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!

ادلب رهينة أميريكية في الخطة (ج) .. لكنها جسر روسيا الى نطاقها النظيف .. بقلم نارام سرجون

( الخميس 2018/09/13 SyriaNow)

الحكايات التي تبحث شخصياتها عن كنز أو سر أو خريطة أو حب تخبئه لنا حتى النهايات والأسطر الأخيرة وربما الأحرف الأخيرة تبقى الحكايات الأثيرة لدينا .. تأسرنا منذ الكلمات الاولى ونبقى معلقين بأحداثها بالسلاسل المقفلة بالاقفال حتى الصباح .. ونظل نمشي مع الأحداث شئنا ام ابينا الى أن تفتح الأقفال ونفك الأسرار ..

والحكاية الروسية في سورية هي من ذلك النوع من الحكايات التي تشد السامع لأن اللغز الذي يحيره هو ذلك السر الذي يجعل دولة تقاتل في معركة أخرى لبلد آخر وكأنها تخوض معركتها الوطنية أو كأن روحها معلقة بها .. وفي حالة روسيا وسورية يظن الناظر الى المشهد السياسي ان روسيا تقاتل بضراوة كما لو أنها تستعيد لحظات معركة ستالينغراد بكل ضراوة في ادلب ..

وقد كثيرا ماسمعنا عن مبررات قرار روسيا بأنها اضطرت للخروج من سيبيرية للقتال في سورية قبل ان تضطر لقتال الارهابيين داخل حدودها .. وهي في حالة الضربة الاستباقية قبل ان تعاجلها الخطة الغربية باطلاق الوحوش الاسلامية داخل روسيا بعد ان تزنرها بحزام عملاق من الدول الاسلامية الفاشلة التي تصبح مصانع وقواعد واسعة لاطلاق موجات من الارهابيين نحو روسيا ..

وسمعنا كذلك عن ان روسيا في مبررات أخرى تعتبر سورية منطقة نفوذ تاريخية وحيوية وحصرية لها لن تسمح لأحد بالاستيلاء عليها .. وأنها تحمي خطوط غازها عبر الامساك بالعقدة السورية لنقل أنابيب النفط من الخليج الى اوروبة .. وسمعنا الكثير من التفسيرات التي حاولت ان تقارب الحالة التي تجعل روسيا تقاتل كما تقاتل الأم دفاعا عن ابنتها وحلت محل فرنسا في الشرق التي كانت تعتبر نفسها الأم الحنون للمسيحيين الشرقيين .. فاذا بالام الحنون الفرنسية تترك الشرق ومسيحييه نهبا للاسلاميين والاسرائيليين والاميريكيين ينكلون بهم بالمسلمين .. واذا بروسيا تندفع للدفاع عن الشرق كله بمسيحييه ومسلميه ..

الحقيقة ان كل التفسيرات قابلة للحياة وللبقاء والقبول .. ولكن السلوك الروسي يدل على ان القضية أبعد كثيرا من أهداف آنية وقصيرة المدى ومناطق نفوذ .. ولا نجانب الصواب ان قلنا ان المعركة الحالية في سورية هي الفصل التالي للحرب الباردة بين السوفييت والغرب بعد أن استفاق الروس على حقيقة انهم خسروا معركة الحرب الباردة .. ولذلك فانهم اندفعوا نحو الهجوم المعاكس في رد على أول مواجهة مع الأميريكيين في سورية .. ورغم ان الرئيس فلاديمير بوتين يقول في خطابه للشعب الروسي انه لم يأخذهم في مغامرة من مغامرات الشيوعيين القدامى بل كان عليه ان يقاتل على اسوار دمشق كيلا يضطر الشعب الروسي للقتال على تخوم موسكو لأن دمشق هي خط دفاعه الحيوي والأخير ..

الا ان معركة فلاديمير بوتين في معركة سورية كان قرارا في غاية الخطورة لأنه وضعه وجها لوجه مع أشرس عتاة الشر في العالم وفلاسفة الحروب من الغربيين ومن حلفائهم العرب الذين جندوا العالم الاسلامي وساقوه كالقطيع في مواجهة روسيا بكل مشاعره وطاقاته الارهابية وانضم الى الحفلة الماسونية العالمية اتحاد علماء المسلمين والحرم المكي والأزهر والاخوان المسلمون وورثة العثمانيين وكل ممثلي الحقب الاسلامية مجتمعين .. حتى ان الحج في احدى السنوات خصص الدعاء فيه على جبل عرفات يوم العيد لاهلاك روسيا التي “تقتل المسلمين في سورية”.. ومع ذلك فان بوتين لم يتزحزح قيد شعرة عن تحالفه المتين مع السوريين .. وثبت أكثر حتى عندما صارت طائراته المدنية العسكرية تستهدف في تهديد صريح له من انه سيدفع الثمن غاليا .. وهذا كله لايفسره منطق المصالح الروسية وحده لان المساومات والعروض التي وضعت على طاولة بوتين تكاد لاتصدق ويسيل لها لعاب اي رجل يبحث عن المصالح والصفقات الكبرى ..

بوتين طبعا ليس تحت تأثير لوبي سوري يعاكس اللوبي الصهيوني في أميريكا .. لكن بوتين كان يتحدث أحيانا بانفعال وغضب وهو يدافع عن الموقف السوري ضد املاءات الغرب مستندا في تبريراته الى انه يدافع عن الأخلاقيات والمبادئ البسيطة في السياسة من أن من حق الشعوب حصريا حق تقرير مصيرها وشكل حكمها وليس للأمم المتحدة ولا للولايات المتحدة أي دور في ذلك ولايجوز ان يكون لها دور .. وهو في الحقيقة استند الى موقف أخلاقي صلب جدا في هذا .. ولكن اللوبي الذي يحرك بوتين ليس سوريا طبعا وهو أكثر صلابة من أخلاقيات الموقف الظاهر .. فالرئيس الروسي يرى في معركة سورية من وجهة نظر قائد يستأنف معركة قديمة مع أميريكا العدو الأزلي الذي لن يهدأ حتى تموت روسيا .. وهي ليست معركة ثأر بل هجوما معاكسا تشنه روسيا بكل معنى الكلمة .. يهدف الى تحييد قوة اميريكا كثيرا في المحيط الروسي .. أي تنظيف النطاق المحيط بالأمن الروسي لأن أميريكا لن تخرج من محيط روسيا الا بتحييدها في الشرق الاوسط أولا كي تتوقف عن حصار روسيا .. لأن الشرق الأوسط هو نقطة ارتكاز أميريكا الأقوى التي تستند اليها كل نقاط ارتكازها حول فضاء روسيا .. ولذلك لاشيء يعادل الهجوم المضاد في أقوى نقطة ارتكاز أميريكية .. وهذه المعركة بدأت في سورية ولن تتوقف .. وادلب هي معركة صغيرة تلت معارك في الحرب الكبرى التي وضعتها روسيا في مشروعها الكبير الذي التقى مع المشروع السوري الايراني الكبير في بناء جدار مقاوم ..

اليوم وبعد ان عشنا هذا التجاذب الغربي في معركة سورية ومعركة شد الحبل في آخر متر في ادلب بين الغرب وبين الروس صارت الأمور تتبلور أكثر .. وهي ان روسيا تخوض في سورية واحدة من أهم معاركها التاريخية بعد معارك الحرب العالمية الثانية حتى آخر متر وهي معركة تحجيم قوة أميريكا كليا في الشرق الاوسط والمحيط الروسي متكئة في ذلك على تحالف ايران وسورية اللتين التقطتا اللحظة الروسية المناسبة في توقيت دقيق جدا ومهم جدا لهما وعملان مع روسيا بشكل يكمل كل منهما الآخر .. ولكن أمريكا تستميت في محاولة البقاء والتشبث بالشرق الأوسط الذي يتم دفعها خارجه بالتدريج .. ولذلك فانها كانت تعد نفسها للانتقال للخطة (ج) بعد انهيار الخطتين (أ) و (ب) .. لأن الخطة ( أ ) كانت تهدف الى اسقاط الدولة السورية عبر الربيع الاسلامي الاخواني وتحويلها الى دويلات ممزقة فاشلة تخضع لأمراء حرب تحركهم الدول المجاورة انتهت .. وهاهم كل أمراء الحرب يتجمعون في ادلب قبل طحنهم .. واما الخطة (ب) المتمثلة في عملية تقسيم سورية – وهو تقسيم أقل ايلاما يتمثل بسلخ بعض المناطق من جسد الدولة المركزية – عبر تقاسمها مع الروس الذين سيترك لهم مابقي من سورية وحكومتها التي وصلوا اليها عام 2015 بحكم الأمر الواقع وتثبيت نقاط التماس .. وهذه الخطة انتهت كليا من لحظة تحرير حلب وتآكل المناطق المنسلخة عن الدولة .. واليوم يلجأ الاميريكوين الى الخطة (ج) وهي التثبت في الشرق السوري وفي ادلب لأطول فترة ممكنة وانتظار أي تحول في معادلات المنطقة المتغيرة .. فقد تتغير موسكو أو طهران أو تتغير دمشق .. وعندها تتم العودة الى الخطة (ب) .. ومنها الى الخطة (أ).. لأن الهدف لايتغير بل تتغير و سائل الوصول اليه وطرق التنفيذ وآلياتها ..

ولذلك فان القبول بالمماطلة مع الغرب وتركيا في تحرير ادلب ريثما تهيأ ظروف تتغير فيها معادلات ومعطيات الصراع سيعني للسوريين وحلفائهم الروس والايرانيين ان كل ماانجز من تحرير في حلب والغوطة وتدمر والجنوب سيظل ناقصا وكأنه لم يتم كمن يبني جسرا من عدة كيلومترات ويبقى المتر الاخير فيه (ادلب) غير متصل بالضفة الاخرى .. فهو لايستطيع استعمال الجسر وكأن كل مابناء بلا فائدة .. فادلب ان بقيت من غير تحرير فانها ستكون نقطة باردة تنتظر معادلات جديدة وفرصة جديدة لابقاء كل السياسة السورية القادمة رهينة في ادلب .. بل وماهو أهم من ذلك ستتعثر عملية اخراج الاميريكيين من الشرق السوري ومن التنف لأن ادلب ستشكل مسمارا للوجود الاميريكي يثبته بابقائها نقطة ملتهبة ترد على اي تحرك او ضغط لاسترداد الشرق السوري سلما او حربا .. كما هو جيب داعش الباقي حول التنف والذي تم تحريكه نحو السويداء في توقيت ما حول معركة الجنوب ودرعا .. أي ان جيب ادلب الكبير سيتم تحريكه باستفزازات ورسائل ضاغطة وابتزازبة اذا ما تحركت سورية وحلفاؤها في اي اتجاه لا يريح اميريكا واسرائيل .. فهي بؤرة ابتزاز يصل تأثيرها الى كل قضايا الشرق .. في لبنان والعراق وفلسطين .. ستبقى كل سورية رهينة بسببها .. وستبقى الخطة (أ) أو الخطة (ب) قابلة للتنفيذ والحياة بسرعة في أي لحظة اختلال توازن سياسي تحت اي مستجدات .. ولكن اذا ما خرجت اميريكا من ادلب بخروج مسلحيها فانها لاتقدر الا على ان تتلو ذلك بخروج من الشرق السوري لأن قواتها هي التي ستتحول في الشرق الى رهائن .. وهذا يعني تدحرجها الى الخطة (د) التي تعني أن عليها أن تحمي مابقي لها في الشرق .. لأن ما سيتلو الخروج من سورية اخراجها نهائيا من العراق في المدى المنظور او المتوسط .. ومن ثم الخوف من الخروج مما بعد العراق !! .. وهو يتماشى مع الهدف البعيد لروسيا الناهضة من بين حطام الاتحاد السوفييتي ..

من هذا كله .. نجد انه لامناص لروسيا قبل سورية من خوض معركة ادلب من أجل تعبيد الطريق نحو الفضاء الروسي النظيف والذي قد يتعرقل ببقاء مشروعها رهينة في ادلب وشرق سورية .. والحفاظ على بقاء حيوية ومرونة الخطتين القديمتين أ – ب .. التي يمكن أن تنتقل اميريكا بينهما وفق الظروف المتاحة .. أما الخروج من الخطة (ج) .. فهو يعني التقهقر نحو الخطة د ..

ولذلك يجب الاستعداد لأي استماتة أميريكية لجعل التحرك نحو ادلب متعثرا ولكن في نفس الوقت يجب ألا نعطي تهديدات الغرب اي اعتبار هام يغير من عزمنا وتحركنا لأن الغرب يدرك ان معركة ادلب ليست معركة سورية فقط .. بل معركة في مشروع فضاء روسيا الحيوي .. الذي تبنيه روسيا للقرن القادم .. الذي سيعني لها الانطلاق نحو فضاء أوراسيا الذي من أجله تبني تحالفاتها مع الصين والهند وباكستان وايران وسورية والعراق .. وبمعنى أخر يقوم الروس بعملية كنس ناعمة وخشنة معا وتدريجية للنفوذ الاميريكي في الفضاء الروسي .. وقد لا يصدق البعض ان سورية -وبالتالي ادلب – هي في صلب هذا الفضاء لأن معركتها ستحدد عملية خروج ونزوح اميريكة كبرى من سورية ومن ثم العراق خلال السنوات القليلة القادمة .. مما يجعل المعركة في ادلب صعبة ديبلوماسيا وسياسيا رغم انها عملية سهلة عسكريا لانها تستعد بحشود سورية هائلة وكثافة وازدحام للسلاح الروسي لم يسبق لها مثيل .. ستجعل مسلحي اميريكا وتركيا في ادلب مثل جيش ابرهة الأشرم .. كعصف مأكول ..

أنني لا أبالغ ان قلت ان ما أعد للمسلحين في ادلب سيحولهم الى عصف مأكول .. وأتمنى أن تسمى هذه العملية عملية العصف المأكول .. ولن تفعل أميريكا شيئا سوى أنها ستدرس التكتيكات والسلاح والذخائر الروسية المستعملة لتدرسها في اكاديمياتها العسكرية .. ولمعرفة تأثيراتها على أجساد المسلحين وتحصيناتهم وحجم الخسائر التي ستسببها في الجسد الارهابي المسلح .. فهؤلاء المسلحون فئران التجارب الاميريكية .. فئران اسلامية للتجارب لكل مشاريع أميريكا .. والحكايات ستحكي عن الأسرار التي تحشد العالم على ارضنا وتتداول الأحداث .. وستؤرخ لكل شيء .. الا لفئران التجارب .. التي ستحترق وتموت أو ستغادر ادلب أفواجا الى جحورها في تركيا قبل أن تصبح .. العصف المأكول ..

The difference between how Christians are treated in Assad’s Syria compared to areas under US backed terrorist control

Treatment of Christians in Assad’s Syria vs in US-backed ‘Rebel’ Areas

We want to thank Janice Kortkamp who has traveled around Syria for several months during the past two years for this inspiring post. Her report paints a totally different picture from what the United States government and our mainstream media tells us about what is happening to Christians in Syria.

Janice began researching Syria and the war in 2012 and has put in well over 6,000 hours in research. She has made hundreds of contacts in Syria also ex-pat Syrians in several other countries. Also, she has made four trips in 2016-2017, each almost one month long that included: Traveled to Damascus (inc. Ma’aloula and Saidnaya), Homs (inc. Valley of the Christians and villages in the countryside near Masyaf), Lattakia (inc. Ugarit, Slonfeh, Kessab), Tartous (inc. Amrit, Arwad) Aleppo, Palmyra, and Deir Ezzor (inc. Al Mayadeen).

During her travels, she met with: Soldiers, doctors, lawyers, scientists, artists, musicians, community and government leaders, professors, teachers, students, displaced persons, religious leaders, businessmen, housewives, children – from all major religious groups. She met with refugees and immigrants from Syria in Germany, Lebanon, Kuwait and America; as well as internally displaced persons in Syria from Aleppo, Idlib, Deir Ezzor, Raqqa, Al Mayadeen and other areas of Syria.

Janice describes herself as “100% independent and self-funded thru my husband and some donations from friends and family.” [Ed.-TEC]


Christianity in Syria vs Christianity in “Rebel” Held Areas of Syria – Syria Resources Archive

On this Palm Sunday for western churches, allow me to compare and contrast Christianity in Syria vs Christianity in US-backed “rebel” held areas of Syria.

Some of these pics are from my own travels around Syria the past two years.

In government held areas of Syria (about 85% of the population is in these areas):

– The government of Syria is secular; its constitution protects all religions. The population of Syria is 90% Muslim. Sunnis are the majority, over 70%. The rest are various sects like Alawites, traditional Shiite, Druze, Ismailis, Sufis etc. Before the war, Christians made up about 10%. Now it’s possible half are gone. The president is mandated to be Muslim in the constitution and there are many who would like that changed, but that is a matter only for the Syrian people to decide.

– There are hundreds if not over a thousand churches in Syria. Eastern Orthodox and Catholic primarily but also all major Protestant denominations. Churches and mosques sit comfortably side by side.

– Easter is a national holiday in Syria. The government and businesses are closed.

– Many Muslims attend Easter services and celebrations with their Christian friends. Everywhere around government controlled Syria you will see Easter parades and events.

– The Syrian Arab Army is also secular. Muslims and Christians fight side by side against the US supported terrorist groups. Many thousands of Muslim soldiers, including some Hezbollah and Iranian fighters, have died protecting Christian areas and populations. Christians have died protecting their Muslim brothers.

– Christians are in every level of leadership and society in Syria. The current head of Parliament is Christian.

– The Christians of Syria, virtually all, stand with their president and army against the “rebel” terrorists who have targeted them for expulsion and often execution. I have met with many Christians there, leaders and just regular folks. They’ve all said the same. One young Christian lady asked me, on a Palm Sunday when I was there, “Why do Americans want us all dead?” The great majority of Muslims also stand with their president and army including the majority of Sunnis.

– President Assad recently spoke with a group of Christian youth. He said, “Christians are not guests or migrating birds. They are from the origins of the nation and without them, there is no Syria.” He and his wife visit Christian towns, villages, orphanages, churches etc often.

– Christian and Muslim leaders meet regularly together.

– In areas that have been liberated by the Syrian Army from US supported terrorist “rebels”, churches are being rebuilt and reopened.

In areas where US supported “rebels” are still in control:

– Christians have been executed, often by beheading, or driven out of their homes. “Rebels” have kidnapped, tortured, and killed priests and nuns. They’ve massacred whole Christian villages. Any Christians who’ve tried to stay in their homes under the terrorists’ rule are required to pay a special tax and are the victims of abuse and persecution.

– There is no religious tolerance in “rebel” held areas of Syria. No operating churches, in fact they are often burned and destroyed by the “rebels”.

Gathering of religious and government leaders
Meeting with Pastor Ibrahim in Aleppo, April 2017
President and Mrs. Assad visiting the orphanage in Ma’aloula, an ancient Christian village, on Easter before the war
Ma’aloula is rebuilding after being liberated from US backed “rebels” fighting alongside al Qaeda. The “rebels” killed many townspeople but most were able to escape. The “rebels” looted and burned the churches there.
Easter week in Ma’aloula in April of 2017 as the town was preparing for an Easter parade.
This wonderful man sang The Lord’s Prayer for us in Aramaic in Ma’aloula.
A man of Ma’aloula who joined the town’s militia to protect it.
Christian soldier in the Syrian Arab Army.
This mortar fell on a small Christian school. The “rebels” often fired mortars into civilian areas of Damascus. Each one is filled with shrapnel and kill many people.
An ancient Christian manuscript preserved in the Al Assad Library, Damascus
Orphanage in Damascus
This gate commemorates where the Apostle Paul was lowered over the Damascus wall.
An orphanage and elderly/special needs care facility in Damascus
Orphanage in Damascus
President and Mrs. Assad visited Saidnaya Convent recently.
President and Mrs. Assad in a church during the Christmas season about 2 years ago.
Syrian soldiers
During the renovation of a church in Old Homs, May 2016
Inside a church in Old Homs
Father Frans van der Lugt was murdered by al Qaeda “rebels” in Old Homs shortly before the city was liberated by the Syrian Army.
In Ma’aloula in May 2016 surveying damage done by “rebels” to a church there.

Source: Whtt

Russia and Iran Prepare To Retaliate for the Attack on Syria (TruNews Radio)

Israel Takes Steps to Bar Gaza Christians for Easter Holiday

Posted on 

[ Ed. note – Israel’s supporters and its legions of hasbara apparatchiks are quite fond of telling us how wonderfully Christians are treated in the Jewish state. But an article published today in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz gives us a slightly different perspective. Palestinian Christians in Gaza are required to obtain permits to travel to Jerusalem for Easter observances, and according to the Haaretz report, Israeli authorities are refusing to issue permits to Christians aged 55 and under.

One other thing you’ll note about the article below: it makes mention of an Israeli government agency known as “COGAT.” COGAT stands for “Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.” It is a part of the Israeli Ministry of Defense and generally speaking is responsible for implementing government policies in the occupied territories. Back in February it was none other than a COGAT official who made the ludicrous assertion that Muhammed Tamimi, the young cousin of Ahed Tamimi who was shot in the head with a rubber bullet, had actually injured himself by falling off his bicycle.

Immediately below the Haaretz report, you’ll also find a Press TV program from Easter of two years ago. One of the guests on the program discusses travel restrictions on Palestinian Christians from visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem–so in other words, while the age restrictions discussed in the Haaretz article below may be new, the travel restrictions in general are not. And also, in the same video, you’ll hear about hate crimes against Christians, including vandalism of churches and spitting upon Christians.

One final thing I’ll mention–I have not reported it so far because I’ve been busy on other things lately, but the case of Ahed Tamimi was finally adjudicated by the Israeli military court. The girl was sentenced to eight months in jail following a plea bargain deal reached with prosecutors. She will also pay a fine of nearly $1,500. The arrangement was announced on Wednesday of last week.

Ironically, in the same week, an Israeli military parole board ruled that Israeli soldier Elor Azarya should be released after serving only nine months for shooting a wounded Palestinian in the head and killing him back in March of 2016. But wait, there’s more. Also last week (a rather stunning week for irony, even perhaps by Israeli standards), yet another Israeli, David Muial, is reported to have been sentenced to community service for participating in a lynching of an Eritrean assylum seeker that occurred back in October of 2015.

So let’s see. Azarya, when he is released in May, will end up having served just nine months for carrying out what in reality was a cold-blooded murder of a Palestinian…while Ahed, for the horrible crime of slapping a soldier at the front entrance to her home, will remain behind bars for eight months–a mere 30 days less than Ararya got for an act of murder. And Muial’s appallingly brutal sentence of community service I guess speaks for itself.

So…imposing draconian discipline upon “chosen people” for petty crimes like murder and lynching–what in the heck is that all about? It looks like Jews really do have it tough in Israel after all!

Of course, we do know of one Jew who paid the ultimate price–for the “crime” of preaching peace, love and compassion. ]

***

Haaretz

Only Christians over the age of 55 will be allowed to enter Israel from the Gaza Strip to pray at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre during Easter, according to a document issued by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. Five hundred permits have been issued for the holiday, as compared to 700 for Christmas, but sources in Gaza say that the age restriction means that only about 10 percent of the quota will be filled.

According to Christian clergy in Gaza, who say the limitations are unjustified, only about 120 Christians meet the age criteria and many will not be able to travel without relatives who are under the age limit. George Anton, a Christian community activist from Gaza, said that no permits for Easter have been issued so far.

Easter, also known as the “great feast,” is the most important holiday on the Christian liturgical calendar in the Middle East, as opposed the West, where Christmas takes precedence. Catholics and Protestants will celebrate Easter on Sunday, while the Orthodox churches will mark the holiday two weeks later.

Anton told Haaretz that there are about 1,200 Christians living in Gaza (as opposed to 1,313 documented by a Vatican delegation in 2014). Similar age restrictions were imposed in the past, he said. For the Easter holiday in 2015, following the war in the Gaza Strip the previous year, entry to Israel was barred for people age 16 to 35. However, after church leaders in Israel and abroad intervened, the restriction was lifted and 850 permits were issued.

According to COGAT, restrictions are eased during Muslim and Christian holidays as part of the policy to encourage religious activities of all faiths. But in Gaza, news of the relaxed restrictions are usually made public late, and responses to permit applications are often given too late or are turned down with no reason given.

In a video posted on COGAT’s Facebook about three weeks ago, the day the quota was made public, an Israeli army officer named Alaa Halabi asked Gaza residents who had received permits for Christmas and had not yet returned to do so immediately. Halabi warned that their failure to return would “impact the ability” of COGAT “to take steps ahead of Easter.”

Sources in Gaza believed that a few dozen people did not return after leaving the Strip for Christmas.

The COGAT document did not reveal the reason for the age restrictions but the office confirmed the age restriction and did not deny that it was a punitive measure. “The State of Israel is a sovereign state that has the right to decide who enters it,” the response stated. “Foreigners have no inherent right to enter Israel, including Palestinian residents of Gaza.” It was decided to issue permits only to those over 55 “In light of the recurring phenomenon of Palestinians who took advantage of the permit to remain in Israel illegally” and “as part of the actions to limit illegal presence in Israel,” COGAT said.

Lawmaker Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint List asked Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan to change the entry conditions so that all Christians would “be able to exercise their basic right to freedom of religion.” Touma-Sliman said she has not yet received an answer. “Israel boasts to the whole world that it is a safe place for all religions. But in fact it continues to harm the Palestinian Christian population,” the lawmaker said. She added that the age restriction “constitutes more proof that Israel has never left Gaza and continues to control everything that happens there.”

Following requests for action from Gaza, the nonprofit organizationGisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement demanded in a letter to COGAT that the age restriction be lifted and that the number of permits for the holiday be increased. “There is no justification for arbitrary impairment of freedom of movement and religion,” Gisha wrote, “certainly not a dialogue of threats. This is another example of collective punishment of the residents, and generally the punitive and arbitrary nature of Israel’s permit regime with regard to Gazans.”

***

Legitimizing Terrorism: Inviting Al Qaeda “Moderates” to Washington for “Consultations”

Global Research, January 09, 2018

The recent visit of Free Syrian Army commanders to Washington amounts to an exercise in war propaganda.[1]

The visit serves to legitimize the FSA terrorists in the eyes of the broader public by perpetuating the fiction that they are somehow “moderate”, or that they represent organic opposition to the Syrian government. 

Nothing could be further from the truth.  The CIA alone spends about one billion per year[2] supporting terrorists in Syria. So the FSA aren’t Free.  They are beholden to their imperial masters and underwriters. Nor are they “Syrian” in terms of being legitimate Syrian opposition. And they are not an “army” either, although they are part of an “army” of foreign-backed Al Qaeda affiliated terrorists infesting Syria and beyond. 

We do know, however, that the FSA were amongst the terrorists who stormed Syria from Turkey and beheaded many of Lilly Martin’s Christian neighbours.[3]

We do know that the terrorists who invaded and desecrated the primarily Christian town of Maaloula, Syria, included FSA terrorists.[4]

We also know that FSA terrorists were amongst those who terrorized people in Aleppo for years.[5]

The FSA, alongside other terrorist factions, including ISIS and al Nusra, have terrorized Syria and Syrians for years.

Naturally the Western media presstitutes and the criminal politicians will mention none of this.  But the truth is there for all who seek peace and justice.  Presumably, Western populations would not support the FSA if they knew the truth.

Notes

[1] “Free Syrian Army Commanders Visit Washington – Reports.” South Front/Global Research. 8 January, 2018.

(https://www.globalresearch.ca/free-syrian-army-commanders-visit-washington-reports/5625267) Accessed 8 January, 2018.

[2] Mark Taliano, “Criminal War Propaganda.” Global Research. 7 November, 2017. (https://www.globalresearch.ca/criminal-war-propaganda/5616974) Accessed 8 January, 2018.

[3] Declan Hayes, “The Rape of Kasab.” Op Ed News. 16 September, 2014.(https://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Rape-of-Kasab-Syria-by-Declan-Hayes-Ambassador_Attack_Beheadings_Christian-140914-360.html) Accessed 8 January, 2018.

[4] Mark Taliano, “A Christian Christmas? The West Supported Al Qaeda Terrorists Who Killed Christians in Syria.”Global Research, 12 December, 2017. (https://www.globalresearch.ca/a-christian-christmas-the-west-supported-al-qaeda-terrorists-who-killed-christians-in-syria/5622487) Accessed 8 January, 2018.

[5] Mark Taliano,“Syria: Egregious Lies and Crimes Are The Foundation of Western Foreign Policy.” Global Research.  15 March 2017. (https://www.globalresearch.ca/egregious-lies-and-crimes-are-the-foundation-of-western-foreign-policy/5589955) . Accessed 8 January, 2018.


Order Mark Taliano’s Book “Voices from Syria directly from Global Research.  

Taliano talks and listens to the people of Syria. He reveals the courage and resilience of a Nation and its people in their day to day lives, after more than six years of US-NATO sponsored terrorism and three years of US “peacemaking” airstrikes.

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Year: 2017

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VIDEO: Palestinian Christians Protest Patriarch Who Sold Church Land to Israel

January 7, 2018 4:27 AM 

 IMEMC News & Agencies

07 JAN 4:27 AM

Palestinian Christians from around the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israel came out in harsh opposition, Saturday, to a visit by Greek Orthodox Church Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, to the southern occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem.

Theophilos III, along with several other religious and political figures, were visiting Bethlehem as part of celebrations for Greek Orthodox Christmas Eve.

Despite an intense presence of Palestinian security forces who attempted to open roads near Bethlehem’s Manger Square, for the patriarch’s car, angry protesters swarmed around the procession, holding signs, Palestinian flags, and chanting slogans against Theophilus III.

According to Ma’an News Agency,  some people threw stones and smashed windows of the car that the patriarch was riding in as they demanded he be stripped of his titles and removed from the church.

Theophilos III is accused of orchestrating the sale of more than 500 dunams (123.5 acres) of Palestinian land belonging to the Arab Orthodox Church in Jerusalem to Israelis belonging to Zionist and settler groups.

The protest was not the first of its kind in Bethlehem — visits by Theophilus III to the biblical town have been boycotted in the past.

On Saturday, heads of the municipalities of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour boycotted the reception, along with several religious organizations affiliated with the Greek Orthodox Church.

The church has been accused numerous times, over the years, of selling its leasing rights over land in Jerusalem to Jewish Israeli investors, with Israeli financial newspaper Calcalist revealing late last month that the Orthodox Patriarchate had sold the rights to 500 dunams, in August 2016, for 114 million shekels ($32 million), a move to be effective in 2050, when the Jewish National Fund’s lease of the land is set to expire.

Detractors have accused the patriarchate of contributing to Israeli plans to “Judaize” Jerusalem by selling or leasing off large amounts of land to Israeli authorities and business people, betraying the church’s responsibility to protect Palestinian lands that were handed under its care during the Ottoman period.

In 2015, a patriarchate spokesperson denied that the church was selling off lands in Jerusalem — a claim that did not convince many members of the faith, at the time.

Related story:

12/07/17 Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour Engage in “Christmas Blackout” to Protest US Jerusalem Decision

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Russian Church Vows to Rebuild Christian Syria

Posted on 

[ Ed. note – The video above contains Russian Christmas music. I thought it very fitting to post given the news which appeared yesterday on the Russian Faith website–namely that the Russian Orthodox Church has vowed to help Christian communities in Syria rebuild. The war in Syria has in some respects been a war against Christianity.

We should remember that the terrorists who targeted Syrian Christians in brutal and bloody attacks over the past six years, kidnapping nuns and beheading priests, plundering and ransacking churches and monasteries–we should remember that these terrorists were equipped, trained, and funded by foreign backers who knew full well that attacks on Christians were the likely result of their backing. And yet they went ahead and provided them with support and backing anyway. Those who view the Syrian conflict as solely an effort at regime change I think are seeing only part of the picture.

At any rate, below is the the report from the Russian Faith website on Patriarch Kirill’s pledge to help support the rebuilding effort in Syria…and beneath that you will find a Russian-to-English translation of the video description, including the artists and song titles.

Also down below you’ll find a bit of breaking news from the Syrian conflict itself. Tensions seem to be escalating between the US and Russia, or at least between the US and Russian Air Forces. It seems there are some particularly “close encounters” between fighter jets taking place now. ]

***

By Matfey Shaheen | Russian Faith

December 8, 2017

The leader of the Russian Church, Patriarch Kirill promised that the Russian Church will help Syria to cope with post-war problems in every way possible, Interfax Religion reports.

His main concern is to help reestablish ancient Christian communities, many of which were ravaged by western-backed terrorists fighting the legitimate Syrian government. Many monasteries and Churches were damaged, for example, the Mar Taqla Monastery in Maaloula, where they speak the same language which Jesus spoke – Aramaic.

Orthodox priests and believers were cruelly persecuted. My mother’s family is distantly related to  Father Fadi Haddad, a priest martyred by extremists in Qatana, a village within sight of the biblical Mount Hermon.

Continued here

***

From the video description:

***

A list of songs and artists at the end of this text.
I’ve been looking for a series of Christmas songs online … Individual video clips, audio … You are welcome… But I wanted a collection of good Christmas songs in Russian. There are many assemblies in English. And I thought, why not do something like that. A couple of weeks collected Russian audio, and then the pictures. And finally, this is a nice musical assembly. Especially for his friends and everyone-everyone who loves New Year as much as I do! I’d love it if you like it! 40 minutes of Christmas and winter songs in Russian.

1. Julia Savicheva-New Year
2. Group of shiny-Tic Tac Clock
3. Choirs Arkady and Natalie-Christmas toys
4. Olga the Christmas snowflake (song from C/F Paradise)
5. Andrei Derzhavin-Christmas
6. Future visitors-Christmas song
7. Fire-Snow is spinning
8. The Christmas singer is unknown
9. History of Romance
10. Alexei Glyzin-New Year
11. Oscar Kucera-New Year
12. Stas Pieha and Pavel Christmas

By the way, the latest news on the Syrian front is that US and Russian aircraft are having encounters in the skies that in some respects resemble aerial dog fights. An article published December 9 at RT says that the Russian Ministry of Defense has “blasted” the US Air Force for the actions of “rogue” US fighter jets that have interfered with Russian military operations against ISIS. An incident that occurred on November 23 involving a US F-22 seems particularly to have vexed the Russians, and the article includes an interesting quote Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov.

“The F-22 launched decoy flares and used airbrakes while constantly maneuvering [near the Russian strike jets], imitating an air fight,” Konashenkov said. He added that the US jet ceased its dangerous maneuvers only after a Russian Su-35S fighter jet joined the two strike planes.

The major general went on to say that “most close-midair encounters between Russian and US jets in the area around the Euphrates River have been linked to the attempts of US aircraft to get in the way [of the Russian warplanes] striking against Islamic State terrorists.” He also said that the US military officials provided no explanation for the November 23 incident as well as other, similar encounters.

You can access the full article here. I would also recommend, for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, a newly-published article by Vanessa Beeley regarding the organization Reporters Without Borders–a Western-backed NGO that supposedly defends freedom of the press but which recently attempted to shut down a conference in Geneva, Switzerland at which Beeley was slated to be one of the speakers. It’s a topsy-turvy world when organizations ostensibly dedicated to free speech attempt to interfere with free speech, but that seems to be what happened.

Some Thoughts on the Latest Church Vandalism in Israel

Father Antonio Scudu, caretaker at the St. Stephen Church, west of Jerusalem, examines a portion of a shattered statue of the Virgin Mary. The vandalism of the church took place on September 19, 2017.

By Richard Edmondson

There still has been no arrest in the vandalism of St. Stephen’s Church, a Christian site near Jerusalem which vandals entered and desecrated on the night of September 19. I am, for that matter, not especially hopeful an arrest will be forthcoming. Israel has an extremely sorry history when it comes to investigating and prosecuting criminal cases of this sort. The record speaks for itself.

An article published by Haaretz on September 24 reports that over 50 Christian and Muslim religious sites have been vandalized since the year 2009. In that time only nine indictments have been filed, and only seven convictions have been handed down. That’s bad enough, but an article published Tuesday at Crux, a Catholic news site, suggests the record may be even worse than Haaretz is reporting. “There have been some 80 incidents of vandalism against churches and Christian sites in the Holy Land over the last decade. In most of the cases, no arrests or indictments have taken place,” that article states.

All I can tell you is that over the years since I’ve been blogging, which is about seven years now, I have reported on numerous attacks by vandals on religious sites in Israel, yet still the practice remains an acute problem.

My initial report on this month’s attack at St. Stephen’s was posted September 23. In that post I noted that the church is located on the grounds of a Catholic monastery, Beit Jamal, a Salesian monastery that lies near the city of Beit Shemesh. I also noted that this is the third time in four years that the site has been vandalized and commented, “Apparently the site is on somebody’s hit list.”

The previous attacks occurred in 2013, when a firebomb was thrown at the door and hateful graffiti scrawled on the walls, and in January of 2016, when the cemetery was vandalized. At the time, I put up a post on the 2016 cemetery attack, which you can access here. All this taken into consideration, it does seem as if the church might be on a hit list of some sort.

Whether this has anything to do with the fact that the locale is believed to have been the burial place of St. Stephen, I can’t say. But indeed, there is a longstanding tradition in church history that the saint’s remains were buried here. This of course is why the church is named after him, and perhaps for this reason, it is worth recounting a bit of St. Stephen’s story

Stephen, his speech before Jewish leaders and his death by stoning at their hands, are told of in the sixth and seventh chapters of the Book of Acts. Initially selected to help with daily distribution of food, Stephen was described as “a man full of God’s grace and power” who “did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people,” and he seems to have risen quickly to prominence among the disciples in Jerusalem. This of course in the months after Christ’s crucifixion.

Jews from one of the synagogues began to accuse Stephen in a manner very reminiscent of the charges brought against Jesus–and, like Jesus himself, Stephen ended up before the Jewish ruling council, or Sanhedrin. He was, among other things, accused of speaking “words of blasphemy against Moses and against God,” and he was also alleged to have invoked Jesus’ prophecy about the destruction of the temple. It’s probably not too much of a stretch, then, to speculate he may even have told people that God didn’t live in the Jewish temple (as Jewish leaders claimed) and that it was not necessary for people to actually go there in order to worship God, that God can be worshiped anywhere. This would have reflected Jesus’ teaching in John 4:21-23, and if Stephen indeed spread such teachings, then it would have infuriated the Jewish leadership all the more, for the temple was an enormously lucrative enterprise for them.

Then the high priest asked him, “Are these charges true?”

This is the opening line in Acts chapter 7, and it is at this point that Stephen launches into his lengthy speech. Basically, it’s a speech recounting the narrative of the Old Testament. The Abrahamic covenant, the stories of Issac and Jacob, the twelve patriarchs, the bondage in Egypt, Moses and the Exodus–all of this is spoken of by Stephen. All of it makes up about ninety percent of his speech, and for the most part it doesn’t ruffle too many feathers, but then we get to the following passage–and it is at this point that all “heck” breaks loose. Here again, the speaker is Stephen:

You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him–you who have received the law that was put into effect but have not obeyed it.

Notice that Stephen chooses the same adjective–“stiff-necked”–used by Moses in describing the Israelites. He is in effect saying that the Abrahamic covenant is hereby abrogated. If you consistently disobey the law–most especially if you murder God’s son–what other conclusion than that can be drawn? The covenant is dead. Jews can no longer consider themselves God’s “chosen,” Stephen is basically saying. It’s a pivotal moment. It is literally earth shaking. And the reaction from the Sanhedrin is spontaneous and immediate:

When they heard this they were furious, and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city, and began to stone him.

Thus Stephen became the first Christian martyr in recorded history. Interestingly, the text notes that one of those present, giving his approval to it all, was Saul–later Paul–who, somewhat astonishingly, ended up becoming an apostle of Christ himself.

Could this narrative in the New Testament have anything to do with why St. Stephen’s and the monastery have been attacked repeatedly?

The night of September 19/20, when the vandal(s) entered the church, was the eve of the Jewish New Year. “The monastery is open for visitors and generally has good relations with its Jewish neighbors,” the Crux article notes, “including the residents of an ultra-Orthodox town.” The “ultra-Orthodox town” being referred to here is Beit Shemesh, located nearby, a city of about 103,000 population.

Beit Shemesh is mentioned in the Book of Joshua as being among the towns allotted to the Levites, or priestly class. In the modern, post-1948 era it was settled by Jewish immigrants from Bulgaria, though by the late 1970s it had become a major center of the Likud Party. The “good relations” mentioned in the Crux article probably pertain to Neturei Karta, which has a small community living in Beit Shemesh, primarily in one neighborhood of the city. You can go hereto see video of a protest in which an NK member, holding a Palestinian flag, is attacked and chased by Israeli police. The date on the video is 2015. An earlier video, also shot in Beit Shemesh, shows a confrontation between police and a large group of Orthodox men demanding enforcement of segregation between the sexes. It is perhaps not terribly surprising that a Christian church and monastery located in proximity to such a city would come under attack.

The vandals destroyed a statue of the Virgin Mary, a cross, and smashed stained glass windows depicting events in the life of Jesus. While Hebrew graffiti has been a hallmark of previous church attacks in Israel, nothing of the like was left in this case. Still,  Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, the Catholic patriarchal vicar for Jerusalem and Palestine, expressed the view that the attack was most likely carried out by “Jewish extremists.”

“Vandals broke into the church and destroyed the crosses, the statue of Our Lady and the stained glass, as well as the faces of the saints,” Mgr. Marcuzzo said.

“In the Old Testament, it is written to destroy the statues as a symbol of idolatry. Here, these people distort the Scriptures and promote fanaticism. Perhaps it is not a direct attack on Christians, but it is certainly a message against those who do not share their ideology and it is scary because it shows that there is no respect for others. Living together is undermined,” he added.

Anther cleric who commented on the matter is Salesian Father Antonio Scudu, who serves as caretaker of the church.

“I was shocked. I didn’t expect to see something like this. The church is always open. If you see what happened, you feel they did it with hate. They smashed everything,” he said.

Israeli Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told the Catholic News Service that the case is being given “top priority.”

“There have been arrests in previous cases. We are looking into this case to see if it was an individual or a group. These are all separate cases,” Rosenfeld said. “People can say what they want. This kind of case is top priority.”

Yet as the report posted by Crux notes:

Christians in the Holy Land, including Catholic leaders, have expressed frustration with lack of legal action against cases of desecration and vandalism of sacred places.

Even as the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land issued a statement condemning the September 20 desecration and vandalism of a Catholic shrine in Israel, some people criticized the statement’s “weak language” and asked, “How long will we be tolerant?”

“Unfortunately, in these situations we feel how vulnerable we are,” one person wrote on Facebook.

The words “how long will we be tolerant?” have a certain poignance to them, for in Israel there are “Jewish extremists” who seem to feel the nation has been overly “tolerant” by even allowing Christians and Christian churches to exist inside the country’s boundaries. One such individual is Benzi Gopstein, whose views I discussed in the post I put up in January of 2016 on the St. Stephen’s cemetery desecration.

Gopstein is the leader of Lehava, the far-right Israeli organization that opposes intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews. He also hates Christianity. My 2016 post included an excerpt from a Times of Israel report in which Gopstein is quoted as referring to Christianity as “that accursed religion” and likening Christians to “vampires.”

Interestingly, the Lehava leader has also been referred to as “Israel’s teflon man, nothing sticks to him.”

The Israeli government may be feeling mounting pressure to do something about the wave of attacks upon religious sites, and if that is the case, we could end up seeing an arrest in the St. Stephen’s case. This of course would not alleviate the anti-Christian hatred felt by Jews like Gopstein, and if anything will make it worse. There is a reason the Christian Church, founded by men like Stephen, ended up breaking off from Judaism: the two faiths are pretty much incompatible.

‘Assad is Protector of the Christians in the Middle East’ – Archbishop Hanna

Source

Atallah Hanna, the Archbishop of Sebastia from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem has visited Damascus today.

http://www.fort-russ.com/2017/08/assad-is-protector-of-christians-in.html

During his visit, he met with the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, stressing that President Assad assured himself as an important figure of protecting the Christians, not just in Syria, but elsewhere in the Middle East too, noting that he does not consider Christians just as a “minority”, but rather an important and integral part of the Syrian society.
He noted that during the past few years Christians have suffered a lot, but thanks to President Assad there is hope now, as was also seen in Maaloula where wounds are slowly healing.
Bishop Hanna also said that he received negative reactions from both, the Palestinians and the Israelis because of his meeting with Assad and his supportive position on Syria, and as regards Israel, also for his role in the case of Al Aqsa mosque, saying that all this may cause his arrest or deportation, adding that none of this will deter him from his positions on Palestine and the Arab world issues, noting that conspirators against Syria are conspirators against Palestine as well. 
He then said that the majority of in fact Palestinians support his visit to Syria, and most of them are aware of the seriousness of the conspiracy against Damascus.
Some, however, objected to his presence inside the Al Aqsa mosque because of his position on Syria.
He pointed out one cannot talk about Palestine without talking about Muslims and Christians together, stressing that unity of the Palestinian people is the most important step to achieve freedom.
Regarding Jerusalem, Hanna said Jerusalem’s native inhabitants are treated badly, as if they were strangers to the city, noting there are constant attempts being made to falsify the history of Jerusalem.

Sayyed Nasrallah on 2nd Liberation: Lebanon Protected…US-’Israeli’ Scheme Falling Apart

Zeinab Essa

31-08-2017 | 20:13

Hezbollah Secretary General His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah delivered Thursday a speech celebrating the 2nd Liberation, represented by liberating the Lebanese eastern borders from the terrorist groups.

Sayyed Nasrallah on 2nd Liberation: Lebanon Protected...US-’Israeli’ Scheme Falling Apart

Addressing a huge crowd of people in Baalbek, Sayyed Nasrallah apologized for not being able to be among them.

“I liked to be among you in Baalbek on this glorious day, the same as I went to Bint Jbeil on May 25, 2000, but the situation after 2006 war is different, especially that the “Israelis” are angry and the US scheme is being defeated in the region,” His Eminence said.

He further congratulated the people for this great victory: “This victory is that of the army, people and resistance against all terrorists, who were occupying our precious land.”

39 years on the kidnap of Imam Musa al-Sadr by the former toppled Libyan regime, Sayyed Nasrallah emphasized that Sayyed al-Sadr was a man in a nation. “His cause is dear to all of us,” he mentioned.

Meanwhile, His Eminence saluted Lebanese House Speaker Nabih Berri over his national stances. “He has always proven that he is the man of all challenges and the guarantee of national unity,” he added.

Back to title of celebration, Sayyed Nasrallah clarified that the terrorists’ control of the Lebanese-Syrian eastern border has formed a threat for both Lebanon and Syria.

As he hailed the fact that there are political forces in Lebanon that supported confrontation with terrorists on the eastern border, His Eminence unveiled that

“some Lebanese were neutral towards the terror on our northern and eastern borders, some were positive towards the terrorists and offered them assistance, as other political forces chose confrontation.”

“During the previous phase and because of the political division, the Lebanese state was unable to make a decisive decision regarding the military confrontation, but it did enter into a security confrontation with the terrorist cells,” Sayyed Nasrallah highlighted.

Meanwhile, the Resistance Leader uncovered some aspects of the Lebanese political scene upon dealing with the terrorist groups.

“Due to political divisions, the Lebanese state was unable to take a decisive decision to launch a military confrontation.”

However, His Eminence added:

” To be fair, the Lebanese state was engaged in a clear security confrontation with the terrorist cells and networks. The army, General Security and State Security scored very important achievements.”

He also unveiled that “there was information that Daesh [Arabic Acronym for the terrorist “ISIS”/”ISIL” group] was preparing to occupy two Lebanese towns.”

In this context, His Eminence went on to say “It is clear that terrorism was strongly reactivated with the beginning of spring and that the next summer will be a serious one.”

“When the victory was achieved in Arsal outskirts, the Americans sent the Lebanese state a message of anger. When the Lebanese state decided that the brave Lebanese army would liberate the remaining outskirts, the Americans returned and asked the Lebanese officials not to carry out this operation and threatened to cut off military aid to Lebanon,” Sayyed Nasrallah detailed.

Praising the sacrifices of the Lebanese army in defending and liberating the eastern borders, Hezbollah Secretary General stressed: “The Lebanese army and its leadership have done a great job and political confidence must be enhanced by the army’s ability to conduct accurate operations.”

However, he reiterated that Hezbollah had no problem if the Lebanese state decided to liberate Arsal’s outskirts in July.

“The Lebanese Army Command was ready to do the mission but there was political hesitation. So, we decided to head to liberate Arsal’s outskirts. The hesitation was not due to insufficient army capabilities but rather for political considerations veiled as humanitarian considerations. Meanwhile, the state’s decision to launch Operation Dawn of the Outskirts was a very significant development and represented a form of practicing a sovereign political decision.”

Sayyed Nasrallah viewed that

“the 2nd liberation is one of the achievements of the new presidential term represented by President Michel Aoun, the man whom I always described a brave, independent leader who does not bow or submit to any state, embassy, pressures or intimidation. President Aoun preserved the state’s prestige through taking a sovereign Lebanese decision to launch the border operation.”

He also thanked the Syrian leadership for its efforts in accomplishing this liberation, particularly that it bore embarrassment in sake of Lebanon.

On this level, he uncovered that he met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus to over the deal with Daesh to uncover the fate of kidnapped Lebanese Army soldiers.

“I headed to meet President Bashar Assad in Levant and asked him for a settlement to move Daesh militants with the aim of unveiling the fate of the kidnapped servicemen,” Sayyed Nasrallah said .

Meanwhile, he urged the Lebanese state to take a sovereign decision to liberate occupied territories from “Israeli” occupation.

“We are waiting for another sovereign decision because there is Lebanese territory still under the “Israeli” occupation, the Shebaa farms and Kafrshuba hills. We call on the Lebanese state to plan for its liberation by a sovereign decision,” His Eminence said.

He further urged the Lebanese officials to take a sovereign decision to coordinate with Syria because this is a solution for us and we must hurry in this away from Western pressure

Sayyed Nasrallah also thanked the people and the government of the Islamic Republic for their continuous support to the resistance, Syria and Iraq. “I Congratulate Iraq for the liberation of Tal Afar and announcing Nineveh province free from terrorists.”On another level, Sayyed Nasrallah explained that “Israel” was disturbed by the liberation of the outskirts. “”Israel” is concerned by the coordination on both fronts and the performance of the Lebanese and Syrian armies. “Israel” is crying its orphans in Syria,” he said.

Sayyed Nasrallah also praised and thanked the Lebanese and Iranian Foreign Ministries’ efforts to block suggested major amendments to the mandate of UN peacekeepers in Lebanon following Wednesday evening’s vote at the Security Council.

“The British-American scheme sought to modify the UNIFIL’s mission in sake of “Israel” and to tighten the noose on Hezbollah,” he warned.

To the people in Bekaa, Sayyed Nasrallah sent a clear message:

“These borders and outskirts are the responsibility of the Lebanese army, and we never said that it’s our responsibility. Your eastern border with Syria is now under Army’s control. You must come together so that you mend your internal relations.”

Moving to the international scene, His Eminence also described the United States as the real threat to the international community, warning that the policies of the administration of President Donald Trump vis-à-vis North Korea were steering the world towards a nuclear war.

“We must know that the other scheme in the region is being toppled, and that the American-“Israeli” dreams that were built on Daesh and its sisters are falling apart. The world must know that Lebanon is protected and anyone who thinks of attacking its territory will have his hand cut off, thanks to the golden equation,” he concluded.

Source: Al-Ahed news 

Resistance Finds in Qalmoun Dangerous Video Revealing ISIL Intention to Attack Lebanese Towns

August 31, 2017

20-5

Hezbollah Military Media Center announced that while combing ISIL ex-posts in the outskirts of western Qalamoun, the mujahidin found an SD memory card in a wallet forgotten by one of ISIL terrorists before they left the area.

After examining the SD memory card, it ended up to include a video which shows one of ISIL commanders explaining his plan to attack and occupy Ras Baalbek and Al-Qaa towns in northeastern Lebanon.

In cooperation with the Lebanese and the Syrian armies, Hezbollah launched a major offensive against ISIL terrorists in Lebanon-Syria border outskirts, defeating them and eradicating all the plots.

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Nasrallah: The US Created ISIS

Posted on July 12, 2017

“The victory in Mosul is major. It’s as clear as the sun that the Obama administration established ISIS, and there is proof of this within the American government.”

–Hasan Nasrallah

The above quote from Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah is taken from an Israeli website here. The report concerns a speech Nasrallah gave on Tuesday in which he praised Iraqi forces for their liberation of the city of Mosul. You can read more about the speech at Al Manar and at Press TV (h/t summitflyer).

I suspect we are going to see a new war between Israel and Hezbollah break out probably in the not-too-far-distant future. Perhaps worth keeping in mind is that Megiddo, the site in Israel traditionally thought of as where the Battle of Armageddon will be fought, is no more than 35 miles from the Lebanese border.

Over the past three days Israeli media have been full of stories about underground “missile factories,” supposedly built in Lebanon by Iranians, where Hezbollah members are now manufacturing missiles to fire upon Israel. The US media, preoccupied with the “Russiagate” story, have had little to say about it so far, although a couple of commentaries have been published, one in the Washington Times and the other in US News and World Report, and I suspect CNN, the New York Times and the rest of the herd will jump on the story before too long.

The commentary in the Washington Times, written by one Clifford D. May, includes a bellicose quote from Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman:

“We are fully aware” of the factories, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told military correspondents in a briefing in Tel Aviv on Sunday. “We know what needs to be done . We won’t ignore the establishment of Iranian weapons factories in Lebanon.”

The gist of the reporting on the story is that at least two factories–both built deep underground–have been set up, and that both are now actively producing weapons with which to attack poor, little Israel. Whether there is any validity to the reports at all is impossible to say, but clearly the groundwork is being laid to establish a pretext for an Israeli attack upon Lebanon. This of course comes after repeated Israeli attacks upon Syria, but of course all that will be forgotten. Forgotten also will be Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine.

Of course, one thing we should try very hard not to forget is that, just as Bashar Assad’s government has protected Christians in Syria, so too has Hezbollah protected Christians in Lebanon. Here is a picture of the St. Joseph Maronite Church–located right in the heart of Haret Hreik, the Hezbollah neighborhood of southern Beirut:

I visited Beirut in 2014 and saw the church with my own eyes–in fact passed right down the alleyway you see in the picture that runs alongside of it. You don’t have to be a Shiite Muslim to live in Hezbollah-controlled areas of Lebanon; people are free to worship as they see fit.

One thing I’ve noticed about the Zionist media’s reporting on Hezbollah is that they always try to blur the line between Hezbollah and ISIS–as if deliberately trying to instill the impression that both are “terrorist” organizations and that both follow the same ideology. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Suffice to say, Russiagate isn’t the only media deception game going on.

Russia Says Latest US Threat Against Syria is ‘Warning Sign of Intervention’

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova is calling it a “warning sign” of a possible US troop buildup and all-out military intervention in Syria. She is referring to Washington’s claim earlier this week that it believes Syria is planning a chemical attack.

The announcement was made Monday night by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who insisted the US has seen indications that the “Assad regime” is planning a chemical attack that would “likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.”

Zakharova described the public comments as an “information attack” that may be a precursor to an actual war

“The current information attack is very likely a warning sign of an intervention. The story will be the same: an incident happens on the territory controlled by the terrorists, civilian casualties follow. The so-called opposition – de facto the same jihadists, not very different from IS [Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL] and Al-Qaeda, but who are still getting help from the US and allies – announce yet another ‘crime by the regime,’” Zakharova said.

A particularly ominous aspect to all of this is that the US has threatened to make Syria pay a “heavy price” should such an attack take place–and Zakharova sees this as a threat aimed not only at Syria, but also at Russia:

“The situation seems to be a massive provocation, both military and information-wise, a provocation which targets not only the Syrian leadership, but also Russia,” she said.

What has happened to the anti-war movement in America?

When the US invaded Iraq in 1991, there were huge protests in a number of American cities. And in 2003, when the US again sent forces into Iraq, protests were widespread and in some places quite large. Why are we not seeing similar protests now against US troops being sent to Syria?

The pretexts are just as flimsy as they were in 2003, but the anti-war movement is either out to lunch or in permanent retirement.

The only protests we see on American streets these days are protests focusing narrowly on such things as race, sexual orientation, gender identity–i.e. identity politics. The country has been divided along these lines. And as a result, there are no genuine anti-war protests taking place. How did it get to this point?

American society has been overtaken by a mass collective psychosis. This psychosis has a breath and life of its own.

Instead of seeing Russia, a Christian country, as our friends in the fight against terrorism, we see Russians as our enemies; instead of recognizing Bashar Assad as what he is–a benevolent, enlightened leader who has allowed freedom of worship and protected Middle East Christians–we have become convinced he is a dictator intent on killing his own people. These are a few of the characteristics of the psychosis which has overtaken us.

There are others. Accusations are also flying over personalities. This person’s a racist. That person’s a bigot. Politicians are corrupt. So are the media. And not all the anger is based upon illusions or misconceptions. Some of it is genuine. America is in a permanent state of road rage. The psychosis was spawned by the media, but as I say, it has taken on a life of its own, and the media are even now becoming its victims.

Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned here. Maybe this is what happens when a nation loses touch with its roots and discards its spiritual faith. When America was solidly Christian, the country was unified. But gradually, the country moved away from religion. Prayer was outlawed in schools. And the culture began to be debased with film, music and TV shows promoting decadence and degeneracy. The result is what we see now. And it is not pretty.

As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.  “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

(Luke 8:23-25)

The solution is a return to our Christian faith. It is the antidote to the psychosis. And it will lead to the downfall of the psychopaths in Washington.

Father Daniël Maes (78): “Western media spreading lies on Syria and Western governments are in alliance with radical Islamists who completely ruining the country”

The Flemish Father Daniël Maes (78) lives in Syria in the sixth-century-old Mar Yakub monastery in the city of Qara, 90 kilometers north of the capital Damascus.

Father Daniel has been a witness to the war and according to him, Western media spreading lies on Syria and Western governments are in alliance with radical Islamists who completely ruining the country.

Palestinian Christians Send Open Letter to World Council of Churches

Posted on June 16, 2017

Palestinian Christians have published an open letter to the World Council of Churches asking that the international ecumenical body recognize Israel as an apartheid state.

“As we meet this month in Bethlehem in occupied Palestine, we are still suffering from 100 years of injustice and oppression that were inflicted on the Palestinian people beginning with the unjust and unlawful Balfour declaration,” the letter begins.

The document makes no specific reference to Christian Zionism, but it does assert that Palestinians are suffering “because of one political declaration from a Western empire, based on a twisted theological premise,” and calls upon the WCC to “take the strongest theological stand against any theology or Christian group that justifies the occupation and privileges one nation over the other based on ethnicity or a covenant.”

The phrase “twisted theological premise” is a pretty good way of characterizing Christian Zionism, and I probably couldn’t have come up with a better descriptor myself.

Additionally, the letter makes reference to two other documents, one of them being the Amaan Call, issued by the WCC ten years ago following a meeting held in Amaan, Jordan. The other document mentioned is the Kairos Palestine document, a letter signed by Palestinian Christians and published in 2009.

This latest letter urges Christians of conscience not to “hide behind the cover of political neutrality,” and also calls upon the WCC support the BDS movement.

The WCC is scheduled to hold a meeting next week in Bethlehem.

The Friends of Sabeel of North America is calling upon members of the public to sign onto the letter. I reproduce the letter in full below. You can go here to sign onto it.

***

 

Letter from Palestinian Christians to the World Council of Churches

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. (Isa. 1:17)

Background

As we meet this month in Bethlehem in occupied Palestine, we are still suffering from 100 years of injustice and oppression that were inflicted on the Palestinian people beginning with the unjust and unlawful Balfour declaration. The injustice was intensified through the Nakba and the influx of refugees, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza, the fragmentation of our people and land through policies of isolation and confiscation of property, and the building of Jewish-only settlements and the apartheid wall.

We are still suffering because of one political declaration from a Western empire, based on a twisted theological premise. Even some churches and Christian leaders supported the establishment of the colonial state in our land, and totally ignored—even dehumanized—the nation, our people who had already existed here for centuries and paid the price for atrocities committed in Europe.

Hundred years later, with thousands of lives lost, towns and villages razed from the face of the earth (though not our memory), millions of refugees, thousands of homes demolished, and continued incarceration of prisoners, our Nakba continues.

A hundred years later and there is still no justice in our land! Discrimination and inequality, military occupation and systematic oppression are the rule. Today, we stand in front of an impasse and we have reached a deadlock. Despite all the promises, endless summits, UN resolutions, religious and lay leaders’ callings, Palestinians are still yearning for their freedom and independence, and seeking justice and equality. Humanly speaking, we have reached the “moment of impossible,” as Emeritus Latin Patriarch Sabbah said recently.

Could it be that we have reached this “impossible moment” because things were built from the very beginning—a hundred years ago—on an unjust premise? Should we expect that such an unjust declaration will create anything but strife and destruction?

Today is also an opportunity to remember the 10-year-old Amman Call. We are thankful to those who stood with us back then in costly solidarity—those who stood for truth and justice. We are also concerned that 10 years later the situation is still deteriorating. Like other initiatives advocating end of occupation, the Amman Call did not achieve its goals in building and achieving just peace. We must ask ourselves today why that is.

We are also concerned by Israel’s systemic assault on Palestinian creative resistance, and on our partners worldwide who use this method to pressure Israel to end the occupation. Many new laws were issued in Israel and around the world to oppose this creative non-violent resistance unlawfully, and to stop all effort toward peace. Not only is this an attack on the freedom of conscience and speech but it is also an assault on our right and duty to resist evil with good. Israel is even now trying to prevent pilgrims from visiting Bethlehem, the city of Emmanuel!

While we are grateful for the ‘costly solidarity’ articulated in the Amman Call and exercised by many churches around the world, we are concerned that some churches have weakened their positions in the last 10 years as a result of Israeli pressure. Many still hide behind the cover of political neutrality, not wishing to offend their partners in religious dialogue.

Finally, we meet in an environment of religious wars and persecution in our region. Religious extremism is on the rise, and religious minorities have paid a painful price. We thank you for your efforts toward the refugees and toward ending the conflicts in our region. We also thank you for your support of persecuted Christians in places like Iraq and Syria.

Our Call

“God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness (Justice), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me”. (Matthew 5:10-11)

As we stand in front of this “impossible moment,” it gives us no pleasure to say that “we told you so” eight years ago when we declared the moment as a Kairos moment! We stand facing the impossible, but we have not lost hope, since as followers of the Risen One, we are the people of hope. However, we need you and we need you now more than ever. We need your costly solidarity. We need brave women and men who are willing to stand in the forefront. This is no time for shallow diplomacy Christians. We urge you to hear our call and adopt the following:

1. That you call things as they are: recognize Israel as an apartheid state in terms of international law and in agreement of what a person like Desmond Tutu said and as the UN ESCWA report said: “Israel is guilty of imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people.. We are disturbed by the fact that states and churches are dealing with Israel as if the situation were normal, ignoring the reality of occupation, discrimination, and daily death in the land. Just as churches united to end apartheid in South Africa and whereby the WCC played a courageous and pivotal prophetic and leadership role, we expect you to do the same!

2. That you unequivocally condemn the Balfour declaration as unjust, and that you demand from the UK that it asks forgiveness from the Palestinian people and compensates for the losses. We ask that churches and Christians support the Palestinians in their request for justice.

3. That you take the strongest theological stand against any theology or Christian group that justifies the occupation and privileges one nation over the other based on ethnicity or a covenant. We ask that you adopt and live the theology suggested by Kairos Palestine and that you organize conferences to bring awareness toward this end.

4. That you take a stand against religious extremism and against any attempt to create a religious state in our land or region. We ask that you support us in combating the foundations of extremism and that you seek our council when acting against religious extremism so that you do not jeopardize and harm our standing here.

5. That you revisit and challenge your religious dialogue partners, and that you are willing to even withdraw from the partnership if needed, if the occupation and injustices in Palestine and Israel are not challenged.

6. That you lead campaigns for church leaders and pilgrims to visit Bethlehem and other Palestinian cities on this side of the wall in cooperation with Palestinian tourist and pilgrimage agencies, in response to recent attempts by Israel. We ask that you publicly challenge any attempt by Israel or other Christians that discourage pilgrims from visiting Palestinian places.

7. That you defend our right and duty to resist the occupation creatively and non-violently. We ask that you speak in support of economic measures that pressure Israel to stop the occupation and that you support atheltic, cultural, and academic measures against Israel until it complies with international law and UN resolutions urging the ending of its occupation, apartheid, and discrimination, and accepts refugees to return to their homeland. This is our last peaceful resort. In response to Israel’s war on BDS, we ask that you intensify that measure.

8. That you create lobby groups in defense of Palestinian Christians. We ask that you publicly and legally challenge Christian organizations that discredit our work and legitimacy.

9. We therefore propose as a matter of the greatest urgency that you create a strategic program within WCC similar to the program “To Combat Racism” to lead efforts to lobby, advocate, and develop active programs toward justice and peace in Palestine and Israel and maintain the presence of the Palestinian Christians through supporting their organizations, church work, and peaceful efforts.

As faithful witnesses, we acknowledge, affirm, and continue the long-standing prophetic tradition, especially the one started by the Amman Call and articulated in the Kairos Palestine document. We fully grasp the pressure church leaders are facing here and abroad not to speak the truth, and it is because of this that we are raising this call.

Things are beyond urgent. We are on the verge of a catastrophic collapse. The current status quo is unsustainable. This could be our last chance to achieve a just peace. As a Palestinian Christian community, this could be our last opportunity to save the Christian presence in this land. Our only hope as Christians comes from the fact that in Jerusalem, the city of God, and our city, there is an empty tomb, and Jesus Christ who triumphed over death and sin brought to us and to all humanity, new life.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Cor. 4:8-9)

12 June 2017

Signed By:

Jerusalem
Arab Catholic Scouts Group
Arab Orthodox Society, Jerusalem
Caritas, Jerusalem
Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees—Middle East Council of Churches
Greek Catholic Sayedat AlBishara Association
International Christian Committee
Laity Committee in the Holy Land
National Christian Association
Pontifical Mission Palestine
Sabeel—Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
Seeds of Better life
Union of Arab Orthodox Club, Jerusalem
Young Men’s Christian Association—YMCA
Young Women’s Christian Association—YWCA

 

Gaza
NECC office

 

Bethlehem (NCOB) Network of Christian Organizations in Bethlehem
The East Jerusalem YMCA—Beit Sahour Branch
The Arab Educational Institute
Holy Land Trust, Bethlehem
Wi’am Center, Bethlehem
Saint Afram Assyrian Society
Holy Land Christians Ecumenical Foundation, Bethlehem
Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI)
Arab Orthodox Club, Beit Sahour
Arab Orthodox Club, Beit Jala
Arab Orthodox Club, Bethlehem
The Arab Orthodox Charitable Society, Beit Sahour
Bethlehem Bible College
Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies
Alternative Tourism Group, ATG, Beit Sahour
Senior Citizen Charitable Society
Environmental educational Center, Beit Jala
Saint Vincent Charitable Society, Beit Jala
Shepherds’ Children Society, Beit Sahour
Kairos Palestine

 

Click here to add your signature to the letter

The Real Reasons the West Cannot Topple Bashar Assad

The Real Reasons the West Cannot Topple Bashar Assad

Posted on June 13, 2017

Sarah Abed has posted a fascinating article at her blog, The Rabbit Hole, providing an analysis of how, and why, Syrian President Bashar Assad–despite nearly eight years of sweat poured by scheming Western regime changers into the goal of toppling his government–has managed to hang on.

What the heck is it about this guy? How has he piloted his way through every single Zionist effort to rip his country apart and install a puppet government favorable to the West? What’s his secret? For after all, hordes of Western-trained terrorist head-choppers have been poured into Syria equipped with shiny fleets of Toyotas and advanced-grade military weaponry, yet Assad, almost miraculously, has remained at the head of the government, and for the most part has kept the country together. How has he been able to do this? Abed supplies four main reasons.

Reason # 1 she gives is the president’s strong spiritual faith, and in discussing that faith she furnishes some interesting information about the Alawite religion. Here is an excerpt from her article:

First and foremost there is Bashar al-Assad’s unwavering dedication to his family’s spiritual traditions and religious faith.  Being an ardent practitioner of the Alawite religion like his father and forefathers before him, Assad has drawn great strength from this mystical and tolerant branch of Shia Islam. He went into the medical profession and trained as an ophthalmologist because of his desire to serve the Syrian people.

Also known as Alawis, Alawites “are a prominent religious group, centered in Syria, who follow a branch of the Twelver school of Shia Islam but with syncretistic elements.“[1]  Because his religious community had suffered religious persecution and many other indignities over generations prior to his father’s presidency, he is quite sensitive to the need for religious tolerance.  Particularly within the context of Syria’s historical religious diversity, did the Alawites rise to provide the cohesive leadership necessary to maintain the peace and mutual acceptance?  This remarkable achievement occurred over decades when many neighboring nations suffered the fate of one failed government after another.

For those who are cognizant of the well-known Hindu religious tolerance in India, Alawites are quite similar.  They not only believe in reincarnation as in the East, they have also absorbed many other aspects of the predominant religions in Syria especially those found in Islam and Christianity.  Because of their syncretic approach in both philosophy and practice, Alawis have evolved into a genuinely tolerant spiritual community who actively cultivate a climate of mutual respect.  However, it is the mystical aspects of their spiritual practice which has earned them the respect of the Syrian people.  Because they are known to walk their talk, they have been trusted to lead as they have done for almost 5 decades.

Alawites consider themselves to be Muslims, although some Sunnis dispute that they are. Alawite doctrine incorporates Gnostic, neo-Platonic, Islamic, Christian and other elements and has, therefore, been described as syncretistic.

Alawite beliefs have never been confirmed by their modern religious authorities. Alawites tend to conceal their beliefs (taqiyya) due to historical persecution. Some tenets of the faith are secret, known only to a select few; therefore, they have been described as a mystical sect.

All religions, of course, are syncretic to one degree or another, so perhaps the Alawites are not unique in that regard. But they certainly are a religious minority in Syria, representing just 11 percent of the population. For the Syrian people to support Assad to the extent that they do (he won the 2014 election with 88.7 percent of the vote) would suggest not only a remarkable degree of trust in the man, but also respect for his religious faith.

As I said, Abed gives a total of four reasons, in the main, why Assad remains standing despite everything the West has thrown at him. Reason # 2?  The strength of his wife, Asma. As Abed puts it, “the Assad marriage reveals how a strong woman often exists behind every great leader.” Reason # 3–the guidance and training he received from his father, Hafez Assad. Reason #4 — no surprise — the alliance with Russia.

All in all, as I say, it’s a fascinating article. Click here to access it in full.

Have the Christians of the East become an outlet for wreaking one’s anger? هل بات مسيحيّو الشرق مكسر عصا؟

Have the Christians of the East become an outlet for wreaking one’s anger?

يونيو 4, 2017

Written by Nasser Kandil,

The continuoushttp://www.al-binaa.com/archives/article/have-the-christians-of-the-east-become-an-outlet-for-wreaking-ones-anger bleeding of the Egyptian Copts as a free inbox for which the terrorist groups supported by Turkey and Qatar, and which are divided between Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS resort coincides with a harsh repulsive campaign launched by Saudi newspapers Okaz against the Lebanese President Michael Aoun and the Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil through harmful improper words and disgraceful descriptions on the basis of polite decent words and a compromised behavior for which the President and the Minister resorted to prevent the collision with Saudi Arabia. The President accepted to overlook the violation of the assets of communication between countries through sending an invitation to the Prime Minister to attend Riyadh summit, so the President and the Minister agreed upon a ceiling for the objection of the summit statement that does not bother Saudi Arabia or affect its prestige.

For a moment it seemed that the Christians of the East have been turned into a source for revenge for the countries that sponsor the formations that perfect the murder and the kill on all over the world, so to know their criminal record it is enough to hear what they say against each other on the front of their major newspapers and at their giant satellite channels which are dedicated these days to show the mutual terrorist accusation. It is enough to recall what the US President said about them in his electoral campaign while they celebrated his coming. These countries would not dare to assault those whom they considered under the Western protection without a green light from the West, or the feeling of the removal of the red line which was drawn to protect that presence. These sponsoring countries of terrorism are living under the Western protection and working in conformity with the US agenda and orders.

Tampering with the blood of the Christians of Egypt to send a message to its President, and to be insolent against the president of Lebanon to show him resentment are two new phenomena. At the highest clash with the President Emile Lahhoud the Saudi press reserved from saying a similar statement to what was said against the President Michael Aoun, and at the highest clash with the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak the Qataris, the Saudis, and the Turkish were fear to adopt and to protect armed groups that play with the blood of the Egyptians, the considerations by everyone towards the presidency in Lebanon and the Copts in Egypt were well considered according to the position which the Christians of the East, whom have the population as the Copts of Egypt, and whom have the political position as the Lebanese President have in the West.

There is a qualitative transition that surpasses the adoption of narrow sectarian equations; this transition finds it easy to resort to a boxing bag presented by the Christians of the East. The rehabilitation cannot be neither with wisdom nor with the accounts of the narrow electoral interests, nor with the soft administration of politics, because there is a scream that must be responded by Stop, tell your group that this playing does not work with us, this harm must not pass without expense. The Christians of the East do not sell their dignity and their moral presence by promises of tourist season to Egypt or to Lebanon. it is a speech that may be useful for the Lebanese President to say from the rostrum of the Coptic Church in urgent personal historic condolences of the victims of the massacres to reach to those who ordered of killing in Al Minya in the desert road, and those who ordered to write cheap articles with cheaper pens, or that who ordered from beyond the oceans, the racist who has sold his silence with a bag of money and gold.

Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

 

 

هل بات مسيحيّو الشرق مكسر عصا؟

ناصر قنديل

مايو 27, 2017

– يتزامن النزف الدموي المتواصل للأقباط المصريين كصندوق بريد مجاني بلا كلفة تلجأ إليه الجماعات الإرهابية المدعومة من تركيا وقطر والمحسوبة على جناحين إخواني وداعشي، مع حملة إعلامية قاسية ونابية شنّتها صحف سعودية على الرئيس اللبناني ميشال عون ووزير الخارجية جبران باسيل لجأت خلالها إحدى هذه الصحف، «عكاظ»، إلى كلام مسيء وغير لائق وأوصاف معيبة وجّهتها لكلّ من الرئيس عون والوزير باسيل، على خلفية كلام مهذب ولائق وتصرّف تسووي اعتمده الرئيس والوزير لمنع التصادم مع السعودية. فارتضى الرئيس التغاضي عن خرق سعودي لأصول التخاطب بين الدول وتوجيه الدعوة لرئيس الحكومة لحضور قمة الرياض، وارتضى هو والوزير سقفاً للاعتراض على بيان القمة لا يزعج السعودية ولا يجرح مهابتها.

– للحظة بدا أنّ مسيحيّي الشرق تحوّلوا مكسر عصا لدول ترعى الأجنحة التي تحترف القتل والموت على مساحة المنطقة والعالم، ويكفي لمعرفة سجلها الإجرامي سماع ما تقوله بحق بعضها بعضاً على صدر صفحات صحفها الكبرى وفي قنواتها الفضائية العملاقة، المكرّسة هذه الأيام لنشر الغسيل الإرهابي المتبادل. كذلك تكفي استعادة ما قاله بحقها أثناء حملته الانتخابية الرئيس الأميركي الذي تحلّقوا من حوله يحتفون بقدومه، وما كانت هذه الدول لتجرؤ على التمادي بحق مَن كانت تعتبرهم تحت الحماية الغربية، لولا ضوء أخضر من الغرب أو شعور بزوال الخط الأحمر الذي كان مرسوماً لحماية هذا الوجود. فهذه الدول الراعية للإرهاب تعيش تحت عباءة الحماية الغربية وتعمل وفقاً لجدول طلبات وأوامر أميركية.

– العبث بدماء مسيحيّي مصر لإيصال رسالة لرئيسها، والتطاول على مقام رئاسة الجمهورية في لبنان، لإبلاغه الامتعاض، ظاهرتان جديدتان. ففي ذروة التصادم مع الرئيس إميل لحود تحفظت الصحافة السعودية عن قول كلام مشابه للذي قالته بحق الرئيس ميشال عون. وفي ذروة الصدام مع الرئيس المصري حسني مبارك كان القطريون والسعوديون والأتراك يتهيّبون تبني وحماية جماعات مسلحة تلعب بدماء المصريين. والحسابات التي كان يقيمها الجميع تجاه الرئاسة في لبنان والأقباط في مصر في بعض منها تحسّب لمكانة كان يحتلها في الحساب الغربي، مسيحيو الشرق الذين يرمز لكثافتهم السكانية أقباط مصر ولمكانتهم السياسية الرئيس اللبناني.

– ثمّة تحوّل نوعي يتخطّى تبني معادلات مذهبية ضيقة، يطال استسهال اللجوء إلى كيس ملاكمة يمثله مسيحيّو الشرق. ولا يمكن ردّ الاعتبار بالحكمة وحسابات المصالح الانتخابية الضيقة، ولا الإدارة الناعمة للسياسة، فثمّة صراخ يجب أن يرتفع بكلمة كفى، ويد تضرب على الطاولة في مكان ما تقول لأحدهم: أبلغ جماعتك، إنّ هذا اللعب لا ينفع معنا، وهذا التطاول لا يمرّ من دون حساب، وليس مسيحيّو الشرق مَن يبيع كرامته ووجوده المعنوي بوعود بموسم سياحي لمصر أو لبنان. كلام ربما من المفيد أن يقوله الرئيس اللبناني من منبر الكنيسة القبطية في تعزية عاجلة شخصية وتاريخية بضحايا المجازر تصل أصداؤها لمن أمر بالقتل في المنيا بالطريق الصحراوي، ومَن أمر بكتابة المقالات الرخيصة بأقلام أشدّ رخصاً، ولمن يأمر وينهى وراء المحيطات، العنصري الذي باع صمته بكيس المال والذهب.

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Looking to the Past, not ISIS, for the True Meaning of Islam

Emir Abdelkader, 19th century Muslim humanist and sheikh

[Ed. note – British journalist Robert Fisk has published an interesting historical retrospect on Abdelkader ibn Muhieddine, or Emir Abdelkader, an Algerian Muslim leader of the 19th century who fought against French imperialism and was a great champion of human rights–of all people. Abdelkader intervened at one point to save a community of Christians in Damascus, Syria, where he spent a portion of his life, and while Fisk doesn’t bother to point it out, his act of saving Syrian Christians is something he shares in common with the present-day leader of Syria, Bashar Assad.

I thought it timely to post such an article since we’ve just seen a deranged individual arrested in Portland, Oregon after allegedly stabbing three people, killing two of them, while spouting hatred for Muslims–a man whose last name is “Christian” no less. So you’ll see a lengthy excerpt from Fisk’s essay on Abdelkader, along with a link to the original article, and just below that I’m also tossing in a video of a group of Syrians, including about 3,000 students, taking a walking tour of Aleppo’s recently-liberated historic areas. A Syrian woman you’ll see interviewed in the video, Anushka Arakelyan, says she hopes that the city will one day be “the same as it was before the war.”

“There are no nationalities here. All people love each other; all live together, rejoice together, cry together and wait together,” she added.

“Aleppo will be the same as it was before the war. We hope and wait,” Arakelyan said.

“As one Russian song says, we hope and wait, and we will wait and hope,” she added.

“We love Aleppo very much. Aleppo is a very good city, very hospitable city. I’m very happy to live here. Here, there are no nationalities. All people love each other; all live together, rejoice together, cry together and wait together,” she concluded. (Uprooted Palestinians )

It would seem, from this lady’s remarkable words, that there are plenty of Muslims who today carry on in the spirit of Abdelkader, and that therefore we don’t have to look to the past to find “the true meaning of Islam”–plenty of examples we can point to in the present. ]

***

We must look to the past, not Isis, for the true meaning of Islam

By Robert Fisk

After the Manchester massacre… yes, and after Nice and Paris, Mosul and Abu Ghraib and 7/7 and the Haditha massacre – remember those 28 civilians, including children, killed by US Marines, four more than Manchester but no minute’s silence for them? And of course 9/11…

Counterbalancing cruelty is no response, of course. Just a reminder. As long as we bomb the Middle East instead of seeking justice there, we too will be attacked. But what we must concentrate upon, according to the monstrous Trump, is terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. And fear. And security. Which we will not have while we are promoting death in the Muslim world and selling weapons to its dictators. Believe in “terror” and Isis wins. Believe in justice and Isis is defeated.

So I suspect it’s time to raise the ghost of a man known as the Emir Abdelkader – Muslim, Sufi, sheikh, ferocious warrior, humanist, mystic, protector of his people against Western barbarism, protector of Christians against Muslim barbarism, so brave that the Algerian state insisted his bones were brought home from his beloved Damascus, so noble that Abe Lincoln sent him a pair of Colt pistols and the French gave him the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour. He loved education, he admired the Greek philosophers, he forbade his fighters to destroy books, he worshipped a religion which believed – so he thought – in human rights. But hands up all readers who know the name of Abdelkader.

We should think of him now more than ever.

He was not a “moderate” because he fought back savagely against the French occupation of his land. He was not an extremist because, in his imprisonment at the Chateau d’Amboise, he talked of Christians and Muslims as brothers. He was supported by Victor Hugo and Lord Londonderry and earned the respect of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte (later Napoleon III) and the French state paid him a pension of 100,000 francs. He deserved it.

When the French invaded Algeria, Abdelkader Ibn Muhiedin al-Juzairi (Abdelkader, son of Muhiedin, the Algerian,1808-1883, for those who like obituaries) embarked on a successful guerrilla war against one of the best equipped armies in the Western world – and won. He set up his own state in western Algeria – Muslim but employing Christian and Jewish advisors – and created separate departments (defence, education, etc), which stretched as far as the Moroccan border. It even had its own currency, the “muhamediya”. He made peace with the French – a truce which the French broke by invading his lands yet again. Abdelkader demanded a priest to minister for his French prisoners, even giving them back their freedom when he had no food for them. The French sacked the Algerian towns they captured, a hundred Hadithas to suppress Abdelkader’s resistance. When at last he was defeated, he surrendered in honour – handing over his horse as a warrior – on the promise of exile in Alexandria or Acre. Again the French betrayed him, packing him off to prison in Toulon and then to the interior of France.

Yet in his French exile, he preached peace and brotherhood and studied French and spoke of the wisdom of Plato and Socrates, Aristotle and Ptolemy and Averoes and later wrote a book, Call to the Intelligent, which should be available on every social media platform. He also, by the way, wrote a book on horses which proves he was ever an Arab in the saddle. But his courage was demonstrated yet again in Damascus in 1860 where he lived as an honoured exile. The Christian-Druze civil war in Lebanon had spread to Damascus where the Christian population found themselves surrounded by the Muslim Druze who arrived with Isis-like cruelty, brandishing swords and knives to slaughter their adversaries.

Abdelkader sent his Algerian Muslim guards – his personal militia – to bash their way through the mob and escort more than 10,000 Christians to his estate. And when the crowds with their knives arrived at his door, he greeted them with a speech which is still recited in the Middle East (though utterly ignored these days in the West).

“You pitiful creatures!” he shouted. “Is this the way you honour the Prophet? God punish you! Shame on you, shame! The day will come when you will pay for this … I will not hand over a single Christian. They are my brothers. Get out of here or I’ll set my guards on you.”

Muslim historians claim Abdelkader saved 15,000 Christians, which may be a bit of an exaggeration. But here was a man for Muslims to emulate and Westerners to admire.

His fury was expressed in words which would surely have been used today against the cult-like caliphate executioners of Isis. Of course, the “Christian” West would honour him at the time (although, interestingly, he received a letter of praise from the Muslim leader of wildly independent Chechnya). He was an “interfaith dialogue” man to please Pope Francis.

Abdelkader was invited to Paris. An American town was named after him – Elkader in Clayton County, Iowa, and it’s still there, population 1,273. Founded in the mid-19th century, it was natural to call your home after a man who was, was he not, honouring the Rights of Man of American Independence and the French Revolution? Abdelkader flirted with Freemasonry – most scholars believe he was not taken in – and loved science to such an extent that he accepted an invitation to the opening of the Suez Canal, which was surely an imperial rather than a primarily scientific project. Abdelkader met De Lesseps. He saw himself, one suspects, as Islam’s renaissance man, a man for all seasons, the Muslim for all people, an example rather than a saint, a philosopher rather than a priest.

But of course, Abdelkader’s native Algeria is a neighbour of Libya from where Salman Abedi’s family came, and Abdelkader died in Syria, whose assault by US aircraft – according to Abedi’s sister – was the reason he slaughtered the innocent of Manchester. And so geography contracts and history fades, and Abedi’s crime is, for now, more important than all of Abdelkader’s life and teaching and example. So for Mancunians, whether they tattoo bees onto themselves or merely buy flowers, why not pop into Manchester’s central library in St Peter’s Square and ask for Elsa Marsten’s The Compassionate Warrior or John Kiser’s Commander of the Faithful or, published just a few months ago, Mustapha Sherif’s L’Emir Abdelkader: Apotre de la fraternite?

They are no antidotes for sorrow or mourning. But they prove that Isis does not represent Islam and that a Muslim can earn the honour of the world.

***

Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0

After two days lecturing a collection of head-choppers, dictators, torturers and land thieves, Donald Trump at last met a good guy on Wednesday. Pope Francis didn’t ask for a $100bn (£77.2bn) arms deal for the Vatican. He wouldn’t go to war with Iran. He didn’t take the Sunni Muslim side against the Shia Muslim side in the next Middle East conflict. He didn’t talk about Palestinian “terror”. And he looked, most of the time, grim, unsmiling, even suspicious.

So he should have been. Trump’s broad, inane smile on confronting the Holy Father might have been more appropriate for the first of the Borgias, Alexander VI, whose 15th century womanising, corruption and enthusiasm for war would match Trump’s curriculum vitae rather well. But the poor man’s pope, who last year suggested that Trump wasn’t much of a Christian because he wanted to build walls, didn’t seem to be very happy to see the man who called him “disgraceful” for questioning his faith. “One offers peace through dialogue, the other security of arms,” one of Francis’ advisers said of the visit. Which pretty much sums it up.

It was indeed an odd sight to see the head of the Catholic church – whose anti-war, anti-corruption, anti-violence and pro-environment beliefs must surely now represent the secular world – greeting the present if very temporary leader of the secular world, whose policies are most surely not those of the Western people he would claim to represent. For more and more, the Good Old Pope is coming to represent what the Trumps and Mays will not say: that the West has a moral duty to end its wars in the Middle East, to stop selling weapons to the killers of the Middle East and to treat the people of the Middle East with justice and dignity.

No wonder the 29 minutes which the insane president and the sane pope spent together – Francis himself suggesting that they both keep away from the microphones – remain secret. Until, I suppose, Trump starts twittering again. They supposedly chatted about climate change, immigration, even arms sales. O fly upon the wall, speak up. And they talked, we are told, about “interreligious dialogue” and the need to protect Christians in the Middle East. They shared, we were finally informed, “a commitment to life, and freedom of speech and conscience” – which is more than most of Trump’s other hosts would have approved of these past two days.

Trump duly handed over a bunch of books by Martin Luther King which he hoped Pope Francis would enjoy – whether he had read them himself remains a mystery – and the Pope gave Trump some of his own writings on the environment. “Well, I’ll be reading them,” said the US President. A likely story.

When the Pope emerged from his private meeting with Trump, he was smiling in a relieved, almost charming way – like a man who had just left the dentist’s chair – and his joke with the veiled Melania about Croatian cookies, if not quite understood, showed that even a distressed pontiff can retain a sense of humor amid spiritual darkness. Trump thought it all “a great honor”. Not for the Pope, one imagines.

And there was the inevitable send-off from Trump, the kind he probably gave to all the greedy kings and criminals of the Middle East. “I won’t forget what you said,” he told Pope Francis as he left. O but he will, reader, he will.

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

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