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Turkey Grows Impatient with US and Kurds in Northern Syria

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 02:28

Turkey grows increasingly impatient regarding the situation in northern Syria.  It has promised the establishment of a buffer zone between Turkey and the Kurds. How much longer will it wait? Can it execute a military offensive if the U.S. won’t permit?

Chronicler of Iraq’s Jewish History Murdered in Karbala

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 02:00

Alaa Mashzoub told the tale of how Iraq once was. He wrote about the country’s historic Jewish community. He told stories about Karbala and wrote novels.

On Saturday, he was gunned down while riding his bicycle. His loss is mourned among Iraqis at home and in the diaspora, and appears to be an example of the continuing wave of assassinations that plague the country.

According to The Baghdad Post, Mashzoub was born in 1968 and graduated from the University of Baghdad in 1993.

He was a journalist and intellectual who wrote novels, including a book about Jewish history in Iraq, published in 2017.

A journalist in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war, he suffered along with many Iraqis from the privations of the blockade in the 1990s following the Gulf War. After the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003, he became more prolific.

His novel on the Jews in Iraq, called Hamam al-Yahud (The Jewish Bath), takes place in 1918 and looks at a period of coexistence when the Jewish community was thriving. It received praise online in Arabic.

According to an obituary published at Raseef22.com in Arabic, the book tells the story of a Jewish man who settled in Karbala, the Shi’ite holy city in Iraq. He opens a shop and builds a public bath, or hamam. The book highlights pluralism and coexistence.

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The article asks why was he killed, and notes that the police have launched a special investigation and cautions against assigning blame. However, some pointed out that he was a critic of extremist elements in Iran and had critiqued the Islamic Revolution that swept Iran in 1979. It is the 40th anniversary of that revolution.

His murder is one of several high-profile killings in Iraq in recent years. Tara Fares, a beauty queen, was murdered in October, and other women involved in the fashion industry have been killed as well.

A 2013 article from Al Jazeera noted that more than 500 Iraqi academics and intellectuals had been victims of targeted assassinations since 2003. In 2017, a wave of assassinations targeted doctors, becoming an “almost daily” occurrence according to locals.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Middle East Forum

The US-Taliban Peace Agreement

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 01:00

It was reported recently that the USA and the Taliban have reached a peace agreement on Afghanistan that will allow US forces to leave that country 17 years after they invaded it on October, 2001, less than a month after 9/11.

Al Qaeda had used that dysfunctional state as a safe haven and, while there, was able to plan and execute the attacks that took the lives of over 3000 people in the USA. After the West invaded, the Taliban regime which had allowed Afghanistan to turn into a terrorist state. was toppled within several days and the Western coalition that included the US under George W. Bush, the NATO countries and Australia, succeeded in conquering the entire country in less than a month, completely destroying the Taliban regime and taking over all terror bases and their installations.

A large number of the terrorists that filled the country were killed, some were captured and some escaped to other countries. The impression left by the swift operation was that the Taliban would never gain back its strength and that Afghanistan would never again be a terror state. And then last week it was reported that America reached an agreement – with whom? The Taliban, that same Islamic organization which turned Afghanistan into a terror state.  What changed to make this problematic organization into a partner to an agreement with the USA? How could America, the strongest power on Earth, after waging a bitter war for 17 years against this not exactly immense organization, end up accepting it as a partner to an agreement?

As background, let me point out that the source of Afghanistan’s problems is the fact that the state is composed of ten distinct ethnicities which have never coalesced into a unified, cohesive nation   The groups are: The Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, Aymāk, Gujjar, Kirgiz, Baluche, Turkmen, Nuristani and Pamiri.

Each one of these ethnic groups has its own language, dress, culture, ideas, leaders, interests and armed militias, with only minimal cooperation existing between one and the other. Every dispute – and there have been many – generally escalated into a war of militias, transforming the state into a non-functioning entity.

In order to answer the question about the US and the Taliban, I will begin with a personal story. In January 2009 Barack Obama was elected to the office of US president. In October of that same year, he called in everyone connected with Afghanistan – people in the State Department, Department of Defense and the various Intelligence services –  for a long series of discussions about what American strategy should be employed in Afghanistan, since over seven years of fighting had already taken place with no solution on the horizon.

The key figure in these discussions was Richard Holbrooke of the US State Department who, at the time, was the US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Right about then, I was invited to Washington, to the annual International Conference of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa – ASMEA – an academic organization of researchers whose field of endeavor is issues connected to the Middle East and North Africa. At the conference, I presented a paper co-authored by my friend and colleague Dr. Isaac Mansdorf, entitled: “Tribalism in the Arab and Islamic world and its influence on nation-building.” The main point of the article was that it is a waste of time and energy to establish a heterogeneous state made up of many groups who do not coalesce into one ethnic unit, and that it is imperative to break up non-functioning heterogeneous groups into smaller homogeneous units (each based on one ethnic, united group) which have a much better chance of success.

While at the conference, I contacted one of Richard Holbrooke’s advisors in order to give him the paper and introduce the idea of dividing up Afghanistan into the discussions President Obama was having at that time. The advisor asked me to send him the paper by email – and I did. Half an hour later – enough time to read the paper – he called back angrily and said: “Are you saying that there is no Afghan nation??? What a racist you are!!!” I answered: “No, there is no Afghan nation, and I am not a racist, because what is to be found there are ten different and distinctive nations who never joined together to form one people, and if you don’t divide up that non-functioning country and give each one of them its own separate piece of land, you will find yourself stuck in Afghanistan for at least another decade.”

The advisor slammed down the phone furiously, and the rest is history. America sunk into the Afghani quagmire, close to ten years have passed since that conversation, and America returns Afghanistan at exactly the same point it was at the beginning:  A heterogeneous state, lacking legitimacy in the eyes of most of its citizens, ruled by a radical Islamic organization which believes with all its might that the US and the West have to disappear from the face of the earth.

As of today, the war has cost the lives of 2419 US soldiers and 1142 soldiers of other states that took part in the international efforts to stabilize the country under a functioning government. Tens of thousands of soldiers were wounded physically and psychologically, and in financial terms the war cost the American taxpayer almost a trillion dollars. Worst of all, the very same organization that turned Afghanistan into a terror state is going to receive a stamp of US approval in the hopes that it will actually do what it promised to do.

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I have not seen the agreement and therefore do not know if it includes sanctions for breaching it, but I am willing to bet that the Taliban will do everything in its power to get out of the agreement as soon as possible and break free of its commitments to act in accordance with its demands. That is a result of the way the Taliban sees the USA – a heretic state run by Christians, which, according to Islam, are to be “dhimmis” subservient to Islam, with limited rights and certainly no right to fight Muslims and force agreements upon them.

My feeling is that those Taliban leaders who signed the agreement with the US relate to it as a repeat of the Hudaybiyyah that the prophet Muhammad signed with the heretics of Mecca. That was supposed to last for close to ten years, but was broken after two years when the other side fell asleep on watch.

The US will retreat from Afghanistan after 18 years of warfare with almost no long term results. The country has not become a democracy, it does not respect the rights of women, did not break up the militias and I have no doubt that after a short period of time we will hear about how the agreement has been breached.

The original sin in Afghanistan is that of the British, who, a century ago – in 1919 – created this artificial state with all its many ethnic components, without its citizens possessing even a common language with which to administer the state. The modern sin is that of the USA, which instead of correcting the British mistake by breaking up the country and creating homogeneous states on its ruins, continues to give a stamp of international approval to a state lacking the ability to function and a regime that is unable to partner with the West in any positive way.

Perhaps the agreement between the USA and the Taliban will last for a while, mainly to secure that the US soldiers leave Afghanistan. Perhaps the Taliban will be faithful to the agreement for a while in order to lull the US government to sleep and give it the feeling that all is well.  Despite that, I have no doubt that at some stage in the near future, the Taliban will find an excuse to breach the agreement while blaming the US for doing so.

For this reason, I would advise the American government to include in the agreement as many sanctions for breaking it as is possible and have them extend over a long term. This is not because I expect the Taliban to keep the agreement, but because I want the US to have an excuse to act decisively if the agreement is breached and for the Taliban to understand that it is worth its while to avoid paying a higher price than it is prepared to pay for breaking it.

This is the only way to reach agreements with organizations like the Taliban. It really is about time the West understood the thought processes of the leaders and heads of Islamist organizations. They approach things from an Islamist point of view, which declares openly that agreements of any kind with heretics are temporary in nature.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Israel National News

The Worst Mayors in America are Running for President

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 00:00

Newark is the most dangerous city in New Jersey, Tallahassee is the most dangerous city in Florida, and South Bend is the most dangerous city in Indiana. But instead of fixing their failed cities, the current mayor of South Bend, and the former mayors of Newark and Tallahassee want to run for president.

Mayor Peter Buttigieg has announced that he’s forming an exploratory committee for a 2020 run. Media reports have focused on the possibility that he might become America’s first gay millennial president, instead of on the fact that he’s headed a city since 2011 which has double the national and statewide violent crime rates. And a city where Hispanic poverty rates are 10% higher than the national average, African-American households have double the poverty rate, and Asian-American incomes are halved.

South Bend was recently rated one of the “worst cities” to live in. The unemployment rates are higher than average, the property values are lower, and even the water quality is below average.

Gushing media reports about the gay millennial mayor, a Harvard grad and a Rhodes scholar, overlook South Bend’s poverty rate of 24.7% and that 45% of households are living near the poverty level.

South Bend has a little over 100,000 residents, but there were over 100 criminal shootings in 2017 in the failed city which hosts murderous gangs such as the Latin Kings and Gangster Disciples.

In January 2019, just as Buttigieg was prepping his presidential run, three shootings in one week killed two teens and left a woman paralyzed from the waist down. In one summer week, the casualties included a 12 and a 13-year-old. In March, 6 people were hurt in one shooting spree.

“It is a season for boldness and it is time to focus on the future,” Mayor Buttigieg declared in his presidential debut video. “Are you ready to walk away from the politics of the past?”

Buttigieg’s past is a poverty-stricken murder capital so it’s understandable that he would want to walk away from its blighted streets, wrecked industry and general misery to focus on his political future.

And he’s not alone.

Andrew Gillum, the former Tallahassee mayor, coming off a humiliating defeat in the Florida gubernatorial race and still struggling with an ethics complaint tangled in an FBI investigation, also wants to throw his tattered hat into the 2020 ring.

Tallahassee’s murder rate tops bigger cities in Florida. And Leon County’s murder rate rose 83% in 2017.

“Tallahassee had the highest number of murders in history last year and we top the state for the highest crime rate,” his former chief of staff warned in his own campaign.

The poverty rate in Tallahassee is at 28.4%. That’s even worse than South Bend. One single zip code in Tallahassee has the highest concentration of poverty in Florida. 1 in 5 adults in Leon County have trouble reading. And even Florida State University had more violent crimes on campus than any other state school.

That’s another reason why the Florida city was also ranked as one of the worst places to live in America.

There’s no conceivable reason why running South Bend or Tallahassee would qualify you for higher office, lower office or even any office at all. But Cory Booker exploited his tenure running the worst city in New Jersey to represent the entire state in the United States Senate. Booker has also joined the dozens of candidates vying for the opportunity to be the Democrat nominee for the White House.

Booker first became a national figure as Newark’s mayor. The charismatic politician got famous by promising to turn the troubled city around using a Twitter account and viral stunts that got him national headlines, but did nothing for the city he was running into the ground. And then, as Buttigieg is trying to do, he got out of there as soon as he could, using his new celebrity as a springboard to higher office.

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Like Tallahassee and South Bend, Newark is one of the country’s murder capitals. And it’s been listed as the most violent city in its respective state. It’s also one of the worst cities in the country to live in.

That’s why the majority of people who work in Newark actually live away from the troubled city.

Like South Bend and Tallahassee, around 1 in 4 Newark residents live in poverty. A report this year listed Newark as the 3rd neediest city in America. A year after Booker jumped ship to become a senator, a report found that 18% of children in Newark were living in “extreme poverty”.

The adult literacy rate in Newark is 52% making it the city with the fifth highest illiteracy rate in America.

How does the mayor of a city with the 5th highest illiteracy rate and the 3rd neediest residents actually aspire to higher office with that miserable track record of failure and human wreckage?

Mayor Booker based his claim of having turned Newark around on all the outside money he brought in. Where all that money went is an intriguing question that will gain urgency if he becomes the nominee.

In a typical viral stunt, Booker had appeared with Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg and Governor Chris Christie on Oprah where the dot com billionaire announced that he was donating $100 million to Newark’s public schools. That gift was supposed to be matched by another $200 million in donations.

Where did all that money go?

Millions were spent on $1,000 a day consultants. Union fat cats got fatter. The Foundation for Newark’s Future squandered the money. And Booker was one of the five trustees of the Foundation.

In the summer of 2016, Booker positioned himself for a presidential run with a rousing DNC speech. But a few months earlier, the water in half of Newark public schools was found to be contaminated with dangerous levels of lead.

Newark already had more children suffering from dangerous levels than Flint. But, unlike Flint, the media refused to hold Booker, his predecessor or his radical successor, accountable for the horror.

South Bend, Tallahassee and Newark are tragic case studies of how the media’s appetite for charismatic minority politicians playing savior to troubled cities ignores the suffering of the people living there.

It is hard to see how anyone can look at Newark, South Bend or Tallahassee as success stories. And it’s even more unimaginable that the politicians tasked with turning them around should actually claim that walking away from cities with some of the highest poverty, murder and illiteracy rates in the country should qualify them to run the entire nation. They failed to turn around broken cities with populations between 100,000 and 250,000 people. Now they want to be in charge of a nation of over 300 million.

The mayors of the worst cities in America want to run America. Their cities have been rated as the worst places to live. Do Americans really want the country to be more like Tallahassee, South Bend or Newark?

Reprinted with author’s permission from Sultan Knish Blog

GENESIS 16:14

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 22:27

No longer able to bear her suffering in the home of her mistress Sara, Hagar runs to the desert in search of relief and solitude. When Hagar subsequently encounters the angel she realizes that one is never alone or out of God’s sight. The well where this encounter takes place is therefore named be’er lachai ro-ee (באר לחי ראי), the ‘well of the Living One who sees me.’ Specifically in the Land of Israel, God’s presence and watchful eye is felt strongly, as it says in Deuteronomy (11:12) “on which Hashem your God always keeps His eye.”

Biblically Inspired Song: Leonard Cohen’s “Story of Isaac”

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 09:15

There are many well-known songs inspired by Israel and the Bible, including Jewish artist Leonard Cohen’s “Story of Isaac,” from 1969. There is a clear theme of the story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah, from the perspective of Isaac (as opposed to his “Highway 61 Revisited,” which addresses the subject from Abraham’s perspective). References to the Hebrew Bible are common in Cohen’s songs, such as the modern-day standard “Hallelujah,” from his 1984 album Various Positions.

Click here to watch Leonard Cohen’s “Story of Isaac:”

Biblically Inspired Song: Johnny Cash’s “He Turned the Water into Wine”

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 09:04

There are many well-known songs inspired by Israel and the Bible, including Johnny Cash’s “He Turned the Water into Wine,” written during a tour Cash did in Israel with his wife, June Carter, in 1968. He said that the sound of a church’s cistern and everything he felt being in Israel inspired him in this song and his career. 

Listen to Johnny Cash’s “He Turned the Water into Wine” here:

Biblically Inspired Song: Cage The Elephant’s “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked”

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 08:45

There are many well-known songs inspired by Israel and the Bible, including Cage the Elephant’s “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” a wildly popular song that made it to the Billboard Hot 100, reached number 3 on the Alternative Songs chart and number 8 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. The song’s title and catchy verse is paraphrased based on Isaiah 48:22, in which Yeshayahu concludes a triumphant account of the future journey out of Babylon and the return to Israel saying, “There is no safety—said Hashem—for the wicked.” Most commentators suggest that this is a continuation of the above contrast between Israel and Babylon; while Israel is redeemed, the wicked Babylon will find no peace. 

Listen to Cage The Elephant’s “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” here:

Research: Religion Affects Consumer Choices on Specialty Foods

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 08:44

Food is a major part in most religions. Seventh-Day Adventists usually avoid eating meat and highly spiced food. Traditional Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist and Orthodox Christians have traditionally observed a meat-free day, especially during the solemn season of Lent. Some Christian denominations allow moderate drinking of alcohol, while others, like Seventh-Day Adventists, Baptists, Methodists and Pentecostals either avoid or strictly prohibit the consumption of alcohol.

Muslims are not supposed to eat pork or drink alcohol; they perform ritual slaughter, with the blood drained out, much like the Jewish tradition, of animals that they are permitted to eat.

Observant Jews are the most wrapped up in laws pertaining to food, as only certain mammals, fish, and poultry and birds can be consumed; one must wait several hours after eating meat to begin eating dairy and never eat them together; and rules of ritual slaughter are very strict, and the consumption of blood that has not been drained out with salt is forbidden.

All religions advocate eating food that promotes good health.

Now, researchers at Arizona State University have examined the influence of religiosity – or how religious a person is – on the types of foods they buy in the store and eat. Prof. Kathryn Johnson, psychologist at the university, and her colleagues also examined which moral beliefs were behind the types of food they chose. The study included 1,700 people across the US.

“Often, people make intuitive decisions about food that could require more careful thought,” said Johnson.  “People might make choices based on a cultural narrative or their religious and moral beliefs, without giving measured thought to whether there is a better option.”

The researchers suggested the idea that highly religious consumers would be accepting of special food restrictions such as sugar-free, gluten-free and fat-free, based in part on scriptural condemnation of gluttony – and the fact that some religions provide dietary guidelines. Previous research also suggested that highly religious consumers don’t buy sustainability-minded foods because they don’t want to be associated with groups that promote environmental issues.

The new study found that, in fact, diet-minded food products do have a special appeal for religious consumers – probably because they generally give high priority the moral principle of purity, and purity is associated with self-control and behaviors such as restrictive diets.

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On the other hand, the researchers saw mixed results on the issue of whether religious people specifically avoid sustainability-minded products such as organic and natural foods. One of the experiments found that religiosity does have a negative correlation with such foods, but the others found no correlation.

In their examination of which moral beliefs influence food preferences for religious and secular people, the researchers focused on the moral foundations of “care” and “purity.” Care includes feelings of empathy and compassion toward others and has been linked to environmentalism. Purity is linked to attendance at religious services, cleanliness and self-discipline.

“People have different moral intuitions or foundations,” Johnson said. “Some people might be motivated to avoid harming others, including animals, while others might be driven by loyalty to their group or avoiding pathogens.”

According to the research, the moral foundation of care drives the choice of sustainability-minded food products, and the moral foundation of purity is behind the choice of diet-minded foods. The combination of those values in many religious people could explain why most of the experiments found no relationship between religiosity and sustainability-minded food consumption.

Still, “we can surmise that highly religious individuals may seek to be ideologically pure by actually rejecting organic or natural food products,” the researchers wrote. “As such, marketers can leverage this knowledge to design better products and marketing communications to address the moral foundations driving special food consumption.”

Overall, the research illustrates that there are plenty of opportunities for vendors of specialty food products, the team concluded. Marketers could consider integrating religion to create target markets for certain products, and they could pursue subtle ways to highlight the fit between specialty food products and a consumer’s religion – such as using the words “pure” and “purity” in labeling and advertising.

“The findings from our work can directly help businesses promote food products to specific groups of people without potentially alienating customers by including religion,” commented Prof. Richie Liu of Oklahoma State University’s school of marketing and international business and a co-author of the paper.

Is Encouraged Euthanasia the Future of Socialized Medicine?

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 07:23

As the political discussion concerning the future of American healthcare grows more intense, the implicit issue of euthanasia stands in the wings. One rabbi noted that the issues of abortion and euthanasia are two sides of the same coin, both destroying the relationship between parent and child.

A geriatric physician who deals with end-of-life situations on a daily basis summed up the connection between socialized medicine and euthanasia.

“The danger of socialized medicine is that everything is under someone else’s control, not necessarily the patient or their family,” the physician, who prefers to remain anonymous, told Breaking Israel News. “The chief motivation is economic and not health. Euthanasia fits into that mindset.”

Ideally, euthanasia is performed at the patient’s request by passive means, withholding treatment necessary for the continuance of life. Euthanasia can also be carried out actively by lethal injection. Passive voluntary euthanasia is legal throughout the US per Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health. When the patient actively brings about his or her own death with the assistance of a physician, the term assisted suicide is often used instead. Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland and the U.S. states of California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont.

Non-voluntary euthanasia is when the patient is unable to give his consent or against his will. This is technically illegal in all countries but there have been cases in which the state and legal system have usurped the position of the parents and decided to euthanize a child.

The extent to which socialized medicine can take control of the decision to euthanize was graphically illustrated in the recent case of Alfie Evans, a nearly two-year-old British boy. Against his parents’ wishes, the hospital where he was receiving care withdrew life support. His parents were barred by British courts from seeking care for Alfie elsewhere. Britain’s single-payer healthcare system came under fire in the ensuing public debate.

In discussions concerning healthcare reform, Canada is often held up as a model for the success of socialized medicine but the issue of euthanasia is rarely discussed. The economic aspect of euthanasia as it pertains to the Canadian healthcare system was outlined in a 2017 article the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The article stated that if the level of euthanasia in Canada reaches that of Belgium and the Netherlands, it could save the healthcare system approximately $139 million. The comparison was made because like Canada, the majority of healthcare in Belgium and Norway is single-payer.

It should be noted that Belgium permits medically assisted suicide for psychiatric patients and a few other European nations are considering legislation to allow this for incurable psychiatric conditions, including autism.

The cost consideration is a major factor in determining whether or not to prolong life since the study showed that in some regions of Canada, more than 20 percent of healthcare costs were incurred by patients who die within six months even though they are only 1 percent of the population. In the U.S.,  27 to 30 percent of the Medicare budget is spent on the 5 percent of Medicare patients who die each year.

Euthanasia has now become an official program in the Canadian healthcare system called Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD). Signs instructing patients in how to access the program via its toll-free number are prominently displayed in some hospital urgent care waiting rooms.

European countries with socialized healthcare are adopting euthanasia and many are broadening the scope of assisted suicide as an option. In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia for patients who were suffering unbearable pain and had no prospects of a cure. In October 2016, the government proposed legislation that would allow healthy old people to request assisted suicide. Critics called the proposed legislation a “slippery slope” that risks allowing financial considerations cheapen the value of human life.

Though not all countries with universal health care have legalized euthanasia, all of the countries that have legalized euthanasia (Netherlands, Belgium, Columbia, Luxembourg, Canada, Switzerland, and Germany) have universal health care. There are currently six states in the U.S. with legalized euthanasia.

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Rabbi Yosef Berger, rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, quoted the last verse in Psalms to illustrate how every moment of life is a unique opportunity to praise the Creator.

Let all that breathes praise Hashem. Hallelujah. Psalms 150:6

“God breathed life in Man,” Rabbi Berger said. “The purpose of life is to praise God. Anything that lessens life, reduces God’s praises and delays the Redemption. Euthanasia denies the inherent sanctity of life, denying that life comes from God.”

Rabbi Berger noted that the Children of Israel were supposed to be enslaved in Egypt for 400 years but were actually in Egypt for much less.

“The Bible describes that the Children of Israel multiplied greatly,” Rabbi Berger said. “It was this increase of life, this love of life, that shortened the exile in Egypt. Pharaoh tried to lengthen the exile by throwing the male babies into the Nile, offsetting the Israelite’s fertility, thereby lessening the power of life and increasing the exile.”

“There is a very simple rule: anything that increases life is from God and brings the Messiah closer,” Berger said. “Anything that increases death is precisely the opposite and delays the Messiah.”

Rabbi Pinchas Winston, a prominent end-of-days author, emphasized that euthanasia is actually part of a much larger problem indicating essential problems in the culture.

“This issue is like a social thermometer that rises as people take God out of the picture,” Rabbi Winston told Breaking Israel News. “Decisions like this can only be made in a godless reality. ‘Humane’ is defined by God. Men, on their own, have no idea of what humane means.”

“Suffering is an important part of life,” Rabbi Winston said. “It may be difficult to accept but even suffering is from God. True humanity, true mercy and love, is long-term and may take years to work out. To cut that short is man’s desire for comfort, not a desire to be humane. The Torah fights against that. If you take away man’s divinity then all you are left with is a pursuit of comfort.”

Rabbi Winston emphasized a particularly tragic type of euthanasia.

“It is unthinkable but many of these cases require a child giving permission to kill their parent,” Rabbi Winston said. “Society seems to be moving in this direction as the connection between parent and child falls by the wayside. Abortion is a mother rejecting her child and euthanasia may be a child rejecting their parent.”

Rabbi Winston pointed out that respecting a parent is one of the Ten Commandments and explicitly related to lengthening life.

Honor your father and your mother, that you may long endure on the land that Hashem your God is assigning to you. Exodus 20:12

Euthanasia is becoming an inter-religious concern. In November, the 16th Bilateral Commission of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and the Vatican met to discuss the theme of “human dignity with special reference to the child” in Jewish and Catholic teaching.

“At this meeting, the Pope welcomed the information provided to him regarding a draft interreligious position-paper on end-of-life matters with particular reference to the dangers of legalizing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide instead of providing palliative care and maximal respect for God-given life,” the statement said.

At a Commission meeting in 2006, participants specifically condemned euthanasia, calling it an “illegitimate human arrogation of an exclusive divine authority to determine the time of a person’s death.”

Israeli Report Shows Vast Ties Between Terror and BDS Organizations

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 06:56

A new report by Israel’s Ministry for Strategic Affairs examined 13 international BDS organizations and discovered that senior positions were held by 30 terrorism activists — 20 of whom who had actually spent time in prison for their crimes, including murder.

Conducted by the research division at the behest of Minister Gilad Erdan, the report “Terrorists in Suits” found that Hamas and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine activists had infiltrated organizations that call for the boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel. It also determined that global interconnections between BDS and terrorist organizations were vast, with more than 100 connections being identified.

The organizations raise millions of euros a year from European countries and charitable foundations, and take advantage of high-level banking and financial platforms.

Convicted terrorists have reportedly tried to keep a low profile, but terror organizations view BDS activists as important resources in their war against the Jewish state.

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According to Ynet, crowdfunding site DonorBox has blocked the Palestinian BDS National Committee from using its platform to collect donations since the report was issued. PNC views itself as the worldwide leader of the BDS movement.

The report noted that PFLP terrorist Shawan Jabarin, head of the al-Haq “human rights” organization, is a convicted terrorists who now presents himself as a human-rights advocate and raises funds for BDS activities in Europe.

Leila Khaled, a PFLP terrorist who helped hijack a TWA airliner in 1969 and attempted to hijack an Israeli El Al plane in 1980, raises money for BDS while maintaining close connections to other convicted terrorists, including Mustafa Awad, who was sentenced to a year in prison in July for maintaining contact with Hezbollah and membership in a terror organization.

“The terrorist and boycott organizations are united in their goal of destroying Israel, and see de-legitimization and boycotts against Israel as a complementary means to the armed struggle,” said Erdan. “I expect that following the exposure of the ties between the boycott organizations and the terrorist organizations, the European Union and the sponsoring countries will reconsider their steps regarding the legitimacy and funding they grant BDS organizations.”

The report will be sent to world and business leaders in several languages.

ICEJ Funds Incoming Flights of Ethiopian Immigrants to Israel

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 06:24

In the aftermath of Israel approving immigration flights from Ethiopia, the first group of 80 Ethiopian newcomers will arrive on Monday evening on flights organized by the Jewish Agency and funded by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ).

Israel has not offered the Falash Mura citizenship per the Law of Return due to the group’s members being compelled to convert to Christianity in the 19th century, despite closely preserving Jewish traditions.

Nonetheless, the Israeli government unanimously approved a process in 2015 to allow those deemed eligible to reunite with their families in Israel under humanitarian conditions.

This nearly stopped in 2018. However, Israel’s cabinet gave the green light last October to permit another 1,000 Ethiopian immigrants and, as requested by the Jewish Agency, the ICEJ agreed to fund their flights throughout 2019.

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“The Christian Embassy is excited to be a partner with Israel in this latest wave of Ethiopian aliyah,” said ICEJ president Jürgen Bühler. “We know this is going to make a lot of Ethiopian Jewish families very happy to be reunited after such a long and difficult time of separation.”

“We also are encouraged that the Jewish Agency’s new chairman, Yitzhak [Isaac] Herzog, has expressed such strong support for the renewed Ethiopian aliyah,” he added. “This is continuing his great family legacy, as it was his grandfather Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, the first [Ashkenazi] Chief Rabbi of Israel, who gave the initial rabbinic approval in 1953 for the return of the ancient Ethiopian Jewish community to the people and Land of Israel.”

Since its beginning in 1980, the ICEJ has helped more than 142,000 Jews worldwide make aliyah, and is considered “the largest global pro-Israel Christian ministry, with branch offices in over 90 nations and a reach into more than 170 countries worldwide,” according to a statement from the organization.

HOSEA 6:6

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 05:47

The above verse explains Hashem’s (God’s) reluctance to answer His people in their distress, despite their apparent repentance. God points to the fleeting and superficial nature of their request, stating, “your goodness is like morning clouds”. Hoshea then makes one of his most revolutionary declarations: Sacrificial acts alone have no value without an accompanying commitment to living a moral life. He says “For I desire goodness, not sacrifice, obedience to Hashem rather than burnt offerings.” Although we no longer offer sacrifices, to this day there are those who get caught up in the superficial, ritual aspects of religion at the expense of ethical behavior. Hoshea calls on us to act properly in our dealings with other people and to strengthen our awareness of, and commitment to, Hashem.

Pilgrims in Disguise – Anti-Israeli Tourism

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 05:27

From time to time we hear in the Israeli news, of some BDS activist who was caught at Ben-Gurion International Airport in an attempt to enter Israel, because of their involvement in BDS activity.

In some cases, the activists are being deported back, and in some cases not, as the famous instance of BDS activist Lara al-Qassem will certainly indicate. In most of the other cases it is about activists and anarchists who enter the country on tourist visas, deceive the authorities, and engage in activities that are illegal for those holding such visas.

The in-depth report published last week by NGO Monitor – a non-governmental organization based in Jerusalem, which analyzes and reports on the output of the international NGO community – points to the massive stir of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Israel. The WCC has helped ‘Sabeel’ organization promote the Kairos document, which expresses support for BDS and the Palestinian Liberation Theology,  which combines the antisemitic Replacement Theology in it.

More than that, the WCC supports its flagship program EAPPI, which is its long arm for stirring trouble in Israeli. Not only in Judea and Samaria as many might think, but also in Jerusalem and the Negev Bedouin issue; accusing Israel of persecuting the Christians, supporting the Nakba campaign, supporting a campaign of the refusal of military service in Israel, participation in illegal construction, documentation and collection intelligence on IDF soldiers, demonstrations in Jerusalem, Khan al-Ahmar, etc.

The gloomy picture presented by NGO-MONITOR is intensified by the fact that the EAPPI program operated unopposed in Israel from 2002, until the publication of a well-publicized report and a campaign launched by Father Gabriel Naddaf from Nazareth in 2016. Naddaf accused them of “distorting Christianity to promote an extremist agenda.”

Wearing their beige vests with the program logo on the front and back, the program activists appear as members of an official organization or as a news agency. From many conversations I held, I found that this was a deliberate impression that many officers in the IDF, the police and the Border Police bought. The official visibility and overt activity managed to misrepresent their illegal activities and ridicule the security forces and the law enforcement agencies who thought them to be members of some aid organization or a news agency. If they were seldom questioned, their answer was that they were tourists, pilgrims, peace and human rights activists. Thus they were left alone to continue what today we know as an illegal activity

The situation began to change in 2016. NGO Monitor’s research and the report published by the Christian Empowerment Council in 2016 completes the DMU (an organization that monitors WCC actions in Israel) project, which documented the EAPPI tourists on the ground and exposed other and dangerous aspects of their sophisticated activities.

A review of NGO Monitor’s report points to the involvement of EAPPI and the WCC in promoting BDS and antisemitism around the world. An examination of DMU materials will indicate activities on the ground that include supporting terrorism; monitoring the activities of the security forces and documenting soldiers and police; and the granting of a tailwind to disturbances and rioting inside Jewish towns and on main roads over Judea and Samaria.

One of the EAPPI’s teams, is the Yanoun team operates in the mountainous area of Samaria and the Jordan Valley. On April 30, 2011, an article published on the ISM website entitled “VISIT TO AWARTA” was tweeted by the Yanoun team.  This is from the article: “This is one of the many reasons why we are very convinced that the whole story about the killing of a settler family (Fogel Family A.B) by two teenagers from the village of Awarta is a lie. But the killing of these settlers set stage for a ransacking of the village by the colonizing army of the state of Israel”.

Over the years, these EAPPI illegal tourists did not stop only with these declarations but graduated to active participation. On June 30, 2016, the funeral of 13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel, who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist took place in Hebron. The road where the funeral procession was held, was closed to other traffic. During the funeral procession, EAPPI illegal tourists arrived, harassed the soldiers and the security guards and accused them of closing the funeral route to Arab traffic.

After an attempt to lynch Jewish children near the town of Migdalim by Palestinians residents of Qusra village in December 2017, IDF forces were operating in the area.  Violent rioting took place then in Qusra; a vehicle carrying EAPPI activists who left the area of the riots in the village, was photographed by DMU project.

If these examples are not enough, information from a senior source indicates that tourists from EAPPI visited the Palestinian village of Kubar.  There they visited the family of the terrorist who murdered the Solomon family in Halamish. This visit took place only few a few days after the murder. The question arises whether this was only “moral” support or did the illegal tourists from EAPPI also provide financial or any other kind of support to the terrorist family?

During the funeral procession of Hallel Ariel in Hebron. (Credit: DMU Project)

 

The EAPPI team at the exit from the riots in the village of Qusra in Samaria. (Credit: DMU Project)

The NGO Monitor report points to a project carried out by EAPPI activists with financial support from UNICEF. In the framework of the project called UNICEF “Safe Schools”, these illegal tourists stand next to Palestinian schools and escort and help students to cross the road. This presents them with a veneer of respectability, but it could also be defined as aiding terrorism.

Anyone traveling along Route 356 that connects the Jewish communities of East Gush Etzion (Judea) to the western part of Gush Etzion will pass three Arab schools. Two are located on the main road in Khirbat a-Dir near the Arab town Tuqu’. The third school “Al Minya” is located not far from there, about 500 meters south of Amos junction. These schools are the sites of riots and stone throwing at Israeli cars, which in many cases led to damage to property and body.

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Those traveling on Route 60 in the Benjamin Region between the villages of As-Sawiya and Luban e-Sharkiya will also encounter two schools; of which there are occasional riots and stone-throwing incidents. On some days during the week, usually in the morning between seven and eight and at around noon, one can notice the illegal tourists of EAPPI who are standing near these schools as part of the project for “safe schools.” In the past, these tourists used to openly stand with cameras. However, in the last 2 years or so, most will be with mobile devices or cameras in their bags. They lurk, so that as soon as rioting begins, they pull out the cameras and document the IDF soldiers chasing the students who throw the stones, and thus they have winning photos. They will only show a one-sided picture, the evil IDF soldiers running after poor students.

NGO-Monitor note that this project is also operated by Christian Peacemaker Teams – CPT. Their offices are in Chicago and Toronto and operate like EAPPI, but mainly focus on Hebron and Mount Hebron. Active cooperation and transition between these programs is common.

The EAPPI activists cooperate with a number of organizations as reflected in the report, as well as taking a passive part in the disturbances and violations of a closed military zone, in cooperation with other organizations not mentioned in the report. Among them Ta’ayush, Anarchists against the Wall, and Palestinian National Committee Against the Wall and Settlements. Several times in the past they have been documented by DMU project in Gush Etzion in disturbances along with Hasan Breijieh, who was previously presented in media as “a Palestinian activist and spokesperson for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). PFLP is a Terror organization. In Hebron, cooperation of EAPPI and TIPH was documented as well.

Cooperation with TIPH in Hebron, (Credit: DMU Project)

 

In Gush Etzion. Together with Hasan Breijieh and Kobi Snitz of Anarchists Against the Wall. (Credit: DMU Project)

As many initiatives before,  also exposing the real face of WCC and EAPPI have grown from the bottom, from the citizens and third sector. The exposure of the EAPPI activity to decision makers and the public in Israel, led by Father Gabriel Naddaf at that time head of the Christian Empowerment Council, the DMU project and NGO Monitor previous research, led various authorities in Israel to address this illegal activity. The measures taken by these organizations and by the authorities damaged the EAPPI program, reduced the volume of activity, reduced anti-Israeli publications and disrupted the freedom of action they enjoyed under the guise of an official organization, as their own responses would attest.

However EAPPI are still around Judea and Samaria illegally documenting military activity, entering Jewish communities areas on Saturdays and cause provocations. Although not as freely as in the past but are still in Jerusalem too. In the Old City of Jerusalem, where they allow themselves to monitor the borders police officers in the Old City’s gates and the security at the gates of the Western Wall entrances. They even walk around the Western Wall wearing their vests. The main reason for this is the large number of authorities involved. when there are multiple authorities, there is sometimes a lack of synchronization.

At the Western Wall. (Credit: DMU Project)

It is not for nothing that their offices moved a few years ago from an open side street in the Christian Quarter of the Old City Jerusalem to a closed area in The Church of Saint Anne, located in the Muslim Quarter near the Lions’ Gate. This Catholic church is under the sovereign territory of the French government, which thus sponsors and protects their illegal activities. The Israeli Foreign Ministry seems to be impotent in the face of this provocation.

It is important to note that there were also specific successes in blocking entry to Israel or in the deportation of tourists from EAPPI (as well as others). Some of them used to go to Jordan after their three-month tourist visa was over, and return for another three-month round. Others returned to their countries of origin and returned to Israel for the second and third rounds of EAPPI within a few months or years. But so far, this is a specific, not a systemic treatment against this illegal program.

As NGO-Monitor reports: “EAPPI does not have “formal legal registration within the country of operations [Israel],” but rather a “locally registered nongovernmental organization acts as custodian” for the program. Specifically, EAPPI operates out of the Jerusalem Inter Church Center’s (JIC) office. According to EAPPI’s website, JIC, headed by Yusef Daher , also provides “guidance and coordination with the local churches.”

At the same time, the Illegal EAPPI tourists activists who come to the three months program, do not exist from nothing, money is involve here. The program also employs Israelis, Palestinians from Bethlehem and various managers from abroad, since it is not a registered and recognized organization and because they are aware of their illegal activities. some of the workers from abroad receive work permits by belonging to other recognized organizations.

In addition to the recommendations of the NGO Monitor report, the issue of entry into Israel and the deportation of illegal tourists from it must also be addressed.

Adv. Yotam Eyal from the Legal Forum elaborates on this issue: “”One of the basic parameters of state sovereignty is the right to determine who will enter it; this is agreed among all the countries of the world, which state will give up its right to decide whether or not to enter it? From this understanding, in each state, entry visas are defined for each of them. The state determines criteria that will be given to those who meet them, and therefore, of course, the visa can be revoked for those who do not meet them.

The State of Israel has established several types of visas when the most common visa is a tourist visa granted to a person wishing to visit the country for up to several months, since a tourist visa is the easiest visa to obtain, most foreign activists enter using this visa, as tourists.

Apart from tourist visas, there are several types of visas: work (paid and not paid), religion, studies. It is quite clear to all reasonable people and according to any legal logic that if there is a visa for a certain thing and a special visa is required for it, it means that this activity does not enter the general tourist visa, and therefore the implementation of the activity is a breach of the visa and a reason for its negation. In order to avoid special monitoring and questioning, EAPPI activists usually enter the visa despite the fact that the WCC organization is a religious organization and despite the fact that they come to work for the organization (even if not for a fee). Thus, already by entering Israel they are violating the visa terms.”

 

Israel’s Government Poised to Deduct ‘Terror Salaries’ from PA Tax Money

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 05:24

The Diplomatic-Security Cabinet is expected within two weeks to approve a major cut to the tax revenues that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, with the amount the P.A. pays to terrorists and their families to be deducted from the money Israel hands over to the P.A.

The reduction will be enacted under a law passed this past summer by Knesset members Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) and Avi Dichter (Likud), which requires the Defense Ministry to provide the cabinet with data on the amount the P.A. pays terrorists and their families. The Finance Ministry will then withhold that amount from the tax funds.

For some weeks, the Defense Ministry has been assiduously collecting figures to determine the exact amount that the P.A. pays out in “terror salaries.” According to the mechanism stipulated by the law, after a report on the salaries is presented, the Finance Ministry will carry out the deduction.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said in closed-door talks that the deduction will go ahead, although he expressed concern that the reduced tax funds would hurt the stability of the P.A. He also said he would look for a way to carry out the demands of the law while ensuring that the P.A. remains stable.

Dichter, who serves as chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said in response to recent reports on the amount of the P.A. terror salaries that “every shekel the Palestinian Authority pays to terrorists will be deducted [from the tax funds.] That is how we create deterrence against terrorism.”

Israel Hayom recently reported that in 2018, the P.A. paid out 502 million shekels ($138 million) to living terrorists. A probe by the Palestinian Media Watch group showed that at least 230 million shekels ($63 million) had been paid to terrorists currently in prison.

The government ministries involved in the deduction have not yet specified the amount to be withheld from the tax revenues Israel will hand over to the Palestinian Authority.

Antisemitism is a Battle ‘Humanity Must Fight Together’

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 04:26

The president of Austria on Monday admitted his country’s responsibility in the Holocaust during an official state visit.

“Austria bears shared responsibility for the Holocaust,” said President Van der Bellen. “Many Austrian citizens took part, and we bow our heads in memory of the victims in humility and respect. We admitted our shared responsibility too late and that caused problems in our relations at the beginning.”

The president’s visit was marked by an air of positivity, which included an official meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, a state dinner at the President’s House and a tour of Yad Vashem.

During the tour, Rivlin made clear that “antisemitism is not disappearing. It is raising its head across the world, and even more so in the last year.

“In your own country, there were some 50 antisemitic incidents last year, some of which are being investigated by the police,” he continued.

Yet, he said that it was Austria that led European support for the EU’s statement against antisemitism. This statement stresses the importance of education for Holocaust memory, and calls on governments to take steps to ensure the safety of their Jewish communities, organisations and citizens. It would be a tragedy if Jews were afraid to express their beliefs in Europe. The statement also calls on other states to adopt the new definition, in full, of antisemitism issued by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Austria and 11 other European countries have already done so.

“The way to stamp out antisemitism has two elements – taking responsibility for the past and an uncompromising fight against any hint or act of antisemitism or xenophobia of any kind,” Rivlin said.

The visit and the comments are strikingly relevant less than two weeks after International Holocaust Awareness day and amid multiple reports of escalating levels of antisemitism.

A report published by the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs on January 27, for example, revealed record high levels of antisemitism on the streets and online in 2018. Likewise, the year saw the highest number of Jews murdered in antisemitic attacks since the 1992 and 1995 attacks on the Argentinian Jewish community. Thirteen Jews were killed last year in three separate incidents worldwide.

Also according to the report, Jews in the United States were subject to 58% of all hate crimes perpetrated on the basis of religion. In France, there was a 69% rise in antisemitic incidents. And in Germany, the first half of 2018 saw a significant rise in antisemitic incidents over the first six months of 2017, with 893 incidents recorded in that period, comprising 61.5% of antisemitic incidents for the year of 2017.

“The campaign against antisemitism is not a Jewish issue,” Rivlin concluded. “This is a battle that all humanity must fight, together.”

 

American Presence in Iraq and Future of the Middle East

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 04:09

Iraqi politicians hit back at US President Donald Trump on Monday after he said that he plans to keep American forces in the country to spy on Iran.

In an interview with CBS television, Trump reaffirmed his determination to pull the United States out of ‘endless wars’ in Syria and Afghanistan but said that some American troops would stay on in Iraq, citing the need to protect Israel and to be ‘looking a little bit at Iran’.

The Fall of the Media Temple

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 02:00

The media sold off its own temple last week and no one noticed.

A decade ago, a 643,000 square foot shrine to the media went up off the Washington Mall. The media funded organization behind it boasted that its Great Hall of News atrium was taller than the Sistine Chapel. The pseudo-religious metaphor continued with 50 tons of Tennessee marble being used to “create the First Amendment tablet on the building’s Pennsylvania Avenue façade”.

The thousands of artifacts included a 3,262 year old cuneiform brick from ancient Sumeria and a
2,756 year old statue of the Egyptian god Thoth, the mythical inventor of writing, worshiped by the media.

Last week, the $450 million temple constructed by the media to worship itself was sold off for $372 million to Johns Hopkins. There’s no word on whether they threw in the statue of their fallen god.

The fall of the media temple comes just as the media is on the defensive after fallout from a fake news hate campaign targeting a 16-year-old boy based on an out of context video clip. And the only thing that the media can say in defense of its lies about Covington Catholic is that it got them from social media.

That’s also its epitaph. The media doesn’t make the news. It’s just the noisiest part of the echo chamber, amplifying messages from lefty politicians from above and lefty social media trends from below.

The media temple was a project of the Freedom Forum. The Forum was backed by media giants like the New York Times, Bloomberg, Comcast, ABC, NBC and Time Warner. And much of the cash came from the Gannett media titan. In 1999, it commanded over $1 billion. By 2001, it was down to $700 million. Blowing through $450 million on a temple, complete with idol, couldn’t have helped.

The original Newseum had cost $50 million and offered free admission. The new Newseum was pure media hubris, stuck between the Capitol and White House as if it were another branch of government.

With a plethora of better museums to choose from, tourists to Washington D.C. weren’t interested in $24.95 tickets to see a news chopper suspended in the New York Times Ochs Sulzberger Great Hall’s atrium (taller than the Sistine Chapel). In desperation, the fake news museum even began selling a t-shirt carrying President Trump’s “You Are Very Fake News” taunt. Unlike most of its merchandise, the shirts were popular, but media protests soon put an end to the only popular thing about the Newseum.

And nobody was buying the Newseum’s t-shirts of Thoth; the dead idol of a dying industry.

Around the same time that the Newseum was selling its temple to the pagans of a useful profession, Gannett, which had once funded it, announced the layoff of as many as 400 employees.

The bloodshed is just beginning at the mammoth publisher responsible for USA Today and a massive portfolio of papers coast to coast, from the Detroit Free Press to the Arizona Republic to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. (If you visit a local paper and its site looks like the USA Today site, it’s a Gannett paper.)

Gannett money had poured into the media temple in happier times. Its finances have been troubled this year. And now it’s in a bloody war with Tribune, another newspaper giant, and the winner of the hostile takeover campaigns will consolidate by cutting jobs and putting more Thoth worshipers out of work.

It’s been a cold winter for the media. The Huffington Post was hit with major layoffs after its corporate parent, Verizon, grew tired of subsidizing Arianna’s vanity lefty project. The casualties decimated HuffPo’s opinion section and filled social media with unintentionally hilarious tweets by ‘journalists’ specializing in gender politics, poverty inequality and culture looking for work.

BuzzFeed, fresh off its recent Trump fake news scandal, announced 15% layoffs. The casualties included the fake news site’s national news team and national security team. Lefty site Mic had already imploded. Bustle’s attempted relaunch of Gawker collapsed with a slew of resignations. The Forward fired its editor and dumped 40% of its staff after $5 million in losses.

And that’s just the very recent bad news for the news. The full list of bad news in just the last year, never mind the last decade, would take more space to tell than even the Newseum could accommodate.

If the media falls with no one to report it, does it make a sound?

The big news here is that the media is dying. And in its desperation, its members are seeking survival strategies. Reporters are unionizing at an unprecedented pace in a futile effort at surviving the rounds of consolidations and layoffs. That strategy didn’t save anyone at Gawker, Al Jazeera America or the Huffington Post. Unions can’t save a bad business model that takes entire companies down with it.

And you can understand why someone who claims to be a “columnist with 10 years of writing about gender politics (and a literal PhD in romantic comedies)” seeking work after the latest layoffs would want the protection of a union.

Or the idol of a dead civilization.

Trump’s big win touched off a media gold rush. But radical partisanship left too many media outlets chasing too few anti-Trump eyeballs after having alienated everyone else. Some like the Washington Post and the New York Times have been more successful at it than others because of their role as brokers between their insider contacts and their insider audiences. Outsiders like BuzzFeed, who don’t have their own people inside the Mueller coup team, were left to make up even more dubious stuff.

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The last desperate strategy of the media is blackmailing the big dot coms for operating income. Amazon’s boss is behind the Washington Post. And Google and Facebook are pouring in hundreds of millions of dollars into the media. But while that might have been enough to keep the Newseum afloat, it’s not nearly enough to maintain the media as anything more than a boutique operation.

The media declared a fake news crisis and demanded that Facebook and Google prioritize their traffic. As a piece at Columbia Journalism Review argued, “the one thing journalism actually needs: a guarantee that the conditions on the platform will benefit those producing high-quality reporting.”

Google and Facebook have already privileged media content and censored conservative media, even though that’s not what their users have signed up for. But that makes the media dependent on the business model of a handful of internet monopolies already being targeted by the GOP and the Dems. And the same disruptive trends that wrecked the media’s old business models will wreck its new one.

The media has never addressed the fundamental problem with its business model. It wants a monopoly on the marketplace of ideas even as its own positions drift further leftward. It has tried to outgrow that problem by becoming a bigger monopoly, but the internet limited the extent to which its old infrastructure investments could monopolize the public square, leaving its expensive investments in broadcasting and printing equipment as useless as the massive square footage of the Newseum.

And when that failed, the media swung fully leftward, becoming the messaging arm of the most radical elements in the country, while campaigning vigorously for the censorship of social media “fake news”.

But its new masters rightly view it with contempt.

“They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo,” Ben Rhodes once sneered to the New York Times. “Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

The Obama adviser wasn’t wrong.

It doesn’t take much skill to repeat talking points. Or to edit an article that a Fusion GPS hack or one of his many counterparts had already assembled for you behind the scenes.

The dedication of the Newseum in 2008 also marked the death of journalism. That was the year when the media tossed aside any appearance of independence and officially joined a political campaign. A decade later, journalism may be occasionally practiced on the sly, but it doesn’t exist as a profession.

Politicians, never mind PR hacks like Rhodes, once respected and feared journalists. Then they became the unpaid ideological errand boys and girls for Rhodes and his bosses. When lefty politicos and activists whistled, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the rest of the media asked, “How high?”

Readers, listeners and viewers used to be the media’s customer base. The man on the street who paid fifty cents for the paper was the audience all those thousands of reporters were serving. Now the media serves a dizzying assortment of lefty special interests, spinning their stories and doing their PR.

And then the media acts outraged when the public won’t pay it or share its stories on social media.

The Newseum white elephant at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue isn’t just narcissistic idolatry, it celebrates an idea of journalism that doesn’t exist. Journalism now is a bunch of millennial social justice activists playing dress-up. They’re not a profession or an industry. They don’t report. They don’t know anything. And they don’t serve the public. It’s not our fault that the people they really work for, won’t pay them.

Journalism is as extinct as the worshipers of Thoth and the Newseum. The media sold off its temple last week, but long before that its hacks and flacks had sold their soul.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Sultan Knish Blog

Examining Qatar’s Influence

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 01:00

Already in the mid-1990s, a playful riddle circulated among foreign-policy types: In the aftermath of the Soviet collapse, which are the world’s two great powers? Answer: The United States and Qatar. In other words, the outsized ambitions of a country with a native population then numbering about 150,000, have long been apparent.

These days, Qatar’s influence is no longer a riddle. It is felt from Claridge’s Hotel to Paul Gauguin’s Quand te maries-tu?, from Al Jazeera to the 2022 World Cup, from hacking efforts to bribery scandals. The government has flamboyantly balanced its external connections, symbolized by the giant Al-Udeid Air Base used mostly by American forces vs. the Qatar-Turkey Combined Joint Force Command.

In part, this remarkable record is made possible by the unique riches showered on the country’s tiny population (which now stands at a bit over 300,000, or about 1 percent of the population of Shanghai). The vast North Dome gas field earns the country’s subjects (as opposed to the many more numerous foreigners) a per capita income of about US$500,000, or some five times higher than the second richest state, Luxembourg.

In part too, Qatar’s outsized role reflects on the nature of the country and its leadership. As in Saudi Arabia, the extremist ideology of Wahhabism dominates in Qatar, bestowing its population with a sense of purpose and ambition quite out of proportion to its size. Its recent leadership, first Emir Hamad (r. 1995-2013) and now his son Tamim (2013-), as well as their relatives and aides, indulge in an evanescent grandiosity nicely symbolized by the HAMAD name (in Latin letters) stretching one kilometer high and three kilometers wide that Emir Hamad briefly and mysteriously had etched into the sands of an island in 2010, then no less mysteriously had erased two years later.

Qatar’s reach is perhaps most evident in its reported support for jihadi groups in such varied places as Iraq (Al-Qaeda), Syria (Ahrar al-Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra), Gaza (Hamas), and Libya (Benghazi Defense Brigades). In addition, Qatar supports prominent Islamist networks all around the world – including the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the AKP in Turkey and Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh.

In Doha, the government provides the Taliban with office space. Islamist luminaries such as the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader Yusuf Al-Qaradawi and Hamas chieftain Khaled Meshaal have for decades made their homes in Doha.

In the West, Qatar’s power is more cautious and thrives unchallenged. For one, it funds mosques and other Islamic institutions, which express their gratitude by protesting outside Saudi Arabia’s embassies in London and Washington.

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But Doha does not rely only on the Islamist diaspora in the West to advance its agenda; it also works to influence Western policymakers and the public directly.

The enormous Al Jazeera television network has become one of the world’s largest and best-known broadcasters. Its English-language stations produce slick propaganda against Qatar’s enemies, dressed up in Western liberal rhetoric. Al Jazeera’s latest venture – its social media channel, AJ+ – is aimed at young, progressive Americans. Its documentaries on the evils of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Trump administration are sandwiched between glowing coverage of transgender rights campaigns and emotional appeals for the plight of asylum seekers on America’s southern border – seemingly incongruous topics for a broadcaster controlled by a Wahhabi regime.

Doha also seeks to influence Western educational institutions. The regime-controlled Qatar Foundation hands tens of millions of dollars to schools, colleges and other educational institutions across Europe and North America. Indeed, Qatar is now the largest foreign donor to American universities. Its funds pay for the teaching of Arabic and lessons on Middle Eastern culture and their ideological bent is at times unashamedly apparent, as in the lesson plan in American schools titled. “Express Your Loyalty to Qatar.”

Now that the Saudi, UAE, Egyptian, and other Arab governments have woken to the threat posed by Qatar, is it not time for Westerners to do so too? The Middle East Forum conference on Feb. 6, seeks to shed light on one of the world’s smallest, richest, most powerful, and most sinister states, by focusing on two questions: What is the government of Qatar doing? What is its goal?

Reprinted with author’s permission from Daniel Pipes

Pope Francis’ Fake “Interreligious Dialogue” with the Muslim World

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 00:00

Vatican News recently announced Pope Francis’ upcoming “Apostolic Journey to Morocco, whose theme is hope.”  Before spending March 30-31 in Morocco, Francis is also scheduled to visit the United Arab Emirates.  “Pope Francis will meet the leader of Moroccan Muslims,” Vatican Newscontinues, “800 years after the meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kāmil of Egypt.”

Francis has been even more vocal in drawing continuity between himself and his namesake, Francis of Assisi.  In a recent address, he said that his visit to the two Muslim nations  “represent two important opportunities to advance interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding between the followers of both religions, in this year that marks the eight-hundredth anniversary of the historic meeting between Saint Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kāmil.”

What exactly was “historic” about this meeting?  And how does it relate to Pope Francis’ efforts “to advance interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding?”  Exploring these questions offers useful lessons, including on past and present approaches to Islam.

Before proceeding, it should be understood that Pope Francis often portrays himself as walking in the footsteps of his chosen namesake, Francis of Assisi—“the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation,” as Jorge Mario Bergoglio explained in 2013 when he became pope as to why he had adopted the name of Francis.

As for what the pope is characterizing as a “historic meeting between Saint Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kāmil,” here is the story: After centuries of Islamic invasions that saw the conquest of at least two-thirds of Christian territory—as documented in my recent Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West—Europeans finally began to push back via the Crusades in the late eleventh century.

In 1219, during the Fifth Crusade, Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) and a fellow companion sought to do their part by traveling to the Middle East, where they sought audience with Sultan al-Kāmil.  They went despite al-Kāmil’s vow that “anyone who brought him the head of a Christian should be awarded with a Byzantine gold piece,” to quote from St. Francis of Assisi and the Conversion of the Muslims, a good primer on the topic by Frank M. Rega (a Franciscan).

St. Francis’ contemporaries also warned him that Muslims “were a mean people who thirst for Christian blood and attempt even the most brazen atrocities.” The determined men continued their journey, only to experience the inevitable:

The early documents are unanimous in agreeing that the two Franciscans were subjected to rough treatment upon crossing Muslim territory.  The men of God were seized in a violent manner by the sentries, assaulted, and bound in chains.  Celano reports that Francis “was captured by the Sultan’s soldiers, was insulted and beaten” yet showed no fear even when threatened with torture and death.

What was the purpose of St. Francis’ dangerous mission?  Was he, as Pope Francis regularly implies, trying “to advance interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding?”  Yes and no. He certainly relied on the word, not the sword.  But the word he offered was as sharp as any sword.  As Rega writes, “Fully aware of the dangers, Francis was determined to go on a mission to the unbelievers of the Muslim nations.  The primary sources are in agreement that he was now ready to sacrifice his life and die for Christ, so there can be little doubt that the intent of his journey was to preach the Gospel even at the risk of martyrdom” (emphasis added).

Francis sought to save both souls and lives: “Converting the Muslims by his preaching was the ultimate goal of Francis’ efforts, and a peaceful end to the war would be a consequence of their conversion.”  As Christoph Maier explains, “Francis, like the crusaders, wanted to liberate the holy places in Palestine from Muslim rule.  What was different was his strategy….   He wanted their total submission to the Christian faith.”

Eventually brought before Sultan al-Kāmil, the monks sought to “demonstrate to the Sultan’s wisest counselors the truth of Christianity, before which Mohammed’s law [Sharia] counted for nothing.”  For “if you die while holding to your law,” warned Francis, “you will be lost; God will not accept your soul.  For this reason we have come to you.”

Intrigued by the cheeky friars, “the Sultan called in his religious advisers, the imams.”  However, and as often happens today when Muslim debaters are at a loss for words, “they refused to dispute with the Christians and instead insisted that they be killed [by beheading], in accordance with Islamic law.”

The sultan refused: “I am going counter to what my religious advisers demand and will not cut off your heads… you have risked your own lives in order to save my soul.”

During their disputation and in reference to “the centuries-old Muslim conquest and occupation of lands, peoples, and nations that had once been primarily Christian,” al-Kāmil sought to trap the monks with their own logic: if Jesus had taught Christians to “turn the other cheek” and “repay evil with good,” he inquired, why were “Crusaders … invading the lands of the Muslims?”

Francis quipped by also quoting Christ: “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

Francis then explained: “That is why it is just that Christians invade the land you inhabit, for you blaspheme the name of Christ and alienate everyone you can from His worship.” This is a reference to Islam’s dhimmi rules, which, along with debilitating Christian worship, make Christian lives so burdensome and degrading that untold millions have converted to Islam over the centuries to ease their sufferings.

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As should be evident by now—and contrary to what many, including the current pope, suggest—St. Francis did not preach passivity before aggression.  Professor James Powell writes: “Francis of Assisi went to Damietta [Egypt, where Sultan al-Kāmil was] on a mission of peace. There can be no question about this.  We should not however try to make him a pacifist or to label him as a critic of the crusade.”

Another crusade scholar, Christoph Maier, underscores this point: “Francis thus accepted the crusade as both legitimate and ordained by God, and he was quite obviously not opposed to the use of violence when it came to the struggle between Christians and Muslims (emphasis added).”

Indeed, Francis once remarked that “paladins and valiant knights who were mighty in battle pursued the infidels [Muslims] even to death.”  As such, they were “holy martyrs [who] died fighting for the Faith of Christ.”

Such is the man whose footsteps Pope Francis claims to be following by meeting with Muslim potentates “to advance interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding.”  Little wonder those who know St. Francis’ true biography deplore his modern day transformation into some sort of Medieval “hippy”—or, in Pope Francis’ words, “the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation.”  As Pope Pius XI  complained in 1926:

What evil they do and how far from a true appreciation of the Man of Assisi [St. Francis] are they who, in order to bolster up their fantastic and erroneous ideas about him, image such an incredible thing … that he was the precursor and prophet of that false liberty which began to manifest itself at the beginning of modern times and which has caused so many disturbances both in the Church and in civil society!

In the context of confronting Islam, Rega similarly laments that, “for the revisionists, the ‘real’ Francis was not a bold Evangelist, but a timid man, whose goal was to have the friars live passively among the Saracens [Muslims] and ‘to be subject to them.’”

And these are precisely the differences between St. Francis and Pope Francis: while both are willing to dialogue peacefully with Muslims, the medieval saint was not willing to compromise Christian truths or ignore Islam’s violent reality, whereas the postmodern pope is.

As one example, after a journalist asked Pope Francis about the jihadi slaughter of an 85-year-old priest in France, and how surely he was “killed in the name of Islam,” Francis replied:

I don’t like to speak of Islamic violence, because every day, when I browse the newspapers, I see violence, here in Italy… this one who has murdered his girlfriend, another who has murdered the mother-in-law… and these are baptized Catholics! There are violent Catholics! If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence . . . and no, not all Muslims are violent, not all Catholics are violent. It is like a fruit salad; there’s everything.

The pope failed to mention or understand that violence committed in accordance with a religion and violence committed in contradiction of a religion are radically different.  Yes, people of all religions commit violence.  But the Catholics that Francis cited did not murder their girlfriends and mother-in-laws because of any Christian teaching; on the contrary, Christian teachings of mercy and forgiveness are meant to counter such impulses.  Conversely, much of the violence and intolerance being committed by Muslims around the world is often a byproduct of Islamic teachings (for example, persecuting and executing “apostates,” that is, born Muslims who wish to leave Islam or embrace another religion).

In the same interview, after Francis acknowledged that there are “violent persons of this religion [Islam],” he immediately added that “in pretty much every religion there is always a small group of fundamentalists. Fundamentalists. We have them.”

True, but that which is “fundamental” to every religion differs.  While Muslim and Christian fundamentalists adhere to a literalist/strict reading of their scriptures, left unmentioned by Francis is what do the Bible and Koran actually teach?  The Christian fundamentalist may find himself compelled to pray for his persecutors, while the Muslim fundamentalist may find himself attacking, subjugating, plundering, enslaving, and slaughtering non-Muslim infidels.  In both cases, the scriptures—Bible and Koran—say so.

A final important point: while St. Francis did not mock Muhammad—although the pious called for his head anyway—he unequivocally portrayed the Muslim prophet’s message as false.  Unlike the diplomatic Pope Francis, who never seems to preach Christ to Muslims but rather confirms them in and validates their religion, the sincere saint was actually more concerned with the souls of Muslims, to the point of putting his own life on the line. Along with spearheading the defense of Christianity against Islam—see Sword and Scimitar—that was also one of the traditional concerns of popes, the “Vicars of Christ.”

But apparently not for the current pope.

In short, when it comes to confronting Islam with honesty and sincerity, and standing up for the faith, Pope Francis woefully fails to live up to the brave friar whose name he appropriated.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Raymond Ibrahim