Israeli Minister for Military Affairs Moshe Ya’alon says the borders of many Middle Eastern countries are bound to change in the future as a result of recent developments in the region.
The Israeli minister said in a recent interview with the US-based National Public Radio (NPR) that the current borders would change in the coming years, as some have “been changed already.”
The Israeli minister added that the borders of some countries in the region were artificially drawn by the West.
“Libya was a new creation, a Western creation as a result of World War I. Syria, Iraq, the same — artificial nation-states — and what we see now is a collapse of this Western idea,” he stated.
However, Ya’alon said the borders of some nations, including the Egyptian border with Israel, would remain unchanged.
“We have to distinguish between countries like Egypt, with their history. Egypt will stay Egypt,” said Ya’alon.
The minister did not say whether the borders of Israel, also drawn by Western powers after World War I, would change or not.
Regarding the right to return for Palestinian refugees, Ya’alon said Tel Aviv could not allow such a move, as it would keep the Israeli-Palestinian conflict alive “forever.”
He also said that the insistence to remove Israeli settlers from the West Bank amounts to ethnic cleansing.
The Israeli regime expelled more than 700,000 people from their homeland after it occupied Palestine in 1948.
Israeli forces have wiped nearly 500 Palestinian villages and towns off the map, leaving an estimated total of 4.7 million Palestinian refugees hoping for an eventual return to their homeland more than six decades later.
Since 1948, the Israeli regime has denied Palestinian refugees the right of return, despite United Nations’ resolutions and international laws that uphold the people’s right to return to their homeland.
Tel Aviv has built over 120 illegal settlements built since the occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds.
The Jewish state of Israel in the Levant (JSIL) and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are different in many ways. The most fundamental difference is that the former is a recognized state and a member of the United Nations, while the latter is not recognized as a legitimate polity and is considered a political/military terrorist organization. However, the two share core characteristics that define them and by recognising these similarities observers may be able to make predictions about their futures.
Divine right to exist
Both JSIL and ISIS display what might be termed “self-defined righteousness.” Although Israel is a modern state, its politics and treatment of others (Palestinians) are based on religious concepts and principles that can be traced back to the first century BC and the teachings of Rabbi Hillel, someone who would be considered a fundamentalist today. He instructed Jews to have a religious and social identity separate from those of other people (tribes). Israel introduces itself to the international community as a Jewish state and, based on this interpretation of Zionist Judaism, is a home to Jews wherever they are in the world. In other words, it is a state which includes all Jews but excludes the indigenous people of Palestine, the Palestinians. It uses its interpretation of Judaism to deny Palestinians equal rights and prevent them from accessing their lands.
ISIS believes that it is enacting God’s will and defines itself as the force to enforce the Islamic moral code, religious rituals and law (Sharia). ISIS’ interpretation of Islam goes back to Ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328) who promoted the idea that Muslims are different from non-Muslims both in their way of life as well as in religious instruction. This notion of non-acceptance together with cultural differences led Ibn Taymiyyah’s followers to the practice of excluding others and in some cases putting them to death. This particular interpretation of Islam also means the rejection of other branches of Islam.
The form of righteousness practiced by ISIS leaders and Israeli politicians is also used to set apart the “good” people from the “bad” ones. The good are those who believe and support their respective political projects while the bad ones are those who stand against them. It is this stance that makes it permissible for Israel to inflict damage on the bad ones and reward the good. As such, the Palestinian people are depicted in the official Israeli narrative as the bad people who work hard to inflict damage on the good Israeli Jews.
Historically, the state of Israel was established on the self-proclaimed premise of the Zionist movement, that anti-Semitism and murder might surge again in the world. Thus, the resurgence of another wave of anti-Semitism will inflict another Holocaust on the world’s Jews. The Zionist movement took anti-Semitism and the Holocaust out of their historical context. In other words, the concepts were given an absolute ahistoric “religious” meaning. Consequently, the “Jews” started to become reified as an ethnic identity and Israel as a refuge for the world’s Jewry from harm.
For ISIS, one of the underlying reason for Muslims’ degeneration over the centuries is that too many people have strayed far from the fundamental principles of Islam. The role of ISIS is to establish an Islamic state ruled by the caliph. It considers itself to be the force that will revive true Islam and create a state in which all Muslims can live in under its interpretation of Islam. Similarly to Israel, where non-Jews are discriminated against, there is no place for non-Muslims to live as equal citizens in the so-called Islamic State.
Both JSIL and ISIS use the self-serving interpretation of religious texts to enact pragmatic politick. The Zionist narrative that gave birth to the state of Israel and is now its official ideology starts with the idea that the Jews are God’s chosen people and that God promised them the holy land. These two concepts of chosenness are ahistorical, unconditional, and self-limited. Thus, settler colonial expansion in Palestine beyond the 1948 borders is seen as the redemption of the biblically named Judea and Samaria for the Jewish people. Putting Palestinian communities under closure during Jewish holidays is usually disguised as a religious instruction and therefore not seen for what it is: a measure of control.
ISIS also claims it is justified in its actions; it considers itself the group fighting for God and enforcing the latter’s instructions on earth. The group’s interpretation of religious texts is based on its spiritual-political leaders’ rulings that place people into two main categories – believers in ISIS’ ideology are viewed as being on the right path for following the “correct” version of Islam while everyone else, including followers of other branches of Islam, is on the wrong path. Thus the expulsion or execution of Iraqi Christians and Yazidis in Mosul who refuse to convert or pay Jizya (a tax paid by non-Muslims) is introduced as a religious instruction that permits politically motivated discrimination.
Indiscriminate attacks on perceived “enemies”
International humanitarian law forbids parties in armed conflict from deliberately launching attacks against civilians but both Israel and ISIS carry out indiscriminate attacks against their enemies, and they cite similar justifications for such attacks, mainly operational reasons.
JSIL, like ISIS, says that engaging in conflict in residential areas makes it difficult to avoid harm to civilians. Israel, which deems itself “superior” to others, says it launches military operations to prevent harm to its own people whose lives are worth much than those of “others.” ISIS believes it is on the right path and views everyone else as living in a state of sinfulness and, according to the group, sinners deserve to be put to death. Ultimately, ISIS and Israel attack civilians as part of their strategy to dispose of the natives and remove them from their lands. As such, in their quest for control of the land they both practice ethnic cleansing under a myriad of guises.In areas controlled by ISIS, in both Syria and Iraq, the group has carried out the mass executions of opposition militants captured by its forces and any person who assists its enemies is liable to be sentenced to death. Israel carries out a similar strategy of collective punishment against Palestinian resistance. It used it in its latest war on the Gaza Strip and during the so-called Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09. Even when Israel states that its attacks are intended to kill only resistance fighters, its bombardment of residential areas always leads to the killing of civilians. These attacks are clearly designed to target and punish the combatants’ families and homes.
During Israel’s latest war on Gaza in the summer of 2014, the Israeli army intentionally converted 40 percent of the Gaza Strip into uninhabited land. The Israeli army displaced up to 500,000 Palestinians out of their neighborhoods. This is the same tactic ISIS has been using in vast swaths in Syria and Iraq. The latest incident is the ongoing fighting in Kobane, the Kurdish city under Syrian jurisdiction, where ISIS’ shelling of the city forced the majority of its citizens to be displaced.
Displacement, collective punishment, terrorism and ethnic cleansing in the name of God are but a few similarities between the two entities. It is worth considering how the state of Israel has embraced the legend of the Maccabees, a sect of Judaism which fought other Jews and foreign powers in the name of piousness and righteousness, and how it has incorporated it within the contemporary ethos. The Maccabees were fundamentalists who used violence against their enemies, both Jewish and non-Jewish, and carried out forced conversions much as ISIS does today.
Samer Jaber is a political activist and researcher. He is the managing director for Dar el-Karma Inc. for Media, Researches and Publication. He tweets at @Jerusalem_sbj
Dr. Bashar al-Jaafari at the UN: “In Golan terrorists get paid ransom by Qatar with the help of Israel”.
Who Will Show the Moral Courage to End the US’s Middle East Wars?
American military interventions tend to follow a familiar pattern. The path to intervention begins when Washington decides to support one side in an ongoing conflict. Regardless of its true nature, the side Washington chooses is elevated to sainthood while the side Washington decides to attack is demonized.
Soon, the usual suspects, Neocons and Liberal Interventionists who are only nominally Republicans or Democrats, trot out the old mantra, “It’s the 1930s and we can’t we can’t let another Hitler rise again.” In 1991 it was Saddam Hussein. In 1995, the villains were Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić. In 1999, the principle villain was Slobodan Milošević. All were guilty of heinous crimes and deserved the worlds’ contempt, but none were radically different from most of their contemporaries governing peoples at the same time in the Balkans and the Middle East.
To the uniformed American public remote from the regions where their armed forces will operate, it did not matter. With the added boost from America’s enthusiastic media, the usual suspects stampeded the nation into military action.
Today, things are a little different. After 13 years of ‘mission accomplished’ in Afghanistan and Iraq, and, after watching 123 Islamist Militias overrun Libya in the aftermath of the United States-led NATO bombing campaign, Americans are more circumspect. True, ISIS, the Sunni Islamists in pickup trucks ransacking towns across the wastelands of the Middle East, is barbarous and savage, but the support for all-out war to destroy ISIS involving tens of thousands of American Soldiers and Marines is tenuous. The solution: an “airpower only” answer to Washington’s need to “do something.”
Today, it’s a re-run of the Kosovo Air Campaign across Mesopotamia. It’s worth pausing to recall the events of the air campaign that lasted from 28 February 1998 until 11 June 1999.
In Kosovo American and NATO pilots found few if any good targets on the ground. Once Yugoslav (Serbian) tanks, artillery and troops dispersed across mountainous and forested terrain inside a region smaller than Wales, American Airpower had enormous trouble finding and attacking Serb forces. Old, but robust Serb air defenses skillfully integrated with commercial radars made effective air strikes launched from below 11,000 to 15,000 feet extremely dangerous, if not impossible.
Confronted with this situation, General Wes Clark expanded the air war beyond Kosovo into Serbia where the aircraft could easily identify and strike infrastructure. Initially, the resulting strikes in Serbia looked impressive on television and acted as a tonic for NATO’s beleaguered leaders. The destruction of electrical power plants and bridges over the Danube ruined Serbia’s economy, but it did little to influence events on the ground in Kosovo.
America’s European allies grew impatient. Why, Europeans asked, had NATO’s military Leaders not anticipated Serb military action to expel Kosovo’s Muslim Albanian population? Why not refocus the air campaign on Serb forces in Kosovo? To make matters worse, small numbers of Serb and Albanian civilians died in air strikes meant for Serb troops or infrastructure. Predictably, public support for the air campaign in the United States and Europe weakened.
Undeterred, General Clark pressed for the commitment of U.S. and European ground forces. Clark believed the air campaign was the equivalent of “Rolling Thunder;” the 1965 air campaign that led to the commitment of U.S. Ground Forces to Vietnam. It was not to be.
After weeks of negotiations, Ambassador Strobe Talbot succeeded in persuading Moscow to abandon Belgrade. Moscow deserted Belgrade because Moscow needed American and European support to cope with Russia’s shattered economy and a relentless Muslim rebellion in Chechnya.
Without Russian material support in terms of food and fuel, Milošević had no choice but to capitulate. Without food and fuel, hundreds of thousands of Serbs would die in the fierce Balkan winter. Serbian forces withdrew in good order from Kosovo. Pushing the Serbs out of Kosovo cost roughly $4.5 billion. Air strikes inflicted $9 billion of damage on little Serbia. Damage to the economies of the States in the Danube River Valley, to Italy and Greece ran into the billions of dollars too.
President Clinton was understandably relieved. He’d escaped from the Balkan disaster just in time.
Unfortunately for Mr. Obama, the Middle East is not tiny Kosovo. There is no easy retreat from the strident declarations made at the outset of his generals’ hasty, ill-conceived policy of intervention from the air. Once again, there are few, if any, lucrative target sets for American Airpower. Worse, the Middle East is in the grip of societal collapse and radicalization.
From the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, the old Cold War military alliances are crumbling and many of the Sunni Arab ruling elites that supported them fear their own populations. Millions of Sunni Muslim Arabs admire ISIS. They do so because they are struggling with dysfunctional governments mired in corruption and they fear the encroaching power and influence of Shiite Iran in Damascus, Baghdad, and the Persian Gulf Emirates.
More significantly, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is leading Turkey’s population of 77 million on an Ottoman Revival intertwined with the re-invigoration of Turkey’s centuries’ old Islamic identity. Since taking office, Erdogan has rejected every American diplomatic and military initiative in the region. Frustrated with the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood to secure power in Egypt, Erdogan has no interest in obstructing ISIS’s attacks on his regional opponents, apostate Shiites, Christians, Jews and, most of all, Kurds.
Erdogan and his Sunni Islamist supporters in the region are furious with Washington’s support for the Kurdish independence and Iran’s client Shiite State Baghdad. American air strikes are rescuing Ankara’s enemies from destruction at the hands of ISIS. Whatever else ISIS may be, in Erdogan’s mind, they are fellow Sunni Islamists and many of its fighters are Turks from the Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as Anatolia. Under these circumstances no one in Washington should be surprised that the Turkish Army, the largest in NATO, obedient to Erdogan’s orders recently attacked Kurds, but not ISIS fighters.
More time, new tactics, more money, more troops and better strategic “partners” will not change these regional realities. The logical choice for President Obama is to tell the American people the truth: America’s military interventions in the Middle East and Southwest Asia are festering sores, bottomless pits for American blood and treasure. Americans can secure their own borders, enforce the rule of law and build economic prosperity at home, but Americans in uniform cannot and will not “fix” the Middle East.
Of course, suspending military operations that are both ineffective and counterproductive takes both understanding and moral courage. In Washington DC, moral courage is always in short supply. British Prime Minister, Sir Benjamin Disraeli made the same point over a hundred years ago: “You will find as you grow older,” Disraeli said to a new member of the House of Commons, “that courage is the rarest of all qualities to be found in public life.”
The policies of the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are becoming more and more dangerous both in Syria and the whole Middle East.
Ankara has not only been promoting terrorist and extremist groups, alongside its sole ally in the region, Qatar, but it is now preparing an invasion of northern Syria.
Erdogan thinks that he has the right to invade and occupy territories of Turkey’s neighbors and ignore and violate the sovereignty of these Arab countries. He has supported terrorist organizations in Syria and allowed illegal oil trading by these groups, ignored Baghdad’s sovereignty over the Iraqi Kurdistan and its resources and insulted the Egyptian president in the United Nations.
The Erdogan government has long been a key supporter of ISIL, al-Nusra Front and some other terrorist organizations. However, Ankara is now trying to use ISIL advances towards its border as a pretext to illegally send troops to occupy a part of the northern Syrian territory without the authorization of the Syrian government. This is clearly a war act.
Turkish propaganda is invoking a false excuse, the humanitarian protection for Kurds fleeing the advance of ISIL, to promote the creation of a buffer zone and a no-fly zone in Syria.
The objective of this strategy is to weaken the Syrian state and give the Ankara-backed opposition armed groups a sanctuary from which they can launch attacks on the Syrian army and where the Turkish forces can train them.
On his return from New York, Erdogan unveiled some of the plans of the Turkish leadership, which explain the situation prevailing in northern Syria. “We must look to the events in Syria, not only from the angle of terrorism, but also from the angle of the Syrian regime”, he said.
He openly called for the creation of a buffer zone and a no-fly zone in northern Syria, while criticizing Germany’s decision to provide Peshmerga Kurdish forces fighting against ISIL in Iraq with arms, claiming that they could end up in the hands of terrorist organizations, according to the Turkish classification, such as PKK.
That is, from Erdogan’s point of view, the main enemy is not ISIL but the Syrian government and PKK, which are both fighting the ISIL terrorists.
It is noteworthy to point out that the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, has also claimed that Turkey opposes supplying the Iraqi army with weapons, because “95 percent” of the soldiers are Shiites, according to him.
Recently, Abdulkadir Selvi, journalist in the newspaper Yeni Safak, which is considered a leading pro-Erdogan outlet, said that Turkey will not take part in any air war or ground war with the coalition against ISIL in order to press the US to establish a buffer zone in Syria or allow Turkey to do so with its own warplanes and troops.
Erdogan is now using the events in the Kurdish town of Kobani to increase this pressure: If you do not allow me to send troops to Syria, Kobani will fall. This is Erdogan’s new strategy.
According to several media, Syrian Kurds are denouncing Erdogan’s plans. One of them, Binici Ibrahim, member of the Popular Democratic Party (HDP), has blamed Ankara for the situation in northern Syria due to its support for ISIL “The Turkish authorities are partly responsible for this situation. They protect ISIL, which is a terrorist organization”, Binici said, “Today they prevent young Kurds from returning to Syria to defend their territory.” “The Turkish government does not want to defend our city”, accused Mehmet Eminakma, another young HDP activist. “It crazily supports ISIL and not the Syrian people.”
Therefore, Ankara is trying to prevent young Syrian Kurds living in Turkey from returning and fighting against ISIL in order to create a humanitarian crisis and press ahead with its plans.
Facing this blackmail, the strategy of the Obama Administration is not clear. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has said that stopping ISIL terrorists in Kobani is not a priority because “the strategic objective of the US war is to attack ISIS infrastructure”.
This could mean that Washington understands the Turkish game and is unwilling to fall into the trap.
Nevertheless, on October 8, US Secretary of State John Kerry claimed that the UK and the US were “ready to examine the Turkish idea of setting up a buffer zone in Syria to protect refugees fleeing ISIL violence.” Kerry made the announcement in a joint press conference with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in Washington DC.
“The buffer zone is an idea that is out there. It is worth examining. It is worth looking at very, very closely,” said Kerry. The US Secretary of State added that creating a buffer zone will be one of the issues General John Allen, President Barack Obama’s anti-ISIL envoy, will be discussing with Turkish officials during an upcoming meeting in Turkey.
Some months ago, Turkey sent some troops to protect the Tomb of Suleiman Shah, located 33 km from the border. According to Turkish media, the convoy entered the Syrian territory without asking permission of Damascus. The excuse was some alleged links between the site and the Ottoman history. If such an argument was acceptable, dozens of countries could use a similar pretext to invade other neighbouring states.
Obstacles for a Turkish intervention
However, there are some obstacles for a possible Turkish intervention. First of all, Syrian and Arab peoples remember the Ottoman occupation and they do not want to see the Turks return. Erdogan’s policies have outraged not only Syria and Iraq but also other states of the region. In fact, Jordan’s alleged decision to suspend its participation in the airstrikes in Syria has been linked by some Arab media to Turkish actions in this country.
Other countries, such as Egypt and United Arab Emirates, do not want a Turkish intervention in Syria either. They think that Turkish government, alongside with Qatar, is trying to mobilize its allies of the Muslim Brotherhood in northern Syria and this is a clear threat for these countries, which are battling this group in their territories.
Even Saudi Arabia, despite its hostility towards the Syrian government, will not likely be happy either, as the Saudi regime does not want a more powerful Brotherhood-supporting Turkey in the region.
Secondly, Syria and Iraq have rejected any military Turkish interference. Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar Abadi reiterated on October 7 to his Turkish counterpart, Ahmed Davutoglu, that Iraq rejects any ground intervention of foreign forces in his country under the pretext of fighting ISIL. Syria has also warned that any Turkish military deployment in its territory would be an “act of aggression”.
Thirdly, Iran and Russia have clearly stated that Syria is a red line and any aggression against Syria would violate their principles and interests. Russia will certainly block any project in the UN Security Council to create a buffer or a no-fly zone. Both countries would also respond to such a Turkish action. Russia has recently sent a new warship to the Mediterranean and has held military maneuvers in the Caspian Sea alongside with Iran in order to send a signal to Turkey.
In Turkey, a large part of the population strongly rejects Erdogan’s policies in the Middle East. Major Turkish opposition parties opposed a motion by AKP (Erdogan’s party) aimed at authorizing a military intervention in Syria and Iraq. The Republican People’s Party and Freedom and Democracy Party said that such a step would be “unacceptable”.
There have also been demonstrations in Istanbul and other cities against the government’s interference in Syria and its support for ISIL. On October 5th, 10,000 people marched in Istanbul behind banners proclaiming “ISIL killer; AKP accomplice”.
For the West, Erdogan’s Turkey is becoming a serious problem too. Turkey, a NATO member, is one of the main supporters of extremism in the Middle East, and its imperialist “neo-Otoman” dreams are endangering the whole region and feeding terrorism everywhere. Thus, it is not surprising that Erdogan has become the new hero of the extremist sites and forums in Internet.
However, a Turkish intervention in Syria would have dire consequences for both Erdogan and Turkey. He will soon discover everyone is against him and such a step would renew the fear of “the Otoman resurgence” among the Arab peoples. Therefore, it would become the last nail of the coffin of the Turkish leadership’s ambitions in the Middle East.
Bible thumping and carpet bombing
The really interesting thing about the Junior Senator from Texas is the fact that he demonstrates that anyone who wants it badly enough can become president. It is, of course, something for which there is a precedent, when voters elected an inexperienced and largely unknown Barack Obama. Cruz shares Obama’s lack of preparation for the highest office while he is also something of a throwback to fellow Texan George W. Bush’s tradition of anti-intellectualism and lack of curiosity about how the rest of the world interacts with the United States. This is particularly unfortunate as Cruz, a conventional Republican conservative on all social issues, ironically has chosen to identify differences in foreign policy to distinguish himself from the rest of the Republican pack.
Cruz might rightly be seen by some as a nightmarish incarnation of a narrow minded conservative Christian vision of what the United States is all about, aggressively embracing a world view based on ignorance coupled with the license granted by God endowed “American exceptionalism” from sea to shining sea. His father is an Evangelical preacher and the son has successfully absorbed much of both the blinkered notions of right and wrong as well as the Elmer Gantry style, but that is not to suggest that he is stupid. By all accounts Cruz, a graduate of Princeton and of Harvard Law School, is extremely intelligent and by some accounts endowed with both extraordinary cunning and ambition. He is possessed of excellent political instincts when it comes to appealing to the constituencies in the GOP that he believes to be essential to his success.
Washington has seen presidents who were truly religious in the past but it has rarely experienced the Cruz mixture of demagoguery combined with a Biblically infused sense of righteousness which admits to no error. His Manichean sense of good and evil is constantly on display, but he is most on fire when he is speaking to his fellow conservative Christians, most recently at the gathering of the Faith and Freedom Coalition in Iowa. Cruz was one of a number of GOP speakers, which included potential presidential hopefuls Bobby Jindal and Paul Ryan, who were received tepidly while Cruz was greeted with cheering and a standing ovation before launching into his most recent theme, blaming the White House for not pressuring foreign governments to protect their Christian minorities. The enthusiastic reception was not surprising as Cruz is, after all, the “real thing” speaking “their language” fluently and the Evangelicals know it.
Cruz is intelligent enough to realize that what he is peddling is a type of narrative designed to make himself electable. What he actually believes is somewhat irrelevant except that if he is an actual zealot he might well be immune to viewpoints that run counter to his biases, dangerous in a president. A year ago Cruz grandstanded in leading the GOP dissidents’ attempt to shut down the government over the issue of Obamacare, a move that the party leadership regarded as a major “tactical error.” He was widely condemned for his performance in the media and within his own party but he made points with the constituency he was courting, the Tea Partiers.
The disturbing thing about Cruz is that his foreign policy statements are awash in what must be a willful disregard of reality, but, as with the threatened government shutdown, he apparently knows what will sell with the Bible thumping America first crowd that he is primarily targeting. His latest leitmotif which he has been hammering relentlessly is the worldwide persecution of Christians, with the clear implication that it is uniquely a Muslim problem. It is also a line that is being pursued by the Israeli government and American Jewish groups, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is somehow a protector of Christianity. He opposes negotiations with Iran, for example, because a Christian pastor is in prison there. That several other Americans are also being held by the government in Tehran, including a former US Marine, appears to be of secondary importance and US broader regional interests do not enter into the discussion at all.
As part of his strategy to outflank his competition in the GOP, Cruz is shameless in his promotion of Israel and its interests. He did so recently by telling an audience of beleaguered Middle Eastern Christians that they had “no greater ally than Israel,” a statement so palpably out of sync with the actual experiences of those in the audience that he was booed of the stage. His response: “Those who hate Israel hate America.” Countering conservative critics of his performance Cruz subsequently wrote that “… the only time at least some of these writers seem to care about persecuted Christians is when it furthers an anti-Israel narrative for them.”
Cruz will, of course, find Israel haters wherever he looks as it constitutes a convenient way to dismiss critics without affording them a hearing. He will never concede that Israel discriminates against its Christian minority in spite of the considerable evidence that it does so. That Israel chooses to describe itself as a Jewish State, a designation that Cruz enthusiastically supports, does not ring any bells for him though he is quick to pounce on Iran for calling itself the Islamic Republic.
This willful blindness derives from the fact that Israel is central to Cruz’s foreign policy thinking. He has visited the country three times since becoming Senator. In Des Moines last week he spoke about Israel and he has referred to it from the Senate floor literally thousands of times, according to the Congressional Record. His private Senate office features a large framed photo of himself with Netanyahu. Nearly every speech Cruz makes sooner or later comes around to the issue of “standing for Israel” even when there is no logical reason to make that connection. At the recent Values Voters Summit in Washington he brought the cheering crowd to its feet by shouting “We stand for life. We stand for marriage. We stand for Israel.”
To be sure, part of the Cruz strategy comes from his recognition that no Republican can become a presidential candidate without the endorsement of Israel’s supporters. Cruz has met privately with the leaders of Jewish organizations, including Bill Kristol, editor of the neocon Weekly Standard and founder or board member of the multitude of pro-Israel alphabet soup organizations that seem to spring up spontaneously. The Weekly Standard has, not surprisingly, promoted the Cruz candidacy. Cruz also has his eye on Jewish money. He is seeking the support of Las Vegas casino mega-billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who could single handedly fund his campaign if he should choose to do so, as well as with other potential donors.
Cruz, who apparently believes he has learned something from the Vietnam and Iraq fiascos, describes his foreign policy in simple terms: have a clearly defined objective, use overwhelming force, and then get out. If viewed at face value, the formula is an antidote for prolonged and unsuccessful nation building, which would be good, but it has to be taken in the context of Cruz’s other pronouncements. He describes the world as being “on fire” and his rhetoric is uniformly belligerent. He sees “overwhelming” military intervention by the US as a God given right whenever the policy makers in Washington feel threatened and he also regards the military option as a first resort without any regard for what is going on in the country that is the target. Making a mess and leaving it is a recipe for international anarchy.
In a recent speech Cruz denounced the Administration for talking with Iranian representatives at the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York. He characterized the event as “swilling chardonnay with the Iranian government.” That the United States has very compelling interests to be working with Iran both on ISIS and on nuclear proliferation apparently escaped Cruz’s grasp, so he was left with little more than a cheap shot joke to explain his unwillingness to negotiate with a government that he and Israel have repeatedly demonized.
Regarding Russia, Cruz has called for an expansion of NATO and more sanctions without any explanation of what the strategy might be or any curiosity about where increasing pressure on Moscow might lead. As a Cuban American he is inevitably hostile towards the government in Havana. Regarding Iran, Cruz supports harsher sanctions even though it would mean an end to negotiations over that country’s nuclear program.
Cruz’s foreign policy vision has been reported to be finding a “sweet spot” between the nation building of the Democrats and the reflexive belligerency of some Republican Senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham who have not apparently realized that the country is weary of war. In reality however, Cruz veers strongly towards McCain-like solutions, accepting military interventions while eschewing the occupation and rebuilding bits only because they are too expensive and prone to misadventure to entertain. Sadly, like other GOP hawks, Cruz does not recognize that Washington has caused many if not most international problems, that foreign nations actually have interests that should be respected or at least considered, that military solutions are rarely sustainable, and that inextricably linking the United States to a rogue nation like Israel might not actually be good policy. But such considerations count for little when a man with a mission is on his way to become President of the United States.
Clashes took place in eastern Lebanon on Sunday afternoon, as a group of militants attacked a Hezbollah checkpoint, the Lebanese National News Agency reported.
There were conflicting media reports on Sunday evening over the number of wounded and killed in the attack in the outskirts of Britel, in the Baalbek region.
According to the NNA, there were several casualties on the side of the armed militants.
News channel LBCI, which identified the militant gunmen as members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, said there were injuries on both sides, while radio station Sawt Lubnaan said at least two Hezbollah fighters had been killed.
Sawt Lubnaan also reported that the army had not intervened until late, and that the clashes had relatively subsided by 5:00 pm.
The NNA also reported clashes outside of Yuneen, and the sound of rockets or bombs near some villages east of Baalbek.
Eve’s Thoughts | October 3, 2014
One month ago I came to Beirut the capital of Lebanon. Here and all over the country, where ever you go, you constantly meet Syrian refugees as well as Iraqis.
Lebanon a country with a population of only 4 and a half million native citizens has taken in about 1.2 Million Syrian refugees and the number is growing still. Already since the beginning of the second Gulf War countless Iraqi refugees have entered the country fleeing violence, chaos and destruction at home. While many of these Iraqi refugees have sought and found asylum in Western countries, there are still an estimated 100,000 Iraqi refugees inside Lebanon, most of them are unregistered and without legal rights.
These enormous numbers of refugees have had a large impact on Lebanese economic conditions. Rents for working class housing have sky-rocketed, since the refugees now, according to some Lebanese friends, rent all the available spaces, with six or more people occupying a single room paying several times the rent that has been asked of Lebanese tenants before the Syrian civil war. At the same time wages have fallen drastically, since the the refugees are ready to work for far lower pay.
This, however, is not the only reason why there also more and more hostile feelings against the refugees in this country. Sunni refugees are often suspected by both Christian and Shiite Lebanese of sympathizing with or even supporting the radical Islamists, like ISIS which is called the Da’esh here or the Al Nusra front or other Al Qaeda affiliated groups.
Public anger has then increased enormously after the Da’esh had, in a cross-border raid, taken over the Lebanese village of Arsal, which also houses a large camp for Syrian refugees and the local army station. 29 soldiers and policemen were captured, some of the Sunni captives were released, while those of other sects and religions are still kept as hostages.
Two of the captives so far have been murdered by beheading. Although the first soldier murdered was a Sunni man, there are still great fears of the public outrage that the murders might lead to sectarian violence.
But this is exactly what nobody wants here in Lebanon the long decades of civil war are still a recent and horrifying memory. And therefore great efforts are made both by individuals as well as by political parties and groups to diffuse sectarian distrust and fear which might lead to hatred and violence.
An example of these strenuous efforts are those of the parents of the murdered soldiers as reported about the family of Abbas Medlej, a Shiite family:
The family of the Lebanese soldier who was executed by ISIS Saturday called for unity against takfiri groups, saying citizens need to support the state and the Army, not slip into civil strife.
“Our choice remains as is, Lebanon a country of coexistence for all its components,” said the statement by the family of Abbas Medlej Saturday night, appealing for calm.
“The terrorist act that killed our son Abbas is a crime against all Lebanese; Shiites, Sunnis, Christians and Druze.”
The Medlej family called for Lebanese to prevent “takfiris from penetrating into our national fabric,” and thus stop them from achieving their goal of division among the Lebanese…
Similarly the family of the other executed soldier, Ali Al-Sayed, a Sunni, as reported by Lebanese News :
In a bid to challenge rising sectarian tensions, the families of the two Lebanese soldiers executed by ISIS joined together in prayer Friday.
The family of Ali Al-Sayed traveled from north Lebanon to the Al-Ansar, near Baalbek, to offer condolences to the relatives of Abbas Medlej.
Medlej and Sayed were both kidnapped by ISIS during the Arsal clashes last month and were later beheaded by the fundamentalist group.
The two families, one Sunni and one Shiite, gathered for a joint prayer at the village’s mosque led by the Baalbek and Hermal Mufti Sheikh Bakr al-Rifai, who stressed on the importance of “Muslim unity and coexistence.”
And then there are the statements of religious Hezbollah leaders like the Head of Hezbollah’s religious committee, Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek, who, along with Industry Minister Hussein al-Hajj Hassan and a delegation from Hezbollah, visited the Baalbek town of Al-Ansar to offer condolences to the relatives of Lebanese Armed Forces soldier Abbas Medlej:
Sheikh Yazbek told LBCI that martyrs Ali Al-Sayyed and Abbas Medlej represent the entire Lebanese nation, stressing that Lebanese authorities should exert more efforts to face terrorism.
Sheikh Yazbel also stated that terrorism does not differentiate between Shiites, Sunnis, and Christians, urging Lebanese citizens to unite their efforts in order to face this threat.
Hezbollah, as both a political party and a Shiite militia, has before been considered not a friend but competition to the Lebanese army. But in spite of everything the Lebanese people of all creeds and political sides try to do, the country isn’t safe.
There are forces at work, which do not originate in Lebanon, forces which do their utmost to inflame tensions and in doing so to create conditions for a new civil war.
The Lebanese daily The Daily Star writes in its English edition on September 25:
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: There are reports that ISIS is looking to create trouble and instability via the sleeper cells it is believed to have implanted across the country.
Lebanese security sources said that ISIS was trying to create strife in areas in Lebanon’s north, south and the Bekaa Valley in order to undermine the country’s stability.
The starting point of this plan was the five-day clashes in Arsal, which have since been followed by sporadic incidents in north Lebanon such as gunmen opening fire on a Lebanese Army position Tuesday, leading to the death of soldier Mohammad Khaled al-Hussein…
As Islamist militants fighting in Syria search for different ways to get hold of supplies needed in the ongoing war there, Lebanese political factions have been forced to mobilize to keep pace with the fast-moving developments.
For the first time in a long time, the various Lebanese security bodies have decided to join efforts in their fight against terrorism.
This has been made all the more urgent since senior security sources revealed that ISIS has been intensifying its efforts to create pockets of support across the country…
The security authorities have warned that ISIS and the Lebanese branches of the Nusra Front and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades have united in order to establish a haven in the border area stretching from the north through the Bekaa Valley to the Shebaa farms in the south.
According to reports, if ISIS is to conduct attacks in these areas, they will be led by a figure known as Sheikh Abu Hasan al-Ramlawi.
Ramlawi – who goes by a nom du guerre – is a Palestinian who holds a Jordanian passport. Security forces marked him as an important figure because he used to mobilize Islamists in Deraa in southern Syria, before moving to an area closer to Lebanon.
Ramlawi is believed to have moved toward the Syrian part of the Golan Heights and Shebaa until he reached the area’s Lebanese Sunni villages, where he has reportedly been working on forming armed groups.
As a result of the sensitive location of this area, Hezbollah is believed to be monitoring the situation closely.
There are fears that Israel might try to take advantage of these developments to target Hezbollah. Some even believe that Ramlawi may have been coordinating with Israeli secret service agency Mossad in order to manipulate events in Syria.
Such reports pushed Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah to give a speech Tuesday emphasizing the party’s position on the war against terrorism, while rejecting Lebanon’s participation in an international anti- ISIS coalition. Nasrallah also called on the Lebanese government to negotiate from a position of strength with the Islamist militants from ISIS and Nusra Front who are holding at least 21 soldiers and policemen…
But even the travesty of the kidnappings seems to pale in comparison to dramatic developments predicted to be on the horizon.
In a statement, Sheikh Sirajuddine Zureiqat, a spokesman of Al-Qaeda-affiliated group the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, said he would be coming to Beirut soon. This statement was dismissed by Nasrallah in his speech.
Zureiqat is believed to now be with the Lebanese captives, which if true would be a dangerous indicator that the Nusra Front, ISIS and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades are starting to unify within Lebanon.
The threat posed by ISIS’ alleged sleeper cells is being taken sufficiently seriously that it prompted Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt to make a tour around Wadi al-Taym – a predominantly Druze area very close to the Syrian border – over the weekend.
The move comes as the Druze community is reporting feeling directly threatened by these extremists groups. As the area that the groups are believed to be interested in contains large numbers of Druze, it is natural to fear that the Druze would be displaced were the groups to take over. Therefore the targeting of the Druze in Shebaa is being prepared for.
The Lebanese government also senses the danger that the country is in, and is fully aware of the complications ahead. One senior political source compared the expected turmoil to the aftermath of Israel’s invasion in the summer of 1982.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam wants to get through the crisis with as little fallout as possible, and he is currently in New York working on ensuring Lebanon has a safety net amid the regional turmoil.
From Syrians, both Sunni Muslim and Christian, that I met here in Beirut and during my one-week stay Syria I have heard nearly the same words again and again in helpless sighs: “We are like pawns, who are used in a game by outside powers who play with us. But we do the suffering and dying.”
The Lebanese are very close to feeling the same helplessness, being tossed around by ruthless forces in their power games, forces which have no regard for the livelihood, the safety, the dignity and the lives of most human beings, forces who are ready to go over mountains of dead bodies to reach their aims.
What does it say when the capital of the world’s most powerful nation anchors a major decision about war in what every thinking person acknowledges is a “fantasy” – even the principal policymaker and a top advocate for foreign interventions?
It might suggest that the U.S. government has completely lost its bearings or that political opportunism now so overwhelms rationality that shortsighted expediency determines life-or-death military strategies. Either way, it is hard to see how the current U.S. policy toward Iraq, Syria and the larger Middle East can serve American national interests or translate into anything but more misery for the people of the region.
Official Washington’s most treasured “fantasy” today is the notion that a viable “moderate opposition” exists in Syria or could somehow be created. That wish-upon-a-star belief was the centerpiece of congressional action last month on a $500 million plan by President Barack Obama to train and arm these “moderate” rebels to combat Islamic State terrorists who have been plundering large swaths of Syria and Iraq — and also take on the Syrian army.
Yet, as recently as August, President Barack Obama publicly declared that trust in these “moderates” was a “fantasy” that was “never in the cards” as a workable strategy. Then, on Wednesday, David Ignatius, national security columnist for the neoconservative Washington Post and a prominent booster of U.S. interventionism, reported from a rebel staging area in Reyhanli, Turkey, the same reality in nearly the same language.
“The problem is that the ‘moderate opposition’ that the United States is backing is still largely a fantasy,” Ignatius wrote, noting that the greatest challenge would be to coordinate “the ragtag brigades of the Free Syrian Army into a coherent force that can fill the vacuum once the extremists are driven out.”
Ignatius quoted Syrian rebel commander Hamza al-Shamali, a top recipient of American support including anti-tank missiles, as saying, “At some point, the Syrian street lost trust in the Free Syrian Army,” the U.S.-backed rebel force that was the armed wing of the supposedly “moderate opposition” to President Bashar al-Assad. Ignatius added:
“Shamali explains that many rebel commanders aren’t disciplined, their fighters aren’t well-trained and the loose umbrella organization of the FSA lacks command and control. The extremists of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra have filled the vacuum. Now, he says, ‘the question every Syrian has for the opposition is: Are you going to bring chaos or order?’”
According to Ignatius, Shamali said he rejected a proposal to merge the FSA’s disparate brigades because “we refuse to repeat failed experiments.” He argued that an entirely new “Syrian national army” would be needed to fight both the Islamist radicals and Assad’s military.
But even the sympathetic Ignatius recognized that “the FSA’s biggest problem has been internecine feuding. Over the past two years, I’ve interviewed various people who tried to become leaders, such as: Abdul-Jabbar Akaidi, Salim Idriss and Jamal Maarouf. They all talked about unifying the opposition but none succeeded.
“An Arab intelligence source explains: ‘Until now, the FSA is a kind of mafia. … People inside Syria are tired of this mafia. There is no structure. It’s nothing.’ And this from one of the people who have struggled the past three years to organize the resistance.”
In other words, the “moderate” rebels – to the degree that they do exist – are viewed by many Syrians as part of the problem, not part of any solution.
Another flaw in Obama’s strategy is that the Syrian “moderates” are much more opposed to Assad’s harsh but secular regime than they are to the Sunni jihadists who have emerged as the most effective fighting force against him.
“If U.S. airstrikes and other support are seen to be hitting Muslim fighters only, and strengthening the despised Assad, this strategy for creating a ‘moderate opposition’ will likely fail,” Ignatius concluded.
That complaint has given new hope to Washington’s influential neoconservatives that they can ultimately redirect Obama’s intervention in Syria from bombing the Islamic State terrorists to a full-scale “regime change” war against Assad, much like the neocons helped convince President George W. Bush to invade Iraq in 2003. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons’ Noses Into the Syrian Tent.”]
In this regard, Obama appears to be the proverbial deer in the headlights. He’s afraid of being called “weak” if he doesn’t go after the Islamic State for its hyper-violent attacks inside Iraq and its brutal executions of American hostages in Syria. Yet, Obama also can’t escape his earlier tough talk that “Assad must go.”
Obama’s core contradiction has been that by providing “covert” assistance to Syrian rebels, he has indirectly strengthened the Sunni extremists who have seized the Free Syrian Army’s weapons depots and won converts from the “moderate” rebels, some of whom were trained, armed and financed by the CIA. Meanwhile, other U.S. allies, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, have been helping more extreme Syrian rebels, including al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front.
A year ago, many of the “moderate” rebels publicly repudiated the Syrian political front that the Obama administration had put together and instead endorsed al-Nusra. According to one source with access to Western intelligence information, some “moderate” rebels – recruited from Muslim communities in Great Britain and other Western countries – have now taken their military skills (and passports) to the Islamic State.
Yet, instead of acknowledging that this strategy of relying on an unreliable “moderate opposition” is indeed a “fantasy,” President Obama and a majority in Congress have chosen to pursue this geopolitical unicorn with another $500 million and much political chest-thumping.
An Alternative Approach
At this late stage, the only practical strategy would be to press the non-extremist Sunni opposition to work out some form of unity government with Assad who retains strong support among Syria’s Alawite, Shiite and Christian minorities. By enlisting Russia and Iran, Obama might be able to secure concessions from Assad, including the possibility of a gradual transition to a post-Assad era.
With such a political settlement in hand, the focus could then be on defeating the Islamic State and al-Qaeda’s Nusra affiliate and restoring some order to Syria. But the problem is that Official Washington’s neocons and their “liberal interventionist” allies are so fixated on “regime change” in Syria and are so hostile to Russia and Iran that any pragmatic strategy is effectively ruled out.
Though Obama may be a closet “realist” who would favor such a compromise approach, he has consistently lacked the political courage or the geopolitical foresight to impose this kind of solution on the powers-that-be in Washington. Any suggestion of collaboration with Russia and Iran or acquiescence to continued rule by Assad would touch off a firestorm of outrage in Congress and the mainstream U.S. media.
So, Obama instead has charted a course into what he knows to be a fantasyland, a costly pursuit of the chimerical Syrian “moderates” who – once located – are supposed to defeat both the Sunni extremists and the army of the secularist Assad. This journey is not simply a march of folly but a meandering into illusion.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
What is it about proclamations of “peace” that allows injustice to continue unhindered?
It’s a question applicable to governments, security institutions, media columnists and pro-Israel lobbies who regularly espouse a passion for “peace in the Holy Land”.
While on the surface it appears to be a perfectly normal and laudable aspiration, in the experience of Palestine it is unfortunately riddled with inconsistencies making it alarmingly dishonest.
“Peace” as espoused by Israel’s leaders is no more than a fig leaf for it seeks to conceal the regime’s unremitting repression of Palestinian rights.
Though “peace” is a concept embodying humane values associated with calm and serenity, for Palestinians it has had a devastating opposite effect. Their daily experience whether as refugees awaiting return home or as a collective of Occupied people, points to a life of subjugation which has for decades been exploited by successive governments in Israel.
While the deception inherent in Israel’s so-called desire for “peace” is known and documented quite extensively, it is also known that by leaning on this false notion, the regime has attempted to deflect scrutiny of its unjust conduct towards Palestinians.
Such deliberate and calculated sophistry has assisted Israel and her supporters to bluff the world. By staking its claim as a “peaceful” state whose citizens deserve to live in “peace”, Israel’s social architects expect immunity from censure for any and all forms of oppression and military barbarity.
“Peace” is thus a linguistic political tool without any connection to the noble values it incorporates. Malicious and misleading to the extreme for it implies that to oppose Israel is to oppose “peace”. In other words, anti-Israelism is equated with mindless violence.
This type of faulty rationale is deliberately constructed to demonise opponents of the regime’s colonial status as violent. Thus in the context of contrasting “peace” and “violence”, Israel continues to rally support for its savagery on the basis of an aspiration most people would unhesitatingly subscribe to.
Netanyahu has repeated this trick once again at the United Nations. By casting Israel as a victim of “terrorism” perpetrated by “violent” ideologues of “Islamist radicalism”, he hopes to garner global sympathy and thereby shield his apartheid regime’s catalogue of atrocities.
America’s current bombing spree in cahoots with Britain and France and their respective Arab client-states gives Israel perfect timing and cover. In Iraq and Syria, the US-led “war on terror” has a new enemy in the guise of ISIS commonly referred to as the Islamic State.
Overnight, ISIS has emerged as a new villain threatening the existence of Western civilization. Its dominance over large swathes of Iraq and Syria including key oil fields precipitated what most people currently associate ISIS with: beheadings of Western journalists.
Suddenly this new “Islamist bogeyman” emerges to not only distract global attention from Israel’s beheadings of Palestinian families, but also to extend a fresh lifeline to America’s military industrial complex. And, of course, to provide Netanyahu the opportunity to cast resistance movements such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the mould of ISIS.
Such tricks conjure the minds of magicians and keep people enthralled while deceptive policies of dispossession continue uninterrupted.
Netanyahu and his clique of magicians may believe that waving the wand of “peace” will conceal Israel’s bloody carnage and ongoing aggression, but unfortunately for Zionism this illusion won’t last.
If South Africa is used as a yardstick to measure whether Israel’s bag of dirty tricks has worked, it’s pretty clear that Netanyahu has failed dismally.
Here, a sustained campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) led by the ANC as the ruling party and a formidable formation of civil societies, churches and trade unions has demonstrated that it has not been deceived by false notions of “peace”.
Having long since captured the sympathies of America’s evangelical Christians, Israel’s friends have recently been attempting to show empathy for the persecuted Christian churches of the Arab World in what appears to be a concerted effort to garner support for Tel Aviv’s regional aspirations. Only founded earlier this year, a previously obscure non-profit organization called “In Defense of Christians” suddenly attracted international headlines during its inaugural summit (Sept. 9-11). The stated purpose of the three-day Washington, D.C. gathering was to raise awareness about the plight of beleaguered Middle Eastern Christian communities whose continued existence is threatened by the advance of the Islamic State, or ISIS, and other takfiri groups.
Although The Washington Post published a report on the IDC Summit in its Religion section on Sept. 10, it wasn’t until that evening’s gala dinner when keynote speaker Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was reportedly “booed off the stage” for his provocative pro-Israel speech that most people first heard of the Washington-based group. Cruz left little doubt that he was more concerned about defending Israel than the region’s Christians when he began to “loop” ISIS and Al-Qaeda together with Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran (i.e. the latter three forming “the strategic arc” that poses “the greatest danger to Israel,” as Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the US, has admitted to The Jerusalem Post.) But it wasn’t until the Texas senator asserted that “Christians have no greater ally than the Jewish state” that some of the attendees could take no more of what sounded like an AIPAC-scripted sermon and began to heckle him.
One Orthodox leader on Tuesday (Sept. 9) declared his opposition to military action to stop the Islamic State militants, a view that is not likely widely shared at the conference, Doran noted. The next day, another called the Arab-Israel conflict the root of Middle Eastern chaos. He doesn’t speak for the IDC nor his brother patriarchs, said Doran.
Yet in a Sept. 11 press release entitled “Clarifying Senator Cruz’s Walk Away from Middle Eastern Christian Summit,” Doran, who previously worked for the US Department of State, still seemed assured that he and his allegedly “non-partisan” organization speak instead for the region’s Christians. After having recounted “in tears” his inspiration for the group’s name from a 1933 letter titled “In Defense of the Jews,” the IDC executive director claimed: “In last night’s Solidarity Gala Dinner, Senator Cruz chose to stand against the small and vocal minority of attendees who disagree with his views on Israel rather than standing with the vast majority of those who attended the gala and support both Israel and the Middle East’s Christians.”
Adding to Doran’s “clarification,” IDC president Toufic Baaklini noted “sadly” that “there was a small but vocal anti-Israel element in the room” who “do not represent the views of IDC.” Fittingly, the IDC press release ended by citing one of the summit’s most active speakers [.pdf] whose support for Israel has rarely, if ever, been in doubt: “As Nina Shea, who introduced Cruz later said, ‘We will not agree on territorial disputes, but we stand united against religious persecution regardless of the religion.’”
A senior fellow at the neoconservative Hudson Institute, Shea directs Hudson’s Center for Religious Freedom. A former vice chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which was once led by the pardoned pro-Israel Iran-Contra intriguer Elliott Abrams and currently chaired by a daughter of the late “true blue and white” Israel mouthpiece and infamous interventionist Tom Lantos, the senior Hudson fellow has, as one critical profile puts it, “a long track record of using human rights concerns to promote various foreign interventions favored by neoconservatives.” Significantly, the IDC summit is evidently not the first time concerns about specifically Christian suffering have been used by the neocon interventionist:
In a 2001 article for the Washington Monthly, Joshua Green related how in the mid-1990s Shea teamed up with Michael Horowitz, a former Reagan administration official, in an effort “to put the issue of Christian persecution on the map.” Green reported: “Horowitz, a Jewish neoconservative and a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute, detailed the plight of persecuted Christians in Africa and the Middle East. He concluded by calling for intervention. ‘For American Jews, who owe our very lives to the open door of the blessed land,’ he wrote, ‘silence should not be an option in the face of persecutions eerily parallel to those committed by Adolf Hitler.’” According to Green, a favorite Horowitz sound bite at the time was that “Christians are the Jews of the 21st century.”
In a 2012 article entitled “What Will Become of the Middle East’s Christians?”—one of the many pieces in which Doran cites Shea’s work on Christian persecution—the IDC executive director echoes Horowitz’s favorite sound bite:
The exodus of Jews from Yemen, where they had lived for fifteen centuries before the birth of the Prophet, was not an isolated occurrence; it was repeated across the Middle East and North Africa, as these Diaspora Jews made their way, reluctantly in many cases, to Israel. Their fight for survival foreshadowed that of the more than ten million Christians of the Muslim world, who today struggle to maintain a presence and identity in the lands where they have lived for centuries.
Presumably, the reader is expected to infer Muslim persecution of Jews from Doran’s use of the word “reluctantly” as opposed to the Israeli false flag attacks that were required in at least some cases to convince those “Diaspora Jews” to flee to the newly-established “Jewish state” on Palestinian land.
A regular contributor to the neocon National Review Online, Doran also shares Shea’s favored response to the problem of Christian persecution. For instance, in an Aug. 18 op-ed piece entitled “Intervention as Duty,” the IDC executive director writes:
As I argued here last year, the intervention in the former Yugoslavia may serve as a compelling model today for Syria and now perhaps Iraq, but this would call for a willingness to see Iraq and Syria dissolved. For the moment, America clings, as it did at the outset of war in Yugoslavia, to nations that no longer exist.
In Doran’s prescription for the current crisis, one can’t help noticing the similarity with the policy recommendations of Oded Yinon, an Israeli journalist formerly attached to the Foreign Ministry of Israel. In his 1982 essay “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties,” originally published in Hebrew by the World Zionist Organization journal, Kivunim, Yinon argued that, “The dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front in the long run….”
However, if the dissolution of Syria, in accordance with Israeli strategic objectives, was indeed one of the ulterior motives behind IDC’s bringing the Middle East’s Christians together in Washington, it appears to have suffered a setback when on the final day of the summit, a delegation of Eastern Christian patriarchs met with President Obama in the White House. According to a report in Al-Akhbar English, Obama surprised his guests by telling them, “We know that President Bashar al-Assad protected Christians in Syria.” Further taken aback by Obama’s use of the term “the Syrian government” instead of “regime,” one of the attendees reportedly challenged the president: “Then you should stop talking about a moderate Syrian opposition.” Ironically, it was in this very same room four months earlier that Obama had met Ahmad Jarba, president of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) who “thanked the US for its aid to opposition rebels.” One month before that, the leader of the so-called “moderate Syrian opposition” reportedly toured the devastated Armenian Christian village of Kassab, Syria which had been attacked and occupied by the Free Syrian Army, the SNC’s armed wing, and their Al-Qaeda affiliates.
Within a week of the historic meeting of President Obama with the leaders of Eastern Christianity, a World Jewish Congress delegation led by WJC president Ronald Lauder paid a Rosh Hashanah visit to Pope Francis at his Vatican residence. As in the White House, the persecution of Christians in the Middle East dominated the discussion. According to a Sept. 18 report in Haaretz, it was the Bishop of Rome’s turn this time to adopt Horowitz’s sound bite:
Lauder and the pope mutually condemned the attacks against Christians around the world, especially in the Middle East. “In the world, there is still great suffering. First it was your turn. Now it’s our turn,” the pope told the delegation…
Strongly agreeing with the Holy Father’s comments, the WJC president extended the Horowitzian analogy:
He showed a paper bearing the Hebrew letter nun, explaining that: “It is the symbol used in Iraq and Syria to identify Christians’ houses as the yellow star was used in the past against European Jewry.”
The head of the “Diplomatic Arm of the Jewish People” concluded with a well-worn albeit spurious hasbara talking point: “The truth is that Israel is the only safe place for Christians in the Middle East.”
As implied by the Haaretz report, the WJC president—not to mention another pro-Israel interventionist par excellence—has been showing an increased concern for his Christian brethren of late. An Aug. 19 Lauder op-ed in The New York Times asks, “Who Will Stand Up for Christians?” Given the gist of the piece, however, a more candid title might have been “Why can’t the world just stop fussing about Israeli war crimes in Palestine and focus their anger instead on Christian suffering in other parts of the Middle East?” As for how to respond to the persecution of his “Christian brothers and sisters,” the self-described “Jewish leader” pointedly reminds his readers that he is writing this call to action “as a citizen of the strongest military power on earth.” Thus, similar to the fervor that preceded the Second World War, “Onward Christian Soldiers” has yet again become the rallying cry for those who seek to embroil the United States and other Western nations in another major conflict—an unnecessary “Clash of Civilizations”—likely to accomplish little beyond further advancing the hegemonic designs of Israel.
Nine Bahraini protestors have been jailed for life and stripped of their nationality for allegedly smuggling arms to be used in “terrorist acts,” the prosecutor general of the country with the second highest prison population rate per 100,000 amongst Arab states in the West Asian and North African region announced on Monday.
A Manama court also found all nine guilty of having contacted an agent of an unnamed foreign country “to carry out acts hostile to Bahrain,” he said in a statement.
The case dates back to February 2013 when authorities in the country announced they had allegedly dismantled a “terrorist cell” with links to Iran.
This is the latest in a series of convictions that the Bahraini regime has imposed against protesters, including prominent rights activists.
Today, the Saudi-backed Manama regime has the distinction of being the country with the second highest prison population rate per 100,000 amongst Arab states in the West Asian and North African region. Authorities continue to detain over 2,000 Bahrainis who dared to challenge the Khalifa monarchy when the uprising erupted in February 2011.
Indeed, Bahraini authorities are rarely transparent about the actual number of prisoners, going as far as denying that any of the prisoners were arrested over their political stances, and claiming that they were apprehended for “conspiring to overthrow the ruling regime and communicating with foreign entities.”
Due to the fact that the Bahraini regime does not publicly share the total number of prisoners it has nor does it provide an accurate breakdown of the detainees’ crimes, most information regarding Bahrain’s prisons usually come from non-governmental sources.
According to Bahraini activists, there are presently at least 2,000-3,000 “political prisoners” who were arrested when the recent Bahraini uprising erupted in 2011.
They are held among 20 prisons dispersed throughout the archipelago nation, all but two are administered by the Ministry of Interior. Out of the 20, there are four main prisons, one of which is solely for women. They are: al-Qurain Prison, Dry Dock Detention Center, Jaw Prison, and the Isa Town Detention Center for women.
While the number of prisoners may seem inconsequential compared to other countries, for Bahrain – with a small population of 1.2 million, 570,000 of which are Bahraini – it is quite significant.
A report in regards to prisons by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights released in July says there are over 200 minors held within these prisons, forced to stay side-by-side with adults, and a few have faced torture and sexual abuses.
Similarly, the July report stated, “Children as young as 13 have been sentenced to prison on charges of terrorism in trials that lacked any evidence and despite the fact that the Bahraini law does not define prison punishment for children below the age of 15 in the event of a criminal conviction.”