Oct 17 2014
Tag: Israel: Middle East — Sage @ 5:52 pm
Daily thoughts and upliftment for our journey through life
Oct 17 2014
October 17, 2014
Oct 17 2014
(Central Israel) — When my family and I moved to Israel in mid-August, we did so amidst a jihadist onslaught against the Jewish State. The third Gaza war was underway. Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza were firing more than 4,000 rockets, missiles and mortars at Israeli civilians, including Jews, Muslims and Christians.
That said, Israel was (and remains) one of the safest places to be in the Middle East this year, and not just for Jews but for Christians, as well.
Christians are being persecuted and even slaughtered throughout the epicenter. Israel and Jordan are safe havens. But from Syria to Iraq to Iran and beyond, the Radical Islamic jihadist offensive against followers of Jesus Christ is fierce and unrelenting. Indeed, as I’ve written about in recent months, we are seeing genocidal conditions emerging in this region against the Christians.
Why then are so few pastors and Christians leaders in the West coming to the defense of our brothers and sisters in this region who are in such grave danger? Why aren’t pastors rallying their congregations to pray for the persecuted Church in the Mideast? Why are so few Christian lay people giving financially to ministries that are making a difference in the region in the name of Christ in the midst of the chaos and carnage?
The epicenter is on fire. Yet I’m stunned by how few Christians are paying attention, or trying to help. Some are, and may God deeply bless this wonderful, heroic remnant. But so much of the Church is asleep.
How about you? Are you moved by the suffering of our brethren? Are you and your congregation looking for a way to help in a practical way?
The Joshua Fund team is working hard to provide prayer, encouragement, funds, and other resources to Arab Christians fleeing from the ISIS rampage. We are doing this even as we continue to provide humanitarian relief and other help in Israel. The Bible certainly commands believers to love and bless Israel and the Jewish people, and this is more important than ever. But the Scriptures also command us to love and bless Israel’s neighbors, and even her enemies. Is it easy? No. Is it safe? Not always. But the Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to love everyone in this region and He set the example for us.
Would you like to join us? We need your prayers. We also need your financial support, especially at this time. You can learn more about what The Joshua Fund is doing by clicking here.
You can also learn more about what is happening to the Christians in the epicenter by reading this excellent article by columnist Kirsten Powers. I cite it here in full.
By Kirsten Powers, The Daily Beast, September 27, 2014
Christians in the Middle East and Africa are being slaughtered, tortured, raped, kidnapped, beheaded, and forced to flee the birthplace of Christianity. One would think this horror might be consuming the pulpits and pews of American churches. Not so. The silence has been nearly deafening.
As Egypt’s Copts have battled the worst attacks on the Christian minority since the 14th century, the bad news for Christians in the region keeps coming. On Sunday, Taliban suicide bombers killed at least 85 worshippers at All Saints’ church, which has stood since 1883 in the city of Peshawar, Pakistan. Christians were also the target of Islamic fanatics in the attack on a shopping center in Nairobi, Kenya, this week that killed more than 70 people. The Associated Press reported that the Somali Islamic militant group al-Shabab “confirmed witness accounts that gunmen separated Muslims from other people and let the Muslims go free.” The captives were asked questions about Islam. If they couldn’t answer, they were shot.
In Syria, Christians are under attack by Islamist rebels and fear extinction if Bashar al-Assad falls. This month, rebels overran the historic Christian town of Maalula, where many of its inhabitants speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. The AFP reported that a resident of Maalula called her fiancé’s cell and was told by member of the Free Syrian Army that they gave him a chance to convert to Islam and he refused. So they slit his throat.
Nina Shea, an international human-rights lawyer and expert on religious persecution, testified in 2011 before Congress regarding the fate of Iraqi Christians, two-thirds of whom have vanished from the country. They have either been murdered or fled in fear for their lives. Said Shea: “[I]n August 2004 … five churches were bombed in Baghdad and Mosul. On a single day in July 2009, seven churches were bombed in Baghdad … The archbishop of Mosul, was kidnapped and killed in early 2008. A bus convoy of Christian students were violently assaulted. Christians … have been raped, tortured, kidnapped, beheaded, and evicted from their homes …”
Lela Gilbert is the author of Saturday People, Sunday People, which details the expulsion of 850,000 Jews who fled or were forced to leave Muslim countries in the mid-20th century. The title of her book comes from an Islamist slogan, “First the Saturday People, then the Sunday People,” which means “first we kill the Jews, then we kill the Christians.” Gilbert wrote recently that her Jewish friends and neighbors in Israel “are shocked but not entirely surprised” by the attacks on Christians in the Middle East. “They are rather puzzled, however, by what appears to be a lack of anxiety, action, or advocacy on the part of Western Christians.”
As they should be. It is inexplicable. American Christians are quite able to organize around issues that concern them. Yet religious persecution appears not to have grabbed their attention, despite worldwide media coverage of the atrocities against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.
It’s no surprise that Jews seem to understand the gravity of the situation the best. In December 2011, Britain’s chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, addressed Parliament saying, “I have followed the fate of Christians in the Middle East for years, appalled at what is happening, surprised and distressed … that it is not more widely known.”
“It was Martin Luther King who said, ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’ That is why I felt I could not be silent today.”
Yet so many Western Christians are silent.
In January, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) penned a letter to 300 Catholic and Protestant leaders complaining about their lack of engagement. “Can you, as a leader in the church, help?” he wrote. “Are you pained by these accounts of persecution? Will you use your sphere of influence to raise the profile of this issue—be it through a sermon, writing or media interview?”
There have been far too few takers.
Wolf and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) sponsored legislation last year to create a special envoy at the State Department to advocate for religious minorities in the Middle East and South-Central Asia. It passed in the House overwhelmingly, but died in the Senate. Imagine the difference an outcry from constituents might have made. The legislation was reintroduced in January and again passed the House easily. It now sits in the Senate. According to the office of Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the sponsor of the bill there, there is no date set for it to be taken up.
Wolf has complained loudly of the State Department’s lack of attention to religious persecution, but is anybody listening? When American leaders meet with the Saudi government, where is the public outcry demanding they confront the Saudis for fomenting hatred of Christians, Jews, and even Muslim minorities through their propagandistic tracts and textbooks? In the debate on Syria, why has the fate of Christians and other religious minorities been almost completely ignored?
In his letter challenging U.S. religious leaders, Wolf quoted Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed for his efforts in the Nazi resistance: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
That pretty well sums it up.
Chilling new headlines — and gruesome new photographs – from the Middle East increasingly suggest ISIS not only has chemical weapons, but may already be using them against its enemies in the region.
Thus, disturbing new questions are being raised:
· Are these reports and photographs legit?
· If so, where did ISIS get the weapons?
· How many WMDs do they have?
· What are their next targets?
· Could the U.S. and Israel bit hit with chemical weapons soon?
As readers of this blog know, these are fictional plot lines in my forthcoming thriller, The Third Target, which releases in the U.S. and Canada on January 6th.
In the novel, a New York Times reporter pursues rumors that ISIS has captured chemical weapons in Syria and is preparing a genocidal attack against an unknown target.
In August, however, it appeared the premise of my novel had been overtaken by events. The U.S. government declared that it had completed the destruction of all of Syria’s chemical weapons. Thus, it seemed impossible that ISIS could capture such weapons.
But in September, officials in the Obama administration began to backpedal. They started to publicly express doubts that all the Syrian WMDs had been disclosed and destroyed. This raised fears that that Assad regime or ISIS or other Radical jihadist groups could seize such weapons and use them against their enemies. That led me to write a blog on September 11th headlined, “What If ISIS Obtains Chemical Weapons?”
Now, in mid-October, we are getting reports that ISIS has indeed captured chemical warheads, and may be using them against the Kurds in Iraq.
What’s more, we’re hearing reports that even though for more than a decade the Western media told us there were no WMD in Iraq, that such weapons were there after all. A newly published New York Times investigation this week reports the following: “From 2004 to 2011, American and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and on at least six occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons remaining from years earlier in Saddam Hussein’s rule. In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
There are also reports that ISIS forces have captured a chemical weapons production facility in Iraq, and may be using Iraqi WMD against the Kurds.
At the moment, I’m not sure we can say definitively whether ISIS has such deadly weapons. But I wanted to bring the latest headlines to your attention.
For my part, I pray the reports are not true, and that The Third Target remains merely a work of fiction.
Oct 15 2014
October 15, 2014
Oct 13 2014
October 13, 2014
Oct 13 2014
Media reports increasingly suggest the U.S.-led military effort crush ISIS is not working.
ISIS is close to capturing the city of Kobane on the Syrian-Turkish border. There are fears ISIS will slaughter every person in the city if they defeat coalition forces.
Meanwhile, ISIS is only eight miles from Baghdad and gaining ground on other fronts.
· “General [Martin] Dempsey [the President's top military advisor] painted a decidedly mixed picture of the campaign against the Islamic State, describing a nimble foe that has adjusted rapidly to coalition air attacks by blending in better with local populations,” reports a leading American newspaper, adding that ISIS attacks could soon begin inside the capital city of Baghdad.
· “Waves of U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State fighters appear to have done little to stem the terrorist army’s advance in Syria, and now the militants are close to overrunning key positions on the outskirts of Baghdad,” reports one U.S. cable news network. “With the world’s eyes on the terrorist army’s siege of the Syrian border city of Kobani, where U.S.-led airstrikes are backing Kurdish fighters, some 500 miles southeast, Islamic State fighters are within eight miles of the Iraqi metropolis.”
· “America’s plans to fight Islamic State are in ruins as the militant group’s fighters come close to capturing Kobani and have inflicted a heavy defeat on the Iraqi army west of Baghdad,” reports a key British newspaper. “The US-led air attacks launched against Islamic State (also known as Isis) on 8 August in Iraq and 23 September in Syria have not worked. President Obama’s plan to ‘degrade and destroy’ Islamic State has not even begun to achieve success. In both Syria and Iraq, Isis is expanding its control rather than contracting….In the face of a likely Isis victory at Kobani, senior US officials have been trying to explain away the failure to save the Syrian Kurds in the town, probably Isis’s toughest opponents in Syria.”
Why is the much-heralded U.S. and Arab military campaign announced by President Obama last month not having success?
There are several reasons, says retired three-star General Jerry Boykin, who used to command the U.S. Army’s elite Delta Force and later served as U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence.
Over the weekend, Boykin offered a five-point plan to improve the U.S. campaign against ISIS. I quote it here in full.
I have hesitated to write this posting because I have been trying to find an alternative to what I will propose here.
The situation with ISIS is very serious now as I am sure that everyone is aware. The Obama administration is totally inept and not serious about reducing the threat to America and American interests. These airstrikes are not effective because they have not been well directed at real targets in most cases and they have not been in large numbers.
So what do we need to do now? I hate to recommend this but I have considered the alternatives and I find none acceptable.
We need to do five things right now:
1. Put forth a significant intel effort against ISIS. This includes flying drones throughout the ISIS area of operations as well as a big Human Intel and Signals Intel effort. The idea is to find ISIS targets and kill them including the leaders and the command and control nodes.
2. Put as many Special Operations teams on the ground as the US Special Operations Command calls for. They should operate with the Kurdish Peshmerga and any Sunni tribal entities who can reasonably be assessed as true anti-ISIS entities. They should be equipped with SOFLAMS (Laser Designators) for controlling air strikes.
3. Deploy ground forces of at least one full US Army Armor or Mechanized division with supporting assets to go into the urban areas and to ferret out ISIS an kill them with anti-tank systems and attack helicopters. Yep, I know this is controversial and I don’t like it either but we have to destroy ISIS and reduce them as a threat. The US division must go in order to convince and persuade other nations to do the same. Even the NATO nations have to see that they either stop these pigs in Iraq and Syria or they will fight them on their home turf in Europe. The same applies to America. Now we cannot deny that they are coming across the US southern border since members of congress are now acknowledging the same thing.
4. Arm the Kurds directly and not through the Iraqi government. Anything going through the Iraq government never gets to the Kurds. Fly plane loads of arms and equipment into the city of Irbil and off load it there where the Kurds will get it themselves.
Oct 11 2014
Oct 10 2014
Oct 10 2014
Oct 08 2014
Sure enough, the King has proven himself a central player in a region set aflame by the forces of Radical Islam this year.
As the flames get higher, several critical questions come to the fore:
· Will ISIS or other Radical groups try to topple the King and raise their black flag over Amman?
· Will the U.S., NATO and other allies stand closely together with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, one of our most important allies in the region, to make sure this does not happen?
· Will the U.S., Israel and Sunni Arab countries such as Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia — as well as some of the emirates – forge a quiet but effective alliance not only to stop jihadists like ISIS but to stop the ayatollahs in Iran from going nuclear?
As the year draws to a close, I remain intrigued and impressed with King Abdullah II both a monarch and a Reformer. He is actively trying to lead his small, oil-less, but vitally important nation towards progress and freedom, tolerance and modernity. He’s keeping close ties with the Arab world. He maintains a close friendship with the U.S., and is maintaining his nation’s courageous peace treaty with Israel. He’s also actively trying to help the Palestinians and Israelis make peace, as well. But the Radicals desperately want to topple the King and seize Jordan for themselves.
When I was in Amman in May doing research for my forthcoming novel — The Third Target – I met with Jordan’s Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Interior Minister and other key officials. They warned of an “explosion” of Radical Islamic extremism and foreign jihadist fighters coming out of Syria that could threaten other nations in the region, including them.
“I’m not worried about Syria imploding,” a senior advisor to Jordan’s Foreign Minister told me, “I’m worried about it exploding” and sending newly emboldened terrorists across the region and across the globe.
I specifically asked Jordan’s Interior Minister, His Excellency Hussein Hazza’ Al-Majali, if ISIS — the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Arabic for the “Levant,” or Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel) — was a particularly serious threat. Without hesitation, he agreed it was.
Majali said he wasn’t worried about ISIS toppling King Abdullah II, assuring me that he and the King’s intelligence and security forces work around the clock to prevent just such a disaster. But when I asked him if the plot of my novel about the rising ISIS threat was credible, he assured me that, unfortunately, it was.
· Please pray for the moderate Arabs in the epicenter — King Abdullah II chief among them — to be strong and decisive in putting down this rapidly rising threat from ISIS and other jihadists.
· Let’s pray for the safety of the King, and the millions of Jordanians who live a very stable and peaceful life.
· Let’s also keep praying for the people of Iraq and Syria who are suffering terribly at this dark time.
Finally, consider this headline from earlier this summer: “ISIS THREATENS TO INVADE JORDAN, ‘SLAUGHTER’ KING ABDULLAH.”
“The recent victories in Iraq and Syria by the terrorists of ISIS — said to be an offshoot of al-Qaeda — have emboldened the group and its followers throughout the Middle East,” writes Khaled Abu Toameh, a former Arab affairs reporter for the Jerusalem Post. “Now the terrorists are planning to move their jihad not only to Jordan, but also to the Gaza Strip, Sinai and Lebanon. Failure to act will result in the establishment in the Middle East of a dangerous extremist Islamic empire that will pose a threat to American and Western interests.”….
“According to the sources, ISIS leader Abu Baker al-Baghdadi recently discussed with his lieutenants the possibility of extending the group’s control beyond Syria and Iraq,” Toameh notes. “One of the ideas discussed envisages focusing ISIS’s efforts on Jordan, where Islamist movements already have a significant presence. Jordan was also chosen because it has shared borders with Iraq and Syria, making it easier for the terrorists to infiltrate the kingdom.
“Jordanian political analyst Oraib al-Rantawi sounded alarm bells by noting that the ISIS threat to move its fight to the kingdom was real and imminent,” the report states.
“We in Jordan cannot afford the luxury of just waiting and monitoring,” he cautioned. “The danger is getting closer to our bedrooms. It has become a strategic danger; it is no longer a security threat from groups or cells. We must start thinking outside the box. The time has come to increase coordination and cooperation with the regimes in Baghdad and Damascus to contain the crawling of extremism and terrorism.”
“The ISIS terrorists see Jordan’s Western-backed King Abdullah as an enemy of Islam and an infidel, and have publicly called for his execution,” says Toameh. “ISIS terrorists recently posted a video on YouTube in which they threatened to ‘slaughter’ Abdullah, whom they denounced as a ‘tyrant.’ Some of the terrorists who appeared in the video were Jordanian citizens who tore up their passports in front of the camera and vowed to launch suicide attacks inside the kingdom.”
Jennifer Rubin is an intriguing voice inside the Washington Post. She’s not simply a columnist, she’s also a conservative, and she’s Jewish. This week, she wrote a column about the “Rally For Israel” that took place at the U.S. Capitol on Sunday and was organized by Governor Mike Huckabee and Concerned Women For America’s Penny Nance. It’s a fascinating take — one worth reading in full, and sharing with others. For the full text, and a link, see below.
On a personal note, I was deeply grateful to the Governor and Penny for inviting me to speak at the event. Since we are now living in Israel as a family, I wasn’t able to attend in person. But I strongly supported the Rally and recorded a video for it. And I want to thank everyone who attended, and all those who spoke.
It is absolutely vital that Christians stand with Israel and the Jewish people at this critical hour. It is also vital that we fully support efforts to defeat the Iranian nuclear program, Hamas, ISIS, and all other Radical Islamic threats to the U.S., Israel, and our Arab allies. For as I write about in my forthcoming novel, The Third Target, the stakes are incredibly high. If we do not stop the jihadists in the Middle East, they are coming here, and their goal is not simply to terrorize us, but to annihilate us.
By Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post
On the day after Jews’ holiest day of the year (Yom Kippur), a mostly Christian throng of zealous pro-Zionist Christians held a “Stand with Israel” rally on Capitol Hill on Sunday. For two hours plus, they sang, they prayed, they cheered and they spoke in defense of Israel. The rally was co-sponsored by Concerned Women for America (over half-a-million religious women voters who adopted Israel as a core issue) and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Both CWA president Penny Nance and Huckabee repeatedly delivered the message: America — and Christians in particular — must stand with Israel. Implicitly and sometimes explicitly mentioned was the argument that the administration is insufficiently supportive of Israel and clueless about the enormity of the jihadist threat.
In essence preaching to his flock, Huckabee made clear how central Israel and the defeat of radical Islam are to their faith. He declared, “There is no other nation that reflects the United States as Israel does.” Arguing that both nations value religious liberty he proclaimed that the United States can only be understood in the context of “God’s providence.” They fervently believe that if they break faith with Israel, God will break faith with them.(“If America doesn’t stand with Israel God will remove his hand from us,” Huckabee told them.)
This is the largest and most politically active “Israel Lobby” in the country. (Attendees came from as far away as North Dakota.) If the theology is not quite comprehensible to all Americans, then the geopolitical arguments the speakers made may sound familiar. These Zionists understand Israel and the U.S. are up against the same Islamist fundamentalists who want to cleanse Christians, Jews and non-fundamentalist Muslims from their midst. Journalist Eric Stackelbeck, reviewing the persecution first of Jews in the Middle East and then of Christians, reminded the crowd of mindset of radical Islamists who first go after Jews and then Christians. (“First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people,” he explained is their outlook.)
Huckabee and other speakers were emphatic that even if Americans don’t see this in theological terms, our shared enemies do. “Israel isn’t the ultimate target. We are,” Huckabee said. When the deputy ambassador from Israel spoke to express his appreciation for the support, he reminded the crowd that in the Middle East it is only Israel which allows women full participation in all facets of society, has a free press and allows Christians to practice freely. But what brought a rousing cheer from the crowd was his declaration, “We are proud to be the Islamic Republic of Iran’s little Satan.”
Several aspects of the gathering are worthy highlighting.
First, the evangelical Zionists are acutely aware of the uptick in anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric in Europe and on American campuses. Nance and Huckabee both spoke about it directly, warning of the danger of passivity. (A large student contingent from Liberty University was present.) Beyond support for the Jewish state, this group much more so than the administration or the MSM is following this development closely and sees the passivity of elites in the West as nothing less than a repeat of the 1930′s.
Second, Huckabee speaks to these kind of voters in a way that few other politicians do. It stems from his faith, not from a political agenda. He embodies their values and world view, and they know this. He speaks with the passion of a preacher, not with the anger of a politician bent on inflaming the crowd. If he chooses to run in 2016, other candidates will have their work cut out for them if they want to poach voters from Huckabee’s base. The question is whether since his 2008 run and with the benefit of years of Fox News hosting he now has developed the range to appeal beyond this core group.
Third, this crowd sees themselves engaged in an existential threat against radical Islam. These people do not separate Israel from that fight; they are one and the same. A politician who labels himself as pro-Israel but is less than fully committed to the fight against jihadists is unlikely to find much support here. In that sense, they are looking not merely for a pro-Israel leader but an anti-jihadist warrior who understands the stakes if jihadists are not defeated. And for many, this issue ranks right up there with abortion and marriage.
Oct 07 2014
October 7, 2014