with a whole value-system with which one was raised. One’s family and peers register that one’s distance is not merely ‘political;’ it is, inevitably, about one’s essential nature of being.
Zionists perceive this as a suggestion that they, the Zionists, are regarded as ‘others’ of lesser values, and instinctively register that regard as an offense, even throwing them back to the ‘anti-Semitic’ idea of Jews as lesser beings (even when it is a Jew breaking with Zionism). This is offensive to a Zionist’s whole being, on so many levels. They will inevitably feel a natural aversion to the person...
People who are in such a society – the one which upholds and enshrines Zionism – know all this instinctively. The price of breaking with Zionism can be high. It’s not only a breaking with society, it’s a breaking with one’s past. For most people, such a price is considered simply too high.
Mahmoud Abbas has sharply criticised Donald Trump, saying the Palestinian Authority (PA) will never accept the US president's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The PA president made his comments on Sunday at the start of a two-day central council meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Ramallah.
"Politically, Jerusalem is our capital; in our religion, it is our capital; geographically, it is our capital," said Abbas. "But it was removed from the map with a tweet from Mr Trump," he added.
"Now we say 'No' to Trump, we won't accept his plan - we say the 'deal of the century' is the slap in the face of the century," noted Abbas, referring to the US president's pledge to achieve the "ultimate deal" - peace in the Middle East.
The Palestinian leader also said that Israel had "ended" the Oslo peace accords of the 1990s with its actions, and also called the US ambassadors to the UN and to Israel - Nikki Haley and David Friedman - a "disgrace".
In his speech, Abbas criticised Hamas and Islamic Jihad for not attending the central council meeting. He said that this was a time where the Palestinians needed to get together because Jerusalem is the religious, cultural and political capital of Palestine.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) was offered the Jerusalem-area Arab town of Abu Dis as the capital of a future "Palestinian state," PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday. Speaking at a meeting of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Central Council, Abbas said, "Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Palestine...our future is in danger."
"What would you want if Jerusalem were to be lost? Would you want to make a state with Abu Dis as its capital?
That’s what they are offering us now. Abu Dis."
Abbas said he had refused the offer. "We won’t take orders from anyone," he said. "We will not accept it." (Arutz Sheva, 15-1-2018)
Oded Revivi, Chief Foreign Envoy of the YESHA Council, the official representative organization for the 450,000 Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria, released the following response to Abbas' speech:
"The corrupt Palestinian Authority was a creation of the Oslo-Accords. If the Oslo process is dead as suggested by Abbas - it would follow that the Palestinian Authority and its leadership are irrelevant. It's time to find alternative Palestinian leaders and alternative peace plans.. (Arutz Sheva, 14-1-2018)
If the new Trump administration is serious about peace, it should be made clear to the Palestinian Authority that any efforts — official and unofficial — that intimidate, threaten or harm Palestinians who choose to engage in friendly relations with their Israeli neighbors are unacceptable and will harm their relationship with the United States.
The U.S. Embassy in Israel can be a catalyst and natural home for these types of meetings, which could be the harbingers of true peace.
My recent audience with Trump special envoy Jason Greenblatt in Jerusalem signified the administration’s breaking with decades of failed U.S policy, which ignored Israelis residing in Judea and Samaria and banned American diplomats from entering our communities.
Instead of ignoring us, the U.S. should empower those of us willing to sit together with Palestinians to improve lives on both sides.
The American public voted for Donald Trump with the hope that he would provide new solutions to old problems. The Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas is an old problem that needs a new solution...
We have advised the new Trump Administration that a total paradigm change will be needed to achieve long-term peace in our region,” Revivi added. “The President would be ill-advised to prop-up a corrupt Palestinian Authority, whose billionaire dictator is unable to pay his own electricity bills, let alone run an independent state.”
"Jerusalem, Capital of Palestine," is an idea created after the Six Day War and further developed after the Oslo Accords were signed in September 1993. Arafat turned it into a mantra, while official Israel – Shmon Peres, Yossi Beilin, Alon Liel and their cohorts – did nothing to stop him. They told us that the expression is meant for a Palestinian Arab audience, i.e. for "internal use" only.
"Millions of shahids are on the march to Jerusalem!!" Arafat shouted day and night, but they told us to ignore it, that these were empty words, merely a pipe dream. The world, led by Europe, went along with this Palestinian house of cards, financing it with billions of dollars over the years in the hopes of turning it into a real concrete structure, simply ignoring reality.
The world did not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and allowed Jerusalem to turn into another major bargaining chip in the "Peace talks". The world perpetuated the "Palestinian refugee problem" despite the fact that not one refugee remains of all the others who existed in the 1940s. Even Germany, which absorbed and rehabilitated the Sudetenland residents expelled from Czechoslovakia, did not demand that the Arab world do the same and absorb the "Palestinian refugees".
That double standard is what perpetuated the Palestinian Arab refugee problem, turning it into a central bargaining chip in negotiations between Israel and its neighbors...
" the Palestinian problem is now seen by them as nothing more than a nuisance"
Donald Trump understood that the Palestinian structure is made of cards, left standing only because of the world's going along with European leadership, American liberal circles, the Arab states and a few Israelis suffering from burn-out.
Trump understood that the Palestinian ideological structure is full of holes and decided to pull two foundational cards out of the ephemeral structure: the Jerusalem card and the refugee card... Trump pulled the refugee card from the house of cards by announcing that he would cease to fund, support and perpetuate it. That act is a thousand times worse than recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, because the refugee issue has been capitalized on for seventy years, with billions of dollars poured into it, all going to waste. Without adequate funding, the "refugees" are liable to spread out and be absorbed in the areas to which they move on, within the Arab world and outside it. The "refugee problem" and its threat to Israel might even disappear.
Abbas understands that his house of cards, lacking Jerusalem and refugees, is about to collapse and disappear... The feeling that he has lost his compass is what made him lose his temper and abandon the discretion that has always characterized his behavior, leading him to return to the depths of Arabic culture with an imprecation aimed at Trump –"May your house be destroyed."
Abbas does not have the Arab world standing behind him. Quite the contrary, the Iranian issue has pushed many Arab states closer to Israel and since the Arab nations are mired in a plethora of their own internal problems, the Palestinian problem is now seen by them as nothing more than a nuisance. Abbas' speech this week, one in which he dug his own grave, symbolized the collapse, death and burial of the "Palestinian issue"..
Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. He served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena.
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has hailed the accomplishments of late president Gamal Abdel-Nasser on the occasion of his 100th birthday, saying that he exerted his utmost efforts to ensure Egypt's well-deserved regional and international status.
In a televised speech on Monday, El-Sisi said Nasser - who was born on 15 January,1918 - the Egyptian nation’s ability to carry out independent economic development and to defeat poverty and ignorance.
“Egypt today celebrates the birth of Gamal Abdel-Nasser whose life-journey embodied the people's hopes for independence and dignity," said El-Sisi. "He expressed those hopes with devotion and pride. That's why the Egyptian people have continued to hold him in high regard, even after his death, and his name remains a symbol of the people's hopes for controlling their destiny."
El-Sisi added that the late president worked hard during his period in office, operating within the limitations and requirements of his era.
“Abdel-Nasser’s influence extended to inspiring the revolutions of national liberation, not only in the Arab region, but globally, because the struggle of the Egyptian people under his leadership was inspirational and motivational to liberation movements in Africa, Asia, and Latin America,” El-Sisi said. Egypt became a symbol of principles of national dignity, independence, and non-alignment in political foreign policy, El-Sisi added.
The late president believed in the Egyptian people’s ability to accomplish national self-development, said El-Sisi, as well as fighting poverty, ignorance and disease, which were the result of centuries of foreign occupation and the exploitation of the resources and riches of Egypt, and of other nations.
“He gave special importance to achieving social justice, to provide the vast majority of the nation with opportunities for a decent life,” El-Sisi said. Born in Alexandria to a family which hailed from Upper Egypt's Assuit, Nasser remains a symbol of dignity, pan-Arabism, and social justice for millions around the Arab world.
The Philosophy of the Revolution
Pragmatic and logical approach
Gamal Abdel Nasser was a giant of the twentieth century who curiously is not well-remembered today. He was ahead of his times. The world powers that constantly opposed his attempts to mainstream Egypt into the world while he was alive may long for his forward-looking pragmatic and logical approach compared to the backward-looking Islamist extremism rife in the region today. ...
Nasser wrote a short personal book titled “Egypt’s Liberation: The Philosophy of the Revolution” about his ideas and dreams. It reveals a sweeping yet deeply analytical mind and acute observer of human behavior whose periods of disillusionment and exhilaration were intense. First published in 1955, his book was all but ignored by the world. (Rompedas 23-7-2009)
DOROTHY THOMPSON: Abdul Nasser was looking for constructive ideas, for men ready to subject their personal ambitions, interests, and hatreds to a concentrated and consecrated effort for the renaissance of the nation.
"We needed order but we found nothing behind us but chaos. We needed unity . . . we found dissension. We needed work . . . we found indolence and sloth. . . . Every man we questioned had nothing to recommend except to kill someone else. Every idea we listened to was nothing but an attack on some other idea. If we had gone along with everything we heard we would have killed off all the people and torn down every idea, and there would have been nothing to do but sit down among the corpses and ruins. ...
"We were deluged with petitions and complaints . . . but most of these cases were no more or less than demands for revenge, as though a revolution had taken place in order to become a weapon in the hand of hatred and vindictiveness."
David Michael Satterfield (born December 18, 1954) is an American diplomat and U.S. Ambassador, who has served extensively in the Middle East, He served as a Senior Advisor on Iraq for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice... He has served since September 2017 as Assistant Secretary of State (Acting) for Near Eastern Affairs.
A 30,000-strong border force is being set up east of the Syrian Euphrates, bordering southern Turkey and northern Iraq. Syrian Kurds comprise half the army, with the remainder made up of local Arabs and others. The US is the entrepreneur of this new project, and it is the new player that has decided at last to get engaged in the Syrian war through supporting local opposition groups and working on the ground, in order to impose its view of the political solution in Syria.
Asharq Al-Awsat daily was the first to notice the accelerating changes, and described them as a project for the birth of a new state in Syria.
In his recent testimony to Congress, David Satterfield, acting Assistant US Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, said the project would constitute a new model in Syria.
And from his testimony, the proposed mini-state appears to be a project with many ambitious goals, which involves the efforts of diplomats, intelligence officers and military commanders.
This time the US surprised everyone by showing that it could come up with new ideas, building a project from scratch and keeping it secret. Under the guise of fighting Daesh in eastern and southern Syria, the US gradually increased its forces and experts to about 5,000, more than half of them in the east of the Syrian Euphrates. Moreover, it has been training a large force of about 30,000 Syrians. The first opposing reaction did not come from the Syrian or Iranian regimes, as was expected, but from Turkey. Ankara announced that it would not accept the American project and that it would fight the armed Syrian Kurds, who it views as an extension of the “terrorist and separatist” Turkish Kurds. Everyone is expecting military action by Turkish ground forces in Afrin in the next few days.
The skeptical Turkish position toward any Kurdish armed force on its border is justified and understandable, but Turkey’s refusal to confront Iran in Syria created a vacuum that necessitated the creation of an alternative force for this task.
The new [US-controlled] force could be the best option to achieve peace in Syria, not the Russian and Iranian peace of Sochi, which is planned to impose a solution by force. Iran wants a peace that allows it to occupy Syria and dominate Lebanon and Iraq...
Turkey is entitled to complain about America’s new project on its southern border, but such action was necessary to thwart Iran’s malign attempts to manipulate the Syrian conflict to its own advantage. There is an important American message to the Iranian regime — that Syria would be Iran’s Vietnam.
Yasser Al-Farhan, a member of the opposition delegation [National Coalition], has spoken about the agreement that was violated by the Iranians. “Maps were clearly drawn showing that areas should stay out of the control of the regime, and that they should be under the administration of local councils..."
As we have seen, the Iranian militias did not respect the agreement, Russia did not force them to respect it, nor did the Turkish forces interfere. These Iranian activities prove that the Sochi agreements are not credible, which makes the existence of a parallel force a necessity in the context of the regional race for the control of Syria.
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.
A delegation of the Syrian Negotiations Commission, headed by Nasr Hariri, on Monday met with the European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and with Head of the Middle East Unit in the European Commission Michael Miller.
The meetings came as part of a visit by the Commission to the European Union. The two sides exchanged views on the latest developments in Syria, especially with regards to the humanitarian aspect. Both sides stressed that the Assad regime should not be allowed to take on the distribution of EU aid deliveries inside Syria and the need to deliver humanitarian aid to those in need and in besieged areas.
Hariri urged the European Union representative to convey the details of the suffering of Syrian civilians as a result of bombing and siege by the Assad regime, Russia and the Iranian militias to the EU member states. He urged the EU to take the necessary measures to put an end to the atrocities being committed by the Assad regime and its allies against the Syrian people.
Mogherini stressed that the EU sanctions on the Assad regime will not be lifted before political transition in Syria is achieved and UN Security Council resolution 2254 and the Geneva Communiqué of 2012 are fully implemented.
Over the last year critics have warned of the returning neoconservative influence on the executive branch’s national security apparatus, each day a little less confident that President Donald Trump will keep to the seeming anti-interventionist impulses he demonstrated during the 2016 campaign.
Of course the most garish of the pro-war set—Sebastian Gorka, K.T. McFarland, John Bolton—are easy to identify in or on the periphery of Trump’s orbit. Meanwhile, elite neoconservative voices like Bill Kristol and Max Boot have become darlings of the “Never Trump” cadre, finding new life as conservative tokens on “Resistance” media like MSNBC. What has been less obvious, but has become much clearer in these last few months, is these neocons are quietly filling the vacuum left by Obama’s cadre of liberal interventionists.
Take Nadia Schadlow, for instance. She has been at the National Security Council since last winter, and is set to replace Dina Powell as deputy national security advisor, at the right hand of NSC chief H.R. McMaster. She was also the lead on the White House National Security Strategy, released last month.
This was Schadlow’s first position in government. Her résumé includes doctoral degrees from Johns Hopkins Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) under the tutelage of Iraq war promoter Eliot Cohen, who runs the largely neoconservative Strategic Studies program there... What is significant about Schadlow’s role in the White House is not her bibliography, but her vast connections to Washington’s foreign policy and national security clique, especially its neoconservative elite...
In an article published prior to her entry into the administration, Dr. Nadia Schadlow, observed that with respect to Russia, China, Iran and other hostile nations, “these adversaries are governed by repressive systems that are fundamentally designed to counter the very qualities that allow the best attributes of human nature to flourish.”
The document she helped write makes a strong case that defending American sovereignty means competing with those who would constrain or undermine American values, influence, and institutions... (realcleardefense, 21-12-2017)
Let the soldiers govern
Why then has the U.S. military failed to translate battlefield success into victory Afghanistan and Iraq despite having perhaps the best army it has ever fielded?
To explain this, Ms. Schadlow cites what she calls the “American Denial Syndrome.” Simply stated, it is that Americans (civilians and soldiers alike) have a traditional antipathy for using soldiers to govern even on foreign soil, though only the army has the capacity to govern in the wake of the collapse of an enemy’s army and government. (Nadia Schadlow; War and the art of government)
The Trump administration policy in Syria is finally coming into daylight. It has decided to permanently separate north-east of Syria from the rest of Syria with the rather comical idea that this will keep Iranian influence out of Syria and give the U.S. a voice in a final Syrian settlement. The Turks were not consulted before the U.S. move and are of course not amused that a "terrorist gang", trained and armed by the U.S., will control a long stretch of their southern border. Any Turkish government would have to take harsh measures to prevent such a strategic threat to the country. Joshua Landis believes that the U.S. has given up on Turkey as an ally and is solely committed to do Israel's and Saudi Arabia's bidding. It is completely concentrated on countering Iran.
But there are few if any Iranian troops in Syria and the supply line from Tehran to Damascus is via air and sea and can not be influenced from an enclosed Kurdish enclave. Moreover, the U.S. presence in the north-east is not sustainable.
The north-eastern U.S. held area of Syria is surrounded by forces hostile to it. Turkey in the north, Syria in the west and south, Iraq, with a pro-Iranian government, in the east. It has no ports and all its air-supplies have to cross hostile air space.
Internally the area consists of a Kurdish core but has nearly as many Arab inhabitants as Kurds. The Kurds are not united, there are many who are against the PKK/YPG and support the Syrian government. Probably half of the Arabs in the area were earlier Islamic State fighters and the other half favors the rule by Damascus.
What all Arabs there have in common is hatred for their new Kurdish overlords. This all is fertile ground for an insurgency against the U.S. occupation and its Kurdish YPG proxy forces. It will need only little inducement and support from Damascus, Ankara or elsewhere to draw the U.S. presence into a chaotic fight for survival.
The US is increasingly falling back on support for Israel and Saudi Arabia. Trump has clearly set his course and reversed Obama’s effort to balance Iran and the KSA.
Trump has thrown in Washington’s future in the Middle East with its traditional allies; it is moving to hurt Iran and Assad. It's main instrument in gaining leverage in the region seems to be Northern Syria and the Syrian Democratic Forces. Washington is promoting Kurdish nationalism in Syria. Turkey had hoped that when the Islamic Caliphate was destroyed, Washington would withdraw from North Syria. This has not turned out to be the case.
By keeping Damascus weak and divided, the US hopes to deny Iran and Russia the fruits of their victory. Washington believes this pro-Kurdish policy will increase US leverage in the region and help to roll back Iran. Turkey is collateral damage. Washington recognizes that its pro-Kurdish policy is forcing Turkey into Russia’s arms but it is willing to risk this loss. Washington is willing to hurt Turkey in order to help Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Saudi rulers on Tuesday of committing “treason” against Muslims by aligning themselves with the United States and Israel.
Addressing parliamentary representatives from Islamic countries gathered in Tehran, Khamenei said the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was “a big mistake” and “doomed to failure”.
“Regional governments that are cooperating with the United States and the Zionist regime to fight against Muslims are certainly committing treason. That is what Saudi Arabia is doing,” Khamenei said, according to his official website.
Iran, the leading Shi’ite Muslim power, and Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, a key US ally, are rivals for influence in the Middle East where they support opposing sides in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. US President Donald Trump said on a visit to Jerusalem last year that a shared concern about Iran was driving many Arab states closer to Israel.
Egypt's Al-Azhar – the world's foremost institution of Sunni Islamic learning – is holding an international conference on Wednesday that will be attended by officials from 86 countries to discuss the issue of Jerusalem.
The conference, which will be held on 17 and 18 January at Al-Azhar Conference Centre in Cairo, will highlight a number of issues including “raising awareness about the issue of Jerusalem and emphasising its Arab and Islamic identity,” according to a statement by Al-Azhar. The event, which comes under the auspices of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, will be held nearly one month after a decision by US President Donald Trump decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The conference will be attended by the head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as the heads of Arab Islamic and Christian organisations.
The conference will tackle three main themes; affirming Jerusalem’s Arab status, raising awareness about the Jerusalem issue, and highlighting the international community's responsibility regarding the holy city. The event, which will be led by Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb, is expected to conclude with several recommendations that support the Palestinian cause and stress the rights of Palestinians to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Following Trump's decision on Jerusalem, which sparked protests in several Arab countries, Egypt presented a draft resolution to the Security Council on behalf of Arab countries that would have required the US to reverse its decision. The resolution was vetoed by the US, though it gained support from all 14 other members of the Security Council, including key US allies Britain, France, Italy, Japan and Ukraine.
A total of 128 countries later voted in the UN General Assembly in favour of a resolution condemning Trump's decision and calling on the US to reverse the move. Egypt has consistently maintained its full support for a two-state solution along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.
International NGOs have condemned the US government's decision to cut more than half of its planned funding to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees. Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a Twitter post late on Tuesday that Washington was "holding Palestinian kids' humanitarian needs hostage to political agendas". Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, urged the US government to reverse its decision announced on Tuesday to withhold $65m out of $125m aid package earmarked for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).
"The move will have devastating consequences for vulnerable Palestinian refugees across the Middle East, including hundreds of thousands of refugee children in the West Bank and Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria who depend on the agency for their education," he said in a statement on Tuesday.
"It will also deny their parents a social safety net that helps them to survive, and undermine the UN agency's ability to respond in the event of another flare up in the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict."
On Twitter, Egeland said: "Cutting aid to innocent refugee children due to political disagreements among well-fed grown men and women is a really bad politisation of humanitarian aid...."
The Turkish ministry of foreign affairs said cuts to UNRWA would "hamper the efforts towards a two-state political solution and regional stability". It also said that Ankara would increase its contributions to the agency. Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's delegation to the US, said in a statement on Wednesday that Palestinian refugees and children's access to basic humanitarian services was "not a bargaining chip but a US and international obligation". "Taking away food and education from vulnerable refugees does not bring a lasting and comprehensive peace," the statement said.
In a series of tweets, Trump had said: "... We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect.
"... With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?"
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, has stressed that the decision indicated that Washington is complicit with the "Israeli occupation" and is "creating conditions that will generate further instability throughout the region and will demonstrate that it has no compunction in targeting the innocent." UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also expressed his concern regarding the US decision, adding that he hoped that Washington would "maintain the funding" of UN Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Israel's ambassador to the UN Danny Damon welcomed the cut in aid, saying that UNRWA is engaged in anti-Israel propaganda. (Sputnik News, 17-1-2018)
Michael Oren & 'the Likud of Begin'
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Michael Oren (Kulanu) said, "I congratulate US President Donald Trump on his decision to drastically cut funding to UNRWA. This is a false and corrupt organization, which fabricates millions of refugees in order to receive world funding. UNRWA perpetuates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by teaching Palestinian youth to hate the State of Israel and to work to erase it. The President's decision is a crucial and vital step to putting an end to one of the greatest frauds in history. UNRWA's fraud has caused great damage to Israel...
Kulana partyfounder and chairman Moshe Kahlon, traditionally known for a hard line on security matters, has in more recent times suggested support for territorial compromise for a two-state solution. He has said he is "a product of the Likud" but that his "worldview is center, slightly leaning to the right". Within the Likud, he was known to be socially liberal. Kahlon has said his party represents the Likud of Begin...
The party headed by Menachem Begin first came to power in 1977, in what would eventually be referred to as “the Upheaval”. Under Begin’s leadership, the Likud raised the banner of Jewish settlement in Judea & Samaria and in Galilee, and introduced the Jerusalem Law, which established the status of united Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.
My father [Ariel Sharon], from the moment he was appointed minister of agriculture in 1977, always did his utmost to aid the kibbutzim and farming villages, especially the ones far from the center of the country. ..
My father’s other role in Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s government was as chairman of the Ministerial Committee on Settlements. In this role he put Likud policy and his own beliefs into practice. He founded many dozens of settlements in Judea, Samaria, the Gaza Strip, Galilee, the Golan Heights, the Negev, and in the Arava. ...
My father’s plan called for fortifying the hills to the west of the Jordan Valley with additional settlements, building a cross-Samaria road that would be protected by settlements and serve in a time of need as emergency routes for troops heading to the eastern front. ...
The third element of his plan was Jerusalem. The question was how to secure Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish people... The solution my father presented was a ring of Jewish settlements around the city.
On Oct. 2, 1977, the Cabinet authorized the plan, putting it into motion. My father and his aide Uri Bar-On, a brigadier general in the reserves who was also a close friend, began surveying the terrain, mountain by mountain, hill by hill. ...
During the following four years my father spearheaded the effort to found 64 new settlements in Judea and Samaria.
But the rise of the Likud to power and the fact of his service in government were not enough to get the project off the ground. They needed people willing to settle the land, too. These were found in the form of the Gush Emunim loyalists.
These God-fearing religious nationalists felt that settling in the biblical land of Israel was a commandment of supreme importance. They viewed him as “the Messiah’s donkey,” the man who would help them realize their ideals and faith...
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asserted Wednesday that "Jerusalem would be a gate for peace only when it's the capital of Palestine."
"But it is also a gate for war, insecurity and instability if it isn't the capital of Palestine. US President Donald Trump has to choose," Abbas stressed during a speech at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo.
Despite this militaristic and belligerent tone, Abbas stressed the Palestinians will not turn to terrorism to achieve their goals, but rather take diplomatic measures.
"We are sticking to peace as a choice for our people, but not peace at any cost—one that is based on international decisions that ensure the establishment of a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders," the Palestinian leader said.
Abbas insisted the Palestinians demand "only 22 percent of historical Palestine" —in the form of the 1967 borders—and despite that Trump has declared united Jerusalem to be Israel's capital. Trump, Abbas continued, is not trustworthy.
The Palestinian leader reiterated his claims there is a conspiracy meant to bring foreign elements into Palestine. "There hasn't been and there won't be a Palestinian, Arab or Christian who will bargain over Jerusalem and Palestine and give up one grain of sand from our land," Abbas insisted.
He also claimed that "We've been here for 5,000 years, from the days of the Canaanites who built Jerusalem. We are the Canaanites."
Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, who also spoke at the same event, said Muslims "are interested in peace that knows no surrender, and that doesn't hurt the homeland and the holy sites. Peace established with the power of knowledge, education and economics."
He called on the Muslim world to return its attention to the Palestinian issue and Jerusalem. He also proposed 2018 "to be the year of Jerusalem."
The name of the city Jerusalem was originally “Yerushalem”. “Shalem” comes from the name of the Canaan God worshipped in the city.
The city was located on the southern part of the Eastern Hill between the Kidron Valley and the Central Valley. Modern archaeologists believe that the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites under Joshua simply didn't happen, and that the Israelites actually originated as a subculture in Canaanite society.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that US troops will remain in Syria not just to fight jihadists but also to counter the power of Bashar al-Assad and his ally Iran.
In a speech on the US strategy to help end Syria's seven-year civil war, Tillerson stressed that the mission of the US military is to destroy the Islamic State group and prevent its return. But he also made it clear that the open-ended deployment is intended to help create enough stability for Syrians to be able to remove Assad from office and reject Iranian influence.
"A total withdrawal of American personnel at this time would restore Assad to continue his brutal treatment against his own people," Tillerson told an audience at Stanford University.
"A murderer of his own people cannot generate the trust required for long-term stability," he said. "A stable, unified, and independent Syria ultimately requires post-Assad leadership in order to be successful."
Tillerson: "A murderer of his own people"
The US works with the Syrian Democratic Forces, a militia dominated by Kurdish fighters which Washington sees as a basis for a 30,000-strong border force to hold eastern Syria. Assad's Damascus regime has condemned this force as traitors, and US ally Turkey, wary of the presence of the YPG Kurdish militia in its ranks, is highly suspicious of its role. Tillerson insisted that Washington is not being dragged into the Syrian civil war as a combatant seeking violent regime change, nor into a long-term nation-building mission.
Instead, he argued that the US role will provide stability to allow a UN-led peace process to resume and find a Syrian-led alternative to Assad's rule and the Iranian presence.
"US disengagement from Syria would provide Iran with the opportunity to further strengthen its own position in Syria. "As we have seen from Iran's proxy wars and public announcements, Iran seeks dominance in the Middle East and the destruction of our ally Israel," he said.
It has to be clearly stated that the external opponents of the Syrian government and the Syrian President al-Assad have no real interest in the ceasefire and never cared about the Syrian population.
These dubious people and questionable sides are better of if the peace plan by Kofi Annan will fail in Syria, because then they get further massive support from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and also by the West, of course. ...
After AIPAC-Darling Hillary Clinton has made her demand that she wants to reach the implementation of actions by force against the Syrian government if the current Resolutions against Syria are not really implemented, Condoleezza Rice follows Hillary Clinton in no uncertain terms now.
Both are AIPAC-Sisters at heart, of course. ... Condi Rice is just another war voice of the known warmongering governments and organizations. ...
Since the West is still not convinced about a military intervention in Syria, at least not officially, they try to achieve their dubious intentions with ever more sanctions against Syria. The more Syria gets destabilized, the easier is a regime change.
Tillerson illustrated how the U.S. would continue trying to isolate Assad’s government even as the U.S. objective is “stabilization.” Washington won’t allow international reconstruction aid to flow to any part of Syria under Assad’s control, he said. It will discourage countries from trading with his government.
“Instead, we will encourage international assistance to rebuild areas the global coalition and its local partners have liberated,” Tillerson said, suggesting such an approach might pressure Assad to resign. “Once Assad is gone from power, the United States will gladly encourage the normalization of economic relationships between Syria and other nations.”
"The U.S. has used starvation and disease against Indigenous nations since its founding."
"Sanctions are war. They are the most brutal form of war because they punish an entire population, targeting children, the future, most of all. Sanctions are a weapon of mass destruction." Sara Flounders
A lesson often learned but rarely remember is that sanctions end up harming the most vulnerable civilians in a nation far more than the government. This was seen in Iraq, where international sanctions killed hundreds of thousands of children.
It is being seen in Iran, where hospitals are seeing major shortages in medicine and equipment. Now it is also being seen in Syria.
That’s the report from the Syrian government today, which noted that the health care sector and child care have been the hardest hit segments of the Syrian economy as a result of US and EU sanctions imposed during the ongoing civil war.
In Syria the issue was somewhat different, as initially Syria manufactured the vast majority of their own medication. The sanctions have made raw materials harder to acquire, and Syria’s manufacturing center, Aleppo, has been virtually shut down because of the war. This has made Syria struggle to find new sources for medicine, and with the sanctions in place, many nations simply won’t deal with them.
Middle East expert Dr. David Bukay of the University of Haifa on Thursday analyzed the speech by Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas earlier this week, in which he said that Israel “is a colonialist project that has no connection to Jews" and also cursed Trump following his threat to cut funding to the PA.
"Netanyahu said in India that following the speech the mask was ripped off Abu Mazen's face, but I have been warning about Abbas for 13 years and he did not take off any mask [with this speech]. He was always the most violent, even more than Arafat. He is a wolf in sheep's clothing,” Bukay told Arutz Sheva.
For years, Bukay continued, Abbas has been able to deceive Israel into thinking he is the only one who can be a partner for negotiations.
"The army and the Civil Administration see him as a partner for negotiations and defend him. That’s the tragic part. He is the most dangerous, even more than the Islamic State caliphate and more than Al-Qaeda, precisely because he is accepted by the West as a moderate, as a partner with whom one can do business, but the truth is that he wants nothing less than everything and therefore he is dangerous,” he warned.
"Abu Mazen declares that he is against terror because he knows that terrorism will not win, but that what will defeat us is political isolation and that is his weapon. He works to isolate Israel and we help and protect him because we mistakenly believe he is the best alternative. Abu Mazen is the worst alternative. An anti-Semite who denies the Holocaust..
David Bukay is a Professor of Middle East Studies at the University of Haifa. Bukay is a supporter of the controversial Huntington thesis of the Clash of Civilisations. He argues that there is a wide gap between what he categorises as "Western political culture" and "the Arab-Islamic political culture".
He claims that "Islam and democracy are totally incompatible, and are mutually inconclusive. The same applies to Modernity, which is perceived as a threat to Islamic civilization", and that "Leaders and policy-makers in the West refuse to grasp that the Islamic and Palestinian terrorism embodies the SARS decease: Suicide and Ruin Syndrome of democratic society.
Until it is understood that this struggle is the war between the Sons of Light [Israel] against the Sons of Darkness, that they represent the invasion of the Huns, in order to destroy modern culture - the world will continue to face an existential more growing threat".
"the sons of light"
In his book Arab-Islamic Political Culture, Bukay writes: "This is a culture where rumors are an integral part of social activity, and they quickly become absolute truth that cannot be challenged. It has to do with exaggerations, flights of fancy, and especially, in a society that believes in conspiracies, a society wherein every date is important, that remembers everything and forgives nothing.
This is a society wherein the lie is an essential component of behavior patterns, and lying is endorsed by religious sages". (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami introduced the idea of Dialogue Among Civilizations as a response to Samuel P. Huntington’s theory of a Clash of Civilizations.
'Dialogue among Civilizations' means equality between peoples and nations. In other words, one conducts a dialogue only when one respects the other party and considers the other party as equal to oneself.
The colonial relationship which has ruled over certain parts of the world in the past two or three centuries has been the result of the phenomenon of dividing peoples and nations into first- and second-class citizens: that is, nations which have an inherent right to be masters, and nations which are inferior and have no choice but to be followers. War arises from the phenomenon of one party giving itself a greater right and, because he has power, he is entitled to serve his own interests at any cost, even at the cost, of war. Such a war is the fruit of discrimination and injustice.
However, as soon as one proposes 'Dialogue among Civilizations', and it is accepted, it means that equality between nations has been accepted, and this is a great achievement for humanity. (al-islam.org)
Al Qaeda-linked rebels in northern Syria are using “re-radicalisation” programmes to lure fighters from rival extremist group ISIL, creating new recruits to mount jihadist attacks.
In Idlib province, the rebel coalition Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (HTS), dominated by the Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat Fatah Al Sham, has put “between 100 and 150” ISIL militants through the scheme so far, security sources told The National. The programmes run by HTS last up to two weeks, and are based on a “Shura and Sharia bureau approved curriculum of Jihad".
Indoctrination has taken place in the desert region of Abu Dhahur, east of Idlib, the scene of recent fighting between HTS and the Syrian regime.
“This is one of the clearest examples of how Daesh [ISIL] members can blend into other violent extremist organisations," said a security source of the effort to lure ISIL fighters into Al Qaeda's ranks. Graeme Wood, author of The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State, said the "re-education" effort would likely evolve around "who is a Muslim, and who is beyond the fold of Islam".
"There is a great deal of overlap between the official ideologies of HTS and ISIL," he added.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has instructed not to invite Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef to IDF events and ceremonies over his support of comments against the army made by religious-Zionist Rabbi Shlomo Aviner and Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, he said Saturday.
Eliyahu and Aviner have been banned from army events as well until they take back their comments, the defense minister added.
Rabbi Aviner instructed religious-Zionist men not to enlist in the IDF if they're placed in a unit that includes women, while Rabbi Eliyahu called for the dismissal of IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot over what he calls a crisis in the army concerning the integration of women in more roles.
"I've instructed the army that Israel's chief rabbi (Yosef), Rabbi Aviner or Rabbi Eliyahu cannot take part in any event in the IDF," Lieberman said during a visit to Ashdod to support businesses open on Shabbat. "It's unreasonable to attack the IDF, to speak against service, and then still participate in military events."
"This radicalization now is completely unreasonable, it has no place. Both the Chief Rabbi of Israel and the Rabbi of Safed, who are state employees, must represent the state's positions and not go against them," he added.
During his visit to the Big shopping center in Ashdod, Lieberman also came out against new legislation that allows the interior minister to close stores on Saturday, the Jewish day of rest.
"Those who say the Supermarkets Law has no meaning are mistaken and misleading. The Supermarkets Law unfortunately has far-reaching consequences, as we're seeing in Ashdod. Until recently, there was harmony in Ashdod, and now the city is divided. I hope it doesn't happen in other cities," the defense minister said.
"This division undermines our national resilience. This entire thing is creating unnecessary tension and friction. The last thing we want is to see a divided Israeli society. I hope both the heads of the religious-Zionist public, and those of the Haredi public, will calm down," he added.
With airstrikes and artillery fire, Turkey on Saturday defied U.S. appeals and opened a long-anticipated offensive on Afrin, an enclave in Syria for Kurdish militias backed by the United States. Turkish officials have framed the offensive [“Operation Olive Branch”] as part of a wider battle against Kurdish separatists, known as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, in Turkey’s southwest. Turkey also fears any gains in strength by the Syrian Kurds, whose territory runs along some of Turkey’s southern border.
But the United States has opted to back the Syrian Kurds as proxy fighters against the Islamic State and as a buffer to keep the militants from trying to reclaim territory.
The military action immediately raised concerns that it could spark conflicts among the assortment of foreign military powers present, in proximity, across northern Syria. They include Turkey, Russia and the United States. All have the Islamic State as a common foe, but, individually, they back different factions among the various armed groups in Syria.
The latest flash point also highlighted the shifting disputes and conflicting agendas that have complicated any efforts toward ending nearly seven years of conflict in Syria. The Turkish military action came amid intensifying violence in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, where Syrian government forces are on the offensive against al-Qaeda-aligned rebels in the east of the province.
Recent statements by U.S. military officials about plans to train border security forces that would protect a Kurdish enclave in Syria also provoked Turkey’s ire.
“We are taking these steps to ensure our own national security,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in comments carried by the semiofficial Anadolu agency.
On Saturday, hours after the announcement of the airstrikes, Turkey said it had struck more than 100 positions belonging to Kurdish fighters. The number of casualties was not immediately clear. The airstrikes followed days of intense Turkish artillery fire on Kurdish positions, according to residents in Afrin.
In a statement, the U.S.-backed Kurdish force, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, warned that the Turkish offensive “threatens to breathe new life into Daesh,” using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State militant group.
The Trump administration, in urging NATO-ally Turkey not to attack, had made a similar argument, saying it would distract from the ongoing battles against Islamic State militants in their remaining strongholds in Syria. There are roughly 2,000 U.S. troops in northern Syria.
The US is fuelling the crisis in northern Syria and the ongoing Turkish military operation against the Kurds through reckless weapon supplies to pro-American rebel groups, Russia's Defense Ministry has said.
“The Pentagon’s uncontrolled deliveries of modern weaponry to the pro-US militants in the north of Syria, including, according to our information, contributed to the rapid escalation of tensions and prompted the Turkish special operation,” the ministry said Saturday. The “provocative actions” of Washington – the announcement of the creation of “border forces” and other activities aimed at the “disintegration of Syrian sovereignty, and supporting armed militant groups” have triggered an “extremely negative” reaction from Ankara, the ministry noted.
The ongoing Turkish military operation has prompted Russian forces, stationed in the region, to regroup and relocate military police units and Reconciliation Center operatives to the village of Tell-Adjar to the east of the city of Afrin.
Russia continues to monitor the situation and is ready to provide help to civilians fleeing the combat zones, the ministry said in a separate statement.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US State Secretary Rex Tillerson discussed during Saturday’s phone talk the stability in north Syria and a peaceful settlement due to be brokered by the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said after the talk requested by the US.
Lavrov and Tillerson "focused on the situation in Syria, including issues of stability in the country’s north and promotion of the UN-brokered peace settlement which the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, which is due to be convened in Sochi bringing together a wide range of participants, should facilitate," the ministry said.
"Some other topical global and bilateral issues have been touched upon," it said, noting the two top diplomats "agreed to stay in close contact."
Thousands of angry protesters in cities across northern Syria took to the streets Friday following a Turkish threat of a cross-border military operation into Afrin, which materialized on Saturday.
Turkish war planes launched airstrikes on Kurdish positions in northern Syria, with Turkey asserting it wants to target the People's Protection Units, or YPG, a Syrian Kurdish group that Ankara considers terrorist because of its alleged ties to the outlawed Turkey-based PKK. (Voice of America, 20-1-2018)
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has confirmed the beginning of a ground operation in Syria's Afrin, the NTV broadcaster said Sunday.
"The operation in Afrin started at 11:05 local time [08:05 GMT]," Yildirim was quoted as saying by the broadcaster.
Everyone, who tried to support Kurds in Afrin, would become targets of the Turkish Air Force too, the minister said, adding that a 30-kilometer safe zone would be created during the operation of the Turkish military.
According to Yildirim, Ankara maintains contacts with Damascus over its operation in Afrin through Russia's mediation.
"We are communicating with the Syrian government through Moscow's mediation. The Free Syrian Army together with our units has entered Afrin. Russia has no objections regarding the operation. Iran's concerns are now being settled," Yildirim was quoted as saying by the broadcaster.
Earlier today, NTV broadcaster reported that Turkish tanks entered Syrian Afrin, backing the offensive of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) armed opposition group on the positions of Kurdish militia. The military operation has been condemned by Damascus with the Syrian Foreign Ministry calling the act a violation of Syrian sovereignty.
Following the Syrian regime condemning Turkish military operations in Afrin on Saturday, the Assad regime opened up roads for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in order to transport weapons and reinforcements, the Anadolu Agency reported.
According to the news agency, the Syrian regime opened the PYD-PKK-held Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood, and allowed the two groups to use Nubl and Al-Zahra roads connecting the center of Aleppo to Afrin.
An unknown number of PYD/PKK vehicles loaded with ammunition have been moving towards Afrin, the Anadolu Agency added. (Al-Arabya, 21-1-2018)
The Spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Bahram Qasemi, called on Turkey to halt its invasion of Afrin, adding that Ankara should respect Syria’s territorial integrity.
“Iran is following the recent developments in Afrin, northern Syria with concern,” Qasemi stated. “Continuation of crisis will result in reinforcing Takfiri-terrorist groups in northern Syria and fan the flames of war in the country,” he said.
Qasemi also called on Turkey to continue their important role in resolving the crisis in Syria.
“We believe that Syrian crisis is deeply rooted in irresponsible behavior and the provocative measures taken by trans-regional countries such as US and also by some overambitious countries in the region and warmongers,” Qasemi concluded.
The PYD and the PKK have been quite coy about their links, but in Afrin the connections were pretty evident. Pictures of Abdullah Ocalan decorated every government office I visited. In the martyrs’ memorial centre, the majority of the dead had lost their lives not in Syria, but in Turkey, fighting with the PKK. Also, the teachers I met who were giving local people courses in written Kurdish were both Turkish Kurds. (Kurdish 'freedom' in Afrin, 22-10-2012)
The Turkish attack makes the complicated political and military chess game in Syria even more complicated than before. It will bring the US into direct confrontation with its Nato ally Turkey since the American partner in Syria is the YPG. It was YPG ground troops backed by US air strikes that led to the capture of Raqqa from Isis in October. Turkey has long considered the rise of the Syrian Kurds, who have a population of about two million people and live mostly in north-east Syria, as a nightmare.
It has watched in dismay since 2012 as the YPG, which is the Syrian arm of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has been fighting a guerrilla war against the Turkish state since 1984, gained control of a great swathe of territory east of the Euphrates River.
Earlier this month, the US said it was supporting the establishment of a 30,000-strong border-force which in practice would be dominated by the YPG. The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson claimed that his offer was misunderstood by Turkey, but the Turks were dismayed by what they regard as the pro-Kurdish direction of US policy.
But just as Mr Tillerson was trying to cool the confrontation in US relations with Turkey, he provoked a deeper crisis by saying in a speech last week that the US would keep its 2,000 military advisers and logistics troops in Syria for the foreseeable future. This was to prevent the resurgence of Isis, but was, above all, intended to weaken the position of President Bashar al-Assad and Iran. Whatever Mr Tillerson intended, the consequence of his words was to give a long-term military guarantee to the Syrian Kurdish enclave.
This pledge of a permanent US military presence in Syria infuriated Mr Erdogan and alienated Russia, Syria and Iran – countries that believed that the new US policy in Syria was a sign that Syrian Kurdish leaders had plumped wholeheartedly for an alliance with the US. Previously, the Kurds had tried to balance between Russia and the US and to avoid being seen as a permanent enemy of Mr Assad in his bid to reunify Syria under his rule...
The Syrian Kurds have gone along with US policy priorities by taking economically important areas like the oilfields in eastern Deir Ezzor province which Mr Assad wants back. He will not like Turkish military units entering Syrian territory, but there are advantages for him if the Turkish offensive shows the Kurds that they cannot rely on the US to protect them.
The West ignores the presence of Jabhat al-Nusra-connected militants in East Ghouta, whose fire attacks have affect the Russian embassy, too, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday (22-1)
"For quite some time our Western partners have been trying to fan a scandal over East Ghouta and Idlib while ignoring the fact that the concentration of militants close to Jabhat al-Nusra (outlawed in Russia as a terrorist organization) remains high there and that these militants mount fire attacks on Damascus, including the Russian embassy," Lavrov said.
"Also, they ignore the fact that just recently the Syrian government and Russian military personnel began an evacuation of children, including those requiring medical assistance, from East Ghouta." "Emotionally drawing attention of the global community to humanitarian problems of Idlib, Western colleagues are ignoring the evident fact, that it was exactly in eastern Idlib that the terrorist organization Jabhat al-Nusra has been running things up until recently," he said.
"An offensive of the Syrian army with our support began quite recently, which has resulted in the encirclement of the main part of al-Nusra. Apparently this is what arouses such concern in some Western countries," he added.
"The US and the coalition it heads strive to spare Jabhat al-Nusra, keeping the group to implement the plan on a regime change - the so-called Plan B," the minister pointed out. "It is totally unacceptable to us, and we will vehemently oppose such attempts."
Kurdish representatives are on the invitation list for the Syrian National Dialogue Congress due in Russia’s Sochi, he went on.
"Kurdish representatives were put on the list of Syrians invited to the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi," Lavrov said. Kurds must be involved in the process of a political settlement in Syria, the senior diplomat stressed. "As for the role of Kurds in the further political settlement, of course this role must be ensured," he said.
Russia will continue dialogue with the Houthis, the Saudi-led collation, as well as with other Yemeni groups and interested countries capable of influencing the situation in Yemen, Lavrov said following his meeting with Yemeni top diplomat Abdulmalik Al-Mekhlafi on Monday.
"At the same time, we will continue our dialogue with the Houthis, other Yemeni political groups and all the interested states, including members of the Saudi-led coalition, who can influence future developments in the country and the entire region, encouraging those who are capable of influencing the situation to facilitate the transition from the use of force to a political dialogue as soon as possible," Lavrov said.
With its great economic success and its dazzling political stability, China is aggressively moving toward promoting itself as a cultural and tourist destination.
After years of attempts by the ruling Communist Party to dissociate China from its past and to destroy everything related to the “perdition” that preceded the Communist Revolution, the party now glorifies and highlights the “achievements” of the Chinese past and highlights its most important advantages.
In 2018, China seeks to be the country with the largest number of archaeological and heritage sites recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). China, with 52 archaeological sites, is only surpassed by Italy with 53, but China has 15 new sites that are not registered, while Italy has only five. China has recognized the importance of soft power derived through history, civilization and culture. This is what countries such as France, Britain, Greece, India and Turkey have already realized and managed to set up sites with low costs and great returns. This has led to an improvement in the images of these countries, expanded their tourism revenue and improved the level of their international relations with other nations.
The Arab world is still far from exhibiting good management of the cultural component in its soft power, despite the existence of a cultural heritage in many of its geographical locations.
There have been important attempts by Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon and Morocco over the past years, but they have remained just attempts and were not sustainable projects.
Countries that have transformed culture into a key element in their economy’s arsenal and a priority in their orientation have gained much more in the media and in the political and economic arenas at a much lower cost than advertising conducted by public relations companies. Respect for the cultural component of a nation is recognition of the country’s diversity and cultural mosaic. This sends a civilized message to the international community that a nation is able to participate in global society without complications and problems.
Palestinian Christians say US Vice President Mike Pence's brand of evangelical Christianity, with its fervent embrace of modern-day Israel as fulfilment of biblical prophecy, lacks their faith's compassion and justice. Mike Pence was in Jerusalem on Monday, expressing his support for Israel in a speech to the Knesset filled with biblical references.
The vice president —by his own definition "a Christian, a conservative, a Republican, in that order"— has cited his religious beliefs as the source of his unwavering support of Israel.
He has been embraced by so-called Christian Zionists who believe the establishment of the state of Israel is proof of God keeping his promises and a step toward the second coming of Christ.
In a 2017 speech to Christians United for Israel, or CUFI, an influential organization run by Texas pastor John Hagee, Pence signaled similar views, saying that "though Israel was built by human hands, it is impossible not to sense that just beneath its history lies the hand of heaven."
In his CUFI speech, Pence stuck to what the vice president portrayed as biblically mandated support for Israel.
To be in the world but not of it - İbrahim Kalın, Daily Sabah (Turkey), 1-8-2017
Palestinian Christians slam the Christian Zionist views as a negation of the teachings of Jesus.
Christians make up a small minority of the overwhelmingly Muslim Palestinian population in the West Bank, but relations between the two religious groups are typically cordial and tolerant.
"For me, it's a sick ideology," said Munib Younan, the recently retired bishop of the small Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and former president of the Lutheran World Federation, an umbrella for churches with millions of believers.
"When I say Jesus is love, they want my Jesus to be a political Jesus," Younan, 67, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian, said in a recent interview at his church.
Rebecca Littlejohn, a Disciples of Christ pastor from La Mesa, California, said her denomination works with Palestinian Christians and that she belongs to a grass-roots group engaged in peace efforts. She said that while Disciples of Christ emphasizes Christian unity, "I find very little, from what I know of it, in Mike Pence's religion that looks like Christianity to me."
The Palestinians on Monday harshly criticized US Vice President Mike Pence’s speech to the Knesset on Monday for its emphasis on Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which the PLO’s longtime negotiator said was a “gift to extremists.”
“The messianic discourse of Mike Pence is a gift to extremists & has proven that the US Administration is part of the problem rather than the solution. His message to the rest of the world is clear: violate international law & resolutions and the US will reward you,” tweeted Saeb Erekat.
Earlier Monday, Palestinian Liberation Organization official Hanan Ashrawi said it was “ludicrous” that Pence’s visit would help boost peace efforts.
“The Americans cannot talk about the peace process after they have undermined it following [Trump’s] recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” she said...
Since US President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, ties between the US and the Palestinians have sharply declined, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas saying shortly after the US was no longer an honest broker in peace talks. The Palestinians seek East Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War, as the capital of their future state. Israel claims the entire city as its “united” capital.
In the late 1800s, after centuries in which bigots strove to keep Jews as a race apart, a new movement sought to institutionalize this tribalism by corralling all Jews into a single vast ghetto on other people’s land.
Its focus on racial nationalism was in itself unremarkable; other such ideologies were brewing that in a half century would lead humanity to unprecedented catastrophe. But in an extraordinary twist, this particular movement claimed to do so in the name of Jewry itself. Its devotees called it Zionism.
Not surprisingly, this was an easy sell to bigots, but not to most Jews.
The solution to Jewry’s disinterest — and the importance of this can scarcely be overstated, as it is at the core of today’s so-called ‘conflict’ — was to make Judaism subservient to Zionism, to make Zionism the standard by which Jews are judged. “No true Jew can be an anti-Zionist,” the cult’s pioneer, Theodor Herzl decreed; “only Mauschel [Yid, or Kike] is one.”
Traditional, religious Jews were anti-Zionist and considered to be barely human: “Merely to look at him,” Herzl decreed, “let alone approach or, heaven forbid, touch him was enough to make us feel sick.” Herzl looked forward to “getting rid of” this Jew, as he is “a hideous distortion of the human character, something unspeakably low and repulsive.”
“In short,” as the Frankfurther Zeitung’s correspondent at the First Zionist Congress put it in 1897, “the degeneration which calls itself Anti-Semitism has begotten the degeneration which adorns itself with the name of Zionism.”
Six years later, Jewish Chronicle journalist and historian Lucian Wolf summed up Zionism as “a comprehensive capitulation to the calumnies of the anti-Semites.” He could conceive of no more serious setback to the Jewish struggle for equality than the Zionist scheme...
Zionism, of course, presented itself as an answer to European anti-Semitism, not a capitulation to it, and no doubt many of its early followers sincerely intended it as such.
But the reality of the racial-nationalist movement has been unambiguous: the exploitation of Judaism and anti-Semitism in order to further a settler state couching racial supremacy in messianic pretenses.
The surreal world of 2017
Now enter the surreal world of 2017, in which War is Peace, Ignorance is Strength, Freedom is Slavery, and Truth is ... Anti-Semitism.
It is a world in which Zionism has, for the moment, won. Zionism has won the fundamentalist support of earth’s most powerful nations, the most devoted of which happily self-harm rather than endure disapproval from the prophets in Tel Aviv.
And Zionism has — if we are to take it at its word — closed the padlock on its yoke around Jewry. It has fulfilled the dreams of anti-Semites, reducing Jewry to a tribe, and made itself the tribal leader. If we are to accept it...
* 1. Dominating: Leos have a dominating nature and a strong character. Leos want to be in control of situations and they expect people to follow them.
* 2. Self-centered: Because of their dominating nature they love being at the centre of attention. This need for ruling and being in the limelight can be problematic, especially when they become self-centered.
* 3. Possessive: Leos hold everything that is theirs very closely. Therefore they tend to become possessive. Sharing is not a Leo’s strength.
* 4. Extreme Pride: Leos admire luxury and glory and they often present themselves as being much larger than they are (or larger than what they feel inside).
* 5. Arrogant: Leo-born people tend to be arrogant and high-minded, especially about their opinions or their way of doing things. They love to make their presence known and enjoy being in the spotlight. They enjoy having the best of everything and they themselves want to be the best in everything.
* 6. Head-strong: Leos are known for being determined and have a strong opinion on everything. It takes a lot of convincing to make them change their mind and attitude.
* 7. Self-satisfied: Leo always seem to carry pride with themselves no matter where they go or what they do. This characteristic make them different from others and often it is conceived as their ego.
* 8. Sensitive to Criticism: Nobody likes criticism but since Leo-born are working on building an image larger than life, they are not exactly kind when criticised. They aim for social acceptance and often want to roam the higher social circle.
* 9. Impatient: Leo-people are very energetic and success driven individuals. They want to achieve goals, and they would never accept defeat. This is a great thing but they are also prone to being impatient. They want to get things done as soon as possible.
* 10. Anger: The Fire element also gives fierce personality type to the Leo-born. Leos are aggressive and sometimes their aggression is hard to handle. Leo men especially, are prone to fits of deep rage and anger.
Patriarch Kirill: "The church is a community open to the whole world
It cannot be together with one nationality against another." RT Russia News, 16-10-2016
The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill (secular name: Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyayev, born 20-11-1946), has delivered a speech in London’s Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God and All Saints in a four-day visit to the UK to mark the 300th anniversary of the Russian Orthodox Church’s presence there:
The Church has a special significance for the spiritual life of people. It brings people together regardless of national, social, material, cultural or political borders.
By its nature the church cannot be together with the right or the left, or with the centrists. It cannot be together with the rich against the poor or together with the poor against the rich. It cannot be together with one nationality against another. The church is a community open to the whole world. And within this community all human differences are erased.
Even a very rich person stands surrounded by poor people. And even high-ranking people stand side by side with ordinary people. This symbolizes the erasure of those differences within the church.
The very same role has to be played by the church in international relations. The faith, the religion, the church is the mirror of the people’s soul. And at the deepest level the church represents its people outside, in the world.
The Mother is all-embracing, including the entire universe in a totally natural way.
Contrary to Her the Father is ruling through bans, prohibitions, threats and (institutional) power.
Mary has been one of the strongest symbols across the Middle East for unity, across religions, tribes and nations.
In 1982, the year that saw the so-called Hama massacre, when the Syrian regime put down with particular thoroughness a Muslim Brotherhood uprising in the city that became one of the first opposition centres in the current war, Mary appeared in an ordinary house in the old city of Damascus.
She was preceded by other manifestations that drew thousands of people, and when she delivered her messages over a period of years, they emphasised unity and peace, first among Christians, and then between all peoples.
Our Lady of Soufanieh remains a focal point of prayer in Damascus—every day at 5 pm, the house is open for prayer, and those who come include both Christians and Muslims.
Myrna Nazzour's story hinges on a tiny, cheap reproduction of a Russian icon of the Virgin and Child in a white plastic frame.
Her husband, who had been a hairdresser in Germany for seven years before they were married, bought 10 of them in a souvenir shop in Bulgaria on his way back to Syria as presents for his Greek Orthodox relatives. He was not in the least bit religious, but the pictures were a snip at quarter of a dollar each.
Two were left over, and when he married Myrna they put them on their bedside table. Six months later, on 27 November 1982, Myrna noticed that one of the pictures was leaking oil. They put it in an ashtray, but soon had to find a bigger container
Mary to Myrna Nazzour: "Love one another.
I do not ask you to give money to churches. I ask you to love.
Those who give money to the poor and to the churches but yet have not love,
have lives of no value." (Mysteries & Miracles, 18-12-1982)
Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem Tuesday afternoon, capping off the Vice President’s first state visit to Israel. Pence, a long-time backer of the Jewish state, arrived in Israel for his fourth trip on Sunday (jan 21), which was originally scheduled for mid-December.
Donning a yarmulke for the visit, Pence was escorted to the Western Wall by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich (Rabinowitz), Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall and Director of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation Mordechai ‘Soli’ Eliav.
“Here, right above us, on the Temple Mount, King Solomon built the Temple,” Rabbi Rabinovich said as he escorted the Vice President. “We draw our strength from our deep connection to the land of the Bible and our commitment to [fulfill] the words of the Prophets.”
The Vice President placed a note in the Western Wall, then said a brief prayer. Karen Pence prayed separately at the women’s section of the Wall. At the end of his visit, Pence signed the Western Wall guest book. "It is my great honor to pray here at this sacred place,” the Vice President wrote. Responding to questions by reporters, the Vice President said the visit to the holy site was “very inspiring”.
"When Romans took control, they built a huge fortress, which is now mistakenly called the temple mount, north of the city of David, which enclosed 35 acres — about three times as much as the entire City of David. This was the Antonia citadel. This fortress follows the same pattern as Roman fortresses and camps in other places in the world." George Wesley Buchanan
Josephus, a Jew who was an eyewitness of the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in 70AD and the author of "The antiquities of the Jews" and "The Jewish wars"(available online) said the Temple of Herod was built high up on a platform that had four walls around it forming a precise square of 600 feet on each side.
Josephus said the wall of its southeast corner had its foundations directly in the deepest part of the Kidron Valley (in the streambed itself) and that its height was 300 cubits (450 feet, or about the height of a modern 40 story building). This description in no way fits the dimensions of the Haram. Near the northwest corner Josephus said this external Temple wall was connected to Fort Antonia by two side-by-side colonnade roadways (each 600 feet long).
Josephus then said that Fort Antonia itself was built around a notable "Rock" that was viewed as the centerpiece feature of the interior of the Fort - which was also known as the Praetorium.
This well-recognized "Rock" in the Praetorium around which Fort Antonia was built was called the lithostrotos in the Gospel of John (19:13) and Christ stood on it when judged by Pilate. Josephus said that Antonias size was much larger than the Temple (he described Fort Antonia as the size of a city and it contained a full legion of Roman troops with many open spaces for military exercises and training). Fort Antonia was so large that Josephus said it obscured the whole of the Temple square from the north. (temple Update)
At the National Order of the Arrow Conference’s Gathering of Eagles, Rex Tillerson issued a challenge to every Eagle Scout...
He said that Eagle Scouts are expected to continue to act with personal integrity.
To illustrate this point, he talked about structural integrity, a key part of his job. He gestured to the 40-year-old building everyone was sitting in. You trust in the structural integrity of this building, he said, and that it won’t fall down on everyone. You don’t even think about it. Personal integrity, he said, works the same way. “People trust you. They count on you,” he said.
“Your personal integrity, once established and earned, people don’t have to think about it. They know. They know you. They know you’ll do the right thing every time.”
By boldly blaming Russia for all the chemical weaponry-related incidents in Syria, the US may be seeking to ramp up tensions and jeopardize the peace process in the country, while diverting attention from its own destructive role.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has named Russia ultimately responsible for each and every chemical attack in Syria, regardless of whom actually conducted it. The bewildering statement came on the heels of unconfirmed reports of a new incident allegedly involving chlorine in East Ghouta, and perfectly fits Washington’s narrative of the Syrian conflict, geopolitical experts and analysts told RT.
The accusations are clearly designed to ramp up tensions in the country to help the US to “justify its continued illegal military occupation of part of Syria,” former Assistant Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts believes.
“Washington’s false allegation against Syria focuses attention away from Washington’s illegal occupation, which should be the topic under discussion,” Roberts told RT.
Professor of history and international relations at Lebanese University in Beirut Dr Jamal Wakeem shares a similar view that “this is an attempt by the United States to step up the tension in Syria” as it wants to “hold onto its positions,” especially in north eastern Syria.
Apart from that, the accusations clearly indicate that the years-old “Assad must go” approach still lives in Washington. “It’s the same old story for Washington, they can’t seem to get off this linear narrative of regime change in Syria,” Jay said.
The event in Paris “has been politicized under pressure from Washington” from the very beginning and serving the only purpose to “make Syria and its partners look guilty,” former CIA officer and counter-terrorism specialist Philip Giraldi believes. A new chemical scandal perfectly fits this goal.
The upcoming Sochi meeting “holds great promise for the final realization of the peace framework agreement in Syria,” former UK ambassador to Syria and Bahrain, Peter Ford, believes, while “the people who want to undermine that Russian achievement are the people who are now levelling these probably hollow charges of use of chemical weapons and Russia’s alleged responsibility.”
“The American government is first and foremost a political machine, and it will do anything it can to discredit anyone or anything that it deems adversarial.
So, of course, peace talks that might bring relief from suffering and violence to the Syrian people will be discounted and unattended,” Matthew Hoh, a former US Marine and now a leader of Veterans For Peace told RT. The Americans are not serious at all, they just want to score points in the arm-wrestling, the big power game with Russia...”
The accusations made by Washington should be taken with a pinch of salt, Dr Wakeem warns, as “we’ve seen before cases of distortion, of manipulation of facts.” The US’ eagerness to rely on such shady sources “like the White Helmets or Al-Nusra or other ‘activists’ who shift from one side to another according to the situation” further makes any accusations levelled “void and discredited,” he added.
Russia's UN envoy Vasily Nebenzya stressed that by immediately rejecting Moscow’s proposal on setting up a new investigative mechanism to probe chemical incidents in Syria, the United States has shown its true colors.
"The fact that our resolution was immediately rejected, speaks for itself. It once again gives away the truth, which we already know. The United States has no need of an independent professional mechanism," he said, TASS reported.
Nebenzya told the UN Security Council meeting that Russia suggested setting up "a new international investigative body be set up to establish facts on the basis of scrupulous and incontestable evidence received by means of transparent and reliable methods so that the Security Council could identify those responsible for the use of poisonous agents as weapons."
In his words, it should be a "professional and de-politicized" mechanism. Washington rejected a Moscow-drafted Security Council resolution seeking to establish an objective investigative mechanism to probe all allegations of chemical attacks in Syria “based on impeccable and irrefutable data”.
Hundreds of school children in Gaza gathered with the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Mr. Pierre Krähenbühl, to launch the global fundraising campaign #DignityIsPriceless. The campaign follows the dramatic reduction of funding announced by the United States last week. It aims to raise US$ 500 million.
“We are launching this campaign because UNRWA stands with you as witnesses to your historic plight,” stated Krähenbühl during a press conference at an UNRWA school in Gaza. “I wish to confirm to all Palestine refugees that UNRWA schools, proud schools like the one we are standing in, will remain open. Health care, and other services will be provided. It is a huge challenge, but it is absolutely imperative.”
The reduction in funding could have a significant impact on the daily lives of millions of vulnerable Palestine refugees... At stake is access to basic education for 525,000 boys and girls at over 700 UNRWA schools; emergency food and cash assistance to 1.7 million extremely vulnerable Palestine refugees; access to primary health care for 3 million refugees, including pre-natal care,; dignity and human security for 5.3 million refugees who endured 70 years of injustice and uncertainty. The Commissioner-General reassured refugees that UNRWA’s mandate is firmly protected in the UN General Assembly. “It is not for sale and was just extended by 167 countries,” he said.
For details on the #DignityIsPriceless campaign, please visit www.unrwa.org/donate.
R&B singer Erykah Badu was trending Wednesday and not in a good way: She suggested in an interview that maybe Hitler wasn't all bad, in part because he was a "wonderful painter".
She said this in a long interview with Vulture published Wednesday, in which she talked about many subjects, including her 2008 visit to Israel where she said she supported the Palestinian cause and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, despite his alleged antisemitism.
"I’m OK with anything I had to say about Louis Farrakhan," she told her interlocutor, David Marchese.
"But I’m not an anti-Semitic person. I don’t even know what anti-Semitic was before I was called it. I’m a humanist. I see good in everybody. I saw something good in Hitler."
Apparently stupified, Marchese responded: "Come again?"
"Yeah, I did. Hitler was a wonderful painter," Badu said.
"No, he wasn't!" Marchese snapped back. Even if he were, he said, what does that have to do with whether there's any "good" in him?
Then Badu, 46, went off on a convoluted explanation of her views, which suggested that since Hitler supposedly had a terrible childhood, she could empathize with an abused child. "I guess it’s just the Pisces in me," she said. [Born 26-2-1971: Sun in Pisces, Moon in Pisces]
Marchese said "going down the route of 'Hitler was a child once, too' is maybe turning the idea of empathy into an empty abstraction."
"Maybe so," Badu said. "It doesn’t test my limits — I can see this clearly. I don’t care if the whole group says something, I’m going to be honest. I know I don’t have the most popular opinion sometimes."
Badu also had some sympathetic words for Bill Cosby, and never mind the dozens of allegations that he drugged and/or raped women going back to the mid-1960s.
"I love Bill Cosby," she said. "I love what he’s done for the world. But if he’s sick, why would I be angry with him? The people who got hurt, I feel so bad for them. I want them to feel better, too. But sick people do evil things; hurt people hurt people..."
In Christianity, Satan is an enemy of God, an opposing force, and something very bad. In Christianity, Satan has a level of power that is considered almost equal to that of God.
However, in Judaism Satan is an agent of God, created by God for a specific purpose, and something very good. Satan is simply an agent of God, just as all the other angels are simply agents of God.
If we take a look at Isaiah 45:7, we see that Hashem [God] is the creator of everything, as the text says, “bringing forth light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil, I am God who does all these things.”
In the Jewish bible, everything is under the jurisdiction of God and under His power – all forces, even evil forces. Everything comes from God, He created everything, good and evil.
That being the case, Satan is not a rival of God, he is a messenger of God and unable to do anything outside of God’s will.
In contrast to Christian literature, where Satan is understood to be an evil force, the enemy of God, in Jewish literature, he is seen as a blessing to the Jewish people. Why?
Let’s consider for a moment what Satan means. As mentioned before, the word Satan not only means an adversary, but a stumbling block or an obstacle.
What exactly is an obstacle? It is something which is put in our path requiring us to overcome it. Obstacles in this life give us opportunities to stretch our muscles and to grow...
This evil inclination, or Satan, provides friction. Can you imagine a world with no friction, no resistance? Think about a car, how does it go? It is the friction between the tires and the road that allow the car to make progress, to go forward. Now, to the tires the friction is not necessarily a positive thing, the friction slowly destroys the tire, and yet without the friction, the tire is worthless. If there is no resistance to overcome, we have no environment for growth. When we come up against an obstacle, either we crash into it and fall (definitely a negative experience – the evil inclination) or you have to climb over it, and by climbing over these obstacles in life, we develop our spiritual muscles, so to speak. If we never exercise our muscles, we atrophy.
So these forces in the world, these experiences, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable, are positive and important.
To reiterate, in the Jewish bible, everything was created by God, both good and evil and everything is under G-d’s control.
In Judaism Satan is an agent of God, who provides opportunities for us to grow, to respond to our passions and desires by producing things of value in this world and to become stronger spiritual people.
JewishAnswers.org opens itself to the questions and concerns of our readership, provides answers from Rabbis around the globe, and seeks to further the Jewish education of the Jews who are asking for more.