Israel SITREP: The Christ-hating Israelis are at it again

Remember this:

or, for that matter, this:

Well, our Israeli friends have done it again, check out this article by RT: (just ignore all the explaining away and other cop-outs in the text of the RT article).
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‘McJesus’ statue sparks riot at museum in Israel as protesters call for removal of ‘offensive’ art

An art exhibit featuring a crucified Ronald McDonald caused chaos in the Israeli city of Haifa last week, after members of the country’s Arab Christian minority took offence at the depiction and protested outside the museum.Hundreds of Christian protesters called for the statue, titled ‘McJesus,’ to be removed from the museum, with Israeli police saying that some rioters even hurled a firebomb at the building and threw stones, shattering windows and injuring officers. Crowds were eventually dispersed with tear gas and stun grenades, according to the Associated Press.

Embedded video

The Wolf Report@thewolfreports

Christian Palestinians protesting in front of the Haifa Museum to the sculpture “McJesus” by Finnish artist Jani Leinonen, depicting Ronald McDonalds clown on the cross.

However, it seems the protesters missed the point of the exhibit, which was not intended to be an attack on Christianity, but instead meant as an artist’s statement on capitalism, corporate domination and how modern society and culture worship false gods. The exhibit also includes Barbie-doll boxes with Jesus and the Virgin Mary inside.

The sudden focus on the exhibit came as a surprise to Museum Director Nissim Tal, however, since the art in question had been on display for months already without issue. It is believed that photos of the controversial statue recently published on social media prompted the protests.

The work has also been shown in other countries without problems, although Israel’s Christians make up a tiny percentage of the population in a country which is already rife with ethnic and religious tensions.

Wadie Abu Nassar, an adviser to church leaders who have demanded the exhibit’s removal, told the AP it was necessary to understand that freedom of expression “is interpreted in different ways” in different societies. “If this work was directed against non-Christians, the world would be turned upside down,” he said.

The museum has refused to remove the artwork, saying that it must uphold freedom of expression and resist pressure. “If we take the art down, the next day we’ll have politicians demanding we take other things down and we’ll end up only with colorful pictures of flowers in the museum,” Tal said, adding: “We will be defending freedom of speech, freedom of art, and freedom of culture, and will not take it down.”

Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev, who has earlier been accused of supporting censorship after pushing legislation commanding national “loyalty” in art, also called for the exhibit to be taken down, saying it was “disrespectful.”

The museum has hung a curtain over the entrance to the exhibit and put up a sign saying that it is not intended to offend, but that is the “maximum” it will do, its director added. Protesters, however, have refused to give up, with one reportedly camping outside the museum in a tent with a sign calling on artists to “respect religions.”

In another twist, the Finnish artist who produced the ‘McJesus’ statue, Jani Leinonen, also wants the work taken out of the Haifa museum, but not because he doesn’t want to offend. Leinonen said he supports the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to pressure Israel to change its policies toward Palestinians.

Nadine Nashef@nanninenashef

The McJesus Saga keeps getting better and better. Apparently Finnish artist Jani Leinonen is a activist/supporter and wants his work taken out of the Haifa museum. He wasn’t aware it was being exhibited there. 😂

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Bottom line is this: if it is anti-Christian, then even a BDS-supporting goy will get his 15 minutes of fame in the “only democracy in the Middle-East”.

These guys, and the al-Qaeda crazies, are the forces which the West chose to support in the Middle-East.

Bravo!

The Saker

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Christmas meeting … between Jerusalem and Damascus

let’s cooperate to build a humane world

Sunday, 09 December

South Front

By  Eva Bartlet

DAMASCUS, SYRIA — On October 2, 2018, I met with the Grand Mufti of Syria, Dr. Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun, a scholar and the highest official of Islamic law in Syria, who assumed the position of grand mufti in 2005.

Dr. Hassoun’s (archived) website notes that in addition to his title of grand mufti, his other positions include, “Chairman of the Media Committee of the Higher Consultative Council for the Rapprochement between the Islamic Schools of Thought, Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.” Essentially meaning that the mufti focuses on interfaith, and inter-sect, dialogue.

His speeches routinely focus on the theme of rapprochement or, more generally, coexistence and love. He takes a firmly anti-sectarian stance, and supports the removal of barriers between sects, in order to achieve national unity.

Yet Dr. Hassoun’s detractors — most often aligned with NATO, Gulf, Turkish, or Israeli interests — accuse him of supporting terrorism. These claims emanate from a mistranslated version of a speech Hassoun gave in 2011 following the assassination of his son Saria just days before. The translation was provided by MEMRI, an organization founded by former Israeli intelligence officials that translates political speeches from Arabic into English.

Dr. Hassoun has long since addressed the accusation, including in a November 2011 interview with Der Spiegel, in which he clarified:

I didn’t threaten to send suicide bombers. I merely described a scenario in which it could easily emerge from the situation, and I warned against what could happen. Sentences were taken out of context and given a different coloring. Besides, the context to which my remark applied was a self-defense situation: a possible NATO attack on Syria.”

As I wrote previously, Dr. Hassoun spoke of the murder of his son Saria, “’…who had never carried a weapon in his life” and was gunned-down as he was leaving his university:

In a public address at the funeral the next day, Mufti Hassoun, while weeping, forgave the gunmen and called on them to lay down their weapons and re-join Syria. The following day, he received a text message saying the assassins would kill him as they had killed his son.

A year later, when two of the gunmen were caught, the Mufti went to speak with them. Again bestowing his forgiveness and asking only to know why they had murdered Saria, Mufti Hassoun learned that the assassins were simply following orders from Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and were paid for their dirty work, one thousand dollars per person. Embodying the forgiveness he preaches, the Mufti asks for their pardon and release.”

My conversation with Dr. Hassoun touched on Syria’s rich mosaic of cultures and faiths; Syria’s history of plurality and coexistence; the role of the media in shaping narratives on Syria, and the issue of Western sanctions on Syria, sanctions that specifically hurt the Syrian people — depriving Syrians of access to medicines, cancer treatments, medical equipment, even ambulances.

Mufti Hassoun is described in Western media as one of the most powerful figures in Syria. In my experiences, he is one of the most humble, approachable and compassionate figures, beloved by Syrians of all faiths.

Below is a translated transcript of my interview with Mufti Hassoun.

Eva Bartlett (EB): First of all, I’d like to thank you, Mufti Hassoun for your time today and for meeting with me.

Mufti Hassoun (MH): I would like to thank you because you were able to penetrate through the lies of the media, and come to Syria several times to report an authentic image of what has been happening in Syria.

Because the media, as President Trump put it, can be bought nowadays. The media write what they are told, not the truth.

Whereas you, Eva, you insisted on coming to Syria to see the truth and to report what is happening in Syria, and in Gaza, and in places where the fire of wars is raging.

You refused to lease your mind. You wanted to see the truth, and that is what I wish from all journalists in the world. [I wish] that journalists were never traders of values and principles, whose dignity and values can be bought. So they write what they are told, and report what they are told, not the truth.

The truth will be known to people through history. And God will hold us accountable for it [the truth] if we believe in God. And history will also hold us accountable.

So Eva, I have highly respected you since the first day you came. It wasn’t enough for you to listen to what I said and my words. You went on the streets, mixed with the people, went to Aleppo, went to Latakia, visited people in their homes.

You took the words from the supporters and the opposition listened to both parties and wrote the truth, that Syria is oppressed and that Syria has wonderful people. And that in Syria, there is no conflict between the people and the government.

The conflict is between the values and civilization that Syria enjoys [on the one hand], and those who want to drive people backwards [on the other hand] to a version of Islam that is not Islam, and to values that are not values. They want to enslave the people.

Thank you, Eva. I hope you will become a role model for free journalism, and for a noble, impartial, media, to report people’s pain and their hopes. Thanks to you, and to a father and a mother who raised you to become a truth seeker, and not one to follow others.

EB: How can Syria combat the sectarianism that is being thrust upon it by Saudi and Gulf television channels, and by their sheikhs (religious leaders), and by their muftis.

MH: Syria is a civilized country — it embraces all the civilizations of the world because it is the gate to the Orient. So [historically] those who wanted to go to China from Europe passed through Syria. And those who want to go back to Europe pass through Syria. Syria a hundred years ago was far bigger than Syria today. In Syria in 1900, 118 years ago, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria were one country. One bank, one currency, one president, and one nation. There were no religious minorities in it. The reason is that it is the land of Abraham, and Abraham was the forefather of all prophets. He was the forefather of Moses, and of Jesus, and the forefather of Muhammad, may prayers and peace be upon them.

Therefore, Syria embraced those divine messages. So, in one family, you can find a Christian, you can find a Muslim, you can find a secularist, you can find a capitalist and you can find a socialist.

Syria embraced everyone. And it also embraced ethnicities like the Arabs, the Kurds, the Syriacs, the Assyrians, and the Arameans. One could hear many languages: Arabic, Armenian, Chaldean, and Aramaic. One could find people from all over the world. If you went to its churches in Palestine, which was part of Syria at the time, you could find in these churches a Greek monk, a French bishop, an Aramean bishop, a Chaldean, an Arab, all of them in the churches praying together.

And if you went to the Aqsa mosque, you would see the Arabs, the Kurds, others from all ethnicities or regions, such as Egyptians and Libyans, inside the Aqsa Mosque. There were no ‘minorities’ in Syria. Syria is a nation in which all ethnicities are gathered. Therefore, when they [imperialist nations] divided it in 1900 into four countries, they wanted to create conditions for establishing countries on an ethnic, religious, and racist basis, which fight one another.

After the division, we did not fight with Lebanon, nor did we fight with Iraq, nor did we fight with Jordan, nor did we fight with Palestine.

They went to the world and told them that Solomon’s Temple was in Palestine. Come to Solomon’s Temple… I am very surprised by these words, that Solomon’s Temple, or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, or the Aqsa Mosque, or the Kaaba, gather all the people of this religion in this country!

That means every Jew should be in Palestine, every Christian should be in Bethlehem, and every Muslim should be in al-Aqsa. This is untrue! Exalted God is in my heart, and in the heart of that Jew and that Christian. God is in our hearts. He is not in the church, nor in the temple, nor in the Kaaba. Thus began this religious, extremist ideology, by making countries fight one another for hundreds of years, and kill one another in the name of God.

The difference between war in the name of religion and war for money or oil is that with war for oil, when you put your hand on oil wells, the war ends. When you control politics, the war is over. But when it comes to religion, here is the problem: the fight will go on for hundreds of years.

The reason is that wars become “holy.” This is what happened 500 years ago when Europe came to wage war in Syria and in Palestine. If you asked those fighters who came from Norway, Italy, France and Britain, “Why did you come to Syria?” they would say: “We came to save the tomb of the Messiah.” To save the tomb of the Messiah. And we could ask them: “Is Jesus buried in the ground? Jesus is in Heaven. So why are you fighting for a tomb that is empty?”

But the clergies used to fuel these wars to profit from them, and politicians used to work with them, so they could be leaders and kings.

The war in Syria, which has been going on for the last eight years, started for similar reasons. It is a war to divide Syria into ethnicities and sects, and to weaken it.

Like what they did in Lebanon. In Lebanon in 1960, and before 1960, the president was Maronite, and the prime minister was Sunni, and the president of the parliament was Shia, and they did not fight.  They were one family.

But, after the Lebanese war, Lebanon was divided into four divisions: There was a Sunni state, a Durzi state, a Shia state, and a Maronite state. It was a big lie. Syria entered into Lebanon, eliminated the borders, and withdrew.

We were surprised by the war on Iraq. From long ago, Iraq has had Sunnis, Shias, Kurds, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syriacs. They are there in Iraq. Iraq is a country that houses nations. They have always integrated and coexisted.

[Paul] Bremer came and established their constitution. That constitution is a sectarian and racist constitution. That constitution states that the president of the republic should be a Kurd, the prime minister should be a Shia, and the president of the parliament should be a Sunni.

Am I electing a bishop for a church or an Imam for a mosque depending on his being a Kurd, a Sunni, or a Shia? I am electing a person to govern the state and serve the people. So when I say that the president of the parliament must be a Shia, and the prime minister be a Sunni… Why Sunni or Shia?

He must be an Iraqi citizen. He must be a Syrian citizen, whether Christian or Muslim.

Today, the president of the parliament in Syria is a Christian. Where is the problem? Eighty years ago, the prime minister was a Christian, Faris Al-Khouri. Where is the problem?

Syria has held on to this humanitarian notion that the children of this country are not minorities. There are tens of Yazidi villages, they are originally Zoroastrian. There are Christians of all sects. There are Sunnis of all doctrines. There are Shias of all doctrines. There are sects from all ethnicities.

They are all a population of 23 million citizens. They have the right to vote. They have the right to occupy any rank in the government, like the Ministry of Defense. One is never asked whether he is a Muslim, a Christian, or a Jew, Sunni, Shia, or an Arab, or a Kurd, or an Assyrian. As long as he is a Syrian citizen.

For this reason, the war was started in Syria. Because it is a civil and secular state, but not non-religious. Syria respects religions and acknowledges everyone’s religion, and has a law that protects everyone’s religious and ethnic rights.

The Armenians, who came from Armenia after the wars that were waged there, we didn’t say to any of them: ‘abandon your language.’ There are Armenian schools. There are Syriac schools. Along with Arabic, they study Armenian and Syriac. They did not lose their identity.

All this hatred to Syria is because it did not submit to the European or American division that was imposed on Iraq and Lebanon. France imposed this ethnic and religious division in Lebanon.

Regarding Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait, they do not have the same diversity that exists in Syria. They are states based on clans. Let’s take al-Hijaz, the state of Hijaz.  Al-Hijaz, since the time of prophet Muhammad (prayers and peace be upon him) until one hundred years ago, was the home for all Arab tribes, from Najran to Dammam, to Abha, to Khamis Mishait, to Ma’an. All Arab tribes lived there, and all those tribes were Muslims.

When the Saudis came into power, they replaced the name of the country al-Hijaz with the name of the family. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Therefore, the country was no longer for the nation but for a family.

Syria is a nation, and does not belong to the Assad family. Syria is for the nation, and does not belong to al-Quwatli family. Syria is for the nation, and does not belong to Amin al-Hafiz. (Al-Quwatli and al-Hafiz were presidents of Syria). Syria is a nation.

Saudi Arabia — a part of which was called Hijaz — was a country for all Arab tribes, before a single tribal name was imposed on them.

That is why these countries do not know the meaning of the sectarian and ethnic diversity that we know in Syria. Diversity gives you power, it gives you richness. When there are Kurds, Armenians, Christians, Muslims, Jews and the secular, they all each think in their own way.

So, when they sit together they produce a wealth of ideas and culture. There, they don’t accept a different opinion. For example, I used to go to al-Hijaz to perform Hajj [pilgrimage] with a group of Syrians. I wanted to deliver a speech to them; it’s forbidden: ‘You should not speak. The speaker must be a Saudi.’

Whereas, in Syria, we welcomed the Saudi, the Egyptian, the British, and the American, in our cultural centers and we would listen to them, and listen to their speeches.

I myself received in my mosque, al-Rawda mosque in Aleppo, members of parliament from all over the world. Even one of the Philippines’ presidents visited us. Austria’s minister of foreign affairs visited me in the mosque and listened to the sermon, and we listened to their words.

We have no objection to listening to the other. Whereas, those countries are racist and religious countries. [They] don’t accept other religions, and not only other religions, but also other doctrines.

For example, the Wahhabi doctrine — they don’t accept other doctrines. In Syria, we have a mufti for the Shafie school, a mufti for the Jafari school, a mufti for Hanbali school, and a mufti for the Maliki school. As long as there is a group, it has its own religious doctrine.

There is a patriarch for the Orthodox, a patriarch for the Syriacs, and a patriarch for the Catholics. This is their natural right.

In Saudi Arabia, such a thing is prohibited, unless [the mufti is] a Sunni Salafist. These days, you [Saudi Arabia] receive around 3 or 4 million Muslim pilgrims from all over the world. There are Sunni pilgrims, Shia pilgrims, Sufi pilgrims. As long as he [the pilgrim] is speaking to his group, it is his right. So why do you prevent him [from doing so]?

In Syria, this is the intellectual freedom they wanted to get rid of with this sectarian war, where they said: ‘This is Alawite, this is Sunni’ … and that the government in Syria is Alawite.

Who says that Alawites are not Syrians, and not Muslims, or not sons of this country? If they had studied only the word ‘Alawite,’ [they would have found] that it means a spiritual Sufi Muslim who loves [Imam] Ali and does not hate others. This is the meaning of the word ‘Alawite.’

And the Druze, they are the Unitarians; [they are] a Muslim nation called the Unitarians, whose forefathers build al-Azhar [mosque].

The Jafari Shias are the followers of Imam Jafar al-Sadiq whose forefather is the Messenger of God [Muhammad].

The Sunnis, their sheikhs were the students of Jafar al-Sadiq. All of them. Imam Malik, Imam Abu Hanifa, were students of Jafar al-Sadiq.

What you see today of religious division is not religious; it is political division hiding under a religious cloak to control people by coercion, not by thoughts, nor by mind, nor by culture. ‘There shall be no compulsion in the religion’ (The Qur’an 2:256).

This is the main difference between us [Syria] and other countries.

EB: My next question dovetails with your response, because I had wanted to note how the Saudi mufti is sectarian, and has called for the churches on the Arabian peninsula to be destroyed, whereas I recall that Reverend Ibrahim Nseir told me that when his church was destroyed by terrorists in Aleppo, the first person to call him was Mufti Hassoun, who said: ‘Don’t worry, Reverend, we will rebuild your church.’ So, there is a stark difference between the ideology and mentality of this Wahhabi, Saudi, mufti, and Mufti Hassoun – who, I believe – is it correct to say you consider yourself Mufti of all Syrians?

MH: First of all, what is happening in Syria, the demolition of churches and mosques … they destroyed both churches and mosques. They are not defending a religion; they are fighting to destroy the Syrian state, and to destroy this humanitarian fabric that is present in Syria.

Therefore, they tried to demolish Tadmur [Palmyra]. Palmyra has nothing to do with Muslims or Christians. They tried to loot Syrian artifacts that go back five thousand, ten thousand years, including the ruins of Afamia and other ruins in Syria. So, they are trying to wipe out history in attempts to build a future. This future that they are trying to create is built on ethnic, sectarian, doctrinal and racist bases, where people kill one another.

And this is what you can see today in Israeli society. Israeli society has extremist and non-extremist components. There are neighbourhoods in al-Quds [Jerusalem] and neighbourhoods in Tel Aviv where one can walk and not feel they are in a civilized country, but a regressive one that goes back a thousand years. Long hair, beards. At 6 p.m. every Friday, no one is seen in the streets. It is prohibited to walk in the streets because God rests on Saturday, therefore people have to rest, too.

Why do you impose your opinion compulsorily on people when God says: ‘There shall be no compulsion in religion’?

The extremist Jew is like the extremist Muslim, whether this Muslim is a Sufi, Salafi or Wahhabi. The extremist is the one who wants to impose their beliefs on others and say, ‘You are all kuffar [disbelievers] except me. I’m the believer.’  Whether they are Christians, Muslims, or Jews, the extremists consider others as ‘kuffar.’

The extremist Jew considers the Israeli prime minister a disbeliever. And the extremist Christian considers Christians who don’t regularly go to church as disbelievers. And the extremist Muslim considers ones who belong to a different Islamic doctrine as disbelievers, not only the ones who belong to a different religion.

The Protestant does not see the Orthodox as a believer, and the Orthodox believes that the Protestant has renounced Christianity.

We consider everyone as believers, and God is the one who will judge me for my faith, because the place of faith is in the heart, not the church, nor the mosque. How many a person goes to the church or the mosque, but with no faith?!  And how many a person has faith but has never been to a church or a mosque, and he is reconciled with exalted God?

How many a person has never been to Bethlehem, nor to the Wailing Wall, or to the Kabba, but to God, he is a believer?

Therefore, this extremism in the world is due to the political and economic dominance over the religious sphere. Politicians and economists want to dominate the religious and human sphere to govern people in the name of the divine, to the extent that people will start kissing the hand of the president or king because he is the son [descendent] of Muhammad (peace be upon him). Or because he represents Jesus, or because he represents Israel. People will submissively kiss the hands of this rabbi, that sheikh or mufti, or that priest. They love this.

Whereas for me, I believe that all people of the world, seven billion people, are my brothers. They fall into two groups. Those who believe and walk with me on the same path, these are my healthy brothers [who are in the right]. The other group do not walk with me on the same path, those are my ill brothers [who are in the wrong]. My duty is to offer them medicine and love, not to call them criminals or disbelievers. I have to show them the path. Those who walk beside me and take the medicine, it is their decision. Those who refuse to take the medicine, it is also their decision. It is you who are in pain.

This is what makes me, in Syria, not represent any sect or religion or ethnicity. I am a son of Syria. My forefather, 500 years ago, might have been a Kurd, or my other forefather or foremother a Turk. My forefather might have been from the tribe of Tai, and my mother’s lineage might have descended from the tribe of Thubian, and my other forefather might have been from the tribe of Hashim. This is not important to me today. What matters is how to save Syria.

Fourteen hundred years ago, Syria as a whole was Christian. Before Islam came here, all Syrians from Gaza to Antioch were Christians. [Before that] the Byzantines came to them from Greece; they were pagans 2,000 years ago.

When Jesus came with his message, Syria was divided into two groups: the indigenous Christians, and the pagan invaders. Islam arrived and some Christians, like al-Ghasasinah and other big tribes, remained Christian, and the rest embraced Islam. They were of one big tribe, some of them remained Christian and others became Muslims. They coexisted.

When the Commander of the believers, Othman bin Affan, was martyred, his wife, Naila bint Qerfais, was a Christian from Kufa [Iraq], and her father was a Christian cleric.

In Syria, we have this broad vision of thought, and that is why they are waging war on us. They want our thoughts to be narrow and closed. No. We will keep calling out: ‘Praise be to the Lord of the worlds,’ not the Lord of the Muslims, nor the Lord of Christians, but the Lord of the Worlds. For God is the Lord of us all.

Those who agree, they are welcome. And for those who do not: ‘For you is your religion, and for me is my religion’ (The Qur’an, 109:6). I will not force my religion on you, and you [also] don’t force yours on me. However, I swear I do love you and have mercy for you.

EB: At the beginning [of the interview], you mentioned how the corporate media has lied about Syria. So I’d like to bring up something from a few years ago. And that was that you warned the Western world that if terrorism didn’t stop in Syria, it would spread to Europe and beyond. And some media — I think it was Gulf media — took your words and distorted them, and lied about your message. So, I would just ask you if you could please clarify what it was you said and how they lied, I’m sure you remember which incident I’m referring to.

MH: This question comes on a special day. Today is the anniversary of the martyrdom of [my son] Saria. I said those words five days after the martyrdom of Saria.

A delegation from Lebanon was visiting me. The delegation was named ‘the Caravan of Mary.’ They came to visit me in Aleppo to express their condolences for my son’s martyrdom. They were Lebanese and Syrians, Christians and Muslims. I met them in a mosque called the Omayyad mosque in Aleppo, at the shrine of Zakaria.

On that day, I said: ‘This fire that you are starting in Syria by the extremists. This fire … you have sleeper cells in Europe, these cells send extremists to Syria. Someday, these sleeper cells will be active and burn up in Europe as they did in Syria.’ So they reported that I said: ‘we have sleeper cells that we will send to you.’

How could we send them to you, when they are burning us, and while they came from your countries?!

Some of those so-called opposition members mistranslated my speech to some European governments, and claimed that the Syrian Mufti is threatening that he would send sleeper cells to bomb Europe. When my son Saria was martyred, five days before this speech, I said I had forgiven those who killed my son. How would I accept to send someone to kill your children? How could I accept this?

For three years, corporate media and Syrian opposition members residing over there [in Europe] complained to the United Nations that the mufti of Syria should be held accountable, the mufti of Syria is a terrorist, the mufti of Syria…

It is indeed extremely surprising that Europeans listened to my speech in front of the European Council in 2009. I told them then: ‘I call you my brothers, not Europeans. I told them ‘you are my brothers, and our civilization is one.’ European, Syrian, and Arabic civilizations are one civilization which is neither a Muslim civilization, nor a Christian one. It is produced by humanity.

They entirely forgot this speech, as well as the martyrdom of my son, Saria. They also forgot my forgiveness. Instead, they would say: ‘He threatened us and is forbidden from entering Europe.’

I received several invitations from universities in Britain, France, and the United States to lecture there. The governments refuse to grant me entry. Why? Because they do not want the truth to reach their people.

For me, I disapprove of killing any human being in the universe. Even Israelis, I disapprove of killing them. However, I approve of their return to the countries they originally came from, and the return of Palestinians [to their land and homes]. The Jews, Christians, and Muslims who stay in Palestine are the ones who decide what type of government to have, and also welcome visitors from all over the world to Palestine.

The Jews, the Christians, and the Muslims should have the right to come and pray freely [in Palestine] under the protection of law.

But, this banning and this war that’s ongoing in the world, it’s all a political, economic and racist war, wearing the cloak of religion to claim: ‘We are Muslims. We are Christians. We are Jews.’

No, you are not Muslims, nor Jews, nor Christians when you kill humans. You are God’s enemies.

God says in the Psalms of David: ‘Man is my creation, man is the creation of God. Cursed is he who destroys God’s creation.’

Cursed is the one who manufactures weapons of mass destruction. Cursed is the one who plants landmines in the roads to kill people. Cursed is the one who manufactures nuclear weapons. Cursed is the one who manufactures hydrogen weapons [bombs]. Cursed is the one who launches long-range missiles at people, to kill people. Cursed are the ones who manufacture such weapons and use them to kill people, even if they are in the mosque, church, or synagogue.

God has not put us is this universe to kill one another. All prophets — Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Noah — they are all our prophets. Who did they kill? They did not kill anyone, but rather, they invited people to life, they encouraged the culture of life. So, those who kill nowadays in their names [in the names of the prophets] …

The massacre of Deir Yassin in Palestine, the displacement of 4 million Palestinians, the demolition of 3,000 Palestinian villages. By God, Moses is innocent in all of this. Moses was not sent to kill people, because he was oppressed by the Pharaoh.

Our master, Jesus, peace be upon him … when we look at those wars, the Crusades — I prefer to say ‘foreign’ wars, not Crusades … In the name of Jesus’ grave, more than 75,000 Palestinians were killed inside the Aqsa mosque, killed by the British and French armies that came to Palestine to liberate the tomb of Jesus.

Jesus came to promote life. When he touched the dead, he resurrected them. So, you kill in the name of Jesus, while Jesus would give life to the dead. So how false you are! This has nothing to do with Jesus. Jesus said: ‘God is love.’

Those who do not love are not Christians, neither are those who want [accept] other people to starve. Today, Europe consumes all types of food, while in Africa there are children dying of famine[ in Gaza there are children dying of illness; and the Rohingya, the Muslims who were forcibly displaced from Myanmar, are dying of hunger and illness. Are we truly Christians or Muslims when we see these scenes? No. No, not at all.

Therefore, we have to reconsider what is being said in the media, because the media … I can pay it [pay the media] now to make me the Gandhi of the world, and to make me the Trustworthy Joseph, and to make me the messenger of love. I can buy the media. But I do not want to lie, nor do I want them [the media] to lie; this is what I am.

There are some who buy the media to make the mufti of Syria look like a ‘terrorist,’ although I have never shown anything but love to seven billion human beings — they are my brothers and sisters from the same ancestors. My soul is, as their souls, from Heaven, and my body is, as their bodies, from clay.

EB: I want to convey my condolences to you for the anniversary of his your son’s martyrdom.

MH: This is Saria, with me and with my father [the Mufti showed me images on a cell phone of his deceased son]. They have sent me these messages through Facebook today, as it is the anniversary of Saria’s martyrdom.

EB: Thank you very much, Mufti Hassoun.

MH: You are welcome. Thank you. Thank you. I hope you convey this message to the whole world. We love the people of the world. In Syria, we do not hate anyone. Yes, we hate the oppression of the aggressors, and if the aggressor refrains from their aggression, we will love them, too.

We hate the wrong deed, not the person. Jesus, peace be upon him, said to the ones who were stoning a woman because she was an adultress, he said: ‘Who is without sin amongst you that can cast a stone at her.’

We are all sinners, but our duty is to guide people to repentance, not to sin. We have to promote life among human beings.

Please, convey our regards to the nations of the world; we love them, and we want peace.

Tell the ones who are manufacturing weapons in the world that it is enough! Come, let’s cooperate to build a humane world free of wars and weapons of mass destruction, where all of us cooperate with one another.

Eva Bartlett is a Canadian independent journalist and activist. She has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Palestine. She is a recipient of the International Journalism Award for International Reporting. Visit her personal blog, In Gaza, and support her work on Patreon.

https://www.mintpressnews.com/interview-grand-mufti-ahmad-badr-al-din-hassoun-syria/252590/

Editor-in-Chief

Dr. Mohamad Abdo Al-Ibrahim

alibrahim56@hotmail.com

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The ship Is But to The Shore

 Journey into the Heart of Reality

الحرب والتطبيع… أوهن من بيت العنكبوت

«إسرائيل» أوهن من بيت العنكبوت، قالها السيد نصرالله ولا زالت عالقة كشوكة في حلوقهم،

نوفمبر 15, 2018

ناصر قنديل

– منذ العام 2000 والمعادلة العبقرية لقائد المقاومة السيد حسن نصرالله تقضّ مضاجع قادة كيان الاحتلال، «إسرائيل» أوهن من بيت العنكبوت، قالها السيد نصرالله ولا زالت عالقة كشوكة في حلوقهم، خاضوا حرب تموز 2006 وحلمهم رفع علم الاحتلال في ساحة النصر في بنت جبيل، حيث قالها علهم يتحررون من وطأتها، فجعلتها حرب تموز معادلة استراتيجية راسخة، فخاضوا حرب غزة ودبّروا الحرب على سورية وحرب اليمن وفي عقولهم وخطط مفكريهم، التحرر من عقدة بيت العنكبوت، وها هم الآن يعودون بصفقة القرن وتسمية القدس عاصمة أبدية لكيان الاحتلال بكل الدعم الأميركي والتطبيع الخليجي، وبالإشهار عن أن دولتهم قومية يهودية، ويخوضون حربهم على غزة، فماذا يقول التاريخ وماذا تقول الوقائع؟

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– حربهم الأخيرة على غزة التي توقفت في منتصف الطريق كانت تأكيد المؤكد بأن كيانهم وجيشهم أوهن من بيت العنكبوت، فالميدان اليوم له أسياده، ولم يعد جيش الاحتلال مَن يرسم المعادلات فيه، الكورنيت حسم السيطرة في البر، والقدرات الاستخبارية للمقاومة أعادت لهم جثث كبار ضباطهم بدلاً من الإنجازات، والصواريخ أسقطت قبتهم الحديدية وسقطت على رؤوسهم، والتهديد بالتصعيد جاءهم بالتهديد المقابل بالمزيد، الصواريخ الدقيقة والعالية القدرة والبعيدة المدى ستنزل إلى ساحات النزال، وترعد فوق تل أبيب.

– في السياسة تقول الحرب في سورية والحرب في اليمن، إن الأهداف الإسرائيلية سقطت، وإن الذراع الإسرائيلية مغلولة، وإن مشروع صفقة القرن يسقط بالضربة القاضية، غياب الشريك الفلسطيني، لأن الشعب الفلسطيني رسم خطوطه الحمراء، مَن يتنازل عن القدس مقتول مقتول، فماذا تقول لهم خطواتهم التي ترعاها واشنطن في الخليج وضم القدس وإعلان يهودية الدولة؟

– مرّ كيان الاحتلال بأربع مراحل من التعامل مع مرجعياته في مقاربة السعي المحموم نحو التطبيع، في المرحلة الأولى لم يكن يعرض سوى تطبيع تقيمه دباباته حيث يحتل الأرض ويضمّ الجغرافيا ويفرض على السكان الرضوخ لذل الاحتلال، وهي صيغة التطبيع التي تتناسب مع مشروع «إسرائيل» الكبرى القائمة على منهج الاحتلال ورسم حدود الكيان بالقوة، وقد سقطت في الجولان العربي السوري بانتفاضة أهله وتمسكهم بهويتهم العربية السورية، وتكرّس سقوطها منذ عام 2000 بسقوط مشروع التوسّع، وفشل الكيان بالاحتفاظ باحتلال جنوب لبنان وتالياً فشله بالاحتفاظ باحتلال غزة.

– في المرحلة الثانية كانت «إسرائيل» العظمى هي البديل الاستراتيجي، وعنوانها مقايضة الأمن بالهيمنة، ومحورها التطبيع الاقتصادي لحجز مقعد المدير الاقتصادي للمنطقة، مقابل القوة العسكرية القادرة على التدمير، لكن شرطها تظهير قدرة الردع، فجاءت حرب تموز 2006 وتكفلت بما بقي منها. وفي المرحلة الثالثة كانت «إسرائيل» الفضلى هي البديل الاستراتيجي الجديد وعنوانها إعادة صياغة المنطقة من خلف الستار وفقاً للمصالح الإسرائيلية، وأداتها التطبيع مع تنظيم القاعدة والفكر التكفيري بأدواته ومرجعياته الخليجية، وكانت الحرب على سورية أداة تطبيق المشروع، والإعلان عن أن جبهة النصرة كنموذج لهذا التطبيع شريك في الأمن الاستراتيجي لكيان الاحتلال، وقد سقط آخر ما تبقى من هذا التطبيع الذي شمل العلاقات التحالفية المعلنة مع حكام الخليج بالضربة القاضية في جنوب سورية.

– تطل المرحلة الرابعة، وعنوانها «إسرائيل» الصغرى، وشرطها الانكفاء خلف الجدار، والاكتفاء بالاعتراف الأميركي بالقدس عاصمة لكيان الاحتلال، وإشهار يهودية الدولة، وهي ثمرة التسليم بسقوط فرص التسوية مع محور المقاومة، وسقوط فرص ضربه وإضعافه، وسقوط فرص إيجاد شريك فلسطيني بقياس المصالح الإسرائيلية لمضمون التسوية، وشكل التطبيع الذي يتناسب مع بدء أفول الكيان وقوته وقدرته على رسم الخرائط، هو التطبيع الذي نشهده مع حكام الخليج، لتوظيفه في إزالة الذعر الذي يعيشه المستوطنون في الكيان القلقون من مستقبل كيانهم، غير الواثقين بغدهم، في ظل ذعر استراتيجي عنوانه أن وجود الكيان صار مطروحاً على بساط البحث، ومثل هذا التطبيع يسهم في نشر ثقافة الاطمئنان بأن «إسرائيل» كيان طبيعي معترف به في المنطقة، حتى لو كان من يعترفون ليسوا من تخشاهم «إسرائيل» وتعتبرهم التهديد الاستراتيجي لوجودها، وهم من يتسبب لها ولمستوطنيها بهذا الذعر الاستراتيجي، فهو تطبيع بيت العنكبوت، كما باتت الحروب حروب بيت العنكبوت.

– كان لي شرف المشاركة في مؤتمر علمي بدعوة مشتركة من جامعة حلب والمستشارية الثقافية الإيرانية في سورية، ومما قلته في مشاركتي،

إن تلاقي السنن التاريخية والسنن الإلهية جعل الرد على التطبيع الإسرائيلي مع تنظيم القاعدة كردّ على الفشل في حرب تموز ومحاولة استجلاب مَن يباهي حزب الله في بذل الدماء، قد جاء على يد حزب الله نفسه، الذي تكفل بقطع يد تنظيم القاعدة ومتفرعاته في سورية داعماً الدولة السورية وجيشها،

إن تلاقي السنن التاريخية والإلهية يقول اليوم

إن الرد على التطبيع الخليجي المبرمج لحساب «إسرائيل» الصغرى بعد الهزيمة التي تلقتها الحرب التي دبّرتها «إسرائيل» ضد سورية وكان سقوطها مدوياً في حلب، ها هو يبدأ من حلب، حيث المدينة العربية الجريحة، التي لا تزال تلملم بقايا أشلائها بعد دمار وخراب وموت، هي المدينة العربية الأولى التي تقود المواجهة على هذه الحلقة من التطبيع، لكنه تطبيع بيت العنكبوت، دون أن يغير ذلك من وصف الجرم بما يستحق، لكن دون وهم الظن بأن «إسرائيل» تتفوق وتتقدم، فهو حلف المتعوس الحاكم للخليج مع خائب الرجاء المنتقل من حرب فاشلةإلى تطبيع فاشل.

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Father Daniël in Syria: ‘Fake News is Imposed With Great Enthusiasm in the West, While Channels of Truth Are Closed’

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By Bahar Azizi
Source

Living in Syria in the sixth-century Mar Yakub monastery in the city of Qara, 90 kilometers north of the capital Damascus, Flemish Father Daniël Maes has been a witness to the invasion of western-backed terrorists since the very beginning. To this day, he and his friends continue to support the Syrian people by not only helping them directly, but also by spreading the truth about what is truly going on in the country.

Each week, a newsletter written by Father Daniël is published, in which he describes his experiences and thoughts on the situation in Syria. With the help of much needed donations and NGOs such as Hand in Hand voor Syrië, Father Daniël and others have been working tirelessly with the Syrian people liberated from (formerly) terrorist-held areas.

Below, you can read his latest newsletter, as published on September 28th, 2018, and as translated by Sott.net:

Dear friends,

It seems unlikely that the planned military escalation by Western forces to protect the terrorists in Idlib and to risk a last chance to subvert Syria, will continue. The Abou al-Dohour safe zone basically ensures that citizens can escape the terrorist-controlled Idlib. This was largely guaranteed by the agreement between Russia and Turkey. And Putin seems determined to impose a no-fly zone over all of Syria! Well done. Meanwhile, the Syrians continue to work very diligently on the restoration of their country and society. After the fantastic course of the 60th annual fair last Friday, a ‘marathon of peace’ was organized to support those who work for the end of the war and the restoration of peace. This marathon was held in Hama, Homs, Lattakia, Tartous and Sweida.

At the same time, a limited bicycle race was organized in Damascus for 200 cyclists from the Ommayade mosque through the city.

In Qara there was one crossroad that was full of rubble for years. It was the place where the hardest fighting took place in 2013. Well, the debris is finally cleared up. And between the monastery and the Ante-Lebanon Mountains people have been working hard lately. The so-called Qara 4 gas source is now operational. It delivers 120,000 cubic meters of gas and 100 condensed barrels every day. We pray and hope that there will be a definitive end to this war and the Syrian people can fully develop their identity.

Father Daniël then goes on to sharing news about the community, his reflection on the root causes of the refugee problem, and a warning with regard to the “official fake news”:

Preparation

We want to have a quiet retreat in the community and some preparation has been made for this. On Monday, we visited Sadad and the Syrian Orthodox community with some sisters and a guest, with whom we now maintain a close contact. We visited the “martyress” of the village again, the old woman, who was all alone, was left behind by terrorists to die but recovered. She received a shed that is now being converted into a two-room house, which she proudly showed us.

We prayed together in the church and visited a number of villagers. The pastor abou Michaiel and the Christians count on us that we also continue to help them financially. It is mainly about the purchase of material for the reconstruction, they will do the work themselves. Tuesday and Wednesday were still preparation days to start with a real quiet retreat for the whole community on Thursday. Hopefully more about that next time. So, you won’t be getting a message about the war around us this time, we are committing to the struggle in ourselves right now.

Ministerial visit

This week we were again visited by the Minister of Supply together with his wife. They were with us before. He practically has the function of the patriarch Joseph in Egypt during the famine. He asked mother Agnes-Mariam to help find the means to offer more people work in agriculture so that they can provide themselves with their own food. In Aleppo we have been able to help 5,000 families. He also asked in India (mother Agnes-Mariam will briefly give a retreat in India) to find out whether material and prostheses can be shipped from there for disabled people.

From our monastery MSJM (Saint Jacques le Mutilé) about 1,000 people are now employed as paid workers in relief efforts throughout Syria. In the beginning we received a lot of opposition and suspicion. Meanwhile, there is a strong and good spirit with five responsible people, with mother Agnes-Mariam assuming the final responsibility. Now, big organizations are coming to us to work with us. However, the first and foremost impulse always starts with simple, sincere people who give their contribution with generosity. That is why we would like to express our sincere thanks to all our benefactors.

Our wars, our refugees

The continuing flow of refugees from the Middle East and Africa to Europe is a humanitarian drama for these people themselves and is also a threat to the countries in which they seek refuge. In this regard, two attitudes are mainly present. Some respond from a humanitarian point of view and want these people who are in need to be helped and taken care of. The others want to defend the identity of their country to for example prevent a Christian country from being flooded with Muslims who do not want to adapt and who create their own areas where the authentic population can not even visit.

However, what is missing too often is the question about the actual cause and background of the problem. When you return home and you see that the water is flowing out the front door, do you first look for buckets and mops to remove the water from your house? No. You first search for the cause of this flooding. And then you see, for example, that you have left the faucet of the sink open while the stopper was in. So the very first thing you do is close the tap.

There can be many causes that trigger a flow of refugees, but almost always they involve rich Western countries who want to master the resources of other countries. Under the pretext of “freedom and democracy” these countries are being disrupted, a change of government is being worked on, and puppets are being appointed to ensure the interests of the West. 

The most flagrant case is Syria where a war was orchestrated by “proxy groups” by Western powers and the Petro monarchies of the Gulf States. Before the war, Syria was a country that could support itself in terms of food and industrialization with a well-developed population that enjoyed a modern health system. The “strategy of the chaos” imported hoards of mercenaries of which the Syrian government can hardly get rid of after 8 years of war (2011-2018). The imperialist intervention, meant to fight this state that refused to obey, has driven 5 million people from their homes” . (Bruno Guigue, 23 september 2018: Link)

The US and the Western powers proclaim that they no longer have colonial policies, that they only want to ensure freedom and democracy, defend human rights and, finally, defend their own national security and interests. Those who claim their sovereignty must also recognize the sovereignty and interests of other countries. And that is precisely not the case. The military intervention by Western countries is not the solution, but the problem itself. It is the French troops in Mali, Niger (rich in uranium), Chad, Central African Republic that ensure that the countries remain dependent and poor.

It is NATO that destroyed Libya with active participation from Belgium and France. After the Belgian “aid” to Libya, there was hardly a bomb left in Belgium. No “mea culpa” came from any country for this total devastation (Jean-François Kahn, L’intervention and Libye, la pire erreur de ce début de siecle, Le Soir, 25/9/18; about this well-known French journalist see: Link). The invasions of Somalia (1992), Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003) destroyed these countries. The aggression of Saudi Arabia with active support from the West against Yemen has killed 10,000 people since March 2005, causing a deadly cholera epidemic and famine for 8 million people.

Certainly, there are several causes of the refugee flow. However, the most important remains the neo-colonial domination of Western powers who shamelessly and with military force appropriate the richness of other countries. Subsequently, there is often a corrupt elite of the country itself who have allowed themselves to be bribed to betray their own people. Finally, there are Mafia bosses who set up an extremely lucrative business to get the refugees across. Let’s stop whining about the shortage of mops, pullers, buckets, and turn off the tap. These are our wars and our aggression against other countries that are making people flee. If we want to assert our sovereignty, we must also respect the sovereignty of other countries and their interests.

Ready for the battle for your mind!

The spreading of false, incorrect or misleading information, ‘fake news’, is a problem. The European Union is working diligently on a strategy to combat this ailment. The East StratCom Task Force was already set up for this purpose in 2015. Certain guidelines have been developed and at the end of this year we can expect more concrete actions.

However, there’s a catch. Let’s make it clear immediately. We are getting more and more into a situation where fake news is imposed with great enthusiasm by government leaders, politicians, official statements, authoritative media and acclaimed journalists, who conceal reality, while the channels of honest researchers who bring the truth, are closed expertly. The justification is then: We must defend European values. That free speech and the obligation to tell the truth are also values, is then forgotten. Or real news and truthful reporting are condemned as being a “conspiracy theory”. Or, as we now experience with the announcement of the criminal behavior of the Dutch government, which smoothly helps with the slaughter of innocent Syrian people, says that it should not come to light because it is a “state secret”.

The example we know best is of course Syria. A very harmonious, prosperous and particularly safe (albeit imperfect) society with a President who is supported by broad sections of the population is suddenly presented as a terrible dictatorship with a gruesome dictator. The CIA provided an abundance of false photos, films, reports, books, testimonies of inhuman torture (the American prisons remain an inexhaustible source for this) that were spread throughout the West. And everyone (including our “conflict journalist”!) “knew”, almost one day after another, how that terrible Syrian president strangled people all day, tortured them to death and carried out chemical attacks.

Something like that makes the blood of every right-minded person boil and that makes a heavy-handed military intervention more than justified. When someone dared to say that there was no “popular uprising” in Syria and certainly no “civil war”, that Syria had not committed any chemical attacks at all, he was dismissed as unreliable, fake news. And so the US, Israel, NATO and allies could continue to send their most fanatical terrorists to destroy the country and take away oil, gas and sovereignty. In our own Flemish press I never read one balanced article about the situation in Syria.

In the end it is about the loss of credible journalism. For England, this is now greatly described by David Edwards and David Cromwell, Propaganda Blitz. How the Corporate Media Distort Reality, Pluto Press, 2018, foreword by John Pilger. They show how the liberal media give half-truths and whole lies or sometimes represent reality in reverse, in the service of large interest groups. And the writers of this work are not even journalists but a former professor and an oceanographer. It will become increasingly difficult to discover reality, but it is not impossible. The Australian journalist and founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is now imprisoned at the Embassy of Venezuela in London but in reality deserves a monument to what he has made public. There are undoubtedly many more people than we suspect, who are aware of the prevalent lies.

Anyone who has any insight into the ever-recurring anti-Russia, anti-Iran, anti-China, anti-Brexit… hysteria on the one hand and on the other Western unlimited war propaganda, justified by the most unlikely pretext to dominate the rest of the world, will soon find more reliable sources. It is also necessary. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities of this dark world …” (Ephesians 6, 12). And by our attitude, we are always either on the side of the murderers or on the side of the innocent victims. We are called to be people of peace and not silly servants of hatred and war, which we conveniently want to package in a message of peace.

DAMASCUS TRADE FAIR AND FESTIVAL OF THE CROSS MARK THE RETURN OF PEACE TO MUCH OF SYRIA

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A Maaloula fire spinner during the annual September Festival of the Holy Cross in Maaloula, Syria. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

Eva Bartlett attends the Damascus International Trade fair and the annual Maaloula Festival of the Cross to see how Syrians in areas liberated from jihadi rule are defiantly celebrating their new found freedoms.

September 24, 2018, Mint Press News

DAMASCUS and MAALOULA, SYRIA — (Report) In April 2018 I returned to Syria, visiting recently-liberated areas in eastern Ghouta and also travelling to the southern village of Hadar — which at the time was under continual bombardment by terrorists just to the south, with the assistance of Israel and its observation towers over the region.

My focus last April and May was highlighting this media-neglected issue, but also going to the site of the concocted and yet-unproven allegations of a chemical weapons attack. Indeed, as I wrote, no one at the hospital in question, nor the people of Douma I spoke with on the street, believed a chemical attack had occurred. Instead, they were more concerned with detailing the horrors and starvation they had lived under the rule of Jaysh al-Islam and other terrorist factions.

So, the focus of my last visit to Syria, which has been warred upon for the last seven years, was in highlighting the crimes of the terrorist factions against civilians, but also the crimes of the Western and regional nations promoting war propaganda and baseless accusations against Syria and its allies.

In early September, I returned to Syria for more uplifting reasons: to attend two important annual events that in recent years were interrupted due to terrorism: The annual Damascus International Trade Fair and Maaloula’s annual Holy Cross Festival. 

A Crowded, Peaceful Damascus International Trade Fair and Revival

This year, both went on in a cheerful climate, and the only blasts were celebratory ones. The resumption and successful holding of these events is a clear indication that Syria is returning to peace, and is closer than ever to ending the war that the NATO-Gulf-Israeli alliance plotted years before 2011.

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At the Damascus International Trade Fair Ground, Opening Night. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

In 2017 the trade fair, in its first year resumed since 2012, was attacked by terrorists who were then occupying eastern Ghouta. Six people were killed. On September 6, the opening night of the 2018 fair, I encountered Fares Shehabi, a Syrian MP who elaborated on the murders:

“Those in eastern Ghouta, the so-called ‘rebels’, al-Qaeda gangs, they targeted the entry of this fair and killed some people — visitors and participants. One lady from old Damascus was killed. She was participating in this fair — she had a clothing garment factory — and she was killed at the door.”

Watch | Aleppo MP Fares Shehabi on the re-opening of the Damascus International Fair

This year, with Damascus’ Yarmouk district (formerly occupied by ISIS and al-Qaeda) liberated, and with the liberation of eastern Ghouta — the source of most of the missiles and mortars that killed over 10,000 civilians in Damascus alone — there was no concern that the deadly attack of 2017 would be repeated.

The official opening ceremony included a year-by-year overview of the six decades of fairs past — minus the years 2012-16 — and various stunning musical and dance performances.

I revisited the fairgrounds just south of Damascus after the opening events and while walking around I saw the diversity that is Syrian culture, including young women dressed how they chose — something unthinkable under the rule of the fanatical extremists who occupied the now-liberated areas. In fact, under their rule, women wouldn’t be out strolling period, much less doing so with male friends.

The atmosphere was in that regard less that of a trade fair and more of a public park with people sprawled on lawns, picnicking and children playing. Elsewhere, music blasted from fair booths and from stages set up to entertain the crowds, including a children’s concert where a young boy impressively crooned a song by legendary Syrian singer George Wassouf.

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A crowd watches a children’s singing competition at the Damascus International Trade Fair. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

A novelty at this year’s fair was the Sahab 73 two-seater plane, designed and built by Syrian engineers — the “first nationally-made aircraft,” as SANA reported.

Fares al-Kartally, the fair’s General Director, told me that of the 48 countries participating, 27 of them were officially participating through their embassies and 21 through companies and agents. The latter included companies from France, Britain, Spain, and some Arab countries, including Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

In fact, 1,722 companies participated in the trade fair, the main participants being Russian, Indian and Iranian. That said, walking around the exhibits, I also saw South Korean, Cuban, and countries neighbouring Syria participating, offering services and goods from textiles, medicines, cosmetics, and food products to products and skills for Syria’s much-needed reconstruction. Of that reconstruction phase, al-Kartally noted it is Syria that will decide who will participate in its reconstruction.

A representative of a Russian company specializing in metal and steel production for warehouses and agricultural use told me:

“It’s just this year that you will be able to foresee the next steps for Syria. Last year, it was very hard to tell when this will be over. This year, we thought it was the right time to participate. We believe this is the right time to come and help the government of Syria, through Russian cooperation, to rebuild Syria, the infrastructure and food security.”

Corporate media has spun this as being a bidding ground for exclusively Russian and Iranian companies. But in reality, while Russia and Iran definitely have a strong presence here, many other nations are present.

In any case, Russia and Iran have not imposed criminal sanctions on Syria, nor have they supported terrorists there. To the contrary, they have been a vital part of the defeat of terrorism in Syria, and a return to peace and stability in liberated areas, providing the peace that allowed the fair to take place.

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Flags of countries participating in the Damascus International Trade Fair fly outside of the fairgrounds in Damascus, Syria. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

In our conversation on the opening night, Fares Shehabi said:

We expect high participation from many countries and local firms. It’s about a political statement, an economic statement, that we won this war and we will win also the reconstruction war, and this is just one proof of it.”

Notably absent were companies from Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

As al-Kartally reflected:

In 2007, I took a course in strategic planning in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The instructor was American. He was talking about countries witnessing rapid economic growth, so I mentioned Syria. He looked at me and laughed, and said, ‘These countries will create problems for you,’ referring to Saudi Arabia and its allies.”

And indeed, they did.

However — after seven years of war, untold tragic loss of life, and immense destruction in areas occupied or targeted by terrorists — the tide is turning for Syria. Rebuilding will be a challenging process, to put it mildly, but more importantly, in my experience, most Syrians first and foremost want an end to terrorism. That wish has been widely granted — thanks to the Syrian army, government, and Syria’s political and military allies.

Yet Idlib remains occupied by al-Qaeda and other fanatics. And eastern Syria remains occupied by the U.S., its allied forces and other fanatics — including ISIS — who seem to flourish wherever an American presence has a hand.

According to al-Kartally, the 2017 trade fair saw over 2.2 million visitors attend over the course of 10 days:

Last year’s Fair was the first held in many years during the crisis and for people it was a chance to get out and breathe after feeling suffocated for so long.”

On September 7, its first day open to the public, this year’s fair saw 112,000 visitors. On the fifth day, nearly 220,000 visitors attended. By September 14, the eighth day of the fair, a reported half million visitors went to the fairgrounds.

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Fair-goers walk through the fairgrounds at the Damascus International Trade Fair in Damascus , Syria. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

One night at around 8 p.m., I walked out of the fairgrounds to hail down a taxi on the airport road. I walked past a parking lot filled with buses providing free transportation to and from the fair. Adding to the masses already at the fair, people streamed in to spend their night out with family or friends.

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On September 15, the fair’s final day, Israel again illegally targeted Syria, firing missiles — which were intercepted by Syrian air defenses — towards the Damascus International Airport, not far from the fairgrounds.

The response of the fairgoers was to dance defiantly.

As Fares Shehabi wrote, “This is how Syrians attending Damascus International Fair reacted to the Israeli assault on the adjacent airport..! Defiance..! With people like that we cannot be defeated.”

As Syrian comedian Treka reported, the fair captures the sentiments many visitors were feeling: impressed that, so soon after the liberation of eastern Ghouta and Damascus, there had been so much change for the better in and around Damascus; encouraged that the war on Syria is drawing to an end and peace will prevail; and immense admiration for the Syrian people for remaining steadfast for their country, and with their army — which has, with Syria’s allies, nearly eradicated terrorism in Syria.

Life, Love, Peace: The Maaloula Festival of the Cross

From September 2013 to April 2014, the ancient mountainside village of Maaloula, which lies in the Damascus countryside, was subject to terror attacks, snipers, and occupation by armed groups that Western leadership and some members of the media wanted us to believe were bringing democracy and freedom to Syria. These groups systematically destroyed the town’s heritage, stealing or burning ancient relics and breaking ancient altars and tombs in their plundering for valuables.

In June 2014, two months after it was liberated, I visited Maaloula. The destruction was fresh — historic holy places burned, looted, destroyed.

As I wrote then:

There was the expected destruction from battles waged by and on the terrorists. There was further—clearly-intentional—destruction meted out systematically by the al-Qaeda death squads—particularly on Christian, cultural, and heritage sites. …

In Maaloula, terrorists likewise took great apparent pleasure in destroying and desecrating Christian relics, to the extent of gouging out the eyes from icons and mosaics and shooting down the large clifftop Jesus and Mary statues which had overlooked the village. They likewise burned, robbed and vandalized churches and homes. …

Outside of the early fourth century A.D. Monastery of Sts. Sergius et Bacchus, NDF volunteers and other locals swept rubble, and prepared for the long process of restoration. Inside the ancient church, light poured through mortar holes in the unadorned white dome smashed by terrorist-fired mortars. According to the General, when the SAA had pushed the invaders back beyond the monastery, the terrorists fired mortars towards the monastery and village. They later occupied the monastery, then looted and vandalized it. …

‘They stole many idols from here, including the oldest one in the church,’ the volunteer said. The smashed altar with its unique ridged rim is said to be from between 330 and 325 A.D. ‘In other churches, the altar is rectangular and flat. And only here the altar is a half-circle and rimmed, like the altars of pagans for their animal sacrifice,’ she explained. …

The arson at the tenth-century Convent of St. Thekla was visible from the street, the top two floors utterly blackened by fires set by the invaders. …

In the convent’s Church of St. John the Baptist they likewise set fires, black soot reaching the painted dome high above. They completely destroyed the altar, as well as the pews—which presumably fueled the fire. Throughout the halls of the convent and inside the church itself, NATO’s mercenaries tore, stabbed, burned, or stole Christian iconography, looting what they could, meticulously destroying what was unmovable. Since none of that was possible for the images painted directly on stone walls, they instead machine-gunned the eyes and faces of Mary and Jesus, as well as a stone cross.”

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A Maaloula local defence soldier traces the 2013/14 battles on a map of the town. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

When I revisited in the summer of 2016, much had changed. The area was cleaned and stores had reopened. In September of 2013, I wrote about the point-blank assassinations of unarmed Maaloula citizens and of the defenders of Maaloula — locals who left their trades to take up arms in defense of their historic town and people. Not long after, invading terrorists, under the guise of anti-government rebels, assassinated an elderly man who had refused to leave his town.

wrote at the time:

On a street below, near the main square, a man and some children collected water from a spring. It was at that spring on September 17, 2013, that 65-year-old farmer Zaki Tabib was shot in his head by a terrorist sniper. Tabib was one of about fifteen mostly-elderly villagers who had refused to evacuate a week earlier.

Abdo Haddad, also one of Tabib’s nephews, commented on the stoicness of his uncle and men like him: ‘These old men are so pure in their heart that they don’t believe someone in their village would kill them.’”

Left bleeding on the street, Tabib was dead by the time his two courageous nephews braved a torrent of sniper fire to retrieve his body, in order to give him a proper burial.

On that 2016 visit, I also wrote about the destruction that still plagued the town:

Piles of rubble lay at many corners, and gaping holes in some walls remained evidence of the near total damage to the old part of the village. Although official estimates were that 80 percent of the homes were damaged, Abdo Haddad pointed out that “damage” in most cases means missing entire walls, and that in fact every house in the old quarter suffered damage, from mild to entire.

Many homes were boobytrapped by terrorists, to further kill and destroy. ‘They rigged houses so that when someone opened the door, an electrical trigger with a small charge would detonate and explode a gas canister,’ Haddad explained, saying that they could not count the number of rigged houses, maybe tens, maybe more: ‘The whole village was on fire. For the safety of the soldiers, in many cases the army had to blow the booby trap instead of defusing it.”

The church walls and dome roof of St. Thekla convent remained blackened with soot from the fires terrorists lit within. Local stonemasons stood on scaffolding, patiently rebuilding the thick walls in the traditional manner. Up the long staircase above the convent, the tomb in the cliffside grotto remained sooty black but was tidied up, with a few of the icons returned until complete restoration is possible. Other icons will never be returned — destroyed or stolen by the terrorist bandits, which occupied the convent.”

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Mikhael Taalab, Anton Taalab, and Serkis Zakhen, assassinated by terrorists on September 7, 2013. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

Upon my return to Maaloula on September 13, 2018, I stood on Abdo Haddad’s balcony looking out upon one of the town’s historic mountains. It was from these mountaintops that terrorists rolled explosive-stuffed tires onto the simple homes below. It was from these mountaintops that terrorist snipers killed Zaki Tabib.

On September 13, those mountaintops were adorned with the traditional brightly-lit crosses of the Festival of the Cross.

I attended mass in Maaloula’s Catholic church. The rituals of countless years continue, as do the devotion of Maaloula’s residents, with both clergy and congregation singing the mournful lyrics sung for centuries. This is the culture that Western-backed fanatics attempted to destroy.

Watch | Mass during Maaloula’s Festival of the Cross

From devotion to celebration

Immediately following the mass, the congregation quickly exited into the church square. By the time I arrived at the door, the exit was nearly impassable as so many people had amassed in the square. Pushing through, I saw the cause of the crowd: raised on the shoulders of residents, two men sang songs traditional to the Festival of the Cross, swigging frequently from plastic bottles of Arak in their hands. The crowd periodically cheered at their words, and eventually moved — cheering, singing — to the main square.

By the time I made it to the main square, it was likewise completely full of celebrants, many swigging Arak, cheering, singing traditional songs, and praising their army and president. Mini-Syrian flags abounded, as did people on balconies to watch the festive chaos. This went on for over an hour before crowds started moving up the mountains. Later, down in the town square, they were dancing.

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Crowds gather to in Maaloula Syria’s town square to celebrating the Festival of the Holy Cross. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

When I later made this arduous hike up often-challenging mountainside, it was nearing sunset. Strong, young Maaloula men were stationed at more difficult points of the mountain trail, pulling people up when necessary.

One such young man joined me to help me navigate the path, sometimes leading me down steep inclines on shortcuts to the top.

Reaching the top in darkness, the glare of multiple crosses and the blazing bonfire was enough illumination to see masses of people, mostly young but also elderly and families, standing and sitting perilously close to the mountain edge, overlooking the glowing village below.

Periodically, a burst of whirling light burst out, as people in the town square far below spun fire. Throughout the night, crowds sat drumming, singing, and watching the bonfire.

Watch | Devotees attend Maaloula’s Festival of the Holy Cross

I asked Abdo Haddad to summarize the importance of the Festival of the Cross. He said (video):

“Tonight we are celebrating the finding of the cross that happened 1700 years ago. This celebration is represented by putting fire on top of the mountains, from Jerusalem to Constantinople, to tell the people in Constantinople that the cross was found.

Maaloula is the only place in the world that is still celebrating this custom.

The only time that this custom stopped is when the so-called rebels and other “revolution” people in Syria invaded Maaloula, and instead of putting fire on top of the mountain, they put our houses on fire. But since we are sons and daughters of life, we kept on celebrating it since Maaloula was liberated by the Syrian army in 2014.

So we celebrate life now, and we celebrate the cross.

We were born here 3,000 years ago and we’ll keep existing until the end of time.”

In 2016, Syria’s First Lady, Mrs. Asma al-Assad, was interviewed by Russia 24. During that interview, she spoke of the struggles Syria has faced during its ancient existence. Particularly poignant, and fitting to end with, were these words:

“Syria comprises of land that has been continuously inhabited for a very long time. Over thousands of years, this soil has been exposed to dozens of wars and invasions. Some areas were completely destroyed. I know that Syria can and will rebuild itself. … As Syrians, we’ve always prevailed and this period in our history is no different. It is known or often said that Syria means ‘rising sun.’ And Syrians will rise again, that I can assure you.”

BRILLIANT 53RD BIRTHDAY WISHES TO SYRIAN PRESIDENT DR. BASHAR AL-ASSAD, LION OF DAMASCUS AND STEADFAST PATRON OF MOUQAWAMAH

by Jonathan Azaziah

When the American regime demanded regional subservience after launching the illegal invasion of Iraq, he said we’ll keep our independence… Thanks but no thanks… And blasted the “WMD” lies too.

When the secular nationalists thought they could exploit his political inexperience and told him to clamp down on religion across the state, he went the alternative route as he saw true faith as an ideological bulwark against Western-Zionist cultural imperialism. He worked with the Patriarchs to protect Christianity and also cooperated closely with Sheikh Muhammad Said Ramadan al-Bouti (R.A.) to spread true and pure Islam among the youth whilst rebuking Wahhabi-Takfiri thought. Furthermore, he stressed the importance of Islamic-Christian unity.

When the ‘Israelis’ rampaged through the ’48 Lands, the West Bank, Al-Quds and Gaza during the Second Intifada, he called on all Arabs to scream out for Palestine and doubled down on his military support for the Palestinian Resistance.

When Lebanon came under attack by the Zionist entity in the summer of 2006, he spared no expense in providing the Lebanese Islamic Resistance of Hizbullah with anything and everything it needed to withstand and ultimately defeat the aggressors.

Then, disgusted with the response from Saudi Arabia and its GCC partners to what had befallen the Lebanese people at the hands of the Zio-Tumor, he labeled them “half-men”.

When the French colonialist ZOG led by the Zionist Jew Sarkozy came to him with an offer of full Western-NATO support pending his government drop support for Iran, Hizbullah and the Palestinian caused, he declined and tossed the frog out of his country.

When the illegitimate “Tel Aviv” regime approached him through back channels to sell his nation down the tubes and “negotiate” over the occupied Golan Heights, he upheld 10,000 years of civilization in Bilad al-Sham and delivered a message of rejection.

When the Zio-Imperialists came for Venezuela, he was at the side of El Comandante Hugo Chavez. When the Zio-Imperialists came for Libya, he didn’t let Muammar Qadhafi face the assault alone.

And when the International Jewish Imperium, with the full force of ‘Israel’, NATO and the GCC backing up the plan, brought hundreds of thousands of terrorists from all over the world to his country, giving them hundreds of billions of dollars in heavy arms and cash, training them, guiding them, providing them medical treatment and laying out their directives of regime change, destabilization and mass murder, he didn’t bow. He stood tall. Mobilized his citizenry and his armed forces. Called in his allies from Lebanon, Iraq, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation. Mounted a counter-offensive. Resisted. Now he stands on the verge of total victory over the most vicious compilation of mercenaries in the history of 4th/5th Generation Warfare.

He could’ve lived a quiet life as an ophthalmologist at the Western Eye Hospital in London, where he was trained in the field. Instead he returned to his homeland to lead and be whatever his family and his people needed him to be so he could move the nation into the future.

That–ALL of that–is why we support Syrian President Dr. Bashar al-Assad; why we love and respect him; why we respect and salute him; and why we wish him the happiest of happy birthdays on his 53rd year on this planet. Not just a President but a leader  and a man of the people in every sense. Not just a revolutionary but a Mouqawamist with a damn high station. Not just a legend to be appreciated, cherished and safeguarded by Syrians but all Arabs, all Muslims, all Christians and all free-thinking people no matter where they come from. The most brilliant born-day wishes to you on the anniversary of your birth o’ Lion of Dimashq! O’ Patron of Mouqawamah! O’ Syrian hero! May you have 53 more and may they all be as victorious as this one!

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